Six games in this collection.
As I continue my weekly endeavor to catch up on reviewing the Evercade cartridges, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that roughly thirty thousand new Evercade cartridges were delayed for at least another six months because the manufacturing facility needed the plastic to build the cranks for the upcoming Playdate console. The bad news is that although those thirty thousand cartridges were delayed, another fifty thousand were greenlit for production around the same time.
I own sixteen Evercade carts with literally ten more pre-ordered, and I’m on #4 for my weekly reviews. By the time I catch up with what I own, it will be January 2, 2022 if I stick with this weekly routine. By January 2022 Evercade should be up to approximately five hundred thirty two thousand released cartridges approximating every game from the last sixty years released at least three times over. If you want to catch up by then you’ll need to mortgage a state.
But let’s look at the Interplay #1 collection.
There’s only six games in this collection so I’m going to pad the content and meander a bit before diving in. One topic I see come up when discussing the Evercade is what can this device do that an emulator or a retro pie can’t? And the answer is nothing. The Evercade is a toy for collectors and people who want a curated experience. Yes you can download emulators and roms for 101% of the games on these carts and spend nothing to do it. Personally I’m fine with either or, which is why I also own and cracked numerous mini-consoles.
1. Battle Chess
I hate everything about this game. I realize there’s a lot of nostalgia for Battle Chess, and it’s definitely one of those games you had to be there at the time to appreciate. For everyone else Battle Chess is a slog, like cutting your Ambien with Nyquil. Imagine listening to an audiobook narrated by Ben Stein while being put under for surgery and you’ve got the energy of Battle Chess.
Battle Chess is chess, but slow. Everything moves at a sub-snail pace, from characters on the board to the battle animations. The animations are interesting the first two or three times you see them, and then they lose their luster. The only positive this game has going for it is you can set up the board how you want, letting you play out custom games that chess nerds love.
Boogerman is a 1995 16 bit platformer and it’s the kind of game your mom would look at and use as a reason video games are stupid and a waste of time before going back to her soap operas. And I don’t think anyone is going to argue the fact that Boogerman is incredibly stupid. You play as Boogerman, a superhero who defeats his enemies by flinging boogers and burping at them. Boogers.
It’s juvenile, utterly stupid, and completely charming. The animations are incredibly well done, as you’d expect from the studio behind Earthworm Jim. The game eschews time limits to let you roam around each level collecting items. And every few levels you get a ridiculous stereotype boss fight.
ClayFighter, shockingly, is a parody of Street Fighter. What sets ClayFighter apart from the competition is its charm and style. All of the fighters were created using actual clay models and animated with stop motion animation. A derivative in a similar push to Mortal Kombat using photos of real models. It came out at a time when making your game known was all about showing kids how much ‘tude you had. Or in Interplay’s case, how much your characters fart and burp.
Clayfighter is good, it’s certainly not great. It’s more style over substance, a cute wrapping around what is a rather generic fighter even for the time. It’s also one of those Evercade games that has some of the content cut out until the Evercade Vs. comes out. Fighting games in general are just better against real people, and on this system that won’t happen until the home console is available. Thankfully you can use this cartridge on that system.
4. Earthworm Jim
Earthworm Jim needs no introduction, so let me introduce it.
Earthworm Jim is a platformer where the player takes on the role of Jim, an earthworm. Go figure. It’s the same style of Interplay’s other platformers of the time, taking a goofy premise and just making the silliest game imaginable. The humor is of course directed at children with gross-out jokes and general basic puns on names. It’s nothing high brow or particularly intelligent.
It’s stupidly difficult, made less so by the existence of save states. But it’s charming, owing to the fantastic animations of characters and scenery. The sound effects may get grating after a while, but that’s just par for the course with these games. If ideas like Boogerman are up your ally, Earthworm Jim won’t be much of a stretch to enjoy.
In case you hadn’t picked up on it, this cart has a lot of platformers. Incantation is another Interplay platformer and that means charming visuals, fantastic animations, and funny third thing. Actually that’s a complete lie. Incantation was developed and published by Titus, who went defunct and had their assets bought up by Interplay in 2005. You know it’s not an Interplay platformer because the kid in the game doesn’t fart constantly.
Incantation puts you in the role of a child wizard who has to complete each stage and also perform different tasks like collecting items or beating a boss. It’s fun, difficult, and completely charming in its art style, music, and sound. It can be difficult to tell if you’re actually damaging enemies because there’s no indication or animation, and sometimes it feels like you’re just mashing the attack button with no effect.
Suffice to say the Interplay cart is not going to provide you much if you don’t like fighters and platformers.
Titan took about five seconds to get on my nerves. It’s a concept that’s neat in theory but the execution here is awful. Imagine Breakout but in three dimensions and you have Titan. Again, not a bad concept. Perhaps in a world where they weren’t developing it for the Amstrad PC, it might even be good.
It’s not fun, at all. Controlling the ball isn’t fun, navigating through the various levels with increasing difficulty isn’t fun, and having your piece be a square block that doesn’t seem to interact with the ball in the way a square block should isn’t fun. The physics are as bad as you’d expect from a 1988 game, or even worse really. That and the sound of the ball bouncing will make you wish for deafness, or at least have you turning the sound down immediately.
It’s safe to say that the Interplay Collection #1 has the lowest range of games that we’ve seen so far. Take out Battle Chess and Titan which are both virtually unplayable and you have four functioning titles for the cost of $20. If you don’t like difficult platformers with wonky controls and immature humor, there’s really nothing here for you.
So while I would recommend the Interplay Collection #1, there’s a lot more caveats to that recommendation than I’ve had on any other cartridge so far. The range of potential consumers is very low. Tune in next week where we look at the Evercade Cart #5: Atari Collection #2.