Antstream Arcade from Publisher and Developer Antstream
Nostalgic retro games galore. Cloud hosted so can have some latency issues at times.
Antstream Arcade is your home for playing legal copies of Retro games with over 1300 games available to play anytime. Sounds a little too good to be true right? So, what’s the catch…? Well, first off, you are buying a subscription/license from the service to play the games. There are currently two options; buying a 1 year license (that you would have to buy again if you wanted to access the games after that 1 year is up), or a lifetime license. At the time of this review the 1 year is $30 USD and the Lifetime is $80 USD on Xbox (it is also available on PC). The second catch is that all of the games are cloud only versions that are streamed to you and not installed or run locally on your system which can lead to a little lag with your controller input at times. But, at least it saves hard drive space, right?
When you first access the arcade you might be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of games. 1300 is a lot of games. If you were gaming in the 80’s, 90’s, and even the early 2000’s you will find tons of games that will bring back memories, some good and some bad. There is a search option to help you find games to play but you need to know what you are looking for to make it helpful. We noticed a bunch of times that the same game appeared more than once since it was listed separately for different systems/consoles (ie: Skatin USA for the Spectrum and for the C64). We would have loved the option to make our own playlist. You can favorite a game by clicking on the star but you need to go into your profile to access your favorites. Having that on the main Play Now screen would have been a better choice. We would love to see this changed in an update to the arcade.
Going through the games we instantly found a few games that made us stop everything and play. The music, the sound effects, and the look just hit us with all of the nostalgic feels. Replaying these was both good and bad as it seems some games weren’t as good as we remembered them being and would’ve been better left safely locked away in our fond memories. It also took a little bit of getting used to trying to play the old games with a modern controller as most of the games only use a few of the buttons since that’s all that was available when the game first came out.
In all of the games we played we were able to make a save at any time and had 3 save slots. This was a welcome change from the original versions as a lot of the older games were known for being harder than they needed to be and not being super forgiving with checkpoints. Being able to save at any time lets you take a break from that game to play something else or just put it down for a while without losing your progression. For anyone who remembers playing early console games you know that saving on demand was not an option.
Just playing the games can be a little boring after a while which is why Antstream added Mini challenges, weekly tournaments, and community challenges. These are great additions to the original games and completing the challenges rewards you with a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Medal as well as some system currency. You even get a daily login bonus just for loading the game. You might be a little confused about the system currency since you already have access to all of the games. We were confused too at first since we couldn’t find anything to buy with it. We eventually found where we could use it to unlock new challenges, join the tournaments, or create challenges against a friend or the community. This extra layer of gaming on top of the original games was really interesting.
Overall, we enjoyed playing a lot of games from our childhood and discovering new old games to play. If you are an older gamer with young kids it would be fun to show them a bunch of games you played when you were growing up. For anyone who missed gaming in the 80 and 90’s this is an easy way to check out the games without spending a lot of money on the retro hardware and games.
Antstream Arcade is available on Xbox and PC. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Risk System from Publisher and Developer Newt Industries
Photosensitivity warning. Challenging but enjoyable retro style shmup with a couple of interesting mechanics.
In the distant future of A.D. 2149, a race of energy parasites have taken over mankind’s technology and are using it against them. The main character is Alys. She is piloting an experimental ship, the RSK9, and is on her way to prevent the extinction of mankind.
This is a challenging, side scrolling, shoot ’em up (shmup) with a twist. Like most shmups you need to kill the enemies, build up your meter for a special attack, and avoid enemy fire. The twist is the risk reward system they’ve introduced. Narrowly avoiding enemy fire allows you to absorb energy from their attacks. This supercharges your normal weapon and will fill your special attack meter much faster. There is an autofire option that is turned on by default. It will only fire when an enemy is in front of you which lets you focus on controlling the ship and avoiding attacks. We recommend leaving this turned on though there is an option to turn it off if you really want to.
Your special attack, “Barrier Breaker,” does a lot of damage to all of the enemies on screen and gives you temporary invulnerability. Powering it up as fast as you can will help a lot, especially on the more challenging levels.
The ship’s movement feels sluggish compared to some other shmup’s. Fortunately, they have a Barrel Roll maneuver for quick vertical movements. This helps to compensate for the otherwise reduced mobility. One button will have you barrel roll up and another to barrel roll down. It takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but once you do you’ll use it all the time.
Each of the levels ends with a boss fight that is very challenging as each attack from the boss does a lot of damage. These attacks are difficult to avoid but not impossible. You can also time your special just right to be invulnerable and avoid damage that way. Each boss has a different pattern that you will need to learn if you want to defeat them. Luckily, there is a good checkpoint system. When you die you are seamlessly respawned at the boss so you don’t have to replay any of the level. This rapid restart helps you learn their patterns.
After completing a level you are given a letter rank and the choice to retry for a higher rank or to continue to the next mission. To get maximum rank you essentially need to complete the level without taking any damage. It looks like there is an alternate ending if you achieve S rank on every level but we were unable to achieve this during our time playing the game.
The game has a retro pixel art style. The sound effects and music help capture that old school feel of playing hard shoot-em ups in the arcade or on the original consoles. We also really enjoyed the nod to the Metal Gear series that happens pre and post boss fight.
The game has a photosensitivity and seizure warning that is well deserved. It does have an option to turn off screen shake which helps a little. While our reviewer doesn’t have issues with photosensitivity they did find that there were a few times that it was hard to stare at the screen.
Overall it’s an enjoyable but challenging shoot em up.
Risk System is available on Xbox and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
ReactorX from Publisher Xitilon and Developer Lovixsama
Short and easy but enjoyable 2D puzzle game.
This is a top down 2D puzzle game. The narrative premise for the puzzles is repairing your spaceship by rerouting power. This is done by pushing or pulling the reactors located on the floor to power the corresponding colored floor.
There are a couple of key mechanics to successfully solve the puzzles. One of these is that the reactors are directional. The top of the reactor block indicates which of the 4 possible directions it sends power. It also shows you what color floor it works with. The other key mechanic is that you can change the color of the reactors by charging them with a different colored laser. Caution: Lasers are fine for reactors but deadly to players. Fortunately, the game provides a magnet function that allows you to pull blocks out from in front of the lasers so you can avoid walking into them while pushing the blocks out of the way.
There are a total of 30 puzzles to complete. Most of them are very easy to solve and provide little challenge. That said, it’s totally possible to overthink them and make it harder on yourself. The new mechanics and additional levels of challenge were well paced throughout the game. The only real difficulty spike was with the final level.
The game has a relaxing soundtrack that we found enjoyable. It is easy to pick up and play with simple but well done controls and a pixel art style. Overall the game is enjoyable but a little short as there are only 30 levels and depending on the player it can be completed in under 30-60 minutes.
ReactorX is available on Xbox. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Castle of No Escape 2 from Publisher Xitilon and Developer D. E. X. Team
A retro styled rouge-lite dungeon crawler and a solid improvement from the first game. A little short but enjoyable with a simple story.
This, like the previous game, is a Rogue-lite Dungeon Crawler with a 6×6 grid of rooms on each floor and 6 floors to explore.
Castle of No Escape 2 is more than just a sequel by number. It’s got a lot of great additions and improvements from the first one. The graphics have been updated adding new character models, backgrounds, and enemies while keeping the pixel art style. The chip tunes soundtrack has also been updated with new songs that add to the haunted castle atmosphere.
A story has been added to the game along with an intro explaining what is happening and why you are going into the castle. The story is a little short but does a good job setting the mood for your adventure.
The rooms are now massive compared to the first game. You can and will have to move through the rooms fighting off enemies, opening chests, and avoiding traps. The look of the rooms reminded us of the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda on NES. The enemies are able to move and will chase you around trying to kill you. There are a handful of different enemy types each with their own attack patterns and some of them have powers. After a little bit you will be able to figure out the enemies’ attacks and the best way to avoid them. Opening the chests comes with a bit of risk as enemies can hide in the chests and pop out when you open them.
There are several new additions to the game over its predecessor. You have 3 characters to pick from at the start with 3 more unlockable if you meet the secret requirements for them. Each of the characters has their own attributes like the first game but unlike the first game they play very differently as they have their own attacks. This was a great improvement to the game as it makes you want to try each of the characters to see which one will best fit your play style.
Some of the new mechanics in this game are fire pits that can damage you and ice on the floor that causes your character to slide around. They also expanded the in-game economy to include gambling. You can use your coins on a slot machine or play the shell game (like 3 card monty but with a ball under shells). There is still the same shopkeeper from the first game that you can purchase potions from and they added a second merchant who will sell them cheaper (if you can find him). You can also find a blacksmith to upgrade your armor.
It is still a rogue-lite game so dying will make you start over with nothing. The Castle is randomly generated which does make the exploration feel unique each time you enter.
They put in a lot of effort to capture that retro look and feel throughout the game. There is an old school password system that allows you to start with higher gear and some of the artifacts already collected. They also have a game manual that you can access from the options. The manual is great and for those who remember the old game manuals; it really captures that nostalgic feeling.
Castle of No Escape 2 is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Castle of No Escape from Publisher Xitilon and Developer D. E. X. Team
Minimalistic but fun retro styled rouge-lite dungeon crawler. Pretty standard fare but enjoyable nonetheless.
A Rogue-lite Dungeon Crawler
You start on the first floor of a mysterious castle. It has a top down view of a 6×6 grid. You move around the grid trying to find stairs to access the next floor. There are a total of 6 floors you can explore. All of the rooms on the floor are covered with questions marks making it a surprise for what could be hidden under it. You discover what is in them when your character moves over the room. While exploring you will come across monsters, books (some of which can curse you), chests, artifacts, and a shopkeeper. Each of the artifacts you collect will give you a buff that will help you explore the castle (warning: if you die, you will lose all of your buffs and have to start over from the beginning).
When you run into an enemy you have a few choices, you can fight the enemy using your weapons and magic, or flee. This adds a little bit of risk vs reward element since killing the enemy can reward you with coins but the risk of dying carries a steep penalty. Some of the enemies will attack you as soon as they see you. This can be a little frustrating in the beginning since running into a few enemies in a row can end your game fast.
Like most Rogue-lite games once you die you will start over at the beginning with everything in new random places and none of the upgrades you had previously acquired. The loading time between each of the games is very fast and after you die you will be back to playing in seconds.
There are 3 characters to choose from. Each has their own attributes. These are easy to read and understand by pressing the listed trigger or bumper button. There is a bonus 4th character that you can select by pressing the other unlisted trigger/bumper. However, since the 4th character is hidden you are unable to see their attributes before selecting it. Sadly all of the characters play the same way. They are just a skin and attribute change with identical attacks and spells.
You can purchase potions to refill your Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity from the shopkeeper using the coins you find. We suggest using your coins on the strength potions as they will keep you alive longer.
They also introduce a light mechanic to reveal some of the rooms around you. This helps you avoid enemies or find valuables on the floor. The primary method for this mechanic comes in the form of flares. Keep in mind you have a limited amount of flares and can easily run out of them. Luckily, you can find replacement flares in some of the rooms. If you are really lucky you will find the lantern which does the same thing as the flares but without having to consume them.
Sadly there is little to no story in the game. You need to collect the elements before the Demon Nikolai finds them and destroys the world. It’s a little reminiscent of Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet since the boss has a large gauntlet on and is trying to collect 5 stones.
Castle of No Escape is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Steam and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.