Up until this cartridge came out, almost all of the Evercade compilations have been collections of genuine 8-bit and 16-bit games from yesteryear, with the odd unreleased title also thrown in as a bonus.

This one, like Mega Cat Studios Collection 1, is different though – not only does it only contain two games (by far the smallest number of games on any Evercade cartridge so far), but the two games included aren’t actually retro games from back in the day. Both Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood are indie games designed to be played on retro hardware – so, for example, Xeno Crisis was made available on Mega Drive/Genesis cartridges and Dreamcast discs. Tanglewood, like Xeno Crisis, was also a new game that was made available on Mega Drive/Genesis cartridges.

Xeno Crisis is an intense, beautiful tribute to Smash TV by way of Aliens; it’s ridiculously tough and yet incredibly addictive. Its one major misstep in my opinion is with having limited ammo – forcing players to make their way through masses of deadly enemies or survive against a huge boss in order to pick up randomly spawning ammo crates is a step too far, challenge wise – it just ends up feeling unfair and ruins the flow of the otherwise engaging, fast paced blasting. Nevertheless, it’s still a superb game, if you’ve got the patience for it. If you play on an Evercade VS, you can take advantage of the excellent co-op mode too.

Xeno Crisis

Tanglewood is a much more sedate experience, yet in its own way just as difficult to actually progress through. A cute, beautifully animated platformer with charming character design, it’s actually fairly obtuse in terms of its signposting and general ease of being able to work out how to get anywhere. The puzzles can often be pretty frustrating, though it’s a much more satisfying experience if you happen to check out a guide to assist you. A lovely looking game, but it feels far too old school in its design philosophy to be considered a universally appealing game.

Both games can be pretty expensive if purchased on their respective retro formats; though both are also available for reasonable RRPs for more modern formats, this Evercade cartridge is still pretty good value for two highly regarded, if challenging, indie games.

The problem it has is that it can’t help but feel a little thin in terms of content. Yes, these are new (or at least more recent) independently produced and published games that deserve to find a wider audience; they do find a natural home on the Evercade. Yet stacked up against the packed cartridges already available, it doesn’t seem like such a great deal.

The Piko Interactive Collection 1, for instance, contains 20 games of comparable depth and style to the two here. Or if you want to compare apples to apples, there’s ten ‘new retro’ titles featured in Mega Cat Studios Collection 1. As good as Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood are, that niggling feeling of not getting much bang for your buck can’t be escaped.

If you’ve played either game and you’re already a fan, it’s likely that you’ve already made your mind up as to whether or not to pick up the Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood cartridge. If not, well this is a cautious recommend: though both games are pretty substantial in terms of content – and this dual cartridge isn’t actually overpriced in the grand scheme of things – just about any other Evercade cartridge gives you a lot more variety and depth than you’ll find here.

You can purchase the Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood cartridge from Amazon here.

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