Port roundup: Wonder Boy Collection, Remote Life & Dungeon Defenders – Awakened

We’re going back in time today, with the Wonder Boy Collection that unites four games from the 1980s and early 1990s. We’re also checking out console ports of Remote Life and Dungeon Defenders – Awakened, which just released on the PS4.

Wonder Boy Collection review (PS4)

ININ Games has been pushing out quality retro games for quite a while now, and the Wonder Boy Collection is the latest one. It’s available right now for PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. We played the digital edition, but there’s also a physical one – which we’ll get back to later.

Included in this collection are Wonder Boy, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV, spanning a good eight years of gaming history that started back in 1986 with the arcade release of Wonder Boy and the 1987 successor that was Wonder Boy in Monster Land. For those old enough to remember, this was a protagonist that nearly ever gamer knew about in the pre-internet age because the games appeared on nearly every single system out there.

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There were ports for home computer systems like the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga, but it was perhaps most famously bundled with Sega’s Master System, where it became an iconic part of its catalogue. Perhaps because of this, later games in the franchise developed closer ties to Sega consoles and didn’t get the wide release they should have gotten, but recent re-releases have remedied this and now ININ is bringing four of these classics together.

Oddly missing, however, are the arcade game Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair and the Master System game Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, instead skipping forward to the two games that were initially released for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. The physical edition of this collection, which comes out later, does feature these titles – as well as ports for different versions of each game, for a total of 21 (!) ports across six different games.

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While the four games that are on offer right now, it’s worth pointing out that the physical version will be limited to only 2,000 copies – which will certainly leave a sour taste in your mouth if you’re a Wonder Boy fan who missed out and can’t play the full experience, missing out on two excellent games in the series. We can probably do without playing the Game Gear ports, but it’s a shame to not be able to get both of the Wonder Boy III titles digitally.

Having said that, the emulation on all four titles that are included is excellent, features not only a perfect representation of the original games but also handy features like the ability to rewind and save mid-game thanks to save states, a convenience that we certainly didn’t have in the arcade era or with early consoles. An excellent collection, but you might be left wanting more, so it’s worth checking out the physical edition.

Remote Life review (PS4)

A lot of ports made by Ratalaika feature retro/pixel graphics, so when they were bringing a classic arcade shooter to consoles we expected something similar. Remote Life, from developer Next Game Level, features gorgeous modern visuals though – making it stand out from the crowd of indie arcade shooters.

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What’s also somewhat novel about Remote Life is that it uses twin stick controls, letting you aim your cannon in a different direction than just straight ahead. Other than that, it’s fairly familiar gameplay stuff, where you weave in between enemies, bullets and scenery elements while trying to take down your foes.

These foes deserve a special mention though, because this is a gorgeously rendered game with a great sci-fi world that blends Giger-like alien designs with metal/industrial touches for one for the best indie shooters we’ve seen yet. Some of the animations are a little crude, but even that is fitting with the techno/industry-inspired visuals, where it wouldn’t be if they went the ‘organic’ route. Everything’s very nicely detailed, and a techno/electro soundtrack accompanies the visuals quite well. One downside, however, is that the diverse designs and backdrops can cause bullets to temporarily blend into the background, making them hard to see and dodge.

You gradually unlock more ships and weapons, and can equip three primary weapons at once – alternating between them as you play. You also have a powerful special weapon, but as per the genre norm these are in low supply and best saved up for tricky situations. You’ll encounter a few of these, though sometimes they’ll initially frustrate because the scenery changes and you get stuck – thus relying of memory rather than quick reflexes.

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If you’re a fan of classic arcade shooting but wish there were more that didn’t just go “retro” with its visuals, then you’ll want to play Remote Life. It doesn’t have the 2.5D shine of a game like Sine Mora, but it’s a gorgeous 2D sci-fi shooter.

Dungeon Defenders – Awakened review (PS4)

We previously checked out Dungeon Defenders – Awakened when it launched out of Early Access on PC. Since then, it’s made the journey to consoles as well, just recently making its final debut appearance on Sony’s PlayStation platform. Two years after covering the PC version, we took another look.

With two years having passed, our biggest interest was in how the game had changed in terms of stability and features, and we were surprised to see that local co-op (a favorite in former Dungeon Defenders games) still hasn’t been implemented here. Or re-implemented, after it was taken out during development on the PC when they weren’t happy with it.

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So despite the time that has passed, Dungeon Defenders – Awakened still seems to be in a state of development. This isn’t just true for features like local co-op, but also when looking at a rather unpolished and unintuitive user interface in a game that doesn’t do much to ease players into the experience through tutorials or in-game tips – you’re mostly left to figure things out on your own here.

We commented on the PC release needing a few updates to get rid of bugs two years ago, so it was an unpleasant surprise to see the same game still feature bugs upon its PlayStation release – it’s almost as if the developer wanted to cast their net wide by reaching multiple platforms before addressing some of the core issues that still plague the game. That’s a shame, because there’s an addictive gameplay loop here that we really hoop gets polished up a bit more – let’s hope this happens, because Dungeon Defenders was excellent and we want this one to succeed.

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