In today’s roundup of recently ported titles, we’re checking out a Mega Drive/Genesis cult classic in the Zero Tolerance Collection, look at the Parasite Pack that contains Flea! Tapeworm Disco Puzzle and explore the dungeons of Crypt of the Serpent King in a remastered version.
Zero Tolerance Collection review (PS4)
It’s been interesting to see QUByte’s classics label come out with a few titles you wouldn’t immediately think of, like The Immortal or The Humans. They’re not go-to titles that people think about when discussing classic gaming, but they all have something interesting to them that makes them worth revisiting. That’s certainly true of their latest release as well, as Zero Tolerance may not be on anyone’s “top 10 Sega Mega Drive/Genesis games” list, but it does a few things that were quite remarkable for the time.
As a first person shooter, Zero Tolerance was a rare sight but not entirely unique on Sega’s 16-bit console. People probably remember the ports of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom because of their status on the PC at that time, but Zero Tolerance from developer Technopop was equally impressive in terms of performance – remarkable in a time where 3D shooters were almost synonymous to iD Software, especially on consoles.
This particular collection doesn’t just contain Zero Tolerance, but also the previously unreleased title Zero Tolerance Undergrond and a prototype for Beyond Zero Tolerance. For fans of this cult/niche classic, that alone is reason enough to pick up this new version of the game, which is emulated well here, with consistent performance across all three games. The original game (amazingly enough) has support for local networking if you hooked up two consoles though, and that seems to not have made this particular port – which is a shame because it was certainly a standout feature.
Those who’ve never played Zero Tolerance will feel it’s a very dated type of first person shooter though. There are plenty of people who can’t bear to play the old Doom games, and if you’re one of those then you should probably pass this one over. If you’re a fan of historically relevant games that you never got to see before though, then you’ll want to pick this up for sure. It’s rough, but it will bring back memories even if you never played it before.
Parasite Pack review (PS4)
Publisher Ratalaika is certainly no stranger when it comes to releasing ports, and this time they’ve actually bundled two of them together. Flea! and Tapeworm Disco Puzzle were both developed by Alastair Low as NES titles, and have seen Steam releases as well. They’re now available for all major consoles as well, and both offer a nice bit of retro goodness.
To enhance that retro feel (although… how much more retro than “NES” do you want it?), Ratalaika’s emulation core also offers the usual screen filters that can give your TV a classic curved look with scanlines, and you can also use save states to pause and resume the game at any point you like. This is especially useful in Flea!, which is a challenging platformer with 80 progressively more difficult levels to get through. Using a save state can help you hold on to all those extra lives you picked up early on, and because of the titular star’s unique movement scheme you’ll need them too. As a flea, you don’t just walk around and jump when needed – you’re constantly bouncing, and that’s often a recipe for bouncing into some kind of death trap.
You can give your little flea mid-air nudges to try and move sideways rather than upwards into a few spikes, but it’s certainly a novel idea in the platforming genre – even if the game itself feels close to other challenging platformers with its small (single screen) levels and the fine line between ‘challenging’ and ‘frustrating’ that it walks. And while they’re separate games, you’ll encounter a whole bunch of fleas in Tapeworm Disco Puzzle as well.
Starring a tapeworm and rocking a similar NES look and feel, Tapeworm Disco Puzzle doesn’t rely on lightning fast platforming skills, but rather has you extend yourself in a myriad of ways in order to grab items or form a bridge for little fleas to traverse. It’s a nice creative take on the genre, and during later levels you’ll have to move quickly in between positions to move your objectives, making it feel like an arcade puzzler. Combined, these games fit well together, and offer great value for money.
Crypt of the Serpent King Remastered 4K Edition review (PS5)
We definitely weren’t expecting Eastasiasoft’s more recent port, a new 4K version of Crypt of the Serpent King, a game which originally released on Steam back at the end of 2016. It wasn’t met with great reviews at the time, so it wasn’t something we thought was going to make a comeback. It’s exclusive to next/new-gen consoles, and it combines classic dungeon crawling with roguelike influences.
If you’ve been into video games for a while and know someone who had an Atari ST or Amiga, they’ll tell you that Dungeon Master by FTL was one of the top games of its generation. It was a pioneer in the dungeon crawler genre, and spiritual successors have been coming out ever since. Stonekeep surprised me back in 1995, and more recent examples are the Legend of Grimrock games.
Crypt of the Serpent King is clearly a budget take on the genre that cuts a few corners, with enemies that repeat too often, somewhat clunky (completely exploitable) combat and often generic enemies and visual assets. At the same time, we kept playing, as its seven (randomly generated) levels felt not too overwhelming to tackle and there was a steady stream of trophies to spur us on as well.
What also helps is a near-constant sense of progression on account of a simple roguelike mechanic where (on the easiest setting) you keep your XP and gold upon death, so you can head back in significantly stronger when you die. The levels also get a new layout, so it doesn’t feel overly grindy either. There are way better examples in the genre, but the budget price point definitely helps.