Evercade Piko Interactive Collection 3 review

The easiest thing to admire about the Evercade range is how carefully curated each collection feels. The majority feature a well-known hit (consequently giving the packaging a cover star), along with a few lesser-known games – some of which can be considered hidden gems – and a couple of curios such as a puzzle game or a Game Boy title. Blaze is pretty good at balancing genres too, with only a couple of cartridges guilty of leaning too heavily into a certain field.

Piko Interactive Collection 3 manages to maintain this consistency, which isn’t much of a surprise considering Piko’s catalogue of IP includes console, computer, and arcade games from the ‘80s and ‘90s, spanning every genre imaginable and from a variety of developers. With such a vast pool of software to draw titles from, Blaze has seemingly had no trouble at all at handpicking an assortment of games to create another interesting and well-rounded collection.

Here, you’ll find the PS1 platformer 40 Winks as the headliner, along with two NES games from Sculptured Software, a little-known NES game from 1992, two Game Boy Advance titles, three Mega Drive/Genesis games – one of which is an RPG; something in demand on the Evercade – and an unreleased Game Boy Color racer. That’ll be our curio, then. As for hidden gems, two of the NES games fall under that category. If we didn’t elaborate, this wouldn’t be much of a review.

3D platformer 40 Winks was Eurocom’s first unique in-house production. As a studio for hire, their previous works entailed licensed games and bespoke titles for various publishers. It’s easy to tell Eurocom went the extra mile to make sure their first IP was a hit, as the presentation is lavish throughout. As a mid-life (1999) PSone game, it made good use of the host system – visually it’s comparable to Spyro or Croc. As weird as it sounds, this is an N64-style platformer (think Banjo-Kazooie) but made with both the limitations and advantages (such as increased disc space) of the PSone in mind. This unfortunately means there were technical constraints on display. The camera has a habit of swinging around mid-jump, and even on Evercade there are loading screens when entering new areas.  

Although an N64 version exists (and no, you didn’t play it as a child – it was cancelled) it seems that Blaze has chosen the PSone version over it due to the Evercade’s controls. As anyone who owned Super Mario 64 DS will know, using a d-pad to play something originally made for analogue control is a finicky experience. The image can be stretched here to fill the screen, and it doesn’t look as squished as I initially feared. The game itself is well above average – an easy going and imaginative adventure, with lots of collectables to find. Not a classic, but still a great addition to the Evercade library, and easily the best PSone game released on the system to date.

From Sculptured Software comes 1992’s Stanley: The Search for Dr. Livingston and 1990’s Metal Mech: Man & Machine – two lesser-known NES games. Both are surprisingly good, being slightly more complex than you may expect. Stanley is an adventure-driven platformer with well-drawn sprites, featuring a map screen with a choice of areas, inventory management, and NPCs that offer tips. It focuses heavily on exploration, rather than being a simple left-to-right platformer. Metal Mech: Man & Machine, meanwhile, plays like the Amiga’s Walker and Sunsoft’s Blaster Master – putting you in control of a smoothly animated mech that you can eject from to explore on foot. Neither title was originally released in Europe, making their inclusion even more pleasing.

Motor City Patrol, another NES game, never made it to Europe back in 1992 either. This is more of a curio than a hidden gem. It was originally a Matchbox tie-in, only now the license has been removed. Well, kind of – ‘Matchbox’ still appears on the high score table. Initially, it holds some intrigue – it resembles the original GTA, featuring a top-down view of a city. Only here, you play as a police officer busting crooks. Speeding motorists must be flashed and slowed with sirens, while robbers (I kid you not) must be shot at. Yes, this is a kid’s game where the police fire guns. Reportedly you’re firing at their tyres, but the visuals are so simple that it’s impossible to tell without consulting the manual. Write this one up as fun for five minutes.

Sticking with 8-bit games, Radikal Bikers is an unreleased Game Boy Color version of Gaelco’s pizza delivering smash ‘n crash arcade game. This version is an isometric checkpoint racer where later races increase the amount of traffic and other hazards, on the road. The controls are responsive, the graphics colourful, and the presentation is quintessentially ‘90s. But it also has a throwaway feel; there isn’t much to see or invest time into. The GBC saw far worse games, but you can also see why this wasn’t released – it likely would have gained middling scores.

From Game Boy Color to Game Boy Advance. Acclaim’s Punch King (not to be confused with Wade Hixton’s Counter Punch) is a comical and cartoony take on Punch Out, again featuring a transparent pugilist so as not to obscure the action. First impressions are positive – sprites are large and well-drawn, almost filling the screen. Give it just ten minutes of your time, though, and frustration creeps in – there’s a steep learning curve, with no apparent patterns to assist with ducking and dodging.

Then there’s Super Bubble Pop – a match-three puzzler originally intended to tie-in with a bright pink hair-style product with a bubble gum scent. Despite the dubious reason behind its existence, it isn’t too bad. Rather than playing like Puzzle Bobble or Columns, it’s set on an isometric 3D grid that tilts when the characters move, and is accompanied by noughties dance music. The biggest problem here is that it’s challenging from the outset, rather than easing you in. I’m guessing cart space prevented the PSone version from being included over this handful iteration.  

This leaves us with the Mega Drive’s Sword of Sodan, Zero Tolerance, and Legend of Wukong. The concept of Sword of Sodan holds much appeal, even today – large sprites, lashing of blood, and a fantasy medieval setting. Alas, this was a game that put impressive visuals before anything else. It isn’t much fun to play, bogged down by slow and cumbersome controls. Zero Tolerance was famous for being one of the few FPS on the Mega Drive, and while it can’t compare to DOOM or Wolfenstein, it’s still a commendable effort.

Legend of Wukong fills the RPG quota, originally being a Taiwanese release from 1996. Super Fighter Team provided a Chinese-to-English translation in 2008, and that’s the version here. Inspired by Journey to the West, it features a top-down view and turn-based battles. Very much par for the course for the 16-bit era, only here, the tone is more comical.

If you skim-read over Piko Interactive Collection 3’s contents, it may sound like a hodgepodge. There is an element of truth to that – a handful of titles aren’t worth more than fifteen minutes of your time. The remaining games, though, are all above average and interesting in their own ways. I can imagine a lot of people buying this collection just to revisit 40 Winks, and ending up discovering a new favourite – with Legend of Wukong, Stanley: The Search for Dr. Livingston, and Metal Mech being strong contenders. If that wasn’t the thought process applied to the curation of this collection, I’d be very surprised.

Evercade Piko Interactive Collection 3 is out now for £17.99.