Evercade Piko Interactive Collection 4 review

As Forest Gump once mumbled, “Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” The same is also true for Piko Interactive collections, with Piko merely being a license holder – whenever they’re involved, you never know which games are going to appear. It’s a very different case from something like Worms Collection, or the Bitmap Brothers Collection – a five game cart with three of those being iterations of Speedball. Yeah, we’re still bitter.

Proving our point, the first game highlighted on Piko Collection 4’s menu is the NES’ Bad Street Brawler from 1989 – originally commission by Mattel for the Power Glove. Its history is more convolved beyond that, with this not being wholly unique, also known a Street Hassle on Commodore 64. Whereas Street Hassle wasn’t bad (you may recall the AVGN enjoying it) this NES version feels cobbled together, taking assets from the C64 version and reworking them into the limitations of the NES. It’s quite a comical and cartoony affair, but uneven difficulty prevents much of the enjoyment. I’d also argue that it isn’t politically correct these days, with questionable enemy types. Despite shortcomings, I actually had more fun with it than 1990’s Target: Renegade – another scrolling brawler present, tenuously linked to Double Dragon. It’s one of the most textbook examples of the genre you will ever play. A classic 50%-er.

Another NES game here is Mermaids of Atlantis. Like Bad Street Brawler, this has a history, originally released as a ‘naughty’ unlicensed game with topless females. This is the clean version, essentially being a match four puzzler where formations of coloured bubbles float upwards. It isn’t a bad time, but irregular formations make it hard to formulate winning strategies and a lot of success is down to luck. The Game Boy is represented here too with The Fidgetts from 1993. This too is a puzzle game, playing similarly to The Lost Vikings due to having to swap between characters with different skills. Two mice, in this instance. It’s nicely presented and deceptively tricky, as levels have a time limit too. This isn’t something you’ll beat quickly, so if you’re up for the challenge you’ll be golden for a while.  

From Game Boy to Game Boy Advance. Star X is brazenly influenced by Star Fox, featuring similar low poly 3D visuals. On the Evercade’s large screen it remains impressive from a technical standpoint. Repetition ruins some of the enjoyment, with stages featuring the same looping backdrops, ground textures, and a predictable assortment of enemy types. There isn’t much in the way of personality either, being much more straight-laced. Like most of the games mentioned so far, it isn’t bad – but neither is it great. We actually reviewed Star X back when it was first released but not even the almighty Wayback Machine can revive our musings. I believe we thought it was okay.

Two SNES games feature, one of which was never released in Europe. Sküljagger: Revolt of the Westicans came packaged with a storybook, encouraging kids to read. The idea was that players would need to read through it to gain hints. Presumably, translating said book into various European languages would’ve been too costly. The game itself is a typical side-scrolling action platformer, with a pirate-esque theme, only with the ability to blow comically large bubble gum bubbles to jump higher and make safety nets. This was one of the few 16-bit games from Realtime Associates that wasn’t licensed, and while it’s always pleasing to see what a ‘studio for hire’ comes up with when given free reign, it’s borderline average.

Ending this pattern is 1994’s Street Racer, an early commercial and critical success from Ubisoft prior to Rayman. Its’ a Mode 7 racer similar to Super Mario Kart that actually outclasses Nintendo’s effort in terms of presentation, featuring a much richer colour palette and more detailed sprites. There’s also more depth here, taking inspiration from Street Fighter – characters can attack left and right, a la Road Rash, and use special attacks. It even throws in a few bonus modes including a soccer mini-game…with a single goalpost. While it’s a shame the superior PSone version wasn’t included instead, this is still decent and well worth committing a few evenings to. Multiplayer modes should make this an Evercade Vs mainstay.

Not to be outclassed, this collection also has two Mega Drive titles. These are both rather middling though. From what I can tell, Zero Tolerance: Underground is a new version of the technically impressive FPS, formed from assets of the cancelled Mega CD/SEGA CD iteration. It has new levels, set in a subway system, and it was planned to support the MD’s six-button controller (with the extra inputs mapped to the shoulder buttons here) while having a smoother framerate. A new game this isn’t, though – it uses the original as a template, presented identically. This doesn’t stop it from being a reasonably enjoyable experience – there’s an on-screen map that’s beyond helpful, and a smattering of gore with weapons being surprisngly impactful. EA’s Risky Woods (1992) meanwhile is a visually appealing side-scrolling action platformer, boasting fluid animation and well-drawn sprites. The controls are responsive too. A shame, then, that the difficulty level is off the charts – it’s a very punishing experience, mostly due to the constant onslaught of enemies. If you’re willing to save and reload ad nauseum, save states do make it manageable though.

This leaves us with the collection’s cover star, Glover. This 3D platformer, from the creators of Dizzy, marks the Evercade’s first N64 game. Third-party studio Byteswap Labs helped bring it to Evercade, adapting the controls to a digital d-pad, removing texture fuzz and updating control prompts etc. It also now features Cadey – the Evercade’s mascot – as a helper, guiding players through the tutorial. As N64 3D platformers went, this was one of the more demanding examples – the titular glove is able to bounce a ball around, and levels are based around transporting balls to an exit using skill and planning. There’s a long list of abilities, making for a learning curve not usually associated with the genre. Glover requires a spot of patience, but overall, it’s more enjoyable than Piko Collection 3’s 40 Winks.

This collection gets our recommendation despite it coming with the caveat that around half the games here are mostly interesting from historic standpoints, and not because they’re hidden gems. Bad Street Brawler, Mermaids of Atlantis, Zero Tolerance: Underground, and Target: Renegade (to an extent) all fall into this camp, having interesting backstories due to being conceived unconventionally. Sküljagger, Star X, and Risky Woods are pretty middling, leaving Glover, The Fidgetts, and Street Racer as the highlights. This is a decent option for Evercade owners with an open mind. It’s also neat that we have games from EA and Ubisoft here, considering both rarely acknowledges their past these days.

Piko Collection 4 is out now for Evercade.