Blaze Entertainment's handheld offers cart to heart resuscitation
I've waited since June for my Evercade, but it's finally here and I want to talk about it. Because I'm a giant sucker for weird old retro tosh (as regular readers are well aware), I had to get the all-in pack which ships with the first ten cartridges. For posterity, that's Atari Collection 1 and 2, Namco Museum 1 and 2, Interplay Collection 1 and 2, Mega Cat Studios Collection, Piko Interactive Collection, Data East Collection and Technos Collection. That's a good chunk of gaming, right there. But let's talk about the actual handheld, first.
For a start, it's a pleasing thing to hold in the hands - nice and chunky, not too thin and flimsy. The face buttons and D-pad are good and responsive, though I'm less keen on the clicky, weedy shoulder buttons. Thankfully, they don't come into play too often. The screen looks nice and the games feel downright smooth to play. Input lag is either non-existent or at least undetectable by me, but to be fair I usually don't notice it unless it's really severe.
This brings me to another point in the Evercade's favour, which I feel speaks well for the curation of the thing's library - it's not just all the Mega Drive or all the SNES versions of each game, which is what I expected in my original preview. Here, you get the best version of each game, even across series'. For example, Earthworm Jim is presented as the superior (no arguing) Mega Drive version, while its direct sequel Earthworm Jim 2 is the SNES version which makes use of the shoulder buttons for weapon switching, and features a few expansions to its levels. This willingness to select the best port of each game genuinely impresses me as most of the time the effort just isn't there with re-releases like this.
Speaking of effort, the Namco sets bring a couple of firsts - Mappy Kids and Libble Rabble make their western debuts here, though the latter is a game that's very much designed for twin-sticks and it's a little tricky to get used to. Still, releases like that would justify the Evercade even if nothing else did - there are upcoming Oliver Twins (Dizzy!!) and Atari Lynx cartridges, showcasing games that aren't available anywhere else outside of original hardware or emulation.
It's a venture I'm enthusiastic about, especially now that I've got one of the devices and know for myself just how nicely it plays. I'm very fond of the cartridges, which lend a nice physicality to the whole thing. It's effectively an emulation device, yes, but it's a beautifully curated one. There are quality of life features such as save states and HDMI output, but they're uninstrusive and don't get in the way of the fact that this is a gaming machine for playing games on. And so many of those games are otherwise so rarely available - even the Namco collections include lesser-seen stuff like Metal Marines and Splatterhouse 2/3 - that I can't help but give it two unequivocal thumbs up. I hope to see many, many more cartridges for this thing.
P.S Claymates still rules.