Jaleco and Piko Interactive collect more classics on Evercade

An exclusive look at two upcoming cartridges for Blaze's miniature marvel

Look, I know I talk about the Evercade a lot, but come on. A dedicated handheld platform for retrogaming. It’s on message, don’t you think? And they keep putting the sorts of games I like on it. You know, underappreciated but plenty-good titles like Claymates, Boogerman, Power Piggs (I was as surprised as you are that this game is fun) and on the upcoming Lynx collections, Slime World.

Post-Lynx, though, there are a couple more neat collections of classic curios coming, in the Jaleco Collection and Piko Interactive Collection 2 cartridges. And Evercade were Ever so nice (gleeful chuckle) in sending them to me for a little butchers.

What we’ve got here are a couple of compilations very much in the system’s tradition - though it has been branching out, what with its Xeno Crisis/Tanglewood twofer and the upcoming Indie Heroes cartridge. These, though (scheduled for February 2021, calendar fans), are much more of the expected vintage – but, arguably, they skew even more obscure than usual.

Left: Astyanax. Right: Earth Defense Force.

Let’s start with Jaleco, because Jalecos can and Jalecos do (Oh, god, stop. – Everyone on the planet). Very well. This is a fascinating little suite of games;  all NES and SNES, with no duffers whatsoever. Some have recently shown up on the Nintendo Switch Online service – the excellent top-down shooter Operation Logic Bomb and shmup Earth Defense Force, for example – but here you can play them with, quite frankly, a much better D-pad.

By my reckoning the other highlights of the Jaleco Collection are the inimitable NES port of Astyanax, a delightfully difficult and arcadey hack and slash game with massive sprites, and SNES firefighting title The Ignition Factor, a surprisingly thoughtful (and tricky) take on the whole "saving people from a massive scorch-on" thing. There's also the 90s-tastic Totally Rad, belt scrollers Rival Turf and Brawl Brothers for the kicking contingent, the seemingly-inescapable City Connection (which someone must like), and finally sports titles Bases Loaded (I'd offer coverage, but I don't even know the rules of Baseball) and Super Goal 2, a Mode-7-tastic take on the beautiful game (footie).

It's a collection with many more bangers than bummers, and the games I don't care as much for clearly have an audience, because City and Bases are both fondly-remembered titles. And sports games make an interesting segue, because Piko Interactive Collection 2 is built around them.

Normally, I'd run a mile screaming in the opposite direction, but this cart lured me in with two of my faves - that's Eliminator Boat Duel, a cracking multi-perspective NES schooner-'em-up that's tons of fun, and the immortal Soccer Kid, Krisalis Software's brilliantly designed platformer that got inexplicably renamed The Adventures of Kid Kleets in America because all of you are absolutely out of your trees.

Left: Eliminator Boat Duel. Right: Top Racer 2.

Interestingly, a few offerings here have lost their celebrity endorsements - Barkley: Shut Up and Jam has become simply Hoops: Shut Up and Jam (included here alongside its sequel), and Power Football has had a Mike Ditka-ectomy. Sounds painful, eh lads? Still, you've got Beast Ball here - a formerly unreleased Mega Drive game - to get your pigskin fix. Prefer proper British football like a normal person? Then you can get stuck into World Trophy Soccer or the PlayStation's Football Madness, the first PS1 game on Evercade (but not the last...?). Speaking of firsts, there's also Racing Fever, a rather good top-down Game Boy Advance title, backed up by the brilliant Top Racer 2 (actually Top Gear 2, as any fule kno) and Full Throttle: All-American Racing. No, not that Full Throttle, sadly. Lastly, the compilation titles Summer Challenge and Winter Challenge drag some joyfully robust 3D gameplay out of the Mega Drive.

Overall, it's a lot more focused than the first Piko Interactive cartridge - which, while good, was all over the place in terms of genre. Here, everything is related in some way to sports, which will be kryptonite to some but shouldn't be written off. Even if the other games on the cart weren't mostly good (they are!), it's honestly worth it just for Soccer Kid, Eliminator Boat Duel, Racing Fever and Top Racer 2.

Evercade seems to be getting more and more interesting - a recent firmware update increased the brightness of the screen, improved the save-states and generally made everything run even better, and with more carts on the horizon (Lynx! Indies!! Unannounced stuff!!!) it becomes an even better proposition as the months go by. Still, though, they really did have me at Jim Power.

It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention the current raffle being run on the Evercade Discord, where you'll need to hop into the #competition channel and type "!raffle" to enter. Three "Premium Packs" are being given away to the winners. Free Evercades! Why not have a go? I had to pay for mine! You kids don't know you're born!!

Jaleco Collection 1 and Piko Interactive Collection 2 are both out in early 2021.