Evercade Cartridge Preview: The Sydney Hunter Collection
In the Evercade Cartridge Preview, we take a moment to go through our upcoming releases and give you a slightly more in-depth taster of what to expect from the new games than a trailer can provide. At the time of writing, both Piko Interactive Arcade 1and The Sydney Hunter Collection are available for preorder, with a launch date set for early August, so now’s a great time to familiarise yourself with these carts and see what to expect!
In contrast with Piko Interactive Arcade 1, which focuses on retro games, The Sydney Hunter Collection instead includes a selection of new, independently developed titles designed specifically for classic consoles. With four games on offer, each hosted on a different platform, there’s plenty of fun and adventure to be had here.
So let’s take a closer look!
Sydney Hunter and the Shrines of Peril
Way back in the day, there was a video game for the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision known as Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle. As the name suggests, this 1982 release was an adaptation of the cult classic children’s TV series based on Belgian cartoonist Peyo’s work.
We’d probably describe Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle as a “platformer” today, though for the most part the game is actually about proceeding on your way at ground level, hopping over obstacles to ensure you don’t meet a horrible demise by tripping over a fence or worse, some slightly taller-than-usual grass.
Yes, this was a game that was old-school hard, though it was worth persisting with for the excellent visuals and music — even on the limited hardware of the Atari 2600.
What does all this have to do with Sydney Hunter and the Shrines of Peril, though? Well, this game actually started as an Intellivision adaptation of Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle but, for one reason or another — likely licensing issues — became its own original title.
As part of that adaptation process, developer Collectorvision deliberately decided to make the game a tad easier for a modern audience — though make no mistake, it’s still unforgiving and rather challenging! Perhaps most notably, jumping was taken off the main directional controls and instead mapped to two different buttons: one for a short jump and another for a longer, higher jump. This alone makes things significantly easier than in Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle!
Although developed for the earliest of all the console platforms featured in the Sydney Hunter Collection, Sydney Hunter and the Shrines of Peril was not actually the first Sydney Hunter game. First released in 2014, it’s the second in the series — though as the simplest entry in mechanical terms, it’s the one worth trying first.
Just be warned — it’s simple arcade-style action can get very compelling and addictive, very quickly!
Sydney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe
First released in 2017, Sydney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe is the third entry in the Sydney Hunter series — but as a title developed for a classic 8-bit home console, it represents a fun step up from Sydney Hunter and the Shrines of Peril in numerous ways.
Aside from the obvious factors such as the more detailed visuals and the more elaborate soundtrack, the overall structure of the game is considerably more ambitious in Sydney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe, eschewing the linear left-to-right gameplay of its predecessor in favour of something much more open and non-linear.
In Sydney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe, our hero has gone and got himself captured and locked in a big temple. The tribe who captured him don’t appear to have any particularly sinister intentions, however; they just want Sydney’s help. Their Sacred Door, through which they trade their diamonds with the Mayans for food, has somehow ended up locked — and worse, the tribe’s treasures have been scattered all around their temple.
Unsurprisingly, it’s up to Sydney to explore the temple, retrieve the diamonds and find a means of opening the Sacred Door once again. This is, naturally, easier said than done, since the temple is full of both traps and deadly monsters. Housekeeping, it seems, is not the Sacred Tribe’s strong suit.
Gameplay in Sydney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe will doubtless remind home computer fans of classic exploration platformers such as Montezuma’s Revenge. Not only will you need to find the diamonds, but you’ll also need to collect keys to open chests, find idols to confer temporary invincibility on Sydney and, of course, pineapples to score extra lives.
This is a substantial, challenging adventure that Evercade’s save states should make a tad easier to tackle! Or if you’re up for a real old-school challenge, why not see if you can beat the whole thing in one sitting?
Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death
The first Sydney Hunter game, originally developed as a browser game back in 2012, is a 16-bit platformer with a focus on solving puzzles and traversing perilous situations. Once again, it adopts a notably different play style to its two peers on this cart, this time unfolding as a series of levels, each of which has a core challenge to complete in order to progress.
In most stages in Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death, your job is to track down an “evil item” that is used to open a passageway to the next dangerous chamber. As the name suggests, though, the evil items have a tendency to cause bad things to happen when grabbed by intrepid adventurers, so you’ll need to be ready for the worst at all times.
Thankfully, Sydney is not unarmed in this adventure; his trusty boomerang allows him to deal with monsters and some traps. There’s also plenty of treasure to discover along the way, so if you want to attain the best possible scores, you’ll need to explore each stage thoroughly and figure out not only how to secure the evil item safely, but also how to nab all the shiny goodies.
The game features both a Normal Mode with 10 caverns to explore, plus an Extra Mode with 12 caverns and boss battles. There are also two difficulty levels to play the game at, and a password system to help you pick up where you left off — or, of course, you can once again make use of the Evercade save system to keep your progress.
Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death is a great title for those who enjoy puzzle platformers with clear, self-contained challenges. Can you help our hero win his freedom?
The newest title on The Sydney Hunter Collection, Jester actually isn’t directly related to the Sydney Hunter series, and instead is simply developed by the same people. At the time of writing, it’s yet to be released by Collectorvision themselves, meaning the Evercade version will mark one of this game’s first ever public appearances.
Jester is an 8-bit maze game in which your aim is to collect keys, unlock vaults and secure a variety of treasures. The twist is that the keys you find are rarely for the room you’re currently in, meaning you’ll need to carefully plot a route out through the dungeon in order to gather your goodies in the most efficient manner.
Naturally, there are those who would oppose your treasure-gathering efforts, also. Swords scattered around the dungeon will temporarily give you the ability to defeat these foes — and if you beat enough of them, then good things happen.
Darkness is also a constant threat in Jester; if your torch runs out, you’ll be plunged into complete darkness and have to fumble your way through each room of the maze by “feel”! Thankfully, whoever was down in these dungeons before you had the foresight to leave some supplies lying around — the only question is if you’ll be able to reach them in time.
Jester is a fun, fairly simple arcade-style game that fits in well with the library of its original host platform in terms of look and feel. It’s a great means of winding down after the more complex adventures of Sydney Hunter, and a fun inclusion in the collection as a whole.
The Sydney Hunter Collection is set for release on August 11, 2023. You can find out more and preorder now here.
With over 260 games available