Old-school arcade games are great fun to revisit whether you're playing obscure oddities or classic titles. I recently decided to play every single Johnny Turbo's Arcade game on Switch and here's what I thought about each release.
Gate Of Doom Review Switch ★★★☆☆
As one of those classic overhead RPG-style action arcade games, does Gate Of Doom live up to contemporaries like Gauntlet?
Gate Of Doom (AKA Dark Seal) released in 1990 and is the prequel to Wizard Fire. You and a friend select your character class then traverse grueling stages that are filled with all sorts of monsters, traps, and treasures. The basic controls have you attacking enemies with your primary weapon and whenever your magic gauge is full, you can transform into whatever creature your magic book is currently displaying. This is by far the best part of its gameplay as discovering what each transformation is capable of can be quite enjoyable. That being said, the gameplay is otherwise overly chaotic and difficult to navigate as you try to discern the dangers that lurk around. Although you'll perish a lot, playing it with a friend can be quite fun so I still recommend Gate Of Doom for its couch co-op appeal.
From its goofy retro fantasy setting to its unique magic system; Gate Of Doom is a solid arcade gem that's worth checking out.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Gate Of Doom gameplay video → Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Wizard Fire Review
Bad Dudes Review Switch ★★☆☆☆
Side-scrolling action games can be a lot of fun if done right so are these dudes bad in the good sense or just plain bad?
Bad Dudes debuted in 1988 and is a precursor to the mildly entertaining Two Crude Dudes. Unlike Two Crude Dudes, Bad Dudes simply isn't that fun. All you do is head to the right while tapping buttons to attack enemies that usually perish after 1 hit. This may sound typical but when you factor in just how tedious the levels generally are, you're left with one boring 2D action formula. Even while playing with a friend, you'll often stand around and wait for enemies to emerge so you can take them out then wait around again. That being said, picking up weapons and using a charged punch can be fun and the overall absurdity of it all is sure to provide some laughs.
As a novelty, Bad Dudes is sure to scratch some sort of nostalgic itch but it wasn't a good game back in '88 and it sure isn't now.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Bad Dudes gameplay video → Two Crude Dudes Review
Sly Spy Review Switch ★★★☆☆
James Bond games didn't really take off until GoldenEye on Nintendo 64 yet here's a silly off-brand version from 1989.
Sly Spy is yet another 2D action game and what it does best is offer a substantial amount of variety. Each stage is distinct and enjoyable whether you're taking out enemies while riding on a motorcycle, running and gunning, or fending off foes as you fall from an airplane. Even with the consistently changing gameplay, it manages to remain intuitive which is great. On the other hand, things frequently become too chaotic with enemy hordes constantly rushing towards you from all sides. As a result, it can be a supremely frustrating game but powering through so you can see what sort of crazy situation you'll face in the next stage makes it all worth it.
There may not be many retro James Bond games but Sly Spy certainly does a decent job of filling 007's shoes.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Sly Spy gameplay video →
Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja Review Switch ★★★★☆
Wacky 2D platformers usually make for memorable cooperative fun with a friend so let's check out Joe and Mac's delightful debut.
Although more gamers are probably familiar with the console port, Joe and Mac actually debuted in arcades as Caveman Ninja. This is another game that's best played cooperatively with a friend as working through the over-the-top stages is much more enjoyable when 2 players are in the mix. Not only does it make the gameplay more fun but you can also jump on each other's heads which can provide a much-needed vertical boost which especially comes in handy when facing off against some of the kooky bosses. Anyway, it plays similarly to Adventure Island in that you run and jump around while throwing projectiles. The main difference is that Joe and Mac is much more densely packed with enemies which can get quite hectic but those situations make playing with a friend all the more rewarding.
Joe and Mac may not be as famous as Master Higgins but their debut game Caveman Ninja remains a worthy relic from the Stone Age.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja gameplay video → Revisiting Adventure Island
Break Thru Review Switch ★★☆☆☆
Vehicle combat has come a long way since the '80s so does the frantic and fast-paced Break Thru hold up nowadays?
I actually still own Break Thru for NES and have fond memories of playing it as a kid. Now that I played the arcade version thanks to Johnny Turbo's Arcade, I can't help but wonder; "What was I thinking?!" Perhaps the console version is more enjoyable but the arcade Break Thru is one of the most infuriating games that I've ever played. You basically control a car that can shoot and jump and you must maintain a significant amount of speed so you can jump over certain obstacles, etc. However, going fast also makes avoiding oncoming enemies an extremely difficult thing to do so you'll find yourself retrying again and again while attempting to memorize where the hazards and enemies are placed only for an enemy to surprise you from an unpredictable location then you start all over again.
Break Thru's frustrating gameplay and awkward jumping mechanic make for one irritating retro formula that simply isn't all that fun.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Break Thru gameplay video →
Night Slashers Review Switch ★★★★☆
There are few genres as entertaining for a couch full of chums as a good old beat 'em up so here's the super-fun Night Slashers.
Night Slashers is a beat 'em up for up to 3 local players and it's a heck of a lot of fun. For starters, you don't see many games in the genre with a horror theme so the fact that you fight all sorts of zombies and monsters is an absolute delight, especially while fighting the bosses which range from imaginative original creations to cliché classic monsters. The gameplay is tight, the graphics are fantastic, and the consistent level of excitement ties it all together. I especially enjoy deploying each character's special move which may deplete your health a lot but it just feels awesome to watch. In the end, Night Slashers is one of the best arcade beat 'em ups ever made.
If you love beat 'em ups then you need to play Night Slashers as it accomplishes everything exceptionally well and holds up beautifully.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Night Slashers gameplay video → More beat 'em ups
Heavy Barrel Review Switch ★★★☆☆
Whether it's Capcom's Commando or SNK's Guerrilla War; overhead run and gun games are usually a blast so let's play Heavy Barrel.
Heavy Barrel is played like many of its contemporaries as you control a soldier who shoots and throws grenades while traversing enemy-filled stages. What sets it apart is the fact that you can rotate your character which makes it a lot like Ikari Warriors for arcade. One cool aspect is that the stages scroll both horizontally and vertically which means you'll regularly have to adjust your aim. Thankfully, doing so merely involves tapping the shoulder buttons which may not be as intuitive as your average twin-stick shooter but you don't have to constantly change your aim, especially if you're playing cooperatively as one player can aim in one direction while the other targets trickier opponents. Overall, it's a decent shooter and collecting every piece of the titular Heavy Barrel makes for one cool power-up.
Although it doesn't deviate much from a stereotypical overhead run 'n' gun, Heavy Barrel is a solid cooperative arcade shooter.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Heavy Barrel gameplay video → Heavy Burger Review
Fighter's History Review Switch ★★☆☆☆
When you think of classic arcade 2D fighting games, Street Fighter II probably comes to mind so here's a cheap knock-off.
Capcom's classic Street Fighter II debuted in 1991 and it took Data East a whole 2 years after its release to make this far less impressive fighting game that was clearly inspired by it. As a predecessor to the superior yet still underwhelming Karnov's Revenge, Fighter's History is a by-the-books 6-button fighter. A unique feature is the fact that you can stun your foe by attacking their weak point but doing so isn't all that rewarding because you can only do it one time during each round. On top of this, the characters are very generic and don't differentiate themselves from the pack much and the stages are quite detailed yet again, don't stand out as particularly memorable.
With so many memorable 2D fighters released in the early '90s, why anyone would prefer playing Fighter's History is beyond me.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Fighter's History gameplay video → More fighting games
Super Real Darwin Review Switch ★★★☆☆
Few arcade genres are as supersaturated as shoot 'em ups so does Super Real Darwin have what it takes to be a worthwhile shooter?
Super Real Darwin is a basic shmup at its core as all you do is fly around while shooting and dropping bombs. As far as I'm concerned, Xevious really nailed this formula back in '83 and it'll take a lot to top that classic. Thankfully, Super Real Darwin is a solid attempt as it features a very unique power-up system where you collect enemy DNA which evolves your primary weapon. You'll go from a standard pea shooter to firing an array of lasers and missiles over time and watching your firepower grow is truly satisfying stuff. With that said, the bombs don't really feel necessary as there aren't many ground enemies to target and the gameplay is chaotic enough already. Oh, and the boss fights can be ridiculously frustrating so make sure you have plenty of patience before giving this shmup a try.
It may not be the best retro shoot 'em up but Super Real Darwin's nifty power-up system surely makes it a solid arcade gem.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Super Real Darwin gameplay video → More shoot 'em ups
Joe and Mac Returns Review Switch ★★★★☆
Believe it or not, Joe and Mac had an arcade game sequel and it's probably not what you'd expect so let's save some cavewomen!
If you're a retro gamer then you may think of Joe and Mac 2: Lost in the Tropics for Super NES as being the only sequel to Caveman Ninja. However, you might be pleasantly surprised that there's an arcade follow-up in the form of Joe and Mac Returns. I honestly have never heard of it before playing the Johnny Turbo's Arcade release but now that I have, I'm very happy with it. It's essentially a single-screen arcade game that follows a similar formula to Taito's classic Bubble Bobble where you run and jump around stages while taking out enemies which turns them into food. What's different is that you attack enemies which stuns them then put them in a sack. After that, you can throw the sack to take out other enemies and damage bosses. It's a heck of a lot of fun, especially while playing with a friend and the cheeky cutscenes in between worlds will make you crack up as you watch Joe and Mac gawk at nudie cavewomen.
Joe and Mac Returns will clonk you over the head and win you over with its charming visuals, highly enjoyable gameplay, and cheeky sense of humour. It's a shame that more gamers aren't aware of this delightful arcade sequel.Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Returns gameplay video → Similar game: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends