Believe it or not, indie developers are still releasing SNES games and here's one that you'll definitely want to check out.
Last year, I reviewed Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan for Switch and absolutely loved it so imagine my surprise when I found out that its predecessor is actually available as a Super NES game! Once I got my hands on it, I was instantly brought back to the mid '90s when SNES games ruled the gaming world. First, the box is beautiful complete with fantastic cover art from Joe Simko and it's actually better than the game boxes from back in the day because it's made out of a durable-feeling material as opposed to flimsy cardboard. Inside, the game cartridge sits in a clear plastic holder which again, is arguably better than classic SNES game packaging. Finally, you get a manual which contains valuable info and of course, a page to write your passwords in. It really is an impressively well done package.
So, what about the actual game? Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death stars the titular geologist who's on a mission to explore Mount Doom. However, he soon gets trapped within the mountain and it's your goal to guide him to freedom. You do so by running, jumping, and climbing through 12 tricky maze-like levels while throwing a boomerang at the dastardly creatures that reside within the caves. A lot of the rooms are shrouded in darkness so thankfully, Sydney has a torch that he can wield which lights up the room. However, he can't run with the torch so you're forced to memorize where the enemies and hazards are located then proceed with caution. The resulting formula is quite challenging and thoroughly tests your ability to carefully inch your way through rooms.
One thing that Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death does exceptionally well is offer stage designs that reward exploration seeing as there is a lot of treasure hidden around. You'll also have to explore in order to progress as most stages include blockades that don't open unless you place certain items on their respective pedestals. Sometimes, removing items causes lava to gradually rise so you'll have to return the item to its pedestal quickly or else Sydney may just be the next sacrifice to the island's god.
If you want to try for a high score then you can challenge yourself to collect as much treasure as possible without getting a game over. Besides that, there isn't much replay value and considering the 12 level campaign is pretty short, you're not looking at a particularly long-lasting experience. That said, it is a memorable one and the 3 bosses (a bat, a frog, and a skeleton) add some enjoyable variety.
On a presentational level, Sydney's animations stand out as watching him shimmy up ropes and run and jump around is a treat. However, the environments never really change throughout so get used to seeing a lot of blue rock outlines, red lava, and green vines. On the plus side, the music is well done and provides some groovy tribal tunes mixed with retro synths as you explore.
Finally, I noticed a few graphical glitches as I played Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death. The most noticeable one is when the screen transitions and there's a slight pause which can make it jarring when the actual gameplay starts as things may all of a sudden become dark and animated. I also encountered a glitch where the screen moved to the left yet certain assets remained in place which made me have to reset the game. None of this is truly game-breaking yet it still occasionally took me out of the experience.
It's great that there are still new games to play on retro consoles in this day and age and Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death is certainly one worth playing. So, put on a fedora, grab a boomerang, and get ready for one fun and challenging adventure.
- + Top-notch packaging that's perfect for retro game collectors
- + Challenging yet simple gameplay
- + Good music and lovely animation
- - Fairly short without much replay value
- - Unvaried environments
- - Has a few graphical oddities