Coverage Club is our weekly series of smaller impressions in the style of full reviews. Games can range from brand new titles hitting Early Access to older hidden gems that never got their due. No matter your preference, you’re sure to find something off the beaten path here.
Namco Museum (Nintendo Switch)
Covered by Alex Santa Maria
One of the first PlayStation games I dug into in my childhood was the first volume of the Namco Museum. I learned that Pac-Man wasn't for me. My parents shared stories about always hitting a certain billboard in Pole Position. I tried to solve the puzzle of what the heck Toy Pop was and I fell in love with Galaga. Namco has a long tradition of preserving its arcade history for future generations in this way. While I haven't always kept up with the series, I've always appreciated how ubiquitous it has been over the years. Let's insert some coins and see what it takes to get the high score in this latest retro collection.
Per usual, this edition of the Namco Museum brings together a few classic staples alongside some fan favorite deep cuts and obscure gems. The lineup consists of Pac-Man, Galaga, Dig Dug, The Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid, Rolling Thunder, Galaga '88, Splatterhouse, Rolling Thunder 2, and Tank Force. As previously reported, it also includes a bonus in the form of Pac-Man Vs., a multiplayer take on the classic maze game that was previously playable via a Gamecube/Game Boy Advance link cable nightmare. As someone who engaged with said nightmare back in 2003, It's nice to see a more accessible way to play.
I'm not going to lie, there are a few games here that you're not going to be spending a lot of time with. While The Tower of Duraga is historically significant, it's not very fun. It was a complicated cabinet with RPG elements that would inspire future titles. That's all fine and dandy, but it doesn't make the game any better to play in 2018. You don't even get the historical excuse with Galaga '88. An obscure sequel, this space shooter fails to capture the addictive gameplay of the original.
Even with some strikeouts, the rest of the selection is stellar. Both Rolling Thunder games serve up engaging action to this day. A modern player may seem them as a little simple, but one hopes that their distinctly 80's flair will connect with them to make up the difference. A game with a similar issue is Splatterhouse. It's simple to a fault today, but it's an amazing mood piece for fans of slasher flicks. Of course, I own Galaga on pretty much every device I own, so it was inevitable that I procure it again.
This is why games like this work great on the Switch. Short play sessions while you're waiting for someone or riding the bus give you just enough enjoyment without exposing these game's weaknesses. It also helps set up opportunities to enjoy the games multiplayer components. I probably won't be inviting friends over to my house to score big in Tank Force. However, pulling it out as a cure for boredom is a much more likely scenario.
As far as emulation goes, Namco has done a fine job in presenting the arcade experience to Switch owners. This includes an option to see the test screen upon loading up a game and a host of virtual DIP switches that give you more lives at the cost of disabling leaderboards. For games that make sense, you can also make use of the Switch's unique form factor to play in a vertical orientation. Considering that this is much closer to the way these games were originally presented, it's a great bonus.
Overall, Namco Museum is a great collection that will give value to anyone invested in arcade history. You get more winners than losers in this collection, and each game is worth trying at least once. Plus, it has Pac-Man, which I'm sure will excite most of the population that isn't me. What can I say, I must have a fever.
TechRaptor covered Namco Museum on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.
Russian Subway Dogs
Covered by Kyle Johnson
From the makers of splatformer They Bleed Pixels comes a game about dogs in Russia riding subways and stealing food.
Russian Subway Dogs, if you will. An arcade dog-barking simulator, you play as one of any number of dogs (and a few cats) attempting to survive the subways in the USSR. Gritty animalist take on Papers, Please this is not, here you're out to cause havoc and steal lunch. The action is frenetic, fast-paced, and downright fun, making Russian Subway Dogs well worth your time.
The core gameplay behind Russian Subway Dogs is simple: eat food to stay alive. Faced with a constantly draining hunger meter, you bark behind people to make them drop whatever it is they're carrying, or bark near animals to stun them. Shawarma, vodka, fish, coffee, all this and more can be scared out of the riders' hands.
No dog likes cold food in frigid Russia, so you're forced to bark at drunkards to send vodka bottles flying through the air, which heat food upon landing and exploding. Hot food awards more points and refills more of your hunger meter. It quickly becomes a delicate dance of lining up as much food as possible in order to cook it as efficiently as possible.
Initially challenging, the campaign included provides a gradual introduction to all of the various passengers and wildlife you'll be terrorizing. Levels are short, lasting only a couple of minutes, with each level coming with three unique challenges. These challenges can be anywhere from "eat a vegetarian diet" to "poison 15 poodles with chocolate". Completing challenges awards bones, with new levels gated off by total accumulated bones.
If you're feeling up for it, you can also test your skills in Endless mode. Here, you're just trying to rack up as many points as possible against an increasingly frantic backdrop. The mode quickly gets out of hand, with elk charging through throngs of passengers while vodka and roasted vegetables flying everywhere. If anything, the insanity that Endless mode provides is a little too crazy. Especially compared to the controlled panic of the campaign.
Spooky Squid Games has clearly hit on a winning formula. The rapid-fire levels and nonstop action of Russian Subway Dogs mean you can easily pick it up for ten minutes or three hours. With plenty of charm, great art, and a fantastic gameplay loop, Russian Subway Dogs proves that even a simple concept can provide continuous fun.
TechRaptor covered Russian Subway Dogs on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.
What do you think of this week’s Coverage Club selections? Do you know of an overlooked game that deserves another chance? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow our Steam Curator to keep up to date with all our reviews.