Shovel Knight first released a little over eight years ago, and thanks to a bevy of updates and cameos it feels like the character has never really left the spotlight. Still, if we count all of the updates to the main game as simply being part of that game, Shovel Knight Dig is just the third game in the series. This is also the first game in the series to hit mobile, which was roughly the last active platform on the planet without a Shovel Knight game on it. This comes to the platform through Apple Arcade, so if you want to play the game you know what you have to do.
A few months back, Video System’s Aero Fighters 2 ($3.99) arrived on the mobile Arcade Archives. I found it was a good fit for mobile play in my review, and gave it a hearty recommendation. At the time I noted that it probably wouldn’t be long before Aero Fighters 3 ($3.99) rolled in and, well, here we are. Originally released just over a year after the previous game in the series, Aero Fighters 3 is certainly a more confident game than its predecessor, but is it better?
If I can tie a common thread between all of the NEOGEO’s most popular games, that thread would be named “games you can enjoy playing with a friend”. Some of those games, like Metal Slug and Sengoku 3, were cooperative in nature. Others, like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown, were competitive games. Some genres lend themselves more naturally to one style or another, of course. Cooperative beat-em-ups make sense. Competitive one-on-one fighters are another natural fit. Twinkle Star Sprites ($3.99) is a rare shoot-em-up that chooses violence between its players, and that’s exactly what makes it so great.
For our younger readers out there, it’s a bit hard to explain just how hot mutants were in the 1990s. Between Marvel’s X-Men hitting soaring heights and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles slicing and dicing their way into the hearts of kids everywhere, there was no better time to have genetic anomalies. It seemed like every company with mutant characters were pushing them forward, and every company without them was making their own. Just the word ‘mutant’ itself was enough to draw attention. So it was perhaps no surprise when SNK introduced Mutation Nation ($3.99) in 1992 for its NEGOGEO system. A beat-em-up filled to the brim with mutants to battle? Sure, why not?
Over the years, there have been many games that debuted on consoles and PC, that felt perfect for potential mobile versions. Dicey Dungeons ($4.99) took things further. It even looked like it was built for mobile interactions from the start, but it is the rare game that feels amazing with touch or button controls across all platforms. The deckbuilding roguelike dungeon crawler hybrid experience Dicey Dungeons is a fascinating game that might be my favorite mobile game of 2022 even though it is a late port. I’ve now played it across Steam Deck, Switch, and iOS for review, and will be comparing those versions with the iOS release as with my other port reviews.
The original HOOK ($1.99) had a very simple idea behind it. You were presented with a tangled mess of hooks and loops, and you needed to remove each one without snagging any others. Extremely simple at first, but as the puzzles rolled along, additional layers of complexity were woven in. By the end, the puzzles would take a blend of careful observation and patience to untangle. As an added bonus, those later puzzles were also beautiful objects to look at. The game was a surprise hit, and it left people hungry for more.
A few weeks back, we took a look at Burning Fight ($3.99), one of SNK’s many early attempts at striking beat-em-up gold on its fledgling NEOGEO platform. It almost shamelessly cribbed from Capcom’s Final Fight, and it was perhaps that lack of thematic individuality that hurt it in the end. Well, no one can accuse Robo Army ($3.99) of not having its own identity. Robot warriors that can beat down their robot enemies with their own arms, and sometimes turn into cars for a while? Yes, I think SNK got to that particular well first.
Seven and a half years ago, the original Hero Emblems ($2.99) was released on the App Store. Just under six years ago, its sequel was formally announced and a trailer was shown. A couple of weeks after that, I played Hero Emblems II ($6.99) for the first time while attending the 2016 Tokyo Game Show. At that time, the folks at Heat Pot Games told me that the game was still a ways off from release, with a late 2017 date at the absolute earliest.
One of the tough things about being a newcomer to the console manufacturing party is that you generally won’t get a lot of third-party support until you’re well-established. That means you have to carry your system with your own power, filling any and all gaps as needed. The NEOGEO was not a typical platform, of course. Indeed, the home console version was likely of secondary concern to SNK. But even in the arcades, it was selling a platform. If SNK couldn’t provide fresh titles in the genres players wanted on a regular basis, there was always going to be room for another company’s cabinet. It’s a big ask, and it’s a rare company that can handle that kind of demand with grace.
Up until now, I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention to Netflix’s gaming offerings. Sure, I have a subscription, but that is mainly for Spider-Man related purposes. But the recent additions and announcements have caught my attention, with Poinpy (Free) chief among them. A new game from Ojiro Fumoto, the creator of Downwell? Yes, please.