A screenshot from the game Radio Squid. The game itself is largely white on black with the odd hint of red. The art is cute, slightly surreal, pixel art. A squid is encased in a bubble located beneath a stave that is also encased in a bubble. The room itself is a maze of sorts, brick-ish with a fishy theme.

Crikey. I can’t say I was prepared for quite how brutal Radio Squid was going to be. Its largely-in-vogue white on black with the merest hint of a colour cute graphics hide quite the vicious little videogame.

I’m not complaining, I really have been rather enjoying myself with it and the unforgiving nature of it is certainly part of the draw for me! Just took me by surprise, is all.

That’s what I get for just buying a game because it was called Radio Squid without reading a single thing about it (including not reading the description on the store), I guess. As ever, my own silly fault.

In my defence, it’s called Radio Squid. How could I not just buy it? Yer ‘onor etc…

It's another screenshot of Radio Squid. A similar set up to the last though there's more strange looking creatures clinging to the walls in this one.

It turns out that the rules of the game are fairly simple – you take control of a small rhythmic squid who has to shoot a strange bunch of nasties to the beat, grab some money then make your way to the next room, ever so slightly richer.

Complicating all this is the Crossroads/Forget-Me-Not style shooting where your bullets wrap around the edge of the screen and yes, your own bullets do kill you because that’s sort of how bullets work. There are quite a few exits for the bullets to wrap around too. In summary: oof.

A screenshot from Radio Squid. It's black and white with the occasional red highlight, all pixel art. A boss sits vaguely centre stage shooting chunky projectiles at a squid.

Slightly (only slightly) confusingly there’s a number of different screens to each room to progress through with each screen needing to be cleared before you move on to the next, with the ultimate objective being to clamber your way through as many rooms as you can.

Difficulty aside it’s all quite breezy and there’s a lot of character squeezed out of both a simple premise and the not quite monochrome but nearly artwork. I can’t say I have the slightest clue of what the story is supposed to be because my eyes glazed over with it – that’s a me problem rather than a game problem though. My eyes glaze over quite easily these days.

With the warning that it might well make you swear like a trooper, Radio Squid is an easy recommendation from me. From not knowing what to expect through to now, I’m really enjoying my time with it and certainly don’t regret the sight unseen purchase – quite the opposite, I’m well chuffed with it.

I’ve been hammering away at the PS4 version, other consoles are available etc…

A panel from a Gold Key comic based on the TV series 'Battle Of The Planets'. Keyops, a visor and cool-cloak'd hero is asking to a robot on a screen saying "I've seen enough robots for a while". The robot responds with an 'ahem'

Harsh? Perhaps! After all, 7 Zark 7 is supposed to be one of the good ‘guys’, sitting underwater at Centre Neptune, monitoring a multitude of threats to the Earth (which all happen to be from the same space dude every single time so there has to be a more efficient way).

My theory is that 7 Zark 7 is a glorified Ring doorbell or something. Probably stuffed full of pictures of passing cats and postmen, the whole “looking out for space crimes” being more of a sideline compared to the massively more profitable work it does identifying people by cross referencing 16 different data sets with its own enormous water cooled data store so as to sell them a Henry The Hoover and a pack of 16 party hats of varying colours and quality.

Underwater because people just find it easier to believe that it’s for the good of mankind if it’s got an underwater base because underwater bases are cool. But! You know who else has an underwater base? Dr Eggman from Sonic The Hedgehog, that’s who (and also a whole bunch of jellyfish that can kill a man stone dead but that’s another story. Also I don’t actually know if jellyfish have secret underwater bases but you’ve got to admit, it’s a terrifying thought that they might).

Even on the off chance that 7 Zark 7 was built with the best of intentions, we all know how capitalism works by now. At some point the company that created it is going to go for an IPO or get bought out by Amazon then all bets are off.

Best to punch it just in case. We can’t go taking the chance.

I’m not saying I really enjoyed the first Super Destronaut or anything but the time from spotting Super Destronaut DX2 had launched on the PlayStation store to me scraping together a few quid to buy it could be measured in minutes.

I can’t say I was disappointed either.

A chaotic scene from Super Destronaut DX2, amidst a shaking screen and chromatic aberration, the player's spacecraft destroys one of an incoming wave of colourful glowing enemies.

You can probably see why, right? It glows.

It’s a game that doesn’t need much of an explanation, it’s a very traditional shoot ’em up, think somewhere between Space Invaders and Imagine’s Arcadia (you can pick which format) – waves of enemies find their way onto the screen, you shoot them. That’s the deal, that’s as much brainpower as you’ll need.

Because everything is super big and super chunky, it looks absolutely fantastic in motion. It’s far, far, far from the most challenging game ever made (the other one, really) so it very quickly turns into a game of sitting back and enjoying the light show as the firework-like explosions tear across the screen.

A screenshot from Super Destronaut DX2. An almost Factory Records yellow border surrounds a play area, the play area is a wireframe landscape with wireframe structures in the distance. At the forefront, waves of very colourful, very chunky simplistic pixel enemies are blown apart by the player's chunky rocket ship.

Much like other Petite Games stuff, Super Destronaut DX2 manages to hit a lovely sweet spot of just enough challenge to feel like I’m in control of the action and way more than enough shiny to satisfy my flashy-light addiction. It rarely demands too much of my skills but really appeals to my love of glowing pixels.

There’s a couple of modes to mix things up a bit, nothing drastic (best score possible in X minutes and the like), more than enough to stop me getting bored and I am, as anyone who has played stuff I’ve worked on before now, certainly a fan of that sort of bite size arcade gaming so it works for me.

All told, it’s a very Rob-will-like-this game and indeed, I do like it. A lot.

As usual, I’ve been playing the PS4 version. Other formats are available. I can’t really see there being much difference between them.

(and knowing my luck, probably already do)

A fancily dressed skeleton with a fine pipe and hat introduces the top 5, an occasional series of lists of 5 things not to be taken entirely seriously.
  1. Sam Fox’s Strip Pok矇mon
  2. S.T.O.N.K.E.R.S: Call Of Pripyat
  3. Three Weeks In Burnout:Paradise City
  4. Tomb Raider Over Moscow
  5. American Lawnmower Simulator

Horizon Shift ’81 immediately brought to mind Binary Zoo‘s excellent Duo. It’s the same gimmick of the player moving along a horizontal line that runs through the centre of the screen, being able to flip either side as required to shoot the baddies.

Awkwardly, it also managed to stun me into silence for a brief moment when I realised that Duo is now over 15 years old and come on! Ref! Ref! That was a foul. So I guess it won’t really be a point of reference for most folks. Ah well. Duo is really good and I’d recommend giving it a go if you can.

Whilst the basics are shared between the two games, there’s a lot more going on in Horizon Shift ’81 than I’d expected. As well as the horizon flipping, the player can jump their way out of trouble or use a Space Giraffe-esque bulling mechanic to push any enemies off the line. It’s kinda chaotic, really.

It's a screenshot from Horizon Shift 81. There's a sort of Breakout theme to this one with coloured bricks at the top and bottom of the screen. The player is, once again, riding a line across the middle of the screen.

The chaos seems to extend to the baddies turning up too. Perhaps there is a pattern to them appearing but with so much going on, I found it really difficult to make one out. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, just a heads up in case you prefer your games to be about learning patterns and that.

Every so many levels there’s a boss fight too and they provided me with a welcome break from the chaos. Here things are observable, learnable and I won’t go as far to say tactical but certainly easier to concoct a strategy for. They’re also really quite peaceful so I found I wasn’t especially worried about finishing them off quickly before being plunged back into the chaos.

So aye, definitely a lot more than I was expecting when I first booted Horizon Shift 81 up. It’s deliciously messy and whilst I can’t say that stuff always hit the spot, I love the whole “sod it, we’re having this and this and this and this and” attitude towards designing games.

I like my games to have rough edges, I like them messy, I like to see people throwing stuff in even if it’s not the most perfectly polished or necessary thing to find its way into a game.

I liked Horizon Shift ’81, is what I’m trying to say. I picked up the PS4 version (as usual) but other formats do exist.

It's the robot from the original Lost In Space conversing with a kid whilst on an alien planet.

As cunning designs go, this is definitely one of them. They’re not punch proof but I reckon getting a smack in isn’t going to be easy.

The head is hard to reach, I’d have to get past those wobbly arms as well. Awkward stuff. Plus, I just know the robot is going to be yelling “DANGER DANGER” if they spot me.

So, okay – two ideas. Try and sneak up on them and give them a swift slap from the rear or wait until the spaceship they’re on wobbles a bit and the robot starts skating across the floor, meaning their attention is elsewhere. Perfect time to get a punch in!

Either way, I’d have to be quick but the challenge is all part of the fun.