A Look Inside Evercade’s Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood Cartridge

The Evercade is an incredibly cool handheld that brings back the joy of collecting cartridges. Since launch, the company have released additional carts and have many more on the way. The majority of the cartridge collections focus on retro games. For example, there are carts featuring collections of games from Atari, Data East, Namco and many other well-known retro game companies. Evercade, however, revealed an interest in more than just retro games with the Mega Cat Studios launch cart. This one featured modern indie games that were created as homebrew for 8-bit and 16-bit systems.

It’s exciting to see this trend toward not exclusively classic games from Evercade. The recently-released cartridge 11 is their first dual pack and it includes Xeno Crisis and Tanglewood. Both titles are extremely well-liked modern indie games and are now getting a shot at a new audience via the Evercade collection. Both titles were originally released as new titles on Sega Mega Drive / Genesis. As such, they fit in perfectly with the retro concept behind the Evercade despite being newer. Thanks to running on an actual Sega system, the ROMs were likely easy to run via Evercade.

Despite both being modern homebrew titles that were launched on Kickstarter, they’re extremely different types of games. Xeno Crisis is a top down twin stick shooter with future military aesthetic while Tanglewood is a gorgeous 2D platformer. As such, the two make an exciting and extremely diverse pairing of titles. Chances are you’ll at least love one of the games on the cart.


Xeno Crisis
made its way onto the scene starting with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that succeeded at the start of 2018. The game was envisioned as a brand new title in the vein of Smash TV, Alien Syndrome and other classic action games. Developer Bitmap Bureau captured the classic, frantic vibe with their title. Since its release on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, it has been ported over to other platforms. The game is now available on Steam, Switch and, of course, Evercade.

Some may wonder how exactly a twin stick shooter works on a system that has only one “stick” in the form of a single d-pad. Gameplay is handled by moving your character with the d-pad and independently controlling the bullet direction with the four face buttons. This allows players to position themselves freely while shooting up, down, left or right as needed no matter which direction they’re walking. It might not be dual analog on the Evercade control scheme, but it still feels good to play.

There are two difficulties in Xeno Crisis, and the hard mode is no joke. Unlike most twin stick shooters, you actually have to be conscious of ammo. This means spraying and praying is not the best tactic. Fortunately, there’s a way to work around this limited ammo. At the end of every stage you get to unlock upgrades. Upgrades range from increased health to increased speed and more bullets. The difficulty is in selecting exactly what kind of build you want for your character. This, alongside randomly-generated stages, makes Xeno Crisis a game you can pick up and play over and over again.


Tanglewood
had a similar start as Xeno Crisis did. It also succeeded on Kickstarter, although it did so earlier — in 2016 to be exact. Developer Big Evil Corporation also created it as a homebrew release for Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. This puzzle platformer feels right at home on the platform with its bright visuals and challenging gameplay. It has since made its way to Steam and now Evercade thanks to this dual cartridge.

Don’t let the cutesy visuals sway you into believing Tanglewood is an easy game: it’s not. In many ways it feels like the 2D platformers of the era, meaning that it’s difficult to complete. Unlike some of those 90s titles, however, this one feels fair in its difficulty and never outright cruel. As you progress through the levels, your protagonist gains new abilities which allow for solving platforming puzzles in new ways.

Despite the cartoony graphics, Tanglewood also is a rather sad game at points in regards to its story. Anyone who yearns for classic Sega platformers such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin or even the Disney platformers of the Genesis and SNES era would likely feel right at home with this game. The controls are tight, the soundtrack is memorable and the gameplay is fun. As such, it’s easy to recommend to Evercade players.