Welcome to the second "annex" entry of the Gaming Notebook. In this entry, I'll discuss the PenguiNet game Rikki & Vikki for the Atari 7800.
Rikki & Vikki was a surprise release on Steam (12/2018) and the 7800 in February 2019 from PenguiNet. Some of you may be familiar with PenguiNet for their amazing work on Zaku for the Lynx; arguably one of the best original titles on the platform. Zaku really pushed the Lynx and stands as a tremendously fun, graphically stunning and amazing sounding game. For Rikki & Vikki, PenguiNet continues in that tradition, delivering an original gaming experience on a classic console that largely exceeds Atari published efforts in key areas of gameplay, graphics and sound. Make no mistake - this is not a homebrew. This is a professionally developed game with a high level of production value and a stellar physical product. Now for some impressions & observations!
Rikki & Vikki is a sort of puzzle platformer. The goal of the game is to save your two children - Mary & Sam - from Misery the Inconvenient. Misery has kidnapped your children and taken them to the six cavern Miseryland Themepark - "a downward spiral of inconvenience." On each level, use Rikki or Vikki to collect all of the keys within the time allotted to progress to the next level. Collecting keys isn't always easy. You have to move cubes, navigate enemies, spikes and other hazards to get to the keys. Some puzzles are more obvious than others and don't be surprised if you run out of time before solving a puzzle.
Rikki & Vikki requires a 7800 compatible controller with independent fire buttons. This means that you can't use a standard 2600 controller or a Genesis gamepad for the game. The left button is used to "interact" with the cubes and the right button is used to jump. When you grab a cube you can throw it at an enemy or stick it to the floor or wall in order to gain access to an otherwise unreachable area of the play field. Falling into a void will cause you to re-emerge from the top - this is sometimes necessary to solve a puzzle. Each area of the Park - called "caverns" - consists of several levels and culminates in a boss battle. Gameplay modes come in three flavors: co-op with Rikki & Vikki, solo Rikki, and solo Vikki. I have not yet played co-op mode and from what I can tell, the solo experiences are the same whether playing as Rikki or Vikki.
This is a hard game. You will die. You will run out of time. You will make stupid mistakes. You will get stuck. While you can continue, doing so forces a restart at the beginning of the cavern. Fortunately, after a few continues, a character named "Dut", a large penguin and "salesman" of you unlimited continues in exchange for your points. You will no longer get points in game - so no high score - but you will get to keep problem solving. This makes it a little less arduous to develop your skills and improve your puzzle solving strategies.
Rikki & Vikki boast what are possibly the best graphics on the 7800. The character animations, level-design, character and enemy sprites all look amazing. Add to that, the game runs in the 7800's 320 mode - a higher resolution mode that few games have taken advantage of. I struggle to think of a single game published for the 7800 that looks better. It looks first-party NES/SMS good folks. The animations are not just good, they're thoughtful and add depth to the game. The levels look great with coherent themes throughout. Its clear the people at PenguiNet are getting all they can out of the 7800.
Like the graphics, PenguiNet went all in with the sound here. Apparently, they developed a custom chip for sound that allowed for NES level music. The TIA is still there and - at least on my 7800 - the harsh crashes are a bit louder than the music. However, that's my LHE mod and not the game. The music here is absolutely fantastic.
The packaging on this game is beautiful folks. Everything from the cart, to the box to the manual screams professional. The game comes on a custom transparent orange cart shell with a wrap around full color label. It fit my 7800 perfectly. The box is likewise full color and is in the same size and style as original run 7800 games - just missing "Atari." The instructions are full color and come as a "Miser Land Official Tour Guide" fold out with gameplay and character info. The package even comes with a warranty card, two passes to Misery Land and a PenguiNet sticker. Top notch all the way!
This is 7800 gaming at its best. It has game design, graphics, sound and amazing packaging. If you own a 7800, I urge you to support the developer and grab a copy today. For $59.99 plus shipping, the package is well worth the price of entry. Even if you don't own a 7800 or don't have the $$, the game is also available on Steam for $9.99. For that price, you could hardly find a more fun and complete game play experience.
Have you played Rikki & Vikki? What are your thoughts on the game? How does it stack up to other games on the 7800?
PenguiNet Rikki & Vikki Trailer: