The Evercade’s “Indie Heroes” cartridge plays host to a variety of brand new games for classic platforms — and even if you don’t have an Evercade, you can try most of these for yourself in one way or another! Let’s explore them in detail!
I’m a big fan of Namco’s relatively little-known arcade title Metro-Cross, so when I learned that there was an explicit homage to it on the new Indie Heroes cartridge for Evercade, I was very excited indeed.
As it happens, Chain Break, as the title from Spanish developer Tuxedo Games is known, is more than just a straight clone of Namco’s classic; it very much has its own distinct sense of identity. It’s a formidably addictive arcade-style game that is the perfect fit for the Evercade — particularly when played handheld, as it was originally developed for Game Boy.
In Chain Break, you take on the role of a prisoner attempting to escape the futuristic dungeon in which she was confined. Naturally, this isn’t an easy process, since there’s a long road ahead of her filled with spike traps, robotic guards, circular saws, homing sentinels and all manner of other nasties — so there’s only one thing for it. Keep running!
Much like in Metro-Cross, Chain Break’s heroine constantly runs forward, though you can adjust her position on the screen by pushing left and right, and pads on the floor marked with arrows either speed her up or slow her down. Tapping a button causes her to jump, which allows her to clear spike pits and certain enemies, and the sole aim in each stage is to reach the finish line before our leading lady’s oxygen runs out.
Chain Break’s jumping takes a little getting used to; rather than the protagonist’s sprite actually moving up on the screen, she simply plays a jumping animation and is immune to certain obstacles while this animation is playing. For those accustomed to more obvious, “sweeping” movements in their arcade-style games, it’ll take you a few attempts to get accustomed to this, but before long you’ll be hopping over spike pits and buzzsaws with the agility of a cat.
Another thing you’ll quickly need to get to grips with is Chain Break’s perspective; again like Metro-Cross, the game unfolds from an oblique perspective to provide a quasi-3D effect, allowing you to move “in” and “out” of the screen as well as left and right. Because of the perspective, pushing up and down on the controller actually causes you to move “diagonally”, so you’ll need to be aware of this when planning your movements. In the early stages, this isn’t too much of an issue, but as you progress, you’ll need to be very aware of it!
In fact, the two elements actually work together rather nicely; the fact that the jumping in the game doesn’t move the player sprite prevents any sort of confusion with perspective; you always know exactly which “lane” you’re running in at all times, which makes precise movement straightforward and highly enjoyable.
Chain Break has a beautifully paced difficulty curve, gradually introducing players to new mechanics as the levels pass by and offering brief, non-obtrusive tutorials via text printed on the levels’ floors. It’s a relatively short game, with just 25 levels, but you likely won’t clear it on your first attempt; a password system (or indeed the Evercade’s save state feature) allows you to pick up where you left off, but the real test of your skills is getting through the whole thing with just your initial stock of lives.
Chain Break distinguishes itself from its obvious inspiration through its sense of pace. Whereas Metro-Cross had a rather stop-start pace thanks to the nature of many of its obstacles, Chain Break draws as much inspiration from the modern “endless runner” genre as it does Namco’s classic. It’s rare you’ll find yourself getting bogged down at any point — though as the levels get more complex as you progress, you’ll need to memorise upcoming obstacles to ensure you don’t come a cropper from an incoming enemy or trap!
While Chain Break might lack a certain amount of long-term appeal — it probably won’t take you long to score that one-credit clear, given how generous the game is with lives — it’s simple and quick-fire enough to keep you coming back any time you just fancy a simple, enjoyable, arcade-style experience. Its simple, clear four-colour presentation combined with its excellent Game Boy chiptunes make it a very authentic-feeling retro-style experience — and I’d have happily paid up for a copy of this on a real Game Boy back in the day.
Upon its original release in 2019, Chain Break actually did enjoy a limited physical release on Game Boy, but copies of this are long gone, sadly. You might be able to find one if you brave eBay — but these days your best bet is nabbing that Indie Heroes cart for Evercade and enjoying Chain Break alongside the other games on there!