Tom Massey


25 games reviewed
75.0 average score
80 median score
88.0% of games recommended
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Jun 21, 2022

Capcom Fighting Collection does exactly what it sets out to do, and bar a few very minor presentational oversights, is a product with years of longevity. It's a shame to lose those bonus characters present in previous console releases, and you do need to consider what appeals to you when considering a purchase. If you want the best Darkstalkers collection, look no further. If you want to experience Red Earth and take it online, the time has finally arrived. Or, for Street Fighter II diehards, Anniversary Edition's modernised netcode really lets you be a world warrior.Bar Red Earth, however, this isn't the first time these games have been released, and it surely won't be the last. A purchasing decision comes down to how many times you have bought these titles before, how much time you spend on MAME (which has been a viable, albeit illegal, option for years) or whether or not you just want the most polished, accurate, easy-access fighting game experience to date, either at home on your TV or portably on the go. If you fall into the latter category, it's a no-brainer.

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Jun 17, 2022

Final Vendetta does an able job of using and enhancing tried and tested formulas of the past, and is great fun for either one or two players. Its brevity is ameliorated by its single-credit format; a bold but welcome move that makes learning to clear it rewarding for all the right reasons – but it's a setup some may struggle with. There's still room for experimentation in this genre with regard to original systems, and sadly Final Vendetta doesn't really attempt any of that, instead opting for more traditional '90s arcade fare – albeit with lots of variation in how you smack people around. If that's enough to tickle your fancy, you'll feel well-served by Bitmap Bureau's stab, but others might feel like they've walked this street before.

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Two years in the making, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is the best Turtles beat 'em up ever made, and a faster, better-looking, and more entertaining affair than even Streets of Rage 4. It looks delicious, sounds superb, and rekindles childhood memories beyond all expectation, time-warping you back to 1987. Its combat system is so much fun to mine that you feel compelled to keep coming back to try new strategies, and with its awesome multiplayer the experience evolves again and again. Like any beat 'em up, it does get repetitive as you enter the last third, but that's more a fault of the concept than the game. Our only regret is that we didn't use anywhere near enough puns in this review, so let's close by saying Shredder's Revenge is an unprecedented shell-ebration.

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May 30, 2022

For fans of Pac-Man and his historical pedigree, this is the best round-up yet, spanning decades and featuring his most notable titles. It's the kind of collection the current Wonder Boy release should have been. The arcade overworld is a nice touch, although the frame rate is a big letdown and really should have been ironed out. And, while you might spend a while tinkering and designing your arcade space, the attraction of the gimmick is ultimately short-lived. Presentation deficiencies aside, though, one can't really fault the comprehensiveness of the collection, nor the quality of the titles themselves (well, except Pac in Time). It's a Pac-festival, and while it certainly has limited appeal, it offers countless hours of gaming fun and an interesting historical insight into the yellow orb's evolution.

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May 30, 2022

Scoring the Wonder Boy Collection is only partly related to the quality of the games on offer. They're all excellent for what they are, and were they appraised independently, would do very well. But this is more about the package as a whole. Yes, there's plenty here to keep you occupied, but at the same time, what could have been is a sticking point. Wonder Boy is a great little series, with games spanning everything from the Master System to the PC Engine, in various guises. It's not difficult to offer a more extensive library for the broader gaming populace, rather than restrict certain titles to a group profiled for their magpie eyes.

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Toaplan Arcade Garage: Hishou Same! Same! Same! is wonderful, historical stuff, conserving two beautifully designed roadmaps for the future succession of the genre. Antique, yet savagely modern in their viciousness, there are few titles that brew with as much energy beneath a late-'80s vintage aesthetic, driven intrepidly by Tatsuya Uemura and Masahiro Yuge's incredible soundtracks.Despite this, it would be misleading to cite the package as something for everyone. It's a perfect addition for people collecting M2's series, and for those with an interest in the preservation and best possible representation of notable arcade titles. As shoot-em-ups, Flying Shark and Fire Shark require a specific approach and methodology, and won't necessarily be to all tastes. If you revel in the thrill of old-school hardcore gaming, it's a duo that potentially offer years of service. For everyone else they may feel a bit samey, samey, samey.

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Layer Section will always be a high-roller, and if you've never played it, you're in a ride like few others. As a Switch port, on the other hand, the relatively bare-bones production is the only real negative. Notable historical works deserve the gold standard: a bigger, bolder package that offers the best possible representation. To that end, City Connection has failed to do this game the justice it deserves, which makes it very lucky that Layer Section & Galactic Attack S-Tribute is still so damn good.

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Apr 25, 2022

Despite us making numerous comparisons to the Super Nintendo game, Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is, for the vast majority, a completely new entry in the series. And that's worth celebrating for several reasons. Tengo Project, well aware of the original's pedigree, was smart enough to only use it as inspiration, rather than attempt to follow its lead beat-for-beat. Within this modern framework, the developer has constructed a thrilling tapestry of light, colour, and action-packed junctures for hardcore gamers to get their teeth into. Is it better than Natsume's venerable 1992 outing? No, but it's about on par, albeit for slightly different reasons. Pocky & Rocky: Reshrined is a blessing, a gorgeous-looking, delightfully artful new interpretation of a much-loved classic, and a noteworthy example of what can be achieved, creatively, with the 2D medium. If you're even mildly into the application of old-school gaming disciplines, it should be snapped up without a second thought.

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Apr 21, 2022

Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro gives us one of the most mystifying pieces of software to hit the public domain in recent times. If it could muster even a stable 30 FPS, it would likely be a commendable arcade action adventure, featuring nice mechanics, stage variety, large bosses and pleasing graphics. Possibly, even, a highlight in its genre. As it stands, it's so confusing a technical train wreck that we can barely make sense of why it's been released in this condition. Should a patch materialise that resolves these issues entirely you can add at least three points to our current score, but at present technical problems gravely undermine the positives.

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Dragon Maid is a middling shoot-em-up affair: not bad, not exceptional. Its tag team concept is a sound one: it's fun to juggle characters in an attempt to keep all your horses in the race, grabbing health items from mid-bosses and seeking out paths through the maelstrom. At the same time, its nuance and novel ideas are hamstrung by unremarkable stage action, and a few niggling missteps, which is a shame. There's definitely enjoyment to be reaped from committing to a one-credit clear, learning bullet patterns, and eking out scoring routines. But when there are so many games in the field featuring greater urgency, flow, and an all-important sense of personality, this one is more for people with cash to spare, fans of ecchi paraphernalia, or a burning desire to consume everything bullet hell.

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9 / 10 - Andro Dunos 2
Mar 25, 2022

Andro Dunos II is a resounding success. That a small indie developer can bat alongside the likes of M2 and Platinum and, honestly, with greater overall success, is always uplifting. Further inspiring, is how - superficial IP notwithstanding - it manages to be so utterly exacting to arcade standards of the '90s, and at the same time feel breathtakingly original. Its craftsmanship, from weapon negotiations and experimentation, to the way each stage is cleverly built to aid a variety of approaches and play styles, is top notch. Andro Dunos II looks good, sounds great, and plays wonderfully.

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Mar 17, 2022

Gal Gun: Double Peace knows its audience, almost too well. Its entertainment factor is centred around crass perversion dressed up like a Saturday morning kid's cartoon; and, if anyone attempts to tell you it's a play on satire addressing the difficulties Japanese women face in a largely sexist society, feel free to laugh loudly in their face. That said, this is admittedly more of a game - and an altogether better game - than most that fall into the ecchi category. While simplistic, there's nothing particularly broken about it, and its Expert Mode does offer a playable enough game to be mildly involving. But, if you don't have a particular affection for its window-dressing, there's not a great deal here to keep rail-shooting fans engaged.

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Feb 20, 2022

It’s a rare day that an indie shmup, so well-buried that most have never heard of it, manages to be this good at what it does. It hasn’t got vast worlds to soar over, nor does it try to break new ground. Instead, it delivers an old-school shmup experience in a fresh new way, fired up on influence and ambition, and the love of a genre. Fans would be raging mad not to pick it up.

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Feb 17, 2022

You're being treated here, not to a replica of 16-bit graphics, but the genuine article, and that in itself carries a wonderful charm. With varied locales and great music, River City Girls Zero cleverly all takes place in pseudo real-time, the sun setting into night and eventually dawning again as you near end of your journey. It's an endearing romp across a quaintly rendered Japanese urban landscape that continually offers new places to scrap - from fairground rides and collapsing buildings to nightclubs and sun-drenched bays - all becoming especially colourful in the last hour. While it's very much a game of its era, River City Girls Zero is still rewarding for those interested in experiencing one of the saga's more creative entries.

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7 / 10 - Sol Cresta
Feb 15, 2022

If you're a fan of this now very old series, you might find Sol Cresta's mould appealing. It's certainly fun to improve, win shields, and prolong your survival by grabbing back lost ships; and to be able to whip your craft into formation and quickly destroy bosses with a countdown of powerful ordnance - and the audio is sublime. At the same time, with all of its interesting ideas, one can't help but feel that there are elements here that need more polish and careful implementation. There are very few memorable boss attacks, and while some stage junctures are somewhat shrewd, others come off as ill-conceived or uninspired. By no means is that to say it's unenjoyable - there is a definite groove within its visual mess that becomes clearer over time as you chip away at the interesting core gameplay - but the fact of the matter is that Sol Cresta is up against a wealth of extremely steep competition, and to stand out it needs to be hitting the all-important notes with greater finesse.

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Feb 7, 2022

Swords & Bones needs to be approached and scored based around several key details, including whether you enjoy Ghosts'n Goblins or Castlevania-style platforming, as well as indie takes on the theme. If the answer is 'yes' to these metrics, then Swords & Bones comfortably earns its modest price tag. It has near zero replay value once completed and tied in a bow, and it's neither deep or surprising; but it is, undoubtedly, a fun way to kill three hours with a talented gang of bedroom coders. If that sounds appealing, the negligible investment will be money well spent.

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9 / 10 - Eschatos
Jan 24, 2022

The ultimate M-KAI package, this three-strong historical evolution is the purest distillation of the developer's vision for the shoot-em-up. Eschatos' beautiful bombast will suck you in, fire up the adrenaline, and spit you back out with an instant just-one-more-go mindset. If that's not worth diving into, why are you playing games at all?

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7 / 10 - Radirgy Swag
Jan 16, 2022

Although rough around the edges, Radirgy Swag will please existing fans, certainly win some new ones, and probably land cold for everyone else. It was never expected to be a mass market hit, which is why it's a positive that the series has found a western audience, small as it may be. If you're a shmup fan looking for something out of the ordinary, its system of power-up juggling and reckless shield regeneration might just be your ticket. It requires some initial legwork, but once it clicks it really cooks.

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Dec 18, 2021

Although there's nothing here that hasn't been seen previously, this is still a package bursting at the seams with content, and the sequel's novelty Christmas theme is perfect for memorable December gaming. Driven by an excellent set of punchy organ arrangements and murky musical notes, Deathsmiles I & II is a very large Halloween-themed cake; an exuberant, gothic flourish punctuated by enduring bosses and a unique route-and-rank structure that encourages experimental replays. With little middle ground between casual and concerted professional play, it might not be Cave's most balanced piece of work, but there's no doubt it has something for everyone, no matter how you choose to approach it.

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Mar 1, 2021

Bewitching in both incarnations, Cotton's Reboot! is a fanfare of zany ghouls and ghosts, inventive and inimitable bosses, and a superbly catchy soundtrack in both original and remixed forms. Never being released in the west and prohibitively expensive today, it's something of a blessing for retro gamers to be able to dip their toes in Cotton's enduringly impressive X68000 outing. Of all the "cute 'em ups" out there, it remains one of the best, while the new Arrange mode – with its impressive overhauls and remixed ideas – has cast a rare spell of resurrection.

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