Alone in the Dark
Publisher: Interplay (1994)
Long before Resident Evil popularized the 'survival horror' genre of games, there was a similar game called Alone in the Dark. In this third person 3D adventure, you investigate an old house while collecting items, solving puzzles, avoiding traps, and battling monsters. Sound familiar? The graphics are polygon-rendered, allowing for numerous camera angles. Unfortunately it also means that the objects are very blocky, the action is slow, and you don't always get the best camera angle. The controls are a bit clumsy thanks to a confusing user interface. An "action" menu lets decide if you want to fight, search, push, etc. Thank goodness there is a "run" button, because otherwise the slow pace would be unbearable. While most of the puzzles aren't too bad, getting past some of the monsters can be a chore. A few of these creatures look downright silly - one looks like the Tasmanian devil! Alone in the Dark is at its best when you're searching and exploring, but the low frame rate makes the fighting slow and confusing. There aren't too many thrills in this game, but there is a certain amount of suspense. The sound effects and background music are particularly effective. You can save your place at any time. Alone in the Dark was an innovative game for its time, but it has not aged particularly well. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 3DO (1995)
As a longtime fan of Ballblazer
(Atari XE, 1984), I instantly recognized this as a direct descendant of that head-to-head classic. Battlesport is a futuristic, soccer-style game that pits two players in hovercrafts against each other. Played on an enclosed field, the object is to grab a floating energy ball and shoot it into a central "goal" shaped like a box. So far it sounds just like Ballblazer, but Battlesport takes things to the next level
by arming each player with cannons and missiles. Destroying an opponent puts him out of commission for several seconds. The arenas are flat with scattered obstacles. Well-designed controls let you strafe via the shoulder buttons and even "hop" to avoid attacks. The action gets pretty hectic as you're being pelted with missiles while trying to transport the ball towards the goal. Sometimes it can be hard to locate
the goal in the midst of all the chaos. The CPU offers ten opponents of increasing difficulty, but they seem more intent on kicking your ass than scoring a goal. You can also challenge a friend via the split-screen, which is crazy
fun. Battlesport is replete with customization options, and you can save your progress between matches. There's no option for adjusting the length of each match, but at six minutes, it feels about right. Fast and furious, Battlesport gave my wrists a serious workout. Other games have tried to reproduce the frantic action of Ballblazer, but none have nailed the formula quite like Battlesport. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Genki (1995)
This generic space shooter is one those bargain bin 3DO titles you expect to totally suck
. Burning Soldier? Apparently this soldier missed the day of boot camp when the drill sergeant warned of the dangers of loving unclean women! Upon firing up this game, I was greeted by some dark cut-scenes and a James Earl Jones-wannabe narrator who explains, "It is 2095. Suddenly UFOs attack Mars." Wow, that's some thought-provoking stuff. Once I began playing the game however, I realized that Burning Soldier is not bad at all. In fact, for a 3DO title, it's a gem. Borrowing heavily from Star Wars The Arcade Game (1983) and Afterburner (1987), the game employs a first-person perspective, letting you aim a reticule at alien ships and incoming torpedoes. The digital pad is a touchy (you'll wish you had an analog controller), but fortunately your targets tend to congregate near the center of the screen. It's really satisfying to blow up alien ships, but you'll want to concentrate your fire on those big, red, incoming torpedoes. Besides a rapid-fire cannon, you're equipped with a special lock-on weapon you can "charge up", and I'd recommend doing just that during lulls in the action. Burning Soldier's gameplay isn't spectacular, but nifty full-motion video backgrounds sweeten the deal. The boring early stages are set in deep space, but once you return to earth, you'll be careening through desert valleys and whipping around the skyscrapers of Tokyo. The eye candy is rich, and I looked forward to seeing what each new stage had in store. Complementing the shooting action is an upbeat, synthesized soundtrack that reminded me of Sonic Adventure
(Dreamcast, 1999). Burning Soldier has frequent cut-scenes which cannot be skipped, but they are mercifully brief. The game offers endless continues, but you'll need to turn on the "score" option if you want some way to gauge your progress. Easy on the eyes and easy to play, Burning Soldier is one bargain bin title that's worthy of a spot in any 3DO collection. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Interplay (1995)
Okay, I was terribly harsh in my initial review of this game, but as I often say to my wife, "I can explain!" It turns out that certain 3DO games run better on some systems than others. When I first reviewed this game a few years back, I played it on my Goldstar system, which thrashed and stuttered the whole way through. As you can imagine, the sporadic controls and fragmented music really tainted the experience. However, now that I've had a chance to play it on my Panasonic FZ-10, I can see Casper for what it really is - an engaging, easy-to-play adventure. Despite its quirks, Casper is certainly more enjoyable than most of the 3DO titles I've inflicted upon myself. I will admit that the premise is somewhat disturbing. Casper is actually a dead kid trying to resurrect himself! And while the cartoon version of the Casper character looked "friendly" enough, this 3D incarnation looks somewhat creepy. Still, Interplay infused the subject matter with enough with whimsical style and good-natured humor to make it palatable to most gamers (including kids). Gameplay involves exploring a huge mansion, collecting items, pigging out on food, assembling jigsaw puzzles, and avoiding unfriendly ghosts. As it turns out, ghosts love to eat broccoli and tuna fish sandwiches! Who knew? The game isn't the most logical in the world, so the ability to suspend disbelief is pre-requisite. For example, Casper can transform with a mist to navigate the ventilation system, but can't penetrate a barred door! One puzzle requires you to drop a lead weigh on a sparkly area to trigger a switch. That's hardly intuitive, but most of the game's puzzles are simple enough to hold your attention. Eventually, you'll open up so much of the mansion that it becomes confusing to navigate. A map screen would have been helpful. Still, the game is addictive, and I like how you can save you progress at any time. In terms of presentation, Casper rates extremely high. The house has a decrepit but elegant look, evocative of Disney's Haunted Mansion. The lavish orchestrated musical score tows the line between playful and ominous. This is a game that eventually grew on me. If your 3DO can handle it, Casper is a pleasant diversion. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Digital Pictures (1995)
Rating: Mature (realistic violence)
Corpse Killer can be described as a light gun game that doesn't work particularly well with one type of controller. As luck would have it, that particular type of controller would be a light gun
. In the Sega CD and 32X versions of Corpse Killer the gun controls are deplorable
, and the instruction book for this game doesn't even mention
a gun! It's ironic when you consider that this 3DO version offers the best
light gun support. Unfortunately, light guns for the 3DO are hard to come by. Corpse Killer employs full motion-video (FMV) with real actors. Each stage pans across tropical scenery as fake-looking zombies appear from out of nowhere and float towards you. If you don't shoot them in time, you take damage. The light gun controls are surprisingly accurate, although to be honest guiding a crosshair around with a normal controller is probably just as good. There seem to be fewer enemies than the Sega CD version, but they move quicker here. In fact, some projectiles (skulls, knives) seem nearly impossible to avoid, and there are precious few opportunities to replenish your health. Oh well, at least the shooting stages don't exhibit the technical glitches that marred the 32X version. The video area takes up most of the screen, allowing you to enjoy the cheesy cut-scenes in their full glory. Vincent Shiavelli is perfect as the mad scientist, and your Rastafarian guide Winston is believable enough. The stereotypical blonde reporter is a real hottie but her acting is unintentionally hilarious. Corpse Killer will never be mistaken for good, but if there's a place in your heart for FMV games, you'll appreciate this for its entertainment value. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1993)
Crash N Burn is an excellent futuristic racing game that was bundled with the first 3DO machines. There are 30 (!) huge tracks that drop, twist, and turn like roller coasters. You can arm your vehicle with 28 (!) different weapons for some Twisted Metal-style car combat. I love the guided missiles, but the mines are a real pain because it's hard to see them coming. Still, they are often your only defense when someone is lighting you up from behind. At a framerate of 24 frames per second, it's not quite as pretty as Ridge Racer, but it's close. The tracks are intriguing in design, but there's not much to see in the post-apocalyptic background. Sections of the track are often flooded with water or mud. Too bad that water doesn't put out the fire when your car gets damaged. When things start heating up, you can pull into a pit stop for repairs. These pit stops are fast and easy, and allow you to reload your weapons as well. Each of the six distinct racers has a set of humorous (and poorly acted) videos. Racing on the 3DO doesn't get much better than this. Note: This game did not work on my Goldstar system. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Daedalus Encounter, The
Publisher: Virgin (1995)
Despite their low budget special effects and laughable acting, I generally enjoy these old full-motion video (FMV) games. But unlike most titles in the genre, this one had some decent financing. Daedalus Encounter features snazzy visuals and a nice soundtrack, but it's all a facade. Despite its minimal gameplay, there's plenty of eye candy, mainly in the form of Tia Carrere, who you may recognize as the vixen from the films Wayne's World
and True Lies
. Here she plays Ariel, captain of a renegade starship, and Zack is her smart-aleck copilot. You play the role of Casey, some poor schmuck who got blasted to bits on a previous mission. As the third "member" of the crew, Casey is just a brain floating in a box with wires connecting him to a computer system. By holding the right shoulder button, you have a list of commands you can perform, such as analyzing objects or controlling a remote control probe. At least you won't be left behind when it's time to go out and explore. Daedalus Encounter is a good-looking game, even by today's standards. The video is slightly pixilated, but the pre-rendered alien landscapes are colorful and appropriately otherworldly. The story centers around an encounter with a large, seemingly abandoned alien freighter. The crew investigates and wanders around the mysterious vessel, and then, well, not a whole lot happens. Predictably, you have little bearing on what goes on. Your role is mainly limited to solving tedious puzzles to open doors. For some reason, just about every door contains a collection of symbols you need to rearrange in various combinations to open it. Unfortunately, these aren't the kind of puzzles that I'd call "fun". No, these are the kind that put people into mental institutions
. I still don't know how I managed to solve a few of them. Daedalus Encounter offers little in the way of action, and when it does occur, you're little more than a spectator. You spend most of the game watching video, and although the first few scenes are interesting enough, the game gets boring when you start exploring the vessel and every room looks the same. The actors do a fair job considering the material, and Zack even has a few funny lines of dialogue. The gratuitous use of the "s---" word was probably done to merit a "mature" rating. Remember, 3DO was catering to the "adult" crowd, and you know how adults love to say bad words. In terms of audio, the game features some impressive mellow electronic music that nicely captures the desolation of space (or the desolation playing a boring FMV game). Daedalus Encounter comes on four CDs, but don't be deceived. The game is not very long and it can be finished in one sitting. Whenever you mess up, I like how the game automatically saves your spot and lets you pick up directly where you left off. I found Daedalus Encounter intriguing at first, but it couldn't hold my attention all the way through. Puzzle fans may find it a challenge, and FMV fans (all three of you) should get a kick out of the acting, but the rest of us are just along for the ride. And it's a pretty uneventful journey. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Strategic Simulations (1995)
There's probably a decent D&D game buried in here somewhere, but DeathKeep was a freakin' nightmare
to review. As the sequel to Slayer
(3DO, 1994), this first-person dungeon crawler lets you wield weapons and cast spells against hostile creatures in underground mazes. There are plenty of items to collect, and managing you inventory is key. The monsters are impressively rendered and animated, but they look no better than those in Slayer. In fact, you'll face a lot of the very same
creatures. Unlike Slayer's flat dungeons, DeathKeep incorporates ramps and platforms of various heights, but awkward camera controls make it hard to adjust your sights. Another issue is the lack of a map! That map was about the only thing that kept me going in Slayer, and without it I feel lost. And don't go looking for the save function either, because now you can only save between stages!
Even the instruction book took a hit, as it's now a lot thinner and printed on cheap paper. The controls have been revamped, with the A and C buttons controlling your left and right hands, respectively. Being able to use the shoulder buttons to strafe is a huge
improvement. Unfortunately, the 3DO controller's lack of buttons means you're forced to hit combinations
to perform basic actions like adjusting the camera and changing weapons. For example, to look up you need to press B and R at the same time - not very intuitive! The audio has been noticeably upgraded with digitized sounds including nervous violins and ethereal chimes. Unfortunately the game goes completely silent
whenever the disk is accessed - which is quite often! DeathKeep has its share of issues, but these are small potatoes compared to the putrid design of the first stage. As you explore blue caves, you'll slide on ice, burn yourself in boiling water, and be swept along by flowing water. How all three of these can coexist in such a small area, I have no idea. While struggling to navigate, you're constantly getting caught up on the numerous nooks and crannies along the hallways. Last but not least, you're immediately confronted by "ice trolls" who are - get this - impervious to weapon attacks!
Each one of the things I just mentioned is an egregious example of poor game design. Shoehorning them all into one place - the first stage
no less - is unforgivable. DeathKeep made me miserable, a if not for a cheat code I would have never seen the second stage. Once there, the game began to look a lot more like Slayer, but was far less enjoyable to play. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
"Send a maniac to catch a maniac." That's Sylvester Stallone's opening line in Demolition Man, a game that manages to blur the line between movie and video game. Not only does the game follow the movie's storyline from beginning to end, it even contains lengthy video clips from the movie. And I was shocked
to see that the star of the movie, Sylvester Stallone
, actually shot video footage just for this game
. That's extremely rare. Heck, they usually can't even get the actors to provide voices
for the games. The production quality of this game is sky high, and the overall presentation really elevates this otherwise mediocre action title. Between stages, Stallone runs around in some admittedly virtual-looking environments to set up the next scene. Sly even cut video for the options
menu! Choose the regular difficulty and he'll say, "You're doing the right thing", but pick the easy difficulty and he'll say "you suck". You have to appreciate that level of detail (and honesty!) The game itself is a hodgepodge of game styles, none of which excel in any way. The best and most prevalent stages are the light gun levels. While best played with a light gun (duh), these stages even work well with a joypad, believe it or not. The digitized thugs look great and provide a nice variety of targets. Hint: Shoot the grenades! In the museum stages, instead of shooting bad guys, you instead need to shoot parts of the scenery that will reveal your hiding archenemy Simon Phoenix (played by Wesley Snipes). There are also a few 2D fighting stages thrown it that play like a really bad Mortal Kombat clone. The controls are sluggish to say the least, and the gameplay is terribly primitive, despite some cool digitized graphics. Another poorly executed stage is the first-person underground tunnel stage. As you mow down bad guys while looking for the end of the tunnel, you can't harm Simon Phoenix, who antagonizes you nonstop! Everything looks the same down there, so if you want any chance of escaping, I'd recommend staying to the left or right the whole time (a basic maze traversal algorithm). The last type of stage is the driving stage, which looks great but is remarkably shallow. I love the smooth scaling and dark scenery, but all you're really doing is dodging cars. Demolition Man is a great looking game, but the gameplay should have gotten more attention. I appreciate the variety, but there's just not enough fun to be had. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Dennis Miller: That's News To Me
Publisher: Laugh (1994)
I like Dennis Miller and his distinctive sense of humor. He was perfect as the news anchor on Saturday Night Live, and added much-needed spice to the Monday Night Football commentary, but the laughs on this disk are few and far between. This multimedia experiment is an attempt to recreate the magic of his SNL Weekend Update notoriety, but it falls flat. It's not a game at all, although it claims to be interactive. You can choose which category of jokes to watch, including politics, entertainment, and sports. Yes, Dennis uses plenty of sarcasm and obscure references, but there are no graphics or pictures for him to play off of, so he might as well be doing stand-up. Without a live audience, the jokes just don't seem as funny, and the video clips cut off the jokes before he can follow-up or start cracking up (like he used to do on SNL). At times, Dennis appears to be reading off a cue card, and most of the jokes (circa 1994) are now outdated. Despite the "interactive" controls, your best bet is to put this thing on "shuffle" and sit back and watch. I watched for quite a while before the jokes started to repeat. I would guess that there's between 30 and 45 minutes worth of jokes on this disk. But it didn't make me laugh - I just smiled a few times. It's yet another 3DO multimedia experiment that fell apart. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Id Software (1995)
Of all the versions I've played of Doom (and I've played most of them) this 3DO edition has got to be the sorriest. The first thing I noticed was how the screen was severely cropped, despite the fact the screenshots on the box provide no indication of this! That goes beyond false advertising - it's a boldface lie!
The lack of full screen support is bad enough, but the 3DO even struggles to render the action on the small screen!
My friend Scott exclaimed, "I'm already
seeing slow-down, and there aren't even any monsters yet!"
The textures look alright, but the uneven frame-rate is enough to make you queasy
. When ambushed by a band of imps, the game practically comes to a stand-still
. Intermittent disc accesses throughout add additional hiccups. I expected the 3DO to excel in the control department, considering its controllers have shoulder buttons to facilitate strafing. Sadly, the controls feel mushy and unresponsive. Certain levels feature high-octane music, but those blazing guitar riffs are entirely too fast and upbeat. What is this, an 80's rock video? Doom on the 3DO is a lost cause. I find it interesting that a console billed as the "ultimate multi-media player" couldn't even handle the premiere first-person shooter of its time. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Readysoft (1993)
You either love or hate this full motion video arcade game. I remember when I first saw Dragon's Lair in an arcade in 1983. Nobody could play it, but I couldn't take my eyes off the gorgeous animated graphics. It's basically an interactive cartoon where you need to make the right movements at exact times. Don Bluth's animation is sensational, and the audio track is also impressive. This 3DO version provides the cleanest video I've seen on a console system, but unfortunately, this is also a very difficult version. The game provides little or no room for error, no audio feedback, and few clues as to what you should do next. As a result, it's mainly a matter of trial and error, which can be frustrating to say the least. In addition, the rooms are in a fixed order, and using continues requires you to repeat some of the areas you have already been through. Only die-hard fans will want to bother with this. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Escape From Monster Manor
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
I've always enjoyed Haunted House games, so I found Monster Manor very appealing despite the fact that it's really a Doom clone. Your mission is to collect pieces of a Talisman scattered through an old house. This house is HUGE, with each floor consisting of an endless series of corridors and rooms. The rooms contain a few spooky items like coffins, statues, and hanging bodies, but for the most part they are wide open and all start looking the same after a while. You'll constantly need to consult your map to figure out where to go next. The semi-transparent ghosts are nicely rendered, but they could have been scarier (they were modeled in clay). Control is responsive; your movement is fast and smooth, and the shoulder buttons provide a handy strafe function. But the best aspect of Monster Manor is the audio. The background music is incredibly eerie, and the gristly sound effects will send chills down your spine. You often get the impression that something terrible is waiting for you in the next room! One thing I didn't like was how fast your life and ammo drains - you constantly need to replenish yourself. And while in some areas there's so much life and ammo you're tripping over them, there are other areas where they're painfully rare. And boy did I get tired of picking up all those gems and coins, which apparently only affect your score. Despite its flaws, Monster Manor is a pretty exciting game, and I don't think you can get it on any other console. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Moby Games