Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold
Publisher: American Laser Games (1994)
Mag Dog McCree needed a second game like Howard the Duck needed a movie sequel. Mad Dog II combines full-motion video (FMV) with light gun shooting, and the results are distressing. You play the role of a cowboy shooting outlaws and protecting hotties in the old west. The production values aren't bad. The stagecoaches look authentic and there are some interesting locations like gold mines and an Indian reservation. In each scene bad guys appear but are impervious to fire until they raise their weapons. The collision detection is lousy, and that's pretty much a deal-breaker in a light gun game. My best advice to unload a series of shots on each guy in the hopes you'll get lucky. Sometimes a good shot won't register, and sometimes a bad shot will. The staged video sequences are bad, but in a funny
way. I find it amusing how shot outlaws always go out of their way to throw themselves off the nearest balcony for the longest, most dramatic death sequence possible. These guys probably expected their roles would catapult them to Hollywood stardom. I guess the best thing I can say about Mad Dog 2 is it's not Mad Dog 1. There's less dialogue to sit through, less loading, and the shooting is a bit more forgiving. Still, it's often hard to tell when (or who) you're supposed to shoot. Mad Dog 2 is a modest upgrade, but if you've played the first game you know that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: American Laser Games (1993)
Games like this one give full-motion video (FMV) titles a bad name. Oh wait - they already had
a bad name? Well, this one gives light gun titles
a bad name. What's that? They
have a bad name too?
I guess Mad Dog McCree offers the worst of both worlds. The first time I played I couldn't even figure out how to get started!
Then I discovered a tiny little
black button that looks like a screw on the left side of my American Gamegun. Nice design! The action begins with some old man rambling on and on about Mad Dog and his gang (yes, I tried to shoot the old coot). Mad Dog is a notorious outlaw with a penchant for wearing heavy eyeliner. The game tries to give you a first-person tour of the Wild West, with shoot-outs in dusty locations like a bank, corral, jail, and saloon. You can use either a light gun or controller, but neither one is up to the task. The light gun is somewhat accurate but there's no reticule to use as a guide. The controller option sucks because you need to drag the cursor to the bottom of the screen just to reload! When the outlaws show up, you can't shoot them until they draw their guns, leaving you only a split-second to take a perfect shot. There's no immediate feedback so you might have to wait a few seconds to see what happened. The next clip will either be a guy falling to the ground or a town doctor chiding you for sucking so much. I can handle high difficulty, but the collision detection is horrible, and sometimes broken!
It's not uncommon to shoot an outlaw perfectly and not have your shot even register. Mad Dog McCree has a few good ideas like selectable stages and branching paths, but technically it's a trainwreck. Apparently light guns and full motion video wasn't the marriage made in heaven that nobody
thought it was. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Unlike many early 3D racers, Need for Speed has aged remarkably well. It's a potent combination of lifelike visuals, realistic physics, and tight controls. And despite an emphasis on realism, Need for Speed is actually a lot of fun to play!
You can compete against the clock or go head-to-head with a CPU-controlled Don Johnson look-alike. Notice there's no split-screen mode - a definite drawback but not a deal-breaker. There are eight cars to select from including a Ferrari 512, Porsche 911, and a Lamborghini Diablo. Each has an impressive video showcase, and gazing at the sharp car photos on the load screens really gets you psyched up about driving them. The vehicles handle exceptionally well, allowing you to weave through two-lane traffic at dangerously high speeds. Your car tends to labor while climbing mountain roads, but this is the only time the action feels sluggish. You can build up some serious momentum headed downhill, and the possibility of losing control makes it all the more exciting. It seems like I always wipe out as soon as the finish line comes into view (only to watch "Crocket" cruise right on by). Graphically, Need for Speed is a stunning 3DO tour-de-force that makes the Playstation
version look weak
by comparison. From sunny coastal highways to winding mountain roads to industrial urban areas, the scenery has an authentic, digitized look you just don't see anymore. I love the shadowing as you drive over bridges, as well as the muffled audio as you whisk through the tunnels. I detected no draw-in, pop-up, or frame-rate stutters. I actually prefer
playing the game using the first-person "cockpit" view! Clearly the programmers did a bang-up job. After each race you have the option of viewing a highlight reel that effectively replays the best parts of the race. High scores and initials are saved automatically. It may seem a little slow compared to modern-day racers, but the eye candy is pretty amazing, and when it comes to sheer playability, Need for Speed is the real deal. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: Alphine 9,293
Publisher: Digital Pictures (1993)
I was a big fan of this full-motion video extravaganza on the Sega CD and 32X, so I had high hopes for the 3DO version. Night Trap is a controversial title that lets you monitor eight rooms of a house, trying to capture "augers" out to kidnap girls at a slumber party. Some critics mock its cheesy acting, but the low-budget scenes have a nostalgic, B-movie charm. You begin the game with your "commander" briefing you on your mission, but while he's yapping away the story is already unfolding, so don't wait for him to finish. Beating the game requires a lot of trial and error - and luck. As you flip between cameras you'll catch bits and pieces of the story while keeping an eye out for creeping augers. You'll want to memorize (and write down) key events like trap code changes, as missing these will cut your mission short. The auger locations are randomized to a modest extent. I like how events occur concurrently in different rooms because it means you can see something new every time you play. I'm amazed at how the designers managed to orchestrate all of the scenes so well. The action really heats up if you can make it to disc two, but it's not an easy feat. So how does this 3DO version stack up to the others? Well, the video area is about the size of the 32X version, but the quality is better. The scenery looks less grainy but the frame-rate is slightly degraded. The best part about this 3DO edition is how you can quickly switch between cameras. There's a second or two of static when you switch cameras on the Sega CD or 32X, but in this version the transition is almost instantaneous. I also noticed that the audio is clearer than the Sega games. Night Trap isn't a perfect game, but it's highly original and a lot of fun if you give it a chance. With cleaner video and more responsive controls, this may be the definitive version of the game. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 41
Publisher: Psygnosis (1994)
Novastorm's full-motion video intro shows several galactic commanders on monitors discussing a galactic crisis, and the conversation made me very sleepy. Fortunately the scene soon gives way to a starship taking off, and this regained my attention. The ship is rendered with vivid color and excellent lighting effects, all complemented by a surreal musical score. Psygnosis clearly spared no expense on Novastorm, which still looks impressive in 2010! The game is played via a third-person view as you pilot a ship over various planetary surfaces while blasting alien ships that scale in and out of view. All of the obligatory fire/ice/desert environments are included, and they look very nice as you glide smoothly across them. Advanced levels even incorporate bridges, columns, and other structures you'll need to avoid (although they only inflict minimal damage). Your cannons are semi-automatic, so a controller with a turbo switch may come in handy. Power-ups appear early and often, but I try to stick with the wide triple-shot. The pulsating technical music is one of the highlights of the game, and the stereo sound effects are also noticeably good. Blowing up waves of alien ships is fun for a while thanks to the satisfying explosion effects, but much like Sega's Afterburner, your own ship tends to obstruct your view. Enemies keep reappearing in the same formations, causing the action to become monotonous. Well-produced cut-scenes tie the stages together, and they're worth watching. Periodic boss encounters include showdowns with a flaming bird and a giant scorpion. You get a generous supply of bombs (three per ship), and I would recommend using them exclusively
on the bosses. It's hard to tell if you're inflicting any damage on these mechanical beasts until an FMV "death scene" finally kicks in. Before you begin playing Novastorm do yourself a big favor and adjust the number of lives down to 5, because the default of 7 makes for an excruciatingly long game. High scores are recorded automatically along with initials. Novastorm's visuals and soundtrack have easily stood the test of time, but I'm afraid this is largely a case of style over substance. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 5 lives
Our high score: 10,986,420
Publisher: Amazing Media (1993)
An old 3DO magazine ad suggested that playing this game would cause the ocean to pour forth from your television set, flooding your living room and leaving you with an octopus on your lap. "It's the closest you'll ever come to diving without getting wet!" Not wanting to take any chances, before playing Oceans Below I put on a wet suit, snorkel, and flippers, only to look like an ass when my in-laws stopped by unannounced. As it turns out, the "interactive experience" is more like browsing the special feature menu of a DVD. You simply navigate graphical menus with a cursor and click on fish for more information. Sure, there are some videos of people diving or conveying safety tips, but these small, grainy video clips hardly convey the "20,000 leagues under the sea" experience I had in mind. You begin by choosing one of the numerous worldwide dive locations, and are presented with a composite photograph showing a static ocean floor. Then can then scroll around the picture and click on objects, which initiate short but informative videos explaining what the heck you just clicked on. There are over 200 clips, and thankfully they tend to be short, although the picture quality should have been better. Occasionally you'll stumble across tiny pieces of "not-so-buried treasure", but it's not too exciting. I suppose you could learn something from this CD, especially if you're interested in diving, but the loading time really ruined it for me. In the end, it's just another failed 3DO experiment. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
If you own a 3DO, you must own this game! It's fun and addicting, and never seems tedious like other golf games. The courses look a bit grainy, but the slopes undulate and curve realistically. The round swing meter is something EA has honed over many years of making golf games. It's always tempting to go for the extra power, but that increases your chances of a bad shot. The sound effects are excellent, and when you're putting, the commentator makes his remarks in a low, hushed voice. The game moves along at a nice clip, although there are occasional pauses for disk access. You get three real 18-hole courses and 56 pro golfers to compete against. Like the Playstation version, this stands as one of the finest golf games of all time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Any Channel (1995)
Released at a time with first person shooters were "the new thing", PO'ed carved out its niche by being the most colorful, offbeat game of its kind. Gamers took notice of its twisted sense of humor and odd assortment of weapons including frying pans, butcher knives, and drills. The frying pan may sound like a pretty lame weapon, but it's surprisingly satisfying to clank a monster over the head with it. You play the role of an intergalactic cook whose ship has been invaded by a bizarre collection of aliens including "buttheads" (walking asses), bat-like creatures, and robots. But what really distinguishes PO'ed is its "vertical" dimension. There's plenty of platform jumping, as well the ability to hover with a jetpack. It's different, but it doesn't work well from the first-person point of view, and it's far too easy to overshoot your landing and become disoriented. The controls are slippery, and you're constantly sliding off the edges of platforms. In terms of graphics, the weapons you see in your hands look great, but the scenery looks terribly pixilated and the blocky monsters are poorly animated. The game lets you save at any time, but since it never prompts you, it's very easy to forget. PO'ed has some originality, but it's aged poorly and isn't nearly as entertaining as it once was. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: PF Magic (1994)
This game is billed as "the first 3-D Pinball Thrill Ride". Let's hope it's the last, because PaTaank is an awful mess. I suppose the designers were trying to be original and innovative, but this "first-person pinball" project should have never seen the light of day. The goal is to bounce around a pixelated 3D world trying to hit specific targets, but the choppy frame rate makes it hard to tell what the hell is going on! The three tables (carnival of love, surf, and disaster) are flashy but fairly small and uninteresting. Even when I got the hang of the game I wasn't having any fun. I'd have to chalk PaTaank up as a bad idea that was poorly executed. And who was the marketing genius who came up with that idiotic name that no one can pronounce? © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Publisher: Panasonic (1993)
What a disappointment! With the 3DO's extensive video capabilities, I was expecting some sweet-looking digitized courses, but instead I get a bunch of angular polygon holes with terribly pixelated trees. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the grainy video "fly by" of the first hole. The large digitized golfers look great, but there are no pros to be found. The gameplay borders on tedious; it takes forever to set up a friggin' shot! Besides going through the normal process of selecting your club and aiming, you have to mess with setting your "stance" and deal with a dorky-looking caddy in a jumpsuit. I wish they had included some options to expedite the process, but there are precious few options available, and none during the actual game! At least the swing meter works pretty well, and the game is certainly a challenge. Another problem is the audio - or lack of it! There are hardly any sound effects, and no commentary at all. Last, but not least, there's only ONE course. Pebble Beach Golf simply isn't up to par compared with other golf games. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 3DO Studios (1995)
Before you gamers get too excited about this one, I should warn you that Phoenix 3 is not
a sequel to the popular bird-shooting arcade game of the early 80s. No, Phoenix 3 is half platform shooter and half first-person space shooter. While neither part is great, the package as a whole may be worth checking out. After a cheesy "live action" video introduction (boring), the game begins with some simple 2D platform action in a post-apocalyptic world. You control a large, digitized man who controls quite well. He can walk while squatting, shoot from ladders, fire in eight directions, hang onto ledges, and pull himself up. The scenery isn't much to look at, but the Alien-inspired enemies look slimy enough. It's fun to mow down these creeps with your rapid-fire gun and watch blood and internal organs fly, and the accompanying sound of splattering guts makes the mayhem all the more satisfying. The audio is superb, with crisp, digitized sound effects and an adrenaline pumping musical score. But despite the high-quality presentation, the gameplay is unpolished. The controls for climbing down are confusing, and you're often forced to make "blind leaps" - only to find a bed of spikes below. Shooting diagonally up is a problem, as your shots often miss their target for no reason at all. As a nice change of pace, you'll also get to participate in some first-person dog fighting action in space. These stages also look nice, with a finely detailed heads-up display and 3D alien ships. Visually it reminded me of Colony Wars for the Playstation. Unfortunately, you need to rely completely on your guided torpedoes to eliminate your enemies, because the twin cannons are worthless. The explosions look terrific, but the lack of variety makes this part feel repetitive. Phoenix 3 is not a great game by any stretch, but it has its moments, and will probably hold your interest for a while. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Time Warner (1995)
On paper, Primal Rage is the greatest video game of all time. With gigantic, motion-captured dinosaurs and apes fighting for dominion over a post-apocalyptic world, what's not to like? In 1995 I drooled over mind-blowing screenshots of Primal Rage in GamePro magazine. Then, I played it. The fact that the game looks so damned good makes its mediocre gameplay all the more glaring. The creatures look amazing in their pre-battle poses, but their attacks are choppy and the collision detection is questionable. Between the stilted animation, kicked-up dust, and gratuitous blood, it can be hard to tell what the heck's going on. The 3DO edition includes the original arcade intro, featuring wonderful illustrations of giant creatures laying waste to human civilization (I can't wait
for the future!). This version also incorporates full-motion video sequences, but I wish they hadn't bothered. The rudimentary creature models look far worse than those in the actual game, and the narrator sounds like she's reading nonsense to a kindergarten class ("now she comes... to defeat all others... who oppose her reign"). Fortunately it's possible to disable these wretched cinematics via the options menu. The game itself looks pretty sweet. The creatures look razor sharp and the awesome backdrops include extra details like flying pterodactyls. The battles are intense because attacks inflict substantial damage. The continue screen shows worshipping natives including one that looks like Dana Plato waving to get your attention. Additional play modes include tug-of-war and endurance modes. There are also statistical screens that display information like average round times and character usage (but no high scores, oddly enough). It doesn't really matter, since none of the stuff is saved when you turn off the system (boo). Even so, this 3DO Primal Rage may be the best home version outside of the Saturn edition. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 143,910
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Part of me wishes full-motion video games had flourished, because they're a heck
of a lot of fun to review. I didn't expect Psychic Detective to be scary
per se, but its imagery is pretty dark and twisted. I enjoyed watching the scenes which look like they were filmed on location in Albania or some other eastern European country. The main character is a psychic played by a young Jim Carrey - or someone who looks just like him. He meets some hot Russian chick who teaches him how to creep into people's minds. The villain is played by Sir Ben Kingsley - or someone who looks exactly like him. Gameplay is similar to other "voyeur" style games except instead of switching between cameras you actually switch between different character's points of view. At a party you can "hop" between people to gain insight on their thoughts and actions. As new characters enter the scene their faces appear in circles along the edge of the screen, which you are free to select. I love the "fly on the wall" concept, but it's hard to wrap your mind around what's happening. Instead of feeling like an actor in the story, it feels like you're on some crazy psychedelic trip. Five minutes in my friend Scott summed up the game perfectly by asking, "am I playing
yet?" On rare occasions you're given the opportunity to perform actions like "follow the girl" or "slap the girl". Yeah, this is not the most politically correct title, but if it makes you feel any better, she immediately apologizes after you hit her. It's evident that "morphing" was the latest craze when this game was made because during flashbacks everything looks distorted. In terms of acting, I really enjoyed some of the perfectly awful performances. That Russian chick was definitely not hired due to her "acting"; she couldn't deliver a line to save her life. "Are you sure [awkward pause to remember line] ...he's alright?" Repeated plays reveal different scenes and dialogue, adding some replay value. Swapping between the three discs gets annoying though. The 40-minute story concludes with an abstract board game where you try to match up objects with people. Based on your performance you'll watch one of 14 endings. The problem is, I felt like Psychic Detective was playing me
more than I was playing it
. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Gametek (1994)
Games like this could give the 3DO a bad name. Oh wait, that's right - the 3DO has had a bad name for years! But if I could grade Quarantine on innovation alone, it would receive my highest accolades. It's a fully 3D, drive-anywhere game with elements of car combat and taxi driving. Pretty ambitious stuff for 1994, but as far as the gameplay goes, Quarantine absolutely sucks. You're a taxi driver in an imprisoned city full of armed lunatics. The cheesy video intro makes you realize just how low budget these 3DO games were. I've heard this game compared to Crazy Taxi
(Dreamcast), but I think that's giving it way
too much credit. Quarantine actually resembles a very rough
version of Twisted Metal
(Playstation). The city is huge, but the pixelated facades are nothing to look at, and the people are little more than cardboard cutouts. You feel boxed in. Driving passengers to their destinations while mowing down thugs sounds like great fun, but the execution falters. Your view is first person only, which is part of the problem. The controls are awful, especially when trying to turn the car around. Mindless, pixelated vehicles ram you from out of nowhere, causing you to lose your passengers. There's plenty of gratuitous blood when you run over or shoot people, but those huge red splotches look ridiculous. You constantly need to consult a slow-loading map screen to see where you're going. You can upgrade weapons and repair your car, but when the basic gameplay falters this bad, extra fluff like that falls to the wayside. Perhaps the most telling sign about this game was the fact that it actually made me ill
. I don't know if it was the lousy frame rate, terrible graphics, frustrating control, or the burrito I had eaten earlier, but I actually become nauseated and had to stop playing. On a positive note, I did enjoy a few of the selectable background tunes, featuring some vintage early 90's alternative rock. But no soundtrack could save this game. Quarantine had the right idea, but the technology just wasn't ready yet. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 3DO (1994)
Honored by a certain game magazine as the "game of the year" in 1995, Return Fire was as overrated
back then as it is today! Okay, it's not a bad
game, but once you get past the fancy window dressing, you're left with a very mediocre shooter. Designed with two-player head-to-head action in mind, the game utilizes a vertical split screen, isometric view. Since each side only offers a window into a larger playing area, an overhead "scanner" is also displayed. The object is simple - capture your opponent's flag and return it to your base. You have a fleet of tanks, helicopters, jeeps, and armored vehicles available in your underground base, but you can only control one at a time, which severely
limits your options. When one of your vehicles is destroyed, either by ground fire or by your opponent, you're returned to your base to select a replacement. Only the jeeps can transport flags, which provides an interesting twist. I played Return Fire when it first came out back in mid-90's, and again recently with a group of friends. In both cases, it was an under-whelming experience. Still, I can understand why people were excited about Return Fire back in the day. The game's slick presentation, scaling cameras, and satisfying explosions were certainly impressive for its time. Add in surround sound, an orchestrated soundtrack, and vintage video clips, and it's almost
enough to make you overlook its tepid gameplay. But not in 2006! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Rise of the Robots
Publisher: Accolade (1995)
One thing's for sure - there's no shortage of crappy games for the 3DO. Rise of the Robots tries to be a high-tech, one-on-one 2D fighter, but its flaws are so blatant you have to wonder what the designers were smoking. I will give the game credit for some nice robot designs. The main robot character, ECO35-2, is basically humanoid in shape, but the other six robots take on wild designs like crabs, gorillas, or front loaders. They look incredibly menacing in the cut-scenes, but less so in the game itself. These cut-scenes are easily the best part of the game - they look great and contain some cool futuristic music. The one-player mode challenges you to take ECO35-2 through a series of individual battles, which is interesting until your opponents start repeating, at which time the game becomes boring. As you would expect, there is a two-player mode, but player one can only be
ECO35-2. What the heck is THAT all about?? There are three punches and three kicks (light, medium, hard), but they all look exactly the same! The controls are sluggish, and trying to pull off special moves is futile. That's not much of an issue though, because the weak fighting engine doesn't demand much technique anyway. There are no interesting backgrounds to view during the fights, and no music either! Rise of the Robots is painfully shallow compared to classic fighters like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. Even if you like this kind of thing, Rise of the Robots won't do much time in your 3DO. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
This outstanding game was probably the pinnacle of the Road Rash series. Gorgeous graphics, rocking music, and loads of options complement the same exciting gameplay made famous on the Genesis. The production quality is great, with high octane music and stylish video cut scenes. The five tracks all feature beautiful, constantly changing scenery. In the city areas, you drive down building-lined streets teeming with traffic and pedestrians, something that was never possible on the Genesis. Most of the objects look digitized, and the framerate keeps up pretty well as you careen down city streets at breakneck speeds. The gameplay is almost identical to the Genesis version; you can kick, punch, or smack your opponents with a club or chain. You can even beat up on the police and ride over pedestrians. Some of the advanced bikes feature a "nitro" speed burst. The video scenes showing gangs of bikers are entertaining and the music is fantastic, featuring Soundgarden, Hammerbox, and Paw, to name a few. The "Big Game" mode allows you to earn money, purchase bikes, and progress through five levels. The set of tracks in each level are the same, except they get longer and tougher. I've always been a big Road Rash fan, and I was very impressed with this. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Moby Games