Arcade Classic 4: Defender/Joust
Publisher: Midway (1995)
Like fine wines, Defender and Joust only get better with age. These scaled-down versions are remarkably faithful to the originals. In Defender (1980) you fly over an angular planet surface, wiping out aliens before they can abduct humans from the surface. All the key elements are here except hyperspace, which is no great loss. Rapidly unloading those laser streams is fun, and after taking a hit your ship blooms into a little fireworks display. Playing Defender on a Super Game Boy (SNES) enhances the experience with a bright, colorful arcade cabinet display and colors that mimic the arcade. You'll feel like you're playing the actual coin-op, at least until advanced waves when slow-down kicks in and the game speed starts to fluctuate. Joust (1982) nicely emulates the button-tapping, bird-flapping gameplay of the coin-op. The collision detection is forgiving but it takes more effort (flapping) to ascend the screen. One pleasant surprise is the "updated" mode which features a large scrolling battlefield. It plays extremely well. All variations let you enter your initials in high score screens, but they didn't save for me. If there's a battery in my cart, it's probably dead. One glaring omission is the ability to toggle between the two games; you need to restart instead. Overall this cartridge packs a healthy serving of pure
arcade fun - just like momma used to make. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Joust updated
Our high score: 25,000
Publisher: Sunsoft (1990)
At first glance this platform shooter may induce eye-rolling. The short, squat hero looks more like Batman Junior
and he fires giant cannonballs. That's not the Batman I
know. It's kind of a drag how he can't backtrack as the screen scrolls forward. Is it just me or are the jump and shoot buttons reversed? None of these issues prevent Batman from being a heck of a lot of fun. The stage layouts are actually quite clever. You can strategically clear away blocks and dark ones reveal bonuses and power-ups. Some are tricky to reach, adding a nice risk-reward element. The controls are excellent. Batman can gracefully leap great distances, and his duck move is invaluable when exchanging gunfire with the Joker's goons. The stages generally follow the film, starting with the chemical factory before transitioning to the museum and cathedral. There's even a rapid-fire Batwing stage! I should also mention that the music really kicks ass. It sounds like Neil Peart of Rush going crazy on the drums. Batman may not look like much, but it's one of the more habit-forming platformers I've played in some time. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 129,900
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Our high score: 75,580
Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, The
Publisher: Kemco (1991)
At first glance Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2 appears to be a dull, by-the-numbers platformer. You collect keys, open doors, evade enemies, reach the exit, and proceed to the next stage. Once the difficulty starts to ramp however you realize there's quite of bit of strategy here. You can't jump, but the levels are connected by ladders, staircases, trampolines, pipes, and portals. Occasionally you'll find a weapon like a bow or bomb that can send enemies up in smoke. These are limited in quantity however, so evasion should be your first option. Adversaries include familiar Warner Bros. characters like Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, and the Tasmanian devil. Don't give up when you appear to be trapped or cornered. You can pass foes on the stairs, and sometimes they'll inexplicably turn around at the last second. The stages are short and a four-letter password is provided between them. The music is surprisingly good, although its repetitive nature will get on your nerves after a while. What makes Crazy Castle 2 work is its thoughtfully constructed stages. There's usually a specific route you need to follow and the margin for error is thin. Once you get into a groove, Bugs Bunny's Crazy Castle 2 is actually somewhat addictive. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Nintendo (1994)
Save mechanism: Battery
Game & Watch Gallery
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Nintendo released a series of "Game & Watch" LCD games from 1980 to 1991. In case you don't recall the technology, it used pre-printed black shapes on a gray screen. When made visible in sequence, these shapes conveyed a rudimentary kind of animation. This technique was used to create a series of cheap, portable video games. Game & Watch Gallery reprises four of these: Manhole, Fire, Octopus, and Oil Panic. Not only do you get the original (read: choppy) versions, but also "modern" versions retrofitted with better graphics, smoother animation, and even Nintendo characters. I have to admit some of the original games were pretty clever. There's one where you catch people jumping out of a burning building with a trampoline, and it gets crazy as you try to juggle them all. In another game you try to snag underwater treasure while avoiding octopus tentacles that reach out for you. High scores are recorded but there's little fun to be had. Frantic and repetitive, these are the kind of games that put people into mental institutions!
The "gallery" part of the title alludes to unlockable pictures and history that tell the story of the series. This cartridge might have been a passable way to kill time in the 80's, but that's before we had the Internet. If you once owned a Game & Watch handheld and want to relive your youth, bump up the grade by a letter or two. Otherwise I'll quote young Indiana Jones: "This belongs in a museum!
" © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Disney (1994)
Publisher: Tengen (1991)
An old arcade favorite, Marble Madness challenges you to guide a large white marble over three-dimensional platforms before time runs out. Using finesse and momentum you'll precariously navigate narrow strips while avoiding pesky obstacles like vacuums and slinkies. You view the action from a tilted overhead angle, and the Game Boy does an adequate job of rendering the features of each angular stage. Yes, it can be hard to make out some ridges and drop-offs, but after you play a stage once or twice you learn the "lay of the land". The digital pad is kind of a clumsy way to control your marble, especially when you need to move diagonally. Still, this game has a way of keeping you coming back. When you die the game immediately places you back where you left off. Each time you play, you progress a little further, and some stages have alternate paths that add a risk/reward element. The looping, vertigo-like music is both catchy and appropriate. I've played better versions of Marble Madness, but never one this small. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 14,130
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Publisher: Capcom (1992)