Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball
Publisher: Mindscape (1992)
I'm from Baltimore, and Cal Ripken is revered in these parts. But I don't think Cal had much input into this game. Simply put, Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball is unsurpassed in terms of sheer mediocrity. It came out about the same time as Sportstalk Baseball, and frankly, there's no comparison. While it isn't particularly bad in any way, it doesn't have much to offer either. There are no major league teams or players (except Cal, of course), and you only get three fictitious stadiums. The graphics are dull, and all the players look the same (generic white guys - like Cal!). The pitching controls are simplistic (fast, slow, curve), and the exceedingly large outfield area allows too many balls to be hit into the gaps. It's hard to field the ball with your tiny players, and you'll need to use the dive button to snag anything that's not hit directly to you. Close plays result in a close-up "action window" - a nice touch, but if you blink you'll miss it! As far as the sound effects go, an umpire calls strikes, balls, and outs, but he has a bad case of bronchitis. At least after you hit a homerun you get to hear the "Bad News Bears" theme - I like that. The league mode provides a password to save your spot, and the homerun derby mode is unusual in that it scores points for hits other than home runs. Overall, Cal Ripken baseball is a fair but unremarkable baseball game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Captain America and the Avengers
Publisher: Data East (1992)
Let's face it: Captain America and the Avengers reside in the "lower tier" of the comic book hero hierarchy. As my friend Chris put it, "I didn't even collect
comics as a kid, and even I
knew the Avengers sucked!
" In this side-scrolling brawler two players can team up against Red Skull and his minions. In addition to Captain America, you can play as Iron Man, Hawkeye (who?!), and Vision (what?!) Unfortunately, the chaotic two-player action suffers from severe flicker and collision detection issues, so it's best to play the game solo. The character sprites aren't very detailed, partly because they're rendered with thick black outlines. The backgrounds are generally bland, although I did enjoy the skyline and waterfront areas of stage one. The fighting action is fast - probably too fast for its own good. When our heroes aren't sliding around on the ground, they're hopping around like fleas. The control scheme seems unnecessarily awkward, requiring you to press two buttons to unleash special attacks like Iron Man's plasma ray. Captain America can throw his shield, and this attack is doubly effective since it also inflicts damage on its return trip. This game packs no less than twelve different boss characters, my favorite being a hulking robot that fills the screen in stage two. The beginning of stage two plays more like a shooter as you fly through the air while inexplicably blasting flying scuba divers spiraling out of control. The text dialogue provides an unexpected entertainment bonus, serving up dramatic exchanges like: "You can't escape!" "You will be the one escaping!" Marvel comic fans will also appreciate how obscure elements of the comics have been incorporated into the game. For example, during the shooting stages you're accompanied by a tiny character named Wasp. On the whole Captain America and the Avengers is average fare, but comic fans can probably bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
Publisher: Sega (1990)
You can't help but love this game. This is the kind of quality title that put Genesis over the top in the early 90s. The beautiful graphics, animation, and music are pure Disney. You control Mickey Mouse trying to rescue Minnie in this fun platform action adventure. Mickey can pounce on enemies or throw apples at them. The highly imaginative stages range from an enchanted forest to a huge toy room. Each offers its own unique challenges, and there are surprises around every corner. While Castle of Illusion is perfect for kids, it's also challenging enough to keep adults interested. It may be a bit short compared to modern games, but considering there is no save option (only continues) that's probably for the best. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Castlevania was an insanely popular line of side-scrollers for the NES and SNES. After what seemed like an eternity, it finally arrived on the Genesis in the form of Castlevania Bloodlines. The game plays much like Super Nintendo's Castlevania IV, where you battle creatures of the night armed with a whip and other weapons. So how does this compare to its SNES counterpart? It's not quite as good, but still worth playing. The graphics aren't as detailed or colorful as the SNES version, but they still rate better than average on the Genesis. I found the controls to be a bit tricky when navigating the stairs, but other than that, this is pure platform heaven. I love the bosses, especially the wolf who shatters the windows with his howl. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Chakan The Forever Man
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Whenever I think about this game, that old Chaka Khan song invariably starts playing in my head ("Chakan Khan let me rock 'ya, let me rock 'ya Chaka Khan, let me rock 'ya that's all I wanna do.") Why are you looking at me like that? Anyway, Chakan is a dark platformer that's far too difficult and unforgiving for its own good. You assume the role of a skeletal figure with a large black hat. This "forever man" is doomed to an eternal existence unless he can defeat the world's supernatural evils. Chakan is armed with two swords and can employ a variety of power-ups including invisibility, invincibility, high jumping, and enemy slow-down. Unfortunately, the game is saddled with the most convoluted power-up system ever conceived. It involves mixing potions on a separate "Alchemy" screen, and I never fully understood it. Chakan's graphics exude a gloomy occult flavor, with surreal environments, hideous creatures, and a murky musical score. I like the premise, but the pieces just don't quite come together very well. Chakan's movements are stiff. He ambles around slowly and can't jump very far. This is problematic when you take into account all of the high-altitude platform jumping with zero room for error. There are no checkpoints either - if you die, you restart the stage. Adding insult to injury, you're constantly pestered by small, regenerating birds and bugs. While they're not hard to kill, Chakan's stiff controls make it hard to wield your swords with any degree of precision. The larger enemies look scary enough, but they're so poorly animated that they might as well be statues. It's especially lame how they just blink as you slash away at them. Chakan is not ideal for the casual player. Its difficulty is through the roof, and even the so-called "easy" mode is frustrating. I felt like I was in my own little personal hell playing Chakan. Only hardcore gamers who enjoy pain should attempt this one. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Chuck II: Son of Chuck
Publisher: Core (1993)
It didn't generate much fanfare back in the day, but this is a quality sequel to Chuck Rock. Chuck II stars Chuck's son - a baby caveman armed with a massive club. While rendered in the same comical style, he's not as likeable as his dad. It's funny when he throws tantrums (love that quivering lower lip), but the close-up of his huge head shown between stages looks downright creepy!
Son of Chuck reprises the whimsical platform action of its predecessor, yet feels very unique. Smacking enemies with your club is very satisfying, although there's a bit of a wind-up involved. In addition to dinosaurs, you'll face a lot of prehistoric mammals, suggesting the game takes place in the Paleolithic era (or maybe I'm reading too much into it). You'll face some cavemen dressed as dinosaurs - a form of cross-dressing quite common for the period. I like how your first hit knocks off the costume, and the second hit knocks out the dude. Other enemies include flies, hermit crabs, and banana-tossing monkeys. Certain animals will ride you through treacherous terrain, including a giant black ant and a galloping ostrich (do ostriches gallop?
). The stages include flowery groves and volcanic caves, but I prefer the sunny water stages complete with surfers and water slides. I also enjoyed the thunderstorms in the early stages - nice touch! Chuck II is a worthwhile game, but it has its share of design flaws. In one stage a giant bird swoops in to give you a ride, but the sequence is very confusing, and you don't know if you should attack
it or not. The first two bosses look very similar and use the exact same attack patterns
. The stages are dense, and sometimes you feel the need to take mandatory hits in order to make progress. Chuck II does feature some slick scaling and rotation effects, and offers more variety than the first game. There are bonus stages including a button-tapping river race. The music is not nearly as catchy as the first game. Personally I prefer the original, but Son of Chuck still rates high in terms of fun. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Easy
Our high score: 53,000
Publisher: Virgin (1991)
Back in the 90's, I remember running out to buy Chuck Rock after reading a glowing review in a game magazine. My friends loved
this game. Not only is Chuck Rock fun to play, but its wacky prehistoric graphics are hysterical!
The title screen depicts a jamming stone-age rock band, and I especially love that green dinosaur bassist with the big hair. Chuck is a loveable oaf of a caveman, with a clever name possibly inspired by a popular rapper of the day: Chubb Rock
(remember the single Treat Em Right
?). While it appears to be a basic platformer on the surface, Chuck Rock is sprinkled with imaginative elements. The main character's huge gut is used to bounce enemies off the screen, and he can also perform a nifty jump-kick. The cartoon-style visuals are not unlike Bonk's Adventure (Turbografx,1990). The colorful, layered backgrounds offer subtle details like eyes peeking through the woods in the background. The short-but-sweet stages include jungle, cave, water, ice, and graveyard scenes. The bosses are fun, but can absorb an inordinate number of hits. Most of your adversaries are small dinosaurs rendered in a wacky style. I love the pink elephants that split in half until you can squish them with your feet! Certain creatures are helpful, like the pterodactyl that flies you over a gorge or the brontosaurus that gives you a ride across a river. Boulders also play a key role. You can place them to reach high platforms, hold them over your head for protection, or toss them on enemies. Chuck's mannerisms are hilarious - especially when he takes a hit and let's out a crazy yelp. A "heart meter" in the lower left corner serves as a health gauge, and grabbing hearts causes it to "inflate". This game is brimming with personality, and it's well programmed to boot. The controls are responsive, and the collision detection is crisp. Distinctive sound effects provide positive reinforcement whenever you grab an item or defeat an enemy. Several continues are available, but Chuck Rock could really use a password system. The whimsical background music has a jazzy, funky flavor. If you own a Genesis and haven't played Chuck Rock, you're letting the best things in life just pass you by. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 148,100
Publisher: Sony (1993)
In this movie-based platformer you're forced to battle both the elements and fugitives in snow-covered mountains. Cliffhanger adopts the typical side-scrolling punch and kick formula, with thugs that blink and disappear when defeated. The fighting action is enjoyable enough, but you'll need to press combinations of buttons to perform certain moves. You'll pick up weapons like knives and machineguns, and these are extremely
useful. This version looks just like the SNES edition, but it plays faster. In fact, it makes the SNES version seem almost sluggish
by comparison. Fighting thugs is a lot easier on the Genesis. There seem to be fewer of them, and your attacks do more damage. If you continuously swing a knife at the edge of the screen, you can knock off many foes before they can even make an entrance! The platform jumping, on the other hand, is harder on the Genesis. The controls feel touchy as you leap between icy ledges. In one harrowing stage you scale a cliff as snipers pump slugs into you from a few feet away. Unlike the SNES game, you cannot
kill these guys, even when standing on the same ledge with them! But the worst part of this game is the avalanche stage where you're forced to run through an obstacle course of rocks and logs as a wall of snow bears down on you. Unlike the SNES version, when you trip on something there's no time to recover. It's not unusual to breeze through dozens of fights without a scratch, only to piss away every last life on this single unforgiving stage. Continues are available, but they take you back pretty far, and there's no password. Cliffhanger is playable on the Genesis, but I'd give the nod to the SNES edition. Note: Despite what the box claims, this game is one-player only. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): 7 lives
Our high score: 166,500
Coach K College Basketball
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
For their first college basketball title Electronic Arts basically recycled their NBA Live engine. They changed the team names, moved in the three-point line, and tweaked a few rules. The players are only identified by their numbers. There are only 32 teams included, including a classic Maryland Terrapins squad featuring Joe Smith and Keith Booth. Like NBA Live, Coach K's gameplay is fast and furious. For maximum mayhem I'd recommend turning off the fouls. This allows you to effectively mug
the opposition by running into them at full speed to knock the ball away. Once you scoop up the loose ball you're off to the races, performing slow-motion acrobatic dunks that are far more satisfying that those in modern games. It's funny how players sometimes point their finger (in the wrong direction) after dunking just to rub it in. When performing lay-ups, why do players look like they're holding their nose?
It's possible to shatter the backboard with a thunderous dunk, leaving the basket hanging like a saggy condom. It fits nicely with the porno music that plays over the option screen (eliciting erotic moans from onlookers). One cool feature is the ability to make the crowd wave their arms behind the basket during foul shots to distract the shooter. I don't know what's up with the blonde cheerleaders on the sideline, buy they never cheer! Be sure to check out the creative fans holding up letters to spell "T-E-A-M". Two things that stink about Coach K is crowd noise that sounds like a water faucet and a menu interface that's slow and clunky. Still, it's fun take your team through a season and gradually climb the rankings. This old college basketball game may be primitive, but it's also very memorable. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
College Football National Championship
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Although their Joe Montana line of NFL games couldn't compete with Madden, Sega came back strong with a nice College Football game in 1994. This time, Sega dropped the side view in favor of the Madden style, 3D vertical field view. The game still has a unique look however, because the players are smaller and look more realistic than Madden. As with the Joe Montana games, the action zooms in close when the ball is passed or handed off, which really works well. You have 32 of the best college teams to choose from, and it's fun to take one through a regular season and try to attain the #1 ranking. There are a slew of game options and a wealth of statistics. This is one of the only games to take advantage of Sega's 6 button controller, but I wish they had incorporated a catch button. The game has a few other issues too. The play-by-play announcer from the Montana games is back, but he's mediocre, and it can be downright comical it hear him exclaim "he could go all the way!" as the runner gets stopped for two yards. Even more annoying is his use of the word "zip", as in "Florida State 7, Alabama zip". The playing field is so wide that sometimes you can't see all of your receivers. And while the player animation is good in general, after each play they stand around like soldiers, which looks really stupid. It's interesting to note that hitting the B button after any play causes your player to raise his helmet in triumph -- even if he screwed up during the play. Trust me, once you discover this "feature", you will be doing it constantly, and laughing out loud. Despite the silliness, this is a very good football game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
College Football National Championship II
Publisher: Sega (1995)
I have no idea what Sega was thinking, but I hate it when a company has a year to improve a game and then puts out something WORSE. How Sega could justify releasing this game is beyond comprehension. It's almost exactly the same game as the 1994 version! There are still only 32 teams, and only five
are different! The play-by-play announcing has been dropped completely. I guess they didn't want to take the time to improve it, so they just scratched it altogether. For some odd reason there is now total silence during the play selection screen, like you're in the twilight zone or something. There are some minor additional options, like the ability to play shorter games, but there's not enough here to warrant an upgrade. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1990)
In the late 80's Tetris was "the game", and every reputable game console (or computer system) had to have a version. Not wanting to miss out on the puzzle-game frenzy, Sega introduced Columns, a Tetris clone with its own twist. Columns of three gems descend from the top of the screen and you need to line up three or more of the same color to make them disappear. You can't turn the stack sideways, but you can rotate the order of the gems. It sounds simple, but once you get going, quick and strategic thinking is required. Unpredictable chain reactions inject excitement into the game. Columns won me over in a big way. Unlike Nintendo's cartoonish incarnations of Tetris, Columns has an Egyptian theme. There isn't much to see graphics-wise, but the soft, soothing organ music makes the game feel like a religious experience. There are plenty of options including a nice two-player simultaneous mode. The controls are a little TOO responsive, making the columns tricky to line up precisely. But the relaxing, addictive quality of this game cannot be denied. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
Combat Cars is a mediocre overhead racer with a lame combat element that feels tacked-on. Neo Geo gamers will recognize this as a close relative of Thrash Rally (Neo Geo, 1991). The fact that cars can run over
each other is a dead giveaway. Both games share the same style of play but Combat Cars is a lot
less polished. You select a driver from a set of freaks which include the cyborg "Metro", the werewolf "Growl", and an obese woman named "Big Bad Momma". Only after
you make your selection do you see their handling/speed/acceleration characteristics, which is just one example of this game's poor design. The tracks vary wildly in terms of difficulty. The opening "beach" course is easy enough with its nice wide roads, but the "Harbour" track is an absolute killer
with its deadly turns and muddy edges. You can only see a short distance ahead of your car, and the arrows are painted on the turns themselves! What good is that?
of the eight cars have respectable weapons (shotgun and missiles). Most others just drop stuff like smoke, oil, and mines. One car's so-called "weapon" is a freakin' turbo boost
! C'mon now!
I'm surprised this game didn't make windshield wipers
a weapon. You'll need to finish first
in each race to advance (which sucks) and there are no continues
. I tried to lower the difficulty via the options menu, but - oh wait - it's already on easy!
The audio is dominated by the annoying squeals of tires, but there's something to be said for the pulsating, high-energy dance beats. I would surely include them on my video game mix tape, if only I had one. One tune sounds like "What Is Love?" Between races you'll purchase upgrades from a blonde vampire bikini girl (and yes, she certainly does
have mega tires!). A two-player mode lets you go head-to-head with a friend, but the screen is distorted (a la Sonic the Hedgehog 2), the sound is degraded, and there are no CPU cars. Considering how simple its concept is, I'm amazed how bad Combat Cars falters. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): easy
Our high score: $90,800
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Comix Zone is so innovative in concept and visually arresting that I'm bummed out
that I can't give it an A. The art direction is stunning as you guide a hero named "Sketch" through the pages and cells of a comic book come to life! I love the post-apocalyptic opening stage, complete with raging thunderstorm and dismembered Statue of Liberty. Stage two has a snow-swept Asian temple, and the third features a weathered boat graveyard. The only bad-looking thing in this game is Sketch's mullet - worst haircut ever!!
Comix Zone has a lot of hand-to-hand combat with a few puzzles sprinkled in. You can juggle three items in your inventory, and it's much easier if you have a six-button controller. The animation is impressive as your unleash a can of whoop-ass on a variety of mutants and martial arts thugs. I absolutely love how they slam against the border of the cell, or better yet break through it, spilling the action into the next cell! Quick dialogue bubbles offer clues and add some levity. The soundtrack is outstanding, delivering some killer guitar riffs with that distinctive Genesis twang. The first stage has some of the best music I've ever heard in a video game. Gotta love that Elvis-inspired "Se-gah" intro as well. Comix Zone had the makings of a masterpiece, but unreasonable difficulty and repetitive fighting prove its undoing. The first level is so incredibly unforgiving that it will demoralize all but the most ardent gamers. You only get one life, so falling into a pit is an instant "game over". You really need to get familiar with the branching stages to enhance your chances of survival. An easy difficulty level would have gone a long
way. The combat is fun, but it gets repetitive because enemies can absorb too many hits! That dude who looks like Aquaman can take about 30 hits! C'mon
now! And what's the deal with the mandatory damage? Even punching your way through crates
will drain your life! If you stick with it, Comix Zone does get better. Strategic usage of items is key, and you can use your pet rat to uncover items hidden in the scenery. There's no password feature, but the branching paths provide a some variety. While clearly flawed, Comix Zone still oozes with style and originality. Had its gameplay been tweaked, this could have been the start of a killer new Sega franchise. This is a must-have for collectors. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: GWC 35,950
Contra Hard Corps
Publisher: Konami (1994)
This could have been "the
game", but Contra Hard Corps is ruined by a difficulty level best described as impossible
. This side-scrolling shooter pushes the Genesis hardware to the limit with dazzling scaling and rotation effects, voice synthesis, two-player simultaneous action, and even some morphing! Contra's first stage clearly demonstrates the highs and lows of the game. There are some slick in-game cut-scenes, like a truck plowing through enemy robots, and a massive lumbering robot unleashing destruction in the distance. Unfortunately, the game's checkpoints fall before
these sequences, so you end up having to watch them over and over again! I mean, they look great and all, but I'm not getting any younger here! Hard Corps' difficulty is off the charts, and even the first boss keeps coming back in different forms long after you thought he was defeated. I would have not gotten much further than the first stage
if not for my Game Genie cheat device. The Genie let me play through the entire game, but I lost countless lives in the process, making me wonder how in the hell
Konami could think three lives was sufficient! You'll fight aliens while hanging off a helicopter, riding on a speedboat, and latched onto the side of a rocket! In one of the more imaginative scenes, a scientist uses a pair of transporter pods to combine creatures (a la The Fly) to create new monstrosities for you to fight. It's quite poetic when his final creation ends up eating him
! Hard Corps' rotation effects are put to good use in bosses that come apart and reassemble themselves into new configurations (like Transformers). In one "virtual" area, you fight constellations
come to life. Besides the difficulty, another issue is how the game seems to degenerate into a series of lengthy boss battles. The graphics are generally good, but the lame explosions are just a bunch of red balls flying everywhere. The soundtrack is decent, but Hard Corps' voice samples are high-pitched, as if Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded them. Upon completing the game, a pitiful "ending" shows your soldier giving the thumbs-up along with the message "Good job!" Contra Hard Corps is a technical tour-de-force, but what good is that when you can't enjoy it? © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
One of the best summer games ever
, Cool Spot transports you to a sunny beach with the scent of suntan lotion permeating the ocean breeze. This likeable side-scroller is so polished you'll hardly notice it's an interactive soft drink advertisement. It stars the "red dot" character from the old 7-Up commercials. You know he's cool by the way he sashays around with those big sunglasses. When my friends Steve and Brendan first brought this over my house back in the day, we were cracking up at his zany mannerisms. Each stage challenges you to collect suspended red dots while shooting various marine creatures, bugs, and cheese-tossing mice. Spot is not fleet of foot but he can leap a great distance. He can also rapidly shoot bubbles in any direction, and that's good because most enemies can withstand several shots. The first stage is the highlight of the game as you walk over sand dunes and climb beach chairs while shooting crabs and mosquitoes. I love the sound of the crashing waves and funky reggae music. The second stage takes place on a dock where you climb ropes like Donkey Kong Junior. The remaining stages include a blow-up pool with frogs and a dark attic infested with spiders. There's also a toy stage with miniature versions of the robot from Lost in Space (the 1960's television program). The later stages aren't as visually appealing but the fun factor remains high. I love the fact that enemies do not regenerate - it keeps the repetition to a minimum. Bonus stages take place inside a giant green 7-Up bottle, where you bounce around on bubbles trying to collect as many red dots as you can. It's fun! With bright graphics, tight controls, memorable stages, and a laid-back soundtrack, Cool Spot is an underrated Genesis platformer. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 45,460
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Remember back when rock music was cool? Motley Crue was so big in the early 90's that they even had their own video game! This flashy pinball title has a kickin' heavy metal theme and some of the hardest music the Genesis can crank out. The three featured Crue songs are Live Wire, Dr. Feelgood, and Home Sweet Home. The Genesis has never been considered an audio powerhouse, but these synthesized tunes sound amazing
. It's a shame you have to endure so many generic "filler" tracks in the early going. In fact, it's a good thing you can preview songs on the title screen, because otherwise you might never even hear
the good stuff! The pinball tables scroll vertically with stacked areas and a "boss" at the top. In addition to drop-targets, bumpers, and rollers, you'll take aim at skulls and centipedes that creep across the table. Pinball games tend to make great video games, and this one certainly has an addictive quality. The first table is pretty hard to conquer though, and the erratic pinball sometimes seems to be possessed by the devil (which is fitting, I think). In addition to excellent music, the game has some wicked sound effects, and I would strongly suggest cranking up the stereo. Crue Ball could have been better, but its distinctive heavy metal theme makes it far more memorable than most garden-variety pinball titles. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Sega had some good ideas for this one, but Cyborg Justice just didn't come together very well. This is a fighting game where you create your own robot warrior using a variety of body parts and weapons, and take him through the single-player mode or go head-to-head against a friend's creation. It sounds interesting, but Cyborg Justice just isn't any fun. The moves are frustratingly hard to execute, and you'll get pummeled if you try to do anything fancy. That's too bad because some of the moves, like pulling off your opponent's arms, are pretty cool. And even if you do manage to pull off a sophisticated attack, the damage it deals is minimal. It's also tough to tell what's going on during the heat of battle because the robots all look the same and easily get bunched up. And the bouts go on for way too long. Add in a lousy audio track and terribly boring backgrounds, and the game starts looking like the train wreck it is. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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