Publisher: Sega (1994)
Unlike the remarkable Aladdin games for the Genesis and SNES, this generic platformer is as bland as they come. The first stage finds our hero running from a sword-wielding goon while jumping barrels and dodging falling objects. It's more aggravating than fun, and the other stages aren't much better. Most are just a matter of finding a key on one platform and opening a door on another. Sometimes you'll toss an apple, but that's about as exciting as it gets. With repetitive, unimaginative levels and cheap hits out the wazoo, the action gets old real quick. Even the flying carpet sequence lacks any sense of thrill or excitement. Then there's the problem with imprecise controls that lead to many underserved deaths. On the bright side, the graphics and sound aren't bad at all. The characters are large and nicely animated, the backgrounds are attractive, and the music is taken straight from the movie. But the flashy presentation isn't enough to save the uninspired gameplay. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
As an avid fan of Golden Axe (Genesis 1989), I was anxious to see what this portable version had to offer. Imagine my dismay when I started up Ax Battler and witnessed what resembled (gasp) an RPG! The diminutive characters and scrolling text were a far cry from the side-scrolling hack-n-slash mayhem I was anticipating. As it turns out, Ax Battler does contain its share of side-scrolling action, but it also incorporates (albeit unsuccessfully) RPG elements. The background story is hackneyed to say the least: the Golden Axe has been stolen by an evil army, and only one man can rescue it. Okay, I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but the fact that the hero's real name is "Ax Battler" seems awfully contrived. Gameplay involves guiding a tiny cartoon character across the countryside where you encounter a wandering monster every few seconds. When this happens, both characters are presented on a separate screen in their full-sized, realistic form. However, instead turn-based combat, both fighters simply slash away at each other. It's as shallow as it is repetitious. Once you reach a specific destination (like a cave), the game turns into a more conventional side-scroller, but even these stages are dull and poorly designed. Ax Battler is ill conceived, attempting to incorporate both action and exploration. This ambition weighs the game down. Ax Battler's graphics and sound aren't bad, but you'll need the patience of a saint to finish this. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Majesco (1994)
I suppose if you were stuck in a hotel room by yourself and wanted to pass the time, Caesar's Palace wouldn't be a bad game to have. With video poker, video horse racing, slots, blackjack, craps, roulette, and keno, there's more than enough variety. You start with $5K, moving a guy around a multi-tiered casino. For some reason, moving is a hassle because you're always getting caught up on the scenery. The music is absolutely terrible, so you'll want to turn down the volume immediately. Not being much of a gambler, I gravitate towards the blackjack and video poker. Unfortunately, some games are initially unavailable (including blackjack), and certain tables are reserved for "high rollers". Boy, you'd think Majesco was deliberately trying to make the game less fun! A few of the games, like slots, keno, and roulette, aren't even worth playing because they rely solely on luck. Graphically, the game has a few nice digitized images, but in most games you need to scroll around to see everything, which is a pain. Likewise, placing bets seems to require more work than necessary. For a gambling game, Caesar's Palace serves its purpose, but just barely. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This endearing little platform game really grew on me. The bizarre premise is that Uncle Scrooge has obtained a cursed relic that's transformed him into a floating balloon and Donald must return the relic to undo the curse. I understand this is also under consideration as the plot for the next Indiana Jones movie. Like Quackshot for the Genesis, Deep Duck Trouble has that certain charm only Disney can deliver. The graphics are top-notch, with large characters that are humorously animated. Donald can hop on enemies (ala Mario), but even more fun is your ability to kick blocks, which can knock off enemies, expose power-ups, or open new areas. You can choose what order you play the stages, and there's plenty of variety within each. The only stage I didn't find particularly fun was the obligatory underwater stage. The control is dead-on, but expect some slowdown. In fact, the game seems like it's moving in slow motion at times, especially if you've just finished a game like Sonic the Hedgehog
. All in all, Deep Duck Trouble is a very straightforward platform game that's better than most. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Dynamite Headdy is one of so many platforming stars of the 90's currently residing in the where-are-they-now file. Headdy uses his detachable head to bash enemies, knock down obstacles, and pull himself up to higher ledges. Special icons modify his head to give him abilities like moving faster, spraying bullets, or sucking in enemies. The heads add variety, but their effects only last a few seconds so don't dawdle. The stages are brimming with color but it's not easy to tell what you can or can't jump on. The bosses exhibit a lot of Japanese weirdness in the form of possessed teddy bears and creepy dolls. The first boss confused the hell out of me. This bear would run into me, pause to be "recharged" by some kind of yellow pod, and repeat the process. I kept dying until I realized a few not-so-obvious things. First, it's possible to jump over
the charging bear even though your legs don't clear him. In most games contact like that would result in death. Next, when the bear briefly pauses it's possible to damage him, which is not obvious at all. After a few hits he floated off the screen, which I assume means he was defeated. The game has a lot of quirks, but I guess you could argue they give it some character. The controls are outstanding. A score is displayed every few rounds, but it would have been nice if it was displayed on the game over screen. Dynamite Headdy is no Sonic, but this light-hearted platformer is entertaining enough for a rainy day. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Judging from looks alone, Big Hurt is easily the best baseball game for the Game Gear. Players move with fluid motion, and the pitchers look especially good as they deliver their pitches. Although the gameplay is similar to other Game Gear baseball titles, there are too many lulls in the action. First, when you turn the game on, you're required to sit through no less than six
(!) intro screens. Let's get on with it already!! Once the action is underway, you then have to wait for each batter to approach the plate; the pitchers also tend to pause on the mound. I tried to adjust this, but even the "fast play" option isn't a marked improvement. Another flaw lies in the pitching controls, which are more complicated than they need to be. After aiming the ball, you select the pitch type (what the heck's a "sinner"?) and lastly, choose a pitch speed. The problem is, most of the time choosing a pitch's speed doesn't make any sense. Who would want to throw a slow
fastball or a fast
changeup? Batted balls tend to be hit weakly - most don't clear the infield. Fielding controls are decent, although they could be more responsive. Overall Big Hurt is a good-looking game but its pace is too slow for a portable title. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Fred Couples Golf
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This game makes a fine first impression with its appealing music and quick-cut animations of Fred Couples in action. Fred Couples Golf lets you compete against 31 pros on three courses. Before teeing off however you'll want to head straight to the options menu so you can turn off that God-forsaken background music. The over-amplified sounds of chirping birds and crashing waves are bad, but at least you'll be able to maintain your sanity. Swinging your club requires that you walk through a series of quick set-up screens. The first determines your direction, which is tricky because the overhead map is pretty tiny. Next you'll choose your club, although it's rarely necessary since the game always suggests the correct one. Setting your stance sounds complicated but it's just a fancy way for advanced players to apply draw or fade to their shots. Finally, there's a simple two-press power meter. This process may sound like a hassle, but in practice you'll whiz through these screens very fast. The ball also moves quickly so you won't need to sit through any lengthy rolls. I really got into a rhythm playing this, and how many golf games can you say that
about? This game is also very forgiving. In one case my ball landed in shallow water, and I was allowed to hit my shot from there! Putting is not a problem because the greens tend to be very flat. The action moves along at a brisk pace so you can squeeze in 18 holes in about a half hour. The tournament mode provides a password upon finishing the round, but only if you make the cut. Fred Couples Golf may lack the bells and whistles of modern golf games, but I'll take its quick pacing and hassle-free controls any day of the week. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Garfield: Caught in the Act
Publisher: Sega (1995)
The cat in this game is a lot
more nimble than the fat, lazy one I remember from the comic strip! Not only can he dash and leap high, but he'll use his claws to pull himself up onto high ledges. Caught in the Act's intro looks like a typical Garfield comic strip, but why do the pictures only take up half of the screen? I can't even make out some of them! The game itself is a pretty generic platformer with time-travel themes that include prehistoric, Egyptian, medieval, and some visually-striking pirate stages. The TV Wasteland stage sounds interesting until you discover it's just a maze of electrical junk - ugh! Caught in the Act isn't bad if you can keep your expectations in check. The graphics are impressive, with detailed, layered environments and a melodic soundtrack that really pushes the system's audio power. The controls are so forgiving that even when Garfield jumps off a cliff a butterfly will often catch him and tow him back onto solid ground. The jumping action is strictly by the numbers as you make your way to the far right of each stage where a boss awaits (big surprise there). Garfield also has the ability to toss rocks at his adversaries, which include mummies, knights, cavemen, and fire-breathing mice. This game should have been a good time but some boneheaded design decisions disrupt the fun (don't they always?). First you have to contend with a lot of annoying disappearing platforms, and flying creatures often appear from out of nowhere to interrupt your jumps. The stages are surprisingly long and repetitive, and sometimes you'll traverse an area only slightly different from the one before it. The bosses require an inordinate number of hits to defeat. After a while, Caught in the Act begins to feel like every 2D platform game you've ever played in your entire life. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Joe Montana Football
Publisher: Sega (1991)
As long as you're not looking for anything fancy, Joe Montana is a fun little football game. All the NFL teams are included (circa 1991), but they're all rendered in blue and red uniforms, and except for slightly different playbooks, they're all the same. The simple control scheme doesn't let you perform any moves when you run with the ball, and as a result the running game is virtually non-existent. Fortunately, the passing game is quite effective. Like Tecmo Football, you can switch between receivers on the fly, and your quarterback zips the ball nicely. There aren't many sound effects, but players are tackled with a satisfying thud. Graphically, the game has nicely defined players, and it's easy to follow the large football. The goalposts look terrific, and the players perform a hilariously cheesy "celebration dance" after each touchdown. Montana is pretty shallow, but the game moves along quickly with no pauses in the action. The CPU provides a reasonable challenge, but sometimes does dumb things like run to the back of the end zone for a safety. Not too hot and not too cold, Joe Montana provides an average portable football experience. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Jungle Book, The
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Am I missing something
here?? Jungle Book looks pretty spectacular on my Game Gear, but I can't play the thing worth a [expletive]! I love the scenery with its sunny savannahs, dense jungles, and tranquil flowing streams. The main character is a lanky kid named Mowgli, and he's animated with fluid grace. Likewise the swinging monkeys, trampling warthogs, swimming bears, and spitting cobras are rendered with loving care. The object of most stages is to collect gems while keeping hostile wildlife at bay by pelting them with bananas. Not only can you throw bananas in a rapid-fire manner, but you can even angle
your throws! It's cool how you can knock a monkey out of a tree, yet he'll continue fighting on the ground below. Jungle Book's platform jumping can be a little tricky, mainly because Mowgli has the annoying habit of hitting his head on low hanging branches while leaping from vines. The audio is top notch, featuring a toe-tapping rendition of "Bear Necessities". So what's the deal with the difficulty? Finding all eight gems in a level is awfully hard! I can understand that degree of challenge in stage seven, but we're talking about the first stage
here! You'll absorb a lot of damage from hidden dangers, blind jumps, and cobras camped out on short ledges. This steep difficulty adds unnecessary frustration to what should have been a care-free, easy-going romp through the jungle. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Whoa. Jurassic Park for the Game Gear took me by surprise. This bundle of portable joy is even better
than the Genesis
Jurassic Park game! The title screen features a digitized roar (not bad!), followed by a sophisticated animated sequence that rivals those of many 16-bit games. You can select the order in which you play the four stages, and that alone dramatically
enhances the replay value. Each stage begins with a shooting sequence where you defend a speeding jeep by aiming crosshairs at attacking pterodactyls and velociraptors. It feels like a fun bonus stage. Next you're thrust into a traditional platform stage that places all sorts of dinosaurs and environmental hazards between you and the exit. The layered scenery is first-rate, and the stages are imaginative in design. For example, in the forest a lightning strike starts a fire which eventually burns an escape path. Each stage has several distinct areas, delivering an exceptional degree of variety. Even the mineshaft level is engaging despite its maze-like structure. A large dinosaur awaits at the end of each stage, and you'll need to formulate a specific strategy to prevail. The rich control scheme lets your character squat, crawl, hang, and even monkey-walk over low hazards. You're well armed, and can even change weapons
via the pause screen! The game's dramatic musical score is pretty intense as well. Jurassic Park for the Game Gear impressed the hell out of me. With rich gameplay and fantastic production values, this should be a model for all 2D platform titles, portable or otherwise. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1994)
I wasn't a huge fan of the 16-bit version of Lion King (SNES, Genesis), and this portable edition offers even less to get excited about. The graphics are certainly acceptable, with smoothly animated, detailed animals and beautiful orange sunsets. But the color-by-number gameplay will have you frustrated and bored. The stages follow Simba from being a cub all the way up to his final confrontation with Scar. The jumping controls are very forgiving, as your lion will grab hold of a ledge if you don't make the jump cleanly. The game tries to add some variety by letting you interact with other animals, but I experienced a fair amount of frustration from animals tossing me places I didn't want to go. Many stages are painfully monotonous rock platforms, where it's difficult to determine where to go next. But the worst part is that you have to play as a cub
for most of the game! After six stages of controlling a cub, I was thinking "When is this [expletive] lion gonna grow up?!" A unique "roar" move gives the game a hint of originality, but it's useless for most of the game. Even the "catch the seeds" bonus round falls flat. The music is high-quality (taken from the movie), but when all is said and done, Lion King doesn't amount to much. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Emula Zone, GameFAQs, Moby Games