Alien Vs. Predator
Publisher: Atari (1994)
This ambitious first-person shooter is one of the best games for the Jaguar system. Some people say it's the only good game for the system. You can play as a Marine, Alien, or Predator in three separate scenarios. Each plays like a different game. My favorite is the Marine scenario, despite the fact that it's the least original, playing much like a typical Doom clone. A cool heads-up display (HUD) displays weapons, ammo, energy, and a motion tracker. The well-designed control scheme uses the keypad to switch weapons and bring up an overhead map, which you can keep on the screen as you move. The map is useful because the levels are easy to get lost in. The graphics are outstanding. Most objects look digitized, although they do get slightly pixelated up close. The aliens look MUCH better than the ones in Alien Trilogy (Playstation). The rooms and corridors are nicely detailed and reflect the look of the movies. A major flaw is the frame rate: it's pretty choppy and just barely acceptable at times. The atmosphere can be pretty intense. The incredible sound effects were taken straight from the films. The Marine mission is very straightforward: you need to set the ship's self-destruct mechanism and escape. It's fun because you encounter both Aliens and Predators. Unfortunately, blasted Aliens leave huge acid puddles that hurt you and are difficult to avoid. In the Alien scenario, you must rescue the alien queen from the Predators. Your attacks include a claw, tail whip, and extended jaw. Your alien moves fast, and it's sometimes hard to keep your victim in front of you. And since the main controller buttons are used for attacks, you need to use the keypad to strafe, which is awkward. On the positive side, you can cocoon people and create new aliens, which act as extra lives. Unfortunately, your new alien is often hatched far back from where you died, so you'll have to re-trace your steps, which can be tedious. In the Predator scenario, your mission is to kill the alien queen. You can turn invisible, but you lose points if you attack in this state. Points allow you to earn special weapons like a combi-stick, smart disk, or shoulder cannon. When you're invisible, your view changes colors (like the Predator movie), but the color scheme is hard on the eyes. You can save your progress at any time to one of three slots on the cartridge. Overall this is a must-have game for Jaguar owners. It's flawed but fun, and provides loads of replay value. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Miracle (1995)
Atari Karts is a tough game to find, and I ended up ordering it from some crazy foreign country. I was hoping it would be the arcade-style racer the Jaguar needed so badly, but I was disappointed. The game's main strength lies in its graphics. With its colorful, high-resolution graphics and softly undulating tracks, it looks even better than Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992). The ice stages are beautiful, and waves softly rise and fall on the shores of the island stages. Unfortunately, the gameplay is nowhere near
Mario standards. The racers are a cast of unknowns including a skeleton and an octopus. I did recognize the teddy bear from Crystal Castles, but he'll never win a popularity contest. The carts have fat, wide wheels that look pretty cool but make it frustratingly difficult to pass. The first time I played Atari Karts, it dawned on me that I had to complete all
of the starter tracks before accessing the challenging ones. That sounds reasonable until you realize just how many of these snore-a-thons you'll need to sit through! Another problem is the unimaginative and ineffective power-ups. The "rabbit" is supposed to give a speed boost, but it's barely even noticeable. There's no way to "attack" your opponents directly, but you can
use "turtle" power-ups to muck with your opponents' steering controls!
Talk about unfair! It's hard to avoid getting stuck on the edge of the track as it is! The split screen mode is smooth in terms of frame rate, but the fact that you can't have extra computer-controlled racers makes the contests less exciting than they could be. The quality of the music ranges from fair to annoying. Wow, Atari was so incompetent that they wouldn't even rip-off
a game without screwing up! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Attack of the Mutant Penguins
Publisher: Sunrise Games (1995)
Attack of the Mutant Penguins tries to be a wacky platform game with strategic undertones, but it's just a colossal waste of time. This strikes me as the kind of game designed by a bunch of tie-wearing executives in a stuffy boardroom. Mutant Penguins is little more than a hodgepodge of derivative ideas that don't amount to anything at all. You control some freaky looking alien trying to eliminate an army of mutant penguins. Each 2D stage consists of floating walkways in space, not unlike Toe Jam and Earl (Genesis, 1991). You begin by collecting little gremlins used to open chests and access special items. Once you obtain a weapon (like a frying pan), you proceed to bash the hell out of the penguins before they can tip a giant scale. As if the idea of mutant penguins isn't wacky enough, they are also decked out in cute cowboy and indian outfits. They don't fight back, but they can take a lot of abuse before bursting into gory displays of intestines and eyeballs. This game makes absolutely no sense, and it's annoying to boot! The action is slow and confusing, and even special weapons like dynamite and guns fail to add any excitement. There are some nifty stereo sound effects (on the character selection screen) and some decent tunes reminiscent of Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, 1993), but otherwise you can chalk this one up as a total loss. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Rating: Kids to adults (animated violence, animated blood)
Despite my penchant for arcade action, I've always had a fondness for real-time strategy (RTS) titles, believe it or not. Years ago I logged many hours playing Warcraft and Starcraft on my PC. Baldies is a kindler, gentler RTS starring a tribe of cuddly bald characters. By managing the occupations of your "baldies" (workers, builders, soldiers, scientists) you construct factories, invent weapons, and reproduce to populate your little world. The object is to wipe out enemies on the far side of the map, although this is never explained in the instructions (once again Atari drops the ball). The interface consists of a cursor and tool bars, with a keypad overlay providing convenient shortcuts. You can pick up individual Baldies to move them around, but directing them to locations with the cursor is problematic because they have difficulty navigating around obstacles. This game has a major learning curve, but since the action unfolds at a snail's pace, there's plenty of time to figure out what's going on. Not only is it time consuming to develop your tribe, but it's boring too. I completed the first few stages of Baldies for the sake of this review, but I'm not convinced it was worth my time. There are dozens of stages in the game, but you only unlock one at a time. Advanced levels promise harsher environments, vehicles, and sophisticated traps, but the amount of work required to see all the good stuff would be painstaking. You'd really have to fall in love with this game to see all it has to offer, but there's no chance of that happening. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Battlemorph is the sequel to Cybermorph, and it surpasses the original game in every way. The framerate is much smoother, the graphics are more detailed, and the sound effects are less annoying. The missions are varied and interesting, and you can choose which order you'll play them. There are even hints given during each mission to help keep you on track. The futuristic music is outstanding, and your "talking head" guide only speaks when she has something to say. Before each mission you can outfit your ship's weapons. You fly over various planet surfaces, and each has its own distinctive look. The scenery and enemies look much less blocky than the ones in Cybermorph. And you are not limited to the planet surface; there are tunnels, hidden rooms, and underwater(!) areas to be explored. Although the graphics have been cleaned up, pop-up is still a big problem, and it can be disconcerting at times. Control is fair, but navigating tight quarters is difficult due to the awkward camera angles. Still, Battlemorph delivers solid 3D shooting action. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Blue Lightning (CD)
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Believe it or not, this was the "pack in" game for the Jaguar CD. It's not a good first impression. Blue Lightning not only suffers from major technical flaws, but it's not much fun and has no business being a CD. The graphics aren't too bad, but the framerate suffers as the action heats up. The clouds in the air missions look terribly fake. Gameplay is similar to Afterburner; you view your plane from behind. There are air and ground missions. Although you are given specific instructions before each mission, your real goal is to make it through the level without flying into a building. That's not easy! Your planes are equipped with machine guns, missiles, and special weapons like cluster bombs. The machine guns are surprisingly effective against ground targets, but are tough to aim at aircraft. Using the missiles is a no brainer - just fire them when a "lock-on" square appears on a target. The bombs are hard to judge, but create some cool looking explosions. Your best evasive maneuver is the barrel roll, but the graphic representation of this is heinous. Instead of just spinning your plane, the entire screen rotates in a slow, choppy manner that looks ridiculous and slows the action. So why is this game on a CD? The in-game graphics are certainly not CD-worthy. There are a few boring full motion video clips, but you'll skip through these after the first viewing. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Brain Dead 13 (CD)
Publisher: Readysoft (1995)
Here's a full-motion video (FMV) game much like Dragon's Lair (arcade, 1983), which lets you interact with an animated cartoon (well, sort of). You affect the course of events by entering simple commands at specific times. Readysoft was the company responsible for these games, and Brain Dead 13 illustrates just how clueless they were. Granted, FMV games were largely novelty items, but if done well (like Dragon's Lair) they can still be very entertaining. Brain Dead 13 is extremely poorly designed. The premise of the story isn't bad, featuring a teenage boy trapped in a haunted house with monsters coming out of the woodwork. There's the potential for thrills, but the cartoonish visuals practically eliminate the scare factor. That goofy dragon in the kitchen area may as well be Barney the purple dinosaur! Each room offers a new challenge, and you'll have to contend with everything from witches to giant centipedes to bear-rugs that come to life. You'll need to perform several moves in rapid succession to escape each room, and the game offers no clues about how to react. Instead of logical puzzles, Brain Dead 13 is almost exclusively an exercise in trial and error. In one bedroom scene, you actually have to run towards a ghost with a sword
, which makes absolutely no sense. Brain Dead 13 does offer the ability to select multiple paths, which sounds like a good idea until you find yourself moving in circles! The full-screen graphics are fairly pixelated but not too bad for a Jaguar title. The audio is not as clear as you'd hope for a CD title. I like the Halloween theme, but only die-hard FMV fans will appreciate this poorly conceived title. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Brutal Sports Football
Publisher: Telegames (1994)
Offering a potent combination of full-contact sports and gratuitous violence, Brutal Sports Football appeals to the Neanderthal in us all. This has more in common with rugby than football, as two squads of barbarians attempt to get the ball into their goal by any means necessary. Normally this means diving on the guy with the ball, but occasionally you can disable (or dismember) your opponent with weapons like axes and swords. The graphics aren't bad at all. The players are large, and the stadium is finely detailed. My friends enjoyed this game, although they complained mightily about sore thumbs afterwards. With its interesting concept and sharp graphics, Brutal Sports Football should have been a winner, but it's flawed. First and foremost, the animation is rough and the framerate is uneven. When the action becomes hectic the screen degenerates into a choppy mess. Not only does this undermine the gory animations, but it makes it hard to determine where the ball is. Next, your view of the field is so limited that you rarely see whom you're passing to, and since the ball doesn't travel any faster through the air, what's the point? There's a selection of teams to choose from, but they all look and behave pretty much the same. Brutal Sports Football shows flashes of brilliance, with hard-hitting tackles and non-stop mayhem. The auto-switching feature works well, and a password allows you to facilitate a "league" mode. But without a solid engine running things under the covers, this one can't quite close the deal. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1994)
I remember when Bubsy the cat made his debut on the Genesis in the early 90s. He was billed as the next Sonic the Hedgehog. But there was a problem: Bubsy just wasn't cool. Not only does he look like a total dork, but his irritating digitized voice makes him ever MORE unlikable. This game does have some nice graphics and imaginative background graphics I have to admit. Each level is based on a fairy tale like Alice in Wonderland or Jack and the Beanstalk. The gameplay is less inspired however, with the typical "jump on enemy while collecting objects" action. Bubsy can also glide, but it really doesn't add much to the gameplay. Control isn't bad, but it's difficult to tell what you can or can't touch without getting killed. And unlike Sonic, a single hit will do you in. I wasn't crazy about Bubsy. It's not very fun at all. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
This is an original and amusing little war game. It looks a bit like Warcraft, with tiny characters on a large landscape. But the game has an arcade flavor, with plenty of machine gun firing and blowing things up. Actually Cannon Fodder doesn't fit into any category. You control a four-man battalion on a series of missions, usually to kill all enemy troops and/or destroy buildings. When you aim the crosshairs and push the move button, all of your soldiers move to than spot. You can also use the crosshairs to aim their machine gun fire, even while they're moving. This system works very well. The little soldiers look cartoonish and have large heads. When you shoot enemy troops, they scream as their little bodies splash with blood - very satisfying! You lose men as your mission progresses, but as long as you have one, you're still in business. Although the main controls are simple, accessing special weapons and supplies is confusing. You'll struggle with it and the instructions don't help at all. The landscapes are colorful and nicely detailed, and range from jungles, to deserts, to Arctic wastelands. The sound effects are great, and so is the theme song, a soothing, funky number in no way appropriate for this game. Cannon Fodder is a nice change of pace. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Even the most ardent Jaguar defenders tend to distance themselves from this atrocity. Checkered Flag tries to be a polygon racing game in the tradition of Virtua Racer, but it fails in every regard. You get ten tracks ranging from "Deep Forest" to "Arctic Run", but the layouts are boring. The roads are totally flat and besides a few angular mountains and trees, there's little in the way of scenery. Heck, even the Sunset Strip track is little more than a winding road through a desert canyon. There are pitstop areas but absolutely nothing happens if you pull into one. I might be able to look past the lousy graphics if the gameplay was respectable, but it's a total catastrophe! You can race up to five opponents, but the frame-rate is a herky-jerky mess. I could understand the system struggling with a split-screen, but this is a one-player game for Pete's sake! The steering controls are the worst I've ever seen. Oversteering is the order of the day, and it's all but impossible to remain in the center of the road. The tournament mode forces you to endure ten laps per track
, and it's an ordeal I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. The music is forgettable and the sound effect used for a crash sounds like someone sweeping a broom. If you're expecting Virtua Racer, Checkered Flag is nothing less than a crushing disappointment. You only need to play this for a minute to realize Atari had no semblance of quality control. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1994)
I thought this was a golf game! I should be so lucky. This driving game is further evidence that the Jaguar wasn't exactly a polygon game powerhouse. Club Drive lets you to drive a little polygon car around four chunky environments including San Francisco, a western town, a futuristic city, and a house. The blocky graphics are crude, to put it nicely. The "cat" in the house stage looks like a box with ears (why did they even bother?). There's not much in the way of scenery. Except for San Francisco, it doesn't appear that the designers put ANY effort into the tracks at all! Another major problem is that you can't get a decent camera view. The only views available are first-person view and the behind-your-car view. There's no high camera to help you get some perspective on things. There are three modes of play: racing, collect the dots and tag. The one-player racing offers NO computerized opponents. Can you believe it? Who are you supposed to race? I prefer to call this mode "driving around". The "collect the dots" mode is pure crap. So how's the two-player split screen mode? FORGET IT! The horrendous framerate and poor control are torture to endure. And speaking of torture, I should also mention something about the "music". Where did they get that god-awful, vomit-inducing noise? From a circus? You can select several tunes, and each one is just as bad as the next. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1993)
This was the pack-in game for the Jaguar, and I wasn't too impressed with it. You pilot a ship over the surfaces of several planets, collecting pods and weapons while shooting enemy aircraft and ground installations. The graphics are 3D polygons, but there's not much to see. The terrain is mainly flat with an occasional mountain. All of the objects have a low polygon count, making them look simple and blocky. I could have overlooked the graphics if the gameplay was exciting, but it's not. The controls are too touchy, making it difficult to turn with any precision. The framerate is poor and the action gets very choppy. A bald lady in the corner of the screen is supposed to provide guidance, but she is unhelpful and tends to repeat the same phrases over and over. On a positive note, there are plenty of cool weapons you can collect and switch between. You can select the order in which you play the stages, and the music is great. It's not a terrible game, but it hasn't aged well. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Atari tried to do for Defender what they did for Tempest, but the results are uneven. There are three versions of the game on this cartridge: original, plus, and 2000. The first version is a nice surprise. It looks like the arcade, but actually plays better! The graphics are smoother, the control is more responsive, and the explosions are better. It's also easier than the arcade and more fun overall. Things go downhill from here though. The second version adds some wild psychedelic graphics, as well as some unwanted features including "helper ships" and warp gates. Your ship is too big, making it easy to bump into things. The third version, Defender 2000, looks great but plays horribly. The scenery looks realistic, and the people even scream with digitized voices. But now the screen scrolls up and down, and your ship is huge! It moves way too fast and you can't slow down without turning around. It's a mess. At least the original Defender sound effects were incorporated into the pumping techno soundtrack. Overall, Defender 2000 takes one step forward and two steps back. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1994)
If I was overly critical in my original review of this game, it was due to my perception of Doom as being a very basic first-person shooter. I failed to realize that Doom was actually quite demanding for the consoles of its time. After playing several versions of the game I have finally calibrated my expectations properly. This is a respectable port. At the very least
you have to give this version credit for making use of the entire screen, as opposed to other versions (3DO, 32X) which crop the display with an ugly border. Despite some modest slow-down the frame-rate remains decent throughout (unlike the 3DO edition). The game only supports the three-button controller, so you'll need to use the C button to strafe. It's not optimal but the game is certainly playable once you get the hang of it. If you've played other versions of Doom you'll immediately notice the lack of music. While some may consider it superfluous, I always felt that the moody soundtrack added to the intensity. The sound effects also come across as a little flat compared to other versions. One advantage the Jaguar edition has over the others is its two-player modes (coop and death match). They require you to hook two Jaguars together (a pretty rare occurrence) but from what I hear it actually works pretty well. There are better versions of Doom out there, but this one certainly gets the job done. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Dragon's Lair (CD)
Publisher: ReadySoft (1995)
I remember when this laserdisc-based game hit the arcades in the early 80's. An extra monitor was hung over the cabinet so people could gawk at the wonderful cartoon graphics. The premise was that Dirk the Daring had to save the fair princess from an evil dragon. Making his way through a castle, he had to avoid traps and battle monsters. I couldn't take my eyes off Don Bluth's amazing animation. Each room held a different surprise. Unfortunately, the gameplay never lived up to the graphics. The joystick and sword button affected the action, but you never really felt in control. This version of Dragon's Lair is the best I've seen for a console. The graphics, which are easily the best aspect of the game, fill the entire TV screen and are only slightly pixelated. Even if you don't like the gameplay, you have to appreciate the entertaining full motion video. The cinematic sound is also excellent. Control is relatively good (by Dragon's Lair standards). Whenever you make a move an audible tone lets you know if you've made a correct or incorrect choice. Granted, you'll have to discover most of the correct moves through trial and error. The worst thing about this game is that it's completely linear; the rooms always appear in the same order. A little randomization would have gone a long way to enhance the replay value. As it is, you'll probably not want to play it for a long time after you finish it. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story
Publisher: Virgin (1994)
Much like a punch to the groin from Bruce Lee himself, this game is unbearable. Imagine a one-on-one fighter with a single
character to choose from! Dragon's clean, semi-cartoonish visuals are clearly inspired by Street Fighter 2, but far less interesting and totally static. The bland locations include a dance hall, kitchen, alley, and gym. Dragon may be the most unplayable fighting game ever produced. There are plenty of moves, but the control scheme is incomprehensible. First off, I don't remember Bruce having a "bitch slap" move. The "option" button is supposed to toggle between fast and hard punches, but it doesn't appear to have any effect. Different fighting "modes" are available should you build up enough "Chi", but even playing on the "cupcake" skill level, I could never attain nearly enough. The fighting action is horrid, with too many evasive maneuvers that have the fighters kart-wheeling and flipping over each other. Even worse are the weak attacks that just barely chip away at your opponent's life meter. The rounds go on for an eternity, and the default number of rounds is - get this - best of nine
! The story mode takes you through scenes from the film, but if you want to battle a friend, both of you are forced to play as Bruce Lee. Dragon is such a sham that it inspired my friend Scott to coin the phrase, "Life's too short for Jaguar fighting games." © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Evolution: Dino Dudes
Publisher: Atari (1993)
Dino Dudes is a tedious puzzle game disguised as an action-oriented platform title. Its slow, deliberate gameplay involves switching between multiple caveman characters and manipulating items in order to reach a goal. Did Atari really think this would impress anybody?
When a one-player game requires "teamwork", that's never
a good sign. Each of the 80 stages (!) offers a new maze of platforms to overcome. The developers would have been better off programming only three stages, because there's no way a gamer could possibly stomach any more than that! Icons on the bottom of the screen indicate possible actions, but good luck determining what those poorly-rendered images are supposed to symbolize. At least two of them could be construed as obscene gestures!
Evolution's user interface is so poorly designed that it takes two
button presses to activate a single
icon! The flat, 2D graphics are not the least bit interesting, and your cavemen are a pretty dull bunch. The puzzles often require you to pass items back and forth and traverse the same areas with each "dude", which is time-consuming. In certain levels it's possible to destroy a vital item, yet the game doesn't bother to inform you that the stage has suddenly become impossible to complete. Dino Dudes has absolutely nothing going for it, and I'm pretty confident you'll hate it as much as I did. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Rotten Tomatoes, Songbird Productions