Missile Command 3D
Publisher: Atari (1995)
I've always been a big fan of this arcade classic, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how Atari brought this oldie into the 90s. The cartridge contains three versions of Missile Command: original, 3D, and virtual. I was expecting the original version to be just like the original arcade game, but it's not. The graphics have been upgraded slightly, and the sound effects have been improved dramatically. There's even a pulse-pounding music theme that plays in the background. The gameplay and control are first-rate. The 3D version has fancy polygon graphics and a much bigger playing field. You'll have to scroll around and use radar to determine where the missiles are coming in. It's pretty impressive looking, but not really any more fun than the first version. The Virtual version is played from a first-person perspective, and you have addition weapons. These weapons include lasers, which can be used to shoot the missiles directly, and smart bombs, which wipe out all enemies on the screen. Firing the normal missiles is tough; after you launch one, you have to time its detonation. It's difficult to determine the "depth" of the objects you're shooting. This version also features bosses, power-ups, and three unique levels. One complaint I have about all three versions is that your missiles tend to move very slowly, making it extra difficult to intercept enemies. Also, the explosions in the 3D versions are noticeably flat in comparison to the objects. But Missile Command fans will be happy enough with this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
There's a good reason why I stick to consoles and avoid PC games - so I can avoid games like Myst. Yeah, I know this game was huge
in the 90's, but I have no tolerance for its slow pacing and trial-and-error gameplay. Myst's surreal premise is undeniably captivating, as you find yourself on a mysterious deserted island with interesting architecture and strange mechanical contraptions. You roam around the island by simply pointing and clicking where you want to go. A context-sensitive hand-shaped cursor is used to grab and manipulate items. The pre-rendered scenery looks sharp, but its "wow" factor has dissipated over the years. Myst's ominous musical score remains potent however, effectively creating a weirdly chilling atmosphere. You'll spend a lot of time gathering clues by paging through books, and while the text is interesting, having to zoom in on page after page is clumsy and tiresome. For those with unlimited patience, I'm suspect Myst could provide quite an immersive experience, delivering hours upon hours of mind-bending gameplay. Personally, I spent about an hour playing this and decided that was enough. I felt like I was getting nowhere. Myst might be the best game in the world, but I'll never know, and neither will the other gamers out there who prefer a little action in their adventures. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1995)
It's tough to be critical of a game that simulates pinball so well. The action is fast and smooth, and the physics is very realistic. There are four big tables to choose from, all loaded with targets, lights, tunnels, etc. You control the plunger, the flippers, and even have the ability to tilt. The tables smoothly scroll up and down as the ball moves. If there's anything to criticize about this game, it's the table selection. The first one, "Party Time", has a circus/clown theme that really turned me off. I have always been afraid of clowns, and looking at their creepy faces and hearing their laughter isn't my idea of fun. The next table is a little better; it has a racing theme. That's OK, but I've never been a racing fan. The third table has a millionaire game show theme, which I found to be extremely uninteresting. Which brings me to the last table, Stones and Bones, which has a decidedly Halloween theme. I loved everything about this table from the monster illustrations to the creepy sound effects and music. This is only the one I need! There's no accounting for taste, but Pinball Fantasies does deliver some solid pinball action. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Publisher: Activision (1995)
This version of Pitfall makes you appreciate how good the original one was. I can't stand this game. The control is lousy, and the gameplay is linear and boring. I will admit that the graphics are excellent, and the Jaguar version of this game is the best-looking. The backgrounds are sharp and detailed, and Pitfall Harry and the animals are extremely well animated. But the gameplay sucks. The platform jumping is annoying, and there are breaking branches and slick, moss-covered ledges to make it even more frustrating! You have plenty of weapons to throw, but you can only throw forward or at a 45 degree angle; you can't throw up, which is really annoying when a killer butterfly is buzzing around you head. Your enemies are mainly jungle creatures like monkeys and snakes, and they are constantly regenerating and irritating you. Golden idols serve as checkpoints, and the cartridge does contain a save feature. Sorry, but good graphics do not make a good game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Power Drive Rally
Publisher: Atari (1994)
The Jaguar tends to struggle with 3D games, so it's refreshing to play a "back-to-the-basics" 2D title like this one. Power Drive Rally is an excellent racer that renders the action via a slightly tilted overhead view. Not only does this let you enjoy some beautiful scenery, but it also gives your automobile the appearance of depth. The cars actually look a lot like toys, and it feels like you're steering a remote-controlled car. The single-player mode takes you through a schedule of events that include rally races, timed challenges, and "skill tests" which are similar to driving tests. You can repair your car between races with your cash winnings, and you'll upgrade to a better vehicle once you earn enough. The scenic locations include Sweden, France, Italy, Arizona, and Kenya. The colorful tracks look exceptional and are loaded with subtle details like reflective water puddles. Weather conditions change often, and it's fun to race in a thunderstorm in England or a snowstorm in Finland. The well-tuned controls let you navigate the windy courses with ease. I love how you can effortlessly execute power slides around hairpin turns. You can't see too far ahead at any given time, but voice and arrow prompts keep you posted on upcoming turns. My main complaint is how you only race one other car, and he frequently exhibits "rubber band AI". The game is pretty tough thanks to demanding time limits and steep reentry fees. I found the desert tracks particularly hard to navigate because the roads aren't well defined. The electronic music is pretty good and the sound effects are also up to snuff. Three save slots are available, and the best times are recorded for all tracks. You can play a friend, but you'll need to take turns. Power Drive Rally is addictive. It may not scream "64-bit", but it is fun. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Primal Rage (CD)
Publisher: Time Warner (1994)
This is one of those games that looks and sounds spectacular, but once you start playing you realize that there's very little under the surface. Still, I must admit this is the best version of Primal Rage I've seen on a console. This one-on-one fighter features dinosaurs and apes battling in a post-apocalyptic world. I love the look of this game, especially the intro. The creatures were motion-captured from clay figures. They look awesome, but the animation is pretty choppy. The backgrounds, featuring ruins and natural wonders, are beautiful. The fighting action is weak compared to Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. The moves are limited, and the collision detection isn't too good. Another big problem is the need for six button (Pro) controllers to play the game effectively. Otherwise it's like trying to play a six-button game with four buttons. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Songbird Productions (2002)
A late Jaguar release from Songbird, this Defender clone is so freakin' good that it's sick! Sick I tell you! This makes Atari's Defender 2000 look like a steaming pile of dung by comparison. Protector is probably the best Jaguar game I've ever played. The crisp, colorful graphics are nothing less than spectacular - you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking 2D game period
. Amazing metallic UFOs blow up with exceptionally satisfying explosions. The action moves extremely fast, but the framerate never falters in the midst of the intense action. The planet surface changes each five waves, and the backgrounds look sharp. The audio is also superb, combining voice samples with a catchy, thumping soundtrack. But gameplay is what really matters, and Protector delivers. The rapid-fire shooting is phenomenal, and the quickness of your ship makes it much easy to nab falling humanoids. Extra features like a shield button, power-ups, and the ability to purchase items between waves add new life to the old formula. My only beef with this new "Special Edition" is that the difficulty select has been removed, but at least you can choose your starting wave. Protector is a blast to play, and any self-respecting Jaguar owner should have this bad boy in their collection. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1993)
I love 2D shooters because of their simplicity and raw intensity. Raiden is a first-rate vertical shooter that lets you unleash hell on cannons, tanks, planes, and floating airships. The opening stage features tranquil farmlands, but the scenery soon shifts to urban areas, open seas, and sprawling space stations. You select between two weapons by collecting red or blue icons. Since picking up the same color increments your firepower, you'll want to choose a color and stick with it. The blue delivers a concentrated beam, while the red offers a weaker spray. When paired with a secondary missile weapon, you can do more damage than Steve Seagal at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Also at your disposal is a limited supply of bombs which inflict heavy damage over a wide radius. For some reason their massive explosions travel up the screen
as it scrolls, which causes additional damage but looks a little cheesy. The right third of the screen is dedicated to tracking your score, ships, and credits, and it takes up a lot
more room than it needs to. The play area is narrow but it scrolls sideways as you push your ship along the edges. I'm a big fan of Raiden Trad for the Genesis (1991), and this Jaguar version is better in some regards. The visuals are cleaner and enemy ships tend to catch fire before exploding (nice). The audio quality is cleaner, but the soundtrack lacks bass. This Jaguar edition also offers a two-player simultaneous mode not seen in other versions. Still, the Genesis has the edge in terms of control, partly due to its much-needed rapid-fire option. Constantly pounding the fire button of the Jaguar controller gets old after a minute or two. This may not be the best Raiden, but it's certainly one of the more playable titles for the Jaguar. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ubi Soft (1995)
It's hard to find fault with this excellent 2D platformer. Rayman is a cartoon character whose hands and feet are not connected by arms or legs (they just float). It sounds odd, but it gives him a unique look and allows for some interesting animations. The game combines the slow, deliberate gameplay of Super Mario Brothers with the lush colorful graphics of a Sonic the Hedgehog game. The animations are incredibly smooth and often humorous. Rayman starts off like a simple platform jumper, but as he gains new abilities like punch, hanging from ledges, or flying like the helicopter, the challenges become more complex and intense. Rayman has its share of innovations too. Your shooting fist works like a boomerang. You can instantly grow huge flowers to help you reach high ledges. Huge pieces of fruit grow on trees, and you can use them to clear your path or float across water. Besides collecting items, you'll free caged creatures and face huge bosses. The collision detection is very forgiving, but sometimes you can't see the ledge you need to jump to. The lush stages are works of art, bursting with color and teeming with life. Likewise, the music is upbeat and fun. Like Super Mario Brothers, there's a map screen that allows you to choose your stage and revisit old ones, and you can save your place between stages. The stage designs can be frustrating, but I found this version easier than the Saturn edition. Fun and highly replayable, Rayman is easily one of the better Jaguar titles. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Wow, this game caught me off-guard! I must admit I was expecting some pretty shallow pinball action along the lines of Pinball Fantasies, but Ruiner just blew me away. There are two completely separate tables, and either is well worth the price of admission. The first, simply called "Ruiner", has a war theme with all kinds of missiles and airplanes flying around. It's really two tables wide, with two levels of flippers on each side. The high-resolution artwork includes some patriotic babes that will definitely catch your eye. As you advance from DEFCON 1 to 4, the table reveals new targets. The second table, "The Tower" is a whole new pinball game altogether. This one has an occult/medieval theme that's just incredible. It's a lot like Dragon's Fury (Genesis) or Devil's Crush (Turbografx-16), but this one is even better. The table is very tall, with three levels of flippers. The fantastic graphics include eyeball bumpers, pools of blood, a chained prisoner, dragons, a sorceress, and a tower at the very top. Besides all the standard pinball gadgets, both tables unleash loads of moving targets like planes and bats. The screen scrolls smoothly as the ball zips around realistically, and the table scales out nicely when multiple balls are put into play (oh yeah!). You can nudge the tables, but it's very easy to tilt, so be gentle. All high scores (and settings) are automatically saved to the cartridge. If Ruiner has one weakness, it's probably the lame background music. It's pretty sparse and you probably won't even notice it. Overall, Ruiner Pinball is an underrated game, and I'd definitely recommend it to any Jaguar owner. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Rotten Tomatoes, Songbird Productions