Publisher: Atari (1991)
When a game has the gall to call itself "awesome" or "great", you can rest assured it's probably going to suck
. Awesome Golf however is an exception to the rule. This game is extremely well crafted and highly addictive. You select between three courses: USA, England, and Japan. A set-up screen provides a list of customization options, but I was perfectly happy with the defaults. Your view is mainly from overhead, so there's not much scenery to take in. Even so, the thoughtful hole layouts allow plenty of room for strategy. The user interface is extremely well designed. You have a full complement of clubs and can easily switch between them. The swing meter is of the three-press variety (start, power, hit), but it looks confusing at first glance. The fact that the meter actually scrolls partly off the screen
while in motion takes some getting used to. After a few holes however you'll become engrossed in the action. Awesome Golf's gameplay is very forgiving thanks to its expansive fairways and oversized greens. There are few indicators to clutter the screen, yet it's easy to gauge shots and putts. The pacing is brisk thanks to minimal prompts and short ball rolls. You can hit the option button at any time to review your scorecard, and it's possible to play a whole round in less than a half hour. The people who developed this game clearly knew what they were doing, producing a top-notch sports title for the Lynx. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 80
Publisher: Atari (1992)
I was expecting a streetwise slugfest when I fired this game up, so imagine my surprise to see a bunch of young punks scampering around on the court! Basketbrawl is combination basketball and fighter, but neither one manages to hit the mark. You compete against CPU-controlled bullies and also have to contend with thugs tossing knives from the sideline. The idea is to pummel your opponent in order to knock the ball loose. The best way to do this is to perform jump-kicks like crazy
on the guy with the ball. Sure, you can use weapons like whips and batons, but by the time you pick one up and properly use it, the other team has scored three times. Sometimes it's hard to find the ball with items and bodies lying around the court, not to mention players milling around. The instructions suggest you have a teammate, but if that's true, he gets completely lost in the noise. Random commentary at the bottom of the screen spews outdated expressions like "Spaz!!" When you have the ball, you just go right up to the basket and shoot. The physics is ridiculous, so the ball moves in a herky-jerk manner. There's no jumping
, and that means no dunking and no rebounding. I'm starting to understand why the NBA didn't license Basketbrawl. I'm all for mindless fun, but I prefer a little more fun with my mindlessness. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 630
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Wow, this one caught me somewhat off-guard. Batman Returns was a hit on the Genesis and Super Nintendo, but this mini version is also very impressive. It's quite evident that Atari put a lot of effort into this high-quality, action-packed side-scroller. The large characters look awesome and their size does not detract from the gameplay. The Caped Crusader is easy to control but his moves are limited. He can basically jump, duck, or attack, with the "option" button cycling through his weapons. I was disappointed by the lack of a jump-kick move, but I do like how Batman performs flips off high ledges. Interesting backgrounds include gothic building facades and panoramic views of the city skyline. Unlike other games that repeat the same scenery ad-nauseum, there's always something new and interesting to see. The goons you encounter include motorcycle-riding clowns, and each villain is distinctive, exhibiting a unique attack pattern. A nice synthesized musical soundtrack plays throughout the game and adds to the intensity. One aspect that turned me off was the game's excessive difficulty. Just surviving the first stage (out of four total) is a major accomplishment. That's partly due to the excessive number of cheap hits you absorb from bombs, knives, and dynamite being tossed all over the place. There is, however, a secret: just run through and avoid the bad guys! Of course, that pretty much defeats the purpose of the whole game. It's a shame, because Batman Return could have been the best Lynx game of all. Hint: Take cover behind the mailbox when the storefront blows up or you're toast. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Publisher: Atari (1991)
This overhead adventure will rack your brain at times, but the idea of moving between time and space to solve puzzles has some merit. I find it odd that you only control Bill or
Ted - the other guy's just along for the ride. You begin in a phone booth next to an Egyptian pyramid in 1700 BC. The screen scrolls in all directions as you explore your surroundings, collect items, talk to people, and flee enemies. You'll travel between diverse places like Europe (1700), Rome (70 BC), and Texas (1800). Your character moves fast enough to avoid wandering beetles, lions, and other dangerous objects that for the life of me I can't identify. At its best, Bill and Ted feels like a more sophisticated version of Adventure
(Atari 2600, 1980). I like how each "world" is small enough that you can explore every nook. At its worst, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure doesn't make much sense. You have an inventory of items, but it's hard to tell what they do, and there's often no indication if an item is having any effect at all. It doesn't help that the manual (which folds out in the most annoying manner) reads more like a comic than instructions. A jaunty tune plays during the action, and a password feature lets you save your progress at any time. The password is critical because this game requires a few hours to complete. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure may not be excellent, but it isn't totally bogus either. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1989)
As a demonstration of the Lynx graphic capabilities, Blue Lightning is a technical marvel. As a game however, it's far less successful. Piloting a jet fighter, you embark on a series of missions to destroy enemy forces using a cannon and guided missiles. The rear of your jet consumes a sizeable portion of the screen, but you still get a clear view of what's ahead. The scaling scenery looks pretty amazing as you soar over enormous glaciers, farmland, and mesas in the desert. Your cannon fires slightly downward, allowing you to easily strafe ground installations and even sink battleships. Enemy planes explode with crisp audio effects, and the raining debris makes the carnage that much more satisfying. The Lynx hardware does an admirable job of keeping up with the mayhem, even when things get hectic. Nine action-packed missions take you from tropical islands to twisting desert canyons. Blue Lightning sounds like a blast, but it's really a bust due to its lack of difficulty. When I pick up a hand-held game, I'm only expecting to play for just a few minutes, but Blue Lightning seems to go on for hours (or maybe it just feels
that way). Enemy missiles are easy to avoid (just keep moving side to side) and you get a whopping five
lives! Since each stage is basically the same with new scenery, it doesn't take long for the boredom to set in. Had Atari put as much effort into the gameplay as the flashy visuals, Blue Lightening could have been something special. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Epyx (1989)
This is the game that made me realize just how great the Lynx is. California Games is not particularly complex or involved, but it's always a good time. Atari made a smart decision bundling this game with the Lynx. It's a likeable, high-quality title with four events that play like individual games: BMX biking, surfing, half-pipe, and footbag. There's not a dud in the bunch, with each event being easy to play but difficult to master. It helps that the events tend to be short, giving them an addictive "one more time" quality. The graphics are terrific in all four games, but surfing has the most eye candy, with the crystal blue waves and frothy white foam. BMX, my personal favorite, puts you on a bike careening down a dirt hill, dodging obstacles and jumping ramps. Half-pipe is a skateboarding event that requires precise timing to perform stunts like aerial turns and hand-plants. In footbag, you control a kid trying to keep a small beanbag in the air using your knees, feet, and head. California Games has some very catchy tunes, including a respectable rendition of "Louie Louie". The bright sunny graphics put you in a good mood, and the fine gameplay will keep you in one. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Songbird (2000)
With its back-to-the-basics controls and overhead point of view, this is one old-school racer I can really sink my teeth into. The gameplay couldn't be much simpler as you race three other cars on a series of diverse tracks. As with most racing games, the brake is pretty much unnecessary, so you can just accelerate and steer. There are few power-ups or hazards to complicate matters, although you do encounter a rare speed boost or pothole. Learning the tracks and anticipating curves is key to winning Championship Rally. The highways wind through a desert, snowy Alaska, a coastal town, and downtown area. There's not much to see in terms of scenery, but each new course offers a unique layout and attractive color scheme. Despite their diminutive size, the cars look pretty neat. The responsive controls make power sliding around turns a breeze - as long as you know they're coming! A small radar display in the lower corner indicates the position of both you and your competitors. Championship Rally offers four modes: tournament, single race, time trial, and versus (head-to-head via a comlynx cable). The tournament mode lets you unlock additional tracks, and man is it tough
! Championship Rally is one addictive, high quality title that all Lynx fans will want in their library. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Technically Checkered Flag is remarkable, but its unforgiving nature prevents it from reaching "A" status. This is a pseudo-3D racing game in the tradition of Pole Position. Before each race a voice announces, "Gentlemen, start your engines" with amazing clarity. The visuals are exceptionally good. The road winds smoothly as you race towards the horizon, and even with several cars in your path the frame-rate remains stable. Interesting scenery like horses and signs scale on the road side, and attractive backdrops feature snowy mountains and looming city skylines. The racecars are impressively large and detailed, but their width makes it difficult to pass. Upon touching
another car, both vehicles will spin-out. The rotation animation looks terrific, but it's so time-consuming it sometimes eliminates you from the race. A tournament mode offers a series of eight races incorporating up to nine "drone" opponents. Setting the laps to 1 prevents the game from becoming repetitive, but you'll need to drive a near-perfect race to come out on top. The controls are responsive enough but the unforgiving collision detection means that even rubbing against a bush
will bring you to a screeching halt. My advice is to keep an eye on the map to anticipate turns, and don't be afraid to use the brake! On the results screen, a bikini-clad babe approaches your driver to give him a kiss. After one race I noticed it was a dude
strutting over in a Speedo, which totally threw me off until I realized my driver was a chick!
Checkered Flag is an impressive title. It's not quite as fun as it could have been, but Lynx fans looking for a challenge will be pleased. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1989)
All you intellectual gamers out there will probably appreciate this brain-teasing, mind-bending puzzle game. Chip's Challenge puts you in the role of a kid trying to solve a series of mazes loaded with bombs, monsters, portals, slides, traps, buttons, and keys. The game requires skill and problem solving, and you'll need to manipulate items in a certain order and within the time limit. I thought the first few mazes were challenging enough, and then I realized they were just the "training" mazes! The mazes gradually grow in complexity, and they can be frustrating at times since making a single bad move (like pushing a block into a corner) can make it impossible to finish the maze, forcing you to restart it. Chip's Challenge does give you an infinite number of tries, and even offers you the option of skipping a level if you fail it repeatedly (not that this ever happened to me
!). Living up to its name, the game offers 144 (!) levels, and if you complete them all without losing your mind, you deserve an honorary college degree. Chip's Challenge was a little too thought-intensive for my arcade sensibilities, but those with a knack for puzzles games will eat this up. Special thanks to D. Nolan for providing me with a working copy of this game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Atari probably realized they couldn't squeeze a legitimate football game onto the Lynx, so they took the "cybernetic robot football" approach. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but Cyberball is practically unplayable. The motorized players look like pixelated blobs on the field, and they move painfully slow. The running game is non-existent, and only the CPU can pass with any degree of accuracy. The rules are different from normal football, and they're hard to grasp because they're scattered over the back of an oversized poster (in different languages no less). The main thing to remember is that the offense retains possession of the ball until it explodes
. Cyberball incorporates a number of voice samples, but most are indecipherable. I gave this game a good college try, but couldn't get the hang of it. Despite its ambitions, Cyberball never really amounts to anything. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop
Publisher: Atari (1992)
In this side-scrolling brawler you play a cop ridding the streets of thugs, mime baseball players, and overweight women. Dirty Larry is simplistic but in some ways that works in its favor. You'll duck and fire to neutralize most baddies, taking a mandatory hit or two in the process. Larry can jump pretty high, so I was kind of bummed that I couldn't grab those low-hanging ladders. It's actually possible to jump over
bullets, but that move hasn't been used effectively since Van Damme did it in Timecop.
You can use your fists to conserve ammo, which is sometimes a good idea since you'll need bullets for tougher adversaries like motorcycle goons. In advanced stages you're given new weapons like machine guns and shotguns. Dirty Larry's opening level is a generic city street, but the subway in the second stage uses cool lighting effects to convey movement. I also like the level of detail in the seedy hotel. Dirty Larry is a little on the shallow side, but I enjoyed seeing how far I could get in this game. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 25,500
Gates of Zendocon
Publisher: Epyx (1989)
*Yawn* This side-scrolling space shooter looks like a winner at first glance, but gradually sinks into the realm of mediocrity (actually a bit lower than that). I love shooters with massive firepower, and at the very least, Gates does deliver that. Your piercing laser weapon is a continuous beam of energy that wipes out everything in its path, and the explosions are huge. Other weapons are available, but you'll only need to use them when you laser breaks down. Initially you battle some generic UFOs and bouncing balls, but later face eyeballs, insects, and large slimy creatures. The screen scrolls up and down, but there's little incentive to take risks. As a result, you tend to remain in your own little area and be defensive. The dull, unsatisfying stages are endless parades of enemies moving in predictable patterns. I especially hate when they line up single-file, preventing you from getting a shot at them. It's hard to believe that Gates of Zendocon was play-tested at all; it seems like very little thought was put into the stage designs. And what's up with the music? Is that an accordion
I hear?? Please make it stop! When Gates of Zendocon is finally over, you're awarded with a huge, seven-digit score, but it doesn't mean much. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Gauntlet: The Third Encounter
Publisher: Atari (1990)
With apologies to all the Lynx Gauntlet fans, I can't play this thing. Third Encounter may boast some nice technical features, but I found its repetitive gameplay to be agonizing
. The game is played with the Lynx system held vertically, creating a "long" screen configuration (that's why the screen shot looks distorted). Holding it like this tires your arm during extended play, but it does make sense in terms of screen layout. The top area conveys an overhead view of your fighter, the maze, and the well-designed creatures. A box on the lower right lists your vital stats, and the lower left displays impressive scaling images of monsters and treasure as you approach them on the main screen. Going beyond the standard D&D character classes, you can also assume the unconventional roles of a pirate, nerd, cowboy, or punk rocker. To be honest, it doesn't make a heck of a lot of difference what you are. Like previous versions of Gauntlet, gameplay involves exploring dungeon mazes while shooting monsters and collecting keys and treasure. The problem with this game is your projectiles move too slow, and you're constantly being overwhelmed by hordes of creatures. Okay, you could probably say that about any
Gauntlet, but here your firepower is simply no match. Fortunately, there are no "portals" to generate new monster (unlike previous Gauntlets). Blasting a monster causes it to shrink and disappear, and while it's a neat visual effect, it's not nearly as satisfying as blasting the thing to bits. Lacking the frantic shooting action the series is known for, this Gauntlet falls flat. Third Encounter does allow multiple Lynx systems to "link up" for cooperative action, but I suspect this is a rare occurrence. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1992)
To anyone who doesn't believe the Lynx was far ahead of its time, I'd challenge you to compare Hydra to Spy Hunter
(Game Boy Advance, 2001). Both games look and play nearly the same, despite the fact that Hydra was released about 10 years earlier! Hydra is a high-speed boat combat game where you whiz down canals while blasting targets and collecting crystals. Both the scaling and illusion of speed is quite convincing. You can change weapons on the fly, which include uzis, flamethrowers, heat-seekers, and six-way shots. But what's most impressive is your ability to "boost" into the air at breathtaking heights for short periods of time. While you're up there, you can shoot blimps and helicopters while collecting floating items. From the water, targets and obstacles tend to be chunky and hard to make out, but there's a nice amount of variation in the scenery, making it fun to see what the next level looks like. Although technically impressive, Hydra does stumble in the gameplay department. First, you need to hold the control pad down
to accelerate, which is more than a little awkward. And then there's a problem with the difficulty. I could play the easy skill level all day, but the medium difficulty is terribly frustrating, with hard-to-avoid missiles and a fuel tank that always seems to be on empty. When all is said and done, it's pretty much a wash. I did find it amusing that the hero's close-up image looks exactly
like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a mullet haircut. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1992)
What in God's name were those guys at Atari smoking
when they came up with this one? Atari boss: "We need an concept for a new Lynx game. Any ideas?" Programmer: "Hey, we don't have any games that let you beat the crap out of a carrot!" Boss: "Jennings, I think you're onto something there - let's get to work on this immediately." Kung Food is a wacky side-scrolling beat-em-up that puts you in control of a diminutive naked green muscleman. Would it have been too much trouble to put some pants on this poor guy? Moving through various locations in a kitchen you punch and kick your way through an endless army of vegetables, bugs, ice monsters, and rats. Your control is limited to basic kicks and punches, and you can't interact with the scenery. Most enemies require multiple hits to kill, but it's hard to line up with them and even harder to tell if you're doing any damage. Additional obstacles like spikes appear without warning and inflict cheap hits. The characters are quite large but not particularly well animated. There's a fine line between zany and stupid, and Kung Food crosses that line often. On the bright side, compared to Kung Food, most other Lynx titles are terrific! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age