ATP Tour Championship Tennis
Publisher: Sega (1994)
ATP Tennis is the sequel to Wimbledon Tennis (Genesis, 1993), and I wish I knew what ATP stood for. This is a full-featured tennis game. You can create your own player and enter him in a series of tournaments, saving your progress to one of four slots. Or you can dust off your Sega multi-tap for some four-player doubles action. The option menu lets you do things like turn on a ball pointer, toggle automatic replays, and finely adjust the speed of the game. The control scheme offers three types of shots: soft volley (safe), hard volley (risky), and a lob which goes really really
high. I was a little disappointed that the six-button controller is not supported in any way. As in real tennis proper positioning is key. Your player will automatically dive for the ball if it's too far away. I like how it's possible to hit the ball into the net or have it bounce off the top of the net - it's a bit of realism missing from most tennis games. There are even double faults and shots that sail out-of-bounds. What kills this game is the fact that the balls seem so dead; they lack bounce. This forces you to play the net all the time, which is not realistic at all. The player models look cheesy, especially the way they gallivant around after winning a point. The courts look good and I like how there are animated line judges and ball girls. The player selection screen features a few familiar faces (McEnroe, Sampras, Lendl), but I've never heard of most of these players (Guy Forget?
). The grainy black-and-white photos depicting each player look so bad, it's almost embarrassing. The career mode offers extended replay value, but not being able to save your progress between sets is a deal breaker. One set can last a long time, and this game is hard on your hands. If there's one big selling point for ATP Tennis, it would have to be the four-player mode. My friends had a heck of a lot of fun playing this, and didn't even want to stop. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players
Adventures of Batman and Robin, The
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Adventures of Batman and Robin boasts sharp graphics, tight controls, and two-player simultaneous action. There's a lot to like, but this game is repetitive to the max!
In the first stage our heroes walk down a city street while beating the crap out of clowns that pour out of the woodwork. I like how you can kick while hanging from ledges, and it's cool to toss Bat-a-rangs in a rapid-fire fashion. Actually the game feels more like a shooter
than a traditional beat-em-up. But no matter how much damage you inflict, the bad guys keep coming in droves. It feels like you're beating up the same thugs over and over - there must be thousands
of them! You'd think that having a partner would help, but in that case the game just throws twice as many
thugs your way! Enough already! Had Sega cut the number of villains in half, this would have been a lot
better. Still, it's great when you find a skull icon which instantly obliterates every enemy on the screen. The obligatory end-of-stage bosses have life meters that slowly count down from 100, which takes forever. The game is tough and the power-up system is confusing. You can try to play for score, but your score is removed the instant you lose your final life. Buried in this game are many classic Batman foes including the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze. The stylish graphics are attractive, with small but well-defined characters and varied scenery. Clever details include alley cats jumping out of trashcans and crooks that get their hats knocked off. With the exception of the obligatory elevator stage (snore), there's plenty to see - especially in the Mad Hatter's Alice In Wonderland-inspired level. Accompanying the action is an intense, pulsating musical score. There's no password option, just six continues. It's a solid action game at its core, but Adventures of Batman and Robin could have used some fine-tuning. My friend Eric and I used an invincibility cheat to beat the game, and it still
felt like an ordeal! Despite my complaints however, I do find myself playing this one quite a bit. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 63,050
1 or 2 players
Aero the Acrobat
Publisher: Sunsoft (1993)
On the heels of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog success, many other game publishers were anxious to come up with a loveable mascot of their own. Aero the Acrobat was highly regarded in its time, but I'm not impressed. Aero is a red vampire bat that performs on the trapeze bars at a circus. His arsenal of moves includes hovering, executing in-air "dashes", and throwing stars. There are plenty of items for him to collect, but the manual does a poor job describing what the purpose of each is. The very first stage is a major turn-off. The circus theme and colorful backgrounds look okay, but that old-style "circus music" is absolutely dreadful. We're talking "hit the mute button" bad. I was hoping it would subside after the first stage, but in fact the music throughout the entire game sounds like it's been generated by an off-key accordion. Another major turn-off is the preponderance of clown enemies. Everyone knows that clowns are inherently creepy and evil, and the ones here are tiny and hideous. Not a fan of the circus, I was anxious to get through the first stage, so you can imagine how miffed I was to discover that each stage is actually five acts
long. Uncle! The theme part in the second stage is a vast improvement, incorporating a lot of interesting "rides" like ferris wheels and roller coasters. The remaining two stages, set in a forest and a museum, come across as Sonic rip-offs. Aero's controls are erratic. Mid-air "dashes" allow you to defeat enemies much like Sonic's spin. However, while you can direct you in-air dashing diagonally up or down, Aero often heads in the wrong direction - and usually at the worst time! The stage designs are uneven as well, exemplified by a lot of "holes" in the walls you can only discover through trial and error. Cheap hits abound as some enemies appear from out of nowhere. Aero the Acrobat is extremely difficult, and there's no password feature. When you choose to continue, you have to return to Act 1, even if you've progressed several acts into a stage. It's not awful, but extended play with Aero the Acrobat helps you realize why you love Sonic so much. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1990)
My friend Chris once described Afterburner as "Outrun in the sky", and I think that's a great description. Afterburner 2 compares favorably with its Sega CD and 32X counterparts, although you'd expect those to be far more advanced. The action begins with your plane firing up its engines on an impressive-looking aircraft carrier named the "Sega Enterprise". Once airborne you view the action from behind your plane as bushes, rocks, and towers rush by on the ground below. Enemy planes scale in from the distance, but targeting them is tough because your plane turns on an arc, making it hard to line up your crosshairs. When a digitized voice yells "fire!" it means you're "locked on" and should unleash a guided missile. Resist the urge to fire these with reckless abandon because they're limited in supply. If you use them up, you'll have to wait for a refueling plane which appears every few stages. Afterburner 2's odd control scheme uses A button to speed up, C to slow down, and B to fire missiles. Your speed doesn't really come into play until the later waves when enemies start riding your tail. Your machine guns fire automatically, which makes sense from a practical standpoint but seems a little cheesy. Your guided missiles are followed by a plume of gray smoke, but the chaotic visuals make it hard to enjoy your kills. The action is choppy and the gameplay tends to boil down to unleashing a series of shots and then weaving side-to-side like crazy to avoid the incoming barrage. When your plane begins smoking and burrows into the ground, you won't even know what hit you. The scenery is less than spectacular but the color schemes are extremely attractive, especially in the snow and night stages. The audio features the distinctive Afterburner theme, but it's fuzzy. Overall Afterburner 2 nails the frantic arcade style it was shooting for, but comes up short in terms of playability. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Easy w/ cnts
Our high score: CJS 4,747,780
Publisher: Kaneko (1991)
Once you get past the goofy title, it's easy to get hooked on this riveting side-scrolling shooter. Its basic formula is unremarkable as you blast pods, jets, and mechanical beasts over cities, through caverns, and in space. It seems strictly by-the-numbers, but there are enough original touches to give Air Buster some personality. Shooting special canisters cause weapon icons to spring forth, and these include six-way shots, missiles, rear shots, or a revolving gun turret. With enough skill you can scoop up a specific icon before it falls off the screen. Stage two offers a nice change of pace with high-speed tunnel chase sequences that challenge you to avoid collision with the walls. It helps if you can snag the "bumper" power-up which provides a layer of protection above and below. An excellent two-player simultaneous mode allows players to compete against each other or strive for highest combined score. I didn't pursue Air Buster for many years because I heard it was simply the Genesis version of Aeroblasters (Turbographx, 1990). While that's technically true, there are enough differences between the two games that shooter fans will want both. The graphics are more detailed in this Genesis version, beginning with a more elaborate opening sequence. Each stage not only boasts additional background detail, but there are some new obstacles in the foreground as well. The colors are extremely vibrant - sometimes to a fault. The bright red screen near the end of the first stage is hard on the eyes! The Genesis version is much more difficult, not because the enemies are different but because the action moves faster. I noticed that some bosses require slightly different tactics to defeat. The soundtrack is much richer on the Genesis, and the sound effects pack a lot more punch. This version seems more fine-tuned, as pesky enemies are easier and your missiles are all guided. An extra screen appears between each stage, but it doesn't serve much of a purpose except to delay the action. On the surface the Genesis version seems to have the edge, but my friend Chris insists the Turbografx edition has cleaner visuals and better playability. Whatever the case, both will satisfy your urge for some arcade shooting fun. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 123,900
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Arena (1992)
I thought for sure that Alien 3 would be just like the SNES version, which had superb graphics but lackluster gameplay. Fortunately, the Genesis version is everything the SNES game should
have been. There's no complicated maps or tedious missions here, just explosive arcade action! The graphics and sound don't measure up to the SNES version, with cartoonish characters and the music that's more upbeat than ominous. But in terms of pure gameplay this is far superior. Each stage is a maze of rooms connected by tubes and ladders. Your job is to rescue all the prisoners and exit before time runs out. You can switch between several weapons including a machine gun, flamethrower, grenade launcher and hand grenades. Each weapon is effective in certain situations, and the action is fast and exciting. The aliens look terrific, and I love how they scream and splatter when shot. I do have a few complaints however. First, it's never clear where the so-called "exit" is located, which can be frustrating. Next, there are times when the aliens seem impossible to avoid, so you'll take some mandatory hits. While the controls are decent overall, squatting down to fire low can be problematic. But these are minor issues. All in all, the fast pace and arcade style of Alien 3 makes the game hard to put down. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Alien Storm is a ho-hum side-scroller that lets you gleefully fry waves of invading aliens. The three playable characters include a man and woman decked out in cheesy superhero costumes and a robot who looks like Ultraman's uncle. Your weapons are short-range "fire blazers" that aren't particularly effective. And when I say short range, we're talking five feet!
With firepower this weak, you'd be better off bludgeoning the creeps with the butt of your gun! The urban locations are forgettable, but the aliens are disgusting enough. They tend to have this nasty habit of gnawing on your head.
Not cool! Alien Storm is a real button masher, so you'd be wise to enable the rapid-fire option on the menu screen. Your character also has an evasive roll and a limited special attack which inflicts damage to all the baddies on the screen. The gameplay is rinse-and-repeat all the way, and the bosses take forever
to kill. The game's saving grace is its frantic bonus stages. There are some fast-paced running sequences and first-person shooting stages that let you blast the hell out of alien-infested stores. It's actually more fun to destroy the items on the shelves - especially those oversized boom-boxes. Without these bonus stages, the monotony of this game might be unbearable. I should also mention that the game is very short and easy. I'm all for games that can be completed in one sitting, but the first sitting?!
Alien Storm is mildly amusing for a while, but it quickly wears on you and there's not a lot of replay value. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Altered Beast is a bizarre side-scroller where you battle legions of monsters and with the help of power-ups, can transform into a monster yourself. It's hard to believe this was the first Genesis pack-in game, considering how dark and violent it is. There's a great deal of blood and flying limbs. Powering up as quickly as possible is the key to winning. A transformation screen shows your character turning into a powerful monster such as a werewolf, dragon, or bear. They didn't have morphing technology in 1988, but it still looks cool. Levels range from a cool graveyard to some boring caverns (yawn). The bosses take forever to beat. The digitized voices sound terribly muffled and the collision detection is questionable at times. Two players can fight simultaneously, but the screen tends to get crowded because the characters are large. One particularly bizarre aspect is the charging pigs, many of which contain power-ups. Okay, they're supposed to be two-headed wolves, but they sure look like pigs to me. I like Altered Beast, but it's hardly a game that will appeal to the masses. Hint: Hold down A when pressing Start to resume play at the last level you were on. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Aquatic Games Starring James Pond
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
What a dog this is! I didn't think EA was capable of making anything this bad, but now I'm a believer! Aquatic Games is meant to be a light-heartened Olympics-style game. Among the aquatic creatures that participate is EA's not-so-popular fish character James Pond. I've always been a big fan of Track and Field style games, so I had some hope for this. Unfortunately, my hope evaporated once I tried a few of the "events", which have all the entertainment value of being kicked in the crotch over and over again. The first alarm went off when I realized that despite the fact that this is a four-player game, there is NO simultaneous play! Four players just take turns watching each other play, which is completely unacceptable considering EA created that nifty four-player adapter for the Genesis. And the events are just AWFUL! There are a few button-tapping running games, but the single CPU-controlled opponent is rarely on the screen. At least these are mercifully short. Other events go on and on long after you've lost interest. In one particular event you have to deflect beach balls away from some sleeping seals, and if the repetitive action wasn't bad enough, the event goes on for THREE minutes. Without a doubt these were the three longest minutes of my entire life. In another "event" you bounce up and down on sponges for three minutes while performing simple flips. In this one, I kept killing myself hoping it would end the event early, but to no avail. You'd think that of the eight events, I would at least have found one
to be somewhat enjoyable. But no - I absolutely HATED every last one of them! Aquatic Games is an exercise in misery - easily one of the worst games I've ever played on my Genesis. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Ariel the Little Mermaid
Publisher: Sega (1992)
It seems like every platform game has that obligatory underwater stage where everything slows to a crawl, pushing your patience to the limit. Well, in Little Mermaid, every stage
is like that! Joy!
I tend to enjoy 16-bit Disney titles like Aladdin, the Lion King, and Jungle Book, but the lack of quality here is glaring. Each level is an uninspired treasure hunt. Blame the water currents all you want, but the controls are just plain lousy
. At the very least you'd expect that fluid Disney animation to shine through, but the choppiness of this game hurts my eyes. Pat, can I buy a frame of animation?
Ariel's about as agile as a nuclear sub, and less graceful than Lindsay Lohan after a night of clubbing. And probably less responsive
as well! The levels incorporate reefs, pirate ships, and ruins, but each is just a sprawling underwater maze. Ariel's abrupt turns make it agonizingly difficult to navigate the narrow, craggy passages. The goal of each stage is to locate and rescue "mer-people", which look like little green worms until you touch them, causing them to transform. Electric eels pop out and snip at you without warning and fat sharks mindlessly swim back and forth. Aerial can fire musical notes, but they're weak. I hate how after you shatter a skeleton, touching an individual bone inflicts damage. A helpful map is available via the start button, but waiting for it to "unroll" across the screen is annoying. Sometimes you complete a level but the game won't let you exit for no apparent reason. Bosses exhibit no signs of damage as you pelt them, leaving you to wonder if you're doing the right thing. There's no password and no score - despite the fact that point values appear on the screen for killing certain creatures. The one redeeming aspect of this game is its pleasant steel drum music. The Little Mermaid is one of those games that sucks from the minute you begin playing and never stops. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Renovation (1990)
Arrow Flash is not
one of the more impressive Genesis shooters, but it has its moments. The upbeat opening theme immediately reminded me of Kim Wilde's hit single "Keep me Hangin' On". After that, things settle down. Better shooters try to wow you from the start, but Arrow Flash makes you sleepy. Not only do enemies approach in repetitive patterns, there are inexplicable lulls between waves! There's not much to see as you fly over layers of gray clouds. The music has spirit, but the sound effects lack punch. I nearly fell into a coma before being jolted by a flashing "OUT OF DANGER" message. Huh? Apparently that's the game's way of telling you a cut scene
is starting. At this point the action stops as a giant space cruiser slowly falls from the sky and plunges into the ocean below. A little splashing would have made it look more convincing, but I do like how the flames disappear and the hull turns blue as the ship cools off. Arrow Flash finally gains some traction in stage two, which ratchets up the difficulty and offers better variety. Once you power-up your blasters and shields you can really get into a zone. Sadly, taking one hit reduces you back to the 'ole pea shooter (doh!). The A button allows you to toggle forms between a mech robot and a streamlined space ship, each of which offers a slightly different special attack. I don't think it adds as much strategy as it intended to. The options menu offers a rapid-fire feature, and you'd be absolutely insane not to use it. Arrow Flash is one of those run-of-the-mill shooters that serves its purpose but fails to leave a lasting impression. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 180,310
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
Of all the attempts to rip-off Sonic the Hedgehog, Awesome Possum may be the most blatant offender. I can only imagine what those early design discussions at Tengen were like. "Hey, we need a new video game character! What marsupial hasn't been taken yet?" We just can't get enough of those small, furry mammals can we? Apparently we can
, because Awesome Possum's unlikability quotient is off the charts! This scrawny little rodent is one seriously ugly
bastard, and his grainy, high-pitched voice spews all sorts of idiotic nonsense like "I'm awesome!", "I'm so cool!", and "Don't pollute!" Just hearing that last line makes me want to run out and pour motor oil into the nearest stream! And whenever you hear his maniacal laugh, you'll want to reach into the TV and beat the living [expletive] out of that unappealing SOB. The game looks bad in general. Foreground objects are sloppy and grainy, and the backgrounds look dark and muddy. The framerate is so choppy you'll want to divert your eyes, and the level design is infuriating. In one stage you'll whiz through a series of tunnels only to be tossed into a set of elevated buzz saws! Your adversaries include chainsaw-toting gray robots which can be defeated by Awesome's patented spin attack. And when I say patented, I mean patented by Sonic
of course. Awesome Possum is woefully unoriginal, which is also evident in the derivative rainforest, underwater, and ice stages. The background music is a few notches below Casio keyboard quality, and the muffled sound effects are grating. Between stages you're presented with trivia questions which make little or no sense. Awesome Possum is one platformer that should only be played out of morbid curiosity - don't expect to derive any degree of enjoyment. Heck, Awesome even makes that lame-ass Bubsy
look cool by comparison! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Back in the day my friend Bobby would sometimes go to the mall with me to help me pick out a new game. He would point to this one and ask, "What about B.O.B.?" with a sheepish grin. On the surface B.O.B. looks like every tired side-scrolling platformer you've ever played. The main character is a goofy orange robot that navigates maze-like space stations and slimy alien lairs. Fortunately B.O.B. has a few tricks up his metallic sleeve to spice things up. First and foremost, he can collect any number of weapons and special items, using the pause screen to select which are active. While tedious at first, the system actually adds quite a bit of strategy and replay value. There are some potent weapons like a triple shot, a flamethrower, and heat-seeking missiles. Special items let B.O.B. fly, deploy a shield, or freeze enemies. You can save your shield power-up for the really tough sections, and keep a few trampolines on hand in case you fall into a pit. The game has a lot of wacky animations and it's satisfying to watch enemies shatter (or splatter) to bits when you blast them. The controls are pretty good, and I like how you can fire while hanging off ladders and pipes. The stages are nicely detailed and each has alternate routes and hidden areas. The back of the box boasts about "40 grueling levels". That's great - except for the "grueling" part. The scenery gets repetitive, and during advanced stages you're subject to a lot of cheap hits. It's really annoying when enemies "overlap" you, with only you taking damage. Fortunately you're issued a 6-digit password after every few stages. The cheesy dialogue is badly outdated ("totally!") but the catchy music effectively transports you back in time to 1993. B.O.B. is easily overlooked but this is an enjoyable romp that ultimately won me over. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 62,400
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
Creating a 3D fighter for the Sega Genesis is a tall order, but Accolade gets no credit for this mess. Ballz is one of those games that sucks
on so many levels. While most 3D fighters use polygon graphics, the Genesis can't handle those very well, so Ballz renders its characters with scaling circles, shaded to look like spheres. The 3D effect isn't bad, as the characters fluidly execute their very imaginative set of moves. All eight fighters are uniquely wacky in appearance, ranging from gorilla-like Yoko to the feminine Divine. Defeated opponents fall apart, leaving balls bouncing all over the place. Once you get over the 3D effect however, you're left with a really shallow game. Fighting involves little if any technique, so contests quickly degenerate into button mashing affairs. I can't remember the last time I lost interest in a game so quickly. It doesn't help that Ballz conveys an irreverent attitude that borders on crude. The box even boasts about how you can fart
on your opponents. Pretty classy, huh? The fighting "arena" is surrounded by television screens that flash idiotic wisecracks like "Ballzai!" and "Lick the mat chump!" The game's atrocious "music" (if you can call it that) is composed of a hodgepodge of grating digitized samples. Needless to say, it's so execrably bad that it alone
could justify the F
grade. Like so many other games that attempt to be edgy and funny, Ballz comes off as completely tasteless and obnoxious. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Bare Knuckle 3 (Japan)
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Bare Knuckle 3 is the original Japanese version of Streets of Rage 3. After playing both back-to-back, I can tell you that the American edition feels watered down and is generally an inferior product. Bare Knuckle 3 begins an elaborate introduction and a different background story. The side-scrolling fighting action is much
faster and the controls feel far more responsive. The difficulty is lower, making it easier to dispatch thugs quickly and advance far into the game. The graphic differences are a little more subtle. The playable characters wear different colored outfits, and most notably Blaze is wearing her bright red skirt (opposed to the gray one). The chicks in the gangs look a lot sluttier
in this game, with far more revealing outfits. The pier stage features a boss that doesn't even appear in the American version. This guy is decked out in a purple jacket, green tights, and a thong. He prances around in a flamboyantly gay manner, and frankly it's hilarious. The gangs have different color schemes and names than their Streets of Rage 3 counterparts. The fat thugs now have rolling attacks (in addition to their fire-breathing) and I noticed that during the bar battle bottles fall off the bar. Even the instruction manual is better, offering 32 glossy pages complete with conceptual art. Heck, there's even a quick-reference move sheet! Overall Bare Knuckle 3 is a far more playable and memorable title than Streets of Rage 3. Fans of the series really owe it to themselves to experience this one as it was originally intended. Note: This Japanese cartridge will play on American Genesis system with the help of a Game Genie code. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 195,330
1 or 2 players
Barkley Shut Up and Jam
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
Shut Up and Jam tries to be a "street ball" version of NBA Jam, but it's a brick, thanks to its muddled graphics and sloppy physics. A two-on-two basketball game with no NBA license, you're limited to fictional players like Stonewall, D-Train, Sweet Pea, and Funky-D. The only "real" player is Charles Barkley himself. Shut Up and Jam's visuals feature large but indistinct players. They are smoothly animated, but the ball is not. In fact, it's not unusual to see "the rock" take a 90 degree turn in mid-air
. It's also hard to tell when the ball passes through the hoop. The controls are similar to NBA Jam, with shoot, pass, steal, and block - but the turbo function is different. Pressing the turbo button gives you a few seconds of "power-up" time, but this is only indicated by a tiny circle on the top of the screen. You'd think the street-themed courts would be interesting, including locales like a ghetto, roof, beach, and junkyard, but you'd be wrong. The scenery is bland and totally static. Shut Up and Jam's mediocre graphics are matched by equally lousy audio. The repetitive "music" (actually just a bass-heavy beat) is unbearable after a few minutes, and the voice samples are indiscernible. I still have no idea what the game says as you turn it on. With so many good basketball games for the Genesis, Shut Up and Jam doesn't have much to offer, but Sir Charles does appreciate your money. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sunsoft (1991)
Of all the Genesis Batman games, the first one has held up best over the years. Relatively short in length and simple to play, Batman offers clean, crisp graphics, excellent control, and well-designed stages. Fans will appreciate how the storyline follows the movie from the factory, to the museum, to the final confrontation with the Joker in the tower. The cut-scenes, which fill in the storyline, are brief but fun to watch. Batman's graphics have an old-school charm. The small characters have black outlines, and the thugs all basically look (and dress) the same. It's amusing to watch the bad guys "evolve" as you progress through the stages. They're easy targets in the beginning, but eventually "learn" how to shoot, then to crouch, and eventually they're flipping all over the place. One of the bosses is named "Bob the Goon", which my buddy Eric and I always found to be pretty hilarious. Batman's tight controls allow you to punch, kick, toss Batarangs, and hoist yourself up to higher ledges using your grappling hook. You have a limited number of Batarangs, and if you can save them for the bosses, it'll make your life a lot easier. Batman's audio features a generic soundtrack, and the sound effects are minimal. You won't find many surprises in the platform action, but the driving and flying sequences are a real treat. Actually they play more like side-scrolling shooters. In the Batmobile, you mow down cars, vans, and tanks on the road, while the Batwing stage lets you shoot down helicopters and balloons. I especially love those heat-seeking missiles, which effectively slice through several vehicles at a time. Batman for the Genesis may not be a showcase title for the system, but in terms of pure fun, it's hard to beat. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Despite knowing full well the dreadful legacy of this infamous game, I tried to keep an objective mind when doing this re-review. After sitting through the game's annoying intro screens (DC, Acclaim, Warner Bros, Probe Entertainment, etc.), the game presented a "credits" segment which introduced the "actors". See, Batman Forever uses digitized actors (a la Mortal Kombat) instead of hand-drawn sprites, and I must say, they look pretty good. Unfortunately, the developers must have spent most of their time in the digitization process, because the rest of the game is absolute garbage. It feels like an awkward attempt to fuse platform action with a second-rate Mortal Kombat engine. Batman Forever is practically unplayable, largely due to its deplorable
control scheme. Outside of simple jumps, blocks, and punches, executing any move requires a complicated series of button presses! Considering the game supports the six-button controller, this is unforgivable. Even simple moves like tossing a Batarang, performing a leg sweep, or falling into a hole are inordinately difficult! In the first stage, I had to pull myself through a hole in the ceiling, and it took me a good ten minutes to figure out how (and I'm still
not sure how I did it). Later, I had to drop down through a hole in the floor - a no-brainer in most games. But incredibly, it took several minutes of button mashing to do it (the manual is worthless). The stage design is equally appalling, with doorways that magically become unblocked on one level after you defeat a group of thugs on another. In one instance, I walked behind a wall, and found myself staring at total blackness, unable to determine what was blocking my progress. Fighting each character is like a short game of Mortal Kombat, except without the fun. The bad guys sport un-intimidating names like "Mad Dan" and "Billy", and each has a long life meter. Batman Forever does give you the opportunity to play as Batman or Robin, but Robin looks like he's wearing a cheap costume. Two people can play at once, but it's too awkward due to the size of the characters and the fact that you can't walk past each other (somebody's always in the way). And while the characters look sharp and colorful, the rest of the presentation is lousy. The backgrounds look boring and hand-drawn. Couldn't they have digitized some sets from the film? The music is not good, and the voice synthesis is horrendous. After listening to a clip, it'll take you a good 10 seconds to figure out what the heck the static you just heard was trying to say. The game's box has the gall to claim the game has "over 80 stages" and "over 125 moves". Even if that dubious claim were true, I doubt any gamer would have the patience to see them all. Batman Forever was widely heralded as the "worst game of 1995" by magazines of the time. In my book, it's the worst Genesis title ever
. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
My buddy Eric and I recently revisited this old platformer and enjoyed it nearly as much as we did back in the day! Batman Returns is far more sophisticated than the first Genesis Batman - and a lot harder! The film provided plenty of rich material including colorful circus freaks, snow-covered scenery, and memorable villains like Catwoman and the Penguin. Those tall, lanky clowns look downright freaky! Our caped crusader looks particularly sharp, and he struts around with some serious attitude. With a utility belt at his disposal, he can toss bombs, hurl heat-seeking Bat-a-rangs, unleash swarms of bats, and swing from his grappling hook. The controls are not
easy to grasp, and even 20 years later I find myself leafing through the manual. Even those who master the controls will fall prey to many cheap, unavoidable hits. Batman Returns is a relentless game with a substantial learning curve. Jesters and gargoyles lurch from the scenery, and when defeated they go up in a puff of smoke accompanied by a truly irritating sound effect. Machine-gun-toting clowns on unicycles terrorize you to no end, and there are traps that are partly obstructed from view
. It's not for the weak of heart, but the designers did a good job of evoking the dark, gothic atmosphere of the film. The moody soundtrack gets under your skin and the grainy graphics just add to the dilapidated look of the buildings. The punch-and-jump action is genuinely fun despite checkpoints that sometimes force you to restart an entire level (gah!). Your life meter is replenished whenever you complete a stage, so at least you have that
going for you. The digitized cut-scenes are a real treat. Arcade-minded gamers will probably gravitate toward the better-looking SNES version, but this Batman Returns may have the edge when it comes to that all-important "fun factor". © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: EVV 108,300
Batman Revenge of the Joker
Publisher: Sunsoft (1992)
This is basically the 16-bit version of Batman Return of the Joker for the NES, but instead of an upgrade, this is actually a big step down
. I knew I was in trouble when I saw Batman on the opening screen showing off his junk
. That's disturbing. The NES original featured terrific graphics relative to the system, but the visuals in Revenge of the Joker are substandard. Batman is poorly proportioned and looks more like a little kid in a cheap Halloween costume. The first stage places Batman on a rooftop with factories bellowing red and blue "smoke" in the distance. Revenge of the Joker is more of a platform shooter than a side-scrolling fighter, as our hero is armed with all sorts of projectile weapons. As Batman forges through cities, sewers, snowy mountains, and jungles, he'll face a lot of Rambo-types with machine guns and rocket launchers. But these foes are nothing compared to the technical issues you'll need to contend with. It seems like all the flaws from the NES game have been magnified in this version. Cheap hits are the order of the day and the touchy jumping controls are awful. The collision detection is deplorable!
You'll take hit from spiked balls that don't even come close
to touching you. The moving platforms in stage two completely blend into the surroundings, the falling "meteors" in the third stage are super cheap. Even the music sucks. There's no score, but there are unlimited continues. Revenge of the Joker is pretty bad on all counts, with its only redeeming feature being that it makes the NES version look respectable. It's hard to believe that Sunsoft, who produced so many quality side-scrollers for the Genesis (including the first Batman) could botch this one so badly. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Rare (1991)
Battletoads was an institution
on the NES, but on the Genesis it feels a little stale! One would expect the developers to leverage some of that crunchy 16-bit goodness, but this is pretty much a straight port. The graphics are slightly
more detailed than the NES game, but well below average for the Genesis. The music has been redone, but whether it's an improvement is questionable. Still, this is
Battletoads so there's fun to be had. It's a simple arcade-style brawler starring a pair of frogs on steroids. You'll pound demonic pigs, rats, and birds to a pulp with your fists before sending them flying off the screen with a swift kick. These minions are under the control of the Dark Queen - the hottest villain to ever grace a video game! Holy cow!
Our toad heroes venture through active volcanoes, rappel down pits, and explore icy caverns. I found this slightly easier than the NES version, mainly because you can rack up crazy points (and free lives) by kicking birds into the walls repeatedly during the pit stage. The collision detection could be better however, and the two players tend to get in each other's way with annoying frequency. Some stages wear out their welcome (like the floating bikes), but there's plenty of variety and a few surprises - including a cameo by the Space Invaders. Battletoads is a lot less impressive on the Genesis, but arcade fans should still enjoy this wacky romp. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: CS 347,000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
When it comes to fighting games, Beast Wrestler is hands-down the undisputed champion
in the category of "best cover". The dramatic box art depicts some ominous dragon creature raising a sword in triumph over a vanquished beast. The smoke and lighting effects get you psyched up for a dark, atmospheric game of thrills and excitement. Beast Wrestler is not
that game. No, this is a painfully slow fighter with constant clinches, confusing animations, unresponsive controls, and endless bouts. It's the kind of game that's frankly not even worth winning. You select from 15 bizarre creatures that look pretty intriguing on the selection screen. Among them is a jellyfish monster, a robot, a winged demon, and a hideous snake creature. These are meant to be gargantuan in size, but the action on the screen belies their stature. They lumber around a square arena, and the high angle prevents you from seeing much scenery. The creatures are fairly detailed and they rotate slightly to face their adversary. The attacks are incredibly lame though, with the "tail whip" being the only one that seems to work. Once the monsters are clinched, the game degenerates into a button-mashing affair. I'm glad most of the tie-up moves look sexual in nature, because if you couldn't laugh at this game it would be completely
pointless. A lot of times a creature will bounce off the ropes indefinitely because the other can't even make contact
with him! Occasionally both creatures will keel over for no discernible reason. The indicators at the bottom of the screen make it hard to tell who's winning, or even if any damage has been inflicted. Let's face it - nobody wins in a game like this. Beast Wrestler is probably the worst fighting game ever made, but I bet that cover sold a few copies. Suckers!
Oh wait... © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Beavis and Butthead
Publisher: Viacom (1994)
I was never a huge Beavis and Butthead fan, but I did find them mildly amusing when they first appeared on MTV in the early 90's. Ah, those were the days! This game actually does a fine job of recreating their juvenile, tasteless antics. The large, well-animated characters mimic their mannerisms exceptionally well. Although you only control one character at a time, they move in unison (unless you play with two players). The confusing user interface lets you switch between characters and manipulate items. The game itself provides a virtual world loaded with sights and gags from the television episodes. The locations are fun to explore, and include a school, mall, hospital, drive-in, Burger World, and a concert. I was pleased to hear some of their witty one-liners ("fart knocker!") thanks to some respectable voice synthesis. Even the music reminds me of the TV show. Unfortunately, the gameplay falls flat. The object is to collect objects that help Beavis and Butt-head locate their lost Gwar concert tickets, but everywhere they go they are constantly bombarded with cheap hits. There are also a number of instant deaths that bring the game to an abrupt conclusion. Although our heroes are "armed" with fart and burp attacks, the collision detection is atrocious. It's like the game won't let you enjoy it. That's a shame, because otherwise it does an uncanny job of capturing the spirit of the show. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Bill Walsh College Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Playing this game may give you deja-vu, because it's basically Madden '94 with college teams and a new playbook. Since Madden '94 isn't so bad, Bill Walsh isn't bad either, but it doesn't really offer anything new like the Sega College Football games did. You can play as one of 48 teams, including 24 from 1992 and the top 24 since 1978. The problem is you'll want to play as your hometown team, but chances are it isn't included! See the Madden '94 review for more details on gameplay. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Nuvision (1990)
For a game that came out so early in the Genesis' life cycle, Bimini Run is very impressive on a technical level. In this mission-based shooter, you control a red speedboat on the open seas. Viewing the action from just behind your boat, the scenery scales by smoothly and convincingly. You'll weave around friendly sailboats, sink black speedboats, shoot down helicopters, and blast towers on islands. Advanced stages even introduce sea monsters and great white sharks. Bimini Run looks great. The water effects are not bad at all as you bounce over the waves, the rapid-fire shooting is intense, and the explosions are sweet. It's especially satisfying to send a helicopter into a tailspin. Another pleasant surprise is the audio, featuring an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack and surprisingly clear voice synthesis. But as impressed as I was with Bimini Run, in terms of fun it's only average at best. It's hard to see enemy missiles approaching, and it's awfully
easy to run aground on the islands (much to my consternation). While the missions attempt to inject some variety, it all boils down to shooting the same things over and over, and gets monotonous. Nevertheless, Bimini Run is completely different from anything else I've played on the Genesis, so collectors will want to take notice. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Bio Hazard Battle
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Bio Hazard Battle's "biology-experiment-gone-wrong" theme features all sorts of freaky, slimy creatures which are both fascinating and unsettling. The four playable "ships" are actually grotesque hybrids of insects and sea life. Enemies include flying squid, frog-crabs, giant slugs, sperm-shaped creatures, and pulsating hairy brown ball sacks. If you're not cracking jokes while playing this then you're not trying!
Slick animation conveys the illusion of slithering, oozing organic life. The flat, undulating centipedes look amazing, and those "liquid metal" creatures look like something from Terminator 2. Each ship has four upgradable weapons equipped by touching colored pods. Part of the fun is finding the most effective weapon for each stage. Unfortunately, avoiding the weapons you don't
want is as challenging as snagging the ones you do!
Some offer terrific coverage (like the 8-way blue shot). You might feel invincible, but stay away from the edge of the screen which can spell instant death. Fortunately losing a ship lets you keep your weapon - minus one power-up level. A secondary cannon floats by your side, and although you can position it in any direction, it tends to stray at times. One effective tactic is placing this cannon on top of
an enemy to inflict substantial damage. Bio Hazard's first stage has no boss
which is actually very refreshing. Bosses in subsequent stages tend to wear out their welcome, but don't they always? The difficulty is up there, but that's part of what makes the game compelling. Back in 1992 I bought Bio Hazard Battle on the strength of its two-player coop mode, which was pretty novel for the time. And despite the rampant slow-down, my friends and I played this game for hours on end trying to see how far we could get before chewing up all of the continues. I also have to commend the musical score. I don't think I've ever heard a soundtrack so appropriate for a game. The songs are weird but catchy, and played in a minor key with a reverberating quality that makes your skin crawl. With so many bizarre sights and sounds, Bio Hazard Battle is one of the more memorable - and underrated - Genesis shooters. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 35,650
1 or 2 players
Blades of Vengeance
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
When was the last time you walked over a collapsing bridge, fell into lava, and was forced to jump frantically to escape? As the Video Game Critic, this type of [expletive] happens to me all the time!
Blades of Vengeance is pretty typical in design as medieval side-scrolling platformers go. Assuming the role of one of three warriors (barbarian, huntress, wizard) you forge your way through caverns loaded with monsters, treasure chests, and traps. The jumping controls could be more precise, but the straightforward, hack-n-slash gameplay is fun and addictive. The characters look terrific and their animations have a flair for the dramatic. The stages take you through mountains, caverns, swamps, and castles. The scenery is artistically rendered with a lot of colorful sunsets. The platform jumping is forgiving, which is good because you take damage for falling. The stage layouts are reasonable but sometimes you may wonder if you're moving in circles. Impressive-looking adversaries include werewolves, skeleton warriors, spiders, and gargoyles. The small, scampering fire creatures are adoreable, and I was caught off-guard the first time I saw a bat transform into a vampire. Most creatures can withstand several hacks, but your block move is highly effective. I like how monsters don't regenerate when you revisit past areas, and after losing a life you conveniently pick up close to where you left off. Adding extra flavor are power-up potions like health, force field, and invisibility. You select these from the pause screen and hit the A button to activate them. The music is pure 16-bit gold. A two-player coop mode is included, but since you're playing on a single plane, it's too confusing. If there's one thing that really annoyed me about this game, it's how the bosses take too many hits and generally wear out their welcome. Still, Blades of Vengeance is highly entertaining, and the fact that I can't stop playing it is a testament to that. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 42,410
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Interact (1994)
Boogerman is actually a respectable platform action game, but let's face it -- with a name like Boogerman, who's going to take it seriously? Controls include a jump button, a mucus button, and a gas button. I think you can see where this is going. The whole gimmick behind Boogerman is the ability to make the goofy-looking hero burp, fart, flick boogers, and hock loogies. You can even fly using your ass as a jetpack! Please kids, don't try this at home! I have to admit Boogerman is very well animated and his moves will crack you up. The game itself is your standard platform action fare, with enemies and backgrounds that are much less interesting than the main character. This game has some novelty value, but not a whole lot more. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Publisher: Sony (1993)
I loved the movie, but this game doesn't do the film justice - it feels like a third-rate Castlevania. The storyline hardly resembles the movie at all. You control the character played by Keanu Reeves through a series of castle, forest, and graveyard stages. With his preppy clothes and relaxed body posture, he looks like he should be loafing around the mall instead of battling the living dead. He can jump, slash, and shoot (if he finds a weapon). The scenery is not particularly creepy and the music is way too upbeat. Although there are some cool enemies like skeletons, zombies, and werewolves, you are more likely to be taken down by all those annoying tiny rats that scurry around each level. And there are cheap hits galore! Spears shoot out above or below you, giving you no warning or time to react. Heck, even when you know they're coming they're impossible to avoid. All-in-all, Dracula is very mediocre. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
In the early 90's Bubsy firmly established himself as the most reviled character in video game history. The fact that I am subjecting myself to his ill-advised sequel raises serious questions about my mental health. Sporting an idiotic demeanor, irritating voice, and corny sense of humor, Bubsy is a national embarrassment on par with Jar Jar Binks. His wacky animations and digitized quips ("Is there a doctor in the house?!"
) will make you cringe. The stages consist of whatever random garbage the designers could pull out of their butts. You'll get pyramids, castles, and worlds of musical instruments but there's no rhyme or reason to any of it. I selected a pirate stage only to end up in some kind of space station. Each area is strewn with hazards but you never know what's harmful and what's helpful. Some objects inexplicably propel you into the air while others are fatal to the touch. I often found myself keeling over for no apparent reason. The controls are a mess as you're constantly sliding and diving all over the place. The stages have "bad design" written all over them. When designers feel the need to place large arrows all over the place, it's time to consider a new line of work. Toss in some obnoxious sound effects and grating carnival music and you have an unmitigated disaster. I can appreciate the full-colored manual (a rarity for the Genesis), but the game itself is about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop
. Bubsy 2 sets the bar so low that every game I review from here on out will be outstanding by default. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 7750
Bubsy: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind
Publisher: Accolade (1993)
In 1991, a spunky little hedgehog named Sonic won over the gaming masses with his dizzying speed and loveable personality. But in 1993, a goofy cat with a scratchy voice burst onto the scene. Now
who would be the most beloved video game character? Oh yeah - still Sonic. If anything, Bubsy was more of an embarrassment than anything else. The game's large characters and mountainous backgrounds tried to mimic the Sonic formula, but the results were pretty pathetic. How can waterfalls pour off of the tops of trees
?! Unlike the popular hedgehog, Bubsy is a complete loser, and his antics are more irritating than amusing. Bubsy's adversaries are equally unlikable, and some are actually creepy
in appearance. The audio is borderline offensive, with hokey music and rough voice samples that are guaranteed to make you cringe (that cat must be a chain smoker). Oh, and wait, it gets worse. Fans of Sonic's hyper style of play will roll their eyes in disgust when they realize Bubsy is so fragile that he can't even withstand falls
. Hell, he can't even roll down a hill
without dying! And with so many inconspicuous objects being deadly to the touch (including water), you'll keel over time and time again for no apparent reason. The inexact controls and poorly designed stages won't do you any favors either. It's hard to tell where you can or can't jump, and the game expects you to make a too many "leaps of faith". Bubsy does have the ability to glide through the air, although that makes little sense considering he's a cat
for Pete's sake! He also rides down "water flumes", but in general the gameplay is slow and tedious. I'm still trying to determine how Bubsy managed to grace the cover of Electronics Gaming Monthly in February 1993, or spawn a few sequels. If you're tired of fun games with imaginative graphics and catchy music, give Bubsy a try. He's the anti-
Sonic! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Bulls Vs. Blazers
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
I'll never forget how disappointed I was when I bought this game. My friend Eric was with me when I traded in my old Bulls vs. Lakers game (at the local trade-in store) and proceeded to buy Bulls vs. Blazers at Toys 'R Us for some exorbitant amount ($70 if I recall). When we got back to my house and fired it up, we were mortified to discover that it was practically identical
to Bulls vs. Lakers! Heck, even the intro music
is the same! The back of the box should have tipped me off. Instead of listing "new features", it lists "key" features, most of which are included in the previous edition. The few new features are negligible. Basically, you can adjust your "press" and "steal aggressiveness", and create custom all-star teams. Big deal. Actually I do remember Eric and I using this "create team" feature. He created a five-man team of short Mark Prices, and I stocked mine with a bunch of tall Patrick Ewing clones. His little white guys were running circles around my lumbering giants, and I took quite a beating. At its core, Bulls Vs. Blazers uses the same lethargic engine as its predecessors, and the best players are unstoppable once they find their "spot" on the floor. Charles Barkley's signature slam is performed at the foul line with no running start, and it's not unusual for him to pass through several defenders on the way up. EA was clearly content to pump out rehashes in the early 90's (imagine that). I eventually sold Bulls vs. Blazers to my friend Tuan for $17 (after getting NBA Jam), and I still remember him calling me up and complaining about how incredibly slow
it was. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Bulls Vs. Lakers
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
The second iteration of EA's basketball franchise has a slew of new features, including alley-oops, team logos on home courts, instant replays, and an innovative "T-meter" for foul shots (still used in modern b-ball games). An easy-to-see star appears beneath your selected player, and the number of teams has been increased from 10 to 16. The ball can now roll around the rim, although the physics isn't the least bit convincing. If there's one aspect of Bulls Vs. Lakers that kicks ass, it's the intro music. Otherwise the game is strangely quiet, save for a few sparse voice samples ("three!"). Despite the new bells and whistles, the core engine is the same as Lakers Vs. Celtics, so you can expect the action to be slow and choppy. It is easier to score and steal however, which increases the excitement and overall tempo of the game. But it may be too
easy to score. Your marquee player can practically score at will when he reaches the top of the key, penetrating several defenders in the process. I also don't like how certain player abilities belie those of real life (John Stockton slamming, for example). Finally, the TV-style presentation has been dropped for reasons unknown. All in all, Bulls Vs. Lakers is a step forward in the evolution of the series, but not a huge step. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing
Publisher: Sega (1990)
When James "Buster" Douglas defeated Mike Tyson on Feb 11, 1990, it was one of the biggest moments in boxing history. It must
have been, because Buster got his very own Sega Genesis game out of the deal! This one is a truly real button masher - the video game equivalent of Rock-em Sock-em Robots. The graphics are pretty sweet though, with super-detailed fighters that consume a large portion of the screen. Check out those gleaming, rippling muscles! You get a side-view of the action, and in the background an overweight referee and static crowd can be seen. For some reason the crowd doesn't scroll as you move across the ring, making it look like the ropes
are moving instead of the fighters! You can either play against a friend or ascend the ranks against the computer. In addition to Buster Douglas, the game offers fictional fighters including Dynamite Joe, Kim Nang, Fernando Gomez, and King Jason. The gameplay is fast but shallow. A and B throw fast punches, and C is used to block. Pressing A and B together let you throw "slow" punches, but I really don't see the point. In my experience you'll just trade punches at arms' length until one guy hits the deck. Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing is fun for a quick bout every now and then, but it's too shallow to hold your attention for long. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
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