Publisher: Tengen (1989)
This archaic racer is barely playable today, but it was pretty amazing for its time. Hard Drivin' was the first arcade game with first-person, 3D polygon graphics, and it was released long before Virtua Racing took the arcades by storm. The game includes a standard race track and an elaborate "stunt" track, complete with a ramp, loop-to-loop, and banked turns. Just surviving the stunt course is a major challenge. But unlike Virtua Racing, Hard Drivin' has NOT aged well. Its framerate is agonizingly slow, and the cars look like ugly boxes. Sparse scenery includes streets signs, small buildings, and other traffic. An unnecessary instrument panel takes up a large chunk of the screen. At least the instant-replays are somewhat amusing. Hard Drivin' isn't very enjoyable, but it is interesting to see how racing games have evolved over the years. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Accolade (1991)
Despite making a splash on the PC, Hardball had a hard time competing in the console world. And it's easy to see why. This game lacks the basic features gamers expect in a baseball title. There are no major league players or teams - just city names. There's only one stadium, and it's very generic. You can't jump or dive for batted balls. You can't take practice swings. There's no instant replay. And if the repetitive background music doesn't get on your nerves, the umpire's throaty "steerike!
" calls certainly will. The graphics are clean and well defined, but the players aren't well proportioned. The controls are spread over 30 pages
of the instruction book. Each pitcher has a unique set of pitches, and the speed gun is a nice touch. Batting is easy enough, but directing your baserunners is like herding cats
. The game also does a lousy job of choosing which fielder you control after the ball is hit. But these are small potatoes compared to one insidious design flaw that is guaranteed to drive you nuts.
Before each and every pitch, the player at bat must press the A button before the pitcher can throw. The first time I played Hardball with my friend Steve it took us ten minutes
just to figure out how to throw the damn ball! This flaw destroys
the two-player experience, and even when playing the CPU I sometimes find myself staring at the screen wondering why nothing's happening. Hardball didn't have much going for it to begin with, but this user interface blunder pushed me over the edge. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
Hardball 94 is feature-rich, but its core gameplay could have used a little more attention. All the baseball players are licensed and each batter is introduced with a grainy digitized photo. Unfortunately the teams are not
licensed, so the uniforms look all wrong. You get different stadiums for each team, but they only vaguely resemble the real thing. I noticed that Camden Yards had the "Hit it here" sign on the outfield wall (which was correct), but the dimensions are way off. The menu interface is confusing as hell and it took me and my friend Steve about ten minutes
to figure out how to set up a two-player game. If you can locate it, a robust option screen lets you adjust every aspect of the game from difficulty to pitcher fatigue. I like how you can select between a pitcher or batter view, and I personally prefer the pitcher angle. Picture-in-picture windows are used to show runners on base, and an instant replay is also available. A battery backup can save a full 162 game season, and you can even save your own highlights
. Where Hardball 94 is lacking is on the field. The digitized players look sharp but when running their legs move too fast for their bodies - like an old Road Runner cartoon. You almost expect to hear that goofy sound effect. Fielding balls in the infield is no problem, but the screen doesn't zoom in for hits to the outfield, making fly balls frustratingly hard to judge. The home run musical theme sounds truly bizarre - like the theme to the Odd Couple or something. Hardball 94 looks impressive when you read the back of the box, but the game itself doesn't live up to its promise. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Accolade (1995)
As the final edition of Hardball for the Genesis, this 1995 edition offers some impressive features like live play-by-play and actual stadiums. Al Michaels does a pretty good job of calling the game but sounds very robotic. The digitized players look great in the pitcher/batter screens, and you can choose between either the pitcher's or batter's perspective. Unfortunately the pitcher view stinks because the batter crowds the plate, making it hard to locate the "target marker" in the strike zone. The batter view is much more playable, and you get the added benefit of seeing the stadium backdrops. Unfortunately Hardball 95's nifty visuals are overshadowed by fundamental flaws in the gameplay. The players in the field move way too fast
, making it possible for outfielders to throw out runners trying to advance even one base
on a hit! It's hard to judge fly balls and sometimes it's not really clear whether you actually caught the thing or not! The homerun theme song is now something that sounds like a kid singing "nany nany boo boo". Wow, that is just pathetic. Hardball 95 has the look of a franchise treading water. The addition of ballparks and play-by-play give it the edge over the previous edition, but its gameplay deserved a lot more attention. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Haunting Starring Polterguy, The
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This wonderfully imaginative game lets you
do the spooking instead of being spooked! Haunting Starring Polterguy places you in the role of a mischievous ghost exacting revenge on the family responsible for his demise. Each stage presents a spacious new house for you to frighten all four family members out of. Scaring is done by setting "traps" that cause all sorts of supernatural phenomena. You roam around unseen by the family, but your goofy green appearance calls to mind the Mask, especially when you break into dance or spike your head like a football. The family members are easy to scare, as they tend to take notice of the furniture and fixtures you've rigged. Traps initiate brief but amusing "scare" animations such as knives flying out of a drawer, a head busting through a television, or a levitating rocking chair. Considering the limited resolution of the Genesis, the visuals are extremely well done and some are surprisingly gory. Certain sequences are more elaborate than others. In the shower, a hot babe in a towel does a little dance before revealing her body to be a rotting corpse! In the game room, a basketball player shoots his head
through a hoop, only to have it fall into the fish tank below, turning the water blood red. Some animations are more weird than scary, like the stereo that transforms into a robot, or the plant that spawns a swarm of bees. Sometimes you have the opportunity to control an object like a levitating skull or chainsaw, and these are useful for preventing your victim from leaving the room. Toying with the family is very amusing thanks to the sheer number of trap animations. Your victims react in a number of ways, including peeing
themselves! Unfortunately, a few times per stage you'll find yourself running low on "ectoplasm", and this is where Haunting's gameplay takes a turn for the worse. You're then dumped into an underground dungeon maze loaded with pits, flying objects, and grabbing arms. Here you must collect a number of green blobs before you can return to the house, and it's painfully repetitive. Haunting Starring Polterguy offers no
continues and has no
password feature. My buddy Steve and I played this game for what seemed like hours, but by the time it was over, we were absolutely sick
of it! I enjoy the minor-key music that plays throughout the game, but the scream effects are rough. I love the concept behind Haunting, but it's long on novelty value and short on replay value. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Micronet (1991)
For the love of God
man! This may be the worst Genesis game of all time
! Heavy Nova is so utterly revolting
that it made me want to go play Bubsy
! Yes, I realize that qualifies as "crazy talk", but Heavy Nova is the video game equivalent of throwing up in your mouth. I should have been tipped off by the back of the box, which describes the game as "Amazinly Exciting!" It opens with a stylish, cinematic intro depicting ominous approaching space vessels, followed by some nice close-ups of your terminator-inspired robot. At this point, I was actually getting a bit psyched up, but little did I know the degree of wretchedness I was about to inflict upon myself. Heavy Nova puts you in "control" (in theory at least) of a large robot that looks like something out of Cyborg Justice (Sega, 1993). Each stage challenges you traverse a brief, unimaginative obstacle course of lasers, falling rocks, and small droids before facing off against the obligatory mech "boss" (inexplicably referred to as a "Doll"). Your robot is one seriously uncontrollable hunk of metal. While it's possible to kick, punch, and fire your jetpack, the controls are less responsive than a cable TV customer service department. The lag time with the controls is so reprehensible that you'll swear you're playing over a 300-baud dial-up modem (vintage 1982). During boss sequences, the game attempts to be a one-on-one fighter, but don't ditch that Street Fighter 2 cartridge just yet. As the boss pounds your sorry ass into oblivion, you'll struggle in vain just to land a single blow! Heck, half of the time your robot is facing the wrong direction
! Controls are especially problematic because you need to use one hand to hold your nose the whole time
. Only by using the stage select feature (on the options menu) did I realize that subsequent stages are just as pointless. Even the soundtrack is offensive - it's nothing more than a disjointed series of random notes! Heavy Nova lowers the bar for all Genesis titles, making games I previously thought utterly deplorable seem perfectly respectable. From here on out, everything else gets an A. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Seismic (1990)
On the surface, Hellfire looks like your standard side-scrolling shooter, but it's really one of the hidden gems of the Genesis library. It dishes out everything you want in a shooter: fast action, crisp controls, varying stages, and a relentless enemy onslaught that keeps you coming back for more. In terms of graphics however, Hellfire is average at best. You'll fly through well-fortified space stations, red planets with pyramids, and caves overgrown with weird organic life. The forgettable enemies include flying mech robots, floating stone heads, and the orbs of all colors and styles. The gold missiles they unleash are large and slow moving, so don't blame the game when you screw up! Oh, you will anyway? Whatever
. Some destroyed structures reveal funny little dancing people, for reasons I have yet to determine. The options menu lets you turn on rapid-fire mode, and why in the hell wouldn't you? It's better than pounding the "A" button. The "B" button reconfigures you cannons on-the-fly to fire forward, backward, up/down, or diagonally. Diagonally covers the most ground, but you'll find yourself cycling through the configurations as your situation changes. The bosses tend to be large, mechanical blocks, but in order to reach their "weak spots" you'll usually need to aim your shots at a specific angle. The "C" button unleashes a devastating "hellfire" blast, but if you're like me, you'll forget to use it half the time! Hellfire compensates for its marginal graphics with an incredible soundtrack that melds perfectly with the action. Stage one's edgy electronic theme is hands-down sensational. Can you name a game released in the past ten years with music this good? I'm waiting. No? I didn't think
so. Chalk another one up to classic games! Also notable is the game's relentless difficulty. When you enter the space station of stage one, you'll immediately find yourself is a seriously intense crossfire situation. After surviving the extremely long and challenging first stage, I felt like I needed a cigarette!
Even so, Hellfire never feels cheap or frustrating, and a generous number of continues are available. An intense shooter that's a joy to play, this is an absolute must-have for Genesis shooter fans. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1992)
Hit The Ice is not a serious game; it's a wacky three-on-three free-for-all that plays like NBA Jam on ice. The teams have very imaginative names like the Reds, Blue, Greens, and Yellows (I'm being facetious here). The cartoon players are big and colorful, but you can only control one of your players, which is a shame. The animation is downright choppy, and it's tough to tell what's going on when the players start bumping each other. In addition to your normal shot, you can also perform two "supershots", and you'll want to master these if you plan to compete against the computer. Like any decent hockey game, there are fights, and they always end with one guy on his back, foaming at the mouth. Funny at first, they soon get old, and don't really have much impact on the game itself. Hit The Ice had the right idea. The game certainly LOOKS fun. But the limited control and mediocre gameplay really drag it down. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
My hopes for Home Alone were extremely low - we're talking subterranean
here. Movie-based games have a dubious track record, and a cute comedy like Home Alone hardly seems like video game material. At first glance it seems awfully complicated. You play the role of the little boy named Kevin trying to subvert the efforts of two burglars. You freely roam your snow-covered neighborhood on a motorized sled, and can explore each of its five houses. An elaborate weapons screen lets you construct weapons from household items like glue, rubberbands, and a hair dryer. In addition, each house has a "blue print" screen that lets you strategically place traps like marbles, tacks, and blow torches. Home Alone requires some patience, but the pay-off is worth it. Each game runs exactly 18 minutes, and in that time you must make the crooks' lives as miserable as possible. The game gets credit for originality. Far from the generic platformer I was expecting, this seems to have been designed from the ground-up with the film in mind. Sledding around the neighborhood is fun, and I love blasting through snowmen to reveal items. The white scenery is inviting, the trees are decorated with bulbs, and the music sounds very Christmassy. Few video games capture the spirit of the season as well as this one. There's no map screen but you can track the thugs by following their blue van. Each house has a distinctive theme including an elegant mansion, a dilapidated house, and an ultramodern house with robots. It's fun to snoop around and collect items, but I wish you could interact with the scenery more - turning on the television for example. When in the same house as the crooks, you can shoot them with imaginative weapons like a snowball bazooka and pepper launcher. Combining random items on the weapons screen can be tedious, but fortunately the beginner skill level has a handy auto-build feature. Still, the screen is far more complicated than it should be. You'll also want to lure the bad guys into traps, and by maxing out their "pain meter" you'll save the house. If caught, you'll just be hung on the wall where you can escape after a few seconds. Home Alone is challenging, fun, and remarkably faithful to the movie. The characters are dead-ringers for the actors, even down to some of their mannerisms. Home Alone is probably too ambitious for its own good, but that added complexity will have you playing this game a lot longer than you expected. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Beginner
Our high score: 30,650
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Publisher: Sega (1993)
The first Home Alone game turned out to be a pleasant surprise, so I figured this sequel had some potential. Sadly, Home Alone 2 is one of the most difficult and obnoxious
platform games I've ever played. You reprise the role of the little boy Kevin McCallister, and this time you're running loose and causing havoc in New York City. The first stage is set in an airport where you use a slingshot to shoot businessmen and security guards. The characters are nicely illustrated and Kevin's running motion looks digitized. I like how passengers are sitting around the terminal and you can see the airplanes through the windows. Snagging hard-to-reach presents earns you bonus points, and items from the vending machines restore your health. By gathering blinking gadgets you can upgrade to more powerful weapons like a carrot launcher. The first stage is playable, but trying to escape the clutches of Joe Pesci at the end of the stage can be frustrating. The second stage is where the fun factor takes a serious dip. You'll find yourself in a luggage transport facility with hazards everywhere you turn. Baggage is falling on your head and mechanical devices push you off narrow elevators. Baggage handlers toss luggage at you and conveyer belts drop you into holes that set you back further in the stage. All the while you're being pursued by those two pesky bandits. It's a nightmare, and I couldn't even complete the stage. Playing for score isn't really an option, because with so many bonus lives given, you can play pretty much indefinitely without making any real progress. After struggling for a while it dawned on me that this game just isn't worth the effort. I couldn't find any walk-throughs or codes to help me out, so I can only assume that everybody else came to the same conclusion. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 108,400
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
This dungeon explorer was cutting edge for its time, and you still have to respect its rich graphics and sophisticated gameplay. Like Baldur's Gate or Diablo, you guide a wizard around subterranean rooms loaded with monsters, traps, and items. The Immortal's visuals are top-notch for the Genesis, but the game's centerpiece is its combat screen. When you engage in battle, both adversaries are rendered in remarkably large, detailed characters on a black backdrop. This "up-close" view was unheard of in 1991, and certainly was a major selling point for the game. These battles feature gruesome fatalities, including decapitations, exploding heads, and bodies being sliced in half (accompanied by appropriately gross sound effects). Despite its violence, somehow Immortal managed to stay under the radar and avoid controversy. The game doesn't utilize the entire screen (probably due to the CPU-intensive graphics), and the unused portion is covered by an ornate border. The controls are fairly intuitive, and there's a nice inventory system. Unlike many games of this style, the monsters thankfully "stay dead", so when you reenter a room you don't need to do battle again. While Immortal is certainly challenging, it relies far too heavily on chance and memorization. The battle system is clumsy and unresponsive, and pit traps are impossible to see coming. There are even a few "invisible" enemies to drive you mad. Never
read the runes when prompted, because it immediately ends your game (it's deliberate -- not a bug). At least the manual includes a handy tutorial for the first level. The Immortal certainly is original and inventive, but it was mainly a stepping stone for far better games to come. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Incredible Hulk, The
Publisher: U.S. Gold (1994)
Reviewing video games can be tricky. Sometimes a game will seem awful at first, but improve as you progress. The Incredible Hulk is one of those games that doesn't convey a positive first impression. After playing the first stage I had already compiled a long list of glitches and design problems. But despite these, repeated plays revealed a game that requires more technique and strategy than your standard side-scroller. Your ability to transform into David Banner to access hidden areas is one of the keys to beating the game. Despite its vast potential, the game falters in terms of execution. First off, Hulk often finds himself directly on top of an enemy, making it impossible to punch or grab the foe - very frustrating. When you do make contact, your first few hits seem to have no effect, until the final blow shatters the target to pieces. Hulk can jump around to avoid projectiles in outdoor areas, but in close quarters (like sewers) you're forced to take an inordinate number of cheap hits. The first stage, set at a construction site, contains numerous manholes Hulk must crawl into. Unfortunately, trying to squeeze down these can be aggravating, especially while being fired upon. Despite these fundamental problems, there are a few bright spots. The Hulk looks great and can perform a surprising number of moves, including a ceiling throw, pile driver, and foot stomp. I love how enemies struggle in vain as Hulk applies his lethal bear hug attack. The instruction manual is awful, and doesn't even mention some of the moves. The Hulk's five stages are not particularly interesting, but they do contain plenty of secret areas to discover. Oddly enough, what's most appealing about the Incredible Hulk may be its spunky electronic music. It has that distinctive Genesis sound that took me back a good fifteen years. Summing up, the Incredible Hulk is not for the faint of heart. Its extreme difficulty, flaky controls, and lack of continues and passwords will turn off most casual gamers. Only the most dedicated players will come to appreciate everything this cart has to offer. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Publisher: US Gold (1992)
So many scenes from the third Indiana Jones film beg
for an arcade game, including the circus train, catacombs, the boat chase, and especially the final scene with the three Grail challenges. But Last Crusade fails on every level. The controls are uncommonly poor. Jumping only works half of the time, and trying to leap at the edge of a platform sends you plunging into the abyss. Swinging on your whip is about as easy as picking up a watermelon seed! The characters are poorly rendered with cheesy black outlines, and the villains of the first stage look more like a bunch of Jerry Garcia
impersonators! The catacombs are loaded with flaming mice the size of cats
, and the final level isn't even consistent with the movie, as ducking under the swinging blades results is fatal! It doesn't help that you instantly die
from touching harmless objects like a bush, pile of bones, or even a puddle of water!
And when he dies, our hero unleashes a painful wale that's positively demonic!
Even the Indiana Jones theme sounds cheesy. As the final insult, the picture on the cartridge shows Indy being chased by a plane, a tank, and a German convoy, none
of which appear anywhere
in the game! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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