James Pond II: Codename Robocod
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
For some reason I've always overlooked the James Pond series. If not for a reader pointing out this was a Christmas game, I may have never given it a second look. The unlikely premise behind James Pond II is that Dr. Maybe (yeah, that's his real name) has populated Santa's toy factory with assorted baddies. The opening screen exudes holiday cheer as our fish hero approaches Santa's towering factory in a raging snowstorm. The music isn't necessarily Christmas, but it has that same festive sound. As you enter each door of the factory you explore worlds of stuffed animals, delectable treats, mechanical toys, and board games. These colorful areas are outfitted with all the standard contraptions like floating platforms, spiked pits, trampolines, and slippery slopes. James Pond defeats enemies by pouncing on them, and this is accompanied by a satisfying "snap" sound effect. James also has the ability to elongate his body to any height and grab on to the underside of certain platforms. He can't climb up on them, but he can move arm-over-arm to reposition himself. You can't always tell what platforms you can latch onto until you try. Likewise, it's hard to tell if certain walls are in the foreground or background. The best part of the game is snatching up the high-value bonus items like stars, presents, and ice cream cones. There are also alternate routes and bonus areas to discover. You can leap pretty far and certain power-ups give you the ability to fly freely around the stage. The difficulty is fair and continues are available. James Pond II: Codename Robocod is a heck of a lot of fun and even more enjoyable around the holiday season. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 337,600
Publisher: GTE (1994)
Attempting to combine a streetwise style with the "dunktastic" gameplay of NBA Jam, Jammit borders on self-parody. This one-on-one slamfest is played on a half court, forcing you to "clear" the ball during each change of possession. This little detail is easy to forget, and as a result you'll accidentally score more than a few points for the other team. The open-court action is pretty shabby. Despite utilizing the Genesis six-button controller, there are no effective special moves to the basket. Players tend to get "stuck" on each other when they collide, resulting in some very ugly, stilted animation. One thing Jammit does right is its shooting controls, which require one button press to jump and a second to release the ball. When in close proximity to the hoop, a dramatic close-up shows both players soaring over the rim. I love how that second press "pulls the string" and slams the ball down. Likewise if the defender is in position he can swat it away with a well-timed swipe. The meager character selection includes two black guys and - get this - a white chick
! Not only does she look totally out of place, but inexplicably she can jump higher than the guys! Her mere existence should cost this game a letter grade - she looks like somebody's mom
running around for Pete's sake! Jammit tries to convey "attitude" by incorporating funky music, trash talking, and urban scenery, but it all seems phony and contrived. The bass-heavy music is okay, but the repetitive voice samples ("C'mon sucker!") are lame. On a positive note, most of the nighttime backdrops are colorful and attractive, particularly the one with the sunset over the ocean. Despite its general cheesiness, Jammit can still be fun if played against a friend thanks to its satisfying slam dunks. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl
Publisher: Sega (1992)
It would be unfair to give a high grade to such a sloppy game, but Pigskin Footbrawl is a game I wanted to like. The gameplay is more like rugby than American football, as players run, pass, and kick their way past slugging opponents. It's basically a five-on-five free-for-all. The two playing fields consist of a meadow and a coliseum, and the medieval cartoon graphics give the game a distinct personality. But although the premise of Footbrawl is great, the implementation is lacking. For one thing, you can only control a single player (can't even switch), and your guy is constantly off the screen. The field is filled with too many obstacles that are almost impossible to avoid. The animation is rough, and you have zero control during fights. I discovered that positioning your man to the endzone and waiting for a long throw is an effective (but very cheap) strategy. The voice samples ("ouch!") are repetitive and too loud. There are a few nice touches like a green troll that enters the game late to help out the losing team. Footbrawl could have used more polish, but the game can still generate some fun. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Joe Montana Football
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Joe Montana is a surprisingly entertaining title, especially considering it was Sega's first attempt at football on the Genesis. Montana Football actually looks very much like John Madden Football, except the players here look sharper. There are also fewer lulls in the action -- you can select plays and hike the ball much quicker. One very innovative feature is the passing system. When you choose to pass, you get a first-person "helmet view" of your receiver, and you use crosshairs to "lead" your throw. This is fun and it works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, you can only see one receiver at a time, which may be why the system was not used in subsequent games. As I was playing Joe Montana, its main flaw became obvious: bad AI. The computer is a really lousy opponent, dropping easy catches and missing tackles all over the place. There are 16 teams to choose from, but the options are very limited. Still, as a two player game, this isn't half bad. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Joe Montana II Sportstalk Football
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Montana II doesn't offer much in the way of gameplay, but it does have one cool gimmick: play-by-play announcing. That might not seem like a big deal today, but in 1993 it was monumental. I can remember when my friend Keith brought this over my house and all the guys were crowded around the TV waiting to see what the announcer would say next. The commentator is pretty good actually, although he does occasionally fall behind or repeat phrases. If you do something stupid (like attempt a 90-yard field goal) he'll say "I can't believe it!" The gameplay itself is pretty average. In this edition they went back to an old-fashioned side view of the field. It works okay but going deep is a problem since your receivers run off the screen. The players are fairly small, but when the ball is passed or handed off, the camera zooms in six times closer. This is especially helpful for runners trying to find room. Although running up the middle is still very difficult, this is one of the few Genesis football games where you can actually "break away" on a run. After each quarter or score, a great looking statistic screen is presented, complete with little graphs. Montana II lacks Madden's polished look. The players are animated fine until they are hit, at which time they immediately fall flat on their stomachs or backs, and it looks pretty stupid. The controls seem to have been intentionally designed to be different from Madden, and as a result they are not very intuitive. For example, before the play the C button switches players, but the B button performs that function during the play. The B button is supposed to choose the closet player, but rarely does. Joe Montana II isn't a great game, but it's fun to look back on. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
John Madden Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1990)
This is the first edition of a series of football games that revolutionized video game sports. It features an angled vertical view of the field, giving the game a pseudo-3D look. A nice selection of actual NFL plays are at your disposal. Many of the typical moves that we all take for granted today are here, including spin, dive, jump, and hurdle. Playing this game recently, I was surprised at just how good this is. The players look cartoonish but are easy to see, and the running and passing games are well balanced. I always liked how you can control the velocity of a pass by holding down the button - brilliant. There are only 16 teams to choose from, and the game has no fancy bells or whistles like subsequent editions. When choosing plays, you also need to choose which type of players you want, including big, hands, fast, or normal. After that, you often have to wait for half the team to run off the field, and THEN wait for the substitute players to run ONTO the field! This needlessly slows down the game. The physics aren't very realistic. Players can dive for over five yards or be knocked back just as far! Passing windows are used to view your three receivers, and while these windows do indicate how open your receiver is, they do not tell you how deep he is, or how many defenders are in the vicinity. As a result, luck plays a major role in the passing game. The sound effects during the game are minimal, dominated by grunts and the "water faucet" crowd. It's a bit rough around the edges, but overall it was a great start for a classic series. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? No
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Like the movie itself, you're not likely to remember this by-the-numbers platform game ten minutes after you take out the cartridge. The awful film starred Sylvester Stallone as a cop in 2070 serving as "judge, jury, and executioner" for an endless parade of lowlifes he encounters. Adding a little comic relief (very
little) was his sidekick played by Rob Schneider. Stallone's outfit looks absolutely goofy
with those huge, gold-plated, feathered shoulder pads. In the game you fight crime on generic platforms as futuristic cityscapes loom in the background. I found it very difficult to spot the ladders in this game because they're viewed from the side
. Climbing them isn't much easier! Judge Dredd's controls are very touchy. You can fire at several angles, but it's hard to aim because you're running
at the same time. The graphics are nicely detailed (you can even make out the rusty bolts) but the industrial scenery grows tiresome after a few stages. The characters are quite small and it's hard to tell what's happening during close combat. You'll find yourself navigating around gas vents, electrical fields, elevators, and floating platforms (yawn). And yes
, in one stage you do
walk through sewers flowing with green sludge! Joy! The so-called "missions" all share a predictable underlying thread - dispose of the scumbags! Your rapid-fire capabilities may tempt you to lay waste to everything in sight, but shooting someone in the act of surrendering will cost you health. That's probably the only original element of the entire game - too bad it's not any fun! When you properly handcuff a thug, a little disc flies in and whisks them off to prison. Judge Dredd is challenging enough, but it ultimately comes off as monotonous and bland. Where the hell
is Rob Schneider when you need him? © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1994)
I remember seeing Jungle Book over my friend Brendan's house back in the day. He and Steve had rented it and were playing it on a small TV in his room. I didn't pay much attention at the time but now I love it. This game is so much fun. The title screen features the jaunty banjo tune "Bear Necessities" that's sure to have you tapping your toes. You play as Mowgli, a scrawny little boy raised by a pack of wolves. Each stage challenges you to collect a certain number of red gems in the jungle before locating an end-of-stage character like Baloo the bear. Mowgli is a nimble little fellow who effortlessly climbs, swings, and leap between branches. The controls are so crisp! The jungle is crawling with dangerous animals like monkeys, snakes, wild boars, scorpions, and anteaters. Some of these creatures tend to blend in with the lush environment. Mowgli can turn them to dust by either pouncing on them or hitting them with bananas. The ability to toss bananas in a rapid-fire manner is awesome - and you can even do it while hanging on a vine! Falling into water or thorns is fatal, but you can hold down the directional pad to get a peek at what's below. The stages are short and sweet and I love the whole treasure hunting element. Many gems and other goodies are hidden or located in hard-to-reach places. Fortunately you don't need to collect all
the gems to progress. The graphics and animation are nice but not as awe-inspiring as Aladdin
(Genesis, 1993). The sound effects tend to be very scratchy and could use a little more punch. Jungle Book may not be a showcase title, but its happy-go-lucky gameplay should appeal to all ages. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 238,190
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This is a decent sequel to EA's Desert Strike, but to be honest, it didn't hold my attention all the way through. Like the first game, you control a helicopter on a series of military missions. Jungle Strike covers much more territory than the first game, including Washington D.C., a jungle river, and a snow fortress. I was hardly impressed by the D.C. stage because the scenery was entirely too sparse - it looked like a big park! In addition to your helicopter, certain missions also allow you to control a motorbike, hovercraft, and Stealth bomber. Don't get too excited though - these new vehicles are tougher to control and ultimately not as much fun. Oh well, at least they break up the monotony. Jungle Strike takes a long time to complete. There are eight campaigns compared to four in the first game, and each has a long list of missions. Casual gamers might not go for this, but if you couldn't get enough of Desert Strike, this is the game for you. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Password
Publisher: Sega (1993)
My memories of this game are colored by fond memories of my friend Eric bringing it over my house when it first came out. Jurassic Park mania was in full effect and any game that let you "live" that movie was hard to resist. The opening screen has a T-Rex roaring "Sega!", and yes, it is awesome. The first cut-scene is dark and scary as a jeep is attacked by a T-Rex on a stormy night. The graphics are terrific. The dinosaurs look digitized and their screeches and roars are convincing. Your character Dr. Grant looks sharp, although his animation is a bit choppy. The stiff controls aren't as responsive as I would like, but they allow you to squat, climb, jump, and move hand-over-hand along vines. The lush jungle scenery is easy on the eyes, and the thumping musical score has that distinctive Genesis twang. There are a lot of fun locations to explore including a power plant, the visitors center, a river, and even a volcano. The collision detection is unforgiving, and that's a problem because the game is full of environmental hazards including spikes, boulders, and electric wires. Touching water or a tumbling rock spells instant death, and no, you don't go back to the last checkpoint - you restart the entire level! Thank goodness Dr. Grant will grab the ledge when your jump comes up short. You'll battle raptors, spitting dinosaurs, pterodactyls, and a lot of those annoying tiny dinosaurs. Sometimes running is the best option, and the tension is palpable as you duck into a vent to avoid oncoming raptors. You can't actually kill any dinosaurs, but you can tranquilize them. I like how you can still see them breathing when they're asleep (nice touch). The T-Rex is never seen full-body, but he makes his presence felt by sticking his huge noggin wherever it will fit. Jurassic Park's stage designs are irritating at times. The opening stage requires you to make a blind "leap of faith", and the good-looking "raft levels" are insanely difficult. Being able to play as the raptor is a nice bonus. You can jump a country mile, and it's fun to chomp on smaller dinosaurs and helpless security guards. Jurassic Park is frustrating at times, but I like it as a memorable adaptation of the film. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition
Publisher: Universal (1994)
As if trying to make up for the shortcomings of the original Jurassic Park Genesis game, this "Rampage Edition" was a quick follow-up. The game begins with a stage select screen - always a welcome feature. You can start at the docks, the aviary, or in the savannah where you ride on back of a galloping dinosaur (who is not
named Yoshi for once). For some reason the game pits you against armed soldiers - as if the dinosaurs weren't enough, right? I'm surprised by the way they altered the graphic style for this game, giving all characters and objects black outlines. I guess it's supposed to make them stand out more, but it looks less realistic - and a little cheesy. The controls are very responsive and the animation is smooth. The only thing missing is the ability to grab onto ledges, and it's sorely missed. Your weapon arsenal includes electric zappers, grenades, machine guns, and flamethrowers. Yes, you can
kill the dinosaurs this time. Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is the kind of game that drives me crazy. It has all the necessary building blocks but doesn't put them together right. Like the first game, areas tend to "wrap around" on themselves in a confusing manner. Enemies can absorb a crazy
number of shots before going down (even on the easy level). On the aviary screen you'll be making excellent progress only to have a pterodactyl snatch you up and carry you all the way back to the beginning of the stage! That wouldn't be so bad if all your enemies hadn't regenerated! Otherwise the action is fast and fun, and there are plenty of checkpoints and hidden areas. Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is better than the original game in some respects, but worse in others. Overall I'd say it's a wash. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Easy
Jurassic Park: The Lost World
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This game was released late in the Genesis life cycle, making it a pretty rare title. Unlike the first two Jurassic Park Genesis games, this is an overhead, free-roaming adventure. It sounds a lot like the SNES Jurassic Park game, but this one looks far more realistic. If only it were more fun. You start by wandering around a savannah surrounded by heavy brush. Hitting the start button brings up a "web site". Yes, this was an early attempt to emulate the world wide web in a game. Apparently one of the developers thought the Internet was actually going to amount to something someday (idiot). This fake web site contains email messages, a map, and the all-important "dino facts" (hurrah). I like how the missions branch, but every one felt like a tedious wild goose chase. Typically you must rescue some poor schmuck by blasting obstacles and disabling electronic generators. Each time you encounter an electric field you have to scour the area to locate its power generator, and it's usually the furthest possible distance from your current location. Every stage feels like a maze, and don't get me started about these pesky dinosaurs. They aren't particularly aggressive, but your weapons are so freakin' weak
that you can't get rid of them! Even with a machine gun you'll barely chip away at the health of a small dinosaur. The action is tediously slow, and it just gets slower with more activity on the screen. I was hoping Lost World might be a hidden gem but this is one Jurassic Park game best forgotten. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Justice League Task Force
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
From the name itself, few people would guess this is a superhero fighting game. Heck, Justice League Task Force sounds more like some boring government commission! But the thing that really struck me about the game is just how incredibly mediocre
it is. Having been released well after the 2D fighter boom, you would at least
expect this to be as good as Eternal Champions, but it's not even close. The game combines run-of-the-mill graphics with second-rate gameplay and minimal sound. The main attraction is your ability to fight as Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or the Flash. Unfortunately, Task Force was made at a time when DC Comics had made a few ill-advised changes to the look of the characters. Superman and Aquaman have long, flowing hair that makes them look more like Fabio than superheroes, and Green Arrow looks like a complete ass in that Robin Hood outfit. Also included are three villains I've never heard of: Cheetah, Desperdo, and Darkseid. The backgrounds are static, and with the exception of Batman's Gotham City, are extremely uninteresting. The gameplay is equally uninspired. The special moves aren't very special, and the collision detection is suspect at times. The sound effects are terribly muffled, and the low, rumbling background music is barely audible. If not for its famous cast of characters, Justice Task Force would have been a complete bust. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Way back in "the day", I remember my old buddies Steve and Brendan telling me about this game after they had rented it for a night. They wrote it off as a run-of-the-mill platformer, but playing it today, I would definitely give it more credit than that. Yes, Kid Chameleon (KC) borrows liberally from Mega Man (among others), but a game doesn't need to be original to be fun. If you've grown weary of 2D platform games, KC might just rekindle your enthusiasm. The game's background story is a load of incomprehensive nonsense involving a virtual reality arcade machine. Just ignore that. KC's gameplay is quite familiar as you hop across platforms, pounce on enemies, and bump blocks to reveal items and power-ups. The star of the game is a kid with a bouffant hairdo (who looks like Brendan), but he's constantly changing forms. He'll transform into the wall-climbing Iron Knight, the headfirst charging Berzerker, the axe-wielding Maniaxe, the insert-like Micromax, the laser-shooter EyeClops, the hoverboard-riding Skycutter, and the flying/drilling Cyclone. Juggernaut transforms him into a skull-firing tank! Each form has its own standard abilities and special powers that can be triggered after you've collected a certain number of diamonds. KC's graphics and audio are about average by Genesis standards, with stages depicting scenic lakes, wave-swept beaches, floating castles, volcanic caves, and jungles. The levels tend to be short but well designed, although occasionally you'll find yourself sliding into a bed of spikes (or pool of lava). One stage that's especially bizarre places KC in the jungle where he's pursued by a huge wall of spikes. Your adversaries are a motley crew that includes stone heads, crawling hands, and baby dragons. Kid Chameleon is generally easy to control, although some of the more narrow platforms can be slippery. I like how Kid adjusts his body when walking up or downhill - something you never see in a video game. What makes the game so fun is its reasonable difficulty and sheer variety. The scenery is constantly changing, and the ability to change forms provides multiple ways to complete each stage. Kid Chameleon tends to get lost in the vast sea of 16-bit platformers, but once you start playing you may find it hard to stop. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
I remember my friend Tuan and I planned a big fishing trip in the early 90's, and we spent the night before playing this game for hours. King Salmon may not have great sound or graphics, but the gameplay will have you hooked! Until Sega Bass Fishing (Dreamcast) came out, this was easily the most fun fishing game I had played. The main reason is the game is so easy to play. After checking the weather, you drive your boat around a lake looking for a good spot. After choosing a strategic area, you get a closer view which provides a nice view of schools of fish in the water. By dragging your lure through the fish (trolling), you wait to get a bite. An easy-to-use menu allows you to change your lure, depth, or line. When you finally hook a fish, the fight sequence is suspenseful and exciting. The fighting screen is plain, but clearly displays what's going on. Sometimes a timely event will occur, such as your hook getting stuck on a piece of wood, or the fish making a zigzag run. You are then given three choices of how to react. Make the wrong decision and the line could snap or the fish could escape. When you finally pull in a fish, you'll see a nice picture of it on the scale. Each catch improves your ability and skill level. This game is simple but addictive! The music is awesome, and that's a good thing because it plays nonstop! If you do catch enough fish, you progress to a new lake. You can save your progress using a password feature. Don't hesitate to give King Salmon a try. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
King of the Monsters
Publisher: Takara (1991)
The King of the Monsters series never made a big splash on the Genesis, but its basic style of play seems to have been adopted by the latest generation of 3D monster games, notably Godzilla (GameCube) and War of the Monsters (PS2). There are four creatures to choose from, including the Godzilla-like "Geon", the rock golem "Rocky", the bug-like "Beetle-mania", and the Ultraman-inspired "Astro Guy". The first three are well designed, but Astro Guy looks like a dork in a cheap superhero costume. The graphics and animation are good for the Genesis, although you can't help but wonder how much better this might look on the Neo Geo. Unlike many fighting games of this nature, it's actually easy to tell what's going on, even when the combatants are holding or chomping on each other. The four cities are remarkably detailed, with large buildings, bridges, and markers indicating the boundaries of the battle. Smashing up the city is part of the fun. The military is a constant presence, and you can pick up these ships, tanks, and planes to hurl as weapons! Despite using only three buttons, there are a surprising number of moves and combinations you can execute. King of the Monsters has a strong wrestling influence, which has a detrimental effect on the gameplay. It's bad enough to see monsters execute suplexes, body slams, or piledrivers, but watching them "pin" their opponent for the win is almost embarrassing. Not only does it look ridiculous, but you can always escape the first two pins anyway. I hate how a monster can keep fighting after
its life meter has been completely depleted. Also annoying is how the winner's health does NOT recharge between fights. The roars and other audio effects are muffled, but at least the music is decent. King of the Monsters is an interesting title - too bad it's not very fun to play. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
King of the Monsters 2
Publisher: Takara (1993)
A huge improvement over the original, King of the Monsters 2 is a much deeper game with a slew of new monsters and stages. Now there are nine creatures in all, three from the previous game and six bizarre new creations. Actually, bizarre is an understatement. Some of these things have so many appendages, eyes, and teeth sticking out all over that you can't tell the head from the tail! Claw Head is certainly nightmare inducing, but others like Aqua Slug look like a shapeless mess. Initially the graphics look about the same quality as King of the Monsters, but as you move your creature around you'll notice it rotates
to keep facing his opponent, which looks terrific. The control scheme has changed a lot, mostly for the better. Now you can hold back to block Street Fighter-style, and there are special moves which also employ the standard joystick movements. Thankfully, monsters are now defeated when their life meter is drained completely, and they no longer need to be "pinned". The nine stages provide plenty of variety in terms of color, but the scenery isn't as interesting as the first game. The cities look fine but the Grand Canyon and ocean floor stages are pretty sparse. Small wandering creatures have been added to spice things up, but these tend to be annoying and rarely impact the contests. It's no classic, but King of the Monsters 2 does a good job of addressing the shortcomings of its predecessor. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Krusty's Super Fun House
Publisher: Flying Edge (1992)
A platform game starring an unlikeable, obnoxious clown might sound
like a good idea, but... uh, scratch that - it's an awful
idea! Loosely based on The Simpsons television show, Fun House combines the mindless action of a generic platformer with the tedium of a strategy game. Each stage is a room with stacked blocks, twisting pipes, underground passages, and hidden areas. You'll hop between platforms, toss rocks at snakes, and kick pink blocks to reveal bonus items. Purple rats scamper around each room, and by strategically placing items you can guide the mindless vermin to a "rat crusher" machine (that's nice). The puzzle element reminds me of Lemmings, and at first it seems to be the game's saving grace. Unfortunately, once you get the hang of it, the game becomes a monumental pain in the ass! You need to manipulate multiple items to complete each stage, but you can only carry one at a time. Worse yet, it's possible to work yourself into a no-win situation, leaving no choice but to kill yourself by placing Krusty under dripping water
. Need I say more? The level designs are dull, and all the vivid colors in the world can't atone for the extreme lack of imagination. In most games hidden areas reveal fun bonuses, but here they actually contain items critical to completing the level! And just when you thought you couldn't be more miserable, the atrocious circus music will push you to the brink of madness! The Simpson's license is completely wasted here, as other characters appear only as static images - sometimes as posters on the wall! C'mon man!!
I don't know who thought Krusty's Fun House was a good idea, but they need to have their heads examined. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 33,080
Lakers Vs. Celtics
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1990)
The first time I played Lakers vs. Celtics I was still living at home, and as usual, a bunch of my friends were hanging out in my oversized bedroom playing video games. My buddy Keith had brought over Lakers Vs. Celtics, and we were all very impressed with it. The game's TV-style presentation features two anchors at a desk who comment on the game via scrolling text. Actually, the black guy never says anything, but he does crack a smile periodically and it looks hilarious. During halftime, a brief highlight is shown of another game "in progress" - nice! On the court, the wood surface looks realistic, the lanky players perform their famous "signature" moves, and coaches pace the sidelines. I still recall my friend Tuan pointing out how the players actually wore the correct numbers on their jerseys! Playing Lakers Vs. Celtics just recently was an eye-opening experience. Only ten teams are available, but Michael Jordan is on the Bull's roster! In most subsequent basketball games, Jordan didn't appear due to licensing issues. Compared to modern basketball games, Lakers Vs. Celtics is slow and choppy, and it takes a while to run the length of the court. There's no turbo or crossover move, so it's nearly impossible to penetrate to the hoop. As bad as it sounds, these limitations force you to rely on well-timed passes, making the gameplay more strategic. It's surprisingly fun, and the slow-motion dunks are quite satisfying. On the downside, instead of the "star" icon used in later games, your "selected" player sports black shoes which are hard to see. Sometimes a player will score even when the ball clearly didn't pass through the hoop. The rebounding game is fairly atrocious, and it's not usual to see offensive players follow up their own missed lay-ups or dunks - several times in a row. And for goodness sake, turn OFF that blaring music that plays nonstop during the game. That leaves you with a crowd that's dead silent until you score. Lakers Vs. Celtics definitely shows its age, but if you accept its limitations it's still worthwhile. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1989)
When Sega produced this marginal side-scroller, it was clearly at a time when the size
of objects on the screen took precedence over quality gameplay. After all, the 16-bit era demanded larger characters. As a result, Last Battle looks great but plays like crap
. The game's intro features pages of back-story text which whiz by so fast you need to be a speed-reader
to keep up! The action begins with our hero "Aarzak" walking through a dusty town as ninja rain from the sky and rise from the ground. Our hero can punch, kick, and jump to dispose of enemies, but the animation is a joke
. Aarzak sashays around like he's wearing high heels, and when he kicks he doesn't even adjust his posture; his leg just flashes straight in front of him. When you punch or kick enemies, they fly off the screen as if they were wearing freakin' jet packs
. Apply kicks and punches liberally, because they can also knock down incoming projectiles like knives and axes! Wouldn't that hurt your hand?! Branching paths are available between stages, but sometimes you can't travel down clearly marked roads, and I don't know why (besides the fact that it's a bad game, of course). The boss characters tend to have green skin, because as we all know, green people are inherently evil. But the highlight of Last Battle is its unintentionally hilarious text dialogue. Check out this dramatic exchange: Aarzak: "What's the matter!" Gere: "I want to become a hero." Wow, that's deep. Here's another one: Aalyssa: "Aarzak! Save the world!" Aarzak: "I am the only one who can save the world!" Does this guy have an ego or what? When Aarzak isn't strolling through generic outdoor locations, he's trying to survive the trap-laden dungeons with cheap hits and dead ends. The game requires a lot of trial and error, and I seriously doubt it's worth the effort. I'm just grateful that this is the last
battle, because I don't think I could stomach another one of these! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1993)
Back in 1993 I visited the local Video Game Exchange store with several friends, and I had my eye on Lethal Enforcers. I loved the idea of a light-gun shooter with digitized graphics, but at $70 I was concerned about the replay value. The guy behind the counter had the nerve to offer me a used copy for a measly $5 less! I held onto my cash that day, and didn't own this game until about ten years later. Lethal Enforcers is fun, but like most light gun games, it's kind of shallow and repetitive. The digitized graphics and sound that were so cutting edge in 1993 seem very quaint today. The limited Genesis color palette makes the grainy scenery look washed out, and cranking up the brightness on your TV (to maximize the gun accuracy) makes the scenery even more
washed out. The voice synthesis sounds scratchy but I like the silly lines like "eat lead!" and "you can't shoot me!" Is that really what crooks yell in real life? The game is packaged with a light blue gun controller called The Justifier. I was always impressed by its accuracy, although hitting the edge of the screen can be problematic. Using a normal controller works too, as you guide a reticule around the screen. Lethal Enforcers has five stages set in locations like a bank, airport, subway, Chinatown, and chemical plant. As the camera pans the scenery, thugs pop out, ready to shoot. Unless you blast them immediately, you'll take damage in the form of a bloody hole in your TV screen. Occasionally an innocent civilian or cop will leap out, and once you get that itchy trigger finger, it's hard to avoid shooting them. Certain stages feature shootouts in moving vehicles like sport cars, vans, and subway cars. I really like how snipers fall from windows, tires can be shot out, and some thugs pretend to be innocent civilians. Bosses include a guy in a van who launches missiles and a Chinese dude who tosses knives. Your targets are slightly randomized, but it still feels like the same experience each time through. It's too bad you can't do more damage to the scenery. Lethal Enforcers' gritty, high-energy soundtrack has its moments, sounding like something from an 80's action flick. The worst aspect of the game is how you can complete a stage in a nearly flawless manner, yet be told, "Too many mistakes - reloading same mission." I recently acquired the pink "player two" gun, and discovered the two-player action is confusing because both players have the same colored shots! As one of the few light gun games for the Genesis, Lethal Enforcers is still a good time, but only when taken in small doses. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 5,210
1 or 2 players
Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters
Publisher: Konami (1994)
This sequel reprises the same light-gun shooting action of the first game, but this time it's set in the Wild West. In addition to shootouts in banks, jails, and saloons, there are some exciting high-speed chases including an amazing stagecoach battle. In many ways this is a better game than the original. The pacing is faster and the gun feels more accurate. When you don't hit an enemy squarely, he will flinch but continue to fight. Your targets tend to be generic outlaws and Indians, but there are also fat guys that require additional shots to kill. I don't know if that rule applies to real life as well, but there's only one way to find out!
I like how you can shoot select parts of the scenery like windows, signs, and lamps. When cooperating with a second player, your shots are color-coded which makes things much easier. Lethal Enforcers 2 had a lot going for it, but manages to shoot itself in the foot. The developer clearly loved the digitized voice synthesis, because quips like "you ain't gonna get me, sheriff
" are so repetitive, it's almost comical. Even when you kill a guy he still manages to finish that sentence! But what really drags the game down is its endless boss encounters. The first boss fires cannonballs at you, and you'll need to hit that bastard about 100 times. Not only is it hell on your trigger finger, but it makes you to not want to play the game
. Oh well, at least you're always allowed to progress to the next stage regardless of your performance. If you enjoy games set in the Wild West, you can probably bump up the grade by a letter. For everyone else Lethal Enforcers 2 is an enjoyable but flawed shooting experience. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 2,048
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Koei (1993)
This simulation lets you play out the events leading up to America's declaration of independence in 1776. Liberty or Death gives you the option of playing as the "good" George Washington side or the "bad" Thomas Gage side. British people hate
this game! Liberty is thought-provoking and intelligently designed, but its scope is overwhelming. The game is played over a collection of map screens which track the status of dozens of "districts" within the original 13 colonies. There's a lot of numbers and color codes on the screen which are never sufficiently explained. It doesn't help that the 85-page manual is in black-and-white!
It doesn't even bother to explain the options
menu for Pete's sake! Juggling materials and units is a monumental chore as you wade through layers of menus while shuffling commanding officers and randomly adjusting amounts of food and money. A tutorial would have been nice! The game periodically goes into autopilot mode as various reports come pouring in and events begin to unfold on their own accord. The game is a little easier to grasp when a battle is initiated. The battle screen lets you strategically position troops to take advantage of the geography, and the reasonable number of options makes for some tactical fun. Liberty's graphics are very good, with colorful illustrations depicting key events and small animations conveying troop movements and attacks. The text is large and easy to read, and pleasant patriotic music plays throughout. There's clearly a lot of substance here, but wrapping your brain around this game is a colossal challenge and I was not up to the task. It's not that I dislike
strategy games, but if I'm still lost after the first hour, I'm moving on. History buffs with a lot of patience can bump up the grade by a letter, but all others should be warned that Liberty or Death is not
your typical Genesis fare. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Thunder Force 3 (TF3) was a tough act to follow, but this game holds its own. Released two years after TF3, Lightening Force has some new features that set it apart. The graphics are more detailed than the previous Thunder Force games, and you have the ability to scroll the screen up or down. Thanks to some fancy pseudo-3D graphics, you even can see enemies approaching from the background. One negative side effect of this is that you can't always tell what you can and can't shoot. There are some nifty special effects here like enemies that splash in the water or burrow through the sand, and the explosions are noticeably improved. Sega took some chances with some really weird alien designs this time around. I mean, normally you can tell the front or back of a ship or the head and tail of an alien, but I don't know what to make of some of these bizarre creations. Some of the bosses crowd the screen too much, and some enemies are too difficult to kill. But overall, I would have to say that this is the best-looking game in the Thunder Force series, although not as playable as TF3. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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