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San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing
Grade: D+
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/1/14
Rating: Kid to adults (6+)

screenshotI enjoy a good arcade racer as much as the next guy (more so actually), but San Francisco Rush is bogged down by rudimentary graphics, lousy audio, and some serious control problems. It's hard to believe this game was released after Ridge Racer (Playstation 1995) and Daytona USA (Saturn 1995), because Rush isn't even in the same league. Its tracks are limited to the San Francisco area, which apparently justifies the heinous "fog" you'll encounter. The rolling hills look okay, but the buildings appear boxy and plain. The framerate remains smooth however, and Rush certainly delivers when it comes to catching huge air on hills, which can be exhilarating at times. Navigating the easy courses is a breeze, but the sharp turns of the advanced courses are practically impossible to corner due to your non-existent turn radius. Even when you lean on the analog stick you'll slam into a wall and explode. Oddly enough, the game immediately sets you back on the track - often in a more advantageous position than before the crash! So what's the secret to turning? Well apparently hitting reverse (of all things) when approaching a turn allows your back-end to swing out far enough to make the "power-slide" (and trust me, I'm being loose with the language here). I'm not sure if it's a glitch or a feature, but it sure beats the hell out of slamming into every wall. The quality of Rush's background music is generally bad, but it does have a certain "Pulp Fiction" vibe that some will like. The circuit mode lets you work your way through 26 track variations (including mirror and backward modes), and if you have a controller pack, the game will save your place along with best times. San Francisco Rush is rough, but many gamers have fond memories of unlocking the game's many secret areas and items. Check out the sequel (Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA) for a far better-realized racing experience. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Snowboard Kids
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atlus (1997)
Reviewed: 2012/2/25
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotYou don't have to be a kid to appreciate the easy winter fun of Snowboard Kids. Sometimes described as "snowboarding meets Mario Kart", the game features goofy characters with freakishly large noses. The courses are very inviting with their well-groomed trails and bright blue skies. The night track is downright spectacular with gorgeous lighting effects and a quaint town backdrop. The tracks feature plenty ramps, cliffs, tunnels, and bridges to keep things interesting. If your controller is equipped with a rumble pack, you'll definitely notice it as you ride over planked bridges or use the "fan" power-up. The tracks are wide enough and the analog controls make it easy to carve. Power-ups and weapons are provided by creepy clown icons. Some weapons are incredibly cheap, like one that simultaneously drops pans on all of your opponent's heads (really?). Each race requires several "runs" down the slope, and you need to enter a tiny lift gate at the bottom of each hill to ride back to the top. Why did they make these gates so tiny? They are so easy to miss! Most trails have appealing winter themes, but what's up with the "grass valley" stage? Who in the [expletive] wants to snowboard on grass? That doesn't even make any sense! There's also an amusement park track that's equally dumb - and unnecessary. The single-player mode challenges to beat all the tracks, and you shouldn't overlook the mini-games which include a rapid-fire snowman shooter. The problem is, saving your progress requires 121 pages on a controller pack, and that's pretty much the whole thing! Snowboard Kids also supports multi-player split-screen action for up to four players, and the frame-rate holds up pretty well! The races are longer than Lindsay Lohan's rap sheet, so if one guy pulls way ahead it turns into a dull affair. Fortunately it is possible to adjust the number of laps (although I had a hard time figuring out how). Bonehead design decisions not withstanding, this lighthearted racer will keep you in good spirits during the cold winter months. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 to 4 players 


Snowboard Kids 2
Grade: D+
Publisher: Atlus (1999)
Reviewed: 2012/2/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe first Snowboard Kids title was moderately enjoyable despite some glaring flaws. But instead of addressing those shortcomings, this ill-conceived sequel sends the franchise into a downward spiral of death. Snowboard Kids 2 will have you careening through tropical jungles, haunted houses, underwater, and even outer space. I'm pretty sure I spotted the Little Mermaid in the underwater track, and I was not amused. Call me old-fashioned but I like a little snow in my snowboarding games! The over-the-top stages stink on so many levels. The jungle foliage looks like cardboard cut-outs, and the "Wendy's House" stage is just a whole lot of nothing. The haunted house track is incredibly lame, although it's cool how the kids are decked out in Halloween costumes. Fortunately the game is redeemed by a handful of snow tracks. The Christmas-themed Jingle Town is probably the best of the bunch with all of its festive holiday decorations, but its theme song sounds decidedly un-Christmas-like. Power-ups are now represented by teddy bears instead of clowns, and I'm cool with that. The story mode is deeper than its predecessor, and its paperboy-style mini-game is a winner. Unfortunately, Snowboard Kids 2 shares the same fundamental issues as its predecessor, including excessively long tracks, cheap weapons, and lift gates that are hard to finagle into. Worst of all, I think the developers forgot they were making a snowboarding game. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 to 4 players 


Star Fox 64
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Reviewed: 2006/12/30
Rating: Kids to adults


screenshotThe first Star Fox (SNES, 1993) was a revolutionary title that brought 3D polygon graphics to the masses. But while it was certainly innovative, the SNES system was in a bit over its head. Running on a far more capable platform, this Star Fox sequel has aged much better than the original. It doesn't stray far in terms of gameplay, but refines the formula to near perfection. As you glide over planets and through open space, you traverse predefined courses containing towering structures and swarming enemies. The smooth framerate and well-defined hazards make it very easy to target enemies, fly through arches, and snag floating power-ups. Not all of the stages are linear however; a few the boss encounters occur in areas that let you fly around freely. Although many gamers were anxiously anticipating this "open" style of play, these stages turn out to be among the weakest in the game. Sure, there's more freedom, but you're constantly having to turn around to re-engage your targets. Still, these stages do provide a nice change of pace. Star Fox 64's controls, graphics, and sound are all beyond reproach. Even with dozens of enemies on the screen at a time, you can always tell what's going on. I really like the "charge" and "lock-on" weapon systems, and the somersault maneuver is also useful. The aiming and collision detection are extremely forgiving, eliminating the frustration factor often found in this type of game. There are still some minor issues with "fog" on land, but the space stages look impressive as you maneuver around huge floating metal structures. Your squadron partners (Slippy, Peppy, and Falco) have returned, and this time they have voices. The heroic musical score has a very Zelda-like quality, and some of the sound effects and voice clips (including the robotic "good luck") have been held over from the first game. When you take into account the four-player split-screen mode, Star Fox 64 is nothing less than outstanding. If I had to complain about anything, it might be the drawn-out intermissions that I couldn't skip. It's interesting to note that this game was initially packaged with a "rumble pack", which was a pretty novel concept for its time. The effect is barely even noticeable now, although the throttle still feels pretty good. The Star Fox series really came into its own with this well-executed sequel. And when it comes to pure fun, few N64 games can match Star Fox 64. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Star Wars: Battle For Naboo
Grade: A
Publisher: LucasArts (2000)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18

screenshotIf you enjoyed Rogue Squadron, you'll flip over this Episode One-inspired title, set on the planet of Naboo. In addition to excellent dog-fighting action, many stages feature ground-based combat between floating vehicles. Battle For Naboo's graphics feature beautiful cities and scenic landscapes inspired by Episode One, and the explosions are among the best I've seen on the N64. The voice acting is sometimes hard to understand, but I like how your commander always specifies what your next objective is. As in Rogue Squadron, there's a helpful radar display that not only identifies friends and foes, but keeps you headed in the right direction. You'll pilot seven vehicles from STAPs to starfighters, and the controls are responsive. Your performance determines which metal you earn (bronze, silver, or gold) in each of the 15 missions, adding replay value. The stages are ideal in length, and if you bite the dust, you pick up right where you left off. Battle of Naboo is a first-class shooter that should thrill Star Wars fans. I could find no serious flaws with this one. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Star Wars: Episode One Racer
Grade: A
Publisher: LucasArts (1999)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18

screenshotThis masterpiece is a dream come true for Star Wars fans! Episode One Racer faithfully recreates (and expands upon) the exciting pod-racing scene from the Phantom Menace. The game offers 23 different vehicles available and 25 unique courses. The graphics (with the help of the memory expansion pack) are magnificent and the illusion of speed is exhilarating. You can win and collect other vehicles which can be upgraded by buying parts from Watto (who has many funny lines in this game). The racing aspect is the best I've experienced on the N64, with controls that are more forgiving than most racers (you have to hit a wall really hard to crash). The frame rate does struggle to keep up in the later stages, where things get really crazy. The tracks themselves are all fascinating and surprisingly long. Some require a few minutes just to complete a single lap! As you would expect, the digitized sound effects and orchestrated musical score are beyond reproach. Episode One Racer also features a fine two-player split-screen mode. LucasArts obviously went all-out with the game, and the quality shows. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players 


Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Grade: B+
Publisher: LucasArts (1998)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18

screenshotThe best stages in Shadows of the Empire were the ones that let you fly ships, so LucasArts made Rogue Squadron nothing but dogfighting action all the way though. Set chronologically between A New Hope and Empire Strike Back, you play the part of Luke Skywalker, embarking on a series of missions to protect the Rebels and keep the Empire at bay. As you would expect, the production quality is top notch. The background story, characters, voice acting, sound effects, music, vehicle specifications, and locations are all faithful to the Star Wars mythology. The planet surfaces are plain but rendered in high resolution and appear silky smooth. Vehicles are detailed up close, but it can be tough to distinguish Tie fighters from Rebel allies in the distance. Your radar display is handy for guiding you to your mission objective, but less helpful during the hectic dogfights. The air-to-air combat is fun and challenging, and the explosions are a joy to behold. Sometimes you'll nick a Tie on the wing, sending him into a downward spiral - sweet. Rogue Squadron's single graphic shortcoming has to be the wimpy explosion of your ship when you crash - it's about the size of a firecracker! The game offers five aircraft to choose from, each with its own unique look and feel. A huge hit, Rogue Squadron kicked off a popular series that would continue on the Gamecube. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Grade: B
Publisher: LucasArts (1996)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18

screenshotAs one of the original "launch" titles for the Nintendo 64 console, Shadows of the Empire follows the storyline of the popular novel while incorporating a wide variety of playing styles. The background story is conveyed though a series of illustrations and text. The action begins with a Snowspeeder battle on Hoth, which frankly is the best stage of the game. The excellent graphics and tight control place you into the heat of battle, blasting probe droids and tripping up Imperial Walkers. Later stages include a very original (and fun) train-jumping sequence, a "swoop bike" race, and some dogfighting in space. Most stages, however, play like a third-person shooter, where you view your character from behind. As you might expect, he can get in the way at times. Shadows looks impressive but has its share of control problems. First, the touchy analog stick makes in difficult to navigate narrow ledges without sliding off. Also, the aiming controls for firing upward are not good. If you can deal with these issues however, Shadows provides a very satisfying and original Star Wars adventure. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Battery
1 player 


Stunt Racer 64
Grade: C
Publisher: Midway (2000)
Reviewed: 2012/10/27
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWith fantasy cars racing on rollercoaster-style tracks, this feels like a cross between Super Mario Kart 64 (N64, 1997) and Star Wars Episode One Racer (N64, 1999). Stunt Racer 64 is more "race" than "stunt". Oh sure you can execute some flips, rolls, and spins in mid-air, but I'm not convinced it's really necessary. The opening "tutorial" forces you to perform a checklist of actions like jumping through hoops, performing a flip, and collecting 2000 coins. To be honest, I was a little pissed off at having to pass this mandatory training, but it certainly does teach you the ropes. The "league mode" challenges you to participate in a series of races on tracks with themes like candy land, medieval castles, the Wild West, and a land of giant toys. The night tracks tend to look beautiful with their neon lights, but some daytime tracks suffer from fog. The tracks tend to have wild configurations with corkscrews, loops, shortcuts, and hazards to avoid. The best tracks are short and sweet, but some tend to drag on. The arcade racing action is fun thanks to the silky smooth frame-rate - and plenty of guard rails! The physics feels realistic, especially when you land at an angle and have to struggle to get your four wheels down. Your car tends to drift sideways in the air, which can be good for lining up an upcoming turn, and bad if you get turned the wrong way. There's nothing worse than finding yourself stuck on the rail after running an otherwise flawless race. Coins and power-ups on the track give the game a Mario Kart flavor, but there are no weapons to be found. I like Stunt Racer's arcade simplicity, but the game has issues. First, the confusing menu interface will have you going in circles! Who designed this?! There are plenty of opportunities to save your progress, but inexplicably not before the boss stage! Isn't that when you need to save most?! The background music is totally hokey and never seems to mesh with the stage themes. I'm a little surprised and disappointed at the lack of a split-screen mode. Stunt Racer 64 is a real oddball title, but if you're looking for a single player racer this will do the trick. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Super Mario 64
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Reviewed: 2003/11/5

screenshotThis is the game that launched the Nintendo 64 console, and it did not disappoint one bit. In 1996, Super Mario 64's go-anywhere style of 3D gameplay was revolutionary. And not only did Mario 64 deliver unprecedented freedom of movement, but its smooth textures and fluid animation made the graphics a pleasure to behold. While the transition to 3D was certainly a success, the basic Mario formula was altered in the process. Instead of non-stop jumping action, Mario 64 emphasizes exploration and item collecting. Although you can still pounce on enemies (with some difficulty), you can get through most of the game by eluding most of your foes. Mario has a huge arsenal of moves, including the ability to climb, swim, wall-kick, punch, somersault, pound the ground, and sneak around sleeping enemies. Control with the analog stick is responsive and perfectly suited to this game. The levels are large and hold enough secret items and hidden areas to warrant revisiting them several times. Adding spice are the numerous mini-games, including foot races and giant slides. Even with all the changes however, the game retains that familiar Mario charm, with the same characters, music, and scenery you've come to know and love over the years. The main problem with Mario 64 is no mystery to those who have played it: The awkward camera system. Even with five buttons controlling the camera, it's frustratingly hard to get a decent angle much of the time, and some of the platform jumping is far more difficult than it should be. As a result, the wide-open outside areas are far more enjoyable that the claustrophobic hallways and rooms. Still, Super Mario 64's well-designed stages, imaginative puzzles, gradual ramping difficulty, and numerous save points make it hard to put down. Even if you prefer the 2D incarnations, you can't deny that Mario 64 is a solid title for the N64. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Battery
1 player 


Super Smash Bros.
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
Reviewed: 2008/4/8

screenshotDespite its long-standing policy against violence, Super Smash Bros. features Nintendo's most popular characters beating the living crap out of each other. The 12 fighters (four hidden) include Mario, Star Fox, Pikachu (of Pokemon), Donkey Kong, Link, Kirby, Yoshi, and Samus (of Metroid fame). Designed for four-player mayhem, you leverage your character's special attacks to knock opponents off of elevated platforms. Link wields a sword, Donkey Kong pounds the ground, Samus fires missiles, and Kirby literally consumes his foes. Battles are set in eight "home worlds" including Donkey Kong's jungle, Star Fox's ship, Yoshi's Island, and Princess Peach's castle. You also get the familiar background music for each, which is a real treat. The characters and arenas are rendered in lush 3D, but the action is strictly 2D - which is definitely a good thing. The simple control scheme includes two attack buttons (A and B), jump (any C button), and guard (Z). Super Smash Bros. is a dream come true for life-long Nintendo fans, but it takes someone who grew up on the Sega side of the tracks to judge this game objectively. Smash Bros. is a very unconventional fighter. Instead of health meters, each character's damage meter indicates their vulnerability to being knocked into oblivion. This damage is represented as a percentage, yet this number can far exceed 100% - which won't sit well with math majors. And even if a character gets knocked far off of the screen, he can often jump on air - sometimes repeatedly - to work his way back into the fray. Am I the only person who finds that really, really cheesy? Spicing up the action are cool weapons like shells, ray guns, Mario's hammer (from the original Donkey Kong), and a lighted sword that resembles a light saber. The single player mode presents a string of challenges, such as battling an army of Yoshis or an oversized Donkey Kong. It's only moderately fun, but lets you unlock characters and other goodies. The main event is the four-player battle mode. These fights are totally chaotic and very much conducive to button mashing. Although the camera tries to maintain a tight angle, it's hard to keep track of your fighter. By default, each contest is played over a specified time period, and the fact that each player has an infinite number of lives never sat well with me. I much prefer the option to limit the matches by "stock" (lives). Super Smash Bros. is a fun concept that brings together a lot of memorable characters, but as a game it's vastly overrated. Its novelty value is through the roof, but if you're not a Nintendo fan, you'll probably wonder what all the fuss is about. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Superman
Grade: F
Publisher: Titus (1999)
Reviewed: 2003/2/25

screenshotRipped to shreds by critics, Superman is regarded by many to be one of the worst video games of all time. I'm not sure about that, but it certainly is bad. The 3D characters look extremely rough, cars look like boxes, and the flat ground is tattooed with patterns that are supposed to look like houses from high above. Unfortunately, many of your missions require you to walk right over these surfaces, and they look really, really stupid. The buildings look respectable, but the city is completely shrouded by a thick fog that severely limits your visibility. Superman's background story is incomprehensible, and many of the missions (all timed) seem confusing and pointless. Flying him through an obstacle course of giant rings (quite common in this game) is an exercise in frustration thanks to the unresponsive controls. I really did give Superman a chance, but the more I played it, the more I hated it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Tetrisphere
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Reviewed: 2003/2/25

screenshotThis puzzle game is innovative and nice looking, but as I discovered, that doesn't mean it's fun to play! Once again Nintendo is milking its Tetris cow, but this attempt falls flat. In the aptly named Tetrisphere, you manipulate a rotating sphere covered with layers of Tetris pieces. By sliding them around and placing them flush with pieces of the same shape, you can make them all explode in various chain reactions. Your ultimate goal is to reach the core. In terms of graphics, Tetrisphere is well suited for the N64. The sphere rotates smoothly and the chain reactions are very satisfying thanks to the crisp explosive sound effects. The thumping techno soundtrack is okay but not exceptional. Despite a nice overall presentation, the gameplay fails to live up to Tetris standards. It's too complicated, there's a serious learning curve, and I hate how pieces tend to replenish themselves. Unlike other Tetris variations that are relentlessly addictive, Tetrisphere gets more boring as you play. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Grade: B+
Publisher: Activision (2000)
Reviewed: 2014/5/8


screenshotI reviewed this game with my friend Brent who happens to be a world-renouned Tony Hawk expert. First we took some time to play the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (Playstation, 1997) as a basis of comparison. The results are clear: Tony Hawk plays perfectly well on the Nintendo 64 yet pales to its PS1 counterpart. The music quality is slightly degraded and the controls are not as tight. The graphics employ smoother textures, but this takes its toll of the framerate, causing the game to run noticeably slower. That said, this edition of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is still the same fun, madly-addictive game. Controlling famous skateboarders you'll grind rails in malls, schoolyards, and warehouses, trying to rack up points and collect items before time expires. Catching big air lets you string together elaborate combinations of flips, spins, and grabs. Button mashing gets the job done for beginners, but you'll need to develop better technique to conquer all of the challenges. Adding to the fun is an edgy soundtrack of classic punk tunes that will really get your pulse pounding. The high score screens are a nice touch, encouraging you to try just one more time. For what it's worth, this cartridge has a snazzy blue shell. It's not the best version of the game, but it is classic Tony Hawk so you really can't go wrong. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1998)
Reviewed: 2008/2/27
Rating: Mature

screenshotThe first Turok had a killer gimmick, and that was dinosaur hunting in the wilderness. This second edition feels more like a Doom clone, and I'm not sure why anyone would want to play it. The developers tried to make the stages more sophisticated, but inadvertently took all of the fun out of the game! Your goal is to protect "energy totems" on various planets. Man, could they possibly come up with a more boring premise? I doubt it! The first stage is absolutely unbearable with its endless switches, portals, and dark, narrow passageways. Your main adversaries are lizard men called "dinosoids", and they're really uninteresting. And whose idea was it to incorporate those annoying mini dinosaurs who jump all over you? Yeah - that's fun (as if)! Turok 2 makes you do a lot of platform jumping, but it's less forgiving than it was in the first game. Too many times you'll see boxes you think you can jump on, but they turn out to be just a millimeter too high! Your air supply is now limited when swimming, and that always sucks. When you hit one of the many switches, you'll hear a door opening, but you'll have no idea where it is. Turok 2's graphics are worse than the first game. Your enemies are composed of large polygons that make them look terribly blocky. The scenery has a medieval quality, but it's not particularly attractive or distinctive. The controls are deplorable. There's a noticeable lag between when you move the joystick and when the screen responds, which is not acceptable for a frenetic shooter like this! Making matters worse is a choppy frame-rate that makes it hard to target even close enemies! The four-player split screen mode was more than my friends could stomach with its dark, muddled graphics. My friend Scott was appalled that he couldn't kill Chris despite repeated hits and excessive blood. At one point he exclaimed "C'mon! - I even see organs on the ground!!" If you play Turok 2, you'll be hating life too. Seeds of Evil is an insufferable piece of garbage that set the franchise back to the Stone Age (or is that up to the Stone Age?) © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 to 4 players 


Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Grade: C
Publisher: Acclaim (1997)
Reviewed: 2008/2/27
Rating: Mature 17+ (violence, blood and gore)

screenshotIt's hardly the thrill it once was, but the original Turok still has its charm, offering an exciting brand of prehistoric first-person shooting action. Granted, it's hard to go back to these early first-person shooters with their fuzzy textures, imprecise controls, and heavy fog. But despite its technical limitations, I found myself intrigued by Turok. The tutorial does a good job of explaining the controls, although few gamers will be pleased with having to use the four C buttons to move and R to jump. There's no crosshairs when it comes to aiming your gun or bow, but if a target is near the center of the screen, chances are you'll hit it. Two things that concerned me about the tutorial were its overemphasis on swimming and platform jumping. I never thought these elements made sense in a first-person shooter, and Turok did little to change my mind. Although the platform jumping is more forgiving than most, it's still tedious enough to dock Turok a letter grade. Otherwise, the game is fairly enjoyable as you explore expansive outdoor wilderness areas while collecting items, unlocking new areas, and facing off against both man and beast. A handy map overlays the screen when you need it. Turok is commendable in terms of its raw violence. Upon shooting an enemy, the blood is excessive and the screams are crystal clear. Sometimes blood will squirt from a victim's neck as he keels over in agony. The raptors are pretty scary because they run straight toward you and the sound of their stomping feet is alarming. It's cool how a raptor's momentum will cause him to slide toward you after you shoot it. The manner in which they struggle and contort on the ground is equally amazing. But not all of Turok's graphics are so easy on the eyes. The dark scenery makes it tough to spot narrow crevasses, and when your "spiritual invincibility" kicks in, the psychedelic colors make it impossible to tell what's going on. Turok's audio is high quality. The jungle sounds and bongo drums strike a primeval tone, but they are repetitive. Likewise the roars and screeches that suggest nearby danger are way overdone. It's easy to see why Turok was popular in its time, but FPS games have evolved rapidly, and this one is looking its age. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 player 


Twisted Edge: Extreme Snowboarding
Grade: C-
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Reviewed: 2008/2/27
Rating: Everyone

screenshotConsidering Midway's track record of producing flashy arcade games, it's amazing how Twisted Edge turned out looking so butt ugly. I actually had to put in my 1080 Degree Snowboarding (Nintendo 1998) cartridge just to reassure myself that the Nintendo 64 was indeed capable of playing good-looking games! When you first turn on Twisted Edge, you're warned that "you don't have enough room on your controller pack to save", but don't believe it! The warning only applies to saving "ghost" data, which consumes an insanely large chunk of space. In fact, minimal space is required to save your progress and scores. Extreme Snowboarding's characters are dark and indistinct, and the courses tend to have a dreary, washed out look. The developers clearly got carried away with the system's "smoothing" effects, transforming everything into a fuzzy mess. Not only is the scenery shrouded in fog, but even the mountain backdrops look blurry! Does Twisted Edge's gameplay compensate for its shoddy visuals? Almost! The responsive steering controls make it a pleasure to carve into the icy tundra, and you can easily adjust the position of your body in mid-air. The rumble feedback is effective, especially when skidding along ice patches. Although the courses are definitely bland, I like how they tend to be wide open and easy to follow. You can perform tricks off ramps, but they don't serve much of a purpose besides causing you to wipe out. Performing holds is easy enough, but executing flips require complex button combinations - which I found bizarre. Twisted Edge's championship mode offers a decent challenge for the solo player, but the split-screen mode is an affront to all people with sight. Twisted Edge's equally horrendous soundtrack consists of whining guitars, and you'll want to shut that garbage off immediately. Twisted edge is certainly extreme - if by "extreme" you mean lame! For better snowboarding action on your N64, stick with 1080 Degree Snowboarding. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 or 2 player 


War Gods
Grade: F
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Reviewed: 2010/6/6
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated violence, animated blood and gore)

screenshotIn 1996 Nintendo 64 owners were starving for a good 3D fighter, and War Gods generated plenty of buzz and anticipation. The idea of mythical gods battling to the death sounds exciting, but in fact it's really, really boring. War Gods tries to bring the brutality and mystique of Mortal Kombat to the realm of 3D, but fails miserably. The characters are part of the problem. Kabuki Jo is supposed to be a medieval samurai, but he looks more like a clown with that red bushy hair. Cy-5 is a blatant Terminator knock-off, and Maximus is a gladiator with a mask over his face but no armor on his body. Pagan is a female fighter whose sole purpose seems to be to strut around in a thong and high heels. Tak is a stone warrior who looks more like a Marvel Comics reject. The only two characters remotely interesting are the dog-headed Anubis of Egypt and Voodoo the skinny witchdoctor. The character models are detailed enough but the backgrounds are sparse and boring. Like watching two immortals engaged in an endless struggle, playing War Gods feels like a pointless exercise. Each battle takes place within a circle, yet it's impossible to be knocked out of it, even as you are being pounded on the edge. The awkward control scheme employs a separate "3D" button to provide limited freedom of movement. It's a bad idea, evident by the fact that no fighter since has tried to incorporate it. Cheap attacks are the order of the day, coupled with "hold spells" that render the victim helpless as they get the living [expletive] kicked out of them. Characters fight hand-to-hand, but frequently pull weapons out of thin air to perform special attacks. Since they're freakin' gods, I'll give them a pass on that one. The damage dealt tends to be minimal, extending matches to agonizing lengths. When Tak impales an opponent with a spike and throws him across the room, you'd expect that to do substantial damage, right? But no - it only takes about an eighth off his life bar. Not a problem, as I discovered that by running and mashing A, I could perform this impale attack over and over again on my helpless foe. I nearly finished the game using that technique, but had to shut the damned thing off out of sheer boredom. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Wave Race 64
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/6/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWith its simple gameplay, beautiful scenery, and superb water effects, Wave Race 64 is one of the most appealing titles available for the Nintendo 64. Its eight distinctive courses include a sunny beach, a serene lake, and an industrial port. There's even a "sunset" course where you race on an ocean of orange Kool-Aid! The choppiness of the water varies between courses, and hitting a large wave at the right angle can send you high in the air (sweet). Wave Race's foamy water and splashing sound effects are so realistic that you can almost smell of the salty water of the beach and the raw sewage of the port. The controls are absolutely terrific, and I'm glad because serious skill is required to weave in and out of the colored buoys (miss too many and you're disqualified). It's possible to perform tricks, but they seem a bit pointless really. The one-player championship mode is addictive as hell, and the two-player split screen also very nice. The main problem with Wave Race 64 is its annoying announcer, who never has anything interesting to say, and will not shut up. Get used to hearing him shout the same words over and over: "Good!! Nice!! O-kay!! Okay!! Maximum Power!! Okay!!" Despite having a full options menu, there's no way to shut up that frickin' idiot. Despite this unfortunate audio flaw, Wave Race is a fantastic water racer and a must-have for all serious Nintendo 64 fans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey
Grade: D
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/3/20

screenshotI know polygon graphics were a novelty in 1996, but it's still a stretch to characterize this title as "3D". I've seen Wayne Gretzky's Hockey compared to NBA Jam, but NFL Blitz would be a better comparison, since both were published by Midway and employ the same commentator. I thrive on arcade-style sports games like this one, but its list of flaws is longer than Lindsey Lohan's rap sheet. For starters, my buddy Steve and I were frustrated as hell by our inability to set up a game so we could both play on the same team. Who designed this menu interface?! Forced to go head-to-head, it was immediately apparent that the default "side line" camera angle wasn't going to cut it. It's a terrible vantage point, especially when the puck is on the far side of the rink. Fortunately other camera options are available including an NHL 94-style overhead angle. Great - now if only the camera could keep up with the puck we could have some fun! This game may be too fast for its own good. The puck zips from one end of the rink to the other, and in a split-second you can steal the puck, pass it to a teammate and deflect it into the goal! Oh yeah - I meant to do that! The control scheme is a mess. The lower C button is used for turbo but the Z trigger would have made a lot more sense. You need to press awkward button combinations to execute power shots and one-timers. When a CPU-controlled teammate gains possession of the puck, you need to press the right shoulder button to take control of him. The graphics are best described as gaudy. The screen is cluttered with unnecessary colored icons and the puck has an obnoxious flashing indicator over it. Still, it's not a total loss. The contests are short, high-scoring affairs, and the outcome is always in doubt. Scoring a hat trick turns the net into a raging inferno! You're prompted for your initials before each contest, and these are used to record statistical information (saved to memory card). It's not a terrible game, but with a name like Wayne Gretzky you expect a lot more. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 4 players 


Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey 98
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Reviewed: 2011/3/20

screenshotThe first Wayne Gretzky hockey had a fast arcade style but its design flaws drove me nuts. This 98 edition patches things up but doesn't go far enough. Unlike the first game, my friend Steve and I could actually configure a game so we could be on the same team. Hurrah. The graphics are nearly identical to the first game, but there are a few tweaks that improve the overall experience. First, the overhead view is noticeably higher and offers a much better view of the action. The control scheme still sucks, but at least now you always control the player with the puck. It seems harder to score, and I can say that because I didn't find myself scoring by accident nearly as often! I pride myself as an expert at one-timer plays, and I could pull them off pretty effectively here. The passing is so crisp and accurate that you can practically toy with the goalie, passing the puck from side to side in front of the net. The sound effects are clean and distinctive, but that announcer doesn't have anything interesting to say. Wayne Gretzkey Hockey 98 is not one of my personal favorites, but I can't complain about its short-and-sweet contests. I wish the series would have continued on after this, because it seemed to be heading in the right direction. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 4 players 


Wipeout 64
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Reviewed: 2001/4/1

screenshotThis isn't your father's Wipeout. No, this futuristic racer has evolved quite a bit over its many Playstation incarnations, and this N64 version seems to have finally got the formula right. Despite a few limitations, this is probably my favorite Wipeout game. Why? Two things: Awesome control and silky smooth graphics. The N64 controller was tailor-made for this game, with an analog stick that provides just the right sensitivity. The tracks are wide enough, and scraping against the sides will throw sparks but won't slow you down too much. The weapons are pretty much a "best of" from previous Wipeouts, including the awesome "Quake Disrupter", which sends a huge ripple down the track in front of you. The frame rate is smooth even in the four-player split screen mode. Careening down twisting slopes almost out of control can be pretty exhilarating, but there is a cost. Yes, the background graphics exhibit that much-dreaded "pop-up" problem in the one-player mode. In the four player split-screen games, there aren't any background graphics at all! It's just a track, and while that doesn't really affect the gameplay, it looks kind of lame. Other problems include track sections that are too dark and an overly-difficult single player mode. Some players may also frown on the paltry number of tracks (six) and vehicle styles (four). Fortunately the trademark techno music has been retained and contributes greatly to the ultramodern feel of the game. Despite its flaws, Wipeout 64 offers engaging, high-tech racing fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 to 4 players 


Xena Warrior Princess
Grade: D
Publisher: Titus (1999)
Reviewed: 2001/12/15

screenshotI'm no Xena fan, but this was only $5 at Target, so I decided to give it a try. I was hoping Xena Warrior Princess would be an action adventure, but alas, it's just a 3D fighter featuring characters from the television series. The graphics and sound aren't bad though. The fighters have digitized faces and the medieval background graphics are very cool. In addition, the well-orchestrated music gives the game an epic flair. It's a shame the gameplay is so stale and hackneyed. You simply jump, kick, and punch, while trying to squeeze in the occasional special move. Xena also features a four-player simultaneous battle, but it's little more than a button mash-a-thon. In this case, I think I got what I paid for. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Yoshi's Story
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Reviewed: 2005/1/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSo I turn on Yoshi's Story for the first time and I'm greeted with this sissy, high-pitched "yo-ha-ho-ha-hooo" music and I'm thinking "What the [expletive] is this?" Like Mario, I always thought Yoshi appealed to all age groups, but the excessively cute soundtrack and infantile "story" make it evident that this was aimed at the younger crowd. The story revolves around the Yoshis' (yes, multiple ones) quest for the "Super Happy Tree". I think that speaks for itself. But once you skip through the corny text and turn down the volume a bit, you're in for a real treat. It's not often that you get to play a quality 2D game on the Nintendo 64, and this is far prettier than any 3D game you'll see on the system. Much like Yoshi's Island (SNES), this game is striking in appearance, with artistic textures that appear to be constructed from papier-mch, knitted cloth, clay, or carved wood. The gameplay adheres to the standard Mario World formula, but introduces an addicting treasure-hunting aspect with branching paths and stages that cleverly loop around on themselves. The goal of each stage is to collect 30 pieces of fruit, which are easily snagged with Yoshi's long, agile tongue. For a kid's game, Yoshi's Story's control scheme is rather sophisticated. Yoshi can jump, ground-pound, swallow, swim and hurl eggs by aiming a cursor. My favorite move is the "flutter jump", which is basically a double jump with more personality (Yoshi puts plenty of "umph" into it!). It's easy to slide off ledges, but the flutter jump usually gives you a chance to recover. The non-linear stages are artistic but not particularly imaginative, taking you through a forest, cave, jungle, ocean, and clock tower. Some stages are more maze-like than I would prefer. Certain areas allow you to "zoom in" to get a closer look at suspicious places. The pace of the game is slow and deliberate but still enjoyable and satisfying. I love how you have a pool of different colored Yoshis to "use up" during your quest. Yoshi's Story wasn't appreciated by the critics when first released, largely because it can be completed in one sitting. But that's offset by the fact that you can choose multiple paths through the game, and there are numerous secrets you'll miss if you just whiz through it. Plus, the game records high scores for each stage so you can always try to beat your best. It might resemble a kiddie game, but Yoshi's Story offers ample challenge for the adult gamer. Personally, I had a ball playing this. Hell, by the end I was even humming that queer little song! That's just between you and me, by the way. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 



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