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Title Range: A-B

1Xtreme
Grade: B+
Publisher: 989 Studios (1998)
Reviewed: 2014/4/4
Rating: Everyone (realistic violence)

screenshotAs one of my very first Playstation purchases, this game (originally known as ESPN Extreme Games) was a hit with my friends and still remains a personal favorite of mine. 1Xtreme lets you rollerblade, skateboard, bike, or luge through exotic locations around the globe. This game has aged well, partly due to its distinctive visual style. Unlike most PS1 games that use polygon graphics exclusively, the developers used old-fashioned sprites to render the racers and obstacles. These objects might look pixelated up close, but they look pretty sharp from medium range. 1Xtreme effectively conveys the high-speed, reckless thrills associated with extreme sports. You'll battle it out against 15 CPU-controlled opponents, and the ability to kick and punch gives the action a Road Rash (Genesis, 1992) flavor. The hilarious animations of racers wiping out are complemented by crisp sound effects. Few things in life are quite as satisfying as kicking a defenseless luger to the curb! When you get knocked down, you can almost feel the burn while sliding across the asphalt. It's exhilarating to catch air, especially when you clear a moving trolley or train. Navigating the hazard-lined streets is tricky, but clipping a barrel will just spin you around instead of stopping you cold. I love how CPU players also suffer their share of mishaps, like running straight into a pole! Passing through colored gates rewards you with points, money, and the unlocking of alternate routes. I love the ability to duck or jump, but I always get those two buttons confused! 1Xtreme is fun, but its bright, imaginative stages nearly steal the show. The office buildings on the rolling streets of San Francisco look gorgeous, and I love how the Golden Gate Bridge looms at the end of the race. The South America location features pyramids, lush jungle, and suspension bridges. Lake Tahoe features quaint wooden lodges and a reflective lake. Rounding out the locations are Utah and Italy. The split-screen framerate is very good despite including all the CPU competitors. 1Xtreme's menu system is clunky, but I love those big fat televisions on the option screens. So what's not to like? Well, the strength meter seems unnecessary and I'm not crazy about running over rabbits for bonuses. The game exhibits extreme rubberband AI with opponents that tend to sling-shot past you, and it's hard to crack the top 10 in a given race. 1Extreme isn't perfect, but it's still a one-of-a-kind title that I never get tired of playing. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


2Xtreme
Grade: F
Publisher: Sony (1997)
Reviewed: 2014/4/4
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotI learned a valuable life lesson from 2Xtreme. I had loved 1Xtreme (aka ESPN Extreme Games) but sold the game back expecting this sequel would trump it in every conceivable way. What a naive child I was! 2Xtreme turned out to be a monumental disappointment! I was disgusted at the time, and I'm still mad! The basic gameplay is the same as 1Xtreme, but you have fewer options. Instead of selecting your mode of transportation, you're limited to using a snowboard in Japan, in-line skates in Las Vegas, a mountain bike in Africa, and a skateboard in Los Angeles. Not only are there fewer locations (four instead of five), but the stages are far less impressive. What the [expletive] happened to the graphics? Everything is rendered in super-low resolution, making characters and obstacles appear insanely pixelated. The lack of detail in the scenery makes the locations look terribly fake. The slopes in Japan look angular and the jungles of Africa look like green tunnels. The Las Vegas strip looks dim and Los Angeles is just plain ugly. I was looking forward to the night stages, but they're just the normal LA stages with the brightness turned down! Where are the [expletive] lights!? The layouts are so repetitive you may as well be doing laps! In terms of gameplay, your speed and ability to catch air is increased. Unfortunately this takes its toll on the controls, and your character looks like an idiot when he catches air and starts flapping his arms (like that's going to help). The lower shoulder buttons are used to activate power-ups, and these are meant to add strategy but really aren't that effective. The fighting element is rendered pointless due to the rough animation and poor collision detection. 2Xtreme is an extremely sloppy effort that signalled the beginning of the end for a once-promising series. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


3Xtreme
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (1999)
Reviewed: 2014/4/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshot1Xtreme (aka ESPN Extreme Games) was terrific, but its sequel was a complete bust. In fact, 2Xtreme left such a bad taste in my mouth that it took 15 years for me to even attempt 3Xtreme! To its credit, the developers started from scratch, delivering a game with an entirely new look and feel. The live-action intro video shows guys doing random stunts, and some of the wipe-outs made my stomach hurt. 3Xtreme eschews exotic locations in favor of realistic stages set around the Los Angeles area, featuring sea shores, parks, and dry river canals. Characters and obstacles are now rendered with polygons instead of sprites. The characters don't look bad from behind, but they look like zombies from any other angle. I dig the idea of realistic stages, but couldn't they have used less-pixelated background images? That blocky night skyline would look right at home in an Atari 2600 game! There's no reason why digitized photographs couldn't have been used instead. There's not much in the way of scenery. In the park stage you ride through the zoo, yet there are no animals - or anything else for that matter. The new control scheme lets you perform sharper turns by holding the pad diagonally down. This gives you more precision turning but it's not very comfortable, and there's no analog option! One area where 3Xtreme excels is the performing of tricks. The ease in which you can grind rails and flip off ramps would make Tony Hawk proud. Unfortunately the elements that made the original game so much fun are all but gone. Instead of competing against a crowd of opponents, there are only six competitors and you rarely even see them. You are now limited to skateboards, bikes, and in-line skates. The sensation of speed is minimal, and the new steering controls tend to cramp my hand. The menu interface is so poor that it takes a dozen steps just to save your progress. I'll give 3Xtreme credit for trying to "keep it real", but this lukewarm effort wasn't going to save the franchise from its tailspin. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Activision Classics For the Atari 2600
Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis disk contains 30 old Atari 2600 games, including many legitimate classics like Pitfall, River Raid, and Kaboom. Most of the games look and play exactly like the originals, which is a good thing. Although the graphics are primitive, their timeless gameplay is surprisingly fun and addicting. It's a shame this package is spoiled by such a bloated, ill-conceived user interface. Loading and switching between games is an incredibly slow process, which is inexcusable considering how tiny these games are code-wise. Like most Atari 2600 games, most of these contain several variations that affect the skill level, number of players, and other options. On the Atari 2600, you could just flip a switch to change the variation, but Activision Classics forces you to exit completely and reload the game in order to change anything! Kaboom, one of the best games Activision ever released, was designed for use with analog paddle controls, and the digital control is a poor substitute. Why aren't the analog sticks supported?! Finally, there is no way to save high scores, although you can save a game in progress. Considering the games are short and the whole object is to beat your high score, that makes no sense at all. Did the developer even bother playing any of these games? All in all, there are plenty of great titles here, but this package doesn't give them the treatment they deserve. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Alien Trilogy
Grade: B-
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2000/5/10
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotThis intense first-person shooter will definitely appeal to fans of the Alien movies. Yes, it's your typical Doom-style shooter, but its dark, ominous atmosphere is remarkable. Dark corridors, dramatic music, and spine-tingling sound effects will keep you on the edge of your seat. There are plenty of interesting missions to complete, and the controls are excellent. Unfortunately, the game falters a bit when it comes to the aliens themselves. The face-grabbers look terrific as they scamper across the floor, but when they grab your face, the pixelation is horrendous. The normal aliens are also pixilated and flat, and never seem to come within five feet, even when they attack. It's not perfect, but if Alien Trilogy wants to make you feel like you're in one of the Alien films, it succeeds in a big way. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Arcade Party Pak
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/11/28
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)

screenshotI wouldn't characterize any of the old arcade games included here as "classic", but a few were quite popular in the late 80's and early 90's. This collection includes Smash TV, Rampage, Super Sprint, Klax, 720 Degrees, and Toobin'. Smash TV is easily the best, as you move from room to room furiously blasting enemies that converge from all sides. The game reminded me of Robotron, so I wasn't surprised to learn it was created by the same guy, Eugene Jarvis. Smash TV is also reminiscent of the movie "The Running Man", and it contains a surprising amount of blood and gore. It's shape-changing, oversized bosses seem obligatory now, but they were quite innovative in 1990. Rampage was another popular title which lets up to three gargantuan monsters tear down city skylines. I've never been a fan of this repetitive game, but it did spawn many sequels. The next game is an Indy 500 update called Super Sprint, where up to four players whiz around screen-sized tracks with ramps and banked turns. Klax is a solid Tetris-type game, and 720 Degrees is a skateboarding game with fuzzy graphics and a style reminiscent of Paperboy. In the slow-paced Toobin', you guide a fat guy down a stream on an inner tube while avoiding obstacles and passing through gates. There's entirely too much button pressing in this one. Arcade Party Pack also features interesting interviews with the game makers, and allows you to customize the game options. The dual-analog controller and multi-tap are supported. This isn't a "must have" compilation, but arcade fans will appreciate it. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 3 players 


Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1
Grade: A-
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to Adults (mild violence)

screenshotThis fantastic six-pack of arcade classics contains Asteroids, Battlezone, Tempest, Centipede, Missile Command, and Super Breakout. These are the exact same versions of the games you played in the arcade, and yes, they are just as addictive as you remember. Missile Command and Centipede are two of the best video games of all time, but you'll probably miss their roller-ball controls. The vector graphics in Asteroids, Battlezone, and Tempest look razor sharp, but only if you have an S-Video cable. I found Super Breakout and Battlezone to be somewhat awkward to control. As a nice bonus, you can also modify games settings including the difficulty and number of lives. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Arcade's Greatest Hits: Midway Collection 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to Adults (mild violence)

screenshotThis fine collection of seven arcade hits includes Joust 2, Splat, Blaster, Moon Patrol, Tapper, Burgertime, and Spy Hunter. First the good stuff: Moon Patrol, Tapper, and Burgertime are extremely addicting and true video game classics. Spy Hunter is a terrific game, but suffers from control problems. Joust 2 is an interesting, rarely-seen sequel to the classic game, but although it offers more sophisticated graphics and gameplay, it falls short in the fun department. Splat and Blaster are two previously unreleased games, but they're mildly entertaining at best. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 2
Grade: B
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to Adults (mild violence)

screenshotHere's yet another great collection of classic arcade titles. This edition includes Paperboy, Gauntlet, Roadblasters, Crystal Castles, Marble Madness, and Millipede. Millipede is crazy fun, and Marble Madness is an absolute blast with two players. Gauntlet is an old favorite, but the unlimited continues undermine the challenge, and the four player mode is not nearly as fun as I remembered. Paperboy is an excellent game, but for some reason its graphics didn't translate well and appear very blurry. Crystal Castles really requires a track-ball for proper control; even the analog control feels imprecise. The final game, Roadblasters, is the weakest of the bunch. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Arcade's Greatest Hits: Williams
Grade: A
Publisher: Williams (1996)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to adults (mild violence)

screenshotThis arcade six-pack is an absolute "must have" for everyone who grew up in the early 80's and spent time hanging out at the arcade in the local bowling alley or 7-11. There are some top notch titles here: Robotron, Defender, Defender II, Joust, Sinistar, and Bubbles. Robotron is one of the most intense, addicting shooters of all time. Defender and Defender II are extremely tough but keep you coming back for more. Joust is known for its excellent two-player simultaneous play, which can be either cooperative or competitive. I had never even heard of Bubbles before, but this bizarre game won me over in a big way. As you guide a bubble around the sink, he grows as he collects other bubbles, but must avoid bugs and razors. Sinistar is pretty lame, but has the distinction of being the first video game to feature voice synthesis! As icing on the cake, this package includes fascinating and sometime hilarious interviews with the original programmers. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Area 51
Grade: B
Publisher: Midway (1995)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Mature (realistic violence)

screenshotHere's an engaging light gun game with realistic, full-motion video graphics. You view the action from a first-person perspective as you move automatically through Area 51, allowing you to concentrate on your precision shooting. Grotesque aliens pop up behind everything, but you can also destroy windows, barrels, and other objects. Just be careful not to shoot the good guys in blue! Shooting a specific set of objects will occasionally reveal a bonus level. Area 51 is fun for one player, but the two-player simultaneous action is even better. There's also a nice option that lets you start the game halfway though. Unfortunately, since Area 51 is an older game, it does not support Namco's Guncon controller. For similar shooting action, see Maximum Force. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Army Men 3D
Grade: C
Publisher: 3DO (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/9/14
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotArmy Men's hilarious video introduction looks like a vintage newsreel, complete with cheesy music and grainy footage. The narrator describes the battle between the "green" and "tan" armies. Army Men 3D doesn't take itself very seriously, and thank goodness for that! You control a single plastic army man who tends to pose like the plastic figures you played with as a kid. Excellent control lets you fall to the ground, crawl on your stomach, and even roll. Your weaponry includes machine guns, bazookas, grenades, mines, and flamethrowers. Most of the time your choice weapon will be dictated by the situation. For example, if one enemy is running across the screen, you'll want to use the machine gun, but if three troops hiding in a bunker, tossing a grenade is the best option. You can even commandeer vehicles like jeeps and tanks! A radar display in the lower corner of the screen alerts you to enemy presence. The battlefields try to recreate WWII settings, but the graphics are pixilated and fairly sloppy. You can either embark on a series of solo missions, or face-off against a second player on a split-screen. The two-player mode isn't so hot, but the one-player missions are well-designed and worth the price of admission. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Army Men Air Attack
Grade: C-
Publisher: 3DO (1999)
Reviewed: 2000/12/10
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotThis Army Man sequel places you in a toy helicopter, blasting away at the "tan army" in a backyard environment. Various missions have you transporting supplies, escorting toy trains, and picking up ground troops. It's not a particularly impressive-looking game, but blowing little plastic men to bits does have its charm. The graphics are okay, and the control is pretty good too. You can strafe your helicopter and easily lower a rope to pick up supplies. There are all kinds of weapons including homing missiles, napalm, and swarm rockets. Air Attack game reminds me of a whimsical version of Desert Strike, but it does get a bit repetitious. At least there's a nice two-player split screen mode that lets you and a buddy compete or cooperate together. There's nothing wrong with Air Attack, but it's nothing special either. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 player 


Asteroids
Grade: D+
Publisher: Activision (1998)
Reviewed: 2004/12/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotActivision did fair job of updating the graphics of this classic game, but its gameplay is actually much less fun than the original. This game's main assets are its dark but attractive graphics and explosive sound effects. Despite its thunderous asteroid blasts, shooting of missiles still uses that old "choon choon" sound effect. New elements include different types of asteroids and UFOs, as well as the inclusion of power-ups. Regular asteroids rotate smoothly and break apart nicely, but the regenerating crystal asteroids are a serious pain in the ass! You can never seem to get rid of those damn things! This updated Asteroids is much easier that the original and not nearly as addictive. The load times are reasonable, but the two-player mode is completely worthless due to its unfair scoring system. The original version of Asteroids is also included, if only to illustrate how hard it is to improve on perfection. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Atari Anniversary Edition Redux
Grade: A
Publisher: Infogrames (2001)
Reviewed: 2002/1/6

screenshotThis collection of Atari arcade games from the early 80's is an improvement over the Dreamcast (DC) version, released a few months prior. The twelve arcade-perfect titles include Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Black Widow, Centipede, Gravitar, Missile Command, Pong, Space Duel, Super Breakout, Tempest, and Warlords. That's one heck of a lineup, despite the fact that Crystal Castles and Millipede are missing (they both appeared on the DC version). That's okay, because these have been replaced by two other games: Space Duel and Black Widow. Space Duel is a long-forgotten Asteroids-style shooter where you can control two ships tethered together. I remember playing this in the dark, cramped game room at my local 7-11 about 20 years ago. When played cooperatively with a friend, it's outrageously fun. Another long-lost gem is Black Widow, which I had previously never even heard of! It's an excellent twitch shooter with gameplay similar to Robotron. All the games on this disk are fully customizable, and even feature an option for "arcade trim" graphics. You'll probably want to forgo those however in order to maximize the size of your game screen. Atari Anniversary provides mouse support, and I was even able to dust off my old Nyko track-ball, which also works great. You can even save your high scores and game configurations. There are no new bonus materials, but there's a lot of entertainment value and fond memories packed into this collection. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Austin Powers Pinball
Grade: D+
Publisher: Global Star Software (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/7/23
Rating: Teen (comic mischief, mild language, suggestive themes)

screenshotThis little $9.99 pinball game is okay, but it's not quite evil enough. It's the Diet Coke of evil, and its Austin Powers license is largely squandered on boring tables and generic gameplay. The digitized sounds and graphics are mildly amusing but serve as mere window dressing. You'd at least think the music would be good, but the droning 1960's elevator music is so weak you'll barely notice it. Despite the lackluster presentation, the flippers are large and the control is right on. I had a good time challenging my friend Steve, although he thinks luck plays a huge role in this game (no way!). The game comes with two complete tables, and you can save your high scores. The user interface is needlessly confusing, and it took me a while just to figure out how to set up a two-player game. With its low production values nad uninspired design, Austin Power Pinball's main purpose seems to be to cash in on the films. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Backstreet Billiards
Grade: C
Publisher: Ascii (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotBackstreet Billiards offers a nice range of features and variations, but falls into the same trap as so many other video pool games. Although several cool camera angles are available for each shot, the high overhead view is always the best view, defeating the fancy 3D graphics. The control is pretty decent, and I like the challenging story mode that let's you take on a series of increasingly good pool hustlers. Backstreet is hardly great, but it's probably as good as any other Playstation pool game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Ballblazer Champions
Grade: F
Publisher: LucasArts (1997)
Reviewed: 2002/10/20
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThe original Ballblazer was a popular 1984 computer game with cutting-edge, psuedo-3D graphics. A futuristic one-on-one sport, it was played from a first-person point of view. You'd expect this sequel to be a winner considering how far 3D graphics have come, but Ballblazer Champions lacks the fun and charm of the original. At times, it's an absolute chore to play! The sad part is, it didn't have to be this way. If LucasArts had stayed true to the original formula, this game might have worked. But instead they completely overhauled the gameplay, creating a confusing mess. Champions is played from a third-person perspective in elaborate arenas with fixed goals and power-ups sprinkled all over the place. The ball tends to blend in with the surroundings, making it hard to track down. An arrow directs you towards its location, but I think a radar display would have been more useful. It's hard to tell what's going on in this game, and the problem is even worse in the split-screen mode. Your vehicle is equipped with a speed burst, but it doesn't work when you have the ball, so you'll crawl like a snail when it's in your possession. The instruction manual recommends continuously shooting the ball ahead of you and speed-bursting to it. The original game let you shoot from any distance, but in Ballblazer Champions your shots stop dead at a few feet, so you'll need to be directly in front of the goal to score! The audio is equally horrific, with bad music and an annoying announcer yelling mindless drivel like "I love it!" and "That had to hurt!" What game is he watching? © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Batman Gotham City Racer
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubisoft (2001)
Reviewed: 2006/2/2

screenshotAfter experiencing the thrilling, high-speed racing action of other Batman games (notably Batman Returns on the Sega CD), I was very disappointed with the tedious nature of Gotham City Racer. It's just a series of boring driving missions punctuated by cartoon cut-scenes. Most missions involve simply driving from point A to point B within a set period of time, which isn't the least bit exciting. The on-screen overhead map is crap, but at least a green arrow at the top of the screen keeps you headed in the right direction. Consequentially, you'll spend most of the game staring at that ugly arrow. The Batmobile itself looks junky, and the analog steering sucks. You tend to swerve from side to side, making it difficult to stay on the narrow roads. Some missions involve trailing a villain or disabling his vehicle with weapons. You can fire weapons forward or backward, but no visible damage is inflicted (lame!). Worst yet, the maze-like layout of the city prevents you from attaining high speeds. Gotham Racer's scenery isn't very elaborate. Most roads look the same, but there are a few landmarks and shortcuts to spice things up. In terms of audio, the orchestrated musical score is terrific, but the Batmobile engine is in serious need of a tune-up. The animated cut scenes are entertaining enough, and fans of the series will enjoy watching Batman battle foes like Two-Face, Firefly, and Clay-Face. This footage appears to be taken directly from the show, although the visual quality is somewhat degraded. Gotham City Racer is definitely mediocre, and only die-hard Batman fans will find any redeeming qualities in this. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 player 


Batman and Robin
Grade: D
Publisher: Acclaim (1998)
Reviewed: 2001/2/24
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotA vile gangster descends on an innocent civilian on a dark street. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, the batmobile appears and the caped crusader leaps out, fists clenched! Then, inexplicably - Batman is run over by a bus! This scene is typical of Batman and Robin. This is an overly ambitious game with massive potential, but all of its pieces don't quite come together. It should actually be called Batman or Robin, considering you can't play both at once (Batgirl is also available). It's hard to criticize Batman and Robin's graphics - this game is pure eye-candy! From the impressive cinematics to the glitzy streets of Gotham, the game sports a dark but colorful motif in the spirit of the movie. The heroes look awesome. Although somewhat stiff when they move, I love the way their capes flow. Your adventure begins in the Batcave at Wayne Manor, where you can train and analyze clues. The training room is a Tomb Raider knock-off, as are the swimming controls (who asked for swimming in a Batman game anyway?). The Batcave is pretty cool though because there are plenty of things to do and places to explore. When it's time to hit the road, you'll hop into the batmobile and cruise the streets of Gotham in search of thugs and clues. The driving graphics are impressively smooth, although the steering is over-sensitive. Mr. Freeze's thugs attack from motorcycles and tanks, but your machine gun is very effective at dispatching these goons. There are also civilian vehicles on the road that inexplicably explode when you accidentally sideswipe them (whoops!). The buildings look really good, and you can get out of your vehicle to explore at any time. Unfortunately, only certain designated areas offer anything to see, indicated by a parked police car. Once you determine where Mr. Freeze will strike next, you go to that place and battle his thugs. These fighting sequences are where the game falls apart. Confusing controls, awkward camera angles, graphical glitches, and collision problems make each fight a painful experience. In addition, the sound effects feature a lot of annoying alarms, and the voice samples sound nothing like the real actors. Finally, be prepared to spend a lot of time staring at loading screens. I like the concept behind Batman and Robin, but Acclaim couldn't quite pull it off. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Battle Arena Toshinden
Grade: C+
Publisher: Takara (1995)
Reviewed: 2001/10/6
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotThis 3D fighter made quite a splash at the Playstation launch. Never before had a fighting game featured such detailed textured polygons and smooth animation. Although somewhat antiquated by today's standards, Toshinden's gameplay has held up fairly well. Button controls give you two weapon attacks and two kicks, and the directional pad lets you dash, block, and jump. The jumps tend to be high and floaty, but the dodge move lets you roll sideways, making this a true 3D fighter. The fights take place on raised platforms, creating the possibility for "ring-outs". The characters are a bit blocky with visible polygon seams, and the stages do a lousy job of blending photo-realistic backgrounds with chunky polygon foregrounds. While not as deep as Tekken, Toshinden is still a respectable game, and unlike many other fighters, its matches don't run very long. Its age is clearly showing, but Toshinden is an interesting game to look back on. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Battle Arena Toshinden 2
Grade: D-
Publisher: Takara (1996)
Reviewed: 2001/2/24
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotBattle Arena Toshinden 2 kicks off with an intro that mixes animated sequences with clips of real actors, and it doesn't work very well at all. As a matter of fact, it looks downright embarrassing! The game itself features a nice variety of fighters, including the obligatory freak, a knight, an old man, and a dominatrix (who doesn't look too hot, by the way). In addition to eleven regular characters, there are two cool bosses and a hidden character. Unfortunately the developers got a little too ambitious and incorporated fancy shading effects, which actually make the game look worse! Not only do the fighters look rougher than the first Toshinden, but their animation is terribly choppy. With the exception of some impressive running water, most of the scenery is generic and dull. The high-octane music is very good, but the voice sound effects may just be the worst ever recorded for a video game! The repetitive screams are irritating, and Sophia's laugh will make you cringe. A big step back from the original, I would only recommend Toshinden 2 to those who want to take a walk down memory lane. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Battle Arena Toshinden 3
Grade: F
Publisher: Takara (1997)
Reviewed: 2002/5/5
Rating: Teen (ages 13+, realistic violence)

screenshotAfter a promising start, the Toshinden fighting series slowly descended into mediocrity. This third edition is so embarrassing that when my friend asked me where I got it, I lied and told him I found it lying on my doorstep! The only thing Toshinden 3 has going for it is the sheer number of fighters: 30 in all! Some of these characters are way over-the-top, like the giant monkey and the ugly dude with the long "Pinocchio" nose. Hell, one guy is even armed with a frickin' chainsaw! The graphics are weak for a 1997 game, with blocky character models and vanilla backdrops. The gameplay places far too much emphasis on combos, which means you'll constantly sustain multiple hits while not being in control of your fighter. The matches can run painfully long, and cheap hits are the order of the day. Using Tracy, I managed to beat my CPU-controlled opponents with ease using nothing but kicks to the shin! As mediocre as the graphics are, the voice samples are even worse! It sounds like everybody's talking from the end of a long sewer pipe! The voice talent must have fallen into a well when this was being produced. Mercifully, this third edition spelled the end of the Toshinden franchise. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Blaster Master: Blasting Again
Grade: F
Publisher: Sunsoft (2000)
Reviewed: 2004/7/30
Rating: Everyone

screenshotBack by popular demand, Blaster Master has been transformed from its modest 8-bit Nintendo roots into a 3D action bonanza! At least that's what the case says. In the original NES Blaster Master, you navigated platforms in a jumping tank and would sometimes explore on foot. This new version offers the same brand of platform shooting, but it's darker and more serious. The stages take place in underground caves where robots are constructing a mysterious war machine. Blaster Master's graphics are respectable, thanks to its nasty spider-shaped robots and cool explosion effects. The analog control is very good, and the new "side jump" move is useful. Like the original game, some of the action takes place underwater, and you can even step out your vehicle (although this is not advised). Unfortunately, the underground areas tend to be small, and moving from one to the next forces you to sit through an annoying load screen. I felt like I was spending more time watching load screens than the game itself, and it's especially aggravating when you accidentally back up into the previous room! Worse yet, the confusing stage designs will have you going in circles. Upon losing a life you need to restart the stage from the beginning, and after sitting through dozens of load screens, that's really too much to ask. Fans of the original game may consider picking this up cheap, but you definitely want to hold onto you old NES cart. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Blasto
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 2001/2/24
Rating: Teen (violence, mild language, suggestive themes)


screenshotBlasto reminds me of the old Marvin the Martian cartoons, with its platforms suspended in space, elevator tubes, and weapons like the "Blast-O-Matic 100 Tera-Watt Blaster". The production quality of this 3D platform game is outstanding. The graphics and animation look like a Warner Bros cartoon, and Blasto is a top-heavy caricature of every animated hero you've ever seen. His booming voice is supplied by the late, great Phil Hartman of SNL fame. Unfortunately, Blasto has problems typical of the 3D platform genre, namely too many difficult fatal jumps, excessive backtracking, and not knowing where you're supposed to go next. The maps are confusing and only available in certain areas. Even so, there are a few elements that elevate Blasto above the average mark. First, you get to rescue nice-looking, scantily-clad women. You can fire your gun rapidly, and there are plenty of alien targets. Phil Hartman's funny quips give the lead character personality, and the retro-futuristic music is absolutely dead-on. Adding variety to the gameplay, you can fly with a jet pack, swim, or even ride around on a big chicken! Overall Blasto looks and sounds like a million bucks, but its gameplay is less than earth-shattering. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Bloody Roar
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Teen (blood and violence)

screenshotHere's a 3D fighter with a killer gimmick - the fighters can transform into werewolves, apes, big rabbits or a number of other beasts. Not only does this add variety to the action (the monsters have different moves), but it adds some much-needed strategy (choosing the right time to transform). Bloody Roar's gameplay is similar to Tekken, but its simple controls lend themselves to mindless button mashing. The one-on-one battles take place in fenced-in arenas, and it's even possible to knock your opponent through a wall (nice!). Unfortunately, the characters are not well balanced, and the guy who becomes a lion has his way with most of the others. Bloody Roar also includes a ton of options and Easter Eggs which add replay value. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Bloody Roar 2
Grade: B
Publisher: Sony (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/8/8
Rating: Teen (blood and violence)

screenshotTake the original Bloody Roar and improve the graphics, add more moves, and toss in some extra play modes, and you have Bloody Roar 2. Like the first edition, you control a character who has the ability to transform into an animal at the touch of a button. There are some devastating combos, some which can be chained into a ridiculous number of hits (18 or more). The analog and vibration controls are supported but don't add a whole lot to the gameplay. The Story Mode is really just a string of one-player battles loosely connected by cheesy cut-scenes. Bloody Roar 2 is not as good as Tekken, but it's a step in the right direction. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Bottom of the 9th
Grade: C+
Publisher: Konami (1996)
Reviewed: 2005/8/8
Rating: Kids to adults

screenshotAs one of the first baseball games to incorporate polygon graphics, you might expect Bottom of the 9th to totally suck, but it's actually quite entertaining. Although Konami failed to secure an MLB license (no team names or stadiums), the game does contain real players, complete with digitized photos. Bottom of the 9th's gameplay is simple and fun - once you get over the primitive graphics. With the featureless bodies that are rough around the joints, the players on the pitcher/batter screen look more like robots. Their animation however is very smooth and lifelike - and that's what really counts. The batter aims using a "swing box", and the better the hitter, the larger the box. Once a ball is put into play, the game truly shines. Playing defense is a pleasure, with responsive fielders who can whip the ball between the bases with ease. The outfield is huge, so there tends to be a lot of hits into the gaps. The ball really tends to "die" after it hits the ground, as if the grass was soaked with rain. Be sure to keep an eye on your runners, because they run on anything. Bottom of the 9th has its share of little quirks, but these give the game character. Teams are referred to by their city, and their fake logos are cheesy as hell. You'll play in odd venues like the Comet Dome and Panther Field. This is also the first baseball game that lets you throw "warm up" pitches. Bad idea! Hell, they even need to drop that from real baseball! When selecting a pitch, the pitcher sometimes will "shake you off" from the mound, which looks cool. Finally, when a player gets thrown out at a base, it's funny how he sulks back to the dugout totally dejected with his head down. Bottom of the 9th is an odd case where its graphics are so bad that they're good, and its smooth, arcade-style gameplay is timeless. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Bottom of the 9th '99
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1998)
Reviewed: 2009/8/12
Rating: Everyone


screenshotThe back of the box for this game reads "NEW! 1998 opening day rosters! NEW! 1998 inter-league schedule!" So why is it called Bottom of the 9th '99 again? The only reason I bought this game is because it has Brady Anderson on the cover, one of my favorite Orioles from the 90's. Speaking of Orioles, I can not get over just how stacked their roster was in 1998! Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, Harold Baines, and Brady Anderson were just a few of the team's heavy hitters that year. I really enjoyed the first Bottom of the 9th (Playstation, 1996), but this one is less interesting. The boxy players look more "fleshed out" than the first game, but their blank faces look creepy as hell! The animation is extremely fluid, and I actually recognized the distinctive stances of several batters. The pitchers deliver with a nice winding motion, but they are so lanky that it looks like a frickin' praying mantis out there on the mound! The infield throws from knees and head-first slides look very realistic, but I hate how outfielders "twitch" as they approach the ball from an angle. Exclamation points appear over players who make a poor throw - as if they're cursing or something. In addition to the default behind-the-batter view, you also have the option of a behind-the-pitcher angle, which alters both the view and controls drastically. It's like a whole different game! Bottom of the 9th has a nice pick-up and play quality. The pitching controls are okay, but I wish the fastball was the default pitch instead of the change-up. Also, these fastballs sure don't look very fast! Fly balls tend to float in the air, so shots to the gap usually end up as shoestring catches. Likewise, infielders usually snag hard liners that appear to be well over their heads. Getting on base is like pulling teeth, and this lack of offense sucks the excitement out of the game. Other annoyances include fielders who don't try to tag runners, or players who stand around after the third out like a bunch of idiots! In one amazing glitch, my friend Chris managed an underhand throw to himself on first base! The stadiums are rough approximations of the real things, but I do like those skylines at night. The controls are digital only, and there's no instant replay function. I wouldn't call Bottom of the 9th '99 bottom of the barrel, but you can find better baseball games for the Playstation. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Brain Dead 13
Grade: F-
Publisher: Readysoft (1995)
Reviewed: 2010/5/25
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotFinally- a game that lives up to its name! Brain Dead 13 is either completely busted or the most unplayable piece of [expletive] in the sordid history of bad games. It's one of those full-motion video (FMV) affairs along the lines of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. You play the role of Shaun White who galavants through a haunted house while being pursued by some freak with hooks. In theory, you can interact with Brain Dead 13's animated story by pressing buttons at specific moments. Incredibly, after playing for at least a half hour my friends and I had zero progress to show for our efforts. That's right people, we failed to register a single correct move! Every last one resulted in a "bad beep" instead of the "good beep". Hell, the only reason we were even aware of the existence of the "good beep" is that it's mentioned in the instructions! The unskippable opening scene is about 15 seconds long but it feels like an eternity. Eventually I was able to perform one or two correct moves on my own, but even when you know exactly what to do, the difficulty is just brutal. Brain Dead 13 effectively blurs the line between a working game and a defective one. I paid money for this? It's all over but the crying. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Breakout
Grade: D
Publisher: Hasbro (2000)
Reviewed: 2001/3/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotYes, the old Atari 2600 Breakout game is back, but you'll never recognize it. Instead of smashing colored blocks, this whimsical 3D version lets you aim for crates, chickens, knights, and mummies. The early stages are straightforward, fun, and addictive. My favorite is the hollow pyramid, with its chain-reactions, jarring explosions, and the crisp sounds of crumbling rock. As the stages progress however, the game becomes less and less like Breakout, and consequently less fun. By going overboard with annoying "connect the pipe" puzzle stages, I think Hasbro lost sight of the simple gameplay that made the original so great. Ill-conceived power-ups tend to distract more than they help, and the mandatory "bonus" stages are painfully difficult and have absolutely nothing to do with Breakout. One forces you to run from a wolf through an obstacle course, and it's no fun at all. A few multiplayer modes are included, but these are thoroughly confusing. Certain actions send more bricks over to your opponent's side, and it's incredibly frustrating when your wall is regenerating faster than you can smash it. Like Pong, Breakout begs for a paddle controller, and the analog or digital controls aren't responsive enough, especially when you're trying to keep multiple balls in play. Hasbro tried to do to Breakout what they did with Pong, but this time they came up short. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Bubsy 3D
Grade: F-
Publisher: Accolade (1996)
Reviewed: 2012/7/8
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIf you hated Bubsy in 2D, wait until you get a load of this 3D atrocity. This is the kind of game that makes you stare at the screen and shake your head in disbelief. The main character is incredibly unfunny and creepy to boot. His goofy voice will make you cringe as he randomly tosses out lines like "Owwww - what's the number for 911?" The game allegedly takes place in "distant worlds", giving the developers an excuse to throw together the most unimaginative, aesthetically repugnant stages ever devised. They are basically composed of geometric shapes with gaudy color schemes. The draw-in is horrendous as triangular mountains and square platforms magically appear as you step forward. Strewn across the landscape are hundreds of atom icons. You're supposed to collect those things, but that would be a colossal waste of time. Populating the flat, featureless worlds are green, armless goons that stand around and spit red projectiles. You can pounce on them for points, but the horrendous digital controls make even landing on a stationary object tricky. Enemies are deadly to touch, and thanks to poor collision detection just being in the general vicinity is fatal. Lining up Bubsy for jumps is tedious work, and that fact that he'll grab the side of a ledge if you come up short is little consolation. Combining 2D sprites with 3D objects makes depth perception hard, so grabbing floating objects is very frustrating. The weird music sounds like something from a haunted carnival. Playing Bubsy 3D is one of the most unpleasant experiences you'll ever endure. I forced my friend Scott play this a few months back, and the poor guy is still in therapy. Lacking any glimmer of charm or creativity, Bubsy 3D takes "bad" to a whole new dimension. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Bust A Groove
Grade: A-
Publisher: 989 (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWho would have thought a corny dancing game like Bust a Groove could be so damn good? How could this be? Well, you can start with its killer soundtrack of high quality, catchy-as-hell dance tunes. Next, the game uses state-of-the-art motion-modeling to create characters with an incredible variety of dance moves. There are ten dancers to choose from, each with their own individual styles. You control them by pressing combinations of buttons (displayed on the screen) to the rhythm of the songs. The longer you keep it going, the fancier your moves become, but hit a wrong button and your dancer gets out of sync like a drunk white guy (or a sober white guy). Competing with a friend is a trip, and you can even perform attacks on your opponent to throw off their rhythm. The its colorful lighting and fancy camera angles, the game almost has a Soul Train vibe. If you're into musical games, Bust a Groove belongs in your collection. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Bust A Move 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2001/6/29
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIn all likelihood, Bust A Move 2 is the most compelling puzzle game since Tetris. Completely original in premise, you aim and shoot balloons towards the top of the screen, trying to connect three of the same color, causing them to explode. Played on a split-screen, the idea is to clear out the balloons on your side, before your opponent can clear his side. You really need to try this game first-hand to appreciate how much fun it is. The rules are simple as can be, but quick-thinking and subtle strategy are required. The first time I showed this to a friend, he ran out and bought it immediately, and later told me how he played it all night! Bust A Move 2 offers several modes of play, but the two-player simultaneous is by far the best. If the game has a flaw, it lies in its cheesy music and infantile sound effects. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 



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