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Fear Effect
Grade: A
Publisher: Eidos (1999)
Reviewed: 2000/11/23
Rating: Mature (blood, gore, violence, suggestive themes)

screenshotI don't know how I missed out on this game the first time around, but it is outstanding! This addictive thriller incorporates innovative visuals and a mysterious occult storyline in world straight out of Blade Runner. Fear Effect comes on four CDs (!), so you know you're getting a lot of game for your money. The stylish graphics are unlike anything I've ever seen before, with pre-rendered, realistic backgrounds combined with animated characters that sport amazing facial expressions. Cinematic sequences are seamlessly intertwined with the action, and the music and voice acting is absolutely top-notch. Fear Effect's controls are similar to Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, but an intelligent user interface lets you manipulate items without even bringing up a menu screen. There are plenty of save points, and that's always a good thing. Fear Effect is one exciting, dark adventure that Playstation fans should not overlook. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Fighting Force
Grade: C+
Publisher: Eidos (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/2/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotFighting Force was the victim of some unrealistic expectations upon its release, so I figured it was time to give this side-scrolling beat-em-up another look. Many gamers (including myself) expected it to be the 3D incarnation of Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). I recall having a bunch of friends over to give it a go, but they were not impressed. The opening sequence features a helicopter dropping off our heroes on a city street with an amazing digitized skyline looming in the background. The chunky characters and blocky urban environments looked fine, but the game itself was awkward to play. The camera was never positioned correctly, and thugs would always linger just outside of the frame. It was hard to tell where you were supposed to go and there were a lot of invisible walls. Factor in lengthy and frequent load screens and you have one big party killer on your hands. Fighting Force was a disappointment in its time, but when I revisited the game's single player mode I was in for a pleasant surprise. The camera isn't great but it's a lot better since there's only one character to focus on. The responsive controls include punch, kick, grab, and jump. The shoulder buttons are used to run and execute hilariously floaty jump-kicks and super-effective slide-kicks. The triangle button pulls double-duty as the back-punch and grab move, which was a horrible design decision. The fighting action is satisfying enough thanks to pixelated blood that splatters with each kick and punch. You can even attack thugs when they're down! Weapons like bats and clubs pack a whallop, and the pistol lets you shoot thugs point-blank in the face. After running out of bullets, you'll throw your gun, and it's pretty funny when that turns out to be the knockout blow. Fighting Force is loaded with unintentionally funny details like that. When defeated, goons drop huge wads of cash and sometimes even gold bars. Despite being decked out in black suits, the henchmen still don silly names like Bruiser, Snakey, and Punk. You can kick a soda machine and enjoy a refreshing beverage while goons hang back and wait in their fighting stances. Why aren't they firing their weapons? As in Streets of Rage, bad chicks tend to be decked out in sexy dominatrix outfits. Fighting Force has its share of eye candy, and the office that looks out over the harbor at night looks really spectacular. The game is fun while it lasts but it's hard to progress. Health packs are few and far between, and the endless stream of thugs eventually wear you down. You'll get further if you play with a partner, but that requires both players to make a concerted effort to stay close to each other. It's possible to harm one another, so don't stand too close! This is an oddball title for sure, but there aren't many games like Fighting Force, and retro gamers should get a real kick out of it. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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Our high score: 55,450
1 or 2 players 


Final Doom
Grade: C+
Publisher: Id Software (1996)
Reviewed: 2012/1/2
Rating: Mature

screenshotFinal Doom certainly has the look of a money-grab, reprising the original Playstation Doom with a new set of levels. It's targeted at those who played the hell out of first Doom (literally) and crave even more first-person demon-shooting mayhem. I guess Final Doom serves its purpose. Not only does it contain a whole new set of stages, but the difficulty has been ratcheted up to the max! The levels are jam-packed with enemies and the elaborate stage layouts expose you to constant danger. If you feel like a sitting duck, it's not your imagination. Complicating matters is the fact that armor and health packs are in very low supply. One thing you do have in your favor is firepower. Heck, the chain gun and plasma gun are available in the very first level. You'll need them, because to these demons you're like a walking McRib. Completing any of these levels is a monumental achievement. Final Doom uses the same graphic engine as the first, and since the action is more intense it sometimes struggles to keep up with the chaos. The mouse controller is supported and a two-player mode is available via the link cable. A password is provided between levels. It's bad enough the first Doom didn't let you save your progress to memory card, but there's absolutely no excuse for it here. Final Doom is a respectable extension to the series but I think its audience is fairly limited. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
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Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 


Frogger
Grade: F
Publisher: Hasbro (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWith Frogger, Hasbro decided to fix what wasn't broken, and in the process transformed a charming arcade favorite into a mundane 3D maze game. Like the original game, the first stage features a street full of cars followed by a stream of floating logs. It's not bad, but the blocky 3D visuals don't add anything at all. After that, things take a turn for the worse as you toil through several stages of generic jumping platforms and uninteresting mazes. And don't get me started about the unresponsive controls! Your frog seems to jump a full half second after you move the freaking joystick! I was really excited about the four-player mode, but even that turned out to be a complete dud. As the last straw, Hasbro didn't even bother to include original arcade version! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 4 players 


G. Darius
Grade: C
Publisher: THQ (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSet in an underwater world teeming with monstrous fish, this side-scrolling shooter boasts slick 3-D graphics and a two-player simultaneous option. G Darius is impressive to behold but chaotic to play. The number of objects on the screen is excessive at times, making it difficult to tell what the heck's going on. Capturing enemy craft is part of the game's strategy, but that just makes things more cluttered and confusing. The game offers selectable branching stages, but you'll still need to replay the first stage every time, which gets old. G Darius isn't bad, but it has a certain disposable quality. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Galaga Destination Earth
Grade: F
Publisher: Hasbro (2001)
Reviewed: 2001/5/6
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOkay, I think it's about time for someone to tell Hasbro to knock it off with the 3D "updates" of classic games. I've been a Galaga fan since 1982, but I hate Galaga Destination Earth! In the process of incorporating modern 3D graphics and fancy sound effects, Hasbro has inadvertently sucked every last bit of fun and excitement out of the franchise! This new Galaga is mission-based (yawn), which means having to sit through the endless obligatory CGI cut-scenes (Zzzz...). The first stage is much like the original shooter, except with some very mediocre 3D graphics. Unfortunately, this stage doesn't capture an ounce of the fun of the original. After that, you're off to a series of horrendous first-person stages with graphics so cluttered that you can't even tell what's going on. Other elements of the original Galaga, like the double-shot and challenge stages are included, but these are so poorly executed you'll wonder why they even bothered. With Galaga Destination Earth, Hasbro has taken a classic and watered it down with every boring modern game cliche known to mankind. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Gekioh: Shooting King
Grade: C-
Publisher: Natsume (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/10/12
Rating: Everyone (violence)

screenshotGekioh: Shooting King is a forgettable, low-budget shooter imported from Japan. Like most modern-day shooters, there's a heck of a lot happening on the screen at any given time. Still, Gekioh is more forgiving than most, limiting the number of projectiles and letting you retain your weapons upon losing a life. The multi-layered backgrounds are attractive but not spectacular, and enemies consist of planes, tanks, battleships, and large robo-warriors. Your weapons definitely pack some punch, and my favorite is the lightning bolt that moves from one target to the next. Also cool is how enemies go down in flames instead of exploding into nothing. Two-player simultanous play is supported. But easily the most interesting aspect of Gekioh is the extra modes. Mainly intended for laughs, these have little play value but are worth checking out nonetheless. There's the Pocket Mode, which presents the game in blocky black and white graphics like the original Game Boy. The Comical Mode features wacky sound effects and an irritating laugh track. The Slow Mode includes eerie music and sound effects. The Ancient Mode resembles an old black and white film, complete with distorted sound, a jumpy screen, and even an occasional hair in the frame! As you would imagine, these tend to be fun for the first few minutes, but have minimal replay value. The game has no options menu despite the urgent need for a screen adjustment option and a high score save feature. Fortunately you can switch off the unbearable vibrate function. All in all, Gekioh serves its purpose, but please don't ask me what that purpose would happen to be. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Gran Turismo
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen Gran Turismo first hit the scene, it knocked my socks off and set a new standard for realism in racing games. The graphics are remarkably lifelike, especially when viewed through the multi-angled replays. The cars almost look nearly photographic and the depth of gameplay is unprecedented. Over 140 actual car models are available, and they are customizable down to the smallest parts. Two thick manuals are included with the game, including one dedicated solely to driving techniques! Money is earned in races and used to purchase new cars and soup up the ones in your garage. Yes, this was the first time the "garage" concept was used, and it has been adopted by dozens of racing games since. I would sometimes take my car over my friend George's house (via memory card) to challenge his souped-up ride. Gran Turismo's play modes include tournament, two-player split screen, arcade, and time trial. The ten tracks are realistic but not very interesting. The rocking soundtrack features several licensed songs, including a track by my favorite band - Garbage. Gran Turismo was one of the first games to support vibration feedback, and it feels amazing as you roll over grass. Although the controls are supposed to be ultra-realistic, it's hard to steer rear-wheel drive cars in this game without fishtailing all over the place. Otherwise Gran Turismo is a landmark title for the Playstation that took the world of racing to a whole new level. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Gran Turismo 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Sony (1999)
Reviewed: 2001/10/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe first Gran Turismo set a bold new standard for realistic racing, and Gran Turismo 2 (GT2) effectively builds on that solid foundation. You'll find more cars, more options, better tracks, and even off-road rally racing! This may be the best racer ever released for the Playstation. The handling is improved substantially (especially with regards to rear-wheel drive cars), and the rally tracks provide some much-needed variety. The scenery is more exotic this time around, although there are some draw-in issues. GT2 comes on two CDs: One for ultra-realistic simulation, and one for pure arcade action. Both are jam-packed with unlockables. Like the first game, Garbage is featured on the soundtrack, but I was less thrilled to hear Rob Zombie's "Dragula", which seems to be in every video game (enough already!). If you're looking for realistic racing on the Playstation, this is your game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Grand Theft Auto
Grade: F
Publisher: Rockstar (2001)
Reviewed: 2003/2/11
Rating: Mature (animated blood, strong language)

screenshotGrand Theft Auto (GTA) was controversial due to its criminal violence, blood, and profanity. It wasn't a best-seller however until Grand Theft Auto 3 (Playstation 2, 2001) gave the series its third dimension. The crude, flat graphics of this game are a far cry from the virtual 3D world of GTA3. The overhead perspective doesn't always give you a good angle, since buildings and overpasses often block your view. The graphics aren't particularly good, with tiny people and pixelated scenery. The sound effects are amusing however, especially the "splat" of running over pedestrians. There's a car radio, but it doesn't play anything worth hearing. GTA's action is a mix of car driving and on-foot mayhem, and you receive mission instructions from pay phones across town. You'd be wise to carry out your dirty deeds without generating much commotion, because once the cops swarm they will drag your criminal-ass right out of your vehicle. A handy yellow arrow always points to your next destination, and it's absolutely necessary considering there's no map or radar display. As you can imagine, constantly following this arrow starts to feel tedious after a while. The missions are somewhat challenging, but that's mainly due to the controls. The directional pad controls your direction, but you need to hold down buttons to run forward and backward, which is awkward to say the least. The driving is even worse. Not only does it seems like you're always turning in the wrong direction, but your car constantly gets stuck. It also doesn't help that the layout of the city is so poor. I've never seen roads that zig-zag through town (except that one in San Francisco), but in this game they're quite common. In light of the frustrating gameplay, the blood and profanity seem more silly and gratuitous than offensive. GTA2 was a slight improvement, but the series didn't grow teeth until its third installment. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Guilty Gear
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atlus (1998)
Reviewed: 2005/8/8
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotCritics largely wrote off this fighter in 1998, mainly because it was a 2D game released at the height of the 3D fighter frenzy. Little did anyone know this series would actually prosper on the next generation of systems. Guilty Gear conforms to the tried-and-true formula popularized by Street Fighter II, with basic attacks, special moves, and blocking by holding the joystick "away" from your opponent. Certain Guilty Gear characters tend to wield weapons, giving the game a Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo, 1993) flavor. Despite its derivative mechanics, Guilty Gear's artistic style is all its own. The bizarre characters and unconventional backdrops tend to defy description. There's the hot blonde Milla with her killer hairdo (she will literally kill you with it), the heavy-metal inspired Axl, an anchor-swinging girl named May, and the hulking behemoth Potemkin. The imaginative locales include scenic palace courtyards, the wings of a flying plane, and mysterious occult sanctuaries. Guilty Gear's graphics are stylish but somewhat pixelated. Contests inexplicably commence with the words "Heaven or Hell!", and conclude with "Slash!". Players with an arcade-style joystick will love this game as they execute crazy, satisfying combos. Guilty Gear's gameplay is slower and less chaotic that most modern fighters, so you can actually tell what the hell is going on. Guilty Gear has some interesting original features, like special moves listed on the load screens (great idea), health meters that "peel off" layers (not so great), and eye-popping "instant" kills (ouch!). I like how this game retains its original Japanese voice samples, but that grinding guitar background music has got to go. I was also disappointed that high scores and rankings are not saved to memory card. Still, Guilty Gear is fun to play, and 2D die-hards will certainly want this in their collection. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James
Grade: C+
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
Reviewed: 2002/1/29
Rating: Teen

screenshotIn recent years light-gun games have been the exclusive domain of Namco and Sega, but this entry from UbiSoft is also worth a look. Gunfighter adopts a style of play like Time Crisis, where you constantly duck behind obstacles to take cover. Unfortunately, the action isn't quite as smooth, the graphics are rougher, and the control isn't as accurate. But Gunfighter has other things going for it. First of all, it supports any type of Playstation light-gun available. Also, this game has atmosphere, making you feel as if you've stepped into a western movie. Even the voice acting is good. The action is non-stop, and shooting certain destructible items reveal bonuses and power-ups. You even man a stationary gattling gun, allowing you to mow down bad guys by the dozen. The Gunfighter's one big misstep occurs at the beginning of the second level, where your partner is about to be hung. You only get one shot to break the rope, and even with the best light gun, it's hard! You may find yourself blowing through your continues quickly at that point. It could have been better, Gunfighter is a rather pleasant surprise for light-gun fans, especially with its low price tag. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Hooters Road Trip
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
Reviewed: 2002/6/29
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes)

screenshotHooters Road Trip is a mediocre racing game along the lines of Outrun, but it has one killer gimmick: Winners are treated to pictures and videos of Hooter girls! Yes, this is the only game I've played where the loading screens are more compelling than the game itself! These chicks are hot! The racing action is somewhat boring as you challenge other cars to race from city to city. The scenery is modest at best, but at least the framerate is smooth. Road Trip might have been half-way decent if not for the controls. The steering truly sucks, whether you use the analog stick or digital pad. Over-steering is the order of the day, causing your car to veer wildly around curves. It's even more frustrating when attempting to avoid oncoming traffic. You'll see a truck coming a mile away, yet will still struggle to avoid hitting it head on. Fortunately, crashes only slow you down a bit, and it's easy to qualify for each race (finishing first is only slightly harder). Does seeing a video of four Hooter girls jumping around in bikinis make the marginal gameplay worthwhile? Well, if you're a guy the answer is probably yes. But be forewarned: You will not be playing this game for fun! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Hot Shots Golf
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 2008/5/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Hot Shots Golf series is a Playstation institution. Most golf games of the 90's strived for realism, but Hot Shots adopted a whimsical style with bright graphics and simple controls. The anime-style characters are cute and endearing, and the rolling green courses are extremely inviting. When the balls roll near the hole, the close-up shot is amazing. Hot Shots uses a conventional three-press control scheme (popularized by EA's PGA Golf games), and it's quite responsive. Six courses are available, along with ten golfers, but you'll need to invest some time to unlock most of them. That's fine, because the action moves along at a steady clip, and the load times are minimal. Playing against a group of friends is always fun and competitive. The background music is pleasant, and the crisp sound effects include the "whoosh" of your swing and the "tink" of the ball falling in the cup. It's possible to cue applause and voice sound effects ("Hurry up", "Nice shot") by hitting buttons when you're opponent is up, and once your friends figure this out, they'll absolutely annoy the hell out of you. Hot Shot Golf has aged well because its core gameplay is good as gold. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 4 players 


Hot Shots Golf 2
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Reviewed: 2008/5/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotElectronic Arts once had the market cornered on golf games, but their emphasis on realism made their games feel slow and tedious. This left the door open for the lighthearted, cartoonish Hot Shots Golf, which dominated the market with its friendly, easy-to-play style. Hot Shots 2 is great looking sequel, offering the same pick-up-and-play action with new characters and courses. The golfers are strictly caricatures, but many of the new characters (like the fat bald guy) are freakish and unlikeable. The courses and physics however are quite realistic, making this game appeal to hardcore golfers and casual gamers alike. It's hard to tell the difference between Hot Shots 1 and 2 at a glance, but close examination reveals a few new bells and whistles. New visuals include amazing close-ups that reveal the ball's dimples and logo as it rotates in the air. The new camera angle of the golfer reaching into the cup to pick up his ball looks incredible. If Hot Shots 2 has a flaw, it lies in its irritating audio effects. They really went overboard with the wind sounds, and some idiot yells "C'mon hurry up!" every ten seconds. Also, some of the Japanese-translated dialogue doesn't come across very well ("You are decent!"). I also have to take issue with the "fold-up" manual, which is difficult to open and reference. Who's idea was that anyway?? All in all, this is another great Hot Shots game, but it's a questionable upgrade if you already own the first one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 4 players 


Incredible Crisis
Grade: F
Publisher: Titus (2000)
Reviewed: 2001/8/14
Rating: Teen (violence, comic mischief, suggestive themes)

screenshotI almost had an incredible crisis when I realized I had spent my hard-earned cash on this train-wreck-of-a-game. Incredible Crisis is actually a set of 24 mini-games, mostly involving button tapping or timing meters. One video game magazine referred to this as "old-school", which is an affront to all classic gamers. Old-school is characterized by simple graphics but fun gameplay. There's nothing "fun" about these games. All feature simple 3D graphics with varying camera angles, poor control, and confusing instructions. You'll need to play the games in order, although once you complete a game it becomes available from a mini-game menu. Sadly, these are not the kind of games you'll want to play twice (or even once, for that matter). Adding insult to injury, you can only save after every four games, and it's quite likely you'll get stuck on one of them. Incredible Crisis is an incredible piece of garbage. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


International Track and Field
Grade: A-
Publisher: Konami (1996)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to Adults

This addictive Olympic-style game has clocked a lot of hours on my Playstation. Featuring eleven track and field events, one to four players complete in the pole-vault, long jump, shot put, javelin, discuss, hurdles, sprint, triple jump, high jump, and swimming. Like any good video game, the button-mashing controls are easy to learn but tough to master, and the 3D visuals are smooth and lifelike. Record-setting performances can be saved to memory cards and replayed. International Track and Field is challenging when played solo, but it's an absolute riot with a few friends. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 4 players 


Invasion From Beyond
Grade: F
Publisher: GT Interactive (1998)
Reviewed: 2000/8/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI really hated the movie "Mars Attacks!" and this video game induced flashbacks of that awful movie. The whole time I was playing this game I was thinking, "What the hell is going on?!?". Invasion From Beyond's controls are atrocious, and its graphics are terribly confusing. There are a series of missions that require you to hover your spacecraft over a small town while blasting flying saucers and relocating objects on the ground. The nightmare of a control scheme places the fire and thrust buttons right next to each other, making it difficult to do both at once. When firing into a group of flying saucers, it's hard to tell if you're inflicting any damage, especially since they tend to regenerate. On the bright side, the town below looks nice with its rolling hills and detailed landmarks. The cheesy music also suits the game well. But ultimately Invasion From Mars is a total bust due to its extremely dull gameplay. It only cost me a few bucks, but in retrospect a nice sandwich would have been a better investment. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Iron Soldier 3
Grade: C-
Publisher: Telegames (2000)
Reviewed: 2004/7/30
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotThis late-arriving Playstation title should appeal to Atari Jaguar fans, considering the first two Iron Soldiers were among the best games for the Jaguar system. Iron Soldier 3 delivers the same brand of 3D destructive mayhem, but its slow, methodical style hasn't aged well. A first-person shooter, Iron Soldier 3 places you in control of an enormous "mech", which is actually a giant robot. Your mech is equipped with a number of weapons including an assault rifle, gattling gun, grenades, and even a giant chain saw. Twenty-five challenging missions await you, but if you're the impatient type, you can just dive right into the arcade mode where the object is to simply destroy everything. You'll meet fierce resistance from tanks, cannons, helicopters, and other mechs, but a handy scanner lets you track them all. The virtual city of loaded with skyscrapers, explosive gas tanks, and warehouses that hold power-ups and ammunition. As you would expect, these graphics are more detailed that the Jaguar games, but still maintain the same style. I like how the levels aren't completely flat - the hills and valleys add strategic value. The controls take time to learn, and it's too easy to get caught up on a piece of scenery. You can't always tell when you're under fire, so it's possible to incur a good deal of damage without even realizing it. Finally, the vagueness of the mission objectives can be really annoying. Otherwise Iron Soldier 3 has its bases covered, with a pulsating soundtrack and even a split-screen two-player cooperative mode. Be sure to check out the amazing cinematic intro, which features some amazing special effects. Jaguar veterans will appreciate Iron Soldier 3, but its deliberate pace and steep learning curve may deter novice gamers. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Irritating Stick
Grade: F
Publisher: Jaleco (1999)
Reviewed: 2001/6/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotFinally - a game that lives up to its name! This oddity is based on a Japanese game show, and I find it remarkable that it ever made it to the shores of America. Without a doubt, Irritating Stick has the worst title ever conceived for a video game. It sounds more like a bad porno film! And if you think the title is bad, wait until you play the game! Basically it involves moving a dot through an electric maze without touching the sides, and your time is limited. It's stupid, repetitive, and... well...okay... irritating! The only thing worse than running out of time after working your way through a lengthy maze is having to start over! I don't think I've ever played anything so aggravating. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Jeopardy!
Grade: D+
Publisher: Hasbro (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotJeopardy tries to recreate the feel of the TV game show, but feels forced and contrived. The video cuts of Alex Trebeck are generic and really serve no purpose except to slow down the pace of the game. Your answers must be painstakingly spelled out letter by letter, and while the user interface tries to help you out, it's still a tedious process. Fortunately, you can adjust the "tolerance level" so the game will accept an answer even if it's spelled wrong. With 3500 questions, this game will please Jeopardy fans, but most others will find it a bore. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 3 players 


Jersey Devil
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 2011/11/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshot1998 was a time when Playstation gamers were desperate for a free-roaming 3D platformer on par with Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996). I know because I was one of those gamers! Jersey Devil was one of the early attempts to fill the void, and it's a solid effort. There were other contenders with more expansive stages (Croc comes to mind) but during the Fall months Jersey Devil is your best option (trust me on this one). The game's distinctive Halloween theme is evident in its spooky environments, pumpkin-headed bosses, and mad scientist storyline. The star of the game is based on an actual creature that has been terrorizing southern New Jersey for over 100 years now (see Jersey Devil Wikipedia entry). Frankly, his depiction in this game is a little cheesy. I can't decide if he looks more like a kid in a purple superhero outfit or "the Noid" of Domino's Pizza fame. The stages are slightly creepy but mostly cartoonish, with enemies that include bats, mummies, cobras, apes, and giant spiders. There are a lot of free-floating platforms but the jump-and-glide controls are forgiving enough. The stages are short and sweet, which works in the game's favor. In 1998 gamers craved huge levels, but the modest-sized areas in this game prove more manageable and fun to explore. Collecting pumpkins to earn extra lives is addicting, and the sheer number of hidden items gives the game substantial replay value. The production values are high but Jersey Devil does suffer from many issues typical of early 3D titles. The stages tend to be confined and you'll often need to finagle with the camera (using the shoulder buttons) to get a sense of your surroundings. There are graphical glitches (like clipping problems) and the control scheme isn't particularly intuitive (jump and glide are separate buttons). The analog control works much better than the digital pad. The animated intro is a treat, but the sweeping orchestrated musical score seems inappropriate. You can save your progress between the stages. Overall I'd have to say that this game has aged surprisingly well. They don't make platformers like this anymore, and that's part of what makes Jersey Devil so appealing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Jet Moto
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sony (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/5/30
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotDespite being a total Playstation die-hard in 1996, there was one particular Nintendo 64 game that really caught my eye, and that was Wave Race. The idea of a jet ski game was so appealing to me that when Jet Moto came out I immediately bought a copy. Granted, Jet Moto is not technically a jet ski game, but it was close enough! Not limited to open water, Jet Moto's levitating bikes can glide over any type of flat terrain. That would seem to open up all kinds of interesting possibilities, but it really doesn't! Despite being able to travel over mud, concrete, and lava, the best tracks by far are the ones on the open water. Playing this game for the first time in ten years, I was tempted to slap it with an "F" for its awful course designs and idiotic control scheme. The first track, set at a sunny resort, is great, but it's all downhill from there. Not only do many tracks force you to plow through dingy muddy swamps, but the narrow pathways are poorly marked and strewn with obstacles. The fact that some tracks double-back on themselves might sound exciting, but it's just a pain in the ass. As for the controls, the turbo button doesn't provide much of a boost, and the "magnetic grapple", which lets you execute tight turns, is one of the worst ideas ever conceived for a racing game. But as bad as it is, Jet Moto isn't a total loss. If nothing else, I can clearly remember my buddy George and I playing this for many hours just to unlock the courses. The difficulty progression was fair and a split-screen mode is always nice. I also like Jet Moto's slick presentation, with its gnarly surfer music and stylish illustrations boasting some seriously hot chicks. The game is also notable for its liberal use of advertisements, including copious ads for Mountain Dew and Butterfinger. Jet Moto somehow sold enough copies to merit two sequels, but I suspect that was more due to lack of competition than quality gameplay. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Jet Moto 2
Grade: F
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 2007/5/30
Rating: Everyone

screenshotDespite my disdain for the original Jet Moto, a few readers encouraged me to give Jet Moto 2 a try. Sorry guys, but this game sucks. Not only does this ill-conceived sequel retain the blatant flaws of the first game, but its control are worse. This was the first Jet Moto game to support analog control, but its oversensitive steering is dreadful. Adding insult to injury, your vehicle moves insanely fast, despite the fact that the tracks are narrow and poorly defined (not unlike the first game). You'll need to lean on the brake constantly just to keep yourself pointed in the proper direction. Perhaps in an effort to compensate for the lousy controls, the developers dramatically toned down the difficulty. As a result, despite constant wipe-outs and bumping into every wall I could find, I would still regularly finish in the top three! The courses include a post-earthquake Los Angeles, a desert canyon, and an iceberg-laden Arctic. But like the first game, the scenery looks awful and the tracks are hard to navigate until you memorize the layouts. The soundtrack is pretty good, but the process of saving your progress is needlessly complicated. All in all, Jet Moto 2 was such an ordeal to play that it actually brought down my grade for the first Jet Moto (and maybe those yet to come). © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Jet Moto 3
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sony (1999)
Reviewed: 2007/5/30
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhile not nearly good enough to redeem this sorry racing series, Jet Moto 3 is certainly a marked improvement. The tracks are much wider, easier to follow, and far more interesting that the claustrophobic mazes of the first two games. The "lost ruins" stage is fascinating, especially as you blaze through its spacious coliseum. Equally impressive is the volcanic island, mixing gorgeous tropical scenery with vibrant red volcanic tunnels. The wider tracks make it easier to control your levitating bike, but it still moves far too fast, causing you to constantly "climb" the invisible walls surrounding the course. The tracks now feature branches and alternate routes, but these tend to make things more confusing, and you'll often end up heading off in the wrong direction. Like Jet Moto 2, you can have an absolutely abysmal run and still somehow wind up in first place. Gamers who could tolerate the lousy course designs and poor control of the first two Jet Motos should be thrilled with this third chapter. Jet Moto 3 marked the end of the franchise, but it was probably for the best. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Jurassic Park: Warpath
Grade: D-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Reviewed: 2007/12/10
Rating: Teen

screenshotI enjoyed this one-on-one dinosaur fighter more the first time I played it - when it was called Primal Rage (thank you, David Spade). Granted, Primal Rage (1995) had its issues, but at least that game had some sense of style and originality. Warpath feels like a cheap knock-off solely designed to cash in on the movie franchise. Its 3D dinosaur models look okay with their scaly skin textures, but the stages are incredibly boring. The only interesting location is the tanker ship in the San Diego harbor, which offers a gorgeous nighttime view of the San Diego skyline. Warpath's packaging boasts about "destructible environments", but all I could find were huge TNT boxes that blow up when you rub against them. In general, Warpath offers little in the way of fun. Like Primal Rage, the animation is rough and the collision detection is poor. There are no interesting attacks to speak of. How many ways can a dinosaur really attack anyway? Besides chomping with its jaws or swinging its tail, there's little room for technique. Sensing this limitation, the developers incorporated some ill-advised jumping attacks which just look silly. The blows are weak, with only small splashes of blood used to differentiate hits from misses. The slow-motion instant replays magnify the game's graphical woes, making you wonder why they were included. Even watching a "finishing blow" will leave you feeling hopelessly bewildered. Warpath is one of the rarer titles for the Playstation console, and now you know why. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


KISS Pinball
Grade: F
Publisher: Take-Two (2000)
Reviewed: 2007/12/10
Rating: Teen (mild language, suggestive themes)

screenshotMy original review for this game lamented the fact that it contains no KISS music - only generic guitar riffs. That in of itself could justify an "F". I mean, did they or did they not license the band?! Then one reader pointed out that it's possible to play your own music CDs during the course of the game. I checked the manual, and sure enough it does mention this. Anyone who would purchase KISS Pinball would certainly own a KISS CD or two, right? Sure enough, I had a few on hand! So after loading up one of the two pinball tables I paused the game and inserted KISS Alive 2. After fast-forwarding to Calling Dr. Love (via the R2 button), I soon realized that the game's guitar-riff audio effects completely butcher any music you play - no matter how kick-ass it may be. The pinball action itself is some the worst I've ever experienced. The uninspired tables are grainy and the ball travels too fast to follow. Responsive flipper control is critical in pinball, but these flippers are sluggish and tend to "stick" after you trigger them. If you want to return to the main menu to save high scores or switch tables, you'll need to replace your CD with the game disk. That's a lot of trouble to go through just to play a cheap product designed to cash in on the band's popularity. Giving this game a second chance only cemented my hatred for it. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Konami Arcade Classics
Grade: A
Publisher: Konami (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/12/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis superb collection of ten early 80's arcade games is a dream come true for retrogamers. Scramble, Super Cobra, Time Pilot, Gyruss, and Pooyan, are legitimate classics you'll enjoy playing over and over again! Road Fighter, Roc N Rope, and Circus Charlie are second-tier titles, but they're still fun to play a few times. The final two games, Shao-Lin's Road and Tie Ar Kung-Fu, are a pair of archaic fighters that are only interesting from an historical perspective. Scramble is one of my favorite arcade games of all time, and I remember it well from the local bowling alley. This side scroller lets you shoot missiles and drop bombs at the same time, and you'll need to destroy fuel tanks in narrow caverns to maintain your energy. Super Cobra is actually the sequel to Scramble, but this time you pilot a helicopter and it's much harder. Time Pilot is a classic shooter that lets you fly a plane in any direction, shooting down aircraft and rescuing soldiers in parachutes. Each stage takes place during a different time period, pitting you against biplanes, jets, and UFOs. Gyruss is an unconventional space shooter with a ship that moves around in a big circle, firing at enemies that emerge from the center of the screen. That catchy music is classic Bach, believe it or not. Pooyan is a cute, cartoonish shooter with a pigs vs. wolves theme. In Roc N Rope, you scale a mountain by shooting ropes at cliffs and climbing across them. The poorly-named Road Fighter is a basic racer where you attempt to pass as many cars as you can. Circus Charlie offers six unique circus challenges, including tight-rope, trapeze, and flaming hoops. In Shao-Lin's Road you face gangs of thugs, but your arsenal is limited to kicks and jump-kicks. Yie Ar Kung-Fu is an early one-on-one fighter, and although it's pretty bad, it does remind me of Street Fighter in some ways. You can save your high scores and settings to memory card, and analog control is also supported. When you're in the mood to get back to the basics, this is the collection you need. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Legend of Dragoon, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Reviewed: 2005/9/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotThe credentials required to be a "PlayStation Greatest Hit" must not be terribly high. As Sony's first foray into the world of RPGs, the Legend of Dragoon was largely inspired by the wildly popular Final Fantasy VII. Harvesting ideas from various other games and incorporating a plot drawn up by some employee's 11-year-old nephew, this mediocre RPG combines weird gameplay and laughable voice acting. You play the role of Dart, a generic fighter with spiky hair and a grudge against a mysterious monster that killed his parents. On your quest to vanquish an evil empire, members of your party gradually begin to acquire strange powers. In times of crisis (read: combat) they can transform into "Dragoons"; endowing them with dragon armor and the ability to fly (and dish out some serious damage as well). After playing the first disc, I nearly threw the whole game out the window. For being released in 2000, the graphics were well behind the standards of the time. The polygons look rough and the backgrounds are awfully bland. Still, the full-motion video is nice and the music isn't half bad. Voices are only heard when characters attack, and the remaining dialogue is completely text-based. In terms of quality, I'm convinced the voice actors were picked up off the street (at least for this English version). The combat system is slow to load, and making matters worse, all special attacks are rhythm-based! No RPG had done it before. No RPG has done it since. You can upgrade your attacks by using them often, but I had trouble just using them at all! Heck, you have to tap eight buttons in sequential order, with a directional-pad motion in sync - just to perform a move! The one original concept I do like is how defending successfully replenishes a little bit of your health. It makes no physical sense mind you, but it sure helps when you're out of healing potions! All in all, this is a nice first try for Sony, but gamers should save themselves the $3.50 this game is worth and invest in a beer instead. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Lethal Enforcers
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/7/11
Rating: Mature (realistic violence)

screenshotThis disk contains arcade-perfect versions of both the original Lethal Enforcers and Lethal Enforcers II. These two light-gun games are only compatible with "old" Playstation guns such as Konami's Justifier, and not Namco's Guncon. Keep in mind that those old guns aren't the most accurate things in the world. Both games feature digitized characters and scenery, but the people are poorly animated, and some look more like cardboard cut-outs. The original Lethal Enforcers features shootouts in a bank, Chinatown, an airport, and a chemical factory. You can select the order in which you play the five stages. It's great fun at first, especially since you can shoot parts of the scenery like windows, cameras, and hostages (whoops!). But the action gets old pretty quick. Bad guys pour out of the woodwork, and the repetitive firing action will give you carpal-tunnel. And what's up with that fat guy that requires about 10 shots to kill!? Lethal Enforcers II plays the same, but takes place in the wild west. This time the stages include a bank, saloon, and stagecoach. There's even a high speed train robbery! The change of scenery is nice, but the gameplay is more difficult, and the graphics seem even more pixilated. In both games, bosses tend to be far too difficult to kill. Only gamers looking for shallow arcade fun will find this package worthwhile. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Loaded
Grade: C
Publisher: Interplay (1996)
Reviewed: 2008/3/15
Rating: Mature

screenshotThis overhead shooter was a hit in 1996, thanks to its rapid-fire shooting, colorful lighting, and senseless violence. Loaded was also one of the first games to sport a mature rating. After selecting from one of six demented souls (including a psychotic clown and a fat dude in diapers), you are plopped in the middle of a dark, dank, maze-like prison. With a nod to Gauntlet and Smash TV, one or two players mow down mobs of mindless lunatics as constant explosions and gratuitous gore fills the screen. You can unleash a constant stream of bullets, and L1 provides a handy strafe function. For the first few minutes the game is genuinely fun, although the frame-rate seems rougher than I remembered. The sights and sounds of bodies splattering on floors and against walls are satisfying, as are the bass-heavy explosions. But unfortunately, Loaded proves that there is such thing as too much of a good thing. The main problem is the repetitive, oversized stages. By requiring you to acquire colored keycards to access new areas, the game actually promotes tedious backtracking. I enjoy gratuitous violence as much as the next guy, but my thumb was killing me by the end of the first stage! There's not much variety, and if you play the game for too long it will give you a headache. And with unlimited continues and no score, there's little in the way of challenge. Loaded's graphics are rendered with scaling sprites, and in general they look great. The game received numerous accolades for its lighting effects, and the colorful lights really do add a visual flair to otherwise non-descript hallways and rooms. But Loaded's greatest asset is its kick-ass soundtrack, which is absolutely phenomenal. If you can imagine the Halloween movie theme with a club vibe, and you'll have a good idea of what these tunes sound like. Another nice feature is the two-player simultaneous mode, although the game actually takes longer with a partner because you need to coordinate your movements. Loaded is shallow and should only be consumed in small doses, but shooter fans will find merit in its dark theme and kick-ass soundtrack. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 


Lost World Special Edition, The
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
Reviewed: 2000/8/10
Rating: Teen

screenshotApparently Electronic Arts caught wind of how frustrating their first Lost World game was, and put out this "Special Edition" to remedy the situation. It's a major improvement. Heck, now you get to play the T-Rex level in the very beginning! The levels are much shorter, and your life doesn't drain as fast. If that doesn't make your life easy enough, the instruction manual even lists the CHEAT codes!! With the more reasonable difficulty, the Lost World gets a new lease on life. The graphics and sound are absolutely fantastic. Some of the platform-jumping levels aren't all that fun, but at least they're not impossible. Lost World Special Edition is almost good enough to let me forgive EA for the first one. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Lost World, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/8/10
Rating: Teen

screenshotIf you've played this, then you probably hate it. The Lost World falters badly despite its top-notch graphics and sound. The smoothly animated 3D dinosaurs look fantastic, with hulking brontosauruses that consume the entire screen. The platform jumping action is 2D, but it's complimented by 3D jungle backgrounds that allow the camera to rotate around the action. The audio boasts natural background noises and well orchestrated background music. So why did The Lost World have to be so [expletive] difficult and frustrating!? Didn't anybody bother to play-test this thing? Depending on the stage, you'll control a small scampering dinosaur called a "compy", a vicious rapter, a rampaging T-Rex, or a human. The early levels emphasize precision platform jumping, but the control is lousy. When touched by one of your numerous adversaries, control goes out the window altogether. In addition, some of the branching paths will have you going in circles. You'll use up every bad word in your vocabulary before finally reaching the highly-anticipated human and T-Rex stages. You'd think controlling a T-Rex would be awesome, but the novelty wears off quickly after you eat a few people. The special chase sequences generate some excitement, but the gameplay is mostly tedious. Lost World is great to look at, but most gamers regard it as an ordeal to play. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 


Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
Grade: A-
Publisher: Working Designs (1999)
Reviewed: 2005/9/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotLunar is a port of the very highly regarded RPG for the Sega CD. Some of the quests have been altered for this re-release, and since they had a ton of room left over on the CDs, they threw in a nice intro movie and a dozen or so anime cut scenes. Packaged as a "box set", Lunar also includes a cloth map of the game world, the game soundtrack, and a leather-bound instruction booklet containing staff interviews and a lengthy preview of the player's guide. Lunar's story revolves around a young man named Alex and his aspirations of becoming a "Dragonmaster" like his idol. Alex has a pet baby dragon with a smart mouth, along with a handful of friends he meets on his quest to become a Dragonmaster. Without revealing too much of the plot, Alex strives to save those he loves while combating newly-emerging forces of evil. The sprites and backgrounds appear to have been touched up from the Sega CD version, now with an almost cartoon-like appearance. The full-motion anime segments are crisp, with barely any noticeable "mosaic effects". The game boasts terrific voice acting performed by a very talented staff. Lunar's loading times are fair, but especially noticeable when saving or loading from the memory card. Speaking of saving, you can do it wherever you please! That's right - no more dying right across from the save point. You can have up to five people in your party at once, all with unique abilities and techniques. Combat is fast-paced and simple, and the battle screens load quickly. You enter all of your party's commands at once, and teaming up is key for getting the biggest bang out of your magic points. As a bonus for beating the game, you're rewarded with some pee-yourself-funny voice acting outtakes. Lunar doesn't stretch the limits of the PlayStation by any means, but it does provide a fun and enjoyable game worthy of multiple plays. Especially considering all the extras, it's well worth its price. RPG enthusiasts (especially those who are suckers for packaging) need to have this game on their shelves. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 



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