Publisher: Midway (1996)
In case you ever wondered whatever happened to the old NBA Jam, it apparently degenerated into a mess called NBA Hang Time. The box description sounds good, promising five-man rosters, new moves, create-a-player, and codes galore. Sure enough, you get the same arcade-style, turbo-charged, above-the-rim brand of arcade basketball. As in NBA Jam, chaos and razzle-dazzle reign supreme. Expect plenty of acrobatic slam-dunks but don't expect any foul calls. New moves include an alley-oop, a spin move, and a very unnecessary "double dunk". Following on the heels of a great-looking game like NBA Jam, who would have suspected NBA Hang Time would suffer from such shoddy
graphics!? The players are poorly proportioned and their heads look stretched out! All players look the same size, and that's no good because you usually want your small guard to take the three-point shots and have your big guy guard the rim. Worse yet, players suffer from unsightly pixelation, especially when crowded together. At times it's hard to tell if the ball passed through the net, and I've witnessed shots counted as threes that were clearly inside the arc. The player pictures only bear a passing resemblance to the actual players. That's too bad because Hang Time contains a lot of old favorites like Tim Hardaway, Dennis Rodman, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Gary Payton, and Vlade Divac. The audio is limited to generic beats and a repetitive commentator. Even the controls
are hard to get used to! When playing with the CPU, you only control one of your two players (no swap mode). I guess the lone highlight of the game is the rooftop court which includes a fantastic night time city skyline. Sadly, you need to enter a code
to enable that. Apparently Hang Time was released when "secret codes" were all the rage. I really wish the developers had focused their attention on the game
instead! © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1993)
When my friend Eric and I saw the first screen shots of NBA Jam in a magazine back in 1993, we thought it was the dumbest game ever. The players were soaring ten feet over the rim and performing preposterous slam-dunks. After reading several enthusiastic reviews however, I broke down and bought the game anyway. That turned out to be a major milestone in my game-playing career, because NBA Jam quickly became the premiere sports game of its time. On the very first day I bought this my friends Eric and Tuan played it for six hours straight
. This SNES version is an impressive translation of the popular arcade game, with the same crisp graphics, fluid animation, responsive controls, catchy music, and clear sound effects. Jam offered a degree of speed and non-stop action you didn't often see in sports games of the time. At its core, NBA Jam is a two-on-two dunk-fest with no rules. On offense you can shoot, throw elbows to keep defenders at bay, execute bullet passes. and easily perform death-defying dunks. On defense you can steal and block, but the gameplay definitely favors the offense. It's so easy to score that games tend to be back-and-forth affairs, although executing a key steal or block can really effectively turn the tide. One effective maneuver is to fake a jumper to draw in the defense, and then pass the ball to the open man under the basket at the last second. Each player has a certain amount of "turbo power" that adds speed and enhances the dunks. Players that sink three shots in a row become "on fire" and are nearly unstoppable until the opposing team scores again. NBA Jam does have a few minor flaws. The turbo is so plentiful that you can practically use it during the entire game, and blocking shots is nearly impossible. Non-dunking players such as John Stockton can slam, destroying what little realism there is. Lastly, the computer has the annoying habit of making full court, last second shots at the end of each half. Two marquee players represent each NBA team, and since the game was made during NBA's "golden age", you get many all-time greats like David Robinson, Karl Malone, Scotty Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, and Clyde Drexler (sorry, no Michael Jordan). Records are saved using a password system. NBA Jam enjoyed a string of sequels, and its frantic, smash-mouth style of play singlehandedly created a new genre of "extreme" sports games. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
NBA Jam Tournament Edition
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
Capitalizing on the unbridled success of the first NBA Jam, Acclaim's Tournament Edition retains the fast-paced gameplay of the original while spicing things up with interesting new options. Each team now has three players to choose from instead of two, and you can substitute between quarters. The gameplay places more emphasis on defense, so you can expect to see more steals, blocked shots, and "boings" off the rim. The expanded options menu lets you customize more aspects of the game, as well as enabling power-ups and "hot spots" on the floor that are worth extra points. The new "juice mode" speeds up the action and sends things into overdrive. But the most valuable new addition is the inclusion of a much-need four-player mode. Statistics are now saved via battery backup instead of a long password. NBA Jam Tournament Edition retains the magic of the original game but offers more options, more unpredictability, and more fun. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
The NBA Live series got its start on the Genesis, but the SNES edition of NBA Live 96 is clearly better, thanks to sharper graphics and clear sound effects. In addition, holding in the shoulder buttons to initiate turbo is much more convenient than the awkward Genesis controller scheme. In terms of gameplay, NBA Live 96 offers nonstop action and realistic gameplay. It's a huge
step up from NBA Showdown. With the five-player multitap, you and four friends can even control an entire team! The only thing I don't like about the game are its terribly pixelated hardwood floors. Otherwise NBA Live 96 is a slam dunk. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
NBA Showdown is a step up from Bulls vs. Blazers (EA's previous basketball game), with smooth graphics and more realistic gameplay. Unfortunately, it still uses the same slow
engine, which bogs down the action. With no turbo button, the pace is slow and deliberate with no possibility for fast breaks. There are less unstoppable dunks, and it's more difficult to penetrate on the dribble. On a positive note, the court looks terrific, and I love how the coaches pace back and forth in front of their benches on the sidelines. The crowd sounds are muffled, but occasionally a fan will yell like "put it up!". Showdown is interesting to look back on, but this basketball series has seen better days. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
This one took me by surprise. The first time I laid eyes on its rotating court and choppy graphics, I thought for sure it would be a dog, but the more I played, the more I appreciated the game. NCAA Basketball features all the big-name college teams, but no actual players. Its scaling, rotating courts provide a good view of the action, but it doesn't allow for a sideline or a crowd, so the court appears to be floating in space. The players scale nicely, but sometimes become pixelated and hard to tell apart. The camera follows the ball closely, making three point bombs look awesome. Simple controls make it easy to pass, steal, and shoot. Unfortunately, there's no turbo button, and you can't pass on the run, killing any fast break opportunities. Special low-post moves and thundering dunks bring a feeling of satisfaction, and I love how the players automatically crash the boards. The game is well balanced and the CPU provides a worthy challenge. Occasionally its non-aggressive style can lull you into a false sense of security just before it finds an open man under the hoop. NCAA Basketball's sound effects are sparse, limited to marching band music and the occasional referee call like "Foul on point guard!" It's not realistic like NBA Live or flashy like NBA Jam, but if you're looking for college hoops on your SNES, this isn't half bad. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
When you hear people discuss the classic NHL hockey games of the past, they're probably talking specifically about NHL '94. If not they should
be. The series really hit its stride with NHL '94, offering perfectly-balanced arcade-style hockey action. That opening theme song gets you totally pumped (dant da-nant da-ant...
)! The match-up screen features Ron Barr at a desk (with a little EA mug) and digitized photos of player match-ups. Extra bells and whistles like this give the game personality, something notably absent in modern NHL titles. The playability of NHL '94 is unrivaled thanks to its pinpoint controls. The new one-timer move makes all the difference in the world. Few things in life are as satisfying as executing a perfect centering pass to a teammate who slaps the puck into the net. NHL '94 addresses all of the shortcomings that plagued NHLPA Hockey '93
(SNES, 1992). The framerate is smoother, the controls are crisp, and the audio is clear. Ferocious body checks knock guys head-over-heels, and sometimes send them flying into the bench! The graphics are clean and so razor sharp you may notice little details you couldn't make out on the Genesis. The audio is a bit understated at times, to the point where you can literally hear a puck
drop. The goalie looks awesome and I love how he'll cover up the puck if a member of the other team is nearby. NHL '94 is a masterpiece. I lean slightly towards the Genesis version (it's a bit more fluid), but this edition is still pretty sensational. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
After producing what is arguably the greatest hockey game of all time, EA Sports seemed to lose their way. NHL 95 is more uptempo but lacks the realism and playability of its predecessor. On one hand I want to give the developers credit for putting a lot of effort into this and not settling for updated rosters. The rink seems larger, the ice is shinier, and you can knock the goals off their moors. The players are rendered in a different style than last year, but I wouldn't say they look any better. The packaging boasts of faster gameplay, and that's an understatement. NHL 95 is turbo-charged!
I like how hard you can fire the puck at the goal, but it's really hard to move the puck up the ice. Completing passes is like pulling teeth, and you can pretty much forget about orchestrating one-timers. The contests are so random and haphazard, you sometimes lose track of the puck!
When players are knocked out on the ice they see "stars", but this is far less satisfying than watching their heads bleed as in NHLPA Hockey '93
(Genesis, 1992). Some of the sound effects leave much to be desired. When you check an opponent it sounds like they are shouting "boo!" When bodies collide, all you hear is boo boo boo!
The game does offer a battery backed-up full-season mode, along with the ability to trade players. I'll give NHL 95 credit for pushing the envelope, but in this case tinkering with a winning formula had mostly negative consequences. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults 6+
After the ill-advised debacle that was NHL '95
(SNES, 1994), NHL '96 tried to get the series back on track. The pacing is still fast and furious, but at least there's some semblance of control. When you fire up the cartridge you're greeted with that annoying "Yall' Ready For This" song. I wonder how much money EA spent to license that? The biggest selling point for NHL '96 is probably its new moves assigned to the shoulder buttons. Now you can stop on a dime, perform a nifty "spin-o-rama" maneuver, or lay down to block a shot on defense. These can be useful - if you can remember you have them! I rarely do. The new fighting system looks pretty cool until the winner starts jumping up and down like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum. NHL 96's player models are much improved and the checking animations are satisfying. It's quite fun to lay out several unsuspecting players on the opposing team - especially after
the buzzer sounds. When a player gets injured he looks like a twitching bug sprawled out on the ice. The action unfolds quickly, and it's easier to transport the puck up the ice by yourself as opposed to passing it. Executing a centering pass is no problem, but there's never anybody there to receive it! Scoring is tough, unless you are the CPU, who seems to score at will. The season mode contains a pretty elaborate Stanley Cup red carpet ceremony if you make it that far. Excellent audio effects include realistic player grunts and a scraping sound when you change directions with your skates. I'm not crazy about the voice that announces the teams and intermissions though; he sounds more like a dull programmer than a commentator. Arcade fans will enjoy the pacing of NHL 96, but it's not in the same league as NHL '94
(SNES, 1993). © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Rating: Kid to Adults (animated violence)
As the 16-bit era entered its twilight years, EA predictably put its NHL franchise on autopilot, only tweaking it slightly to milk every last penny it could out of the series. The claim on the box of "improved gameplay" is debatable. The players are fluid and fast but hard to control. For some reason EA felt obligated to ratchet up the defense and goalie AI. As a result it's easy to dislodge the puck and perform bone-crunching checks, but hard to do much on offense! While trying to move the puck up the ice, your player sometimes inexplicably passes the puck backward
. Good luck trying to thread the needle or locate a trailer on a fast break. Shots on goal tend to be rather weak. It seems like the bulk of the scoring is done by running into the goalie (cheap), or worse yet, scoring on yourself!
The game does incorporate a few new moves like drop shots and dumping the puck. I always love the cool bells and whistles like the zamboni during intermissions, penalized players who hack the glass with their sticks, and hats tossed onto the ice after a hat trick. The crowd noise is really subdued in this edition - it feels like 90% of the game is played in complete silence! NHL 97 is a respectable hockey game but it was clearly produced with a minimum amount of effort. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)
When a hockey game lists "updated team rosters" and "more intelligent crowd" as selling points, it's hard to muster much enthusiasm. The new "hot and cold streak" feature is clearly a case of developers looking for something they could add with the least amount of effort. The main menu is sparse but it does contain new skill challenge and shootout modes. These mini-games are good for practice, and they'd be even better if they recorded high scores. Like last year, NHL '97 is an arcade-minded hockey title with slick visuals and crisp, digitized sounds. It's hard to play offense, but I'm sure some sports fans will relish the challenge. At least shots on goal have some mustard on them. Leafing through the manual I found it interesting to see how the moves have accumulated over the years. You can do all kinds of stuff like dump the puck, fake a shot, or hit the ice to block a shot. You can perform a drop pass, sudden stop, or spin-o-rama move. There's clearly a lot of depth, and I think this game has a little more balance than NHL '97. Then again, most gamers didn't even notice since they had already moved onto the next generation of hockey titles - rendered in disappointing 3D! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
Playing this hockey game today is a nauseating experience, and I can't imagine it was much better in 1993. Stanley Cup utilizes the Super Nintendo's trademark "mode 7" rotation and scaling effects to create a constantly shifting view of the action. It looks like the entire rink is spinning in outer space. The effect worked well in Nintendo's NCAA basketball game (1992), but it's not a good fit with hockey. Why? It has a lot to do with hockey's breakneck pace and constant possession changes. At least in basketball you can control the tempo to some degree and play at a more deliberate pace. In Stanley Cup, the stilted animation, pixelated sprites, and constant rotation make it hard to find the puck, much less execute a crisp pass or target the corner of the goal. You can only pass to the player with the icon over his head, and switching players on defense is maddening. The special moves look horrific, and when you perform a "hip check" it looks like you're trying to rub your butt on an opponent! That really stinks! Stanley Cup's sound effects are equally weak, with the same constipated "grunt" sounds over and over again. The lone highlight of the game is the intro, which shows an over-the-shoulder cinematic of a player approaching the goal on a fast break. Too bad you won't see anything that impressive in the actual game. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
NHLPA Hockey '93
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
EA's NHL series had full year head start on the Genesis, which may explain the deficiencies of this inaugural SNES edition. NHLPA Hockey '93 opens with twangy intro music that sounds like it's being played by the Country Bears Jamboree. Once you hit the ice, the action doesn't feel quite right. Players move from point A to B just as fast as they do on the Genesis, but they don't move as smoothly and the controls feel less responsive. Granted, the difference is subtle and it might be hard to tell the difference unless you played both versions two back-to-back (like I did). NHLPA '93 does deliver a nice arcade-style hockey experience with an overhead view. Whether you're playing against the CPU or a friend, the competition is white-knuckle all the way. Since one-timer plays are not supported, taking advantage of second-chance opportunities is crucial. The sound of the puck hitting the boards has an amazing resonating quality, but too often the sound effects cut out completely (most notably when the organ plays). An option screen lets you customize your game, and I'd recommend using the automatic goalie with no penalties. NHLPA '93 is competitive fun but it's missing one key feature from the Genesis: You can't knock an opponent onto his back and make his head bleed all over the ice. Is this really a major selling point for a hockey game? You better believe it! There's nothing more satisfying than making your opponent's head bleed and follow it up with relentless trash talk. Sadly, this version precludes this simple joy. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1994)
It was largely overlooked in its time of release, but Ninja Warriors is like a slice of 16-bit heaven in 2013. This side-scrolling brawler offers three playable cyborgs, each of which has its own attack style, providing a unique experience. The first character, "Ninja", uses brute force to throw enemies around like rag dolls. Kunoichi is a babe decked out in red who specializes in quick, agile attacks. Kamaitachi is a warrior with metal blades for hands who prefers a slice-and-dice approach. The stages mainly consist of city ruins and industrial facilities, but later stages offer some colorful skylines. The scenery isn't very memorable but the degree of detail is commendable. I just wish certain stages didn't rain bombs, because that got on my nerves. Unlike Streets of Rage
(Genesis, 1991) or Final Fight
(SNES, 1991), the action takes place on a single plane, saving you the trouble of "lining up" with enemies. You'll face soldiers, robots, martial artists, and monkeys that look extra creepy because they're decked out in little uniforms. As is often the case in games like this, enemies have a tendency to linger off the edge of the screen. I like how you can throw large objects like computers, safes, and even motorcycles. Hazards include giant fans that turn on and off at timed intervals, but since the violence is minimal you don't have the pleasure of watching enemy soldiers getting splattered. Hidden moves add some depth to the repetitive fighting action, and a "blaster" meter lets you charge up smart bombs. Ninja Warriors has the look and feel of an arcade game, complete with the high score displayed on the top of the title screen. The music has a Street of Rage flavor, and that's quite a complement. Ninja Warriors may follow the typical fighting formula, but sometimes that's exactly what you want. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 191,210
Publisher: Seta (1995)
Nosferatu tries to mimic the gameplay of a Castlevania title, but lacks style and seems generic in comparison. The word "Nosferatu" means vampire, and this platform adventure challenges you to save your girlfriend from the original bloodsucker himself, Vlad the Impaler (the real
Dracula). Most levels are a maze of castle ledges and walkways, but bosses are fought outside where there's more room. Your vampire hunter has plenty of fighting moves at his disposal, including a flying round-house, upper cut, and charge. There's a nice variety of monsters to beat up, ranging from the traditional movie monsters (Frankenstein, Mummy, etc) to some truly bizarre original creations. Inexplicably, the second boss is pair of gorillas
! The game lacks tension, although there are occassional surprises like falling corpses and hands that grab you from under the floor. Too many traps litter the later levels, and if you don't fall into a spiked pit on your own, you're likely to be pushed into one. In terms of graphics, the creatures look great but the castle walls start to get boring after a few levels. The controls are less than responsive, making it difficult to enter certain doorways or get off a punch in time. The audio is weak, with sparse sound effects and music that's uneven in quality. A few of the tunes have an edgy Nine Inch Nails flavor, but others just sound goofy. Nosferatu not a terrible game, but it fails to distinguish itself in any way, making it a thoroughly forgettable experience. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Mindscape (1991)
The original Paperboy arcade game was terrific, but this sequel comes off a bit flat. Controlling a boy or girl on a bike, you travel up the screen while avoiding obstacles and tossing newspapers at mailboxes and other targets. It's humorous to see what kind of chaos you can unleash, whether it's by hitting a guy working on a car (causing it to fall on him), knocking an old man off his rocker, or smacking an armed robber in the back of the head. Unlike the original game, the side of the street you deliver to alternates, and each street ends with an obstacle course of ramps and targets. Paperboy 2 is undeniably fun but very rough around the edges. Especially for the SNES, the visuals look awfully chunky and the animation is rough. It's hard to judge your position with respect to obstacles and ramps, and it doesn't help that the collision detection is extremely unforgiving. It's next-to-impossible to execute tight turns, and you'll have to contend with cheap shots from cannons and fireball-spewing gargoyles. In many cases the houses are so far off the street that you can't even see if the newspaper made it to the mailbox, and have to rely on audio cues instead. Paperboy 2 has a likeable, whimsical style that will appeal to arcade gamers, but it's not the blockbuster sequel I was expecting. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1994)
Video games have taught us all that there's only one effective way to keep the peace, and that's by beating the living [expletive] out of anything that moves!
This side-scrolling brawler is the third entry of a trilogy that began with Rival Turf (1992) and continued with Brawl Brothers (1993). Although parts of the game feel uninspired and recycled, there's more to Peacekeepers than meets the eye. The opening text crawl describes how a company rose to power "through the damage and ignorance of the economic wars of 2011". That's soon followed by my favorite line: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts better than expected." How wise that is! Anyway, the Peacekeepers are four playable characters including a white guy (Flynn), a black dude (Al), a wrestler (Prokop) and a chick (Echo). Echo is probably the best all-around fighter because her quickness allows her to sneak in extra attacks and evade enemy holds. You can switch fighters between stages, and can actually unlock new playable characters along the way. The first thing you'll notice when playing Peacekeepers is the complete lack of music. All you hear is background noise like the droning of machines in a factory. The game can be uncomfortably quiet at times - especially while creeping through the sewers. The stages lack imagination and some have even been lifted directly from Brawl Brothers. There's a street stage named "Snake Pliskin Ave" which I find hilarious for some reason. The control scheme has more depth than your garden-variety fighter. Besides your normal attack you also get power and dash attacks. You can block and even execute a "reverse" if your timing is right. It's too bad they didn't incorporate a few team-oriented moves. Limited special attacks include wielding lightning (Flynn) or unleashing an ear-splitting scream (Echo). Digitized photos are used in cut-scenes, and it's funny how they reuse the same Asian guy for multiple evil scientists. What I like best about Peacekeepers is its branching paths which take you to different areas each time you play. This increases the replay value substantially. You get 12 continues, and that turns out to be a very good number for a game like this. Peacekeepers doesn't make the best first impression, but my wife said she would play this again, and that's a ringing endorsement. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 123,800 (with continues)
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
As one of the first SNES titles, Pilotwings probably served as much a technical demonstration as it did an actual game. It serves that purpose well, effectively showing off the system's impressive scaling capabilities. When a helicopter lifts your skydiver thousands of feet in the air, the illusion is remarkably convincing! The game offers four single-player challenges in the form of "flight areas". Each area is a flat island with a set of runways and landing pads. Some of the landing pads even move
to provide extra challenge. Graduating to the next area involves completing a set of challenges and earning enough points in the process. Activities include light plane (bi-plane), skydiving, hang gliding, rocket-belt (jet-pack), and helicopter. Each has a unique feel, but they all require making fine-tuned adjustments and properly judging the landing location. At first the challenges are limited to simply flying through three rings and landing, but the more advanced levels are longer and more complex. Good luck getting past the third area! Practice makes perfect, but the game can be frustrating. I really hate when you come in for a perfect landing with the plane, only to have it bounce off the runway. Likewise in the jet-pack there are times when you are hovering right next to
a ring, yet can't seem to fly through it. Pilotwings features a lot of happy, upbeat music, but some tunes are irritating, like the "blah blah blah" song in the jet-pack stage. A six-digit password is provided between areas. Pilotwings is technically impressive and mildly addictive, but I can't imagine ever wanting to play it again once you beat it. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1991)
In the early 90's I found myself caught up in the throes of fighting game mania. I was desperate to buy any new fighter I could get my hands on, and Pit-Fighter
(Genesis, 1990) was one of those impulse buys. My friends were not very impressed but I enjoyed its easy-to-play arcade style. You select between three fighters (Buzz, Ty, Kato) in some kind of sleazy underground fight club with a bloodthirsty crowd. Since I liked the Genesis game I decided to give this SNES edition a shot. I figured sharper graphics, clearer audio, and extra buttons might add something to the experience. I was dead wrong. I don't know where to begin with this debacle of a game. I guess I should start with the fact that it has zero
options! Not even a sound test
for crying out loud! You just hit a button and the character selection screen pops up. The controls for selecting a character are ass-backwards
to say the least. The graphics look sharper than the Genesis, but only serve to emphasize how blocky and poorly-animated the digitized characters are. It's hard to tell what's happening as the fighters cavort with each other, often falling down without even making contact. The controls feel unresponsive and the collision detection is horrific. One time I scored a perfect zero
because I couldn't even get off a punch. Instead of health bars there are numbers that count down as fighters take damage. And where is the lady in the black outfit who tries to stab you in the back with a knife? I miss that crazy woman. After defeating an enemy and progressing to the next level, your life meter doesn't even replenish! How are you supposed to make progress?! The final insult is when your life goes to zero and "game over" appears. That's right - you get a single life and no continues. Wow. The Genesis version of Pit Fighter served its purpose, but as far as I can tell this one has no purpose. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 12700
Pitfall the Mayan Adventure
Publisher: Activision (1994)
The Mayan Adventure was Activision's attempt to recapture the magic of the original Pitfall
(Atari 2600, 1982). Graphically, this game looks beautiful, with lavish Indiana Jones-inspired jungles and underground settings. The wild animals are fluidly animated, making this look like a more realistic version of Disney's Jungle Book game. Crisp sound effects also contribute to the exotic atmosphere. The uninspired gameplay is your standard platform-jumping fare, with each level ending with a boss. You can swing on vines and climb ropes, but there isn't anything here that we haven't seen before, including "leaps of faith" you're sometimes forced to take. Most of your adversaries are tiny, annoying creatures like bats and monkeys which regenerate as fast as you can kill them off. The control are erratic, and too often I found myself slipping off ledges. But instead of plunging to your doom, you're sent way back to repeat the last section (I'm not sure which is worse!) Mayan Adventure's confusing level design necessitates the use of gold idols scattered throughout the game which literally point you in the right direction. There is no save function, just a few continues. Perhaps the coolest feature is the Atari 2600 Pitfall hidden somewhere in the game. Despite its fancy graphics and sound, Mayan Adventure really only succeeded in making me want to go back and play the original
Pitfall. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Natsume (1993)
This shooter/adventure hybrid features anime graphics, rapid-fire shooting, and two-player simultaneous action. Pocky and Rocky (P&R) sounds like a classic gamer's dream, but boy
is this game hard!
I'm glad you can set the difficulty to easy, because at least that gives you a fighting chance!
The game stars two cute, chubby characters: a karate chick named Pocky and her raccoon friend Rocky. The long, boring intro only displays about two words at a time, so don't feel bad about skipping that. P&R's overhead perspective is much like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992), and the graphics are pleasing to the eye. Whether you're wandering through a haunted temple or enchanted forest, the colors stand out and the degree of detail in the scenery is commendable. Nicely animated enemies include playful monkeys, bone-tossing skeletons, hopping fish, sea chickens (huh?), and bouncing umbrellas. Tapping the fire button lets you toss magic cards (or leaves) rapidly. You can use you stick (or tail) for close range attacks, and this move is also useful (critical really) for swiping away projectiles. The game is clearly designed for two players, but that introduces slow-down and higher difficulty, so I prefer playing solo. As with most anime titles, the tone is always whimsical and sometimes just plain weird
. I find it amusing how the first boss greets you with the text "Ha Ha. I am your adversary." The background music has an oriental flair that's appealing. Pocky and Rocky is a little boss-heavy, with several appearing in each stage. It's no walk in the park, but its inviting visuals and non-stop action make this adventure enjoyable enough. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults 6+
You may find it hard to get yourself psyched up for a Porky Pig game, but Haunted Holiday is no joke! This whimsical platformer is a heck of a lot of fun and loaded with surprises. Porky begins his journey in a haunted graveyard, and this weird stage somehow manages to incorporate both Halloween and Christmas
elements. Subsequent stages put Porky in a Wild West ghost town, the water kingdom of Atlantis, and the snowy Alps. Swimming through Altantis is slow going, but the other stages are ideal in length. Porky's jump-and-pounce action is satisfying thanks to responsive controls and exaggerated sound effects. Warner Bros cartoon fans will notice familiar sights like the two-headed vulture, a prancing dog, and bats with big eyes. Certain enemies are kind of disturbing, like the mounted moose head that scampers around! Yikes!
Leprechauns split in two when you pounce on them, and I was surprised they appeared to be smoking pipes. My friend Scott reassured me however that those are not pipes but guns
. God forbid we expose kids to the horrors of smoking!
The stage backgrounds are very artistic, and there are random weather effects and some impressive 3D scaling. Ironically the worst looking thing in the entire game is Porky himself, who appears somewhat pixelated. The music is pretty amazing and the digitized sound effects include Daffy Duck's maniacal laugh. The oversized bosses are memorable including Yosemite Sam and a Ghost in a top hat. Haunted Holiday is definitely on the easy side, but that just makes it all the more appealing. As my friend Chris remarked, "it makes you want to keep going!
" © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 23,600
Publisher: Time Warner (1995)
When I first saw the Primal Rage arcade machine in a local sub shop, I was awestruck. As a fan of Mortal Kombat and Ray Harryhausen movies, the concept of stop-motion, clay-mation dinosaurs fighting really blew my mind. It's a wonderful premise that doesn't play as good as it looks. How could
it? The creatures include two T-Rexes (Sauron, Diablo), two giant apes (Blizzard, Chaos), a horned dinosaur (Armagon), a raptor (Talon), and a cobra-like creature (Vertigo). The one-on-one fighting action doesn't stray far from the Mortal Kombat formula as creatures execute combos, special moves, and fatalities. Combo percentages are displayed on the screen, which was a first for its time. Primal Rage seems pretty shallow until you get a few special moves under your belt. Diablo breathes fire, Blizzard can freeze an enemy in place, and Armagon can flip his opponent into the air. I love that beating heart at the end of your life bar which bursts into a bloody mess when you lose. In 1995 I opted for this SNES edition (over the Genesis), but felt lukewarm about it. The characters are smaller than the arcade and the animation is slower. The hits lack impact and the blood looks ridiculous. Diablo was noticeably smaller than Sauron in the arcade, but here they're pretty much the same size. The animation could be smoother and the "iffy" collision detection registers some hits that aren't even close
. The SNES controller has the ideal four-button layout for the game, but special moves are still hard to execute. The act of eating a native spectator (to regain life) is so complicated that it's not worth the effort. The post-apocalyptic backdrops look good but aren't quite as awe-inspiring as the arcade. The music is sparse but there are some memorable audio effects. I'll give this version a little extra credit for its glossy manual which has a lot of fun illustrations (and a hot babe on page 18). Primal Rage may not have been all it was cracked up to be, but I'm still intrigued by the concept. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 150,000
1 or 2 players
Rap Jam Volume 1
Publisher: Motown Games (1994)
It was a fairly presumptuous of Motown Games to place "Volume 1" in the title of this, as if they were certain it would be a runaway success. It wasn't. The idea behind Rap Jam Volume 1 is that you could play basketball as your favorite rap stars (circa 1994). There are some big names here, including Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, and Coolio. Unfortunately, the players on the court look nothing
like the rappers they're meant to portray. Queen Latifah in particular has never
been as tiny or skinny as that mini-skirted babe running around the court! Rap Jam's gameplay isn't bad because it's modeled after the fast-paced NBA Jam. There are plenty of rim-rattling dunks and a handy shot meter that makes it fun to sink jumpers. Up to four players can complete, and there's a nice selection of outdoor courts. It's the controls that hold this game back. There's simply no way to rebound the ball, so you'll have to wait
for the ball to come down after a missed shot. Lame! The passing controls are confusing, and the "Xtra" button is a poor substitute for turbo. There are no three-pointers in the game, despite
having a three-point line. And since when is double dribbling legal? It had a few things going for it, but don't hold your breath for Rap Jam Volume 2. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1992)
I'll be the first to admit that my original review of Rival Turf was entirely too harsh. Evidently my bias for Streets of Rage got the best of me. Rival Turf may be a poor man's Streets of Rage, but hey - it's at least
as good as the Final Fight games. The unintentionally hilarious box cover shows two young teenagers trying hard to look tough. The game itself is a generic side-scrolling brawler that lets you clash with criminal clones in different colored outfits. The predictable cast includes martial artists, skinny freaks, and the obligatory fat guys who attack with a belly flop. There's also a muscleman named Arnold who looks a lot like your favorite Terminator. You can choose between two playable characters - the brawny Oozie Nelson and the more agile Jack Flak. I would definitely recommend Jack because Oozie is just too damn slow (his bodyslams feel like slow-motion!
). There aren't many weapons lying around, but occasionally you'll find a brick or rock to throw. Some enemies toss sticks of dynamite, but their explosions are awfully wimpy. Rival Turf's gameplay is uninspired but still fun thanks to responsive controls that let you easily dish out the whup-ass. Throwing one enemy into others is especially effective, and I like how they all land with an emphatic thud
. Holding a shoulder button is supposed to let you run, but instead it looks like you're walking really fast.
Pretty cheesy! Another odd (and annoying) aspect of the game is the pronounced delay between the time you hit an enemy and when the damage is reflected in his life meter. It can be confusing. I enjoyed most of the urban scenery (like the bus ride), but a few areas are boring (like the locker room and parking garage). You'll see some nice city skylines, but in later stages the action moves south of the border where the scenery is exceptionally bland. The mediocre audio features repetitive tunes and muffled sound effects. The two-player mode exhibits some slow-down, but the single player action is highly playable. Rival Turf is as derivative as they come, but if you're okay with that, you'll have a good time. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Road Runner's Death Valley Rally
Publisher: Sunsoft (1992)
In the early 90's graphic technology had advanced to the point where cartoon characters could be pretty
faithfully rendered in a video game. Players were intrigued by the prospect of controlling their favorite Saturday morning personalities, and Death Valley Rally generated a lot of buzz for this reason. Heck, its screenshots looked like a freakin' TV show!
The characters are rendered using large sprites, and Wile E. Coyote can be seen using all of his famous contraptions like his gliding suit, steamroller, and rocket ship. No doubt about it - this is one impressive-looking game. Sunsoft was somewhat less successful when it came to recreating the frenetic action of the cartoon. The idea is to guide the Road Runner to the end of each stage while avoiding the coyote's wacky antics and other obstacles. Flags can be gathered along the way to earn bonus points. Some stages feature long stretches that allow the Road Runner to zip around, but there's a lot more precision jumping than I expected. Even in the early stages you're often required to carefully hop between narrow platforms. The floaty jumps provide some room for error, but when the screen scrolls upwards it's hard to tell where you're about to land! The coyote enters at random intervals, and he's often hard to avoid due to his size. Locations include desert cliffs, mineshafts, construction sites, and even a space stage with a cameo from Marvin the Martian. The scenery isn't very interesting, but it's always fun to see what kind of new contraption the coyote has rigged up. Watching him meet his demise is amusing, especially when he goes into that classic free-fall sequence (ending in a puff of dust). The stages are relatively short but the lack of a password feature is glaring. Road Runner's Death Valley Rally has a lot of eye candy. Too bad it looks so much better than it plays! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 14,550
Robocop Versus Terminator
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
to be good; it's packaged in a molded black plastic box
for Pete's sake. Oh wait - the back is cardboard. So how does this Robocop Versus Terminator stack up to the Genesis version? It's a major letdown. After a cheesy comic-book style intro featuring some kid with a bowl haircut, the opening stage shows a lot of promise. The red evening city skyline looks magnificent and the thunderstorm is a nice touch. You control Robocop, whose body is surrounded by a cheesy colored outline. His clanking walk conveys a nice sense of mass but he feels a bit sluggish and doesn't easily latch onto pipes or ladders. Your oversized weapons include plasma guns and rocket launchers, and thankfully you can't
run out of ammo! Enemy projectiles move very slowly that you can often outrun
them. Robocop Versus Terminator packs plenty of rapid-fire shooting action, but there a lot of unnecessary annoyances. One bad guy blasts craters in the streets, and Robocop has a tendency to fall right into them! It's not a pretty sight to see Robocop defeated at the hands of a pothole!
Enemies in the first stage tend to be chicks, and it doesn't feel right walking down the street pumping slugs into a bunch of screaming women. The platform jumping action feels tedious because the ledges are so narrow. And when you stand still a freakin' girder
falls on your head! Who's bright idea was that?
In advanced stages you contend with crawling bombs and soldiers with shields. Impressive bosses include a terminator "tank" and a pretty amazing hologram face. Compared to the Genesis game, the violence is tame. When you shoot an enemy he basically goes up in smoke. When you shoot a sniper in the window, black tar
is splashed across the curtains. Robocop Versus Terminator isn't bad, but once you play the Genesis version there's no turning back. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 75,250
Save mechanism: Password
Rushing Beat Ran (Japan)
Publisher: Jaleco (1992)
I hate getting an inferior version of a Japanese game just because the guy in charge of localization decided to change more than the language or title. Rushing Beat Ran was released as Brawl Brothers in America, and the name change is understandable. Less excusable was the decision to turn the sewer and gym stages into confusing labyrinths. You need an FAQ just to find your way out, and that's just awful. Fortunately the Brawl Brothers cartridge contains the complete Japanese version
accessible via an obscure code. You hit BAXY continuously during white Jaleco screen, and when garbage appears you press Start, down three times, and Start again to bring up an options screen. Quit out of that and feast your eyes on the Rushing Beat Ran title screen! There are five playable characters including a green ninja, a blonde female, and a red dude who looks like M. Bison of Street Fighter 2 fame. The characters you don't
pick are bosses, but as you defeat them they become selectable between stages. Prior to each stage you're presented with a colorful map, a la Final Fight. One thing I love about 2D brawlers is their layered illustrated scenery, and the early stages here sport a lot of interesting detail. The controls are crisp and hits are punctuated with emphatic symbols like "Spak!" and "Crash!" You get a lot of mileage out of throwing people. The only thing better than tossing goons into each other is tossing them off of moving lifts. One aspect of the game that sucks is the weapons. A bat with nails sticking out of it might be effective if only I could hit somebody with it!
The bosses are pretty cheap, always grabbing you from out of nowhere. I'd recommend playing on easy just to compensate for that. The upbeat music is great and a score is displayed after each stage. Rushing Beat Run is standard beat-em-up fare, but a big step up from the tainted version we were originally served. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 158
1 or 2 players
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix, Moby Games, Games Database
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