Publisher: Taito (1989)
Here's something you don't see everyday: a light gun game that's best played without
a light gun! Strange but true, Operation Wolf is far more enjoyable when you mow down bad guys by moving a cursor around the screen. Each of the game's six stages is a war-torn battle zone, with locations including a jungle, command center, airport, and prison camp. One button is used to shoot, and the other throws grenades that inflict heavy damage. You'll have to constantly replenish you ammunition by shooting icons that appear in place of fallen soldiers. At any given moment there are plenty of vehicles and soldiers running across the screen to fire at. The action is frantic, but take care not to shoot the occasional prisoner or medic squad. So what's wrong with using the Zapper light gun? Well, besides the constant clicking noise, the gun causes too much flashing on the screen. Stick with a normal controller however and you'll definitely have a good time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1988)
Our high score: CJS 29,950
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1983)
It's easy to pass this off as a shallow, generic pinball game, but with repeated play it proves surprisingly addictive. There's only one table, and it's theme is... well, it really doesn't have a theme, but that's okay. The game switches between two screens that display the top and bottom halves of the table, each with their own sets of flippers. You get all the standard pinball trappings, including bumpers, spinners, flippers, and traps. The graphics aren't anything to write home about, but the action is smooth and the physics is realistic enough. You only control the flippers - there's no "nudge" button. Pinball may not be much to look at, but it's challenging, well-balanced gameplay is more than respectable. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 38,910
1 or 2 player
Publisher: Ultra (1991)
Publisher: Sunsoft (1988)
Platoon features well-defined soldiers and rich, dense jungle environments, but its gameplay can be described as "missing in action". Playing Platoon is more irritating than it is fun. In the first stage you explore endless jungle screens, jumping over wire traps and shooting an endless parade of brainless enemy soldiers. There's precious little technique involved, and the action gets terribly repetitive in a hurry. You'll also find yourself absorbing an excessive number of mandatory hits thanks to enemies that leap out suddenly from trees or behind bushes. Worst yet, you'll pull your hair out trying to navigate the endless labyrith of jungle screens, which all look the same and contain numerous dead ends. Just completing the first stage will test the patience of even the most seasoned gamer. Subsequent levels contain some good-looking first person shooting action, but these prove equally frustrating and hardly worth the effort. Platoon looks great, but Sunsoft should have gotten someone to play test this thing before inflicting it on the masses. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Play Action Football
Publisher: Nintendo (1990)
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
A reader recently alerted me to this game, and frankly, I'm astounded
at the quality of it. I've played Popeye on a number of the classic consoles (Atari 2600, Colecovision), but this version seems arcade-perfect
. The vibrant graphics are very high in resolution and exhibit no hint of flicker. The characters are faithful to their cartoon roots, even conveying trademark expressions and mannerisms. Popeye must traverse three screens of platforms in an attempt to collect items tossed out by Olive Oyle at the top of the screen. In the first screen it's hearts, in the second it's musical notes, and in the third (pirate ship screen) it's letters that spell out "HELP". Making your life harder are bouncing skulls, swooping buzzards, and a marauding bully by the name of Brutus. Avoiding Brutus is largely a game of cat-and-mouse, but eating your spinach lets you turn the tables on him, delivering a mighty punch that sends him bouncing around the screen. Just be sure to keep moving because Brutus is quite nimble for his size, and can pounce on you unpredictably. Each screens offers its own unique elements, like a trap you can trigger or a teeter-totter that catapults you to a higher platform. The music is also first-rate. Not only does each screen feature its own catchy jingle, but a lively rendition of the Popeye theme plays when you eat your spinach. Some might contend Popeye is a second-tier platform title, but I haven't had this much fun on my NES in a while. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 31,320
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Twentieth Century Fox (1988)
Publisher: Nintendo (1987)
This outstanding boxing game was originally released for the NES in 1987 as "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" Unfortunately, Mike got himself into legal problems, so Nintendo was forced to drop him from the label. This new version is identical except the final challenger (Mike Tyson) has been replaced with a white guy by the name of "Mr. Dream". From what I've heard, Mr. Dream is easier to defeat than Mike Tyson originally was. So if you want to be the ultimate Punch-Out champ, you may want to track down a copy of the original. See review of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! for further details. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ultra (1989)
This one was tough to review. On the surface, it appears to be one of the best adaptations of the Q*bert ever made. Its colorful, vibrant graphics rival the arcade, and all of the game's elements are included. Having played many scaled-down versions of Q*bert, I had almost forgotten about the green ball that paralyzes adversaries, or the little green creature that changes squares back to their original color. The screen is always teeming with enemies, so the action is non-stop and the challenge is high. In order to address possible issues with the game's unique diagonal-direction control scheme, you can fully configure the controls to your liking. This could have been the ultimate Q*bert, but it has a fatal flaw. Like most classic arcade games, the goal of Q*bert is to play for high score
. However, when your game ends, you're immediately presented a black game screen with two prompts: end or continue. The problem is, your score is never displayed anywhere! Considering how great the game is otherwise, this massive oversight is a real shame. Other minor issues includes muffled audio and the fact that you get five lives instead of three (three lives should always be standard). © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1990)
I remember Qix very well from the arcades way back in 1981, although to be honest, I've never been sure how to pronounce its name. Qix is great because it's totally original and dares you to take risks. The game begins with you controlling a little diamond on the perimeter of a big blank square, with a "helix" flying around the interior. This helix looks like a twisting set of colored lines, and it's quite lethal. Using the fast or slow "draw" buttons, you move your little diamond to draw lines, attempting to enclose areas of the screen without being touched by the helix. The goal is to capture as large a percentage of the screen as possible, but when you reach 75% the stage ends. If you're a skilled player, you can lure the helix into a tight area and "trap" him there, capturing well over 90% of the screen with that last "draw". Complicating matters are deadly sparks that move around the perimeter, force you into harm's way. While this edition of Qix is a fair approximation of the arcade game, I wasn't overly impressed. I don't like how the areas enclosed with the slow draw (worth twice as many points) are filled with the same colors as the fast draw. The music is good and the control is decent, but the graphics and colors are drab. This is not as fun as I remembered. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 76,266
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Codemasters (1993)
Quattro Sports (Aladdin version)
Publisher: Codemasters (1991)
Publisher: Rare (1987)
is what old-school racing is all about! Simple, fast, and fun, R.C. Pro Am plays like a one-player version of Micro Machines
(NES, 1991). You get an isometric view of the track, which scrolls smoothly in all directions. The "remote controlled" cars are nicely animated and easy to control. The courses curve all over the place, but helpful arrows prompt you for upcoming turns. The races are short and sweet. You can't leave the road, and that's good because the tracks have a lot of speed boosts. You'll collect items scattered over the road for weapons, upgrades, and bonus points. Shooting cars ahead with missiles is fun, as long as you don't slam into their smoldering wreckage. Bombing a car on your tail is also satisfying. You'll compete against three CPU opponents over a series of 32 tracks. You keep racing until you come in last (fourth place), and a handy indicator shows your position at all times. As you progress the races get faster and more chaotic. Slowing you down are obstacles like puddles, miniature squalls, oil slicks, and pop-up barriers. Those barriers pop up from out of nowhere and I really don't like them at all. The AI has a bit of a rubberband quality, so it's easy to go from first-to-worst if you let your guard down. There's a lot to like about R.C. Pro-Am, but the lack of a two-player mode is glaring. That was addressed in the sequel, which didn't arrive until five years later. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 28,254
Publisher: Rare (1992)
The first R.C. Pro-Am was a groundbreaking racer, and this sequel just ups the ante. I'm a little surprised that it was five years
before Rare got around to following up such a popular title. Pro Am 2 offers the same brand of arcade racing, but it's more refined. The cars are smaller, but that just makes it easier to react to upcoming turns and jockey for position. The courses now have angular hills, and it's fun to turbo up them and bounce past cars on the other side. The tracks are more elaborate with crisscross designs and streams to splash through. Occasional surprises include an airplane that drops bombs on the track. The vehicles handle extremely well, and I like how it takes a second for your turbo to kick in. Between races you'll use your winnings to soup up your car's motor, tires, and weapons. This adds considerable depth, but the menu interface for selecting these upgrades leaves much to be desired. My friends were psyched about the multiplayer mode (supporting up to four players), but the execution is lacking. The game insists on keeping all four cars on the screen at all times, and those who fall behind get a boost with no apparent penalty. It really sucks when you're in the lead and the game slingshots a straggler right past you! Worse yet, all the back-and-forth action renders the weapons pretty much useless. There's little joy to be found in the multi-player, but as a single player experience R.C. Pro-Am 2 is even better than the original. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 54
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Tengen (1987)
This outdated relic isn't one of the better NES baseball games, but it did lay a solid foundation for future installments of RBI Baseball. The freakish players are short and fat with oversized heads. They move like snails and can't jump or dive. Considering the shoddy graphics, it's surprising that RBI has actual Major League teams with real players on the rosters! While pitching, the action is viewed from behind the plate, with two windows displaying runners on first and third. The pitches fly across the play at high velocity, but once the ball is hit, the action slows to a crawl. RBI Baseball does do a few things right. The controls are simple and intuitive, and you can toss the ball around the bases with ease. The ball scales out (becomes larger) as it ascends, making it easy to judge fly balls. Still, RBI has a lot of issues. First of all, the non-stop music will drive you nuts. Next, there are far too many homeruns, and most tend to fly way
out of the park. The CPU opponent is dumb, allowing you to steal bases and stretch base hits unchallenged. RBI Baseball will suffice as a simple baseball game for young kids, but everybody else should seek out its excellent sequel: RBI Baseball 2. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1990)
Not only is RBI Baseball 2 an enormous improvement over its predecessor, it's one of the best baseball games I've ever played! The players look fairly realistic this time around, and the pitchers look exceptionally good during their windups. The controls are superb. Players can dive for grounders and jump for line drives, and runners even slide head-first! You can select between two skills levels, turn off the music (thank you!), and the homerun frequency is reasonable. You get all the real major league teams and players. Bonus features include voice synthesis for umpires and - get this - instant replays
! If there's one thing that annoyed me, it would be the excessive number of foul balls. Otherwise, RBI 2 is outstanding. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Square (1987)
Rad Racer looks and plays like a second-generation Pole Position. There are eight tracks, each with a series of invisible "checkpoints" that provide additional time to finish the race. Your car routinely tops 200 MPH, and there's unlimited "turbo". Of course, there's no way you can take corners or weave through traffic at high speeds, so the brake is quite useful. The controls are tight, allowing you to skillfully execute power slides around curves. If you cut your teeth on flashy racers like Outrun, you may be disappointed by Rad Racer's sparse visuals. The background scenery in the Grand Canyon stage looks like crap - literally! The night stages look better thanks to their attractive city skylines, but Rad Racer is more about gameplay than graphics. The game requires plenty of skill and is quite addictive. There's even a "3D" mode in case you have some blue and red cardboard glasses lying around. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Romstar (1990)
Our high score: 24,500
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Acclaim (1988)
Rambo has never been dumber or gay
er than he is in this laughable side-scroller. Not only does Stallone look like a clueless moron on the dialogue screens, but he prances around the game in what appear to be red tights
. The game begins with "Trautman" offering Rambo a mission and asking "Are you up to it?" I couldn't resist choosing the option "I feel better in prison," prompting Trautman to explain, "The game doesn't start until you say YES". After chatting with a few military guys in a hangar you're taken onto a helicopter and dropped in the jungle. Rambo can switch between a variety of knife and arrow weapons, but he's forever at the mercy of attacking bees, snakes, and invisible cave creatures. In the swamps he must contend with deadly bubbles
and ferocious flamingos
. Killer bubbles make a lot
of sense to me, and who isn't terrified of flamingos? As if the bizarre assortment of enemies isn't bad enough, the screens aren't even arranged logically! You'll exit a swamp to the left, only to head back right to discover a forest! Is it any wonder I spent most of the game wandering in circles? The only thing Rambo has going for it is a distinctive, melodic soundtrack that is guaranteed to trigger 80's flashbacks. Equally precious is the thought-provoking dialogue that includes gems like "What? You should know us. We wanna get on the boat. Here's money." It's possible that Rambo is actually meant to be a parody
of the film, but that doesn't make it suck any less. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hi Tech (1989)
I'm sure you remember this TV show; it's the one everybody hated
! The amazing thing is, MTV stopped playing music videos
so they could broadcast crap like this instead! And that's when the channel went from being utterly indispensable to completely disposable. This Remote Control cartridge does a fine job of capturing this game show's unlikable format, complete with the annoying host tossing out clever quips like "Whoa, are you related to Einstein or something?" I don't know what I hate most about this guy - his annoying smirk or his spastic, disembodied arm. The game is a simple quiz show with multiple-choice questions. The odd thing is, most of these questions were antiquated even before the show aired in the 80's! We're talking about ancient programs like Bewitched, My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, The Odd Couple, and All in the Family. Adding insult to injury, the mechanism used to answer questions is totally based on luck. You "ring in" before
choosing your answer, making it a button-mashing contest to see who can ring in first. The computer usually lets
you win in the one-player mode. Awful, repetitive music plays incessantly throughout the entire contest. Playing Remote Control ranks right up there with being kicked in the groin over and over again - it's that
much fun! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1987)
This side scrolling brawler looks looks like a Double Dragon clone but has a few tricks of its own. The controls are unusual, as the B button attacks thugs to your left, and A attacks those on your right. It takes some getting used to, but it's cool how you can engage bad guys approaching from both sides. You can also "daze" an opponent with repeated punches, and then grab him and throw him off a platform or into other bad guys. Double-tapping the directional pad allows you to run, although it's hardly necessary. The action is definitely repetitive, and the bosses are a serious pain in the ass. I really wish there were some weapons laying around. Half the thugs approach with sticks and smack you all over the place. I do like the cool motorcycle sequence where you can kick other riders off of their bikes. And you have to love inspired dialogue like "You ain't tough enough for me!" Renegade isn't great, but it may have influenced later brawlers like Streets of Rage. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
River City Ransom
Publisher: Technos (1988)
Publisher: Data East (1989)
Our high score: 33,850
Publisher: Ocean (1990)
The first Robocop was resepectable, so what the hell happened here? Robocop 2's low-resolution, cartoonish graphics make it look more like a "Robocop Junior" game. The short, squat characters look goofy, and the pastel-colored stages look like something out Super Mario World! The opening stage takes place outside of a factory, and as pathetic as it looks, it might be the best stage in the game. In stage two you enter the factory, but it looks more like a funhouse with a hideous purple-and-aqua color scheme! You never know what objects can harm you, and when you die you don't even know why! The controls are deplorable. In the first game Robocop couldn't even jump, but this game is all about
jumping, and momentum is crucial. You'll need to get a running start to reach most platforms, yet you rarely have the room to get a head of steam. In the time since the first game was released, Robocop has apparently lost the ability to shoot upwards or diagonally. He can no longer backtrack either, which is problematic because most stages require him to collect a certain number of "nuke" icons in order to progress. Failing that, you're forced to endure a first-person shooting range stage which feels a lot like punishment. Robocop 2 is pure torture to play, and is an embarrassing example of how badly a sequel can suck
. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 494,200
Publisher: Ocean (1993)
Our high score: 54,600
Publisher: Jaleco (1988)
For the love of God
man! This has to be one of the most insanely hard
video games I've ever played! I couldn't even make it through the first stage
for Pete's sake! Robowarrior puts you in control of a bomb-dropping robot, attempting to forge through a series of side-scrolling stages populated with bushes, rocks, and other obstacles. The game combines elements of Dig Dug and Bomberman, but Robowarrior is far more demanding. As you blast new pathways, you're constantly being attacked by roving monsters and skeletal birds. Blowing stuff up is fun, but the controls are awkward. Pressing the "bomb" button places a bomb directly in front
of you, forcing you to immediately step back in order to avoid the explosion. Bomberman veterans will find this concept hard to grasp. It's also quite easy to get caught up in the scenery while trying to take cover, and blowing yourself up is a common occurrence. If that's not bad enough, you'll need to keep an eye on your energy level, because it drains constantly and you only have one life! Should you manage to reach the end of a stage, you'll still
need to figure out which rock the exit is hidden under! On the bright side, Robowarrior's soundtrack absolutely kicks ass, and the game has an addictive quality that kept me coming back for more and more punishment. I use the term advisedly; Robowarrior is brutal. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 101,000
Publisher: Konami (1987)
In this challenging side-scroller you are a soldier trying to infiltrate an enemy base and destroy its secret weapon. Although the instructions don't specify the country in question, the enemy's hats would indicate Russian (get it - Rush 'N?). The action isn't much different from so many other NES shooters, but this one is intense than normal. Rush 'N Attack begins with a cool intro sequence showing your soldier parachuting into enemy territory. You arrive armed with only a knife, but you'll find other weapons along the way. The background graphics are interesting, featuring massive missile launchers, cargo planes, and enemy watchtowers. The game can be extremely difficult game without one vital piece of information: To defeat the jump-kickers, jump straight up and stab. Once you get that move down, progress comes a bit easier. Whenever possible, try to save your shooting ammo for the bosses. Each of the six stages requires some strategic thinking, and experience is the best teacher. The background music is quite memorable and the controls are responsive. Rush 'N Attack provides no continues, so you'll need to be a pretty skilled player to reach the later stages. The two-player mode is fair, but this game is better suited for solo action. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 60,900
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tecmo (1987)
Rygar is classic NES action all the way. In this better-than-average platformer, you control a mysterious warrior armed with a weapon that resembles a huge yo-yo. Rygar is mainly a side scrolling affair, but there are a few overhead stages, although these are marred by a lack of diagonal movement. The creatures you encounter are weird beyond description, with mutated birds leading the pack. Rygar is great fun despite some significant slow-down and graphic break-up. A mysterious dojo appears every so often to provide guidance, but it's usually pretty cryptic stuff. My favorite aspect of this game is the music. It sounds like every other tune you've ever heard on your NES, but it's great nonetheless. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.