Publisher: Namco (1995)
I remember people being mesmerized
by this at my first housewarming party. My wife's friend Julie, who doesn't normally take notice of video games, mentioned how she couldn't take her eyes off the screen because it looked like a movie
! With lifelike fighters and cinematic camera angles, Tekken elevated fighting games (and video games in general) to a whole new level. Not only do the character movements appear smooth and natural, but texture mapping adds a layer of realism to their skin and clothes. Tekken's control scheme is surprisingly simple, with punch and kick buttons that map to each arm and leg. Combinations of buttons are used to execute holds and throws. Once initiated, these moves are played out automatically via a series of maneuvers that typically culminate with a nasty "crunching" finale. Dramatic camera angles make the game as fun to watch as it is to play, and the slow-motion replays are fun to watch. Tekken's two-player versus mode is the main event, but there's also a single-player mode that lets you to unlock hidden characters and view each fighter's full-motion-video ending. For once, these endings are actually worth watching!
Although only released a few months after the popular Battle Arena Toshinden, Tekken beats that game in a Pepsi challenge hands-down. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1996)
This sequel to the premiere Playstation fighter offers many more characters, deeper gameplay, faster action, and buckets of extra features. Unfortunately, in order to accommodate these enhancements, the graphics have been noticeably downgraded!
In fact, these fighters look downright blocky
compared to the first Tekken. Not only are there less polygons, but there's less use of textures as well. King in particular looks pretty bad. Tekken 2's 3D fighting action still delivers the goods however, with smooth action that's noticeably faster. T2's underlying gameplay is beyond reproach, but it's a shame they had to compromise the graphics. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1998)
Tekken's third installment effectively combines the rich graphics of the original Tekken with the deep gameplay of Tekken 2. This is regarded by many to be the ultimate fighting game for the Playstation. The Brazilian Capoeira is a great new addition, and his fluid "dance" moves are amazing. Those who played through the first two are probably getting tired of Tekken by now, but this is as good as it gets. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Interplay (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
In the early 80's, Tempest was a cutting-edge space shooter. Its unusual "spinner" controller provided precision control, and its sharp vector graphics delivered some amazing 3D effects. Tempest X revives the old classic by incorporating flashy colorful graphics, power-ups, bonuses, techno music, and explosive sound effects. For the most part, it works. Tempest X looks damn impressive, yet retains the fun gameplay of the original. Occasionally the flashy graphics overshadow the action, making it tough to see what the heck's going on, but it's still a blast for gamers who crave "twitch" games. The two-player mode is pretty worthless, but the single player game is a feast for the senses. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: ASC Games (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Ten Pin Alley is perfectly respectable for a bowling title, but its goofy graphics may turn off some gamers. You can choose between three sets of lanes, and they all look pretty slick, especially the neon "Congo" bowl. Your selection of bowlers is less impressive - mainly limited to unattractive nerds. Where are the babes?? Ten Pin Alley employs three meters (similar to many golf games) to control curve, speed, and accuracy. I love how the ball rumbles down the lane, and the background chatter of people makes you feel like you're in a real bowling alley. The physics and sound effects of the ball hitting the pins is exceptionally realistic. Numerous options allow you to adjust minor details like ball weight, lane slickness, and background music. There's even a brief promo video for the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis. Up to six players can takes turns in Ten Pin Alley. I really thought my friends would have a blast with this, but they weren't patient enough to sit through a whole game, so maybe this isn't as fun as I first thought. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1996)
Tetris is a classic puzzle game that's widely considered to be one of the great video games of all time, if not the
greatest. Despite its simple, blocky graphics, the gameplay is remarkably addicting. It's tough to screw up Tetis, but Jaleco came close with this ill-advised version. For one thing, the graphics couldn't possibly be more boring and plain. Next, the two-player mode allows for simultaneous play, but the computer doesn't bother to keep track of wins! Additional modes include puzzle and edit modes, but these don't add much play value. If you want Tetris on your Playstation, this will suffice, but just barely. Jaleco should be ashamed of themselves for not doing more with this valuable license. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Thunder Force 5: Perfect System
Publisher: Technosoft (1998)
I feel a little guilty about Thunder Force 5 (TF5). In the 16-bit era we were spoiled with a wide selection of side-scrolling shooters, so when this one came along in the late 90's we took it for granted. Fortunately it's never too late to enjoy old video games. Thunder Force 5 attempts to combine the richness of 3D graphics with the simplicity of 2D gameplay. The action plays out on a single plane but enemies frequently scale in from the background and the camera occasionally shifts for dramatic effect. As with the original Thunder Force titles, you collect multiple weapons and toggle between them on the fly. I just wish that weapon selector didn't encroach onto the main screen and obstruct your view! Fans will instantly recognize weapons like the twin shot, wave, hunter, and back shot. One new addition is the "free range" that deploys a wireframe cone and disintegrates anything in the vicinity with laser beams. It's hard to aim, but since it deploys from the back, it's great for making short work of enemies sneaking up from behind. There's also a powerful "over weapon" that you'll want to save for the bosses. It takes a while to become comfortable with the controls, but once you do, the action is engrossing. The graphics are substandard. From the chunky buildings of the post-apocalyptic city to the ugly haze of the forest stage, the visuals are arguably a step down
from the vibrant 16-bit titles. Even digitized scenery like mountains and storm clouds appear very grainy. Enemies look chunky and indistinct, and when they fly in from the background it's hard to determine when they're in range. For that reason alone, homing weapons like the hunter and the free range are your best options. Smaller enemies tend to be generic tanks and satellites, but the larger foes assume more interesting forms like a swinging monkey or a speeding motorcycle. A white crosshair appears over large enemies and turns red as you wear them down. The explosions are satisfying but sometimes it's hard to tell harmless raining debris from deadly missiles. When your game ends you'll see the message "Game Over. Pilot Error" appears. Thunder Force 5 offers some neat bells and whistles. There's a stage select feature and a ranking screen that tracks the top 20 scores for each skill level.
There's plenty of art to unlock, and it's actually worth looking at. TF5 supports analog control (recommended) and the vibration is used with proper restraint. The musical style is faithful to the old games, but not as catchy. The "game over" theme caught my ear because it's the same one used in Thunder Force 3. Thunder Force 5 lacks the pick-up-and-play quality of its predecessors, but if you can overcome the learning curve you might just find some 16-bit shooting magic underneath all of those polygons. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1997)
This exciting light gun game lets you select from two different scenarios: a hotel and a castle. Time Crisis requires Namco's Guncon controller, which is by far the more accurate light gun for the Playstation. The mediocre graphics that are not especially sharp or detailed, but the innovative control scheme allows you to take cover between shots, adding a new dimension to the gameplay. I especially love how the bad guys react depending on where you shoot them. Time Crisis isn't anything fancy, but if you're looking for a solid arcade shooter, you can't go wrong with this. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Time Crisis Project Titan
Publisher: Namco (2001)
For a sequel that took four long years to come out, I'm really surprised by how similar it is to the first Time Crisis. In some ways, it's actually less
impressive! The graphics and sound haven't improved one bit, and the blocky thugs tend to dress in dorky white shorts and pink jump suits. Clearly Namco was trying to make this game as non-violent as possible, because not only is there no blood, but thugs yell "SHUCKS!" when shot. The semi-interactive locations, which include a yacht, airport, and mineshaft, are not very interesting. The action is smooth and controls well, but the gameplay is strictly by-the-numbers, with no power-ups, grenades, or hidden items to spice up the action. There are two minor new features. The first lets you switch hiding positions when facing bosses, but this adds little in the way of strategy. The other is a consecutive hit counter on the top left of the screen. I don't know if it affects the gameplay at all, but I couldn't resist seeing how many hits I could make in a row. For a light gun game, Project Titan serves its purpose but doesn't break any new ground, and that may be good enough for most gamers. Note: You'll need Namco's Guncon to play this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Squaresoft (1996)
This early 3D fighter didn't sell as well as Toshinden or Tekken, but many Playstation gamers strongly prefer it. The reason? Tobal runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and that makes quite a difference. The fighters are somewhat blocky (in a Virtua Fighter kind of way), but their movements look incredibly natural, and the controls are crisp and responsive. Besides the standard martial artists, there are extra-terrestrial characters that look like they were pulled from the Cantina scene in Star Wars. Characters vary a great deal in size and shape, giving each a totally unique feel. One of the bosses is positively huge!
Although both fighters are always facing each other, they have the ability to move around freely. The battles are played out on raised platforms, and falling off the edge is easy to do. Actually, the main strategy of one of the boss is to push you off! Tobal's graphics are simple but remarkably clean, making this game quite easy on the eyes. The background music is also quite good. Tobal No.1 is no joke, and if you're a serious fighting fan, this game belongs in your collection. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1996)
Tomb Raider set a new standard for action/adventure games, featuring expansive 3D environments and an incredible cast of monsters. This classic game appeals to the Indiana Jones in us all. Lara Croft is one foxy heroine, and the game's third-person view provides some dramatic camera angles of her in action. The control scheme allows you to leap across deep chasms and hang onto ledges, but this takes a while to learn. Each new stage a treat to behold, and some of the temples look absolutely magnificent. Tomb Raider is a genuinely exciting game, with well-designed stages, thoughtful puzzles, scary monsters, and dangerous traps. My encounter with the rampaging T-Rex has got to be one of my most memorable video game moments ever. Tomb Raider is a long quest, but it's so satisfying you may want to play through it again. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1997)
Although technically an improvement over the original game, playing Tomb Raider II feels like an ordeal. It's basically more of the same with slightly improved graphics and a higher degree of difficulty. This game took me literally months
to complete, and I was glad when it was over. You can now save at any time (as opposed to the first game where you had a limited number of "save crystals"), but as a result you end up saving constantly. It's very easy to get stuck and frustrated. The levels are imaginative enough, but many are so big that you get tired of wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. My favorite stage was the upside-down ship, which had a certain Poseidon Adventure flavor to it. You can also drive some vehicles (including a snow mobile), and these provide some much-needed variety. Most of your enemies are human this time around, and I didn't find them as interesting or intimidating as the monsters in the first game. Tomb Raider fans will appreciate the challenge, but casual players probably won't make it to the end. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1998)
I'm a huge Tomb Raider fan, but this time Eidos went off the deep end with the difficulty. Tomb Raider II was painful enough to finish, and this third edition is even harder!
The huge stages include London, the Amazon, and Antarctica, but the scope of the levels has become too large. What happened to the tombs? The graphics are slightly improved, and the dual shock controller is supported for the first time. Unless you completed the first two games and are dying for more, I would not recommend this. A difficulty setting may have helped matters, but Tomb Raider 3 simply isn't much fun. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1997)
Underappreciated in its day, many gamers now regard Tomba as a hidden gem in the Playstation One library. As much as I would like to concur, Tomba didn't win me over. The main character is a primitive dude with wild pink hair. A cheesy cartoon intro explains how his magical bracelet was stolen from him by a race of evil pigs. So far it sounds awful but Tomba has a distinctive look and feel that some might find appealing. Its friendly graphics are 3D-rendered but the action takes place on layered 2D planes. For example, at the start of the game Tomba moves side to side in front of a fence, but later he can run behind the fence. It works pretty well although it's not always evident where you can and can't go. The controls are extremely crisp and responsive. Tomba can bash enemies with his mace, pounce on them, and hurl them into walls. He can latch onto just about any wall, plant, or animal, and it looks like he's trying to hump
them. It's especially disturbing when he latches onto those pink, ass-shaped flowers. Did the programmers do that on purpose? The game can be amusing, but you spend too much time running tedious errands. Everybody's like "collect these" and "find that". You'll need to scour every nook and cranny of the stage to locate items, but fortunately the areas tend to be very constrained. This game doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There are these puff balls hanging from some trees, and once when I pulled on one a dwarf fell out of the tree! You'll need to collect a lot of unusual items including "evil pig bags" (I knew
I forgot something from the grocery store!) Overall I found Tomba's nonsense more aggravating than endearing. I think President Obama put it best when he said, "Look,
I have better things to do than hump flowers and yank on puff balls." Nope, he never said that. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2000)
After a three-year layoff, Tomba has returned with his spiky pink hair and a buff new body. The original game was a unique platfomer with a layered 2D style. This sequel tries to take the concept to the next level, but it's not much of an improvement. For some reason I expected this sequel to be faster, but Tomba 2 is just as slow. You still navigate platforms, climb walls, battle evil pigs, and run errands for everybody and their mother. You need to complete certain actions to progress and it's easy to get stuck. Fortunately the stages are small and confined so it's possible to explore every nook and cranny. The treasure-hunting aspect is great fun, and jumping between chains in the mine stage has a nice Donkey Kong Junior vibe. Fans of the original will be disappointed with the degraded graphics however. Since the game is now fully rendered in 3D polygons, the characters and objects take on a more pixelated, angular appearance. Your movements are still confined to 2D planes, but now there are now "crossroad" areas (designated by arrows) that let you change direction. This system allows for more sophisticated level designs but it can be awkward and disorienting. The developers included a few areas where you can move freely about, but navigating these areas is a chore thanks to a misbehaving camera. Some of the platform jumping tested my patience. I guess it's not so much the jumping that bothers me as it is all of the missing
. The fact that you can't adjust the camera is a problem, and falling into water is deadly. Tomba 2 lets you save your progress at designated spots, and the music is exceptionally good, especially in the coal-mining town. It never quite lives up to its promise, but fans with a lot of patience are in for a satisfying romp. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Publisher: Neversoft/Activision (1999)
Rating: Teen (mild language)
Oh yeah - this game rocks! Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is the ultimate "extreme" game, with more attitude than all the others combined. And you really don't need to know anything about the skateboarding to get hooked on this revolutionary game. You choose between several professional skateboarders and a number of locations including a school, mall, and warehouse. Each stage is loaded with ramps and rails for you to perform tricks on. The graphics are excellent, and the camera always seems to be in the right place. The music will really pump your adrenaline, with classic jams from punk rock bands like the Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies. No question about it - this is some of the best music I've ever heard in a video game. But the real star is the well-designed control scheme, which makes it easy to pull off some really eye-popping maneuvers. Like any good video game, it's easy to play, but mastering Pro Skater takes some serious practice. There's a great two-player split screen mode, but the heart of this game is the Career Mode, which challenges you to achieve five elusive goals in each location. Completing these goals unlocks additional levels and features. Typical goals include racking up a certain number of points, destroying a number of objects, finding five letters, or locating hidden objects. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is a modern classic that had a huge impact on the industry. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Treasures of the Deep
Publisher: Namco (1997)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Treasures of the Deep places you in a submersible vehicle (which looks like an jet ski) used to salvage lost relics in a series of undersea missions. I was really looking forward to freely exploring magnificent undersea ruins, so you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that most levels are linear
in design. Many stages are shaped like undersea mazes, and I didn't like those at all
. Even so, Treasures of the Deep is still occasionally exciting thanks to its variety of sea creatures, collectable items, and hidden areas. The murky ocean water looks realistic and is teeming with life. You can blast monsters and subs with torpedoes, and an easy-to-deploy net lets you secure treasures and send them to the surface. Some stages are enormous, but an overhead map helps track your position. I enjoyed the game's treasure-hunting gameplay, but you need to complete the missions in order, and you will
get stuck in the most annoying ones. Treasures of the Deep features a jazzy musical soundtrack that doesn't match what you're seeing on the screen. Gamers with an interest in scuba diving or marine biology might find Treasures interesting, but those looking for fast action should look elsewhere. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Turbo Prop Racing
Publisher: Sony (1998)
In the warmer months I tend to enjoy games featuring water and tropical locations, but Turbo Prop is not
what I had in mind. The water in this game doesn't even look
like water - it seems hard as a rock! Your boat is difficult to control as the rigid, choppy waves toss you all over the place. Forget about the racing - your main goal is just to stay within the narrow confines of the waterway, since hitting land (or any other obstacle) sends you spinning through the air! The poorly designed, narrow courses are located in Miami, Utah, Canada, and even a volcano (wow - orange water!). The scenery doesn't look too bad, but the techno background music is the worst I've heard in a long time. The dual-shock vibration feature is supported, but it just feels like an annoying pager going off constantly. Why can't we have a good boat racing game on the Playstation? © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Singletrac (1995)
Twisted Metal is a revolutionary title that popularized the whole "car combat" genre. You drive one of twelve deadly machines, each loaded to the hilt with weaponry. There's a nice assortment of vehicles, including a monster truck, a police car, a dune buggy, and an ice cream truck driven by a psychotic clown. You collect weapons scattered across the battlefields, and each car has its own trademark "special" weapon. The stages range from a stadium, to a suburban neighborhood, to the rooftops of buildings. Twisted Metal's graphic quality is uneven. The vehicles look great but the scenery is heavily pixilated. Normally you view the action from just behind your car, but you can also play the game from an amazing first-person perspective! While the interiors and dashboards look remarkable, this view is less than playable because you can't tell what's going on. But the biggest problem with Twisted Metal is its frame-rate. Even in the single player mode, the choppiness makes it difficult to maintain control. The control scheme is well-designed, and the head-banging music is not bad. Audio effects include a distinctive signature sound for each vehicle - so you'll know who hit you. Twisted Metal was a truly innovative title that begat a long, popular series. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Singletrac (1996)
Regarded by many as the best game of the series, Twisted Metal 2 was a major improvement over the original, offering smoother gameplay, bigger battlefields, combo attacks, and a slew of hidden surprises. The vehicle lineup is largely unchanged, with the exception of a yellow tractor and a muscle man stuck between two huge tires (what the heck?). The new stages are more interesting and wide open, including Paris (where you can destroy the Eiffel Tower), Hong Kong (with a working subway), and Antarctica (glaciers). The new "combo" moves allow you to jump, shoot backward, or freeze your opponent by pressing certain button combinations. TM2's gameplay is deep, and the split screen mode allows you to either cooperate or compete with a friend. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 989 Studios (1998)
This third Twisted Metal game was a bit of a disappointment. It seems to take two steps forward and three steps back. The vehicle selection is about the same, but the new set of battlegrounds tend to be small. The good news is that your opponents are easy to find. The bad news is that these areas look sloppy and uninspired. Hollywood is nothing but a bunch of broken ramps stacked upon each other, and Calypso's Blimp is little more than a series of boring rooms (talk about unrealized potential!). The best reason to buy Twisted Metal 3 is its four-player split screen mode, which is genuinely fun despite the limited view. Another interesting new feature is the "CPU ally", which makes the one-player mode a lot easier. The music is this game is provided by Rob Zombie, who seems to be in every video game nowadays. Unless you're a fan, you might not appreciate his head-banging brand of music. Twisted Metal 3 still delivered destructive fun gamers crave, but the series was starting to show its age. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 989 Studios (1999)
Twisted Metal 4 begins with a nice video sequence depicting the "birth" of the Twisted Metal tournament, and its aged, grainy, black and white visuals are quite effective. The sequence ends in the present day, revealing that Sweet Tooth has in fact overthrown Calypso as the leader of Twisted Metal. That's nice, but if you're expecting anything new in terms of gameplay, think again. The new vehicle lineup includes a family truckster (remember that from the movie Vacation?), a UFO-looking hover bike, and Rob Zombie's "Dragula" mobile. Rob Zombie performed the music for this game, and it turns my stomach. The eight battlegrounds are a step up from those in the third installment. Highlights include a bedroom level where you battle it out Toy Story style. My personal favorite is the Carnival, featuring a haunted house and a roller coaster! Unfortunately, the main game engine hasn't evolved much, and its pixelated tracks and crude collision detection should have been better. The game has its share of bugs, and I even had to restart a game after getting stuck in a wall. With Twisted Metal 4, the series seemed to be wearing out its welcome. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Twisted Metal Small Brawl
Publisher: Sony (2001)
When I first heard about a Twisted Metal game with small, remote-controlled cars, I thought it was a major cop-out. But after giving it some thought, I decided maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. I mean, Twisted Metal was never realistic to begin with, and this would give the developers a chance to incorporate some creative new environments. Well, it almost worked. The vehicles are based on the classic Twisted Metal cars, but simpler and more cartoonish. The imaginative battlefields include a playground, fun house, kitchen, and miniature golf course. Since they tend to be small, you aren't likely to get lost or lose track of your opponents. The gameplay is classic Twisted Metal - tough but addicting. You get three lives in each
stage, and believe me - you'll need them all. Audio-wise, the background music seems inspired by "classic" Twisted Metal tunes (no Rob Zombie this time). So what's the problem? It's the graphics. You'd think that by the fifth
Twisted Metal incarnation on the Playstation, they would at least
be able to maintain a decent framerate, but no. The action gets terribly choppy, and the two-player split screen mode is almost unplayable. The physics is so lousy that your car will sometimes float through the air and take forever to land. Even the background scenery is sloppy and full of seams. Small Brawl is an interesting turn for the series, but there's no excuse for these ugly visuals. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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