Publisher: Sony (1992)
Based on the critically-disparaged film starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman, Hook offers beautiful graphics but exasperating
gameplay. You play the role of Peter Pan in this side-scrolling, hack-n-slash platform game. You'll sword-fight your way through scenic mountains, forests, and pirate ships. You can even fly for short distances. Hook's production values are beyond reproach. Its bright graphics are bursting with color, and the detail in the scenery is amazing. As Peter leaps into the air his sleeves actually flutter in the wind. The outstanding visuals are paired with a rollicking musical score that really whets your appetite for adventure. My enthusiasm was dampened however when I realized how frustrating and unforgiving Hook is to play. The controls are responsive enough, but you move slowly
, so although the stages are modest in size, traversing them is time-consuming. Worse yet, losing a life forces you to restart the stage all the way
from the beginning, and you'll be losing your share of lives thanks to the unavoidable projectiles that appear without warning as you navigate tight spaces. Also annoying is how you can "overlap" an enemy - an unfortunate predicament that usually spells instant death. In some sections of the game you'll execute a jump that appears perfectly safe, only to watch Peter plummet to his death. Hook offers unlimited continues, and I think I went through about half of them trying to review this [expletive] game. The lack of a password feature was the final straw. I really wanted to like Hook, but a strong presentation amounts to very little without solid gameplay to back it up. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Vic Tokai (1991)
An unremarkable shooter with mediocre graphics and rampant slowdown, Imperium was one of those early SNES duds that gave the system a bad rap. Imperium's intro looks fairly heinous (that city looks like a rug!) but the music is one of those catchy 16-bit tunes that you can't get out of your head. In terms of gameplay, Imperium is a somewhat engaging vertical shooter with four types of rapid-fire weapons. Instead of racking up a score, you earn "experience points" which augment your weapons and firepower. It's cool how the top of the screen keeps you posted on how many experience points are needed to reach the next level. The first stage offers some seriously uninspired foes (pods and such), but later you encounter more imaginative enemies, including octopus-shaped beasts and robotic lobsters that detach from their tails. The static background scenery is totally unconvincing, with "water" that looks more like blue silly putty. Those tiny white sea gulls in stage two are a nice touch though. Imperium's biggest flaw is its failure to maintain a steady framerate - the action slows to a crawl when things get crazy. Other issues include indestructible cannons (damn it!), inexplicable lulls in the action, and pods that "sneak up" from behind (cheap!). And why is there no audible noise when your ship takes a hit? Despite these ills however, I did enjoy Imperium's frenetic action and considerable challenge. You'll want to set the difficulty to "easy" if you hope to reach the later stages. Casual SNES players can safely pass on Imperium, but 2D shooter fanatics may find this worth their while. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures
Publisher: LucasArts (1994)
Having watched the Indiana Jones trilogy about a dozen times, I was pretty psyched about a game that recreates all three
of the films. The stages inspired by the first film include the famous boulder sequence, the streets of Cairo, and the snake-infested Well of Souls. From the second movie there's the Chinese Club, the Indian Palace, and even that rickety rope bridge. In the Last Crusade you'll explore catacombs, sneak through a German castle, and even ride a Zeppelin. The high-quality look and feel is similar to LucasArt's Super Star Wars games for the SNES. The characters are well animated, and the lush multi-layered stages look terrific. The crystal-clear background music is lifted straight from the movies, and it really lends weight to the action. There are some nice voice samples, like creepy chanting in the Temple of Doom, and Indy saying "Let's go" at the start of each stage. The side-scrolling action is typical as you leap between platforms, dodge traps, and whip enemies. Unfortunately, an endless army of small, annoying animals constantly nip at your heels and interrupt your jumps. These irritating creatures are present on every level, in the form of birds, bats, rats, and even jumping fish! In one stage you even have to contend with rock-dropping birds! C'mon
now! You'll also deal with cheap hits like falling stalactites and spikes that rise from the ground, although you can often anticipate these. The difficulty is sky high, even on the so-called "easy" difficulty. Three cool 3D sequences provide a welcome respite from the side-scrolling mayhem. These manage to convey an amazing sense of speed while effectively recreating harrowing raft, mine cart, and biplane scenes. Between levels you're treated to photo-quality stills from the movies and presented with a password. It doesn't play nearly
as well as it looks, but for gamers with enough skill and patience, Indiana Jones offers a lot of adventure for the money. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Gameteck (1993)
This video game edition of the popular game show is designed for one to three players. All the segments of the actual show are present, including Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy, and Final Jeopardy. Alex Trebek appears in the game, but only to pop up before each question just to say "The answer is..." Oh well, at least those distinctive music and sound effects are included. The first time I played Jeopardy I had an awful first round, earning a score in the negatives
. During the second round however I started getting into a groove, and it was fun. The topics make all the difference in the world, so I really appreciate the option to choose a new set of topics if you don't like the ones given. Your answers must be entered letter by letter, but the interface is well designed and will tolerate some degree of spelling errors. If you've seen the show on television, you know the questions tend to be very hard, but the game gives you an advantage by making the CPU-controlled opponents slow to hit the buzzer. It takes a while to play an entire game, but if you enjoy the TV show, you will like this. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Data East (1991)
I've enjoyed my share of prehistoric platformers over the years, including Chuck Rock (Genesis, 1991) and Bonk's Adventure (Turbografx-16, 1990). Joe & Mac boasts the same arcade graphics and light-hearted style. You play a club-wielding caveman jumping his way over mountains, across rivers, and through icy caverns. The cartoonish characters are stylishly rendered but the animation is a little stiff. When you "swing" your club the animation is about two frames. It's a good thing you can aim upwards, because enemies tend to attack from above. The jumping controls could be better and the collision detection could be tighter. That said, Joe & Mac is a heck
of a lot of fun. I was impressed with the variety of prehistoric animals. In addition to the usual suspects (T-Rexes, Pterodactyls) you'll face a Brachiosaurus, a mammoth, and some interesting sea creatures. You'll also battle goofy-looking cavemen and man-eating plants. The bosses are so large that many can't even fit on the screen. Power-ups let you toss bones, fireballs, and boomerangs in a rapid-fire manner. I love the "clink" sound of pterodactyls being plucked out of the sky, and it's satisfying to watch them fall around you. The two-player coop mode sounds good on paper, but it tends to be confusing and slow. As a single-player game however Joe and Mac is addictive. You get unlimited continues but the game displays the high score so you always have something to strive towards. The pacing is good, the bosses are reasonable, and when you die you don't even lose your weapon! The scenery is bright and pleasant, and the steel drum music adds a nice summer vibe. Joe & Mac is just plain fun, and its easy difficulty helps you overlook its flaws. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 56,000
1 or 2 players
John Madden Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Madden football was an institution
on the 16-bit video game consoles, but its first SNES appearance was rough!
Released around the same time as Madden '92 for the Genesis, this game would appear to have an edge with its sharp players and clear sound effects. After watching a play or two however, you'll clutch your Genesis game like grim death
. John Madden Football is marred by horrible animation that renders the game borderline unplayable
. The field scrolls in a jerky manner, making it very hard to tell what the hell
is going on. When calling a play, you need to select "player groups", characterized by terms like "hands", "big", and "fast". Waiting for the appropriate players to run on and off the field easily adds 5-10 seconds to every play. Switching players on defense before the snap is also annoying, because you can only cycle in one direction. Longtime Madden vets will not-so-fondly recall the three "passing windows" that line the top of the screen. These provide a very
limited view of your receivers, giving no indication of their location on the field. You might see a receiver who appears to be wide open, but after throwing you realize he was standing right next
to you! The runningbacks tend to bounce off defenders, and sometimes appear to be on roller skates. There's no NFL license, so the teams are named after cities and there are no logos or player names. One thing this game does
have is chain measurements
. Hell, even Madden 09 doesn't have that! John Madden Football for the SNES has all the features of the Genesis edition. The only difference is, you won't want to play
this one. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This sequel to Desert Strike sends you on a series of "surgical strike" missions in a well-armed helicopter. The 45-degree view of the action nicely conveys the illusion of 3D graphics while providing the best angle of the action. The first few missions involve protecting Washington DC from terrorists, but for some reason downtown DC has no
traffic - just acres of green meadows! Apparently none of the programmers have ever actually been
to DC. Eventually you'll attack a snow fortress in Siberia before finally starting on the jungle-based scenarios. Your copter is equipped with a machine gun and a limited supply of missiles. Jungle Strike is hard and the action is intense. You need to proceed cautiously, because getting caught in crossfire can mean instant death. In some stages you ride a motorcycle, stealth bomber, or hovercraft, but I found these to be difficult to control and less fun than the helicopter. The SNES edition of Jungle Strike looks more polished than the original Genesis game, with cleaner graphics and smoother animation (less jerky). The explosions look much improved and the tiny terrorists actually scream when shot. On the down side, the music sounds dull and muffled, and your helicopter looks like it's only hovering about ten feet in the air! Jungle Strike is a decent sequel, but you can tell that the series was starting to spread itself a little thin. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ocean (1993)
It's hard to imagine a more kick-ass video game license than Jurassic Park, so what the [expletive] happened here? This doesn't feel like a Jurassic Park game at all! The theme music is missing and your pudgy character looks nothing like Dr. Grant from the movie. The game has a cartoonish appearance which tends to understate the sense of awe. Even the intro voice "Welcome to Jurassic Park" sounds like it was uttered by a disinterested programmer. You view the action from a tilted overhead perspective as you explore an endless jungle maze with dinosaurs on the loose. Initially armed with an electricity gun, you'll pick up additional weapons like shotguns, bolas, and rocket launchers. Yes, there are raptors and T-Rexes, but you'll spend a lot of time dealing with annoying pint-sized dinosaurs and pesky dragonflies. Exploring the park is unsatisfying. There are signs all over the place, but you can't read
any of them! The first mission is to collect raptor eggs, and it took me about a half hour to find the first one. And when I read "17 more to go", I wept openly. There's no map and it always feels like you're on a wild goose chase. When you enter an enclosed facility things go from bad to worse as an ill-advised first-person perspective kicks in. It may have been novel for its time, but the rough animation, clunky controls, and stilted frame-rate will give you a splitting headache. The idea of exploring the visitor center sounds intriguing until you realize it's just a maze of mostly-empty rooms. Expect to see a lot of "you can't go here" messages because you don't have the proper ID card or night vision goggles. Failing miserably to capture the spirit and charm of the film, Jurassic Park is one colossal disappointment. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 853
Jurassic Park Part 2: The Chaos Continues
Publisher: Ocean (1994)
After botching the original Jurassic Park SNES game something awful, Ocean tried a whole new approach. This sequel is more in line with the side-scrolling Genesis version - which was pretty good! "This is a side-scroller. I know this!
" It's interesting to note that this game is not
related to the second film. Its cheesy animated intro tells of a diabolical dictator who sends in an army to take over the island. Jurassic Park Part 2 better than the first game, mainly because it can't possibly be any worse. You can select from a half-dozen missions which typically involve running through jungles, jumping over electric wires, climbing hand-over-hand across vines, and shooting dinosaurs. The graphics aren't bad but the gameplay is hurting
. You have a split second to react to approaching raptors (if you're lucky), and even when spraying bullets with a machine gun you're still going to take a lot of damage. These raptors can absorb more than a dozen bullets! The controls include a "dodge" button, but in my experience it's worthless. You can toggle between several weapons but most are ineffective. It's only possible to pick up ammo for the weapon you're currently using, which makes no sense. Jurassic Park 2 is playable with the easy difficulty, but it feels unoriginal and often frustrating. In one mission you mow down soldiers like Contra - except without the tight controls or fun. The ability to play with a friend simultaneously looks good on paper but it's not practical. Failing to redeem the original game, Jurassic Park Part 2 is just another burial plot in the graveyard of squandered movie licenses. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Easy
Our high score: SLN 1000
Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge
Publisher: Gametek (1993)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge is an overhead motorcycle racer with an option to race jet-skis! What's not to like about that!? Quite a bit, as it turns out. You first select from various Ninja motorcycles and Jet Ski watercraft, and then compete in a series of races. The cool selection screen features digitized photos, and reggae-inspired tunes put you in the mood for summer fun. The races are viewed directly from overhead, with your vehicle centered on the screen. This gives you minimal view of the road ahead, so learning the track layouts is imperative. A small map in the corner shows your position on the map, and it's easier to drive while staring at that! Your motorcycle looks like a big blob, and the scenery is totally lame. I was hoping for a tropical paradise, but all I got was a few bales of hay. The jet-ski races play exactly the same, but the tracks are so wide you can't see the boundaries! Trying to figure out where to go is no fun at all. The water looks fake, and the pixelated sunbathers look like something from an Atari 5200 game. The horrible engine noise sounds like a swarm of bees! Could this game get any worse? Yes.
Would you believe you actually have to run a qualifying lap
just to gain entrance into each race?! Qualifying laps always suck, but in this game, they're just insulting. Frankly, it's hard to find any
redeeming qualities in Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Ken Griffey Major League Baseball
Publisher: Nintendo (1994)
This game gave the SNES a legitimately baseball title - finally! This is a polished, arcade-style game featuring all of the major league teams and stadiums. Unfortunately, it does not
contain any of the major league players - except Ken Griffey of course. In theory you could modify and save the rosters to reflect the real players, but this would be a lot
of tedious work. The graphics look crisp and colorful, although the players look cartoonish with their exaggerated physiques. The scrolling and animation is smooth, and the detailed stadiums look terrific. I remember by friend Eric and I playing this game on a display at Toys R Us and being extremely impressed that the outfield wall at Wrigley Field was actually covered with ivy! Ken Griffey's controls are simple and responsive, and this has to be one of the fastest baseball games I've ever played. It's really too bad there's no instant replay feature. It may come up a bit short on realism, but Ken Griffey Major League Baseball is undeniably fun and entertaining. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Ken Griffey's Winning Run
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
This phenomenal baseball game is even better than the first Ken Griffey game, and that's saying a lot. The pitcher/batter view is now angled low enough so you can see the stadiums in the background, and they look fantastic. Once the ball is hit, you view the field from a much higher angle. This makes the fielders appear small but makes it easy to track down the fly balls. The players look more realistic than they did in the first Ken Griffey game, although Ken himself looks ridiculously buff on the title screen. Winning Run preserves the fast-paced gameplay of the first Ken Griffey, and the crowd and umpire sound effects are noticeably improved. The only faults I could determine are the lack of major league players and no instant replay. Otherwise, this is the best baseball game I've played on the SNES. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1995)
I wasn't a big fan of this 2D fighter "back in the day", but in retrospect Killer Instinct isn't bad at all. Released at the height of fighting-game mania (1995), Instinct sold millions of copies the day it was released, but never reached the level of popularity of a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Besides being a damn good-looking game, Killer Instinct's claim to fame is it's highly touted combo system. The idea of stringing together attacks began with Street Fighter II, but Killer Instinct takes the concept to the extreme. Thus, with a lot of practice (or a little luck) you can pull off 15-hit combos while your opponent stands there like a chump. Since the combos are not listed in the manual, a lot of research and practice is required to become truly proficient at them, although button mashing can occasionally achieve positive results as well. I'm not a big fan of the whole combo thing, but I do appreciate the easy-to-execute special moves with their Street Fighter-like controls. The game is fun and the one-player mode has a "one-more-time" addictive quality. Visually, Killer Instinct is a knockout. The fighters are probably the most interesting bunch I've ever seen in a fighting game. There's a skeleton, a werewolf, a boxer, a Native American, a ninja, a robot soldier, and a raptor, just to name a few. The single female fighter is a black woman named Orchid. The action is not as fluid as the arcade, but still commendable. I love the imaginative "dizzy" animations, such as the robot short-circuiting or the Indian coughing. But while the fighters look great, the backgrounds are uninspired, featuring dull, static ruins, temples, and city skylines. Before each match, a slick intro screen depicts both combatants up close in impressive 3D. And as sharp as the visuals are, the audio is even better. The digitized voices and effects are crystal clear, and the background music rocks! Just hearing those tunes again brings back fond memories of having my buddies over when still living at home. A CD of music ("Killer Kuts") was included with the game, but the songs aren't nearly as impressive outside of the game. Killer Instinct comes in a jet-black cartridge, and stands as one of the better fighting games for the SNES. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Kirby Super Star
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
One of the strangest characters in Nintendo's stable, Kirby is a big fat pink ghost with power to literally inhale
his enemies. His platform games are easy to play, and possess whimsical graphics along the lines of Super Mario Bros. Kirby Super Star actually contains eight
Kirby games, but two need to be unlocked, and two others are so minor they probably shouldn't even count. Still, six games is a lot of action for your money, especially when they dish out the quality gameplay you would expect from Nintendo. Inhaling enemies not only fun, but it allows Kirby to absorb their powers. This changes his appearance slightly and gives him the ability to execute moves like throwing fire or swinging a sword. Kirby also has the option of converting enemies into "friends" who will fight along side of him. These friends can even be controlled by a second player! These Kirby games are truly goofy yet oddly compelling. The graphics tend to be simple but have a clean, colorful appearance that's easy on the eyes. The controls are dead-on, and the cartridge includes a battery to save your progress. In you can look past Kirby's cutsey appearance, I think you'll find this compilation to be well worth your time. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Knights of the Round
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
This obscure side-scrolling beat-em-up is a sentimental favorite of mine. It plays like a classy Golden Axe with no monsters but better visuals. The beautiful graphics feature majestic castles and picturesque medieval landscapes, and a lavishly orchestrated musical score perfectly compliments the theme. You select from one of three legendary characters, including King Author, Lancelot, and Perceval. You accumulate experience levels as you slay knights, barbarians, jesters, and magicians. Money and food fall from enemies you strike down, providing points and health. I have to admit it looks pretty funny when you kill a knight and a big bowl of salad falls out of him. Naturally each stage ends with the obligatory boss battle. Knights of the Round is a fine looking title, but it suffers from repetitive gameplay. You only have two attacks - a standard hack and a "mega crush" attack (which you'll want to save for tight situations). There's a guard move, but it's practically useless. Hacking up endless bad guys gets monotonous, and there's not much diversity between the three playable characters. By far the coolest feature is the ability to knock a knight off of his horse and mount the horse yourself. Unfortunately, there's only two or three opportunities to do this trick in the entire game. The two player simultaneous action is fun enough, but slowdown runs rampant at times. And while the music is excellent, the sound effects are horribly muffled. Knights of the Round is no classic, but fighting fans with an appreciation for 16-bit graphics should take a look. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
How many superlatives can the Video Game Critic use in one review? As it turns out, quite a few! If Legend of Zelda Link to the Past
isn't the best
video game ever made, then it's easily
in the top 10. Even the acclaimed Nintendo 64 incarnations of Zelda couldn't improve upon this perfect blend of exploration, action, and puzzle solving. I've never been a huge fan of role-playing games, but Zelda has always managed to straddle the line between role-playing and arcade action. Although your character "Link" develops skills and manages an inventory much like an RPG, all of the action is played out in real time. Despite the game's cartoonish appearance, each object is meticulously crafted and cleanly animated. The gameplay is strictly 2D, but overlapping areas convey the illusion of multi-tiered castles and dungeons. The enemies are extremely imaginative, and each has its own distinct personality and attack patterns. Skeletons leap away from your attacks, soldiers block with shields, and one-eyed crab monsters fall asleep and wake up unpredictably. The battles are challenging but never repetitive, and the puzzles tend to be on the easy side, eliminating the frustration factor. Zelda's audio is fantastic, with crystal clear sound effects and a sweeping musical score. But what really makes Link to the Past shine is its superior gameplay. The pacing is steady and new areas open gradually, never allowing you to become bored. The carefully designed "world" is perfectly sized, so there's always plenty of room to explore, yet you never feel lost or overwhelmed. The difficulty is ideal, and you can save your progress even after you die
. Brilliantly conceived and expertly programmed, Zelda: A Link to the Past is a captivating experience that will appeal to gamers of all ages. It simply doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1994)
This is one of the best-looking SNES titles you'll ever find. Each stage in Lion King's world is bursting with vivid, colorful background scenery and well-animated animals of all sizes. You can interact with many of the animals, and many will help you in your quest. The game closely follows the storyline of the film. You begin as a baby Simba, but eventually grow into a mature lion. One unique feature is your ability to roar, which has different effects depending on what you direct it at. Also included is an exciting 3D stampede stage and some fun bonus rounds that let you play as Timon and Pumbaa. Lion King is a high quality title, but it does stumble here and there. Certain stages require far too much jumping between ledges, and it's very easy to become lost in the cave stages. There's a bit of frustration to be had, but fans will love how this great-looking game remains so faithful to the movie. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Lord of the Rings
Publisher: Interplay (1994)
Like Zelda, Lord of the Rings mixes live action with RPG elements, but its mediocre gameplay isn't even in the same league. You begin by controlling Frodo, but other characters gradually join your party as you progress. The fantasy world looks like something from a child's storybook, and classical background music compliments the majestic visuals. The animation is fluid, and the sound effects are some of the best I've ever heard in a video game. The echoes and sound of water drops in the caves are nothing short of amazing. Unfortunately, it's not always clear where you can or can't go, and you'll often find yourself stuck on invisible obstacles. As good as the game looks, its programming was sloppy. You characters can't move diagonally (!) which severely limits your control, and the collision detection is awful. Sometimes a bat will fly right through you, or your sword will kill a snake far out of its range. Issues like these make fighting even the smallest enemies a monumental pain, gradually depleting your will to forge ahead. Controlling multiple characters is even worse, as you need to use the R button to switch between them. Apparently the game was designed to support up to five players (via the adapter), but I imagine that would be a complete mess. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix, Moby Games
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