Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1995)
In 1995, every console wanted a mascot so we got an invasion of cute little animals "with attitude". It was the perfect time for Gex, a comical green lizard, to make his bid to represent the 3DO. Gex never became a household name but this 2D platformer achieved critical acclaim. You can't deny this is a high-quality title with superb graphics, remarkable sound, and good variety. The stages are well-designed and loaded with oversized characters.
Gex is easy to control, with novel moves such as his tail whip, tongue lash, hurl, and wall-stick. The tail whip is his standard attack. The tongue lash lets him snag power-ups, allowing him to hurl fire or ice balls. But Gex's true claim-to-fame is his ability to stick to walls and ceilings. We've seen this in certain older games like Sonic & Knuckles (Genesis, 1993) but never to this extent. The climbing really adds a new dimension.
You can choose which levels you want to play via Mario-like map screens. There are four sub-areas: the graveyard, Toontown, Kung-fu-ville, and the jungle. My favorite is the graveyard, featuring lizard zombies, flying demons, and chainsaw-toting psychopaths. Gex includes all the obligatory platform elements like destructible walls, checkpoints, portals, springboards, and floating platforms. But Gex has more technique, multiple paths, and even mini games. Every level throws new surprises at you and the bosses do not disappoint either.
The audio effects in Gex also get plenty of attention. The sound of his tail whip and enemies getting knocked down like bowling pins are crystal clear and entertaining. Unfortunately I've never been a big fan of Gex's voice. His frequent quips are mildly amusing but mostly annoying. You can save your game, but only at predetermined points. Crystal Dynamics clearly put a lot of effort into this, and as a result Gex is one of the premiere 3DO titles of all time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Matsushita (1994)
This is one of those combat/strategy games where assemble a party of warriors and engage in turn-based battles. While it sports similarities to Vandal Hearts
(Playstation, 1997) and Final Fantasy Tactics (Playstation, 1997), Guardian War is not nearly as good. Its cartoonish sprites are rendered in a pseudo-3D style, but the close camera angles make everything look chunky and pixelated. Upon entering a new territory you must destroy a certain number of creatures to clear the map and progress. You'll navigate the countryside using your main character but once a confrontation occurs the other members of your party magically appear.
Certain warriors are well-suited for close-range sword fighting, while others like clerics can attack from a distance and heal the party. Sitting through the mediocre attack animations gets tiresome though. There's some strategy involved in positioning your characters but there's no concept of directional attacks. All the fighting is done on a level playing field - literally! The shoulder buttons allow you to rotate the camera by 90 degrees, but the low angle makes it hard to gauge your position with respect to others. Strategic possibilities expand as you collect additional items and abilities, but it's slow and boring early on.
The menu interface is well designed and it's nice how you can assume a "defensive posture" when you're trying to buy some time. Hitting one button brings up the prompt "Load ok?" and I never knew what the hell that meant. You can save your progress between stages. Guardian War's cut-scenes are poorly produced and I could barely even make out what the narrator was saying. This game was probably pretty innovative back in 1994, but as the genre has made huge strides Guardian War is looking like a long-lost relic. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller
Publisher: Take 2 Interactive (1994)
Hell is a point-and-click adventure that's just twisted and weird enough to be compelling. It's set in a future dystopian Washington DC that's linked to Hell. The opening credits boast big-name actors like Dennis Hopper and Grace Jones, giving the game instant street cred. As with many early CD titles, Hell uses pre-rendered 3D graphics. While once cutting-edge, they now appear strangely off-putting, with stiff, ill-proportioned, poorly lip-synched character models. Still, it's that awkward quality that makes the visuals so fascinating today.
You control a police officer who narrowly escapes an attack by government forces. He's a wise-cracking smartass with a voice like Beck Bennet. Along with his wife he must piece together clues to determine why "The Hand" wants them dead. You hop between locations via a nifty wireframe map with real locations like McPherson Square, Dupont Circle, and even the Pentagon. Each contains creepy, shadowy areas populated by colorful characters, androids, and demons. You travel to Hell itself several times, but it looks suspiciously like Earth!
The point-and-click interface lets you point where you want to go, but the round-about paths your character takes are almost comical. Upon striking up a conversation you'll want to get comfortable, because they tend to go on and on, causing my 3DO to grind like mad. One creature flails his arms as he rants, like a demonic Bernie Sanders. Although clever and funny at times, the dialog is so wordy and repetitive it's hard to maintain interest, much less glean clues. Even the scenery is hard to discern as it's so dark and indistinct. Some of the key action sequences play out automatically. During one I expected to be killed by a demon, only to witness my peeps pull out automatic weapons and start firing!
It's easy to get stuck in the game, partly because manipulating items is inordinately complicated. Still, I enjoyed the psychedelic atmosphere. The music is sparse but eerie, punctuated by alarming sounds. Hell is remarkably forward-thinking for a 1993 title, touching upon modern topics like artificial birth techniques, ubiquitous newsfeeds, virtual porn, and people downloading their consciousnesses. Oddball titles like Hell are a good reason to still play the 3DO. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Panasonic (1995)
This puzzle game is something I can see being devised on a cocktail napkin over a few drinks in a bar. Ice Breaker has the pretense of being artistic and abstract, but in fact this puzzle/shooter hybrid is ugly and intellectually devoid. Each selectable stage is a scrolling field littered with hundreds of triangles that you try to eliminate using a white triangle. You can ram the blue triangles, shoot the red ones, and lure wandering yellow mini-triangles into the green ones. The best puzzle games turn a simple concept into an obsession, but Ice Breaker turns a confusing concept into a pointless exercise. Its gameplay is slow, tedious, and aggravating as hell. The three-quarter viewpoint offers a lousy perspective, and the inexact controls don't help matters. As you methodically clear the field, there's no counter indicating how many triangles remain, which would have at least
provided the player with a sense of progression. One slip-up and you'll have to restart the entire level - with all the triangles restored. Upon dying, the screen says, "Game over, DUDE", like the developers were trying to be hip or something. Advanced stages introduce new types of triangles, but the added complexity just pushes an already unpleasant experience into the realm of unbearable
. The user interface has load screens out the whazoo. Want to select a new stage? Sit through a load screen. Want to adjust the audio? Kick back and enjoy the load screen. Need to scratch your butt? Welcome to the load screen. The stages can be played in any order, and the game keeps track of those you've completed. And there's no shortage of stages, as Ice Breaker offers 150 levels of increasing difficulty! That's 149 more than you'll ever need. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
This kind of 3DO game gets on my nerves. You "learn" as you play, having to invest an inordinate amount of time just to figure out what's going on! I gave it a chance but found it to be a waste of time. The premise behind Immercenary is that you're the subject of an experiment to enter a virtual world to save mankind. When you make the "jump" to this virtual world called "Perfect", you find yourself in a city loaded with strange buildings, power-ups, and strange, zombie-like beings. What ensues is probably the slowest and most repetitive first person shooter I've ever been subjected to. There are protective "portals" scattered about that replenish your defense, offense, and agility. Until you learn how to use these you'll die continuously.
Portals also allow you to talk to these bizarre (and sometimes half-naked) creatures. Apparently your ultimate goal is to advance in rank from 255 to 1 by blowing away creatures and facing bosses. It took me quite a while to figure all this out because the instructions really suck. Immercenary does feature some nifty visual effects and shapely babes, but it's mostly a slow, plodding ordeal. Your agility meter drains quickly as you run so you'll constantly have to "rest". Resting is just like it sounds - you sit around and watch your meter recharge slowly. Once you start moving, the peculiar control scheme keeps you moving forward like a car, forcing you to press both shoulder buttons to stop.
Dying returns you to the lab, where the pissed-off scientists look at you like you've just interrupted their coffee break. The game never seems to end even when you perform poorly. One time I died on purpose, only to have a scientist tell me "Definite improvement in target kill ratio - that's good!" before sending my sorry ass back into this virtual hell. Immercenary tries to be a thinking man's Doom, but I think they may have overthunk it. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
John Madden Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
In 1994 this was a landmark football game. My friends and I would drool over screenshots of 3DO's Madden in magazines, which looked unbelievable for the time. With digitized sprites and actual video clips, this stood as the ultimate Madden game all the way until the Playstation 2 era. As a fan of old-school football games I instantly fell in love with its TV-style presentation and the simple-yet-fun gameplay. Each contest begins with John Madden welcoming you from the booth and introducing the teams. Yes, his comments are generic and canned ("Okay, here's the kickoff, everyone should be ready.") but his mere presence makes it feel like NFL football.
The gameplay is outstanding. Players look stunning and the animation is impressively smooth. I found the running and passing games to be fairly well-balanced. The running moves are effective, and your running back usually won't go down on the first hit. I was surprised to see the game uses the old-style passing windows, which I was never a big fan of. Video clips of referees and fans are intermingled with the action, and I love it when the "chains" are brought out to measure first downs. John Madden's commentary is pretty amusing. He always scolds you for using timeouts: "Just remember that time-out you took; it's gonna come back to haunt you".
As much as I love this game I have to mention a few issues. The video clips in the "scouting report" section don't always jive with the text on the screen. The snow is so lame you can barely even see it on the field. Finally, a skill level option would have been nice, as I found the game is a bit on the easy side. Some of its quirks are endearing, like when my receiver caught a touchdown and proceeded to line up to kick the extra point. Now that's what I call versatility! If you prefer classic sprite-based Madden action, it doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Jurassic Park Interactive
Publisher: Universal (1994)
This certainly wasn't the game I was expecting. Jurassic Park Interactive is just a collection of mini games loosely held together by the Jurassic Park theme. The main screen displays a map and a set of buttons, but it's really just a game menu. The three main mini-games involve getting people to safely through first-person challenges. One has you driving a car while a T-Rex looms in the rear view mirror. Another is a confusing first-person maze game in a building full of raptors. The other lets you shoot at spitting dinosaurs. None of these are nearly as intense as they're intended to be. The other five mini games are wacky Jurassic Park take-offs on classic games like Space Invaders, Galaga, and Asteroids. I found them to be mildly amusing hardly appropriate. Overall Jurassic Park has nice graphics and sound, but the hodge-podge design is just bizarre. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Studio 3DO (1995)
Ugh! I've played some bad first-person shooters in my time, but this one is particularly painful! Killing Time is a violent game with an occult theme and bizarre creatures. It tries to be as gory, weird, and over-the-top as possible, but it's just irritating! The scenery is a boring, pixelated mess. Every now and then some full-motion video "ghosts" are superimposed on the screen. They look great, but only serve as eye-candy, not improving the lackluster gameplay. The control is absolutely atrocious. You movements are too jumpy to aim or look around easily, and strafing tends to get you hung up on the walls. The digitized enemies don't look bad, but your shots don't always register, even when your shot is dead-on. Killing Time is a nightmare. I hate it. Don't be deceived by the nice-looking screen shots on the box! © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.