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If you enjoy Dodge 'em (Atari 2600, 1980) Side Trak is similar in concept. It's fast-paced and exciting to switch tracks at the last moment to avoid collision. But the most striking aspect of Side Trak is its background music, boasting a stunning rendition of Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train, complete with voice sample ("all aboooard!!"). If you're a collector, that's probably all you need to hear.
Chugging around the tracks to pick up people is fun for a while. Unfortunately whenever you make a turn you inadvertently reconfigure the track, so the next time around your train will make unexpected turns. You can get turned around very easy, and it feels as if you've lost control! I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train! You can override the track configuration by holding the stick in the direction you want to go but it's very hard on the hands.
Clearing a single screen in this game is no small feat because the screen completely resets when you crash - even if only two or three passengers remain. I'd think I'd enjoy this game more if I didn't feel like I was fighting with it. That said, playing a long-lost game with a killer soundtrack is a treat you don't get too often. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
Sky Jaguar's scenery looks nice, particularly the craggy, red-desert canyon, but it scrolls in a jerky manner. Gameplay involves shooting rapidly while avoiding incoming missiles, but since there's no rapid-fire, you'll need to constantly press the side buttons -- which is absolute murder on your hands. A double-shot power-up eases the pain slightly, but not much. Sky Jaguar is playable, but really doesn't have much to offer. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Set in the rock-strewn southwest landscape, Slither boasts some beautiful color schemes. Initially the screen is bright yellow with a brilliant red sunset running across the top. When night arrives the color scheme transforms into a gorgeous deep blue.
Each wave begins with black snakes slithering in from the edges. Blasting them causes them to divide, and eventually you're left with a bunch of squiggly little snakes that resemble sperm to an alarming degree. Instead of leaving mushrooms in their wake, deceased snakes leave behind tiny green bushes. Spicing things up are pterodactyls and winged baby T-Rexes that randomly flutter across the screen.
Slither is a lot of fun. When you get into a groove you'll find yourself skillfully maneuvering around rocks and narrowly escaping all sorts of dangerous predicaments. Be sure not to work your way into a corner! The bushes really impede your movement so clear them out whenever possible.
Slither is a bit rough around the edges. The pterodactyl animation is so choppy that the collision detection goes out the window when you're anywhere near that thing. Advanced stages incorporate snakes burrowing through the ground (Tremors?) but they look glitchy. The audio effects slow down severely when the screen gets busy.
Each wave kicks off with a rendition of "When the Saints Come Marching In", which didn't make any sense until Sudz explained it's "When the snakes go marching in." Well that makes perfect sense then. Slither's gameplay may borrow heavily from Centipede (Atari, 1983), but with so many unique elements it feels totally fresh. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.
Complementing the ample eye candy is a lively, harmonized musical score. The bass-heavy "echo" effects in the cave screens are also noteworthy. The controls however leave much to be desired. Overcoming many hazards requires performing long jumps by stopping momentarily, hopping straight up, then pushing the joystick up again just as you land. It's not the least bit intuitive, but it's critical if you want to make any progress. Would it have killed the programmer to use one of the two unused buttons for this function? I mean, really!
Making matters worse is the unforgiving nature of the game. Simply touching a tuft of grass will cause your Smurf to instantly keel over! But despite glaring flaws that would doom a lesser game, Smurf still manages to be entertaining and addictive - probably because it's so tough!
The obstacles seem to be randomized so you can't simply memorize the screens. The ability to "duck" from bats and birds was novel for its time, but in later stages those things behave like homing missiles! Smurf is half idiotic and half brilliant. When all is said and done, it's about a wash. Even so, die-hard Smurf fans can safely bump the grade up by a letter. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The left button is used to thrust and the right one fires. If you find this scheme uncomfortable (like I did), you can blame the poorly-designed controller (like I did). Since many enemies zero in on you like heat-seeking missiles, it's not a bad idea to keep moving. Between stages you dock with harnesses that augment your firepower forward, to the sides, or to the back.
Space Fury is fast and challenging, and the colorful, star-shaped explosions look nice. There's also a cool musical motif that plays before each stage which has an intergalactic ring to it. What brings Space Fury down to earth is its choppy animation and loose collision detection. When a lot of objects are on the screen the frame-rate drops and the quality of play falls with it. It's a little inconsistent, but as a fast-paced shooter Space Fury is enjoyable enough. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
After a few yawns, you'll be wondering when this game will end! Fortunately a "deluxe mode" is also included which adds some much-needed pizzazz. This time the aliens come in an assortment of colors and sometimes even split in two when shot. Blinking mother ships hover along the top of the screen and drop bombs that create wide explosions. Barriers allow you to seek shelter, but it's not easy to poke holes in those things.
Brief intermissions between waves depict an invader carrying a red mothership up the screen while "S.O.S.!" appears on the side. What the hell is that supposed to mean? There are glitches as well, including one where the aliens can drift off the right side of the screen and make a total mess of the score display! I know the Colecovision needs a decent Space Invaders game, but this, my friends, is not the answer. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Space Panic doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and it plays like Dig Dug in slow motion. Sure it's challenging, but that's mainly due to the flaky controls. For some reason you can't dig when in close proximity to a ladder, which severely limits your options. There are some pleasant musical effects, but the graphics are downright boring. I've heard some gamers defend this, but Space Panic did not appeal to me at all. The instructions contain an extra piece of paper with "Additional tips", a sure sign that customers were having difficulty grasping the concept. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The further you position yourself up the screen, the faster you go, creating an exciting risk-reward dynamic. After blasting a car you'll want to quickly swerve to avoid its smoldering wreckage. A red truck occasionally pulls up alongside you, outfitting your car with extra weapons like oil, smoke, or a heat-seeking missile.
It's possible to equip multiple weapons, and that's where the Super Action Controller comes into play. A standard controller requires you to use the keypad to unleash special weapons, which can be awkward in the heat of battle. The Super Action Controllers however have those big-ass Fisher Price buttons on the grip, allowing you to easily dispense your weapon of choice.
Considering its age, Spy Hunter has a lot of depth. The road periodically branches and enemies are randomized so no two games are the same. You can even transform into a speedboat for a high-speed shootout on the water! The Peter Gunn theme that blares in the background adds a gangster flavor.
There are subtle graphical touches like the "muzzle flash" of your machine guns, and when you bump a car on the bridge it breaks through the guardrail and splashes into the water! Details like that make all the difference. I played this Spy Hunter so much that it gave me a blister! That's a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay involves climbing a building, hanging from girders, then stomping on critters that crawl on each level. I love the crunchy noises the bugs make when you "squish-em" although Sam's high-pitched, chipmunk voice is kind of a turn-off.
Squish-Em Sam could have gotten by on novelty value alone, but in fact it's a very enjoyable game. Besides killing bugs, you must also avoid falling objects like bricks, hammers, televisions, fire hydrants, and the obligatory kitchen sinks. Sam's graphics are only average and the bugs look pixelated, but its addictive gameplay makes it worthwhile. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
You can thrust freely around the screen, and in the center is a cannon surrounded by three concentric, rotating force fields. You can blast away at these, but the cannon will retaliate with red plasma balls that pursue you like heat-seeking missiles! They're hard to shoot down, but largely due to the awkward, inexact controls.
The collision detection is suspect, and your ship's momentum seems to defy physics. It's tempting to eliminate each shield completely, but that only causes them to regenerate. Lingering in a single spot for too long causes the cannon to unleash a single devastating blast, so keep moving. Star Fortress is sloppy but its severe challenge makes it mildly addicting. Hell, even destroying one cannon is a monumental achievement. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The second stage involves shooting towers on the surface of the Death Star - a scene which I don't recall from the films. Not particularly fun, it's hard to shoot the towers and also avoid running into them. Still, it's nice how the tower tops "shatter" when blasted. The climactic trench stage is well done, but frankly not much better looking than the Atari 2600 version. Oh well, at least you can hear the Star Wars theme and R2 beeping in the background.
Upon blowing up the Death Star, you just see a quick flash and a lame message announcing, "The Death Star is destroyed". The game's main issue is the control; the cursor is slippery and difficult to aim with precision. Visually however, this game is a dead ringer for the arcade, and probably the best home version I've played. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The flying saucers are huge but hard to hit due to their unpredictable movements. The ships in the water are easier targets, but since they're moving you'll need to "lead" your shots. Rough scaling is used to convey incoming missiles and trash can-shaped mines, which suddenly go from being medium-sized objects to screen-sized death! If you keep turning until they're off the screen, you'll be out of harm's way. That's 80's physics for you - out of sight and out of mind!
The action is relentless, but the game struggles to keep up. The animation gets very choppy as objects fill the screen, degrading the collision detection and causing controls to become less responsive. You'll try to compensate by tapping buttons like mad, which takes its toll on your hand. At least Subroc is exciting. I like the distinctive waves and there are even boss encounters. The only other game comparable to this was Battlezone (Atari 2600, 1983). Subroc was cutting-edge in its time, but games that sacrifice control for graphics usually don't age well. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Super Action Baseball's pitcher/batter screen continues to dazzle, depicting huge players, lifelike animation, and even runner windows. But what is the deal with these uniforms? I realize the game wasn't licensed by the MLB, but orange and purple? The audio leaves much to be desired. Between pitches all you hear is tweets and whistles, like they're playing in a freaking bird sanctuary. Is somebody making cat calls at the players?
The pitcher can throw a wide variety of pitches and even guide the ball in flight. The batter swings by moving the joystick, allowing him to determine the direction the ball is hit. I kind of like how you spin that little spinner thing on the controller to run the bases, partly because it's so strange.
The pitching screen may look dramatic but it might just offer the worst possible vantage point for the hitter. You really have to wait on each pitch to make contact, as the ball tends to slow down as it approaches the plate. An umpire who looks like Beetle Bailey appears on the screen to call balls and strikes.
Once the ball is put into play it's clear the developer spent 90% of his time on that pitcher/batter screen. The overhead field view is pretty barebones with single-colored, pixelated players that move in a choppy manner. Likewise when throwing the ball it just sort of blinks from one spot to the next. Fly balls are the worst. Instead of traveling in an arc (which would have required math) they move in the shape of a triangle.
Super Action Baseball is two-player only but there are practice modes that let you brush up on your hitting and fielding. I like how there's a button corresponding to each base, making it easy to throw the ball around the horn. Those who undertake this game will have their hands full (literally), but with enough patience it is actually possible to play a competitive, semi-enjoyable game. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
You need to use the oversized Super Action Controllers, which have about 73 buttons, levers, and spinners (give or take). They're actually quite ergonomic if you're an alien from the Zorgon system with three heads and nine arms. The game comes with two thick manuals. One is the instructions, and the other is a playbook that's thicker than a real playbook! Setting up a simple pass play is a mind-boggling experience, requiring you to enter about five numeric codes.
Then you hike the ball and things get complicated. Your players don't move on their own, so you'll need to individually position your receivers and blockers one at a time. Adding insult to injury, these guys move so slowly that you might mistake this for the Senior Citizen Football League! In the meantime your linemen are all standing around like a bunch of statues.
The act of throwing a pass requires you to press a non-intuitive combination of buttons - in conjunction with rolling the spinner! The ball moves with no regard to physics, and the animation is horribly choppy. There's only one reason to play this with friends, and that's from the hilarity derived from relentlessly mocking it. Super Action Football may just be the most ambitious and least playable football game ever conceived. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
It sounds like a fine translation, but something's missing, and it took me a while to put my finger on it. Oh yeah - where the heck are the explosions!? I'm sorry, but it's not nearly as satisfying when you bomb a cannon and it simply disappears. Give me some random pixels or an asterisk at least! Other issues include erratic collision detection and a low level of difficulty. With only one skill level, I played this until my hand hurt. Super Cobra is respectable, but I really wish Parker Bros. had gotten off of their lazy asses and applied more polish to this one. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Each stage offers a new set of contiguous rooms that grow in complexity as you progress. You'll leap between platforms, climb vines, and fight monsters. The animation is very smooth as you hurl your yellow boomerang weapon at bats, frogs, blobs, and chained ghosts. You can even throw it while hanging off a vine.
Caverns of Death is exciting. You'll collect artifacts like skulls, diamonds, and idols to be placed on pedestals, causing new sections to open. The game doesn't try to overthink things, with puzzles that are very straightforward. Sometimes during the course of a stage you'll have to deal with rising lava which adds a real sense of urgency.
The controls could be better. Why did they have to assign jump to the left button and throw to the right? After decades of gaming, every fiber of my being wants to do the opposite! Death by pressing the wrong button is almost as bad as death by a drop of water, and yes, that is a thing. Sydney's death animation is pretty lame as he just sort of bounces off the screen. On the other hand, watching skeletal ghosts dissipate is an amazing sight.
Being able to safely fall from any distance is a real time-saver, but I wish enemies didn't regenerate when I re-enter a room. Grabbing vines is a big part of the game, but your grab can fail to register at the worst time - like when lava is nipping at your heels. At the end of each stage the game tallies your bonus points and displays a password as Sydney "ponders" something he desires... like a pint of beer. Control issues aside, Sydney and the Caverns of Death is a fresh new adventure combining the best of the old and new. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix , Colecovision.dk, Games Database, The Dreamcast Junkyard, Moby Games