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The visuals are exceptional, with fluidly animated characters and scenic backdrops that reminded me of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons. The scenery is rendered using impressive textures, with the exception of those cheesy-looking, perfectly square hedges. I really enjoyed exploring the toy store and museum stages, and the carnival's vibrant lights look amazing against the deep blue night sky. Other stages are less intriguing however, like the Big Ben level where you have to leap between moving clock gears.
Dalmatian's gameplay is strictly by-the-numbers, but occasional mini-games serve to break up the monotony. You'll shoot bubbles with a toy cannon, bounce around a giant pinball machine, and ride a miniature train through the toy store. The stages are reasonably short with ample save spots, and thankfully you don't have to collect every item if you don't feel like it. Although the controls are responsive it's hard to run straight with the analog stick, so you'll want to use the digital pad for precise movements.
102 Dalmatians is mildly amusing, but the whimsical musical score and childish dialogue did start to wear thin on me after a while. Plus, the dog lip-syncing was way off (don't you hate that?). 102 Dalmatians is very easy and a little slow, but it's thoughtfully constructed and looks great. Bump up the grade by one letter if you're under 10. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
In the arcade mode, you need to reach the end of each stage within a certain time limit. There are four high quality, but relatively short stages. While a typical stage will take you halfway across the country (New York to Florida for example), it's actually only a four minute drive. Your view from inside the truck is remarkable, with do-dads swinging from the rear view mirror and items sliding over the dashboard. CB and radio noise add to the realism.
The outside scenery is fantastic, from congested highways, to dusty desert roads, to the hills of San Francisco. The tornado in stage three is easily the most impressive one I've ever seen in a video game. While your journey is mostly linear, there are a few branches and shortcuts. The key to finishing this game is utilizing the "slip stream", which requires lining up behind another truck to minimize air resistance, resulting in a speed boost.
You can also try to defeat your annoying rival trucker, who always seems to get in your way at the most inopportune times. Between stages, there are "parking challenges" that earn you bonus items. While the arcade mode is highly entertaining and very challenging, the replay value takes a dip once you finish the game, and with unlimited continues, you might finish it in one sitting. Still, it's terrific fun while it lasts. There are some other modes like a two-player split screen mode and a "score challenge" mode, but these aren't nearly as exciting. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Despite the breakneck pace, a solid frame rate makes it a smooth ride. The super-long tracks aren't spectacular, but at least there are a nice variety of locations. While the one player mode presents a major challenge, the two-player split screen mode is just crazy fun, as the races tend to be close and exciting. 4 Wheel Thunder is definitely a winner. Too bad there's no four-player mode. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately there's zero sense of speed so you feel as if you're just churning through the morass. Jumps are so floaty you might as well be racing on the moon. You're required to pass through marked checkpoints, but the wide-open landscapes allow for alternate routes over hills and through trees. The CPU-controlled trucks naturally know the optimal routes so you learn to follow them as they suddenly veer off the road and climb a nearby hill. Nauseating guitar music drones endlessly in the background.
The instant replay of the race looks better than the race itself, with a little driver seen behind the steering wheel. The process of saving your progress is labor-intensive and slow. You'd expect a bare-bones game like this to support four players, yet the split-screen is limited to two. So what's the point? Well, according to the box you could in theory race online against Mac and PC users. That might have been a selling point at one time, but that time has long past, and all that's left is this big ole' bucket of misery. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The premise has you becoming a member of a plane squadron like the Blue Angels - you know, the kind that fly in formations and do acrobatic tricks. It's a bad premise for a video game, and I know that for a fact because I've played Aerowings and I can attest that it's absolutely no fun at all. Sure, the controls are fine and the training missions start off easy enough, but once you reach stage eleven, things become inordinately complicated.
Here's a sample of the instructions you'll hear in your pre-mission briefing: "Start from the take-off position... keep brakes on and throttle to 100%... after releasing the brake bring flaps down 100%... when you reach 80 knots turn on the smoke... take off at 120 knots and maintain a low altitude... throttle down to 60%... when you reach the end of the runway, pull the stick back and go into a loop... try to keep your G's between 3.5 and 4.0... when pitch reaches -120 to -130 after loop apex, execute a roll two and half times before leveling out. Got that? There's more, but I think you get the gist of it.
You're prompted to do some of this stuff while in the air, but still, the instructions are overwhelming for those who don't aspire to be real pilots. After each stage you're prompted to save your replay, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to relive something so boring and tedious. After losing patience with the main mode, I switched over to "Sky Mission Attack" mode, which challenges you to buzz through loops over cities, islands, and canyons. It's refreshingly simple, but even that gets boring after a few minutes.
AeroWing's graphics are pretty good. The planes look sharp and detailed, and the scenery on the ground looks photo-realistic (until you get really close that is). The audio includes a lot of that random beats with samples tossed in. If flight simulations are your thing, you'll probably appreciate Aerowings, but those looking for arcade action will absolutely deplore it. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Simply flying around is pretty fun, and the easy-to-learn controls give you excellent maneuverability. Some people may not like the fact that the gameplay mostly involves locking on targets (some very far away) and shooting them down with guided missiles. There aren't many occasions to use machine guns, which only work at very close range. Shooting down planes is fun, but the enemy explosions are rather unspectacular. After each mission, you can watch a cool instant replay. It's not bad, but Airforce Delta is less than thrilling. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately they tend to be more confusing than fun! Who wants to sit through a tutorial just to play a glorified Bomberman clone? Some variations are ill-conceived. Who thought it was a good idea to have the screen black out for extended periods of time? And who in their right mind would ask players to perform math (!) in the middle of a game?
Even the graphics are confusing. Each variation uses different objects to form the maze, and the detailed, intricate art can be hard to make out. Are those stacks of books I'm blowing up? Certain power-up icons are ambiguous, and even the bombs assume random shapes. The four-minute rounds feel a lot longer, and that ringing sound effect had me checking my front door every 10 seconds! Not really.
Anyway my friends didn't have the patience for this. I tried the single-player tournament mode and won despite being completely disinterested. The one mode I did enjoy was high-score mode, which strips out all the superfluous gimmicks for some simple, quick arcade fun. Now that's more like it! Still, Alice Dreams Tournament is hard to recommend, especially since a "real" Bomberman game was already published for the system. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Each stage offers a set of platforms, colored keys, and locked doors. The pixelated graphic style has an NES charm, with clouds so inviting you'll want to jump on them. There are a lot of floating platforms but the controls are crisp and forgiving. Alice can hop on mushrooms to toggle between normal and tiny size. She actually looks like a completely different person in her shrunken form. Alice scampers quickly while normal but slowly when small. The stages are vaguely puzzle-like with a lot of repetition and backtracking.
The scenery is generic and your main adversaries seem to be squirrels that can easily be hopped over. The only challenge comes in the form of ubiquitous spikes and water, both of which are instantly fatal to touch. The spikes look more like mounds of mud, and they are deadly even if you rub against the side of one. When you die you have to restart the entire level, which is aggravating. You can collect gems but I don't see the point considering there's no score and you have infinite lives.
The game seems a little buggy with some unexplainable deaths and crazy vibration support that will have you ripping out your rumble pack. Your progress is automatically saved to a single slot, which is fine until someone selects "new game" instead of "continue", instantly wiping out your progress. The lush orchestrated music is crystal clear but it's so sugary sweet I couldn't stand it. The audio highlight is when Alice meets her demise and that creepy music-box tune kicks in. Alice's Mom's Rescue is definitely a kindler, gentler video game. I just wish it were more fun to play. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
You get a decent view of the action from behind your vehicle, but your firepower is weak. You tend to fight alongside one or more allies. Occasionally spot troops running along the ground who make satisfying squishing noises when you run them over. The game's on-line mode incorporated "real time voice chat" - a feature that was pretty novel for its time.
Despite what the title would indicate, Alienfront Online is quite playable off-line. The hard-as-nails "tactics mode" is a full-blown campaign with branching missions and multiple endings. There's also an arcade mode with shorter, more action-oriented missions (kill everything). Your progress is saved automatically in tactics mode and high scores are recorded in arcade mode.
Alienfront's graphics are respectable and the frame-rate is consistently smooth. The spacious Area 51 and Siberia locations are boring as hell, but it's fun to blast buildings in Washington DC and Tokyo and watch their walls crumble. I also like the manner in which enemy walkers keel over when destroyed. Alienfront's soundtrack blends edgy guitars with futuristic synthesizers.
The main problem with Alienfront is its shallow gameplay. I tried a variety of strategies like cat-and-mouse, circle strafing, and keeping my distance, but my tank just wasn't agile enough. The strafing controls are awkward, requiring you to push up on the thumbstick while holding in a trigger. Ultimately you'll settle for trading shots with an enemy and scooping up the health packs left in its wake. I suspect the on-line mode is long defunct, but I don't think we're missing much. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
And unlike other games that feature pitch-dark rooms (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame), there's more than enough light in these rooms to see all but the most obscure objects. The analog control is used to point your flashlight, and the shadowing is superb. The scenery is pre-rendered, and as a result, it's highly detailed yet surprisingly grainy in certain areas.
As you walk around a room, there are multiple pauses as the game loads each new camera angle, and some of the views leave much to be desired. The house itself really doesn't possess the foreboding atmosphere I was hoping for, but the game's biggest blunder is its idiotic monsters. I'm all for being imaginative, but I couldn't tell the head from the tail for some of these ridiculous creatures. Most aren't as frightening as they are annoying.
Finally, there are the puzzles, which tend to make no sense at all. Throw in some invisible portals, and the game becomes a confusing mess. There are even some curse words thrown in for good measure. Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare is a generic adventure that fails to scare or intrigue. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
It's a pleasure to power-slide around turns that sling you into the next stretch. Rubbing against the guardrails or other cars only slows you down slightly. And if you have trouble making progress in the arcade mode, check your garage where I discovered a nice selection of automobiles including a red convertible (a la Outrun), a yellow taxi (a la Crazy Taxi), and something that vaguely resembles the Batmobile. Perhaps they are the "legends"?
Arcade mode is fun but it's the career mode that gives the game its legs, offering a wide variety of quick challenges over diverse tracks. Sometimes you'll race, but sometimes you'll be required to complete a lap in 60 seconds. Sometimes you'll need to complete that lap without hitting a barrier. The fact that each challenge is so short gives them a "one more try" quality. The auto-save feature is pretty nifty too.
One area of the game that's a bit weak is the graphics. While tracks set in the desert and snow offer gorgeous color schemes, they aren't on the same level as a game like Ridge Racer (PS1, 1995). Even the underwater tube track seems pretty tame save for the occasional shark.
I noticed a few minor bugs as well, most notably when the frame-rate in career mode started to sputter after I restarted too many times (I had to exit the mode to reset). The two-player split screen plays well but the second player never gets credit for winning a race. Arcade Racing Legends delivers back-to-basic racing fun but it clearly lacks the polish of a big-name release. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
On the surface, Armada is a good-looking game with an Asteroids vibe. Played on a 2D plane (over 3D graphics), your ship can move in any direction and fire rapidly at aliens that relentlessly converge. The aliens resemble metallic cockroaches, and their screams reverberate nicely as they explode. Superimposed numbers indicate their health, and it's satisfying to wear them down - for the first five minutes or so.
After that it just gets old. What I am supposed to do and where am I supposed to go? Neither my friends nor me could figure it out. Armada might have been slightly more interesting if we could have purchased some of the fancy weapons and gadgets for sale at the space station, but they're so expensive it's unlikely you'll ever see them in action. You only collect one or two "credits" for most defeated enemies, and you'll need at least 800 to buy anything worthwhile.
I was hopeful that adding a partner or two (the game supports four simultaneous players) would expedite the process, but all we did was continually rag on this putrid game. Let's face it, life's too short for games as poorly designed as Armada. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Power-ups and shield upgrades are doled out liberally during the course of each stage. Once you get into a groove you'll be washing enemies off of the screen with bright white explosions bursting on the right side. Awesome! Enemies include all the usual suspects: jets, bombers, tanks, airships, and other mechs. When your special weapon is charged you can release a thick, steady green beam that will break down all but the most fierce opponents. It recharges on its own so don't hesitate to use it!
The shape-shifting bosses are fairly easy and you'll identify their patterns right away. There is some minor slow-down but you'll probably welcome it. The graphics are average but I enjoyed the city lights in the opening stage. The layers of buildings fading into hills appear to be digitized. The third stage features a city in ruins, and it's cool how you can blast the crumbling facades off the buildings. If you get tired of replaying early levels there's a stage select.
You also have the option to play "Armed Seven" which presents the game with a slightly more "serious" visual style which I prefer. I love how the game records high scores for every skill level. Armed 7 is quite exhilarating once you get a feel for it, delivering major destruction with an old-school flair. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Although most of these have been available on other compilations (on the Playstation), these are the closest adaptations I've seen. You even have the option to play them within "cabinet borders", but since that makes the game screen smaller, you'll want to turn that off. And since some of the finely-drawn vector graphics are difficult to see, you'll want to turn off any background graphics and make the playing field as large as possible. More practical options allow you to configure the control and difficulty of each game.
The three new titles included that I hadn't seen before on a console are Pong, Gravitar, and Warlords. Gravitar is sort of a dud. It's difficult to make out the graphics, even after screen adjustments, which makes it hard to play. Pong is actually better (and harder) than you would think, and Warlords provides some great four-player action. Unfortunately, most of these games were designed for paddles or trackballs, and the Dreamcast analog controller just doesn't provide the same degree of control.
But the biggest flaw is that you CAN'T SAVE anything to VMU! Can you believe it? It would have been awesome to save your high scores or game configurations, so what the hell happened? Anyway, the game does include some bonus material, containing press releases, screen shots, artwork, and an interview with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. There's some good stuff here. Atari Anniversary Edition should have been 'A' material, but this package is clearly flawed. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Shinforce, Sega.com, Racket Boy, Wikipedia, GameSpot, Video Games Museum, Moby Games, Sega Dreamcast.com, The Dreamcast Junkyard