102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue
Publisher: Eidos (2000)
Clearly aimed at the younger crowd, 102 Dalmatians is a well-produced, technically impressive platform game. Based on the Disney film, the evil Cruella De Vil (hey, isn't that Michael Jackson?) has kidnapped all of the pets in town. Playing the role of a Dalmatian puppy, you must rescue the caged animals by defeating evil toys, collecting bones, and traversing a series of colorful locations. 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.
18 Wheeler American Pro Trucker
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Publisher: Midway (2000)
Whoa, this one took me by surprise! These four-wheel drive games seem to be a dime a dozen, but this one is a rip-roaring good time from start to end. If you're looking for realistic off-road action, forget it! This is pure arcade fun, with turbo boosts, ramps, and trucks bouncing all over the place. If you play your cards right, you can turbo through 90% of the course. 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.
Publisher: GOD Games (2000)
I can't imagine a more boring, uninspired off-road racer than this. 4x4 Evo opens with grainy full-motion video of trucks plowing through mud. You select a pickup and challenge three opponents on dingy tracks with names like "savage wasteland". The washed-out landscapes are depressing and there's no eye candy at all. The steering controls are okay and the handbrake is effective for swinging around turns. 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.
Publisher: Crave (1999)
Publisher: Konami (1999)
Airforce Delta is too realistic to be an arcade game, but too simplistic to be a simulation. It tries to straddle the line, but the results are mixed. Through a series of missions, you need to complete a variety of objectives including blowing up ground targets, shooting down enemy planes, and escorting friendly aircraft. Missions take place in a nice variety of locations, including over cities, mountains, and water. The scenery looks terrific, with the exception of the stagnant water, which looks awfully fake. Just 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 the 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.
Alice Dreams Tournament
Publisher: Alice Team (2017)
If you're never played Bomberman before, Alice Dreams Tournament isn't so bad. If you have, well, you might think it's kind of bad! The idea is that four people are in a maze dropping bombs to blow each other up for points. Like other games in the Alice series, Dreams Tournament features appealing anime characters and fun beats. The game offers ten variations on the standard Bomberman formula. 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.
Alice's Mom's Rescue
Publisher: Hucast (2015)
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Rating: Teen (violence)
Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare
Publisher: Infogrames (2001)
The original Alone in the Dark (PC) was arguably the very first "survival horror" game, preceding the original Resident Evil (Playstation) by two years. Unfortunately, several sequels later it still lags far behind RE in terms of horror and play value. In the familiar premise, you're stuck in a huge old mansion full of monsters, puzzles, underground corridors, and secret rooms. Ironically, for a game called "Alone in the Dark", you never really feel alone OR in the dark. With so many characters to encounter or overhear, the game often feels more like a murder mystery than a horror movie. 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.
Arcade Racing Legends
Publisher: Pixelheart (2020)
Publisher: Metro 3D (1999)
It's taken me nearly an eternity
to review Armada, mainly because this stupid game can't even maintain my attention long enough to write
one. It's that
bad! I've tried to get some friends to help me with it, but after a few minutes of pointless shooting, they're all like "hell with this!" And who can blame them? The game makes no sense at all. 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.
Publisher: JoshProd (2019)
Shooter fans should be thrilled to add Armed 7 to their collection. Though technically a homebrew, you would never know from the production values. The case, disc and manual all look exceedingly professional. Armed 7 is a mech shooter, so you begin by outfitting your suit with three weapons. You can angle your main gun, with auxiliary weapons like missiles firing on their own. Add in a devastating death-ray charge and you're pretty much unstoppable. 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.
Our high score: 2,410,260
Atari Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Infogrames (2001)
Being a huge fan of classic arcade games of the 80's, I tend to love these classic compilations. This one has twelve excellent titles: Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Millipede, Missile Command, Pong, Super Breakout, Tempest, and Warlords. 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.
Publisher: Crave (2001)
You might think this two-dimensional shooter is a throwback to the 16 bit era, but the Genesis could never
have handled anything this
intense. You control a tiny man with a booster pack flying through enclosed areas and blasting everything to oblivion. There are lines of stationary targets as well as flying creatures. Your targets are so tiny that it's tough to tell what they're supposed to be. As you destroy objects, giant fruit appears in their place that you can collect for bonus points. Your firepower is, in a word, awesome. You can choose between guided or bouncing missiles, and can fire them non-stop. On top of that, your special attack unleashes hundreds of projectiles in all directions - all without any slowdown! Bangai-O has a few anime cut-scenes and plenty of weird Japanese humor. As you play through the various stages, the game automatically saves your place. Bangai-O is a nice change, but it does get repetitive. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: JoshProd (2018)
Most modern 2D vertical shooters tend to be of the "bullet hell" ilk, pitting overwhelming firepower against waves of insurmountable projectiles. Battle Crust is not that. Its pacing, audio, and visuals harken back to the 16-bit era when shooters were a little more reasonable. In fact, this looks like a Sega Genesis game! The text intro details some conflict between the "earth government" and "universe government" over a new metal called "battle crust". The gameplay is typical as you fire shots at pods and flying machines, unleashing the occasional charged blast to take care of the big guys. Like most vertical shooters, the action only consumes the middle third of the screen. The graphics feature modest scaling and the explosions look a bit cheesy. If it sounds like I'm disparaging Battle Crust, I don't mean to. It's extremely playable and the bosses (including a giant termite and mechanical eye) are well designed. I'm not really sold on the time-consuming charge attack. At first I found myself charging more than my wife
but soon realized my relentless rapid-fire was often safer. Most of the scenery is forgettable, offering views of metal fortresses, green mountains, and bright blue skies. Stage three however is a beauty, taking you over a city at night complete with lighted towers, bridges, and skyscrapers. Pretty spectacular. This is also when the game gets tough, crowding you off the screen with large freighters. The soundtrack conveys a weird, otherworldly quality reminiscent of Bio Hazard Battle
(Genesis, 1992). I only wish the game recorded high scores. Battle Crust is a surprisingly strong title for the Dreamcast. It doesn't try too hard, but what it does it does well. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 104,602
Publisher: Activision (1999)
Rating: Mature (blood, animated violence)
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Bomberman has been around forever, and this old game hasn't changed much. Up to four players walk around a maze trying to blow each other away with strategically placed bombs. Sure it's fun, but it's still the same game you've been playing for 10 years (if not longer). Sega tried to inject new life into it by adding a slew of new modes and customization options, but the original four-player "survivor mode" is still the best of the bunch. Although the battlefields are rendered completely in 3D, the characters are flat sprites. The good news is that the 3D graphics don't hamper the gameplay like they did in some of the Playstation versions. Perhaps the main attraction of this game is that you don't need to invite three friends over since you can play it online. The single player modes didn't appeal to me at all. If you've never played Bomberman, don't hesitate to buy this game, but if you have one or more Bomberman games already, you can probably live without this. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Border Down (Japan)
Publisher: G Rev (2003)
Whoa! This side-scrolling shooter really rocked my world! Border Down takes the genre to new heights by honing an age-old formula to near perfection. First, let's talk about the incredible graphics. Starting with the awe-inspiring cityscapes of stage one, this game was meant to be gawked at. The enemy craft and bosses are extremely original in design, and I love how they fluidly rotate into view from the background. The textures are so smooth and seamless that you barely even notice that this is a 2D game with 3D graphics. The massive explosions, fire, and smoke effects are some of the best I've seen in any
game. But Border Down is more than just a pretty face - the game plays like a dream! Your default weapon is effective, and the controls are completely intuitive. Holding in a button fires a constant stream of shots, and tapping it unleashes heat-seeking missiles. It's an ingenious scheme that works like a charm. You also have an ultra-powerful beam weapon that you'll want to reserve for the big guys. I love how this thing cancels out
incoming beams, and obliterates weaker projectiles! The game is slightly boss-heavy, but they don't tend to overstay their welcome. High scores are saved with your initials to a rankings screen. The electronic music isn't exceptional, but at least it has a nice old school vibe. It's a shame Border Down wasn't available during the Dreamcast's heyday, because this really shows off the system's power. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (2000)
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
Publisher: Activision (2000)
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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