Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Publisher: THQ (2000)
Rating: Everyone (animated violence)
Despite a killer license, Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't have much to offer. Our blonde heroine simply kicks and punches her way through generic undead thugs in repetitive side-scrolling stages. The character sprites are flat but the animation is surprisingly fluid, calling to mind Flashback for the Genesis (1993). The fighting action is shallow, but hearing a ghoul shriek as you stake him through the heart is satisfying. Sometimes you're even treated to flying body parts! The graveyard, mansion, and zoo locations are remarkably dull, and the sewers stages are marred by awkward platform jumping. Buffy's visuals are so dark that it can be tough to make out your enemies at times. Speaking of which, it's easy to get the impression that you're fighting the same zombie over and over again, who keeps returning in a new outfit! The game isn't hard and there's no score, so where's the challenge? It feels like you're just going through the motions as you mindlessly forge ahead, scribbling down a new password after each stage. At least the jaunty soundtrack is relatively good, striking a nice balance between creepy and funky. The illustrated cut-scenes look rough, but the witty dialogue is consistent with the show, tossing out references to several episodes. Even so, Buffy fans will regard this as more of a collectible than a source of entertainment. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Here's an unlikely title for the Gameboy Color - an interactive animated movie featuring full-screen video! Yes, this is the original laser disc game, not some lousy 2D platformer with a Dragon's Lair license. Dragon's Lair is a tall order for the Game Boy Color, but the results are interesting. Obviously the system can't replicate the gorgeous animation of the original game, but the graphics are sufficient for the most part. It might be hard for new players to tell what's going on at times, but personally I had a ball playing this. In some ways it actually plays better
than the original game, particularly with regard to pacing. This action moves swiftly from one room with the next without the constant loading that bogs down the disk versions. Although the gameplay still relies heavily on trial and error, the controls are more responsive and provide confirmation beeps to signal a good or bad move. There seem to be fewer actions to take in each room, which compensates for some of the hard-to-see graphics. The stages are presented at random, and sometimes even "mirrored" to keep you on your toes. Except for some musical fanfares, the game is played in relative silence. All things considered, Dragon's Lair is still a good time, especially if you have fond memories of the original. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Publisher: THQ (2001)
Indiana Jones was always great on the big screen, but how would he look on the smallest screen of all? The answer: like a little spider! Wow, these characters are small
. Close examination reveals some interesting animation, but still
. Infernal Machine's gameplay features Tomb Raider-esque shooting and platform jumping, but the 2D environments are poorly rendered. Multiple shades are used to convey depth, but it's hard to tell where you can and can't go. It's not unusual to fall unexpectedly or run smack into an invisible wall. The gunplay is unrealistic but effective - just face an enemy's general direction and unload. Sometimes you'll engage in comical shootouts with a Nazi standing right in front of you.
The platform action is weak, but not as bad as the underwater mazes you have to swim through as your air supply depletes. On a positive note, the stages are reasonable in size, and the user interface makes it easy to manage your inventory. My favorite part of this game occurred when I blew up a wall with a grenade - much like I did 23 years earlier
while playing Raiders of the Lost Ark (Atari 2600) with my sister. But besides conjuring fond memories of other
games, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine doesn't have much to offer. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Save mechanism: battery
Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, The
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Oracle of Ages was one of two Zelda games released simultaneously for the Gameboy Color, the other being Oracle of Seasons. Both titles do a fine job of emulating the high-caliber gameplay of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
(SNES, 1992). Ages gets off to a slow start, with a lot of verbose exposition, much of it juvenille and corny. The background story involves an evil sorceress who kidnaps a girl who has the power to control time. Once Oracle of Ages hits its stride however, it delivers of the classic Zelda action we've grown to love. By traveling between the past and present, Link can acquire new items, gain new abilities, and solve puzzles on his quest to save the girl. The clean-looking graphics are about NES quality, but the well-orchestrated music and familiar audio effects sound as if they were lifted directly from Link to the Past. The stages are thoughtfully designed to provide constant clues and minimize backtracking. The time-traveling aspect is a novel concept but it could have been better executed. It's hard to determine how changes to the past affect the present world, and traveling back and forth between the two ages gets old after a while. Magical rings are vital to your success, but their functions are hard to determine, and you can only change your ring when visiting the ring appraiser. In my opinion, Oracle of Ages is not one of the stronger entries in the Zelda series, but it's still a high quality mix of action and adventure. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, The
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
When starting to play Oracle of the Seasons, I was totally bummed out by how similar it was to Oracle of Ages. Yes, I know they were released at the same time as companion games, but heck, they're practically identical
. They share the same graphics, gameplay, and music. Worst of all, even the storyline
is similar! This time Link must rescue an oracle girl imprisoned in a tower who can control the seasons. If you've played Oracle of Ages, the premise sounds awfully familiar. On the bright side, Oracle of Seasons does not
contain the annoying time-travel mechanism of Ages, giving this one the edge in my mind. You still have to deal with the whole convoluted ring system though. Oracle of Seasons offers a few fresh ideas, but these are few and far between. My favorite aspect of the game is its mine cart rides, which let you alter the configuration of the tracks by hitting switches. Oracle of Seasons is a respectable Zelda adventure, but if you've already played Oracle of Ages, be advised that this just more of the same. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Take Two (1998)
I've seen many classics make the transition to the portable universe, and many arrive butchered beyond recognition. Fortunately Montezuma's Return is the exception to the rule, retaining all the qualities that made its predecessor, Montezuma's Revenge
(Colecovision, 1984), such a hit. You control a little Indiana Jones exploring a pyramid composed of a huge grid of rooms jam-packed with danger. There are moving platforms, ropes, spikes, rolling skulls, and plenty of coins to collect. If you obtain a knife, you can survive one hit from a creature like a cobra, rat, or spider. As in the original game, the controls are exceptionally crisp and responsive. Your explorer moves swiftly and can easily hop between platforms. I loved shimmying down ropes and sliding down poles. The levels incorporate all the stuff you'd expect to find in a real pyramid, like cobwebs, flaming pits, skeletons chained to the walls, and platforms that disappear at regular intervals. The visuals are a little dark, and certain items (like the purple keys) can be a little hard to make out. Pressing the select button brings up a map, and there are 150 rooms in all! 150!
Despite that, the game has a somewhat linear structure and it's pretty easy to get stuck. The soundtrack will get on your nerves, but you can shut it off via the options menu. All in all, Montezuma's Return is a heck of a lot of fun, mainly because it doesn't try to fix what's not broken. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 8,700
Save mechanism: Password
Pac-Man: Special Color Edition
Publisher: Namco (1999)
I love how the title of this game seems to imply we were all playing Pac-Man in black-and-white for 18 years
until this Special Color Edition finally came out! I tried to review this on my Super Game Boy SNES add-on, but was appalled by the obnoxious color scheme. Red dots in a white maze? WTF?
Then I popped the cart into my Game Boy SP and was relieved to see Pac-Man the way I remembered. We're talking yellow dots, black maze, different colored ghosts, the whole nine yards. Apparently the Super Game Boy was released prior to the Game Boy Color! Anyway, the game is presented with a zoomed-in maze which makes the objects look very well defined. Pac-Man's controls are responsive (if not a little slippery) and you could argue the collision detection is forgiving to a fault!
Heck, you can run halfway across the screen with a ghost half-way up your butt!
Pac-Man is timeless fun but the real star of the show is a secondary mode called Pac-Attack. It may look like a mediocre Tetris clone but make no mistake - Pac-Attack is an awesome
Tetris clone! In addition to stacking blocks you also stack ghosts. Occasionally Pac-Man comes riding down on a set of blocks and when he lands he'll move along the surface, chomping any ghosts in his path while racking up big points. The game rewards you for thinking ahead, and toe-tapping music adds to the fun. Pac-Man Special Color Edition caught this critic off-guard by going beyond the call of duty. Bravo! © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Pac-Attack/Normal
Our high score: 109,374
Pitfall: Beyond the Jungle
Publisher: Activision (1998)
I was hoping this game would take the Pitfall formula to the next level, but it's just a shameful attempt to capitalize on the brand name. Beyond the Jungle bears little resemblance to its predecessor, and its by-the-numbers design lacks charm and imagination. In the first stage you swing Pitfall Harry between ropes and make him jump between grassy platforms. The controls seem decent until you realize Harry always jumps a significant distance forward when coming off a rope. This makes it really hard
to land on a platform that's only a half jump away. Harry is armed with a pickaxe used to kill scorpions and flying shellfish (huh?). Creatures unleash blood-curling screams as you hack them to death. Occasionally Harry will need to run up to a gorilla and bludgeon him before the poor ape can even react. This game is just wrong on so many levels. When you finally deplete your lives (which seems to take forever
) don't be surprised to see a score of zero
. Are you telling me that collecting dozens of blue diamonds and killing innocent animals wasn't worth a single point?
The second stage is positively hellish as you descend into a dank prison. It's got all hallmarks of bad level design: flames on timers, pipes deadly to touch, and invisible hazards that blend into the gray scenery. In the end Pitfall: Beyond the Jungle seems to serve but one purpose, and that's to make your life thoroughly miserable. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
This happy-go-lucky pinball title has some interesting bells and whistles. The first thing you'll notice is the bulge in the cartridge which houses a single AAA battery. It facilitates some modest vibration feedback and also retains a list of all the Pokemon characters you "catch" while playing the game. You have a choice of two tables (red and blue) and their spacious designs lets the ball circulate around. The screen flips between the top and bottom halves of the table, which seems a little annoying at first but you get used to it. The large Pokemon ball is easy to follow but there really aren't many targets to hit. The game gains traction when the "catch Pokemon" mode begins, allowing you to piece together a puzzle revealing new a Pokemon for your collection. Pokemon Pinball is very forgiving thanks to the oversized ball and generous amount of ball saves. The background music is sparse but the occasional voice synthesis is a plus. Even if you're not a Pokemon fan you're bound to find this little pinball game habit-forming. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 11214
Publisher: Vatical (1998)
Polaris SnoCross comes on an extra-fat cartridge to facilitate a "rumble" capability. It works fine, but I wish more effort was put into the game itself. SnoCross plays like an overhead car racer except you're driving a snowmobile around tree-lined tracks. The tournament mode pits you against two CPU opponents, and they're tough! You'll need a near-perfect run to rank first, and if you get caught up on a tree you're toast. Winning races lets you unlock new tracks and snowmobiles. The courses don't offer much scenery beyond snow-covered evergreens and the occasional iced-over bridge. Prior to each race you allot points to adjust your sled's acceleration, traction, and top speed. In my experience you'll want to put all your eggs in your "top speed" basket. The tracks are ideal in length (read: short) and it's very cool how you slide down banked turns. The vibrate feature is surprisingly understated, and that's probably for the best. The audio is just horrible. The whiney music is hard on the ears and it gets even more obnoxious during the final lap. You can turn it off via the options menu, but that exposes some equally unpleasant sound effects. Unlocking tracks is a challenge, but it seems to require more memorization that skill. Polaris SnoCross is a serviceable winter diversion, but it could have used a lot more pizzazz. Note: This cartridge will not fit into a DS system. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Resident Evil Gaiden
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)
The Resident Evil (RE) survival horror series seems an odd fit for the Game Boy Color, but Capcom makes it work by using some innovative techniques. This chapter takes place on a large ocean liner, and yes, they are
running out of places. Here, STARS operative Barry Burton must solve a bunch of uninspired puzzles, mainly of the find-the-key variety. Zombies lurk in the shadows, but digitized moans signal their presence and pretty much eliminate the element of surprise. Although avoiding battle helps conserve ammo, the shooting system is the game's greatest strength. Once you take aim at one or more monsters, the screen changes to a first-person perspective with a "targeting meter" moving back and forth across the bottom of the screen. Pressing the fire button when the cursor is directly under an approaching monster causes your shot to ring true, spraying gratuitous blood in its wake. It's a pretty ingenious scheme, providing the only genuine thrills of the game. Another cool feature is how you can hold as many items as you want, unlike other RE games which limit your capacity. On the downside, the level designs are annoying, and you're constantly forced to backtrack and deal with confusing elevators. The musical soundtrack features a creepy but repetitive Halloween-inspired tune. Three save slots are provided, but save points are few and far between. I enjoyed certains aspects of Resident Evil Gaiden, but it's largely a hit-or-miss affair. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
Publisher: THQ (2001)
Our high score: 2,280
Save mechanism: password
X-Men: Mutant Academy
Publisher: Activision (2000)
One-on-one fighters don't age well on portable systems. In the fifth grade you could "link up" with your friend Jimmy during recess, but now... not so much. The only thing left is a CPU opponent with weak AI. And crazy music! I swear it sounds like the guy who did the music was on methamphetamines or something. The hyperactive melody careens all over the place and never stops. Mutant Academy lets you select between nine X-Men including Gambit, Sabretooth, Storm, and Wolverine. They actually look pretty sharp and a few of the stages (like London Bridge) provide scenic backdrops. The Egypt-at-night stage is a cool idea except it's so dark it's hard to make out the Sphinx. As for the fighting action, well, it's pretty shabby. Limited to two buttons, the control scheme uses a lot of double taps and charge moves. Apparently you can only unleash your special attacks (like Cyclop's eye beam) when your "rage meter" is full. The controls feel mushy and I wasn't able to land a single air attack. The CPU is so dumb you can often remain in a crouched position and keep wailing away at his shins until he finally keels over. When fighters collapse they lie flat on their back, stiff as a board. The audio effects are the worst
. Instead of sounds you would associate with punches and kicks, you get a lot of buzzes and zaps. The game keeps score but it's only visible on the pause screen and never actually displayed. Mutant Academy may have sold a lot of copies on the strength on its license, but that's about all it's got going for it. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Telegames (1998)