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
Publisher: Ubisoft (2000)
The Rayman series is known for its vibrant, colorful graphics so it's a good fit for the Game Boy Color. The game makes excellent use of system's palette with lush green plants, sparkling blue waters, and blooming pink flowers. Rayman himself is a cute character with disembodied hands and feet. He has the ability to toss baseballs and can even "wind up" to throw them harder. The animation is very fluid. Rayman will grab the edge of a platform when his jump comes up short, and it's a good thing because this happens all the time
. The short-but-sweet stages seem simple at first but soon you'll be scratching your head trying to figure out how the heck you're supposed to reach that exit keyhole. You'll figure it out, but only after a few annoyances. When Rayman swings on something, the screen shifts back and forth in a vertigo-inducing manner. Ugh! And while the controls are generally forgiving, Rayman will miss grabbing a vine at the most inopportune time. In one stage you need to continuously move up the screen to avoid rising water, but the screen scrolls so slowly
you need to wait for it!
A password is provided but it consists of both upper and lowercase letters and that just sucks. I feel like this game could really use a score. Rayman earns points for its colorful visuals but it's gameplay falls a little short. © Copyright 2019 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.
Star Wars Episode I: Obi Wan's Adventures
Publisher: THQ (2000)
I try to review every Star Wars game ever made but only recently stumbled upon this Game Boy Color cartridge. Obi Wan's Adventures gets off to a promising start with a slideshow of digitized stills from Star Wars Episode I. Even the severe pixelation can't prevent you from getting psyched up! The game itself is an isometric hack-and-slash adventure. You begin by forging through a Trade Federation ship while hitting switches, avoiding traps, and killing battle droids with your lightsaber. Obi Wan is nicely animated but in general the characters tend to be small and indistinct. There's little satisfaction to be had from striking down the droids. Your first few hits seem to have no effect, like you're up against an invisible wall. Only after the delayed explosion do you know you were actually doing damage. The rolling droidekas are especially annoying since they have force fields that can absorb many hits. You'll wish you could avoid them altogether, but in most cases you're required to clear out enemies to advance. In addition to your lightsaber you can toggle between a blaster and force powers. Cycling through the three is clumsy and the game tends to automatically switch you back to the lightsaber. The blaster is hard to aim and you quickly run out of shots. Since when does a blaster run out of shots?! Employing the "force push" is fun but you rarely get to use it. The orchestrated music is straight from the movie but it's on a short loop. Obi Wan's Adventure is okay in concept, but a real Jedi really should be able to kick a lot more ass than this! © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (2000)
This is not the Mummy game I was expecting. You'll play as many characters from the film including Evelyn, Jonathan, and Rick, but the sprites are kind of tiny. Each stage is a little treasure hunt as you scour mazes for items like manuscripts or artifacts. The prison level actually wraps around on itself like an old NES title. In fact, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
(NES, 1989) came to mind more than once (sorry to dredge that
one up!). That said, the gameplay isn't bad. Responsive controls make it easy to clear gaps and ride on floating platforms. Special items like torches and dynamite help you access new areas. Once you unlock all the characters you can toggle between them via the start button. Jonathan has a wicked punch and Rick can fire a gun! Unfortunately when Rick shoots Templar Knights they just sort of disappear and reappear a few seconds later. Lame! There's also this big statue-looking dude you can push around to use as a shield. Not sure what that's all about. The dark, dull scenery comes in shades of brown, with locations that include a ship, desert ruins, and dark tombs. The ominous musical score has an air of mystery to it, but after a few stages everything starts to look the same. The Mummy isn't anything to get yourself wrapped up in, but its old-school style is appealing. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
The Mummy Returns
Publisher: Universal (2001)
I found The Mummy
(GBC, 2000) somewhat bland but this sequel is more ambitious. It begins by displaying a set of hieroglyphics on the screen that magically transform into text when you hold in the A button. Pretty neat! That same text explains that Rick and Evy have uncovered an artifact in a tomb that's unleashed a wall of rushing water. Upon selecting one of the characters you find yourself running to the left, jumping and rolling past traps as a wall of water nips on your heels. Compared to the first game, the characters are huge!
The controls aren't particularly responsive however and it's easy to get caught up on hard-to-see hazards. Thank goodness this stage has frequent checkpoints. The second stage is a first-person duck-and-cover shooter like Time Crisis
(PS1, 1997). I love the concept but the cursor is clumsy to aim and enemies tend to pop out of the same places. The third stage takes place in a museum where you can run around shooting people, but you range is limited. There's an occasional sword-fighting challenge but it feels like a shallow exercise in button mashing. Still, the sheer variety makes for an interesting journey. A six digit password is provided at the end of each stage and the digitized "game over" screens look slick. The Mummy Returns offers a lot of game variations. None are particularly good
but it's always interesting to see what's next. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
Publisher: THQ (2001)
I've always been a fan of The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials, making it a point to watch every October. I was excited to discover a Game Boy Color title based on these episodes! Stylistically it's right on point. The characters are rendered remarkably well and the colorful stages incorporate iconic references like the three-eyed fish. The Simpsons theme in minor key sounds remarkable but it's on a short loop and will get on your nerves after a while. There are no less than seven stages, each based on a different story. If you've ever wanted to explore the Simpson household the first stage lets you do that. Playing as Bart you're trying to locate four fuses to turn the lights back on. The controls could be better. Bart's slingshot only shoots rocks a short distance before they hit the ground. Worse yet, he must stand still to shoot, making him a sitting duck for rats, spiders, and flying books. Sometimes you'll exit a room only to find yourself right next to a haunted vacuum cleaner. That thing requires two shots to kill and there's only time to get off one. There's no shortage of cheap hits like dripping water and ghostly hands that reach out of the floor. In stage two you fly around the kitchen as a little Maggie transformed into a fly. The Joust-like controls are okay but constant up-and-down made me queasy. Level three takes to the streets as an overhead zombie shooter starring Marge, and it might have been fun if her firepower wasn't so weak. Level four is a Castlevania-style side-scroller starring Homer in an ornate castle that's a feast for the eyes. But like Bart's slingshot, Homer's crossbow fires directly into the ground. Stage five features a hilarious-looking robotic Homer and stage six puts a defenseless Lisa in a school-gone-mad. The game finishes on a high note with "King Homer" which is basically a take-off of Rampage
(Sega Master System, 1986) with Homer as the ape. There's a nice password system so it's easy to sample all of these. I would have preferred one really good game over seven mediocre ones, but if you're looking for a Halloween treat, Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror may just do the trick. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
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)
I was dying to see what this classic Atari 2600 title would look like on the Game Boy, and was shocked
to discover that it plays much like the original! In case you weren't paying attention - or living - back in 1982, a Yar is a missile-shooting, shield-gnawing galactic insect. Set in the darkness of space, the game lets you freely fly around a screen with the evil "Qotile" floating on the right side. Usually hidden behind a shield, the Qotile occasionally lashes out in the form of a swirling fireball. You can shoot him with your cannon situated on the left side of the screen, and nailing him in-flight is worth big points. That's basically all there is to it - you just shoot him as many times as you can. In this updated version the graphics and audio are slightly improved, but the fun factor is not. Not at all! The original Yars' Revenge was played on a single screen, but this version scrolls sideways, doubling the size of the play area. This seemingly inconsequential change ruins the dynamics of the game. Since your armed cannon and the Qotile are never on the screen at the same time, it's difficult to take aim. Other unwanted changes include two "zone guardians" that hassle your Yar on the left side of the screen. One element that should
have gotten a facelift is that guided "missile" that slowly pursues you wherever you go. It looked like a cheesy cursor in the old game, and it doesn't look any better here! At least the cool original box artwork was used for the label and title screen. I was excited to see Yars' Revenge resurrected, but this ill-advised incarnation can only tarnish its legacy. If you know what's good for you, you'll stick with the original Atari 2600 version. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.