Game Boy Reviews M-Z

Malibu Beach Volleyball
Grade: D-
Publisher: Activision (1990)
Reviewed: 2020/6/12


screenshotMalibu Volleyball plays about as well as it looks, and it looks pretty crappy! A two-on-two women's match resembles a bunch of cave women playing in the sand. The ball movement is smooth but floaty. When in the air an X appears where it's going to land. A lot of times I swore I was positioned right on that damn thing yet couldn't hit the ball. The animation is lousy. Why is my player performing a handstand? Oh wait, she's supposed to be diving backwards. You can get up pretty high at the net, but the spikes are awfully soft. Every now and then the game cuts over to a pretty referee wearing a bikini and shades. Talk about a sight for sore eyes! I found it interesting how players from different countries have unique body shapes and skin tones. Playing as men is a little faster, but Malibu Beach Volleyball fails to capture the energy and spirit of the sport. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Marble Madness
Grade: C
Publisher: Tengen (1991)
Reviewed: 2014/5/31

screenshotAn old arcade favorite, Marble Madness challenges you to guide a large white marble over three-dimensional platforms before time runs out. Using finesse and momentum you'll precariously navigate narrow strips while avoiding pesky obstacles like vacuums and slinkies. You view the action from a tilted overhead angle, and the Game Boy does an adequate job of rendering the features of each angular stage. Yes, it can be hard to make out some ridges and drop-offs, but after you play a stage once or twice you learn the "lay of the land". The digital pad is kind of a clumsy way to control your marble, especially when you need to move diagonally. Still, this game has a way of keeping you coming back. When you die the game immediately places you back where you left off. Each time you play, you progress a little further, and some stages have alternate paths that add a risk/reward element. The looping, vertigo-like music is both catchy and appropriate. I've played better versions of Marble Madness, but never one this small. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 14,130
1 player 

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Grade: F

screenshotStar Wars: The Empire Strikes Back features well-proportioned characters, digitized images, and a rousing rendition of the Star Wars theme. You begin your journey as Luke riding a tauntaun on the ice planet of Hoth. It's cool how you can freely dismount to wander through icy caves below the surface. When a character communicates with you, the screen displays their digitized face above the dialog (with cantina music playing, oddly enough). "Luke, the lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi". Thanks Ben, but I think we covered that in the first movie! Luke fires shots rapidly and can perform a useful "super jump" by holding down first. After blasting probe droids and wumpas, Luke eventually locates his lightsaber. The graphics are detailed but the animation is painfully slow and choppy. Luke actually falls slower than he runs. The music is well orchestrated but hearing that Star Wars theme looping over and over again will give you a Bantha-sized headache. Navigating the ice caves is a nightmare. The stages are full of regenerating enemies and the first boss took about 100 swats of my light sabre to kill. When I died I had to restart the game from the very beginning! Even using the force is a pain in the ass. Not only is it necessary to stock up on "force energy", but you need to collect "ability" icons to do anything. The game has no score and no password feature. I never even reached the AT-AT battle (*sad face*). Capcom didn't put much effort into Empire Strikes Back and neither should you. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Super Mario Land
Grade: A+
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
Reviewed: 2019/5/30


screenshotThe Game Boy system was catapulted to greatness by Tetris (Nintendo, 1989) but I prefer Super Mario Land. This may be the best portable platformer I've ever played! It has all the core ingredients yet also has a quirky, boldly original way about it. The first few stages are set in ancient Egypt with pyramids, palm trees, tombs, and hieroglyphics. The scenery is quite exquisite despite being rendered with black outlines. All the basic Mario ingredients are here: bump blocks, pounce enemies, hop on floating platforms, and travel through pipes to underground bonus stages. But the game is loaded with clever puzzles, weird surprises, and even side-scrolling shooting stages. Whenever Mario appears to rescue Daisy, she turns into a monster and runs away! Turtles explode when you flip them over, so don't dawdle! New enemies include sphinxes, flying bugs that drop spears, and even zombies! I like how that high-bouncing ball weapon can take out enemies both high and low, as well as snag coins out of reach. You can go through lives in a hurry in this game, but rest assured there are ample bonus lives and frequent checkpoints. Even the music is first rate. The controls felt a bit laggy on my GameCube Game Boy Player, but perfectly good on my Game Boy SP. There are no passwords but you can earn continues. Super Mario Land is so good it gives the console Super Mario games a run for the money. If you were expecting a watered-down platformer, think again friend! I'll take the Pepsi Challenge against Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985) any day of the week. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 116570
1 player 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From The Sewers
Grade: B
Publisher: Konami (1991)
Reviewed: 2020/1/21

screenshotBack From The Sewers adopts the same side-scrolling, beat-em-up formula as the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles except with better variety, more polish, and a little pizzazz. The cool cinematic intro gets you totally pumped. There's no stage select this time but you still choose the order in which to play the four turtles. The game looks less cookie-cutter than the original, with richly-detailed storefronts and bonus skateboarding stages. Some of the music is cheesy but that "Cowabunga!" voice synthesis is a nice touch. The turtle are larger, faster, and look terrific - until they attack. Their weapons don't have much reach, making it look like they're swatting flies instead of unleashing attacks. And it looks really odd how they maintain perfectly straight postures during their jump-kicks. My friends complained the controls were backwards but you can change that via the options menu. The gameplay itself is monotonous but fun. The turtles have some new moves in their arsenal, like the ability to climb hand-over-hand across pipes. Some of Shredder's henchmen have apparently taken side jobs as delivery guys, so beating them up rewards you with a free pizza! And just like in real life, pizza replenishes your health. Back From the Sewers follows a familiar formula but packs enough surprises to keep Turtles fans entertained. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 27,420
1 player 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue
Grade: C
Publisher: Konami (1993)
Reviewed: 2020/1/21

screenshotThe first two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games were similar in style so I guess Konami felt obligated to change things up a bit with Radical Rescue. It begins with an intro that has way too much boring text to sit through. The game's graphic style has been completely overhauled, with characters that are very small but look terrific! The controls feel crisp as Michaelangelo smacks a mummy in the face with his nunchucks or jump-kicks a bat out of the air. You can even toss stars from ladders and perform a "helicopter" move when falling to slow your descent. One benefit of smaller characters is how you can see more of the stage around you. Unfortunately, the stages tend to be very mazelike and will have you moving in circles. The mineshaft level is so sprawling you actually need to consult a freaking map via select button. Worse yet, levels are loaded with dead-ends, spiked pits, and unreachable areas. Unlike the previous games the other turtles aren't available until you rescue them. Even the pizza situation is confusing. Normally you immediately consume them for strength, but here they just go in an inventory slot and are automatically used when your health gets low. The game is challenging but at least there's a password mechanism. I can understand Konami wanting to add depth to the series but Radical Rescue lacks that pick-up-and-play quality fans have come to expect. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: KF 4400
Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan
Grade: B-
Publisher: Ultra (1990)
Reviewed: 2020/1/21

screenshotAs the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game for the Game Boy this isn't half bad. The title screen plays a rollicking rendition of the TMNT theme - a song still played by the band during Maryland Terrapin basketball games. I guess it makes sense considering the mascot is a turtle! The turtles here are detailed but I don't like the blank expressions on their faces. They look more like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Zombie Turtles. Stages locations include gritty sewer locations and city streets with hazy skylines. You begin by selecting one of five stages, which elevates the replay value considerably. Next you select from four ninja turtle heroes: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello. It doesn't really matter who you choose because you'll eventually play them all. That's right - when you lose one turtle you just select another who picks up where the last one left off. The turtles move slowly but their weapon attacks and jump-kicks make short work of Shredder's henchmen, bird-droids, and flying drones. Wow, these games were way ahead of their time! Each turtle brandishes a different weapon and the collision detection is generous to say the least. It's also possible to perform a grab-and-throw which I did once by accident. The stages do tend to be very repetitive, as if designed for kids on long car rides. Still, Fall of the Foot Clan packs the basic ingredients you want in a Ninja Turtle game, with enough non-stop action and upbeat music to keep the adrenaline pumping. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 7400
1 player 

Tennis
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
Reviewed: 2020/6/12

screenshotThis tiny game is one of the best straight-up tennis titles ever made. There are no special shots, power-ups, or gimmicks. Just two cartoonish players on a court that scrolls slightly to keep the action in view. Mario assumes the role of referee on the right side of the court. Some of his calls are questionable, but you have to remember this was before tennis had the Hawk-Eye (TM) instant replay system in place. The controls are limited to hit and lob. That's all you need because the gameplay is honed to perfection. It's amazing how this game mirrors all the subtle nuances of the sport. You have to time your swing when the ball is by your side. Let the ball hit you in the body and you lose the point. Holding the directional pad as you hit the ball lets you angle it and control its spin. As in real tennis, positioning is key. Hitting the ball mid-bounce will result in the most accurate shot; otherwise the ball might drift out of bounds. Playing the net is always a gamble. It's possible to hit the ball into the net or have it flitter off the top. There are no cutscenes, no replays, and no nonsense to interrupt the action. Four CPU skill levels are available. I do however wish you could adjust the number of games per set, as six can be pretty time consuming for a portable game. Still, this is pure, unadulterated tennis and a joy to play. If only modern tennis games would learn this lesson they might not suck so badly. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Tetris
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
Reviewed: 2018/5/20

screenshotSo I know what you're thinking "Oh here we go - some lame reviewer giving Tetris the obligatory A". [Wait - hear me out!] "This guy is so transparent." [I can explain]. "I could see this coming a mile away." [Give me a break!] It's not easy reviewing a legendary video game decades after the fact. How objective can you be? For the benefit of those born this century, Tetris is the granddaddy of puzzle games. The concept is to rotate and stack falling blocks so they form complete lines across, causing rows to collapse as the pace quickens. I very much remember Tetris mania of the late 80's [cue the flashback effects]. Back then Cynthia from work was always playing this in the break room, but she'd never let me have a go "because batteries". That's okay because I had a pretty slick version of the game at home on my Atari ST computer. Fast forward to 2018 and the question remains, is Tetris still fun? I started playing this on level 5 (average) and frankly I was a little bored. So I cranked up the difficulty to level 9 (the highest) and suddenly I was riveted. We're talking about the kind of riveted where you forget to blink your eyes. Oh sure I was getting my ass handed to me but I couldn't stop! Not only does this game demand you be quick on the trigger, but it's imperative to stay one move ahead, keeping a constant eye on that little window that displays your next piece. This version of Tetris isn't going to do you any favors, and that's just a fact of life you're going to have to accept. Want to make a last-ditch effort to slide that piece into place? Too late! Need to drag that square over to the other side? Tough [expletive]! This game is a house of cards; one false move and the wheels come off. Once you hear that "bam BAM BAM" of rapidly-stacking blocks, it's all over but the crying. Is Tetris still fun? The answer is an unqualified YES, but you need to be a man and crank up that difficulty. "Well, that was a pointless waste of time." [I'm right here!] © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 9
Our high score: 14,909
1 player 

Wave Race
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/7/23

screenshotMost people associate this series with the 3D jet ski action of Wave Race 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996). This 2D version might seem not worthy of the Wave Race moniker until you realize it came out four years prior! That's right - this is the original Wave Race. You view four jet skis from overhead, following a path delineated as a dark blue streak in frothy white water. Tracks weave around buoys, and if you miss one you'd better backtrack or your game will be over! There are obstacles, ramps, and even sea life in your path. The jet skis tend to slide and whoosh around so much it occurred to me Nintendo could call this Snow Race and the player would be none the wiser. Water currents are denoted by black arrows which look dumb but add texture to the gameplay. The courses are set in exotic locations like Rio, Corsica, and Hawaii, but without any scenery you might as well be putting around the Baltimore inner harbor (not recommended). It's fun to jostle for the lead with the other CPU competitors, kicking in your turbo boost during straightaways. Hitting the ramps can rocket you to the front but come off at a bad angle and you might go sailing off course. Finishing in last place subjects you to an irritating version of the "nany nany boo boo" song. I like how the game saves records along with names (hello Andy and Ike - I have your game!). Wave Race is a playable little racer but a little too generic. Nintendo should have played up the summer theme more, perhaps with some tropical scenery or steel drum music. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: battery
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, IGN.com, GameFAQs.com, Moby Games