The gravity-defying tracks wrap around futuristic metropolises, elevated casinos, deserts infested with giant worms, semi-submerged water cities, and the obligatory volcanic locations. But while the stage intros make you think you're in for a treat, the wide tracks and low viewing angle makes it hard to see much eye candy during the actual races. Incidentally, the more outrageous tracks are the least fun, because they provide too many opportunities to fall off the track, abruptly ending your game.
The racing action is incredibly fast and the frame-rate remains silky-smooth at all times. I can appreciate the breakneck pace, but the tight turns and over-sensitive controls can lead to frustration. Unlike most racers where you compete against a modest number of opponents, F-Zero GX places you in a field of 30!! It sounds awesome, but there are a few negative side effects. First off, you're constantly banging into other racers, and sometimes you feel like a pinball bouncing around. Also, the cars tend to bunch up, so you tend to finish either in the top three or dead last. There are a few attack moves (like a sideways spin attack), but these are so weak you'll wonder why Nintendo even bothered.
Up to four players can compete via split-screen, but like the single-player mode, it's only mildly amusing. The soundtrack features plenty of up-tempo beats, but nothing particularly memorable. F-Zero GX is a serviceable racer, but it's not a stand out title. It took me a long time to review this game, mainly because I kept hoping it would get better, but it never did. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Whether playing the single-player mode or two-player split-screen, your adrenaline will be pumping as you fly off huge ramps and glide hundreds of feet through the air. Freestyle has a grungy appearance, with tough-looking racers, industrial locations, and a hard-rocking soundtrack. Some of the female riders are pretty hot. While Freekstyle is mostly fun, it has a few minor annoyances. First of all, having to race the same tracks over and over in single-player mode gets old, especially since they tend to be so damn long.
The game is also very unforgiving when it comes to nailing the landing after a trick. You'd better be seated for a full second before you hit the ground or you're sure to wipe out. Finally, this game seems to keep races artificially close, letting you unfairly come from behind, or lose a substantial lead in the final homestretch. It's definitely rough around the edges, but this "extreme" racer is still worth a look. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
From the very start I was astounded by the hapless controls. Aiming is incredibly clumsy thanks to a crosshair that meanders all over the screen and never sits still. As you venture through boring concrete corridors you'll face tentacled creatures and guards dressed up like they were auditioning for Halo (Xbox, 2001). One unique aspect is your ability to float around as a disembodied spirit and possess objects, animals, and people. The idea may have had potential, but the execution flat-out sucks.
Possessing people is a slow, complicated, and often disorienting process. It's hard to tell what's happening and the hazy visuals and unresponsive controls don't help matters. It's disheartening when you possess a soldier and realize he has the same difficulty pointing a damn gun. Geist is a case study in bad design. Areas magically become unlocked just because you talked to someone. The cookie-cutter corridors are so repetitive, you don't know if you're moving forward or backtracking.
Doors won't open if you're standing too close to them. Once I opened a door and when I switched to "possessed" mode it was closed. You can kill a guard by shooting them in the ankle, and "rag doll physics" is on full display as enemies flail around and fall into a heap. Frequent "Stage completed" messages try to prevent you from becoming totally demoralized. Too late! I appreciate that Geist tried to do something different, but I don't see how this could be considered anything other than a dismal failure. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Destroy All Monsters is a 3D fighter with modern cities serving as the battle arenas. Green lines indicate the fighting boundaries, which looks pretty lame but is necessary I suppose. The all-star lineup features eleven towering monsters, including Rodan, Mothra, Gigan, Megalon, Mechagodzilla, and two versions of Godzilla. If hearing these names gets you excited, you may even want to bump up my grade a bit. The fights themselves are pretty preposterous, but let's face it - that's how they were in the movies too! It's like a wrestling match on a huge scale.
Creature movement is somewhat slow, but that makes sense considering their immense size. Projectile attacks like Godzilla's fire breath and Gigan's laser eye add some variety to the melee carnage. Less impressive is how the monsters interact with the buildings. The collision detection is hit or miss, and buildings always collapse as a single unit. Whether you smack one with your tail, or get body-slammed into it, the whole thing implodes as if a demolition crew had it rigged. I was hoping for something a little more sophisticated.
Godzilla's graphics are only average, but the excellent sound effects seem to be lifted directly from the original films. Destroy All Monsters gets extra credit for not taking itself very seriously. Some cut scenes poke fun at the old movies, and I love how the police report stuff over the radio like "Megalon has won. Repeat - Megalon has won." This game really grew on me. There's actually a good deal of technique involved in combat, and as the city gets leveled, the dynamics of the battle change.
Fights tend to be close contests, and it's very satisfying to come out on top. You'll be playing until your fingers are sore trying to unlock all of the cities and creatures. The four-player modes are fun, especially since all the monsters are shown on a single screen (no split-screen). Godzilla Destroy All Monsters is a quality title and effectively resurrects those creature features of your childhood. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
The main characters are a pair of kids and a scythe-wielding grim reaper. Although targeted to the younger crowd, I found the game to be very funny and not the least bit irritating. In addition to going solo in the story mode, you can engage in four-player battles and even assemble teams.
Weapons include flame-throwers, vacuum cleaners, and a "brain-sucking" gun. You can sometimes mount larger weapons like giant crossbows and mech warriors. When it's time to finish off an opponent, you execute a G-rated Mortal Kombat-style "fatality" by pressing a button sequence displayed on the screen. On the downside, when things get hectic it can be hard to tell what's going on, and targeting a specific character is tricky.
What put this game over the top for me was the Halloween theme, with fun locations like pumpkins patches, graveyards, laboratories, and Egyptian tombs. As the battles progress, the environments constantly change, keeping things fresh. I really like the cell-shaded graphics because it really does feel like you're playing a cartoon. The soundtrack is whimsical and fun with a nice macabre undertone. It's not exactly original or polished enough to be an upper-tier title, but there aren't many games like Grim Adventures on the market. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Your rapid-fire shots do twice the damage to enemies of the opposite color. Incoming missiles of the same color as you will not harm your ship. In fact, you can absorb them to increase your energy gauge! Fill this gauge completely and you can unleash a devastating attack by pressing the R trigger. The whole scheme is innovative and brilliant, creating a cerebral shooting experience like no other. You'll need to switch colors strategically as waves of black and white projectiles head your way.
Once you get a feel for it, Ikaruga is fun and not nearly as confusing as it sounds. One downside to having all black and white enemies is that the graphics, while certainly sharp, look rather sterile. The enemies aren't very interesting, and the backgrounds reminded me of Silpheed for the PS2. Another issue is the screen size. Being a direct arcade port, the game is played on a rather narrow strip running down the center of the screen. An alternate option is to play the horizontal mode, where you play the game like a side-scroller. A two-player simultaneous mode is also included. Ikaruga is a fascinating shooter and it's challenging as hell. Shooter fans in particular will have a field day with this one. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The main event is the "Air Ride" mode, with its imaginative tracks that loop and curl all over the place. Like Mario Kart, a split screen mode lets up to four players compete. Remarkably, only the A button is used during the race. This is meant to simplify things, but using one button for multiple functions actually tends to confuse matters. Its primary function is to slide and boost around corners, but it can also be used to swallow animals and objects in your path - giving you special abilities. These abilities can alter your handling or let you attack opponents.
The courses are wild and attractive, but the constant turns and vertigo-inducing heights made me ill. It's often hard to figure out where to go - not only in the split-screen mode, but even in the full-screen single-player mode. Invisible rails keep you from veering off track, but Air Ride is not an enjoyable experience, and the cringe-worthy "happy" music doesn't help matters. The second playing mode is the old-school "Top Ride", in which screen-sized tracks are viewed from overhead. Refreshingly simple and very competitive, this mode nearly redeems the entire package.
Unfortunately, excessive power-ups and gimmicks render races more confusing than they should be. The constant zooming of the camera is also annoying - I wish it would remain wide-angle. And why isn't there a multi-track circuit? A third mode is the atrocious "City Trial" where opponents spend a few minutes wandering aimlessly around a virtual city, collecting power-ups before engaging in a "stadium event".
These events include a Super Monkey Ball-inspired "target flight", a drag race, and a Twisted Metal-inspired Demolition Derby. If you can figure out what the hell's going on in the Demolition Derby mode, you're better than me. After one whirlwind contest, my friend Scott exclaimed, "Hey, I'm the winner - somehow!" That pretty much sums up Kirby Air Ride. Nintendo was all over the board with this one, and none of these games really hit the mark. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
In a highly controversial move, Nintendo bucked the trend toward more realistic graphics and instead opted for a radical, cell-shaded cartoon look. In fact, the characters resemble those in the old "clay-mation" holiday specials. Decked out in a dorky green outfit, Link could easily be confused for the "dentist" in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Still, the game's overall appearance is gorgeous. The graphics are vibrant, fluid, and remarkably clean, with facial expressions that are pronounced and easy to discern.
The core gameplay is classic Zelda, as you accomplish a series of lesser tasks while working your way towards an overall goal, which is to rescue your sister. Wind Waker's mechanics combine elements from all previous Zelda titles. You'll hack bushes for rupees, set bombs to clear obstacles, break pots for hearts, and buy items from shops. The automatic jump has been held over from the N64 era, along with the popular targeting system. Familiar music and sound effects will rekindle warm memories for long-time Zelda fans.
In addition to its new look, Wind Waker introduces a few innovative concepts as well. You can hide in shadows to sneak past guards, view distant lands with a telescope, "sidel" along edges, mail letters, glide under a big leaf, swing with a grappling hook, and even "orchestrate" the wind. Wind Waker also has a nautical flavor that really distinguishes it from previous games, using a boat to sail between locations. The land areas you explore are never overwhelming, and you'll discover all sorts of addicting mini-games during your journey.
There's a nice learning curve, though some may claim the game is too easy. I really like how you can fall from high places without incurring damage. You'll need to endure some verbose (but well-written) text dialogue, as well as cut-scenes that you cannot skip. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have to wrestle with the camera on a regular basis, but then again, I've come to expect that from this type of game.
Wind Waker has a certain charm only found in Zelda games, and I appreciate how the game never takes itself too seriously. There's plenty of good-natured humor, like the little kid with snot hanging from his nose, and the fact that people give Link grief about his green outfit. You can tell that an extreme amount of effort went into every detail of the game, and the result is near perfection. The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker is truly a masterpiece that stays true to its roots while still feeling new and fresh. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Twilight Princess is a case study in good design. It's not particularly difficult, with rewards that come in measured amounts, and mercifully restrained use of bosses and cutscenes. It takes a while to gain traction, but once the training wheels are off, a captivating adventure unfolds. Zelda's combination of exploration, puzzle solving, and combat aren't unlike other games, but its polish, humor, and imagination are second to none. You might expect Nintendo to be running short on ideas for Zelda by now, but Twilight Princess brilliantly mixing familiar sights and sounds with bold original elements.
Discordant horns usher in the appearance of weird, faceless ghouls which emerge from intentionally pixelated portals. An improved boomerang weapon lets you lock onto multiple targets at a time, and iron boots come in handy in ways you've never imagined. The weak spot of the first boss is his ass for Pete's sake (hell - that's pretty much worth an "A" right there). A shadowy fairy companion by the name of Midna not only provides helpful hints but also lets you make treacherous leaps at the touch of a button.
The "twilight" serves as a "parallel plane" of sorts (a la Soul Reaver). Link assumes the form of a wolf in these dark areas, affording him new abilities like digging, tracking, and talking to animals. Controlling the wolf feels a lot like Okami (Playstation 2, 2006), and the twilight effect even resembles the watercolor visuals of that game. Zelda's gorgeous graphics are detailed and lush, but the quirky, exaggerated characters help maintain a lighthearted mood. Load times are brief and well disguised, and you can save your progress at any time.
If I have one reservation about the game, it would be the length. I'm sure RPG die-hards will cherish every moment of this 50-hour quest, but for casual adventurers the time commitment can be a bit extreme. The well-crafted dungeons had me captivated, but long stretches of exploring vast wilderness tried my patience and sent me searching for the FAQ. Regardless, I've clocked more hours with Twilight Princess than any other GameCube title, and I don't regret a minute of it. Pound for pound, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an outstanding value and in all likelihood the last great GameCube title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
You begin by navigating Daffy Duck across a busy freeway, and while it may look like Frogger (Atari 2600, 1982), there is zero fun to be had. The camera icon in the corner of the screen is an ominous indicator that sometimes you can adjust your view and sometimes not. Most 3D games suffer from one or more camera problems, but this game suffers from all of them. The camera's never available when you need it, and when it is, it's all over the place. The depth perception is abysmal and the stages have all sorts of invisible walls.
You're constantly wondering what you're supposed to do. You toggle between Bugs Bunny who is good at jumping and Daffy Duck who can swim. And when I say "swim" I just mean he won't instantly die upon contact with water! I always find it curious how buddy games tend to be one-player only. In each confined area your primary goal is to collect cash by grabbing coins and smashing crates. Pesky adversaries include Porky Pig cops and annoying tourists with cameras.
Pay close attention to any text instructions because they sometimes clue you in on an unlikely course of action. Who would guess you need to press the right trigger and A button to burrow under a wall? How would you know that hitting a mailbox with a hammer summons your partner? In the first area, you can't even make progress until you buy a monkey from Foghorn Leghorn.
It's bad enough the game makes no sense, but it's remarkably unfunny to boot! The jokes are really hard to stomach ("What am I wanted for? Dinner?") If you can tolerate this garbage the game lets you visit Paris, Area 52, and some jungle ruins. I love classic Looney Tunes but Back In Action is the absolute worst. After this you may never want to play a cartoon game again. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
The supernatural activity is off the charts, but Luigi can stun ghosts with his flashlight and suck them up with a vacuum. Much like a fishing game, capturing ghouls is done by holding the joystick in the opposite direction as they struggle to escape. The rooms are lushly decorated with interactive furniture, and each offers the challenge of figuring out how to draw ghost(s) out of their hiding places.
Luigi's Mansion is a neat little adventure, but there's a learning curve and it's easy to get stuck. In addition, aiming the vacuum with the C stick is incredibly awkward and counterintuitive. The game has some pleasant surprises, like hearing the Super Mario Bros. theme in the music room or discovering a hidden switch only visible from a mirror on the far wall. Other surprises, like fake doors that slam on you, are less amusing.
The graphics are inviting thanks to some slick lighting and fog effects. The clammy brick walls in the basement really caught my eye. The audio contains a number of catchy tunes played on a haunting organ. Luigi's Mansion has a terrific premise but it's not as user-friendly as your typical Nintendo title. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Nintendo.com, Sega.com, Moby Games, Video Games Museum