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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Genesis Reviews A

ATP Tour Championship Tennis
Grade: B-

screenshotAs the spiritual sequel Sega to Wimbledon Championship Tennis (Genesis, 1993), ATP is a marked improvement. The game moves much faster and even has some recognizable pros. You can create your own player, enter him into tournaments, and save your progress to one of four slots. This is a full-featured tennis title.

The player selection screen boasts a few familiar faces like McEnroe, Sampras, and Lendl, but most I've never heard of. And what is the deal with these grainy black-and-white photos? They look embarrassing! Did someone scan in their old high school yearbook pictures?

The control scheme offers three types of shots: soft volley (safe), hard volley (risky), and a lob. The lob goes sufficiently deep this time, but also really high, causing it to scale out like a balloon. I was disappointed the six-button controller is not supported.

Proper positioning is key but your player will automatically dive for the ball if it's just out of reach. I like how it's possible to hit the ball into the net or have it bounce off the top. That's a bit of realism missing from many tennis games. Even the CPU occasionally double-faults or hits shots out-of-bounds.

The action is fast. When a server delivers a well-placed ace, it feels like there's really nothing you could have done. And while topspin shots provide good velocity, they'll go directly into the net if you're too close to it. What really marrs the game is the fact that the balls are so dead. Their lack of bounce forces you to play the net all the time, which is not realistic.

The courts look good and I like the animated line judges and ball girls. The player models look cheesy however, especially when they flambouyantly skip around after winning a point. Pressing start to pause also triggers a replay of the previous point, which is a good idea.

The developers of this era loved to experiment with digital crowd noise, but the result is loaded with pops and static. The announcer is talkative but his voice is rough. Players scream when hitting a smash but sound whiny when they yell "c'mon!" or "are you blind?!" after losing a game.

The career mode extends the replay value but not being able to save your progress between sets is a problem. A single set can run quite a while, and the game is hard on your hands. Perhaps the best selling point for ATP Tennis is its four-player mode, so dust off that old Sega multi-tap! My friends had so much fun playing this they didn't even want to stop. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players 

Addams Family, The
Grade: C

screenshotAlthough clearly inferior to the SNES edition of Addams Family in terms of graphics and sound, I still find myself gravitating towards this Genesis version. Maybe because it's a little easier? You can rack up plenty of lives, and that's crucial because Addams Family is tough! You play the role of Gomez, but he looks more like John Astin's Gomez from the TV series.

The controls are a little slippery but the jumps feel nice and soft. I would like to say the collision detection is forgiving but frankly it's kind of hard to tell when you're taking damage. There are some cool weapons in this game like golf balls you can bounce along the ground and a sword you can poke up or forward. The mansion's "hall of stairs" contains many doors which function as a stage select. Some rooms you get to explore include a conservatory, kitchen, armory, furnace, and game room. You can even explore outdoor areas.

What makes the stages hard is how they are jam-packed with weird enemies like rats on unicycles, rabbits wearing sneakers, Jawas, pissed-off tea kettles, and guys riding ostriches a la Joust. Enemies are unpredictable, often changing directions as you're about to pounce. Expect all the obligatory environmental hazards like shooting flames, swinging maces, and spikes.

There's even an ice stage for your troubles - complete with penguins! Vertical spikes are obviously deadly, but why do I take damage while standing on a horizontal one? If you find yourself stuck in this game, look for semi-obstructed on/off switches. Addams Family is a fun little romp but all this random nonsense tends to undermine its macabre spirit. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: CJS 15100
Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Adventures of Batman and Robin, The
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Posted: 2011/1/17

screenshotAdventures of Batman and Robin boasts sharp graphics, tight controls, and two-player simultaneous action. There's a lot to like, but this game is repetitive to the max! In the first stage our heroes walk down a city street while beating the crap out of clowns that pour out of the woodwork. I like how you can kick while hanging from ledges, and it's cool to toss Bat-a-rangs in a rapid-fire fashion. Actually the game feels more like a shooter than a traditional beat-em-up.

No matter how much damage you inflict, the bad guys keep coming in droves. It feels like you're beating up the same thugs over and over - there must be thousands of them! You'd think that having a partner would help, but in that case the game just throws twice as many thugs your way! Enough already! Had Sega cut the number of villains in half, this would have been a lot better. Still, it's great when you find a skull icon which instantly obliterates every enemy on the screen.

The obligatory end-of-stage bosses have life meters that slowly count down from 100, which takes forever. The game is tough and the power-up system is confusing. You can try to play for score, but your score is removed the instant you lose your final life. Buried in this game are many classic Batman foes including the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze. The stylish graphics are attractive, with small but well-defined characters and varied scenery. Clever details include alley cats jumping out of trash cans and crooks that get their hats knocked off.

With the exception of the obligatory elevator stage (snore), there's plenty to see - especially in the Mad Hatter's Alice In Wonderland-inspired level. Accompanying the action is an intense, pulsating musical score. There's no password option, just six continues. It's a solid action game at its core, but Adventures of Batman and Robin could have used some fine-tuning. My friend Eric and I used an invincibility cheat to beat the game, and it still felt like an ordeal! Despite my complaints however, I do find myself playing this one quite a bit. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: SLN 63,050
1 or 2 players 

Aero the Acro-Bat
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sunsoft (1993)
Posted: 2018/1/14

screenshotI was hard on Aero in my initial review, and that was probably because I was burnt out on all the furry mascot games that proliferated on the Genesis on the heels of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega, 1991). In retrospect however Aero the Acro-Bat is one of the better ones.

The opening stage doesn't make the best impression, set in a circus tent with hideous clowns and spikes all over the place. The accordion music sounds like a cross between the circus theme and a "love that chicken from Popeyes" commercial. I was anxious to see what the second stage had in store, so you can imagine how annoyed I was to discover that each stage is five acts long! And that's not even counting the boss and bonus rounds!

Despite being a freaking bat Aero cannot fly most of the time. Instead he performs mid-air "drill" attacks to propel him diagonally up or down. Using this attack on moving enemies is tricky and requires good timing. Each stage offers a new objective, from hopping on "star" platforms to jumping through rings to rescuing a girl.

I find it confusing how certain columns block your way while others let you pass. I do like how after falling through a series of rings there's a pool of water waiting for you on the bottom. Plowing through enemies on a unicycle is fun and you can even fire yourself out of cannons. Just be cautious when calibrating a cannon's power, as there are often spikes lining the ceiling.

Aero is fun to play for score thanks to tasty bonus treats like cupcakes, cheese, and hot dogs. I enjoyed the amusement park and creepy museum stages but the "outdoor zone" feels like a Sonic knock-off - especially when you find yourself rolling down hills. A stage select would have been nice, but the convenient cheat code works just as well. Aero the Acro-Bat gets off to a rough start but ultimately it proves its worth. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 40,190
1 player 

Aero the Acro-Bat 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sunsoft (1994)
Posted: 2018/1/14

screenshotI wasn't actively pursuing Aero the Acro-Bat 2 until a reader informed me of its wonderful winter stages. He wasn't wrong. There are two snow stages and both are excellent. The game opens with Bell Castle which is pretty fun in its own right. I was surprised how Aero 2 has a much different look and feel than the first game. It's a lot smoother and more stylistic, as if they somehow incorporated the Earthworm Jim (Genesis, 1994) engine.

The castle oozes atmosphere with cobwebs, shady corners, and stone windows. Unlike the original game there are no specific objectives - just make it to the exit. Using your drill attacks is more satisfying this time thanks to improved sound effects and less pesky enemies. Interesting new gizmos include bell chains to swing from and gears that fling you across the room. The varied music includes some of that trademark Genesis "rubber band funk".

Zone two is where the game really takes off. It almost feels like a bonus stage as you glide up and down hills on a snowboard, jumping ramps and soaring through the air while snagging goodies. That snowy mountain scenery is refreshing! The next stage is nearly as good, albeit a little slushier. This time Aero is trudging through snow caves while fighting little Russian dancers.

Additional stages include a psychedelic disco, an underground train, and a dungeon rendered in gorgeous blue and orange tones. A handy password feature is available via the options menu. Aero the Acro-Bat 2 doesn't come cheap, but if you enjoy Genesis platformers you may want to consider breaking your piggy bank for this one. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 13,430
1 player 

After Burner II
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Posted: 2011/11/13

screenshotMy friend Chris once described After Burner as "OutRun in the sky", and I think that's a great description. After Burner 2 compares favorably with its Sega CD and 32X counterparts, although you'd expect those to be far more advanced. The action begins with your plane firing up its engines on an impressive-looking aircraft carrier named the "Sega Enterprise".

Once airborne you view the action from behind your plane as bushes, rocks, and towers rush by on the ground below. Enemy planes scale in from the distance, but targeting them is tough because your plane turns on an arc, making it hard to line up your crosshairs. When a digitized voice yells "fire!" it means you're "locked on" and should unleash a guided missile. Resist the urge to fire these with reckless abandon because they're limited in supply. If you use them up, you'll have to wait for a refueling plane which appears every few stages.

After Burner 2's odd control scheme uses A button to speed up, C to slow down, and B to fire missiles. Your speed doesn't really come into play until the later waves when enemies start riding your tail. Your machine guns fire automatically, which makes sense from a practical standpoint but seems a little cheesy. Your guided missiles are followed by a plume of gray smoke, but the chaotic visuals make it hard to enjoy your kills.

The action is choppy and the gameplay tends to boil down to unleashing a series of shots and then weaving side-to-side like crazy to avoid the incoming barrage. When your plane begins smoking and burrows into the ground, you won't even know what hit you. The scenery is less than spectacular but the color schemes are extremely attractive, especially in the snow and night stages. The audio features the distinctive After Burner theme, but it's fuzzy. Overall After Burner 2 nails the frantic arcade style it was shooting for, but comes up short in terms of playability. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Easy w/ cnts
Our high score: CJS 4,747,780
1 player 

Air Buster
Grade: B
Publisher: Kaneko (1991)
Posted: 2010/11/20

screenshotOnce you get past the goofy title, it's easy to get hooked on this riveting side-scrolling shooter. Its basic formula is unremarkable as you blast pods, jets, and mechanical beasts over cities, through caverns, and in space. It seems strictly by-the-numbers, but there are enough original touches to give Air Buster some personality. Shooting special canisters cause weapon icons to spring forth, and these include six-way shots, missiles, rear shots, or a revolving gun turret. With enough skill you can scoop up a specific icon before it falls off the screen.

Stage two offers a nice change of pace with high-speed tunnel chase sequences that challenge you to avoid collision with the walls. It helps if you can snag the "bumper" power-up which provides a layer of protection above and below. An excellent two-player simultaneous mode allows players to compete against each other or strive for highest combined score.

I didn't pursue Air Buster for many years because I heard it was simply the Genesis version of Aero Blasters (Turbografx-16, 1990). While that's technically true, there are enough differences between the two games that shooter fans will want both. The graphics are more detailed in this Genesis version, beginning with a more elaborate opening sequence. Each stage not only boasts additional background detail, but there are some new obstacles in the foreground as well. The colors are extremely vibrant - sometimes to a fault. The bright red screen near the end of the first stage is hard on the eyes!

The Genesis version is much more difficult, not because the enemies are different but because the action moves faster. I noticed that some bosses require slightly different tactics to defeat. The soundtrack is much richer on the Genesis, and the sound effects pack a lot more punch. This version seems more fine-tuned, as pesky enemies are easier and your missiles are all guided.

An extra screen appears between each stage, but it doesn't serve much of a purpose except to delay the action. On the surface the Genesis version seems to have the edge, but my friend Chris insists the Turbografx edition has cleaner visuals and better playability. Whatever the case, both will satisfy your urge for some arcade shooting fun. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 123,900
1 or 2 players 

Air Diver
Grade: D-
Publisher: Seismic (1990)
Posted: 2017/7/5

screenshotAir Diver's instruction manual paints a grim picture. Apparently the entire world has been taken hostage! The 32-page manual had me bracing for a sophisticated flight simulator but in fact this is an arcade shooter like After Burner II (Genesis, 1990). It even has the same three-button control scheme. The cockpit consumes more than 50% of the screen but most of those indicators are just for decoration.

The steering feels strange. You can't turn more than 45 degrees yet you can perform a vertical loop. The scenery looks terrible. It's just a hodgepodge of islands flashing across the bottom in a seizure-inducing manner. Is my plane flying sideways?! Enemy craft don't as much scale into view as suddenly appear, so you need to be quick to launch your lock-on missiles. The cannon is pretty worthless but I still use it on the off-chance I'll shoot something by accident.

Enemy planes disappear from the screen as fast as they appear, so the dogfighting aspect leaves much to be desired. If an enemy locks onto you from behind, perform a vertical loop to turn the tables and place him ahead of you. Sweet! As far as avoiding incoming missiles, I tend to go buck wild and hope for the best. When you go down in flames you won't know what hit you anyway.

Air Diver is marginally playable once you get a feel for it, but its cat-and-mouse boss encounters are a pain in the ass. And once you think you've prevailed, some huge anime robot consumes the screen and obliterates you. I enjoyed the music of Air Diver (early Cure?) and the stage select is nice. Then I made the mistake of playing the actual game. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 135,500
1 player 

Grade: A-
Publisher: Virgin Games (1993)
Posted: 2014/7/8

screenshotWhile watching the 1992 movie I was mesmerized by Aladdin's fantastic visuals. Likewise, this video game really pushed the state of the art. Its gorgeous backgrounds and fluid animation make this platformer a showcase title for the system. Our hero exhibits the same distinctive mannerisms as in the film, and his little monkey companion is adorable.

It's fun to watch Aladdin leap between canopies in the marketplace, scale ruins in the desert, and whisk through volcanic caves on a magic carpet. I love riding those magic ropes that take off like bottle rockets! The artistic scenery is practically painted on the screen, and the deep blue hues of the dungeon stage are especially appealing.

The sense of humor from the film carries over as well, with enemies that lose their pants and camels that spit when you hop on their hump. Aladdin plays nearly as well as it looks. An all-in-one-instruction screen tells you pretty much everything you need to know at a glance.

The sword-fighting action is fun but sometimes you'll absorb a mandatory hit or two, so remember to throw apples to avoid close combat. It's hard to tell when you're taking damage, so it may come as a shock when you suddenly keel over. The lack of a password is disappointing, but this is one well-crafted adventure you probably won't mind restarting from the beginning. Like the film, Aladdin is an exuberant joyride that's extremely easy on the eyes. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 28,050
1 player 

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Posted: 2018/4/23

screenshotIf Alex Kidd was Sega's answer to Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1984) they came up well short. Super Mario always had an innocent quality but Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle comes off as cheesy. The main character is some kind of monkey-boy who can punch and execute a fairly worthless jump-kick.

The opening stage takes place in a neighborhood with houses, cars, and trees rendered with colorful simplicity. Alex later explores forests, prairies, pyramids, and underwater areas. He'll battle cars, fish, scorpions, dung beetles, and even Jason from Friday the 13th. More often than not however Alex takes out his aggression on innocent wildlife like sea turtles, eagles, and prairie dogs. Who punches a prairie dog?

Alex can bust through circular "blocks" to access shiny chests loaded with money. Cash is used to gamble against a blue gorilla in a game of Janken, otherwise known as "rock-paper-scissors". Why this is played on a stage in front of an animal audience I have no idea. I recommend you play early and often, as you can win fun items like a helicopter, pogostick, motorcycle, or fireball power-up.

Experimenting with vehicles and special items are what makes the game worthwhile. The rock-paper-scissors mini-game is also used for boss battles, believe it or not. The stages are short but there are plenty of chests to open and hidden areas to discover. On the downside, there's no score and the happy-go-lucky music will get on your nerves. Alex Kidd is no Mario, but I think there's something to be said for its back-to-basics style. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 2020
1 player 

Alien 3
Grade: B+
Publisher: Arena (1992)
Posted: 2002/6/1

screenshotI thought for sure that Alien 3 would be just like the SNES version, which had superb graphics but lackluster gameplay. Fortunately, the Genesis version is everything the SNES game should have been. There's no complicated maps or tedious missions here, just explosive arcade action!

The graphics and sound don't measure up to the SNES version, with cartoonish characters and the music that's more upbeat than ominous. But in terms of pure gameplay this is far superior. Each stage is a maze of rooms connected by tubes and ladders. Your job is to rescue all the prisoners and exit before time runs out. You can switch between several weapons including a machine gun, flamethrower, grenade launcher and hand grenades. Each weapon is effective in certain situations, and the action is fast and exciting.

The aliens look terrific, and I love how they scream and splatter when shot. I do have a few complaints however. First, it's never clear where the so-called "exit" is located, which can be frustrating. Next, there are times when the aliens seem impossible to avoid, so you'll take some mandatory hits. While the controls are decent overall, squatting down to fire low can be problematic. But these are minor issues. All in all, the fast pace and arcade style of Alien 3 makes the game hard to put down. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 237690
1 player 

Alien Storm
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Posted: 2010/10/2

screenshotAlien Storm is a ho-hum side-scroller that lets you gleefully fry waves of invading aliens. The three playable characters include a man and woman decked out in cheesy superhero costumes and a robot who looks like Ultraman's uncle. Your weapons are short-range "fire blazers" that aren't particularly effective. And when I say short range, we're talking five feet! With firepower this weak you'd be better off bludgeoning the creeps with the butt of your gun!

The urban locations are forgettable, but the aliens are disgusting enough. They tend to have this nasty habit of gnawing on your head. Not cool! Alien Storm is a real button masher, so you'd be wise to enable the rapid-fire option on the menu screen. Your character also has an evasive roll and a limited special attack which inflicts damage to all the baddies on the screen. The gameplay is rinse-and-repeat all the way, and the bosses take forever to kill.

The game's saving grace is its frantic bonus stages. There are some fast-paced running sequences and first-person shooting stages that let you blast the hell out of alien-infested stores. It's actually more fun to destroy the items on the shelves - especially those oversized boom-boxes. Without these bonus stages, the monotony of this game might be unbearable. I should also mention that the game is very short and easy. I'm all for games that can be completed in one sitting, but the first sitting?! Alien Storm is mildly amusing for a while, but it quickly wears on you and there's not a lot of replay value. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 34
1 or 2 players 

Alisia Dragoon
Grade: B
Publisher: Game Arts (1992)
Posted: 2015/5/24

screenshotThe Genesis library is loaded with fine side-scrollers, but Alisia Dragoon is a breed apart. This is a truly gorgeous adventure with rich graphics, an elegant soundtrack, and captivating gameplay. You play the role of a sorceress who casts lightning from her fingertips. With a push of a button you unleash multiple bolts that automatically latch onto enemies. It's especially fun to effortlessly pick off insects as they fly on to the screen. If you wait for your lightning to fully charge, you can unleash a 360-degree attack.

As if that wasn't enough, you get a flying sidekick! You can select between several, including a baby dragon, a flying lizard, and a ball of fire. It's a neat idea but frankly these creatures are pretty lame! They aren't much help and tend to die off early. Your enemies don't go down nearly as easy, so weapon power-ups are critical. These are often hidden, so explore each stage thoroughly.

I love the look of this game. The layered backdrops convey a fantasy world with posh temples, stormy swamps, and ...massive airships? Why is it that games set in medieval times always have an obligatory airship level? There's no score, but when your game is over you're presented with a statistical breakdown and rank. Uh, what kind of rank is "electric slime"? Isn't that the dance all the ladies get up and do at weddings? I like Alisia Dragoon. It's a classy 16-bit platform-shooter that's like nothing else I've played. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Altered Beast
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Posted: 2001/5/1

screenshotAltered Beast is a bizarre side-scroller where you battle legions of monsters and with the help of power-ups, can transform into a monster yourself. It's hard to believe this was the first Genesis pack-in game, considering how dark and violent it is. There's a great deal of blood and flying limbs.

Powering up as quickly as possible is key. A transformation screen shows your character turning into a powerful monster such as a werewolf, dragon, or bear. They didn't have morphing technology in 1988, but it still looks cool. Levels range from a cool graveyard to some boring caverns (yawn). The bosses take forever to beat. The digitized voices sound terribly muffled and the collision detection is questionable at times.

Two players can fight simultaneously, but the screen tends to get crowded because the characters are large. One particularly bizarre aspect is the charging pigs, many of which contain power-ups. Okay, they're supposed to be two-headed wolves, but they sure look like pigs to me. I like Altered Beast, but it's hardly a game that will appeal to the masses. Hint: Hold down A when pressing Start to resume play at the last level you were on. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 109000
1-2 players 

Grade: F
Publisher: Konami (1994)
Posted: 2022/10/16

screenshotMy nephew Luke tells me the Animaniacs TV series was recently rebooted on Hulu, so I guess this review is somewhat timely! The premise is to guide a trio of Mickey Mouse look-alikes through various movie backlots, hopping on platforms, pushing blocks, and using special abilities to overcome obstacles. All three move in unison but you can toggle between the one who is "active". The big guy can drag crates, the smaller one wields a hammer, and the girl blows kisses that hypnotize.

The colorful graphics and animation is so good you'll swear this is a Disney title. The gameplay is a puzzle/platform hybrid. The puzzles don't necessarily make a lot of sense however, so trial and error is the order of the day. Need to ignite a fuse? Hit it with the hammer. Need to cause a man to solidify so you can jump on him? Blow kisses.

But executing the correct actions isn't even enough; you need to perform them in a particular order. Getting hopelessly stuck is the order of the day. Worse yet, there's a timer?! What good is a puzzle game that doesn't give you time to think?!

The best part about the game is its selection of selectable stages, which include the wild west, a haunted graveyard, a space station, and an Indiana Jones-style jungle. The controls are responsive but characters overlap with each other, making it hard to tell who you're controlling. The stages are mercifully short but the password system is awful. You're presented with a three-by-three grid of images. This is the first game I've played where it's necessary to hire an artist to record my damn password!

While consulting YouTube to determine the solution to a particular puzzle, it dawned on me that Animaniacs is far more enjoyable to watch than play. Partly because it looks like a real cartoon, but mainly because it saves you a ton of needless aggravation. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players 

Aquatic Games Starring James Pond
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Posted: 2003/12/22

screenshotWhat a dog this is! I didn't think EA was capable of making anything this bad, but now I'm a believer! Aquatic Games is meant to be a light-heartened Olympics-style game. Among the aquatic creatures that participate is EA's not-so-popular fish character James Pond. I've always been a big fan of Track and Field style games, so I had some hope for this. Unfortunately, my hope evaporated once I tried a few of the "events", which have all the entertainment value of being kicked in the crotch over and over again.

The first alarm went off when I realized that despite the fact that this is a four-player game, there is NO simultaneous play! Four players just take turns watching each other play, which is completely unacceptable considering EA created that nifty four-player adapter for the Genesis. And the events are just AWFUL! There are a few button-tapping running games, but the single CPU-controlled opponent is rarely on the screen.

At least these are mercifully short. Other events go on and on long after you've lost interest. In one particular event you have to deflect beach balls away from some sleeping seals, and if the repetitive action wasn't bad enough, the event goes on for THREE minutes. Without a doubt these were the three longest minutes of my entire life.

In another "event" you bounce up and down on sponges for three minutes while performing simple flips. I kept killing myself hoping it would end the event early, but to no avail. You'd think that of the eight events, I would at least have found one to be somewhat enjoyable. But no - I absolutely HATED every last one of them! Aquatic Games is an exercise in misery - easily one of the worst games I've ever played on my Genesis. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Arch Rivals
Grade: C+
Publisher: Acclaim (1992)
Posted: 2019/1/11

screenshotWhile playing Arch Rivals it dawned on me that this was the direct precursor to NBA Jam (SNES, 1993). This fast-paced, two-on-two basketball slugfest is completely over the top. You can shove your opponents to the ground, run down the court, and shatter the backboard with a dunk. All that's missing is an NBA license, which admittedly is a pretty big deal. Without it you're left with a motley crew of fictional players. Resist the temptation to take that Dennis Rodman look-alike because he's slow as molasses.

Despite its arcade stylings the graphics in Arch Rivals lack pizzazz. The players are rendered with a cheesy black outline and the crowd is sparse. Still, the game is highly playable and the ball moves so fast the camera struggles to keep up! You only directly control one of your players but can prompt your CPU partner to pass or shoot. Knocking over opponents is fun and you can even tackle them!

Breaking the backboard would be more spectacular if it weren't so easy. Those things must be constructed from the same material as Sega Saturn cases. After each score there's a brief cut-scene of a cheerleader, coach, or referee. You can skip them with a button press but they become irritating and interrupt the flow of the game.

Likewise the static-y voice samples ("put it up!", "I'm open!") are abrasive. During the halftime show the cheerleaders strike some provocative poses! Each quarter is four minutes, which sounds reasonable but is actually way too long. When playing a friend, do yourselves a favor and agree to just play a half. It's a little rough but you can't deny Arch Rivals is fun. This is one game that will appeal to sports fans and non-sports fans alike. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ariel the Little Mermaid
Grade: F

screenshotIt seems like every platform game has that obligatory underwater stage where everything slows to a crawl, pushing your patience to the limit. Well, in Little Mermaid, every stage is like that! Joy! I tend to enjoy 16-bit Disney titles like Aladdin, the Lion King, and Jungle Book, but the lack of quality here is glaring. Each level is an uninspired treasure hunt. Blame the water currents all you want, but the controls are just plain lousy.

At the very least you'd expect that fluid Disney animation to shine through, but the choppiness of this game hurts my eyes. Pat, can I buy a frame of animation? Ariel's about as agile as a nuclear sub, and less graceful than Lindsay Lohan after a night of clubbing (probably less responsive too). The levels incorporate reefs, pirate ships, and Atlantis ruins, but each is just a sprawling underwater maze. Ariel's abrupt turns make it agonizingly difficult to navigate the narrow, craggy passages.

The goal of each stage is to locate and rescue "mer-people" which look like little green worms until you touch them, causing them to transform. Electric eels pop out and snip at you without warning and fat sharks mindlessly swim back and forth. Arial can fire musical notes but they're weak. I hate how after you shatter a skeleton, touching an individual flying bone inflicts damage. A detailed map is available via the start button but waiting for it to "unroll" across the screen is annoying.

Bosses exhibit no signs of damage as you pelt them, leaving you to wonder if you're doing the right thing. After you complete a stage, you then have to wait a few seconds for the game to realize the stage is over. There's no password and no score - despite the fact that point values appear on the screen for killing certain creatures. The only thing vaguely appealing about the game is its pleasant steel drum music. Ariel The Little Mermaid is one of those games that sucks from the minute you begin playing and never stops. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Posted: 2016/8/28

screenshotArnold Palmer is an arcade-style golf game with bright graphics, catchy music, and simple controls. The left side of the screen shows an overhead map of the hole while the right side shows an over-the-shoulder view. Your caddie is a cute blonde chick in a short shirt. Wait - are you telling me the game made her carry my bag around?! That golf bag is bigger than she is! To be fair, in two player mode a male caddy lugs the clubs for a female player.

The holes are rendered in layers from distant to close, and at first it looks like you're standing on the edge of a gaping chasm! You need to page through a series of small windows to check the wind, lie, stance, and club. Is all that really necessary? Why isn't the distance to the hole displayed? Why must I always select my own club? Now I'm starting to realize how that caddy got her job!

The swing meter is a little confusing. You hit a button to start it, and if you don't hit it again before it reaches the top, it resets. The fairways tend to be narrow and sand traps attract balls like moths to a porch lamp! The greens tend to be pretty small, but you have to have a really soft touch or the ball will roll right over the hole. After nine holes there's a little "coffee break" animation featuring a Playboy bunny! You don't see that kind of silliness in games anymore.

Once you get into a groove you can knock out a round in well under 30 minutes. The background music sounds like it belongs in a 2D shooter, but I love it! If it doesn't appeal to you, you can toggle between three other tunes or just shut it off altogether. The tournament mode offers a password featuring mixed capital and lowercase letters (oh dear). Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf is one of the fastest golf games around and also one of the more addictive. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players 

Arrow Flash
Grade: C-
Publisher: Renovation (1990)
Posted: 2011/3/23

screenshotArrow Flash is not one of the more impressive Genesis shooters, but it has its moments. The upbeat opening theme immediately reminded me of Kim Wilde's hit single "Keep me Hangin' On". After that, things settle down. Better shooters try to wow you from the start, but Arrow Flash makes you sleepy. Not only do enemies approach in repetitive patterns, there are inexplicable lulls between waves!

There's not much to see as you fly over layers of gray clouds. The music has spirit, but the sound effects lack punch. I nearly fell into a coma before being jolted by a flashing "OUT OF DANGER" message. Huh? Apparently that's the game's way of telling you a cut scene is starting. At this point the action stops as a giant space cruiser slowly falls from the sky and plunges into the ocean below. A little splashing would have made it look more convincing, but I do like how the flames disappear and the hull turns blue as the ship cools off.

Arrow Flash finally gains some traction in stage two, which ratchets up the difficulty and offers better variety. Once you power-up your blasters and shields you can really get into a zone. Sadly, taking one hit reduces you back to the 'ole pea shooter (doh!).

The A button allows you to toggle forms between a mech robot and a streamlined spaceship, each of which offers a slightly different special attack. I don't think it adds as much strategy as it intended to. The options menu offers a rapid-fire feature, and you'd be absolutely insane not to use it. Arrow Flash is one of those run-of-the-mill shooters that serves its purpose but fails to leave a lasting impression. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 180,310
1 player 

Atomic Runner
Grade: B+
Publisher: Data East (1992)
Posted: 2017/1/20

screenshotThough its lame title conjures visions of abstract mazes, Atomic Runner is really an action-packed rapid-fire platformer. You control a small spaceman running on a constantly-scrolling screen blasting spiders, anteaters, dragons, and orcs armed with shields. Your weapons positively kick ass, ranging from laser beams to spinning spikes to homing missiles.

Your shooting angles are limited to straight ahead and diagonal, but performing a somersault will let you fire in random directions. You can also pounce on most enemies. It's possible to turn around and fire at enemies approaching from the rear but the default controls for doing so are awkward. An options menu offers several control alternatives but frankly I never felt comfortable with firing in reverse. When your guy dies he gyrates and performs "jazz hands".

The stage designs are terrific, featuring architecture from ancient Egyptian, Aztec, and Mayan civilizations. The colorful, artistic backdrops call to mind modern platformers like Little Big Planet (PS3, 2008) and Puppeteer (PS3, 2013). The Mayan pyramids in a sea of lava are quite a sight, but it's the modern stage with the spectacular nighttime city skyline that takes the cake.

The music is pretty good despite the random grunt samples which struck me as odd. I had so much fun playing Atomic Runner it made me wonder how I could have missed it after all these years. Retro gaming is a hobby that just keeps on giving. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 176,220
1 player 

Awesome Possum
Grade: F
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
Posted: 2006/2/24

screenshotOf all the attempts to rip-off Sonic the Hedgehog, Awesome Possum may be the most blatant offender. I can only imagine what those early design discussions at Tengen were like. "Hey, we need a new video game character! What marsupial hasn't been taken yet?" We just can't get enough of those small, furry mammals can we? Apparently we can, because Awesome Possum's unlikability quotient is off the charts! This scrawny little rodent is one seriously ugly bastard, and his grainy, high-pitched voice spews all sorts of idiotic nonsense like "I'm awesome!", "I'm so cool!", and "Don't pollute!"

Just hearing that last line makes me want to run out and pour motor oil into the nearest stream! And whenever you hear his maniacal laugh, you'll want to reach into the TV and beat the living [expletive] out of that unappealing SOB. The game looks bad in general. Foreground objects are sloppy and grainy, and the backgrounds look dark and muddy. The framerate is so choppy you'll want to divert your eyes, and the level design is infuriating.

In one stage you'll whiz through a series of tunnels only to be tossed into a set of elevated buzz saws! Your adversaries include chainsaw-toting gray robots which can be defeated by Awesome's patented spin attack. And when I say patented, I mean patented by Sonic of course. Awesome Possum is woefully unoriginal, which is also evident in the derivative rainforest, underwater, and ice stages.

The background music is a few notches below Casio keyboard quality, and the muffled sound effects are grating. Between stages you're presented with trivia questions which make little or no sense. Awesome Possum is one platformer that should only be played out of morbid curiosity - don't expect to derive any degree of enjoyment. Heck, Awesome even makes that lame-ass Bubsy look cool by comparison! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Posted: 2015/5/24

screenshotAyrton Senna is my favorite Formula One driver of all time, and this game was released not long before his tragic death. Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II has a slightly different feel than Super Monaco GP (Sega, 1990). There's more speed and as a result the laps are shorter. The tracks are generally flat but sometimes undulate slightly. This game is more forgiving than the first, so if you drift off the track you probably won't crash.

The sound effects have been remastered to deliver more oomph, for better or worse. There's a lot more bass and I love the sound of your car speeding through a tunnel. The engines sound a little harsh however, and my friend Brent mentioned it sounded like he was racing in a beehive! The voice samples are clearer but so brief you can barely catch them (what did he say?).

The arcade mode (Senna GP) offers three tracks to select from, which seems like an improvement. Two are fairly dull however, and the lack of position limits takes away some of the suspense. The World Championship mode is where this game shines. You can select from beginner or expert difficulties.

There's an interesting variety of tracks with digitized scenery, including a rainy track in Brazil. I love the effect of water spraying off the tires. You can save your progress to six battery-backed save slots. My cartridge contained some pre-existing saves with names like Ass-h***, Ass-f***, and Old Bastard. Stay classy, gamers! The game lacks babes but there are plenty of digitized images of Senna. Super Monaco GP II feels less arcade-like than the first game, but probably has more long-term replay value. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: GP
Our high score: 2'17"63
Save mechanism: Battery
1 player 

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