Genesis Reviews E

ESPN Baseball Tonight
Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (1994)
Reviewed: 2001/4/14


screenshotESPN Baseball Tonight makes a terrific first impression. The players look plain, but the animation is absolutely stunning, particularly the pitcher delivery and the way the ball comes off the bat. The designers tried to create the look of an ESPN telecast, but the results are mixed. There are bits of commentary by Dan Patrick and Chris Berman, but most of the time the game is strangely silent - even the fans get very quiet.

Your view is always from behind the catcher, which is often not an ideal angle. The camera might pan from side-to-side, but it never zooms in on the fielders. When the ball is hit to the outfield, you have to control fielders in the far distance, and it's hard to judge the ball. The pitching is impressive, but the fielders are pretty stiff, and it's hard to react to balls hit down the line.

Despite these problems, ESPN Baseball is still playable. It has all the major league teams and players, but is sorely lacking the stadiums, which is a big deal in my book. In the end, ESPN Baseball Tonight only amounts to another long fly ball. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

ESPN National Hockey Night
Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/3/3

screenshotESPN National Hockey Night transports you back to 1994 when the Ducks were the Mightly Ducks and teams like the Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques were still in the NHL. When you fire up the game you see a panning shot of a digitized arena as that rousing ESPN theme kicks in. Sweet! A well-designed option screen lets you select your mode, view (vertical or side), rules (offsides off, naturally), and game length.

Each contest is introduced by digitized anchorman Bill Clement at a sports desk, and that's a really nice touch. I usually favor an overhead view in hockey games, but in this case it really limits your vantage point. The side view not only looks more attractive (cool reflections) but offers a wider viewing angle.

The players, ice markings, and digitized crowd look exceptionally detailed. The crowd noise sounds more like a water faucet but the organ music is right on point. A commentator chimes in with occasional quips like "ouch" and "that had to hurt". That end-of-period horn could use some work; it sounds like an injured sea lion. The digitized ref really gets in your face. What did I do to piss that guy off?

I just wish Hockey Night's gameplay was a little tighter. It's hard to dislodge the puck because you tend to slide off players you're trying to check. The passing controls are lousy and your players are never in proper position anyway. The goalie sometimes appears to lunge in the wrong direction, but I couldn't verify that because there's no instant replay. ESPN National Hockey Night really could have used a few iterations to get up to speed, but for hockey fans it's still a nice change of pace from EA's offerings. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players 

Earnest Evans
Grade: D+
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Reviewed: 2001/9/13

screenshotEarnest Evans wants to be Indiana Jones, but he's not even Pitfall Harry. This game has all the necessary elements of an exciting adventure: Caves, traps, idols, skeletons, and porcupines, but the gameplay is lacking. The action consists mostly of platform jumping and using your chain (not a whip!) to dispose of monsters.

The Earnest character is huge and funky-looking. He moves more fluidly than most game characters because his body is composed of a series of individual sprites. Somebody programmed sprite rotation into this game, and it's used to good effect. Earnest will automatically crouch in tight quarters, and roll when sliding. Unfortunately, trying to get him OUT of those positions is hard to do, especially when a huge worm is chomping at him.

The collision detection is terrible, and you'll often find yourself stuck partially in walls or floors. Most of the monsters here are pretty generic, but I was definitely impressed by those giant skeletons - very intimidating. Unfortunately, many monsters appear with little warning, and some can kill you almost instantly.

The bosses are surprisingly dull and uninteresting. The music is standard Genesis fare, meaning it's pretty much interchangeable with any other action title on the system. Earnest Evans provides several continues, which mercifully allow you to pick up right where you died. The game has its share of innovations, but the unresponsive control really spoils the fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Earthworm Jim
Grade: B-
Publisher: Shiney Entertainment (1994)
Reviewed: 2013/4/21

screenshotAt a time when platform games were running short on ideas Earthworm Jim made a splash with its unique style, superb animation, and wicked sense of humor. The lead character is an intergalactic worm in a muscle-bound suit who can whip his own head at enemies. Jim can also glide like a helicopter and shoot rapid-fire in any direction. The stages take place on surreal planets with platforms that twist and turn to convey a sense of depth. The artistry and use of color are so extraordinary that the scenery looks practically painted on the screen.

The first stage is conventional in nature but later stages are remarkably inventive. In one you must escort an oblivious skipping puppy to safety, and another puts you in a bungee-jumping contest with a huge ball of snot. One stage takes you through the intestines of a monster, and a pseudo-3D stage lets you race through a space tube (wormhole?) while avoiding asteroids. One of the final stages takes place in almost complete darkness!

The character animation is remarkably fluid and Jim's mannerisms are hilarious. The ability to "launch a cow" is indicative of the game's offbeat humor. The rapid-fire shooting makes it satisfying to blast the beaks off psychotic crows and reduce maniac dogs to bones. The fact that you can't actually see the bullets was a novel concept for 1994.

The platform jumping action could be better. I like how Jim grabs any nearby ledge, but some stages have too many spikes and it's easy to find yourself moving in circles. The bosses can be exceptionally difficult, which makes the lack of a password feature all the more glaring. Having to start each game from the first stage is a travesty, and you don't even get a score! Earthworm Jim is jam-packed with memorable sights and sounds, but the game's fun factor never matches its level of creativity. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Earthworm Jim 2
Grade: B-
Publisher: Shiney Entertainment (1995)
Reviewed: 2013/4/21

screenshotEarthworm Jim 2 delivers more intergalactic antics from the comical muscle-bound worm. Expanding upon the same whimsical platform-shooting formula, this sequel introduces five new weapons and an innovative new "snot swing" maneuver. The difficulty is moderate and thank goodness there is a password feature. The more conventional platform stages tend to incorporate simple puzzles, like loading pigs onto a scale.

Some stages are so "out there" I can only surmise that mind-altering drugs played a key role in Earthworm Jim 2's brainstorming sessions. In the carnival-style stage Jim inflates his head with helium, letting him float through the stage in hilarious fashion. There's a side-scrolling shooting stage where you glide over beautiful islands and shimmering blue water.

Each stage seems to introduce a new gameplay mechanic, but even the most ingenious concepts can fall flat. In "Lorenzo's Soil" you traverse an underground maze by blasting through the dirt, and it may be the most agonizing stage I've ever endured. The puppy-tossing mini-games are fun at first but soon wear out their welcome.

I learned to avoid the "bonus stages" like the plague, as they have a way of taking a fun concept and beating it to death. The "stair chair" stage with the raining old ladies is one such example, although I still love how they accuse you of being "fresh" when they land in your lap. The fun factor wavers at times, but you'll usually want to see what the next stage has in store.

Earthworm Jim 2's surreal graphics are first rate and the sound effects are about as good as they get on the Genesis. After viewing the humorous ending I realized the strong influence of Monty Python on this franchise. Earthworm Jim games tend to be somewhat overrated in my opinion, but you can't deny their entertainment value. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Ecco Jr.
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2015/9/12

screenshotIt's easy to mistake Ecco Jr. for the third act of the Ecco the Dolphin trilogy, but this is just a kid's game with low difficulty and watered-down action. Ecco Jr. offers three playable characters that all play the same as far as I can tell: Ecco, Ecco Jr., and a baby killer whale. The stages are only a few screens wide with missions that take just a few minutes to complete - if that.

I enjoyed the treasure-hunting tasks and the ability to shatter crystals with my sonar. The game was less entertaining when I was required to "corral fish" or "play tag" with a dolphin. Some of the more interesting missions have you reuniting a baby sea turtle with its mom or retrieving a seal's toy (red ball).

The ability to use your sonar to locate objects makes the game really easy. Another thing that separates Ecco Jr. from the other Ecco games is the complete lack of undersea violence. You can't die or eat fish. Heck, even the sharks are harmless. The graphics are certainly up to Ecco standards and with coral formations that appear photo-realistic. The controls are responsive and it's always exhilarating to leap high out of the water.

The Ecco series is known for its music, but the soundtrack here is so-so. Some tunes exude an otherworldly quality while others sound like nursery rhymes. The three-character password is handy but there are only about 24 short missions. Seasoned Ecco fans will finish the game in one sitting, but youngsters can probably bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Ecco The Dolphin
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2000/9/2

screenshotEcco the Dolphin was critically acclaimed in 1992, and hailed as the first of a new breed of games that would eschew violence in favor of constructive, thought-provoking gameplay (Ha!). Ecco is more puzzle game than arcade game, with spectacular water effects and a brilliantly colorful undersea world. Your dolphin's movement is silky smooth, and swimming around in the open sea and jumping out of the water is fun in and of itself.

The goal of each stage is not immediately apparent, but you'll discover hints by "talking" to other sea creatures you encounter. You'll open passages, save other dolphins, avoid deadly sharks, and eventually destroy an "ancient evil" in the grand finale. Your 25-stage journey will even take you back through time to the lost city of Atlantis. It's fun to see what each new stage has in store.

The difficulty level is ideal, providing plenty of challenge but little in the way of frustration. A password is provided at the end of each stage. In addition to its gorgeous graphics, Ecco's music is also amazing, with sometimes ominous yet mostly relaxing undersea tones. Action-oriented gamers may find Ecco a bit tedious, but ultimately this is a very satisfying adventure. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Ecco The Tides of Time
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2000/9/2

screenshotYour favorite dolphin is back with a whole new collection of puzzles, so if you liked the first Ecco, it goes without saying that you'll love this one. In this edition you'll rescue baby Orcas, teleport to distant lands, and even morph into other sea creatures. The gameplay is more complex this time around, resulting in tougher and more complicated puzzles. There's a new pseudo-3D obstacle course stage in which you swim through rings, but it didn't do much for me. Like the first Ecco, the graphics and sound are top notch. The music is more funky this time around, and it will grow on you. With over 40 levels of head-scratching puzzle fun, Tides of Time is a solid sequel. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

Elemental Master
Grade: B-
Publisher: Renovation (1993)
Reviewed: 2019/4/24

screenshotWow - another fun shooter for the Genesis! You're some kind of magician in this vertical escapade, as you can tell from him wearing a cape. After a melodramatic anime intro you select from four stages, each based on an element (earth, wind, fire, water). As you forge through each wilderness you can rapidly fire forward or backward, but not at the same time. Each button press unleashes a short salvo so you need to keep pressing every second to keep it going (unless you have turbo control).

You'll face a wild menagerie of creatures including arrow-slinging centaurs, boulder-dropping trolls, levitating beholders, hopping lizard men, and flying one-eyed bunnies. The sheer variety of adversaries is remarkable; there's always something new. I love the way my shots make that pitter-patter sound as they beat against enemies - like rain on a tin roof. Shooting chests reveals power-ups including one that creates several mirror images of yourself.

One weak area of the game is its dull, featureless stages. They look so grainy it reminded me of an old Ultima game from the 80's. Each landscape has unseen hazards and it's easy to get hung up on the scenery. Those boulder-spewing volcanoes are the worst. How am I supposed to know where those rocks are going to land? The game seems very hard until you beat a boss - any boss.

After that you're equipped with a chargeable weapon. In addition you're equipped with a little fairy who flies around attacking things for you. Suddenly the stages seem shorter and the bosses a lot tamer. Bosses include a lava man, flying serpent, and giant porcupine. There are eight stages in all. Elemental Master takes a while to get up to speed, but once you get over that initial hump you're in for a good time. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 83750
1 player 

Eliminate Down (Japan)
Grade: C-
Publisher: Soft Vision (1993)
Reviewed: 2013/7/23

screenshotDespite the bad name Eliminate Down may look attractive to Genesis collectors. This fast-paced, side-scrolling space shooter is similar to Gaiares (Genesis, 1990) and Hellfire (Genesis, 1990). You can fire rapidly, collect power-ups, and switch weapons on the fly. You'll blow up a lot of stuff and have a fairly good time doing so.

Your three weapons consist of a forward, side, and backward shot. The B button engages auto-fire and the other buttons cycle through your weapons. Cycling through three weapons might seem reasonable, but in the heat of battle it's clumsy. Eliminate Down just feels too generic. Something is definitely missing from this game - a smart bomb maybe? The waves of enemies are relentless but repetitive. You'll blast the obligatory cannons, satellites, asteroids, and spaceships. Some enemies have the annoying habit of trying to surround you, or worse yet appear out of thin air.

Besides zombie heads and slinky centipedes there are few memorable sights. Backdrops like the asteroid belt only serve to confuse the action in the foreground. The collision detection is loose, but usually fails in your favor. The bosses, musical score, and even the bonus mini-game are ho-hum. Had this been an early Genesis title I might have cut it some slack, but it's not. Eliminate Down is pretty rare but I would advise against anyone shelling out big bucks for this forgettable shooter. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 604,520
1 player 

Eternal Champions
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2015/3/3

screenshotIt was a cold snowy day in 1993 when I found myself suffering from a bad case of fighting-game fever. In my delirious state I began calling around to stores asking if they had any copies of Eternal Champions. I finally hit pay dirt at a Asian video shop ($56 if I recall). I was pretty stoked but when I invited Steve and Brendan over to play they were underwhelmed.

Eternal Champions was Sega's attempt to cash in on the one-on-one fighter craze. Its cast of fighters are plucked from all periods of history, including a caveman, vampire, acrobat, bounty hunter, gangster-era gumshoe, warlock, assassin, cyborg, and fish-man from Atlantis. It sounds promising, except the warlock looks like a pencil-necked geek, the gumshoe could be an investment banker, and the bounty hunter has the physique of a weatherman. The stages are forgettable with the possible exception of the creepy New England witch-trial-era village. The music is hokey, the sound effects ring hollow, and some of the attacks look cheesy.

The hits lack impact and the collision detection is imprecise. Eternal Champions was designed for the six-button controller, but it's also compatible with Sega's infamous "Activator". Have you tried this thing? It's a motion-sensing ring that lets you fight using real martial arts moves. In reality you find yourself hopping around like some drunk failing a sobriety test. Even with a proper controller the special moves are hard to execute - and ineffective to boot! Get too cute and your button-mashing friends will beat you to a pulp.

On a positive note, Eternal Champions features gory fatality sequences that occur more or less at random. It's entertaining to watch some poor schmuck consumed by a sea serpent, tossed into a giant fan, or burned at the stake. Eternal Champions is moderately fun against a friend, but the single-player mode sucks.

The CPU blocks everything you dish out, and you can't adjust the difficulty. There's no score and you can't change characters. Hell, you can't even quit out of this mode. You are forced to play... eternally. I love how the box boasts of a tournament mode that supports up to 32 players. I'll be sure to pull this out next time I have 31 of my closest friends over. Eternal Champions holds a place near and dear to my heart, but honestly, it's not very good. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2000/2/23

screenshotEvander Holyfield is easily the best and most realistic of the 16-bit boxing titles. The fighters, ring, and crowd look sharp, and a fine bikini-clad babe introduces each round. The boxers are viewed waist-up from the side, providing a close vantage point. Considering all the punch combinations you can throw, the three-button control scheme is well-designed. Unfortunately, like so many boxing games, the controls seem less-the-responsive as your boxer lags behind your commands. Then again, conserving your energy (as opposed to button mashing) is a key part of the strategy. The attractive graphics include realistic details like face cuts and flying sweat. In addition to the one or two-player exhibition mode, you can create your own boxer and work your way up to the championship in the Career mode. Real Deal is definitely one game that sports fans won't want to miss. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

Ex-Mutants
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/4/18

screenshotEx-Mutants is based on an obscure comic featuring superhumans fighting mutants in a post-apocalyptic world. For an X-Men rip-off it's a pretty solid platformer. I love the title screen showing damaged skyscrapers against a blood red skyline. This game embodies all the standard conventions you'd associate with classic 16-bit action. You navigate maze-like laboratories and caves. You hack at creatures that explode into meaty chunks. You duck under traps that fire at timed intervals. You collect coins for points and break open crates for power-ups. Each area concludes with the obligatory boss.

Ex-Mutants isn't just a collection of platform cliches; it's a celebration of them. And it's a lot of fun too. There are six Ex-Mutants but you can only play as two because the others have been captured. You can be the hatchet-wielding Ackroyd or the more agile Shannon. The controls are precise and I like how characters punctuate beat-downs with lines like "Die, scumbag!". The fact that many enemies resemble Ewoks just gives you added incentive. On medium difficulty however the little bastards absorb too many hits so I recommend the easy level instead.

You usually have a handful of projectile options but sometimes you get stuck with mines, and they suck. The stages include a subway, Temple-of-Doom style caves, and forests with tree huts. Exploration is fun thanks to alternate routes and hidden areas. Some of the trap configurations are pretty ludicrous though. In one area you need to hop between disappearing ledges with spikes below and a moving buzz saw above.

The dart traps are excessive and even the flies around the campfire are lethal! A minecart bonus stage offers a harrowing ride because you're standing on a flat platform while jumping over hazards and attacking enemies! At least the game lets you continue close to where you left off. During one cut-scene Ackroyd says "Give it a rest boy; this isn't a video game." Ex-Mutants is textbook old-school, which is probably why I like it so much. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 112,500
1 player 

Exo Squad
Grade: F
Publisher: Universal (1995)
Reviewed: 2019/3/2

screenshotExo Squad is one of those late-arriving Genesis releases packaged in the cheap cardboard boxes. If you're a collector trying to track down a copy, don't break your piggy bank. This uninspired mech title begins with a gravelly, phlegm-laden voice announcing "We are... Exo Squad". The title is apparently derived from a 1990's cartoon series which would explain all tedious character bios and exposition. Exo Squad is really three games in one, none of which are worth playing.

The controls are so complex it forces the player to run down a checklist of moves before each stage. The behind-the-back flying/shooting stages are horrible. Whenever you move to dodge, it seems the incoming missiles move with you. Most objects are impervious to attack, which I was forced to learn the hard way.

The second stage is a painfully slow side-scroller where you trudge past dull scenery of girders, rocks, and mountains. The animation isn't bad, combining sprite rotation with grinding machine noises to convey mass. You blast little drones that fly in formation or roll along the ground. It's very monotonous and time-consuming, so when you die at the boss and find yourself restarting the entire stage, the proper response is "oh hell no!"

Exo-Squad also incorporates one-on-one fighting with a wide range of moves like flying, shooting missiles, and delivering an overhand smash. This mode can be played against a friend, but what is the point? The game issues a password but there's no score. Exo Squad offers a few technical flourishes but fails to provide any compelling reason to play. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players 


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