Publisher: Tengen (1989)
This archaic racer is barely playable today, but it was pretty amazing for its time. Hard Drivin' was the first arcade game with first-person, 3D polygon graphics, and it was released long before Virtua Racing took the arcades by storm. The game includes a standard race track and an elaborate "stunt" track, complete with a ramp, loop-to-loop, and banked turns. Just surviving the stunt course is a major challenge. But unlike Virtua Racing, Hard Drivin' has NOT aged well. Its framerate is agonizingly slow, and the cars look like ugly boxes. Sparse scenery includes streets signs, small buildings, and other traffic. An unnecessary instrument panel takes up a large chunk of the screen. At least the instant-replays are somewhat amusing. Hard Drivin' isn't very enjoyable, but it is interesting to see how racing games have evolved over the years. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Accolade (1991)
Despite making a splash on the PC, Hardball had a hard time competing in the console world. And it's easy to see why. This game lacks the basic features gamers expect in a baseball title. There are no major league players or teams - just city names. There's only one stadium, and it's very generic. You can't jump or dive for batted balls. You can't take practice swings. There's no instant replay. And if the repetitive background music doesn't get on your nerves, the umpire's throaty "steerike!
" calls certainly will. The graphics are clean and well defined, but the players aren't well proportioned. The controls are spread over 30 pages
of the instruction book. Each pitcher has a unique set of pitches, and the speed gun is a nice touch. Batting is easy enough, but directing your baserunners is like herding cats
. The game also does a lousy job of choosing which fielder you control after the ball is hit. But these are small potatoes compared to one insidious design flaw that is guaranteed to drive you nuts.
Before each and every pitch, the player at bat must press the A button before the pitcher can throw. The first time I played Hardball with my friend Steve it took us ten minutes
just to figure out how to throw the damn ball! This flaw destroys
the two-player experience, and even when playing the CPU I sometimes find myself staring at the screen wondering why nothing's happening. Hardball didn't have much going for it to begin with, but this user interface blunder pushed me over the edge. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
Hardball 94 is feature-rich, but its core gameplay could have used a little more attention. All the baseball players are licensed and each batter is introduced with a grainy digitized photo. Unfortunately the teams are not
licensed, so the uniforms look all wrong. You get different stadiums for each team, but they only vaguely resemble the real thing. I noticed that Camden Yards had the "Hit it here" sign on the outfield wall (which was correct), but the dimensions are way off. The menu interface is confusing as hell and it took me and my friend Steve about ten minutes
to figure out how to set up a two-player game. If you can locate it, a robust option screen lets you adjust every aspect of the game from difficulty to pitcher fatigue. I like how you can select between a pitcher or batter view, and I personally prefer the pitcher angle. Picture-in-picture windows are used to show runners on base, and an instant replay is also available. A battery backup can save a full 162 game season, and you can even save your own highlights
. Where Hardball 94 is lacking is on the field. The digitized players look sharp but when running their legs move too fast for their bodies - like an old Road Runner cartoon. You almost expect to hear that goofy sound effect. Fielding balls in the infield is no problem, but the screen doesn't zoom in for hits to the outfield, making fly balls frustratingly hard to judge. The home run musical theme sounds truly bizarre - like the theme to the Odd Couple or something. Hardball 94 looks impressive when you read the back of the box, but the game itself doesn't live up to its promise. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Accolade (1995)
As the final edition of Hardball for the Genesis, this 1995 edition offers some impressive features like live play-by-play and actual stadiums. Al Michaels does a pretty good job of calling the game but sounds very robotic. The digitized players look great in the pitcher/batter screens, and you can choose between either the pitcher's or batter's perspective. Unfortunately the pitcher view stinks because the batter crowds the plate, making it hard to locate the "target marker" in the strike zone. The batter view is much more playable, and you get the added benefit of seeing the stadium backdrops. Unfortunately Hardball 95's nifty visuals are overshadowed by fundamental flaws in the gameplay. The players in the field move way too fast
, making it possible for outfielders to throw out runners trying to advance even one base
on a hit! It's hard to judge fly balls and sometimes it's not really clear whether you actually caught the thing or not! The homerun theme song is now something that sounds like a kid singing "nany nany boo boo". Wow, that is just pathetic. Hardball 95 has the look of a franchise treading water. The addition of ballparks and play-by-play give it the edge over the previous edition, but its gameplay deserved a lot more attention. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players
Haunting Starring Polterguy, The
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Our high score: SLN 66621
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Micronet (1991)
Publisher: Seismic (1990)
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 108950
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Data East (1993)
Our high score: 172,700
Publisher: Taito (1992)
This goofy, irreverent hockey game has a different feel than its Turbografx-16 cousin. This version of Hit the Ice includes a much-needed options screen to let you configure critical elements like difficulty and period length. Before each game you select from premade teams instead of individual players, and I'm fine with that. On the ice the graphics are a little fuzzy and the colors look washed out. I can tolerate that, but what's the deal with the choppy animation? The scrolling is seriously rough, making it hard to locate the puck. When players bunch up in front of the net it's just a big blinky mess! I like how you can slide your goalie to guard the goal, but make sure you catch the puck because if it bounces off your pads the goal will be wide open. A "super shot" lets you perform a somersault in the air before slapping a powerful shot that knocks the net off of its moors. The fights are just quick exercises in button-mashing, but I like how the loser lies on the ice frothing at the mouth. Occasionally a random item (like an octopus) gets tossed on the ice which you can get caught up on. The gameplay on the Genesis is faster than the Turbografx but less satisfying. The audio is so bad it's like listening to someone wheezing the whole time. And why are those fans dressed up as ghosts?
Hit the Ice is kind of a bust, and that's disappointing considering the promising subject matter. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Recommended variation: Beginner
Our high score: 30,650
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Our high score: 108,400
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
This dungeon explorer was cutting edge for its time, and you still have to respect its rich graphics and sophisticated gameplay. Like Baldur's Gate or Diablo, you guide a wizard around subterranean rooms loaded with monsters, traps, and items. The Immortal's visuals are top-notch for the Genesis, but the game's centerpiece is its combat screen. When you engage in battle, both adversaries are rendered in remarkably large, detailed characters on a black backdrop. This "up-close" view was unheard of in 1991, and certainly was a major selling point for the game. These battles feature gruesome fatalities, including decapitations, exploding heads, and bodies being sliced in half (accompanied by appropriately gross sound effects). Despite its violence, somehow Immortal managed to stay under the radar and avoid controversy. The game doesn't utilize the entire screen (probably due to the CPU-intensive graphics), and the unused portion is covered by an ornate border. The controls are fairly intuitive, and there's a nice inventory system. Unlike many games of this style, the monsters thankfully "stay dead", so when you reenter a room you don't need to do battle again. While Immortal is certainly challenging, it relies far too heavily on chance and memorization. The battle system is clumsy and unresponsive, and pit traps are impossible to see coming. There are even a few "invisible" enemies to drive you mad. Never
read the runes when prompted, because it immediately ends your game (it's deliberate -- not a bug). At least the manual includes a handy tutorial for the first level. The Immortal certainly is original and inventive, but it was mainly a stepping stone for far better games to come. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Incredible Crash Dummies, The
Publisher: Flying Edge (1993)
If you were alive in the 1990's you may recall the Crash Dummies from their goofy public safety commercials. I always refer to them as the Crash Test
Dummies, but I'm probably thinking of the band. Anyway, these oft-dismembered, puppet-like characters tried to get people to wear their safety belts, and apparently they were pretty effective! At the time I dismissed this game as a cheap gimmick but more recently I noticed it was a Flying Edge title, and they are a quality publisher. The Crash Dummies intro features a few lame jokes like "lost your head?" and "need a hand?" In the game you control one dummy who's trying to survive parking lots and testing facilities loaded with dangerous contraptions. Taking a hit costs you a body part but you can regenerate by picking up a screwdriver icon. Absorb enough hits and you'll find yourself hopping around on your torso! Despite its by-the-numbers design Crash Test Dummies is a heck of a lot of fun to play. The controls are extremely responsive - sensitive to the touch really. You can throw wrenches to blow up oncoming vehicles, and I'm glad the controls are tight because you often only have a split-second to react. The brisk pacing and speedy power-ups encourage you to traverse each section as fast as you can. The scenery is colorful but the repetitive industrial environments don't offer much eye candy. Still, Incredible Crash Dummies is a strange platformer that's a lot more fun that it sounds. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 147,900
Incredible Hulk, The
Publisher: U.S. Gold (1994)
Our high score: 52500
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Publisher: US Gold (1992)
So many scenes from the third Indiana Jones film beg
for an arcade game, including the circus train, catacombs, the boat chase, and especially the final scene with the three Grail challenges. But Last Crusade fails on every level. The controls are uncommonly poor. Jumping only works half of the time, and trying to leap at the edge of a platform sends you plunging into the abyss. Swinging on your whip is about as easy as picking up a watermelon seed! The characters are poorly rendered with cheesy black outlines, and the villains of the first stage look more like a bunch of Jerry Garcia
impersonators! The catacombs are loaded with flaming mice the size of cats
, and the final level isn't even consistent with the movie, as ducking under the swinging blades results is fatal! It doesn't help that you instantly die
from touching harmless objects like a bush, pile of bones, or even a puddle of water!
And when he dies, our hero unleashes a painful wale that's positively demonic!
Even the Indiana Jones theme sounds cheesy. As the final insult, the picture on the cartridge shows Indy being chased by a plane, a tank, and a German convoy, none
of which appear anywhere
in the game! © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 2330
Publisher: Sage's Creation (1990)
Our high score: 143,200
Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings
Publisher: US Gold (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Considering how unoriginal and sugary-sweet this generic platformer is, I'm surprised I enjoyed Izzy's Quest at all. The game is sponsored by the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and features its mascot. This poorly-designed creature looks like a big blue raisin with bulging eyes. Suffice to say he failed to win over the hearts and minds of kids everywhere. If you've played any platformer in your life you can probably guess all the key elements of this one. A main character with slapstick mannerisms, a zany voice, and obligatory spin move? You guessed it!
Izzy leaps between grassy platforms, climbs vines, and collects floating items. And there's a lot
to collect, including gems, medallions, stars, torches, eggs, hearts, gems, and more!
In fact, there's so much junk
cluttering each stage that I got sick and tired of trying to collect everything. Enemies are little goblins that mindlessly march from side-to-side. Pouncing on them causes them to splatter in a satisfying manner. Touch a lightning bolt icon and all the creatures on the screen explode, and I like that!
Power-ups provide the ability to glide or wield a baseball bat. These are undeniably fun but usually don't last long. The controls are forgiving and the difficulty is low, making this a good choice for young children. The framerate is erratic however and half the time you feel as if you're moving in slow motion. Apparently the programmers weren't familiar with "blast processing". The stages are repetitive in design and that awful looping music is the worst
. Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings is marginally fun if you play for score, but I'm afraid you'll reach for the power button long before you reach the end of this quest. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 20,570