Genesis Reviews J

Jack Nicklaus Power Challenge Golf
Grade: C
Publisher: Accolade (1993)
Reviewed: 2016/8/28

screenshotIn the early 90's I was a big fan of PGA Tour Golf (Electronic Arts, 1991), so now I'm playing catch-up to see what the other golf titles had to offer. Jack Nicklaus Power Challenge features impressively realistic graphics and crisp control. Each hole begins with a digitized photo of Jack offering tips. You get a peek at an overhead view of the hole, but I really wish that would remain on the screen while you're lining up your shot!

I was expecting to play as Jack, but instead I'm some Asian guy. You get a high angle of the fairway nestled in pixelated foliage. It takes several seconds for the scenery to render, drawn from the middle of the screen outward. The problem is, whenever you adjust your aiming crosshair - even by one pixel - this scene has to painstakingly redraw itself. Why in the heck does it do that? It doesn't even look any different! I tried the "fast play" option but that didn't help.

The bottom offers information overload with a dozen or so gauges and indicators. The swing meter runs the width of the screen and provides pinpoint accuracy. I love my player's fluid swing and the way the ball comes off the tee. Once the ball settles in the distance an options menu lets you continue, view a replay (normal or reverse), or access "other options" like consulting your scorecard and stuff like that.

Power Challenge does a nice job of selecting the proper club which saves you some time. The putting game is problematic because the grid overlay isn't very helpful in determining the break of the green. The "wind meter" pulls double duty as a slope indicator, but frankly it doesn't perform either function particularly well.

Other than the screen redraws the pacing of the game is good and you can get into a nice rhythm. There's very little audio as you play, except for the occasional dunk in the water or claps from an invisible crowd. At the end of my round I was congratulated on my score and prompted to enter the date, and guess what? It saved it to the cartridge! This game can be aggravating at times but if you're the patient type Power Challenge really isn't that bad. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players 

James Bond 007: The Duel
Grade: F
Publisher: Domark (1993)
Reviewed: 2016/9/29

screenshotboxI wasn't a 007 fan until Daniel Craig hit the scene, so now I'm playing catch-up. James Bond 007: The Duel is pretty awful. Is that supposed to be Timothy Dalton on the title screen or Chris Kattan? Similar to Rolling Thunder in design, you move from floor to floor shooting bad guys, climbing ladders, and collecting items.

I'm not even sure what "the duel" refers to; this is a very conventional single-player platform-shooter. You shoot milk men, save a bunch of ladies in cocktail dresses, and head to the finish. The opening stage takes place on a sprawling cargo ship, and the orange steel and island backdrops look very nice. James can fire sideways or diagonally, and he can even fire while hanging on a ladder.

The lead character looks the part but the control is terrible. You have to make a concerted effort to finagle your way up ladders or simply turn to face attackers. Jumping is problematic because you can't tell what you can jump on or what's just part of the background. When you get shot you often fall off your current platform, and falling just about any distance is fatal. I do like how James automatically picks up any objects he runs by.

Enemies tend to mindlessly scamper back and forth. You'll get into the habit of shooting while running so if an enemy appears on the edge of the screen he'll run right into the bullet. In stage two Bond is jumping between trees like a monkey in a tuxedo and it looks ridiculous. The Duel plays so poorly that even when you know exactly what to do survival is largely a matter of luck. You'll find yourself inadvertently finishing stages but when you shut this game off it will be no accident. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 313,000
1 player 

James Pond II: Codename Robocod
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Reviewed: 2014/12/17

screenshotFor some reason I've overlooked the James Pond series. If not for a reader pointing out this was a Christmas game, I may have never given it a second look. The unlikely premise behind James Pond II is that Dr. Maybe (yeah, that's his real name) has populated Santa's toy factory with assorted baddies. The opening screen exudes holiday cheer as our fish hero approaches Santa's towering factory in a raging snowstorm. The music isn't necessarily Christmas, but it has that same festive sound.

As you enter each door of the factory you explore worlds of stuffed animals, delectable treats, mechanical toys, and board games. These colorful areas are outfitted with all the standard contraptions like floating platforms, spiked pits, trampolines, and slippery slopes. James Pond defeats enemies by pouncing on them, and this is accompanied by a satisfying "snap" sound effect.

James also has the ability to elongate his body to any height and grab on to the underside of certain platforms. He can't climb up on them, but he can move arm-over-arm to reposition himself. You can't always tell what platforms you can latch onto until you try. Likewise, it's hard to tell if certain walls are in the foreground or background.

The best part of the game is snatching up the high-value bonus items like stars, presents, and ice cream cones. There are also alternate routes and bonus areas to discover. You can leap pretty far and certain power-ups give you the ability to fly freely around the stage. The difficulty is fair and continues are available. James Pond II: Codename Robocod is a heck of a lot of fun and even more enjoyable around the holiday season. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 337,600
1 player 

James Pond: Underwater Agent
Grade: D-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Reviewed: 2019/9/14

screenshotThis game stars a cartoon fish by the name of James Pond - an "underwater secret agent". Get it? Yeah... kind of a reach. At first the bright graphics and responsive controls had me excited. This feels like an arcade game! James can dash around quickly and can even leap out of the water to bump Mario-style blocks!

The opening mission has James rescuing lobsters from cages, and it's a blast. The stage has a fun Bubble Bobble (NES, 1988) vibe as James traps enemies in air bubbles and before popping them to reveal bonus items like carrots, flowers, umbrellas, headphones, sneakers, and other random objects. Then things get complicated.

In stage two you're supposed to "escort" other fish to safety, but where you need to escort them to is not readily apparent. I actually had to consult the manual! In the next mission you'll collect gold bars in a shipwreck while dealing with mushrooms that teleport you all over the place. Ugh. Next you need to blow up an oil rig while contending with invisible walls and crabs that latch onto you.

When there's a lot of activity on the screen it's hard to tell why you're taking damage. When you touch an octopus the screen starts going black intermittently, and I could have sworn it was a bug in the game! I wanted to like James Pond with its arcade style and zany aquatic theme but I could only languish for so long. When you can't tell the features from the bugs in a game, it's time to move on. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 592,110
1 player 

Grade: D+
Publisher: GTE (1994)
Reviewed: 2005/2/2

screenshotAttempting to combine a streetwise style with the "dunktastic" gameplay of NBA Jam, Jammit borders on self-parody. This one-on-one slamfest is played on a half court, forcing you to "clear" the ball during each change of possession. This little detail is easy to forget, and as a result you'll accidentally score more than a few points for the other team. The open-court action is pretty shabby. Despite utilizing the Genesis six-button controller, there are no effective special moves to the basket. Players tend to get "stuck" on each other when they collide, resulting in some very ugly, stilted animation.

One thing Jammit does right is its shooting controls, which require one button press to jump and a second to release the ball. When in close proximity to the hoop, a dramatic close-up shows both players soaring over the rim. I love how that second press "pulls the string" and slams the ball down. Likewise if the defender is in position he can swat it away with a well-timed swipe.

The meager character selection includes two black guys and - get this - a white chick! Not only does she look totally out of place, but inexplicably she can jump higher than the guys! Her mere existence should cost this game a letter grade - she looks like somebody's mom running around for Pete's sake!

Jammit tries to convey "attitude" by incorporating funky music, trash talking, and urban scenery, but it all seems phony and contrived. The bass-heavy music is okay, but the repetitive voice samples ("C'mon sucker!") are lame. On a positive note, most of the nighttime backdrops are colorful and attractive, particularly the one with the sunset over the ocean. Despite its general cheesiness, Jammit can still be fun if played against a friend thanks to its satisfying slam dunks. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 1999/11/6

screenshotIt would be unfair to give a high grade to such a sloppy game, but Pigskin Footbrawl is a game I wanted to like. The gameplay is more like rugby than American football, as players run, pass, and kick their way past slugging opponents. It's basically a five-on-five free-for-all.

The two playing fields consist of a meadow and a coliseum, and the medieval cartoon graphics give the game a distinct personality. But although the premise of Footbrawl is great, the implementation is lacking. For one thing, you can only control a single player (can't even switch), and your guy is constantly off the screen. The field is filled with too many obstacles that are almost impossible to avoid.

The animation is rough, and you have zero control during fights. I discovered that positioning your man to the endzone and waiting for a long throw is an effective (but very cheap) strategy. The voice samples ("ouch!") are repetitive and too loud. There are a few nice touches like a green troll that enters the game late to help out the losing team. Footbrawl could have used more polish, but the game can still generate some fun. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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1-2 players 

Jewel Master
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2016/11/11

screenshotBy the name alone you might dismiss Jewel Master as just another Tetris clone similar to Columns (Sega, 1991). In fact, Jewel Master is a side-scrolling platformer more along the lines of Rastan Saga II (Taito, 1991). I love it! What makes the game special is how you collect magic rings which you arrange on your fingers (via the pause screen).

Each hand has its own power. Various ring combinations imbue you with weapons (wave, ice, fireball) or special abilities (speed, high jump, shield). Before playing I'd advise you to alter the button configuration so the jump button is B, with left and right hand powers assigned to A and C (by default jump is C).

You'll need to use your powers strategically as you creep through crumbling ruins while fending off goblins, scorpions, mudmen, and fireball-spewing statues. The layered scenery is alluring and I especially love the ivy-covered temples. The stage designs are a little repetitive but there's a nice variety of locations. You can pretty much predict where enemies will appear and thankfully they do not respawn.

What makes the game challenging is that you're relatively slow, especially compared to bosses like a pouncing cheetah or floating skeleton. You get three continues, but you always restart from the beginning of the stage, and they can be pretty long. Jewel Master is slow and methodical, but experimenting with the rings opens up a world of fun possibilities. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 83,800
1 player 

Joe Montana Football
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2000/1/20

screenshotJoe Montana is a surprisingly entertaining title, especially considering it was Sega's first attempt at football on the Genesis. Montana Football actually looks very much like John Madden Football, except the players here look sharper. There are also fewer lulls in the action -- you can select plays and hike the ball much quicker.

One very innovative feature is the passing system. When you choose to pass, you get a first-person "helmet view" of your receiver, and you use crosshairs to "lead" your throw. This is fun and it works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, you can only see one receiver at a time, which may be why the system was not used in subsequent games.

As I was playing Joe Montana, its main flaw became obvious: bad AI. The computer is a really lousy opponent, dropping easy catches and missing tackles all over the place. There are 16 teams to choose from, but the options are very limited. Still, as a two player game, this isn't half bad. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Joe Montana II Sportstalk Football
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 1999/11/3

screenshotMontana II doesn't offer much in the way of gameplay, but it does have one cool gimmick: play-by-play announcing. That might not seem like a big deal today, but in 1993 it was monumental. I can remember when my friend Keith brought this over my house and all the guys were crowded around the TV waiting to see what the announcer would say next. The commentator is pretty good actually, although he does occasionally fall behind or repeat phrases. If you do something stupid (like attempt a 90-yard field goal) he'll say "I can't believe it!"

The game itself is pretty average. In this edition they went back to an old-fashioned side view of the field. It works okay but going deep is a problem since your receivers run off the screen. The players are fairly small, but when the ball is passed or handed off, the camera zooms in six times closer. This is especially helpful for runners trying to find room. Although running up the middle is still very difficult, this is one of the few Genesis football games where you can actually "break away" on a run.

After each quarter or score, a great looking statistic screen is presented, complete with little graphs. Montana II lacks Madden's polished look. The players are animated fine until they are hit, at which time they immediately fall flat on their stomachs or backs, and it looks pretty stupid.

The controls seem to have been intentionally designed to be different from Madden, and as a result they are not very intuitive. For example, before the play the C button switches players, but the B button performs that same function during the play. The B button is supposed to choose the closet player, but rarely does. Joe Montana II isn't a great game, but it's fun to look back on. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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1-2 players 

John Madden Football
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1990)
Reviewed: 2000/1/4

screenshotThis is the first edition of a series of football games that revolutionized video game sports. It features an angled vertical view of the field, giving the game a pseudo-3D look. A nice selection of actual NFL plays are at your disposal. Many of the typical moves that we all take for granted today are here, including spin, dive, jump, and hurdle. Playing this game recently, I was surprised at just how good this is.

The players look cartoonish but are easy to see, and the running and passing games are well balanced. I always liked how you can control the velocity of a pass by holding down the button - brilliant. There are only 16 teams to choose from, and the game has no fancy bells or whistles like subsequent editions. When choosing plays, you also need to choose which type of players you want, including big, hands, fast, or normal. After that, you often have to wait for half the team to run off the field, and THEN wait for the substitute players to run ONTO the field! This needlessly slows down the game.

The physics isn't very realistic. Players can dive for over five yards or be knocked back just as far! Passing windows are used to view your three receivers, and while these windows do indicate how open your receiver is, they do not tell you how deep he is, or how many defenders are in the vicinity. As a result, luck plays a major role in the passing game. The sound effects during the game are minimal, dominated by grunts and the "water faucet" crowd. It's a bit rough around the edges, but overall it was a great start for a classic series. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Save option? No
1-2 players 

Judge Dredd
Grade: C-
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Reviewed: 2008/2/20

screenshotLike the movie itself, you're not likely to remember this by-the-numbers platform game ten minutes after you take out the cartridge. The awful film starred Sylvester Stallone as a cop in 2070 serving as "judge, jury, and executioner" for an endless parade of lowlifes he encounters. Adding a little comic relief (very little) was his sidekick played by Rob Schneider. Stallone's outfit looks absolutely goofy with those huge, gold-plated, feathered shoulder pads.

In the game you fight crime on generic platforms as futuristic cityscapes loom in the background. I found it very difficult to spot the ladders in this game because they're viewed from the side. Climbing them isn't much easier! Judge Dredd's controls are very touchy. You can fire at several angles, but it's hard to aim because you're running at the same time. The graphics are nicely detailed (you can even make out the rusty bolts) but the industrial scenery grows tiresome after a few stages. The characters are quite small and it's hard to tell what's happening during close combat.

You'll find yourself navigating around gas vents, electrical fields, elevators, and floating platforms (yawn). And yes, in one stage you do walk through sewers flowing with green sludge! Joy! The so-called "missions" all share a predictable underlying thread - dispose of the scumbags!

Your rapid-fire capabilities may tempt you to lay waste to everything in sight, but shooting someone in the act of surrendering will cost you health. That's probably the only original element of the entire game - too bad it's not any fun! When you properly handcuff a thug, a little disc flies in and whisks them off to prison. Judge Dredd is challenging enough, but it ultimately comes off as monotonous and bland. Where the hell is Rob Schneider when you need him? © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 37350
1 player 

Jungle Book
Grade: B+

screenshotI remember seeing Jungle Book over my friend Brendan's house back in the day. He and Steve had rented it and were playing it on a small TV in his room. I didn't pay much attention at the time but now I love it. This game is so much fun. The title screen features the jaunty banjo tune "Bear Necessities" that's sure to have you tapping your toes.

You play as Mowgli, a scrawny little boy raised by a pack of wolves. Each stage challenges you to collect a certain number of red gems in the jungle before locating an end-of-stage character like Baloo the bear. Mowgli is a nimble little fellow who effortlessly climbs, swings, and leap between branches. The controls are so crisp!

The jungle is crawling with dangerous animals like monkeys, snakes, wild boars, scorpions, and anteaters. Some of these creatures tend to blend in with the lush environment. Mowgli can turn them to dust by either pouncing on them or hitting them with bananas. The ability to toss bananas in a rapid-fire manner is awesome - and you can even do it while hanging on a vine! Falling into water or thorns is fatal, but you can hold down the directional pad to get a peek at what's below.

The stages are short and sweet and I love the whole treasure hunting element. Many gems and other goodies are hidden or located in hard-to-reach places. Fortunately you don't need to collect all the gems to progress. The graphics and animation are nice but not as awe-inspiring as Aladdin (Genesis, 1993). The sound effects tend to be very scratchy and could use a little more punch. Jungle Book may not be a showcase title, but its happy-go-lucky gameplay should appeal to all ages. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 238,190
1 player 

Jungle Strike
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 1999/12/21

screenshotThis is a decent sequel to EA's Desert Strike, but to be honest, it didn't hold my attention all the way through. Like the first game, you control a helicopter on a series of military missions. Jungle Strike covers much more territory than the first game, including Washington D.C., a jungle river, and a snow fortress. I was hardly impressed by the D.C. stage because the scenery was entirely too sparse - it looked like a big park!

In addition to your helicopter, certain missions also allow you to control a motorbike, hovercraft, and Stealth bomber. Don't get too excited though - these new vehicles are tougher to control and ultimately not as much fun. Oh well, at least they break up the monotony. Jungle Strike takes a long time to complete. There are eight campaigns compared to four in the first game, and each has a long list of missions. Casual gamers might not go for this, but if you couldn't get enough of Desert Strike, this is the game for you. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Save option? Password
1 player. 

Jurassic Park
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2018/8/7

screenshotMy friend Eric brought this cartridge over my house when Jurassic Park mania was in full swing. Turn it on and a T-Rex roars "Sega!" Now that is awesome. I also like watching that huge Jurassic Park gate slide open, although I'm pretty sure they swing open in the movie. The intro cutscene is dark and scary, depicting a jeep attacked by a T-Rex on a stormy night. You begin play as Dr. Grant in a dense jungle, where you shoot, squat, climb, jump, and move hand-over-hand along vines. When he comes up short on a jump he'll grab the ledge and pull himself up.

Grant looks realistic but the animation is choppy and the controls are stiff. It's hard to tell where to go at times, and it seems like you're constantly sliding down a slippery slope or falling into an unknown chasm. The erratic frame rate not only degrades the controls, but even the music slows down. Environmental hazards include spikes, boulders, and electric wires. Touching water or a tumbling rock means instant death, forcing you to restart the entire level!

Despite its flaws there's something compelling about this game. The digitized dinosaurs look and sound amazing! You'll face raptors, spitting dinosaurs, pterodactyls, and those annoying tiny green dinosaurs. If you don't attack the Triceratops he won't charge you, and that makes your life a lot easier. The T-Rex is never seen full-body but he makes his presence felt by sticking his huge noggin wherever it will fit. You can't actually kill any dinosaurs but you can tranquilize them, and it's neat how their chests rise and fall while sleeping.

Running is often your best course of action, especially in the shadowy power station where you're stalked by raptors. Ducking into a vent at the last possible moment is exciting, but the music that plays during this stage is just plain weird. The river raft stage may be the most visually appealing, but navigating towering waterfalls while fighting dinosaurs is hard.

The option to play as the raptor is fun, mainly because you can jump a country mile. Still, chomping small dinosaurs and pouncing on helpless security guards gets old after a while. Jurassic Park has its share of frustration but I feel like it captures the spirit of the film and you can't ask for much more than that. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition
Grade: C+
Publisher: Universal (1994)
Reviewed: 2012/9/26

screenshotAs if trying to make up for the shortcomings of the original Jurassic Park Genesis game, this "Rampage Edition" was a quick follow-up. The game begins with a stage select screen - always a welcome feature. You can start at the docks, the aviary, or in the savannah where you ride on back of a galloping dinosaur (who is not named Yoshi for once). For some reason the game pits you against armed soldiers - as if the dinosaurs weren't enough, right?

I'm surprised by the way they altered the graphic style for this game, giving all characters and objects black outlines. I guess it's supposed to make them stand out more, but it looks less realistic - and a little cheesy. The controls are very responsive and the animation is smooth. The only thing missing is the ability to grab onto ledges, and it's sorely missed. Your weapon arsenal includes electric zappers, grenades, machine guns, and flamethrowers. Yes, you can kill the dinosaurs this time.

Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is the kind of game that drives me crazy. It has all the necessary building blocks but doesn't put them together right. Like the first game, areas tend to "wrap around" on themselves in a confusing manner. Enemies can absorb a crazy number of shots before going down (even on the easy level).

On the aviary screen you'll be making excellent progress only to have a pterodactyl snatch you up and carry you all the way back to the beginning of the stage! That wouldn't be so bad if all your enemies hadn't regenerated! Otherwise the action is fast and fun, and there are plenty of checkpoints and hidden areas. Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is better than the original game in some respects, but worse in others. Overall I'd say it's a wash. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Easy
1 player 

Jurassic Park: The Lost World
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Reviewed: 2012/9/26
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis game was released late in the Genesis life cycle, making it a pretty rare title. Unlike the first two Jurassic Park Genesis games, this is an overhead, free-roaming adventure. It sounds a lot like the SNES Jurassic Park game, but this one looks far more realistic. If only it were more fun.

You start by wandering around a savannah surrounded by heavy brush. Hitting the start button brings up a "web site". Yes, this was an early attempt to emulate the world wide web in a game. This fake website contains email messages, a map, and the all-important "dino facts".

I like how the missions branch, but every one felt like a tedious wild goose chase. Typically you must rescue some poor schmuck by blasting obstacles and disabling electronic generators. Each time you encounter an electric field you have to scour the area to locate its power generator, and it's usually the furthest possible distance from your current location.

Every stage feels like a maze, and don't get me started about these pesky dinosaurs. They aren't particularly aggressive, but your weapons are so freakin' weak that you can't get rid of them! Even with a machine gun you'll barely chip away at the health of a small dinosaur. The action is tediously slow, and it just gets slower with more activity on the screen. I was hoping Lost World might be a hidden gem but this is one Jurassic Park game best forgotten. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Justice League Task Force
Grade: D
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
Reviewed: 2002/9/29

screenshotFrom the name itself, few people would guess this is a superhero fighting game. Justice League Task Force sounds like some boring government commission! But the thing that really struck me about the game is just how incredibly mediocre it is. Having been released well after the 2D fighter boom, you would at least expect this to be as good as Eternal Champions, but it's not even close.

The game combines run-of-the-mill graphics with second-rate gameplay and minimal sound. The main attraction is your ability to fight as Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or the Flash. Unfortunately, Task Force was made at a time when DC Comics had made a few ill-advised changes to the look of the characters. Superman and Aquaman have long, flowing hair that makes them look more like Fabio than superheroes, and Green Arrow looks like a complete ass in that Robin Hood outfit.

Also included are three villains I've never heard of: Cheetah, Desperado, and Darkseid. The backgrounds are static, and with the exception of Batman's Gotham City, are extremely uninteresting. The gameplay is equally uninspired. The special moves aren't very special, and the collision detection is suspect at times. The sound effects are terribly muffled, and the low, rumbling background music is barely audible. If not for its famous cast of characters, Justice Task Force would have been a complete bust. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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