Game Gear Reviews A-C

Adventures of Batman and Robin, The
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2020/4/6

screenshotEvery Batman game is unique but this one is just bizarre. The graphics are a pixelated mess and the animation is unsightly. The controls are so spastic you'll be hopping around like a flea just to reach the next platform. This game needs Ritalin. The spinning somersault required to reach higher ledges only works half the time, and when you miss, you tend to fall very far. The fact that it only works if you hold diagonally is part of the problem.

The streets of Gotham look weird, with light posts that resemble basketball hoops. Hand-to-hand combat is frustrating because you always find yourself overlapping the bad guy, unable to land a punch. And when you do land a punch it sounds like a bomb. The collision detection could be better; I once punched a guy on a completely different floor! One creepy stage is apparently the set of an Alice in Wonderland movie where you're fighting freaky card soldiers and Cheshire cats. Another stage takes place in a 20-story loft that serves as Mr. Freeze's lair.

The stages are so sprawling and repetitious, they're nauseating! Forget about the bad guys, I just want to find the exit. You have a stash of specialty weapons like bombs and throwing stars, but they're hardly necessary because the bosses tend to be pushovers. After dying the screen said I had 8 lives left! Thanks but no thanks. The Adventures of Batman and Robin is a lot of things, but fun isn't high on the list. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 7560
1 player 

Aerial Assault
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2019/9/25


screenshotI love me some 2D shooting, but can the Game Gear handle intense shooting action with waves of enemies and projectiles? I had my doubts, but it can! Barely. Aerial Assault is a very conventional side-scroller. During the first stage you fly along a generic city skyline. Pretty boring, but a colorful sunrise and scenic bridge add a little variety. Your plane's default pea shooter seems sufficient at first because enemies approach in predictable formations, unleashing slow-moving orange projectiles.

The first stage is so long and easy it gives you a false sense of security, so when you die you might end up losing two or three lives in a row! Like any good shooter collecting power-ups lets you amass substantial firepower, including homing missiles, green waves, and three-way shots.

Some weapons making an annoying "tweet" sound that kind of undermines their destructive force. The homing missiles are always fun to watch. They have a wide turn radius which means they often miss their targets and have to double back. The three-way shot is money, and I was shocked when I discovered I could upgrade it to a five-way shot!

Aerial Assault is fun to play for score because your points continuously rank up by virtue of flying forward! It takes a while but eventually you'll encounter a boss that looks like a huge battleship floating up and down in space. The second mission takes place up in the clouds with vivid sunsets and thunderstorms. The game over screen displays the harsh message "Your mission was a disaster". Aerial Assault takes a while to take flight, but once it does you're in for a good time. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 140,590
1 player 

Aladdin
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2003/10/8

screenshotUnlike the remarkable Aladdin games for the Genesis and SNES, this generic platformer is as bland as they come. The first stage finds our hero running from a sword-wielding goon while jumping barrels and dodging falling objects. It's more aggravating than fun, and the other stages aren't much better. Most are just a matter of finding a key on one platform and opening a door on another. Sometimes you'll toss an apple, but that's about as exciting as it gets.

With repetitive, unimaginative levels and cheap hits out the wazoo, the action gets old real quick. Even the flying carpet sequence lacks any sense of thrill or excitement. Then there's the problem with imprecise controls that lead to many underserved deaths. On the bright side, the graphics and sound aren't bad at all. The characters are large and nicely animated, the backgrounds are attractive, and the music is taken straight from the movie. But the flashy presentation isn't enough to save the uninspired gameplay. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Aleste II
Grade: A+
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2016/1/26

screenshotAfter going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over Power Strike (Sega Master System, 1988) I was thrilled to discover its sequel was readily available for the Game Gear. It's a Japanese cartridge but fortunately the system is not region-locked. Actually the title screen reads "Power Strike II". It may not come cheap but Aleste II packs more action than any other game for the system.

Your firepower never wanes as you plow through non-stop waves of alien vessels, some of which resemble Tie Fighters. The mesmerizing level of on-screen activity is astonishing for a portable 8-bit system. Power-ups assume the form of canisters rained down from supply ships, and scooping them up before they fall off the screen is part of the challenge. The weapon icons are big, colorful, and distinctive.

It's fun to watch homing missiles feast on enemies, but I prefer the napalm missiles. Not only do they provide an effective shield, but when fully-powered they unleash a wall of death that marches up the screen. Once you get that thing going, it's almost unfair. Your shots not only destroy enemies but neutralize their missiles as well, allowing you to fire right down their throats!

There are some imaginative bosses including a giant head with eyeballs that float around the screen. The opening space stage is pretty long, causing my non-blinking eyes to be blinded by the bright blue skies of stage two. There's also an After Burner-style bonus stage. The fact that this game wasn't released in the US proves we've been really missing out. When it comes to portable shooters, Aleste II is the undisputed champ. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 629,850
1 player 

Ax Battler
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2005/5/8

screenshotAs an avid fan of Golden Axe (Genesis 1989), I was anxious to see what this portable version had to offer. Imagine my dismay when I started up Ax Battler and witnessed what resembled (gasp) an RPG! The diminutive characters and scrolling text were a far cry from the side-scrolling hack-n-slash mayhem I was anticipating. As it turns out, Ax Battler does contain its share of side-scrolling action, but it also incorporates (albeit unsuccessfully) RPG elements.

The background story is hackneyed to say the least: the Golden Axe has been stolen by an evil army, and only one man can rescue it. Okay, I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but the fact that the hero's real name is "Ax Battler" seems awfully contrived. Gameplay involves guiding a tiny cartoon character across the countryside where you encounter a wandering monster every few seconds. When this happens, both characters are presented on a separate screen in their full-sized, realistic form.

Instead of turn-based combat both fighters simply slash away at each other. It's as shallow as it is repetitious. Once you reach a specific destination (like a cave), the game turns into a more conventional side-scroller, but even these stages are dull and poorly designed. Ax Battler is ill conceived, attempting to incorporate both action and exploration. This ambition weighs the game down. Ax Battler's graphics and sound aren't bad, but you'll need the patience of a saint to finish this. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Batman Forever
Grade: F-
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Reviewed: 2019/12/24

screenshotIf you thought Batman Forever was an abomination on the Genesis, wait until you get a load of this portable version. It's slower, blockier, and even more pathetic. I guess Acclaim's first mistake was recycling their Mortal Kombat fighting engine. Digitized characters look cool on the big screen but on a portable they look like pixelated blobs.

The fighting action is painfully slow and repetitive, especially when even the weakest goons require six or seven hits to kill. With names like Bully, Angry, and Shady, these guys were destined for a life of crime. The first boss is clearly Two Face, yet his health meter says "Hologram" for some reason. I guess they're saving the "real" Two-Face for the end, but how do you fight a hologram?!

Between slogging through fights you'll punch exploding plants and rescue hostages who raise their arms like they've won a contest. The cookie-cutter "bank" backdrops are sparse and the looping "musical" notes are just mind numbing. But the worst aspect of Batman Forever is the controls, which incorporate complicated Street Fighter-style button combinations. I suspect most players won't be able to find their way out of the first room. The secret is pressing down and up, causing Batman to jump through the ceiling (?!) to the level above. Even the exit door is too small - it looks like Batman should bang his head on it!

I may have escaped that first room, but the game's incompetence eventually caught up with me, trapping me in the circus area. Hey - I had been looking for an excuse to shut this thing off anyway. This sad part is, the film contains all the elements for a great video game including colorful characters, interesting locations, and a distinctive cinematic style. All sadly squandered here, I'm afraid. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 85,940
1 player 

Batman Returns
Grade: A

screenshotBatman games have a spotty history but they really seemed to hit their stride during the Batman Returns era. Not only does this play like a full-fledged console title but unexpected bonuses abound. The city streets of Gotham retain that trademark gothic look except with colorful Christmas accents. In one stage it actually begins snowing, gradually picking up in intensity!

Batman faces off against a wide range of circus goons who shoot, slide, breath fire, and fire rocket launchers. Batman slings batarangs which can be adjusted for range and strength via the pause screen. Dispatching clowns is fun but sometimes they keep coming back after you think they're down. Also, a few explode on contact so keep your distance. Swinging around via your grappling hook is intuitive and fun.

Adding replay value is a stage select, letting you choose your path through streets, rooftops, department stores, and sewers. Batman even has a "smart bomb" of sorts he can use in emergencies, prompting a cool cut-scene featuring the Batmobile. Unless you're in the sewers that is, in which case you'll see the Bat Boat gliding through the green water instead. It's that kind of attention to detail that's rare in a portable title. I've enjoyed many versions of Batman Returns but this Game Gear version rates near the top in terms of atmosphere and playability. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 174,100
1 player 

new Bram Stoker's Dracula
Grade: B
Publisher: Sony (1992)
Reviewed: 2021/10/3

screenshotThis Game Gear version of Bram Stoker's Dracula is much easier to swallow than the Genesis edition. More like Bram Stoker's Dracula (NES, 1991), this game has an enticing simplicity to it. Having the default difficulty set to easy doesn't hurt either.

Dracula is based on the stylish 1992 Coppola film. You play as John Harker (Keanu Reeves) forging over the Transylvanian countryside, jumping through caverns, and dashing through trap-laden castles. Harker's goofy outfit makes him look like a hippy wearing a tiara.

Harker can jump a country mile, making it easy to circumvent lava pools, timed spikes, and collapsing ledges. Your default knife-slash is fine but you'll often pick up weapons like axes or rocks. Axes move in an annoying arc, often looping over some bat I'm trying to hit. Other foes include wispy spirits, zombies, skeletons, and floating hands. Who are these red-headed dudes running around with knives? Am I in Transylvania or West Virginia?

There are a lot of icons and power-ups, but they appear in cheesy-looking, question mark boxes like something out of a Mario game. After slashing them your prize floats upward so you have to jump and grab it. It sucks when you get distracted and it floats away.

Bram Stoker's Dracula has a pick-up-and-play quality I like in a portable title. The controls are remarkably crisp and the music is creepy enough. It's difficult to find parallels to the film, but that doesn't seem to matter when you're having this much fun. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 13,370
1 player 

Caesar's Palace
Grade: D
Publisher: Majesco (1994)
Reviewed: 2003/11/9


screenshotI suppose if you were stuck in a hotel room by yourself and wanted to pass the time, Caesar's Palace wouldn't be a bad game to have. With video poker, video horse racing, slots, blackjack, craps, roulette, and keno, there's more than enough variety. You start with $5K, moving a guy around a multi-tiered casino. For some reason, moving is a hassle because you're always getting caught up on the scenery. The music is absolutely terrible, so you'll want to turn down the volume immediately.

Not being much of a gambler, I gravitate towards blackjack and video poker. Unfortunately, some games are initially unavailable (including blackjack), and certain tables are reserved for "high rollers". Boy, you'd think Majesco was deliberately trying to make the game less fun! A few of the games, like slots, keno, and roulette, aren't even worth playing because they rely solely on luck.

Graphically, the game has a few nice digitized images, but in most games you need to scroll around to see everything, which is a pain. Likewise, placing bets seems to require more work than necessary. For a gambling game, Caesar's Palace serves its purpose, but just barely. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Emula Zone, GameFAQs, Moby Games, Games Database