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

Jaguar Reviews A-B

Alien Vs. Predator
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Posted: 2000/10/18

screenshotThis ambitious first-person shooter is one of the best games for the Jaguar system. Some people say it's the only good game for the system. You can play as a Marine, Alien, or Predator in three separate scenarios. Each plays like a different game. My favorite is the Marine scenario, despite the fact that it's the least original, playing much like a typical Doom clone.

A cool heads-up display (HUD) displays weapons, ammo, energy, and a motion tracker. The well-designed control scheme uses the keypad to switch weapons and bring up an overhead map, which you can keep on the screen as you move. The map is useful because the levels are easy to get lost in.

The graphics are outstanding. Most objects look digitized, although they do get slightly pixelated up close. The aliens look MUCH better than the ones in Alien Trilogy (Playstation, 1996). The rooms and corridors are nicely detailed and reflect the look of the movies. A major flaw is the frame rate: it's pretty choppy and just barely acceptable at times. Still, the atmosphere can get pretty intense, with incredible sound effects taken straight from the films.

The Marine mission is very straightforward: you need to set the ship's self-destruct mechanism and escape. It's fun because you encounter both Aliens and Predators. Unfortunately, blasted Aliens leave huge acid puddles that hurt you and are difficult to avoid. In the Alien scenario, you must rescue the alien queen from the Predators. Your attacks include a claw, tail whip, and extended jaw.

Your alien moves fast, and it's sometimes hard to keep your victim in front of you. And since the main controller buttons are used for attacks, you need to use the keypad to strafe, which is awkward. On the positive side, you can cocoon people and create new aliens, which act as extra lives. Unfortunately, your new alien is often hatched far back from where you died, so you'll have to retrace your steps, which can be tedious.

In the Predator scenario your mission is to kill the alien queen. You can turn invisible, but you lose points if you attack in this state. Points allow you to earn special weapons like a combi-stick, smart disk, or shoulder cannon. When you're invisible, your view changes colors (like the Predator movie), but the color scheme is hard on the eyes. You can save your progress at any time to one of three slots on the cartridge. Overall this is a must-have game for Jaguar owners. It's flawed but fun, and provides loads of replay value. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Ants (CD)
Grade: F
Publisher: Wave 1 Games (2018)
Posted: 2019/3/13

screenshotWhen I first saw the name Ants I was bracing myself for some sort of tedious strategy title. Instead you just move a digitized hand around the screen, squishing ants with your fingertip. That's it! I've seen load screens with more depth! Four stages offer static digitized scenes of a table, picnic blanket, stove, and pool table. In contrast to the lifelike scenery, the meandering ants look like pixelated sprites.

A shadow below your finger gives you a target, but the controls are not good. Your movement is choppy and the collision detection is a mess. Worse yet, playing this game hurt my hand. Squishing ants isn't very satisfying. You just get one point for each "squish", or as the ants call it "murder". When bugs are overlapping the game goes into a brief rapid-fire automated squish mode; there really should be some kind of multiplier when that happens.

Otherwise this game is so bland. You need to avoid the occasional bee or mosquito which wears down your health. You can also incur damage by squishing red ants, ants on fire, and stink bugs. Sometimes it's hard to find a single "safe" ant to go after! High scores unlock novelty modes like finger gun, big bugs, and 5x speed. None of those improve upon the weak gameplay of Ants. A strategy game is sounding pretty good right about now. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 88
1 player 

Atari Karts
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2002/11/8

screenshotAtari Karts is a tough game to find, and I ended up ordering it from some crazy foreign country. I was hoping it would be the arcade-style racer the Jaguar needed so badly, but I was disappointed. The game's main strength lies in its graphics. With its colorful, high-resolution graphics and softly undulating tracks, it looks even better than Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992). The ice stages are beautiful, and waves softly rise and fall on the shores of the island stages.

Unfortunately, the gameplay is nowhere near Mario standards. The racers are a cast of unknowns including a skeleton and an octopus. I did recognize the teddy bear from Crystal Castles, but he'll never win a popularity contest. The carts have fat, wide wheels that look pretty cool but make it frustratingly difficult to pass. The first time I played Atari Karts, it dawned on me that I had to complete all of the starter tracks before accessing the challenging ones. That sounds reasonable until you realize just how many of these snore-a-thons you'll need to sit through!

Another problem is the unimaginative and ineffective power-ups. The "rabbit" is supposed to give a speed boost, but it's barely even noticeable. There's no way to "attack" your opponents directly, but you can use "turtle" power-ups to muck with your opponents' steering controls! Talk about unfair! It's hard to avoid getting stuck on the edge of the track as it is!

The split screen mode is smooth in terms of frame rate, but the fact that you can't have extra computer-controlled racers makes the contests less exciting than they could be. The quality of the music ranges from fair to annoying. Wow, Atari was so incompetent that they couldn't even rip-off a game without screwing up! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Attack of the Mutant Penguins
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2008/10/5

screenshotAttack of the Mutant Penguins tries to be a wacky platform game with strategic undertones, but it's just a colossal waste of time. This strikes me as the kind of game designed by a bunch of tie-wearing executives in a stuffy boardroom. Mutant Penguins is little more than a hodgepodge of derivative ideas that don't amount to anything at all. You control some freaky looking alien trying to eliminate an army of mutant penguins.

Each 2D stage consists of floating walkways in space, not unlike Toejam and Earl (Genesis, 1991). You begin by collecting little gremlins used to open chests and access special items. Once you obtain a weapon (like a frying pan), you proceed to bash the hell out of the penguins before they can tip a giant scale. As if the idea of mutant penguins isn't wacky enough, they are also decked out in cute cowboy and indian outfits. They don't fight back, but they can take a lot of abuse before bursting into gory displays of intestines and eyeballs.

This game makes absolutely no sense, and it's annoying to boot! The action is slow and confusing, and even special weapons like dynamite and guns fail to add any excitement. There are some nifty stereo sound effects (on the character selection screen) and some decent tunes reminiscent of Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, 1993), but otherwise you can chalk this one up as a total loss. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 414000
1 player 

Baldies (CD)
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2007/10/3
Rating: Kids to adults (animated violence, animated blood)

screenshotDespite my penchant for arcade action, I've always had a fondness for real-time strategy (RTS) titles, believe it or not. Years ago I logged many hours playing Warcraft and Starcraft on my PC. Baldies is a kindler, gentler RTS starring a tribe of cuddly bald characters. By managing the occupations of your "baldies" (workers, builders, soldiers, scientists) you construct factories, invent weapons, and reproduce to populate your little world.

The object is to wipe out enemies on the far side of the map, although this is never explained in the instructions (once again Atari drops the ball). The interface consists of a cursor and toolbars, with a keypad overlay providing convenient shortcuts. You can pick up individual Baldies to move them around, but directing them to locations with the cursor is problematic because they have difficulty navigating around obstacles. This game has a major learning curve, but since the action unfolds at a snail's pace, there's plenty of time to figure out what's going on.

Not only is it time consuming to develop your tribe, but it's boring too. I completed the first few stages of Baldies for the sake of this review, but I'm not convinced it was worth my time. There are dozens of stages in the game, but you only unlock one at a time. Advanced levels promise harsher environments, vehicles, and sophisticated traps, but the amount of work required to see all the good stuff would be painstaking. You'd really have to fall in love with this game to see all it has to offer, but there's no chance of that happening. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Barkley: Shut Up and Jam
Grade: D-
Publisher: Accolade (1995)
Posted: 2017/2/5

screenshotIt always sucked when celebrity athletes like Michael Jordan and Shaq would sign exclusive contracts with game companies. It effectively excluded them from the best basketball games of their time, instead relegating their presence to novelty items like Barkley: Shut Up and Jam. This game was never officially released for the Jaguar but it appears to be complete.

I never cared for Barkley Shut Up and Jam (Genesis, 1994) so my expectations were low. It took a few days just to figure out how to play a game, because configuring it for human players is remarkably counter-intuitive. The player selection screen is a joke. Who are these dorky people - the programmers? One guy looks like he's from Duck Dynasty and one of the girls looks like Demi Moore. Is that a pregnant woman?! And why did they bother to include that fat middle-aged slob? Oh wait - that's Charles Barkley!

After selecting your players you're then subjected to a 40-second load screen. There's a basketball pong game to help you pass the time, which seems like a pretty neat feature until you remember you're playing a damn cartridge! Apparently the publisher was cheap with the memory chips, forcing the programmers to compress the game contents. There are eight digitized court locations including the Seattle skyline, a Miami beach, and the Brooklyn harbor at night. I have to admit these do add atmosphere. Sadly, the Phoenix location is just a generic basketball arena with static, cardboard cut-out spectators.

The graphics are pretty sharp but that just accentuates how muddy and pixelated the player sprites really are. As you might expect the gameplay is just plain shoddy. Rough animation makes it hard to tell if the ball even passed through the net! The controls are so slippery and imprecise there's really no need for a "juice" button.

Shut Up and Jam is embarrassing to watch. It's not uncommon to have the ball stolen from you just as you're coming down for a slam. On the other end of the court some little girl scores on you by shooting the ball between her legs. The game does support the 4-player tap so there's that. Also, Shut Up and Jam manages to compare favorably to its legendarily bad counterpart White Men Can't Jump (Atari, 1995). © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Battlemorph (CD)
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2001/1/4

screenshotBattlemorph is the sequel to Cybermorph, and it surpasses the original game in every way. The framerate is much smoother, the graphics are more detailed, and the sound effects are less annoying. The missions are varied and interesting, and you can choose which order you'll play them. There are even hints given during each mission to help keep you on track.

The futuristic music is outstanding, and your "talking head" guide only speaks when she has something to say. Before each mission you can outfit your ship's weapons. You fly over various planet surfaces, and each has its own distinctive look. The scenery and enemies look much less blocky than the ones in Cybermorph. And you are not limited to the planet surface; there are tunnels, hidden rooms, and underwater(!) areas to be explored.

Although the graphics have been cleaned up, pop-up is still a big problem, and it can be disconcerting at times. Control is fair, but navigating tight quarters is difficult due to the awkward camera angles. Still, Battlemorph delivers solid 3D shooting action. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Blue Lightning (CD)
Grade: D+
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2022/1/5

screenshotI couldn't help but notice the "Copyright Epyx 1989" on Blue Lightning's title screen. Are you telling me the game Atari selected as the pack-in for their bleeding-edge CD add-on was six years old?! I'm not even sure this game is CD worthy. Blue Lightning attempts to expand upon After Burner II (Genesis, 1990), offering a selection of jets and missions spanning the globe. The results are underwhelming.

Upon selecting a geographic region like Russia, South Africa, or the Pacific, you embark on a series of missions. Some take place in the clouds while others let you skim the ground while blasting tanks, radar installations, and rows of parked trucks. There are also escort missions where you protect a cargo plane in transit.

Each mission begins with an elaborate CGI take-off sequence which was probably impressive in the early 90's. Probably. During the game you view your plane from behind and it tends to obscure your view. When damaged your jet emits a plume of smoke that further obscures your vision. A cockpit view is available but that makes it easy to collide with scenery.

The graphics boast rapid scaling but heavy pixelation. The scenery looks very flat as you weave around cardboard mountains and pass through paper clouds. Your jet's exhaust doesn't even glow red until you kick in the afterburner. You have an evasive barrel roll but this causes the entire screen to rotate in a choppy, unsightly manner.

The rampant destruction is mildly fun. Machine guns are surprisingly effective on ground targets, causing everything to go up in pixelated mushroom clouds. Strafing massive oil tanks and fuel depots is satisfying, even if they appear in the same repetitive patterns. Launching heat-seeking missiles is pretty mindless as yellow boxes automatically appear around targets, turning red when you fire.

The background music consists of generic squealing guitars. Over your radio you'll hear cheesy lines like "eat this!" and "you'll never stop us!" I had to laugh after I slammed into a mountain and then heard a delayed "good luck". Classic.

Missions drag on without a real sense of purpose, like an endurance test. You get about five planes to work with, artificially extending the game to unwanted lengths. I doubt Blue Lightning was the best option for the Jaguar CD pack-in, but knowing Atari at the time, it might have been their only option. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 142,024
1 player 

Brain Dead 13 (CD)
Grade: D
Publisher: Readysoft (1995)
Posted: 2008/10/5

screenshotHere's a full-motion video (FMV) game much like Dragon's Lair (arcade, 1983), which lets you interact with an animated cartoon (well, sort of). You affect the course of events by entering simple commands at specific times. Readysoft was the company responsible for these games, and Brain Dead 13 illustrates just how clueless they were. Granted, FMV games were largely novelty items, but if done well (like Dragon's Lair) they can still be very entertaining.

Brain Dead 13 is extremely poorly designed. The premise of the story isn't bad, featuring a teenage boy trapped in a haunted house with monsters coming out of the woodwork. There's the potential for thrills, but the cartoonish visuals practically eliminate the scare factor. That goofy dragon in the kitchen area may as well be Barney the purple dinosaur! Each room offers a new challenge, and you'll have to contend with everything from witches to giant centipedes to bear-rugs that come to life. You'll need to perform several moves in rapid succession to escape each room, and the game offers no clues about how to react.

Instead of logical puzzles, Brain Dead 13 is almost exclusively an exercise in trial and error. In one bedroom scene, you actually have to run towards a ghost with a sword, which makes absolutely no sense. Brain Dead 13 does offer the ability to select multiple paths, which sounds like a good idea until you find yourself moving in circles! The full-screen graphics are fairly pixelated but not too bad for a Jaguar title. The audio is not as clear as you'd hope for a CD title. I like the Halloween theme, but only die-hard FMV fans will appreciate this poorly conceived title. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Breakout 2000
Grade: C

screenshotFar more than a shallow 3D makeover, Breakout 2000 brings the universal joy of smashing bricks to a whole new millennium! It transforms the simple formula of Breakout (Atari 2600, 1977) into a mind-bending, high-tech affair. The action takes place in a space station where you deflect one or more metal balls against layers of bricks laid out ahead of you. Moving the deflector "paddle" with the directional pad is a little clumsy; it's a shame there's no analog support.

What makes the game fascinating is its two-player head-to-head action. Player two's wall runs along the top of the screen, with both walls curling around into each other at the far end! So when you break through your wall, your ball rolls around into your opponent's side! Trippy! This awards you with increased scoring in addition to giving your opponent another ball to deal with. Playing the game from the upside-down player-two vantage point made me feel a little nauseous at first. It's kind of like playing the game while standing on your head. Adding spice are space ships that periodically fly through the center of the screen, either firing missiles or dispensing power-ups.

I enjoyed the industrial graphics of Breakout 2000 but the animation is marred by slowdown - even when there's not a heck of a lot going on. The scoring system is also suspect, due to the fact you can actually lose points. This leads to lopsided final scores (4877-17) that don't accurately reflect what happened during the game. The "wa wa wa" sound effects are so lame it's almost comical, and the game locked up on me once. There are definitely issues here, but I still love the sheer originality. Breakout 2000 takes a long lost video game concept and literally turns it on its head. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 8287
1 or 2 players 

Brutal Sports Football
Grade: B-
Publisher: Telegames (1994)
Posted: 2006/10/10

screenshotOffering a potent combination of full-contact sports and gratuitous violence, Brutal Sports Football appeals to the Neanderthal in us all. This has more in common with rugby than football, as two squads of barbarians attempt to get the ball into their goal by any means necessary. Normally this means diving on the guy with the ball, but occasionally you can disable (or dismember) your opponent with weapons like axes and swords.

The graphics aren't bad at all. The players are large, and the stadium is finely detailed. My friends enjoyed this game, although they complained mightily about sore thumbs afterwards. With its interesting concept and sharp graphics, Brutal Sports Football should have been a winner, but it's flawed. First and foremost, the animation is rough and the framerate is uneven. When the action becomes hectic the screen degenerates into a choppy mess. Not only does this undermine the gory animations, but it makes it hard to determine where the ball is.

Your view of the field is so limited that you rarely see whom you're passing to, and since the ball doesn't travel any faster through the air, what's the point? There's a selection of teams to choose from, but they all look and behave pretty much the same. Brutal Sports Football shows flashes of brilliance, with hard-hitting tackles and non-stop mayhem. The auto-switching feature works well, and a password allows you to facilitate a "league" mode. But without a solid engine running things under the covers, this one can't quite close the deal. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Posted: 2002/2/20

screenshotI remember when Bubsy the cat made his debut on the Genesis in the early 90s. He was billed as the next Sonic the Hedgehog. But there was a problem: Bubsy just wasn't cool. Not only does he look like a total dork, but his irritating digitized voice makes him even MORE unlikable. This game does have some nice graphics and imaginative background graphics I have to admit. Each level is based on a fairy tale like Alice in Wonderland or Jack and the Beanstalk. The gameplay is less inspired however, with the typical "jump on enemy while collecting objects" action. Bubsy can also glide, but it really doesn't add much to the gameplay. Control isn't bad, but it's difficult to tell what you can or can't touch without getting killed. And unlike Sonic, a single hit will do you in. I wasn't crazy about Bubsy. It's not very fun at all. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Rotten Tomatoes, NerdBacon.com, Moby Games