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

Jaguar Reviews G-J

Gorf (CD)
Grade: A
Publisher: 3D Stooges Software (2005)
Posted: 2022/2/5

screenshotA friend recently asked me about Gorf, and despite owning several Midway compilations I was shocked to discover I did not own the arcade version. A little research revealed my best course of action was to obtain the unlicensed Jaguar CD port. It's got all the stages and even the voice!

Gorf is such a remarkable space shooter it's hard to believe it was released way back in 1981! It incorporates voice synthesis and the robot dialect, though hard to understand, is hilarious. I had to laugh when my nephew Jordan asked what language it was speaking!

Like Centipede (Atari 5200, 1982) you can freely move your cannon around the lower part of the screen. You only fire one shot at a time, but can "cancel" your current shot by firing again. It's disconcerting at first but eventually proves its worth. Tapping the button rapidly has the effect of a short-range rapid-fire.

The game consists of five distinct stages, which was pretty mind-blowing in 1981. Gorf does a fine job of ripping off other arcade hits of its time, which might be why you never see it on compilations. The opening "Astro Battles" stage is clearly inspired by Space Invaders. One difference is a bedazzled barrier that protects you until it gets enough holes poked in it. The fact that it disappears when you fire adds strategy.

In "Laser Attack" you fire at two sets of ships that reposition around the screen while emitting long laser beams. The third "Galaxians" stage is a not-so-subtle rip off of - you guessed it - Galaxian (Atari 5200, 1982). The ability to engage rapid-fire makes it fun to wipe out the dive-bombing mutants. Be sure to keep an eye out for their tiny bombs.

In stage four's "Space Warp" aliens scale out of a black hole, whirling around in a circular pattern. If you continuously fire at the center of the hole you can obliterate most before they even get a chance to emerge.

The final "Flagship" stage features a boss that looks like the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. It moves back and forth behind a shield while hurling fireballs. You can systematically take out chunks of his hull, but it only takes one well-placed shot to destroy it.

At first Gorf addresses you as "spaaace ca-det" but as you progress it starts referring to you as captain and colonel. The game even saves high scores and settings to the memory track cartridge. I'm impressed! If you've been looking for a reason to dust off your Jaguar CD, this is a pretty good one. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3 lives
Our high score: 12,860
Save mechanism: Memory Track
1 or 2 players 

Highlander (CD)
Grade: F-
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Posted: 2007/10/3
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotThis is the game Jaguar fans don't want you to see, because it exposes the Jaguar CD as the complete farce that it is. Highlander's intro features a lengthy animated sequence lifted directly from the TV series. There was a TV series? Hey, I'm as surprised as you! You then assume the role of an unarmed young man being hunted by soldiers in a burnt-out village.

The high-resolution, pre-rendered scenery looks good, and the otherworldly soundtrack would be quite effective - in a good game. Unfortunately, your pixelated character is composed of about five triangles, and he moves like a turtle. You'd think a 64-bit powerhouse like the Jaguar would be able to handle a 3D adventure, but it struggles mightily. Simply wandering around the village is a chore due to sluggish, awkward controls.

Making matters worse are the constantly changing camera angles. Not only are these disorienting, but take forever to render! Once the soldiers get close enough to attack with clubs, you'll take a beating regardless of whether their blows actually make contact. This causes you to temporarily lose control, making you susceptible to further beat-downs. When will the hurting stop?! You can punch and kick until the cows come home, but your foes are always about a millimeter out of range.

You'll find items in huts around the village, but just when you think you've come upon something useful (like a stick), you're told "you can't use that here". Attempting to flee the village causes you to be shot dead by an unseen assailant, but take it from me - that guy was doing you a favor! If there is a decent game buried deep down in this CD somewhere, I'd be surprised.

Highlander is beyond awful - it's embarrassing. Why is the main character's hair blonde in the cut-scenes, yet bright pink in the game?? Equally shameful is the box art, which depicts Highlander as a blonde woman in what appears to be a cheap Aquaman outfit. If Atari expected garbage like this to pass as a legitimate game, perhaps the company deserved its untimely fate. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Hover Strike (CD)
Grade: D+
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2001/1/4

screenshotHere's another polygon shooter from Atari along the lines of Cybermorph. It even has the same woman's voice. In Hover Strike you control a hovercraft on missions to destroy targets on various planets. While trying to locate your targets, you'll be attacked by all kinds of alien ships. The controls are pretty awkward. The fire and accelerate buttons are right next to each other, and you need to hold down acceleration to maintain your speed. In addition, your missiles can only be launched via the keypad, and it's tough to find them in the heat of battle.

All the missions take place at night, which serves two purposes. First, it helps alleviate the "pop-up" problem found in most Jaguar polygon games. Second, it makes it impossible to tell where enemy shots are coming from! The graphics are very average, and the frame rate gets pretty choppy, especially when you're crossing rough terrain. A few stages are almost pitch black, and you'll be begging for them to end. On the positive side, you can select your missions, the music rocks, and the explosions are very cool. There are some neat camera options that let you view the action from different angles, but these aren't very useful during the game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Hyper Force
Grade: B
Publisher: Visual Impact (1995)
Posted: 2003/11/23

screenshotSongbird has done it again, bringing another long-lost Jaguar game to the masses. Hyper Force is a fun platform shooter with exceptional sound and extremely large characters. You'll spend the first few levels exploring space caverns, jumping ledges, shooting robots, collecting items, avoiding traps, and searching for some very elusive switches.

The stage designs are a bit uneven, with some that are difficult to clear and others that seem to end prematurely. The small switches you need to pull can blend into the surroundings, and you'll sometimes find yourself going in circles looking for them. Hyper Force has a LOT of secret areas, so always feel around the walls and ceilings.

Your enemies include a wide array of robots, and they look pretty cool. Some look like odd top-heavy droids, while others resemble stormtroopers from Star Wars. Your firepower is very weak to begin with, but you can purchase better weapons between stages. Unfortunately, the weapon-buying screen is confusing, and it's hard to tell what you can buy and what you already have.

You'll find bunches of money signs and other bonus items throughout the levels, and it's satisfying to walk or jump through them. The traps include your standard timed fire and spike mechanisms, but these aren't too tough to avoid. The controls are responsive, although touching a robot will send you out of control, and sometimes you get bounced around like a pinball. Fortunately, this damages the robots more than it hurts you.

The gameplay starts to feel somewhat repetitive after a while. Although the scenery changes every five levels or so, the stages at each location don't differentiate themselves very much. The understated music is amazing, and the sound effects are also distinctive. You can save up to three games to cartridge. Hyper Force is a quality game that fills a void in the Jaguar library. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Posted: 2003/6/1

screenshotThe Jaguar has many primitive polygon shooters in its library, but this one is particularly bland. The levels take place inside a computer, which essentially gave the programmer an excuse to create the most blocky, uninteresting scenery EVER. You teleport between different rooms, trying to collect data pods while shooting enemies.

Some stages contain simple puzzles that require you to hit switches to access new areas. As a first-person shooter, I-War needs a strafe button in the worst way. Most confrontations amount to trading shots until someone blows up. There are some nifty explosions, but they tend to slow down the action considerably.

I-War does feature some respectable techno music, and I like how you can save your place between stages. There's also a bonus stage that lets you collect pods as you fly through a tunnel, but it's hardly what I'd call exciting. I-War is a playable game, but there's not enough here to make you want to come back for more. It's one of those games you forget about the instant you turn it off. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Iron Soldier
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Posted: 2002/8/27

screenshotThis is one of those "mech" games where you control a giant robot. It's a little slow, but it plays well. There are sixteen missions, and you can select the order in which you play them. Your mech has mounts for up to six weapons that you can select before each mission. Switching weapons is done via the keypad.

The control scheme is pretty well thought out. Once you start moving, you can change direction without stopping. That works out well because your robot walks at a slow pace, and having to hold down a button to move would be tedious. Missions usually involve destroying certain landmarks. The cities are full of rectangular block buildings without much detail. You can destroy the buildings to find weapons or power-ups.

Your enemies, which include tanks, helicopters and other robots, look great. Unlike games like Cybermorph, the animation here is very smooth. But I think the best part of Iron Soldier has got to be the explosions: they look awesome. They make destroying things all the more fun, especially when you throw a big grenade into a group of tanks. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Iron Soldier 2 (CD)
Grade: B
Publisher: Telegames (1996)
Posted: 2002/8/27

screenshotThe first Iron Soldier game was a standout title for the Jaguar, with its mission-based gameplay, smooth animation, and cool explosions. Iron Soldier 2 is more of the same, with enhanced graphics and more advanced controls. The intro features some cool cinematics of your mech wandering around a city blowing everything to bits.

There are twenty missions this time around and more weapons too - including a chainsaw. My main problem with this game is that the missions are sometimes a bit ambiguous. It's not always clear what you're supposed to do, so you end up leveling the whole town! Also, I sometimes had a hard time controlling my mech.

This game really requires a good investment of time before you can really sink your teeth into it. Although it's a CD game, you won't even notice the loading time. The futuristic soundtrack is solid. Iron Soldier is a tough game, but Iron Soldier vets will feel right at home with it. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

JagZombies (CD)
Grade: F
Publisher: Wave 1 (2018)
Posted: 2019/9/20

screenshotJagZombies might have made a decent light gun shooter. Each stage is a digitized image of a desolate location like a dark alley, graveyard, train tracks, warehouse, or corn field. These creepy, atmospheric stages are the highlight of the game. Zombies and bats appear in the distance and slowly shamble and flutter towards the foreground. And when I say slow, you could drink a cup of coffee before they get within striking distance! The only legitimate threats are the zombies and occasional werewolves that pop up directly in front of you.

A jumpy red crosshair lets you aim your shotgun or flamethrower. Button C is used to reload and you'll press it constantly. There are digitized growling and screaming sounds, but they are messy and repetitive. The gameplay could be a lot tighter as well. The difficulty is so low it's quite possible to beat the game on your first try. As if to compensate for the choppy reticle movement, the collision detection is ludicrously forgiving. Sometimes zombies appear to be sucked into the cursor.

The graphics are glitchy with splashes of blood often appearing in the wrong spot. The nonstop shooting is tiresome, and it culminates with an exhausting battle against a "bat king" boss with 1000 hit points! JagZombies is a mildly amusing seasonal diversion but you're not likely to play it twice in a row - or twice ever! The good news is that Corpse Killer (Sega CD, 1994) is suddenly looking a lot more respectable. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 13646
1 player 

JagZombies 2
Grade: D

screenshotAfter my harsh critique of the first JagZombies (Wave 1, 2018) I was shocked to see a sequel - on a cartridge no less! Wave 1 Games literally upped their game, packaging JagZombies 2 in a glossy box with an overlay and high-quality stock instruction manual. I'll give them an A for effort, but in the end it's all about gameplay.

The original JagZombies (also included) was a rough first-person aim-and-shoot title with zombies converging from cornfields and dark alleys. JagZombies 2 builds upon the formula with mixed results. The opening stage has you staring at a blood red moon behind a silhouette of trees. As ghouls shamble in from the distance you can move slightly from side-to-side, resulting in some nice parallax scrolling. The innocent civilian that occasionally runs across the screen is none other than Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame. Probably.

Shooting zombies causes them to erupt into a fountain of blood, and blasting two at once is so satisfying it's almost worth it to wait for two to line up! But boy oh boy are these stages long! Brent asked who thought it was a good idea to put 300 enemies in the very first stage. It finally ends when the fuse at the top reaches the stick of dynamite, but that takes an eternity.

The second stage is set in an endless hotel hallway a la The Shining. This time you'll face ghostly apparitions and spiders with human heads. The problem is, unseen enemies tend to gnaw on you from the edges of the screen. You're almost forced to continuously vacillate from side-to-side. Where are the health packs? I've never even seen the third stage.

Other complaints include the fact you can only reload after running out of bullets. Alternate weapons like the flamethrower and grenades are of limited usefulness. The flamethrower can't even be aimed up or down, only sideways. The collision detection is forgiving at first, but goes out the window by the time you meet the wall-crawlers of level two. The game locked up on me once, and does not record high scores. The two player mode is a confusing mess.

For a homebrew JagZombies 2 is not bad and certainly playable. Its sound effects have a spine-tingling quality and there's a lot of creepy imagery like bloody arms tearing at you on the "game over" screen. The challenge, while unreasonable, might keep you coming back. And what other Jaguar game are you going to play on a spooky night in October? © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5515
1 or 2 players 

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