Jaguar Reviews M-R

Missile Command 3D
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2000/11/19

screenshotI've always been a big fan of this arcade classic, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how Atari brought this oldie into the 90s. The cartridge contains three versions of Missile Command: original, 3D, and virtual. I was expecting the original version to be just like the original arcade game, but it's not. The graphics have been upgraded slightly, and the sound effects have been improved dramatically. There's even a pulse-pounding music theme that plays in the background.

The gameplay and control are first-rate. The 3D version has fancy polygon graphics and a much bigger playing field. You'll have to scroll around and use radar to determine where the missiles are coming in. It's pretty impressive looking, but not really any more fun than the first version. The Virtual version is played from a first-person perspective, and you have additional weapons. These weapons include lasers, which can be used to shoot the missiles directly, and smart bombs, which wipe out all enemies on the screen.

Firing the normal missiles is tough; after you launch one, you have to time its detonation. It's difficult to determine the "depth" of the objects you're shooting. This version also features bosses, power-ups, and three unique levels. One complaint I have about all three versions is that your missiles tend to move very slowly, making it extra difficult to intercept enemies. Also, the explosions in the 3D versions are noticeably flat in comparison to the objects. But Missile Command fans will be happy enough with this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: virtual
Our high score: 15750
1 player 

Myst (CD)
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2007/10/3
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThere's a good reason why I stick to consoles and avoid PC games - so I can avoid games like Myst. Yeah, I know this game was huge in the 90's, but I have no tolerance for its slow pacing and trial-and-error gameplay. Myst's surreal premise is undeniably captivating, as you find yourself on a mysterious deserted island with interesting architecture and strange mechanical contraptions.

You roam around the island by simply pointing and clicking where you want to go. A context-sensitive hand-shaped cursor is used to grab and manipulate items. The pre-rendered scenery looks sharp, but its "wow" factor has dissipated over the years. Myst's ominous musical score remains potent however, effectively creating a weirdly chilling atmosphere. You'll spend a lot of time gathering clues by paging through books, and while the text is interesting, having to zoom in on page after page is clumsy and tiresome.

For those with ample patience I suspect Myst could provide quite an immersive experience, delivering hours upon hours of mind-bending gameplay. Personally, I spent about an hour playing this and decided that was enough. I felt like I was getting nowhere. Myst might be the best game in the world, but I'll never know, and neither will the other gamers out there who prefer a little action in their adventures. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

NBA Jam Tournament Edition
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2015/4/24

screenshotIn 1995 NBA Jam was Acclaim's prized franchise. You can tell they made an effort to ensure this Jaguar edition was extra special. NBA Jam is an arcade-style two-on-two basketball game known for its high-flying slam dunks. This edition features more players (25% of the NBA), more options, more secrets, extra commentary, and more detailed graphics. It's one of only two Jaguar games to support the team tap accessory, the other being the execrable White Men Can't Jump (Atari, 1995).

The huge, scaling players are rendered with digitized faces - like a permanent "big head" mode. The bustling arena boasts a layered crowd with animated cheerleaders, and the gameplay is right on target. The controls are superb provided you own a six-button controller. The standard three-button "Pro" controller makes activating turbo a little awkward (like using a Genesis controller).

The action is fast and smooth as players elbow one another, sprint up the court, and perform acrobatic jams. The commentator tosses out lines like "Head fake!", "Sweet touch!", and "It must be the shoes!" Sparse music plays during the game, which is not present in other versions. Players now have an injury score, giving you a really good reason to alter your lineup between quarters.

The game automatically records your progress and I was impressed when it remembered I "last played Chicago and lost". Technically this may be the ultimate NBA Jam, but I prefer the SNES edition. In this version all the players are nearly the same height, making it harder to differentiate long-range shooters from powerful big men. CPU-controlled teams pass way too much, like the ball was a hot potato or something. It's easy to nitpick but the bottom line is that NBA Jam Tournament Edition is a tremendously fun game, and easily the strongest sports title for this system. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Pinball Fantasies
Grade: B-
Publisher: 21st Century Entertainment (1995)
Reviewed: 2000/11/19

screenshotIt's tough to be critical of a game that simulates pinball so well. The action is fast and smooth, and the physics is very realistic. There are four big tables to choose from, all loaded with targets, lights, tunnels, etc. You control the plunger, the flippers, and even have the ability to tilt. The tables smoothly scroll up and down as the ball moves.

If there's anything to criticize about this game, it's the table selection. The first one, "Party Time", has a circus/clown theme that really turned me off. I have always been afraid of clowns, and looking at their creepy faces and hearing their laughter isn't my idea of fun. The next table is a little better; it has a racing theme. That's OK, but I've never been a racing fan. The third table has a millionaire game show theme, which I found to be extremely uninteresting.

Which brings me to the last table, Stones and Bones, which has a decidedly Halloween theme. I loved everything about this table from the monster illustrations to the creepy sound effects and music. This is only the one I need! There's no accounting for taste, but Pinball Fantasies does deliver some solid pinball action. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: stones and bones
Our high score: 3,364,270
1 or 2 players 

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2017/9/22

screenshotWhen the Atari Jaguar was getting games that looked suspiciously like their 16-bit counterparts, it called into question the system's 64-bit qualifications. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure was one of those games. This is a sharp-looking 2D platformer hampered by poor level design. The dense jungle scenery looks terrific but it's hard to tell where you can or can't go.

Zany animations give our hero personality but at the cost of delayed movement. You'll throw stones to defeat creatures like panthers and warthogs, but the battles are awkward. Creatures tend to linger offscreen, and by the time you see them they're right on top of you. The default button configuration doesn't feel right. The leftmost button is jump?! The box claims this edition contains "enhanced gameplay not found in other versions". I'll just have to take their word for it because this game plays the same as the others.

It does have a save feature, so that's something, plus a hefty, 73-page instruction booklet! Instead of printing different instructions per region, Atari opted to print one booklet in several languages. Did they really think this would save them money? Despite its obvious shortcomings, Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is playable enough once you get a feel for it. Truth be told this is probably the least mediocre version I've played. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 60,948
1 player 

Power Drive Rally
Grade: B+
Publisher: Time-Warner Interactive (1994)
Reviewed: 2011/12/15

screenshotThe Jaguar tends to struggle with 3D games, so it's refreshing to play a "back-to-the-basics" 2D title like this one. Power Drive Rally is an excellent racer that renders the action via a slightly tilted overhead view. Not only does this let you enjoy some beautiful scenery, but it also gives your automobile the appearance of depth. The cars actually look a lot like toys, and it feels like you're steering a remote-controlled car.

The single-player mode takes you through a schedule of events that include rally races, timed challenges, and "skill tests" which are similar to driving tests. You can repair your car between races with your cash winnings, and you'll upgrade to a better vehicle once you earn enough. The scenic locations include Sweden, France, Italy, Arizona, and Kenya. The colorful tracks look exceptional and are loaded with subtle details like reflective water puddles. Weather conditions change often, and it's fun to race in a thunderstorm in England or a snowstorm in Finland.

The well-tuned controls let you navigate the windy courses with ease. I love how you can effortlessly execute power slides around hairpin turns. You can't see too far ahead at any given time, but voice and arrow prompts keep you posted on upcoming turns. My main complaint is how you only race one other car, and he frequently exhibits "rubber band AI".

The game is pretty tough thanks to demanding time limits and steep reentry fees. I found the desert tracks particularly hard to navigate because the roads aren't well defined. The electronic music is pretty good and the sound effects are also up to snuff. Three save slots are available, and the best times are recorded for all tracks. You can play a friend, but you'll need to take turns. Power Drive Rally is addictive. It may not scream "64-bit", but it is fun. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Primal Rage (CD)
Grade: C+
Publisher: Time-Warner Interactive (1994)
Reviewed: 2013/8/16

screenshotFollowing the footsteps of Mortal Kombat, Primal Rage upped the ante by pitting dinosaurs and giant apes against each other in a post-apocalyptic future. If you think hard about the premise, it actually makes a lot of sense. Nope, it doesn't. Not at all. Primal Rage was originally an Atari arcade game, so you'd expect this home edition to be the definitive version. I have to admit this is pretty good.

This is almost a carbon copy of the 3DO version, offering the same fast action and sharp graphics. I noticed that the two T-Rex dinosaurs (Sauron and Diablo) are different sizes, which is faithful to the arcade. The fighting action is somewhat weak compared to Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter II, partly because the moves are limited. The animation and collision detection could be better, but I like the up-tempo pace of the battles.

The clarity of the audio is remarkable, boasting some of the best vomit sounds I've ever heard! The loud beep that plays as the timer winds down is pretty annoying though. Primal Rage is far more playable with a six-button controller. Otherwise you need to resort to using the "option" button (ugh). Like the 3DO, you get extra modes like tug-of-war and endurance, which the box describes as "grueling" and "long lasting". Wow, that really makes me not want to play them!

Additional bells and whistles include a cool intro (check out the bikini chick), a statistics screen, animated creatures on the "versus" screens, and animated natives on the continue screens. The load times are minimal. The Jaguar didn't have many good fighting games, but if you enjoyed Primal Rage in the arcades, rest assured this is a solid port. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 147,000
1 or 2 players 

Protector SE
Grade: A
Publisher: Songbird Productions (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/8/6

screenshotA late Jaguar release from Songbird, this Defender clone is so freakin' good that it's sick! Sick I tell you! This makes Atari's Defender 2000 look like a steaming pile of dung by comparison. Protector is probably the best Jaguar game I've ever played. The crisp, colorful graphics are nothing less than spectacular - you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-looking 2D game period. Amazing metallic UFOs blow up with exceptionally satisfying explosions.

The action moves extremely fast, but the framerate never falters in the midst of the intense action. The planet surface changes each five waves, and the backgrounds look sharp. The audio is also superb, combining voice samples with a catchy, thumping soundtrack. But gameplay is what really matters, and Protector delivers. The rapid-fire shooting is phenomenal, and the quickness of your ship makes it much easier to nab falling humanoids.

Extra features like a shield button, power-ups, and the ability to purchase items between waves add new life to the old formula. My only beef with this new "Special Edition" is that the difficulty select has been removed, but at least you can choose your starting wave. Protector is a blast to play, and any self-respecting Jaguar owner should have this bad boy in their collection. . © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: STP 81000
1 or 2 players 

Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1993)
Reviewed: 2010/3/10

screenshotI love 2D shooters because of their simplicity and raw intensity. Raiden is a first-rate vertical shooter that lets you unleash hell on cannons, tanks, planes, and floating airships. The opening stage features tranquil farmlands, but the scenery soon shifts to urban areas, open seas, and sprawling space stations. You select between two weapons by collecting red or blue icons. Since picking up the same color increments your firepower, you'll want to choose a color and stick with it.

The blue delivers a concentrated beam, while the red offers a weaker spray. When paired with a secondary missile weapon, you can do more damage than Steve Seagal at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Also at your disposal is a limited supply of bombs which inflict heavy damage over a wide radius. For some reason their massive explosions travel up the screen as it scrolls, which causes additional damage but looks a little cheesy.

The right third of the screen is dedicated to tracking your score, ships, and credits, and it takes up a lot more room than it needs to. The play area is narrow but it scrolls sideways as you push your ship along the edges. I'm a big fan of Raiden Trad for the Genesis (1991), and this Jaguar version is better in some regards. The visuals are cleaner and enemy ships tend to catch fire before exploding (nice). The audio quality is cleaner, but the soundtrack lacks bass.

This Jaguar edition also offers a two-player simultaneous mode not seen in other versions. Still, the Genesis has the edge in terms of control, partly due to its much-needed rapid-fire option. Constantly pounding the fire button of the Jaguar controller gets old after a minute or two. This may not be the best Raiden, but it's certainly one of the more playable titles for the Jaguar. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Ubi Soft (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/6/1

screenshotIt's hard to find fault with this excellent 2D platformer. Rayman is a cartoon character whose hands and feet are not connected by arms or legs (they just float). It sounds odd, but it gives him a unique look and allows for some interesting animations. The game combines the slow, deliberate gameplay of Super Mario Brothers with the lush colorful graphics of a Sonic the Hedgehog game. The animations are incredibly smooth and often humorous.

Rayman starts off like a simple platform jumper, but as he gains new abilities like punch, hanging from ledges, or flying like the helicopter, the challenges become more complex and intense. Rayman has its share of innovations too. Your shooting fist works like a boomerang. You can instantly grow huge flowers to help you reach high ledges. Huge pieces of fruit grow on trees, and you can use them to clear your path or float across water. Besides collecting items, you'll free caged creatures and face huge bosses. The collision detection is very forgiving, but sometimes you can't see the ledge you need to jump to.

The lush stages are works of art, bursting with color and teeming with life. Likewise, the music is upbeat and fun. Like Super Mario Brothers, there's a map screen that allows you to choose your stage and revisit old ones, and you can save your place between stages. The stage designs can be frustrating, but I found this version easier than the Saturn edition. Fun and highly replayable, Rayman is easily one of the better Jaguar titles. . © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari Age (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/2/5

screenshotYou don't see many new Jaguar titles so a game like Rebooteroids is easy to get excited about. Its glossy black box sports classic Jaguar styling and the instruction manual is made of high quality stock. The game itself has just about everything you'd want in an Asteroids "reboot" including power-ups, innovative play modes, futuristic music, and saved high scores.

Although colorful and well defined, its graphics are unexceptional. The impact of your shots on asteroids looks soft and the explosions are understated. Those star-shaped asteroids look kind of cheesy. The audio includes a sexy woman's voice that sounds remarkably clear and techno music that's uneven in quality. What makes Rebooteroids such a blast is its rapid-fire shooting! The fact you can just hold in the fire button to unleash a steady stream of shots is a real game-changer! The only downside is that these asteroids can absorb multiple shots.

Most power-ups aren't worth pursuing but the double-shot does kick ass. All power-ups are short-lived, expiring at the end of each round. The collision detection is forgiving (especially around the nose of your ship) and I love the witty commentary ("rock beats spaceship"). One flaw with the game is its frequent reuse of a certain ship-scaling animation. When your ship grows large you don't know if you've been destroyed, completed the round, or accidentally hit hyperspace.

The primary game mode puts you up against waves of asteroids in preset formations, but it feels gimmicky and the bonus waves are tedious. I prefer the "skirmish" mode which plays more like classic Asteroids. The two-player co-op mode caught me off-guard, with one player driving the ship while the other fires a small red "turret" on top of the ship. That is awesome.

The rotary controller is supported, and it makes all the difference. Unfortunately sometimes the game doesn't recognize this special controller and I have to fiddle with it. Rebooteroids never quite reach the heights of Tempest 2000 (Atari, 1994) but for Asteroids fans this is an easy purchase. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: coop
Our high score: SDZandVGC 112700
1 or 2 players 

Ruiner Pinball
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2002/11/8

screenshotWow, this game caught me off-guard! I must admit I was expecting some pretty shallow pinball action along the lines of Pinball Fantasies, but Ruiner just blew me away. There are two completely separate tables, and either is well worth the price of admission. The first, simply called "Ruiner", has a war theme with all kinds of missiles and airplanes flying around. It's really two tables wide, with two levels of flippers on each side. The high-resolution artwork includes some patriotic babes that will definitely catch your eye. As you advance from DEFCON 1 to 4, the table reveals new targets.

The second table, "The Tower" is a whole new pinball game altogether. This one has an occult/medieval theme that's just incredible. It's a lot like Dragon's Fury (Genesis) or Devil's Crush (Turbografx-16), but this one is even better. The table is very tall, with three levels of flippers. The fantastic graphics include eyeball bumpers, pools of blood, a chained prisoner, dragons, a sorceress, and a tower at the very top. Besides all the standard pinball gadgets, both tables unleash loads of moving targets like planes and bats.

The screen scrolls smoothly as the ball zips around realistically, and the table scales out nicely when multiple balls are put into play (oh yeah!). You can nudge the tables, but it's very easy to tilt, so be gentle. All high scores (and settings) are automatically saved to the cartridge. If Ruiner has one weakness, it's probably the lame background music. It's pretty sparse and you probably won't even notice it. Overall, Ruiner Pinball is an underrated game, and I'd definitely recommend it to any Jaguar owner. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Rotten Tomatoes, Songbird Productions,