Jaguar Reviews U-Z

Ultra Vortek
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2006/12/1

screenshotYes, it's a blatant Mortal Kombat rip-off, but there's still plenty to like about Ultra Vortek. The digitized graphics look sharp, the controls are very good, and the occult theme is nice. The character selection screen is the highlight of the entire game, showcasing a huge demon holding the selected fighters in his hands. Impressively animated and photo-realistic, he's got to be worth at least a letter grade.

There are seven characters to choose from, including a flame-wielding chick, a Rastafarian, a skeleton, a robot, a white dude named Lucious, a rock creature, and a liquid metal monster. Each fighter has a handful of moves and a pair of fatalities. While the control is generally good, the animation is a bit choppy and the characters could be better balanced. You'll come to discover that certain moves, like Lucious' standing kick, are practically unblockable.

The single player mode pits you against each fighter, followed by their "shadows", and finally a satanic boss. There's no score, but Ultra Vortek does record your name in its record book upon finishing it. The stages feature fantasy environments, and a few of them look amazing. I also love that huge eyeball that follows your movements from the top of the screen.

Unlike its graphics, Ultra Vortek's audio is not up to par. The grinding guitar is monotonous, and some of the digitized voice clips sound like the guy in high school who could talk while burping. The scrolling storyline text is sometimes good for a laugh, like the intro that tells of an "Incan temple located in South America" (as opposed to?).

If you finish the game with Lucious, you learn how he spent his remaining years fighting for human rights and world peace. BOR-ING!! In the final analysis, it may not be as playable or fun as Mortal Kombat, but at least Ultra Vortek makes an effort. Jaguar owners looking for a respectable fighter should start here. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/1/31

screenshotVal d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding has a lot going for it. The game effectively conveys the illusion of gliding down powdery, undulating slopes with gorgeous digitized mountain backdrops. Various modes let you ride freely, compete in events, or challenge a friend via split-screen. You have the option of skis or snowboard but frankly there's not much difference. Once you hit the slopes the action is silky smooth. As you hug turns and bound over hills, the sensation of raw speed is exhilarating. I love the sound of crunching snow and the pleasant soundtrack that manages to be high energy yet non-abrasive.

You'll encounter obstacles like trees, skiers, snowplows, snowmobiles, and rock piles. Keep an eye out for the chick in the blue bathing suit (good eye, Scott)! If only this game played as well as it looks. One side effect of the speed is your inability to react fast enough to turns. Your skier automatically turns slightly on his own, which is kind of weird. If you actively lean into each turn you'll find yourself way off the course, which isn't particularly well-defined to begin with. Three huge yellow arrows flash whether you're off by a foot or a mile. Making minor, fine-tuned adjustments is key.

You jump by pressing up on the directional pad, causing my friend Scott to wonder why he was jumping around like a lunatic. Jump really should have been assigned to a button, considering how easy it is to trigger by accident. Certain obstacles look ideal for jumping (like fences) yet always cause you to wipe out. The competition modes aren't too exciting (weave back and forth between gates), but the split-screen works well and the "freeride" mode is downright addictive.

As you race between checkpoints, you gradually unlock branching trails, with progress saved via battery. What pisses me off to no end is beating the clock yet missing the "finish" gate, disqualifying my whole run! Some gates are placed on turns, so you don't even see them until it's too late. While aggravating at times, Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding is still a bright, inviting title that's hard to resist on a cold winter day. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: downhill
Our high score: 1:00.54
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players 

Vid Grid (CD)
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2000/10/18

screenshotThis game wins points for being original. The object is to descramble music videos by sliding blocks of moving video pieces around the screen. I was pleasantly surprised to see the high-profile artists and quality videos chosen for this game. You get Cryin' (Aerosmith), No More Tears (Ozzy Osbourne), Give It Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers), November Rain (Guns N Roses), Right Now (Van Halen), Spoonman (Soundgarden), Enter Sandman (Metallica), Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix), and the best music video of all, Peter Gabriel's Sledge Hammer.

All of these songs and videos are fine selections, but the inclusion of the Jimi Hendrix tune is curious. I guess Atari wanted to show a little diversity. But before you get too excited you should know that the video quality is nowhere near television quality. Some of the videos look better than others, but there tends to be heavy pixelation in all of them. You'd think that you would at least get CD quality sound (since it IS a CD game), but sadly you'd be wrong. The sound is good enough for this game, but it wouldn't pass anywhere else.

So how does this thing play? Well, it's pretty fun at first, when you're dealing with easy 3x3 puzzles. But as the difficulty increases, this game loses its appeal. Videos with strobe light effects like Enter Sandman are tough enough to watch unscrambled. Trying to solve a 5x5 puzzle of it is headache-inducing. And for any replay value at all, you need the memory track so you don't have to replay all the early puzzles each time you play. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

White Men Can't Jump
Grade: F-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/6/1

screenshotHere it is folks - quite possibly the worst video game ever! Sure, the Jaguar system has more than its share of dogs, but this two-on-two half-court basketball game is particularly embarrassing. And the only thing it has in common with the movie is the name. Using semi-digitized characters that scale poorly, it's next to impossible to tell what's going on at any given time.

The ugly pixelated players, combined with some of the choppiest animation ever seen in a video game, turn the screen into a complete mess. Unresponsive controls and cheap AI make you want to pull your hair out. White Men Can't Jump is supposed to have a "street" vibe, but you'd never know by the weak "rap" music and idiotic voice clips ("Rockin!"). The players are a bunch of fictional street ball characters including some tiny white girls (who can dunk of course).

Ball physics is non-existent, and I think I saw one girl do an acrobatic dunk with no running start from behind the three-point line. The flat, blocky backgrounds wouldn't even cut the mustard on an NES game. Adding insult to injury, this is one of only two Jaguar games to support the multitap (the other being NBA Jam TE), and I could barely get the thing to work! I've played thousands of video games in my time, but I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a game LESS than White Men Can't Jump. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Wolfenstein 3D
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1994)
Reviewed: 2011/11/25

screenshotAs the precursor to Doom, Wolfenstein 3D was a ground-breaking PC hit that ushered in the first-person shooting genre. It puts you in the role of a soldier infiltrating Nazi strongholds with the ultimate goal of killing Hitler. The controls are perfectly responsive and frame-rate is silky-smooth. You can quickly move from room to room, and one might argue that the action moves too fast. The strafe controls aren't ideal (you need to hold in C) but since the rooms tend to be wide open, it's not a major issue.

The graphics are refreshingly clean and well defined. The stages are flat and sparse, but that just lets you focus on your shooting. I love how enemy soldiers spin around and spew blood as you pump them with lead. Your firepower includes machine guns, chain guns, flamethrowers, and rocket launchers. Not only will you want to clear out all the enemies and treasure in each level, but there are hidden secrets to uncover as well.

Three save slots are available, and there are five skill levels to choose from. The option to turn off the music would have been great if it didn't mute the sound effects as well. Still, this is a pleasant surprise. Especially compared to the shoddy version of Doom for the Jaguar, Wolfenstein 3D plays like a dream. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

World Tour Racing (CD)
Grade: C+
Publisher: Telegames (1996)
Reviewed: 2002/8/27

screenshotWhile it doesn't stack up particularly well against Virtua Racing, World Tour is a fairly decent Jaguar racer. It's certainly a huge improvement over the pathetic Checkered Flag. Still, the graphics are very pixelated, and even the bitmapped backgrounds look blurry. Although spread over a dozen countries, the long, flat tracks all tend to look the same. I did like the fact that most had long straight-aways where you could build up some speed.

The polygon cars look fine, and the frame rate keeps up with the action fairly well, even in the split screen mode. Three different views are available, but only the medium one is any good. The first person view doesn't provide a good vantage point, and the high view is too distant. A rotating map helps you prepare for upcoming turns, and responsive controls let you execute power slides with ease.

While it's fun to weave your way to the front of the pack, the collision detection between the cars is pretty erratic, so you'd be wise to keep your distance. Playing modes include single race, arcade, and a championship mode that provides a password save. World Tour Racing is a decent game, but only when taken in small doses. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Zool 2
Grade: A-
Publisher: Atari (1995)
Reviewed: 2001/4/7

screenshotZool 2 is a blatant Sonic the Hedgehog rip-off. And thank God! The Jag really needed a good platform game! Zool looks a lot like Marvin the Martian, and he can shoot, jump, climb, and perform special moves. The graphics are sharp, imaginative, colorful, and completely surreal. Most are too bizarre to describe, and they all contain secret areas. The well-orchestrated music matches the whimsical theme.

The object is to collect 99% of the tokens that litter each level, and a number on the screen keeps you posted on your progress. Being able to shoot your enemies is a nice touch. The only thing that really bothered me about this game was the jumping, which can be initiated by pushing the joypad diagonally up. It seems like I sometimes jump when I don't want to, and sometimes when I want to, I can't.

Besides that, the controls are responsive, and the framerate is smooth, although there is definitely some slowdown at times. I really like this game. It's addictive, fast action, and genuinely fun. You even have the option to play as a female Zool, which changes the dynamics of the game. This is one of the best Jaguar titles. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Zoop
Grade: B
Publisher: Viacom (1995)
Reviewed: 2004/5/17

screenshotI fondly recall the hilarious magazine ads for this game in the mid-90s that "scientifically" explained how Zoop would systematically drive a person mad. Zoop is one of those "puzzle" style games with so-so graphics but intriguing gameplay. I avoided Zoop for a long time, but not because of those ads. No, it was Zoop's complicated screen shots that scared me off, filled with all kinds of crazy symbols.

Well, I finally summoned the courage to try it, and I'm glad I did. It's not nearly as hard as it looks. You simply move a triangle around the middle area of the screen while shooting at shapes that approach from all sides. When you shoot a shape that's the same color as you, it disappears. When you shoot a shape that's NOT your color, your triangle changes to that color. Zoop is fast and fun, and there is subtle strategy involved.

The graphics get flashier as you progress, and relaxing lounge music plays in the background. High scores are saved to cartridge. Compared to classic puzzlers like Tetris or Bust-A-Move, Zoop is only mildly addictive, but if you're looking for a puzzle game for your Jaguar, this is your best bet. And no, it didn't even drive me insane. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to apply my lipstick and paint the walls with peanut butter, because the "voices" told me to. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 24900
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, Rotten Tomatoes, Songbird Productions, NerdBacon.com