Lynx Reviews A-C

Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Reviewed: 2018/3/2

screenshotGames like APB were one reason why the Lynx never gained much traction. Instead of an easy-to-play arcade title, APB is needlessly awkward and confusing. You drive a police car from an overhead perspective with each mission having a list of objectives. These mainly consist of helping distressed drivers and nabbing bad guys. Criminals include drunk drivers, litterbugs, "dopers", and... hitchhikers?

Each stage is played out on a network of roads that seem to lead forever in each direction. APB sounds promising on a conceptual level but the controls are so clumsy! Holding in B lets you accelerate and places a target marker just ahead of your car. When a bad guy car falls within this marker, you just press A to ring him up. The problem is, holding in the accelerator makes you drive too fast to target anything. Releasing the accelerator causes the marker to retract.

Trying to find a middle ground will have you moving in fits and starts. Ugh! And you can pretty much forget about using your gun which requires the use of the "option 1" button. It's convenient if you have a third hand. Making contact with random objects on the road results in "demerits", even when another car rolls up on your ass! APB has arcade-style graphics, funny animations, and comical voice samples. So why did it have to be so hard to play? © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 4,825
1 player 

Alpine Games
Grade: A
Publisher: Duranik (2004)
Reviewed: 2021/2/1

screenshotI wasn't expecting much from Alpine Games but I got a lot. This late-arriving Lynx title is to winter what California Games (Epyx, 1989) is to summer! Alpine Games features first-rate graphics with athletes and scenery so real you'd think they were digitized. At first you're prompted for your initials, and you'll want to enter them because Alpine Games saves world records to eeprom!

The controls are easy to grasp and a nice glossy manual serves as a handy reference. The opening event is Biathlon where you press buttons alternately to move your legs to cross-country ski. There are guide meters at the bottom but it's hard to take your eyes off the snowy scenery. This is one beautiful game.

Next up is "snowboard rush" where you find yourself weaving around flags in a halfpipe. Although they're color-coded I always get confused about what side I need to pass them on. Freestyle Aerials (or Hot Dog as they used to call it) involves shooting off a ramp and performing tricks in mid-air. It's pretty easy if you can get off the ramp cleanly.

Speed skating is another rhythm game, and I couldn't help but notice ads for the Jaguar and Lynx ad banners in the background. Slalom offers an overhead view with an arrow pointing you to the next flag. Not much to see in this one. Snowboard halfpipe lets you perform tricks by quickly entering directional commands.

The ski jump event provides a somewhat alarming first-person perspective as you speed down a ramp at breakneck speeds. Fortunately it's not hard to nail the landing. Bobsled can be a little tricky to figure out, but that's what the practice mode is for. Wrapping things up is figure skating where you press button combinations to perform tricks to the tune of Billy Joel's Piano Man.

You can run through all of these events in well under a half hour. I wish it were easier to rank in, but that's just part of the challenge. You do however get an overall score at the end, allowing you to measure your progress. Alpine Games might just be the best homebrew I've ever played. I can't think of a better game to curl up with while stuck at home on a snowy day. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Eeprom
1 player 

Awesome Golf
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Reviewed: 2013/6/11

screenshotWhen a game has the gall to call itself "awesome" or "great", you can rest assured it's probably going to suck. Awesome Golf however is an exception to the rule. This game is extremely well crafted and highly addictive. You select between three courses: USA, England, and Japan. A set-up screen provides a list of customization options, but I was perfectly happy with the defaults. Your view is mainly from overhead, so there's not much scenery to take in. Even so, the thoughtful hole layouts allow plenty of room for strategy.

The user interface is extremely well designed. You have a full complement of clubs and can easily switch between them. The swing meter is of the three-press variety (start, power, hit), but it looks confusing at first glance. The fact that the meter actually scrolls partly off the screen while in motion takes some getting used to. After a few holes however you'll become engrossed in the action.

Awesome Golf's gameplay is very forgiving thanks to its expansive fairways and oversized greens. There are few indicators to clutter the screen, yet it's easy to gauge shots and putts. The pacing is brisk thanks to minimal prompts and short ball rolls. You can hit the option button at any time to review your scorecard, and it's possible to play a whole round in less than a half hour. The people who developed this game clearly knew what they were doing, producing a top-notch sports title for the Lynx. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 80
1 player 

Baseball Heroes
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Reviewed: 2017/4/27

screenshotFor a portable sports title Baseball Heroes is boldly ambitious, reminiscent of World Series Major League Baseball for the Intellivision ECS. The game serves up dazzling close-up views at the expense of the gameplay, and it's not a fair trade-off. You select between four make-believe teams: the Penguins, Tornadoes, Stars, and Satellites. Players are also fictional with random names like Tom Steals and Yazoo Sherman. I enjoyed watching my team take the field from a camera angle that makes you feel like you're watching from the stands. Unfortunately you're also expected to play the game from that vantage point!

The pitcher/batter screen looks amazing, but that pitcher has the physique of my mom! I was waiting for mom to throw a heater but the pitch travels in slow motion! Fortunately your swing is equally slow so it's not hard to make contact. On defense your view from the mound is excellent, with a fully animated batter, catcher, and umpire. You can actually "shake off" your catcher thanks to the window displaying a close-up of his signs! The pitching motion looks amazing but once the ball is put into play the game switches to a deep centerfield viewing angle. Despite the fact that the ball moves like a snail I struggled to position my three-pixel outfielder underneath it.

Sometimes the game abruptly switches to a "close-up" side view that's completely disconcerting. Throwing the ball to the bases is a farce as the basemen have a tendency to drift. It doesn't matter if you make a strong throw to first if the first baseman is standing ten feet behind the bag! When the ball comes to rest on the infield it becomes really big - like a giant's eyeball sitting there on the grass! Gross! The game contains decent voice synthesis with some occasional crowd noise. After one inning I was down 13-0, and I didn't last much longer. I admire the designers of Baseball Heroes for aiming high, but they may have been over their heads. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Reviewed: 2012/3/23

screenshotI was expecting a streetwise slugfest when I fired this game up, so imagine my surprise to see a bunch of young punks scampering around on the court! Basketbrawl is a combination basketball and fighter, but neither one manages to hit the mark. You compete against CPU-controlled bullies and also have to contend with thugs tossing knives from the sideline.

The idea is to pummel your opponent in order to knock the ball loose. The best way to do this is to perform jump-kicks like crazy on the guy with the ball. Sure, you can use weapons like whips and batons, but by the time you pick one up and properly use it, the other team has scored three times. Sometimes it's hard to find the ball with items and bodies lying around the court, not to mention players milling around. The instructions suggest you have a teammate, but if that's true, he gets completely lost in the noise.

Random commentary at the bottom of the screen spews outdated expressions like "Spaz!!" When you have the ball, you just go right up to the basket and shoot. The physics is ridiculous, so the ball moves in a herky-jerky manner. There's no jumping, and that means no dunking and no rebounding. I'm starting to understand why the NBA didn't license Basketbrawl. I'm all for mindless fun, but I prefer a little more fun with my mindlessness. . © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 630
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 

Batman Returns
Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Reviewed: 2005/1/4

screenshotWow, this one caught me somewhat off-guard. Batman Returns was a hit on the Genesis and Super Nintendo, but this mini version is also very impressive. It's quite evident that Atari put a lot of effort into this high-quality, action-packed side-scroller. The large characters look awesome and their size does not detract from the gameplay. The Caped Crusader is easy to control but his moves are limited. He can basically jump, duck, or attack, with the "option" button cycling through his weapons. I was disappointed by the lack of a jump-kick move, but I do like how Batman performs flips off high ledges.

Interesting backgrounds include gothic building facades and panoramic views of the city skyline. Unlike other games that repeat the same scenery ad-nauseum, there's always something new and interesting to see. The goons you encounter include motorcycle-riding clowns, and each villain is distinctive, exhibiting a unique attack pattern. A nice synthesized musical soundtrack plays throughout the game and adds to the intensity.

One aspect that turned me off was the game's excessive difficulty. Just surviving the first stage (out of four total) is a major accomplishment. That's partly due to the excessive number of cheap hits you absorb from bombs, knives, and dynamite being tossed all over the place. There is, however, a secret: just run through and avoid the bad guys! Of course, that pretty much defeats the purpose of the whole game. It's a shame, because Batman Return could have been the best Lynx game of all. Hint: Take cover behind the mailbox when the storefront blows up or you're toast. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 45000
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1993)
Reviewed: 2019/7/6

screenshotWhen I think of car combat my mind immediately turns to Twisted Metal (PS1, 1995) and that's probably not fair! Battlewheels delivered its own sophisticated brand of car combat two years earlier, and on a portable system no less! The action unfolds in a series of quick battles against five CPU opponents in random locations. You view the carnage from inside your vehicle and can even see your hands moving the steering wheel.

The idea is to rack up a certain number of kills. You're equipped with several weapons including machine guns, mines, flames, and missiles. I'm not sure why anybody wouldn't just fire missiles the whole time. The machine guns are weak and the flames (which shoot out the rear) are difficult to use. It's possible to jump out of your car and run around on foot, but that's only useful as a last-ditch effort to survive a burning wreck.

The highlight of the game is probably ramming other drivers scampering around the battlefield, sending them flying. The default action mode serves as an arcade mode, letting you dive right in with a car loaded to the hilt. A custom mode is also available that lets you build and outfit your own vehicle, including the placement of weapons! On the battlefield the scaling and animation is remarkably good, although it's hard to tell what's happening around you. Separate screens are available for radar and armor status, but accessing these is not practical in the heat of battle.

Blowing up other cars could be more satisfying. Your car's damage is clearly reflected by your windshield but it's hard to tell if enemies are damaged. Defeated foes leave a burning crater that will harm you if you drive over it. I often find myself locking bumpers with another car, firing continuously until somebody blows up. That gives you a decent chance of netting one kill, but taking an elusive, cat-and-mouse approach offers a better chance of multiple kills.

The post-apocalyptic stages tend to be barren wastelands, and the few pixelated buildings just tend to get in the way. Still, you have to admire the ambition of this game. Though hard to play, Battlewheels is a tour-de-force of programming and a showcase title for the system. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 6 players 

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Reviewed: 2008/6/11

screenshotThis overhead adventure will rack your brain at times, but the idea of moving between time and space to solve puzzles has some merit. I find it odd that you only control Bill or Ted - the other guy's just along for the ride. You begin in a phone booth next to an Egyptian pyramid in 1700 BC. The screen scrolls in all directions as you explore your surroundings, collect items, talk to people, and flee enemies.

You'll travel between diverse times and places like Europe (1700), Rome (70 BC), and Texas (1800). Your character moves fast enough to avoid wandering beetles, lions, and other dangerous objects that for the life of me I can't identify.

At its best, Bill and Ted feels like a more sophisticated version of Adventure (Atari 2600, 1980). I like how each "world" is small enough that you can explore every nook. At its worst, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure doesn't make much sense. You have an inventory of items, but it's hard to tell what they do, and there's often no indication if an item is having any effect at all. It doesn't help that the manual (which folds out in the most annoying manner) reads more like a comic than instructions.

A jaunty tune plays during the action, and a password feature lets you save your progress at any time. The password is critical because this game requires a few hours to complete. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure may not be excellent, but it isn't totally bogus either. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Blue Lightning
Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1989)
Reviewed: 2007/3/8

screenshotAs a demonstration of the Lynx graphic capabilities, Blue Lightning is a technical marvel. As a game however, it's far less successful. Piloting a jet fighter, you embark on a series of missions to destroy enemy forces using a cannon and guided missiles. The rear of your jet consumes a sizable portion of the screen, but you still get a clear view of what's ahead. The scaling scenery looks pretty amazing as you soar over enormous glaciers, farmland, and mesas in the desert.

Your cannon fires slightly downward, allowing you to easily strafe ground installations and even sink battleships. Enemy planes explode with crisp audio effects, and the raining debris makes the carnage that much more satisfying. The Lynx hardware does an admirable job of keeping up with the mayhem, even when things get hectic. Nine action-packed missions take you from tropical islands to twisting desert canyons.

Blue Lightning sounds like a blast, but it's really a bust due to its lack of difficulty. When I pick up a hand-held game, I'm only expecting to play for just a few minutes, but Blue Lightning seems to go on for hours (or maybe it just feels that way). Enemy missiles are easy to avoid (just keep moving side to side) and you get a whopping five lives! Since each stage is basically the same with new scenery, it doesn't take long for the boredom to set in. Had Atari put as much effort into the gameplay as the flashy visuals, Blue Lightning could have been something special. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 66200
1 player 

California Games
Grade: A
Publisher: Epyx (1989)
Reviewed: 2003/11/14

screenshotThis is the game that made me realize just how great the Lynx is. California Games is not particularly complex or involved, but it's always a good time. Atari made a smart decision bundling this game with the Lynx. It's a likeable, high-quality title with four events that play like individual games: BMX biking, surfing, half-pipe, and footbag. There's not a dud in the bunch, with each event being easy to play but difficult to master.

It helps that the events tend to be short, giving them an addictive "one more time" quality. The graphics are terrific in all four games, but surfing has the most eye candy, with the crystal blue waves and frothy white foam. BMX, my personal favorite, puts you on a bike careening down a dirt hill, dodging obstacles and jumping ramps.

Half-pipe is a skateboarding event that requires precise timing to perform stunts like aerial turns and hand-plants. In footbag, you control a kid trying to keep a small beanbag in the air using your knees, feet, and head. California Games boasts some very catchy tunes, including a respectable rendition of "Louie Louie". The bright sunny graphics put you in a good mood, and the fine gameplay will keep you in one. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: BMX
Our high score: 209
1 or 2 players 

Championship Rally
Grade: A
Publisher: Songbird (2000)
Reviewed: 2007/3/8

screenshotWith its back-to-the-basics controls and overhead point of view, this is one old-school racer I can really sink my teeth into. The gameplay couldn't be much simpler as you race three other cars on a series of diverse tracks. As with most racing games, the brake is pretty much unnecessary, so you can just accelerate and steer. There are few power-ups or hazards to complicate matters, although you do encounter a rare speed boost or pothole.

Learning the tracks and anticipating curves is key to winning Championship Rally. The highways wind through a desert, snowy Alaska, a coastal town, and downtown area. There's not much to see in terms of scenery, but each new course offers a unique layout and attractive color scheme.

Despite their diminutive size, the cars look pretty neat. The responsive controls make power sliding around turns a breeze - as long as you know they're coming! A small radar display in the lower corner indicates the position of both you and your competitors.

Championship Rally offers four modes: tournament, single race, time trial, and versus (head-to-head via a comlynx cable). The tournament mode lets you unlock additional tracks, and man is it tough! Championship Rally is one addictive, high quality title that all Lynx fans will want in their library. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Checkered Flag
Grade: B+
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/1/1

screenshotTechnically Checkered Flag is remarkable, but its unforgiving nature prevents it from reaching "A" status. This is a pseudo-3D racing game in the tradition of Pole Position. Before each race a voice announces, "Gentlemen, start your engines" with amazing clarity. The visuals are exceptionally good. The road winds smoothly as you race towards the horizon, and even with several cars in your path the frame-rate remains stable. Interesting scenery like horses and signs scale on the road side, and attractive backdrops feature snowy mountains and looming city skylines.

The racecars are impressively large and detailed, but their width makes it difficult to pass. Upon touching another car, both vehicles will spin-out. The rotation animation looks terrific, but it's so time-consuming it sometimes eliminates you from the race. A tournament mode offers a series of eight races incorporating up to nine "drone" opponents.

Setting the laps to 1 prevents the game from becoming repetitive, but you'll need to drive a near-perfect race to come out on top. The controls are responsive enough but the unforgiving collision detection means that even rubbing against a bush will bring you to a screeching halt. My advice is to keep an eye on the map to anticipate turns, and don't be afraid to use the brake!

On the results screen, a bikini-clad babe approaches your driver to give him a kiss. After one race I noticed it was a dude strutting over in a Speedo, which totally threw me off until I realized my driver was a chick! Checkered Flag is an impressive title. It's not quite as fun as it could have been, but Lynx fans looking for a challenge will be pleased. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11
1 player 

Chip's Challenge
Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/2/26

screenshotAll you intellectual gamers out there will probably appreciate this brain-teasing, mind-bending puzzle game. Chip's Challenge puts you in the role of a kid trying to solve a series of mazes loaded with bombs, monsters, portals, slides, traps, buttons, and keys. The game requires skill and problem solving, and you'll need to manipulate items in a certain order and within the time limit. I thought the first few mazes were challenging enough, and then I realized they were just the "training" mazes!

The mazes gradually grow in complexity, and they can be frustrating at times since making a single bad move (like pushing a block into a corner) can make it impossible to finish the maze, forcing you to restart it. Chip's Challenge does give you an infinite number of tries, and even offers you the option of skipping a level if you fail it repeatedly (not that this ever happened to me!).

Living up to its name, the game offers 144 (!) levels, and if you complete them all without losing your mind, you deserve an honorary college degree. Chip's Challenge was a little too thought-intensive for my arcade sensibilities, but those with a knack for puzzles games will eat this up. Special thanks to D. Nolan for providing me with a working copy of this game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/11/27

screenshotAtari probably realized they couldn't squeeze a legitimate football game onto the Lynx, so they took the "cybernetic robot football" approach. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but Cyberball is practically unplayable. The motorized players look like pixelated blobs on the field, and they move painfully slow. The running game is non-existent, and only the CPU can pass with any degree of accuracy.

The rules are different from normal football, and they're hard to grasp because they're scattered over the back of an oversized poster (in different languages no less). The main thing to remember is that the offense retains possession of the ball until it explodes. Cyberball incorporates a number of voice samples, but most are indecipherable. I gave this game a good college try, but couldn't get the hang of it. Despite its ambitions, Cyberball never really amounts to anything. . © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, YouTube