Lynx Reviews C-D

California Games
Grade: A
Publisher: Epyx (1989)
Posted: 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)
Posted: 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)
Posted: 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)
Posted: 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)
Posted: 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 

Grade: D-
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Posted: 2020/5/5

screenshotDinolympics isn't what I expected and definitely not what I wanted. The title would suggest a series of wacky stone-age competitions along the lines of Caveman Games (NES, 1990). Instead it's one of those tedious teamwork exercises where you toggle between multiple cavemen to manipulate items like spears or torches to achieve some sort of goal. Each stage is several screens in size so you only see a small window.

Controlling one caveman at a time, you perform context-sensitive actions like climbing, vaulting with a spear, and throwing objects. It's kind of like a scaled-down version of Lemmings (SNES, 1992). The user interface is non-intuitive and I really struggled to perform even simple actions. The manual isn't much help, and you have to wonder how much money Atari saved by printing one version in 17 languages? I mean, the freaking thing is almost 70 pages!

Once I got the hang of things, Dinolympics wasn't so bad. It has a happy-go-lucky vibe and it's kind of fun to figure out what you need to do. But even when you know exactly what to do the timer is a constant thorn in your side. You typically only have four minutes to complete a level, and considering how slow these guys move, that gives you little margin for error.

The game has a password feature but you'll need to get through a whole slew of levels just to earn the first one! Doesn't that defeat the purpose? Dinolympics could have been a decent little puzzle game if it cut the player a little slack! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 9700
Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Posted: 2010/1/1

screenshotIn this side-scrolling brawler you play a cop ridding the streets of thugs, mime baseball players, and overweight women. Dirty Larry is simplistic but in some ways that works in its favor. You'll duck and fire to neutralize most baddies, taking a mandatory hit or two in the process. Larry can jump pretty high, so I was kind of bummed that I couldn't grab those low-hanging ladders. It's actually possible to jump over bullets, but that move hasn't been used effectively since Van Damme did it in Timecop.

You can use your fists to conserve ammo, which is sometimes a good idea since you'll need bullets for tougher adversaries like motorcycle goons. In advanced stages you're given new weapons like machine guns and shotguns. Dirty Larry's opening level is a generic city street, but the subway in the second stage uses cool lighting effects to convey movement. I also like the level of detail in the seedy hotel. Dirty Larry is a little on the shallow side, but I enjoyed seeing how far I could get in this game. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 25,500
1 player 

Dracula: The Undead
Grade: F
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Posted: 2018/9/18

screenshotDracula: The Undead (not to be confused with Dracula the Florist) is like one of those point-and-click adventures, except you walk around instead of moving a cursor. You need to examine everything and solve problems by combining items in the most unlikely ways. The intro features Bram Stoker sitting in his easy chair reciting some background story as a storm rages outside. I believe that's James Cameron playing the role of Bram.

I thought this game was based on the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula (1993) but the character likenesses are much different. Instead of Gary Oldman's over-the-top Dracula you get the traditional Bela Lugosi model. The black-and-white graphics add atmosphere along with some pretty creepy music. The visual detail is good as you explore shadowy rooms with flickering light provided by a lantern. Doors and windows tend to blend into the surroundings and some are not even visible! You often need to press against the side of the screen to find them!

The text descriptions are weak. The first thing I examined was the cupboard in the bedroom, only to read "It's just an old cupboard." A thoughtful description would have made exploration a lot more interesting. Likewise when I accidentally asked Dracula the same question twice he responded with "You already said that" which kind of took me out of the moment.

The menu interface is far too specific so simply trying to use an iron key on an iron door can take five minutes. I would still be stuck in the first room if not for the FAQ. Most of the puzzles make no sense! It would never occur to me to combine twine with a fishing hook to create a fishing line. Even less obvious is using that to lower yourself down a well!

But the worst part of the game is climbing the castle walls to reach various windows. Performing the climb once is a chore, yet the game expects you to repeat the process about 10 times! It is not worth it - especially when you see the crap ending. I wish I could say Dracula: The Undead is so bad it's good, but I'm afraid this one is so bad it's just bad. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, YouTube