Publisher: Atari (1992)
Dinolympics 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
Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop
Publisher: Atari (1992)
In 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.
Our high score: 25,500
Dracula: The Undead
Publisher: Atari (1992)
Dracula: The Undead (not to be confused with Dracula the Florist) is like one of those point-and-click adventures, except you walk around instead 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.
Gates of Zendocon
Publisher: Epyx (1989)
*Yawn* This side-scrolling space shooter looks like a winner at first glance, but gradually sinks into the realm of mediocrity (actually a bit lower than that). I love shooters with massive firepower, and at the very least, Gates does deliver that. Your piercing laser weapon is a continuous beam of energy that wipes out everything in its path, and the explosions are huge. Other weapons are available, but you'll only need to use them when you laser breaks down. Initially you battle some generic UFOs and bouncing balls, but later face eyeballs, insects, and large slimy creatures. The screen scrolls up and down, but there's little incentive to take risks. As a result, you tend to remain in your own little area and be defensive. The dull, unsatisfying stages are endless parades of enemies moving in predictable patterns. I especially hate when they line up single-file, preventing you from getting a shot at them. It's hard to believe that Gates of Zendocon was play-tested at all; it seems like very little thought was put into the stage designs. And what's up with the music? Is that an accordion
I hear?? Please make it stop! When Gates of Zendocon is finally over, you're awarded with a huge, seven-digit score, but it doesn't mean much. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: hard
Our high score: 1,538,900
Gauntlet: The Third Encounter
Publisher: Atari (1990)
With apologies to all the Lynx Gauntlet fans, I can't play this thing. Third Encounter may boast some nice technical features, but I found its repetitive gameplay to be agonizing
. The game is played with the Lynx system held vertically, creating a "long" screen configuration (that's why the screen shot looks distorted). Holding it like this tires your arm during extended play, but it does make sense in terms of screen layout. The top area conveys an overhead view of your fighter, the maze, and the well-designed creatures. A box on the lower right lists your vital stats, and the lower left displays impressive scaling images of monsters and treasure as you approach them on the main screen. Going beyond the standard D&D character classes, you can also assume the unconventional roles of a pirate, nerd, cowboy, or punk rocker. To be honest, it doesn't make a heck of a lot of difference what you are. Like previous versions of Gauntlet, gameplay involves exploring dungeon mazes while shooting monsters and collecting keys and treasure. The problem with this game is your projectiles move too slow, and you're constantly being overwhelmed by hordes of creatures. Okay, you could probably say that about any
Gauntlet, but here your firepower is simply no match. Fortunately, there are no "portals" to generate new monster (unlike previous Gauntlets). Blasting a monster causes it to shrink and disappear, and while it's a neat visual effect, it's not nearly as satisfying as blasting the thing to bits. Lacking the frantic shooting action the series is known for, this Gauntlet falls flat. Third Encounter does allow multiple Lynx systems to "link up" for cooperative action, but I suspect this is a rare occurrence. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tenth Planet (1992)
Judging by the name alone I would have pegged Gordo 106 as a futuristic fighting game starring a fat cyborg. The title screen however reveals the full name to be "Gordo #106: The Mutated Lab Monkey." Say what? According to the intro you play a "brutally exploited lab monkey who lives in lonely misery in cage #106". Gee, what an uplifting theme for a kid's game! It stands in stark contrast to the game's wacky hijinks and funky music. Gordo is a sharp platformer with impressively large characters. Some of these people are screen-sized
. Gordo is well animated, and I especially like how he unlocks cages to release bunnies. He looks hilarious when running with his arms over his head or celebrating at the end of a stage. Gordo hurls apples at lab doctors who look like Larry David. The stages feature all the normal elements - conveyor belts, lights to swing on, and timed flame traps. The problem is, our poor little monkey is constantly bumping his head, triggering a brief but annoying "dizzy" animation. This makes sense when positioned in a tight space, but more often than not he bumps his head on the top of the screen!
If there's a ceiling up there, they really should show it! Many areas call for a long jump, but the platforms are too narrow for a running start. Even when you do have some room the running controls are erratic. And then there are the obligatory "leaps of faith". When you fall, you'll find yourself in an underground level, where you think you have a new lease on life. Then you are suddenly incinerated. Occasionally you'll fall into a bonus room with all sorts of items to collect and cages to unlock. I never said Gordo 106 made a lot of sense. After losing all your lives you get a game over screen, but you have to turn the system off and on to play again. Gordo is average platformer, but if it brings people's attention to the inhumane treatment of animals I guess it served its purpose. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 8,300
Publisher: Tengen (1992)
To anyone who doesn't believe the Lynx was far ahead of its time, I'd challenge you to compare Hydra to Spy Hunter
(Game Boy Advance, 2001). Both games look and play nearly the same, despite the fact that Hydra was released about 10 years earlier! Hydra is a high-speed boat combat game where you whiz down canals while blasting targets and collecting crystals. Both the scaling and illusion of speed is quite convincing. You can change weapons on the fly, which include uzis, flamethrowers, heat-seekers, and six-way shots. But what's most impressive is your ability to "boost" into the air at breathtaking heights for short periods of time. While you're up there, you can shoot blimps and helicopters while collecting floating items. From the water, targets and obstacles tend to be chunky and hard to make out, but there's a nice amount of variation in the scenery, making it fun to see what the next level looks like. Although technically impressive, Hydra does stumble in the gameplay department. First, you need to hold the control pad down
to accelerate, which is more than a little awkward. And then there's a problem with the difficulty. I could play the easy skill level all day, but the medium difficulty is terribly frustrating, with hard-to-avoid missiles and a fuel tank that always seems to be on empty. When all is said and done, it's pretty much a wash. I did find it amusing that the hero's close-up image looks exactly
like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a mullet haircut. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: med
Our high score: 41300
Jimmy Connors' Tennis
Publisher: Atari (1993)
Jimmy Connors' Tennis does a lot of things right, beginning with an introduction by Jimmy's huge animated face! Whoa!
On the court your view is optimal, with just the right angle and zoom. The players look realistic enough, right down to those tight white shorts players used to wear. It's a little hard to get the serve timing down because Jimmy tosses the ball so high! During volleys the ball bounces realistically and there seems to be a random element to how the ball comes off the racket. The game helps you follow the ball by placing a box where you need to position yourself. You then need to press A or B to execute a forehand or backhand. Between getting into position, choosing the correct hand, and timing your shot the game is surprisingly tough. An attractive female referee announces the score between points. While playable, Jimmy Connors Tennis lacks razzle-dazzle. It would be nice to have a cut-scene or special animation to accentuate an exceptional play. I also would have preferred the option to play a single set instead of the best of three. I don't have all day Jimmy!
As it is, Jimmy Connors' Tennis is challenging enough but could use a dash of excitement. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari (1992)
What in God's name were those guys at Atari smoking
when they came up with this one? Atari boss: "We need an concept for a new Lynx game. Any ideas?" Programmer: "Hey, we don't have any games that let you beat the crap out of a carrot!" Boss: "Jennings, I think you're onto something there - let's get to work on this immediately." Kung Food is a wacky side-scrolling beat-em-up that puts you in control of a diminutive naked green muscleman. Would it have been too much trouble to put some pants on this poor guy? Moving through various locations in a kitchen you punch and kick your way through an endless army of vegetables, bugs, ice monsters, and rats. Your control is limited to basic kicks and punches, and you can't interact with the scenery. Most enemies require multiple hits to kill, but it's hard to line up with them and even harder to tell if you're doing any damage. Additional obstacles like spikes appear without warning and inflict cheap hits. The characters are quite large but not particularly well animated. There's a fine line between zany and stupid, and Kung Food crosses that line often. On the bright side, compared to Kung Food, most other Lynx titles are terrific! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 22600