system Index A-E
Angry Birds Trilogy
Grade: C+
Publisher: Activision (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/10/16
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)

screenshotJust about everyone has played Angry Birds on a smart phone, where it has enjoyed incredible popularity. But is it truly a great video game, or just a case of being in the right place at the right time? Playing Angry Birds on a "real" gaming system gives a little more perspective. The premise is to slingshot round birds at green pigs sheltered by precarious structures (some made of glass). The gameplay is completely 2D. Your slingshot control is on the bottom screen and the upper screen gives you the "big picture". I was surprised and a little disappointed that you must use the stylus and can't get by with just your finger. When a bird hits its target, it typically results in a chain reaction as boards collapse, pigs are crushed, and points are racked up. This would probably be a mature-rated title if not for the cute, cuddly characters involved. Adding strategy are birds with special abilities, including those that divide, drop bombs, or explode on contact. There's a lengthy pause as you wait for everything to settle after your final shot. This trilogy contains the Classic, Rio, and Seasons editions of Angry Birds. I love the frantic monkeys in Rio and the holiday themes of Seasons. Each game offers dozens of levels to complete, and you can always replay them to top your high scores. As it was on the phone, Angry Birds is a terrific way to kill some time. The problem is, the game takes forever to start up because of all the logo screens you need to sit through. Hell, even that God-forsaken Activision logo spins for a good 15 seconds! Using the stylus to navigate the menus adds further delay. Once you finally get going, the game plays well. Completing the stages is satisfying and you can really get on a roll. However, the game isn't addictive enough to hold your interest for more than a few minutes at a time. Angry Birds is a decent video game, but Activision butchered the best part of the game: the instant gratification. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Super Cobra (Odyssey 2)
Little Bear (Atari 2600)
Jumpman (Commodore 64)
Space Vultures (Arcadia 2001)
King of Fighters 94 (CD) (Neo Geo)

Asphalt 3D
Grade: D+
Publisher: Ubisoft (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/1/20
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotAsphalt 3D strikes me as a "lowest common denominator" title for the 3DS. Sure, the tracks are rendered in 3D, but after playing for a minute or so you don't even notice. At that point you're left with a pretty generic racing game. You get a nice selection of track locations at least, including Athens, San Francisco, and Aspen (snow!). The controls are simple and the courses are forgiving. Guardrails bounce you back on the track and not-so-hidden shortcuts give you a leg-up on the CPU racers. Along the courses are icons you collect to pump up your boost meter or bank account. The racing action is very arcade-ish, but I don't like how using turbo blurs the screen. It's hard enough to stay focused on these 3D games as it is! I also noticed the frame-rate can stutter while rounding corners. It's fun to run other cars off the road, but it's often unclear who crashed - you or the other guy! I really hate the idea of other traffic on the road besides the racers. Not only is it hard to see oncoming cars, but one wreck will ruin an otherwise flawless run. The tracks exhibit nice lighting effects and the roads look shiny, but the scenery is forgettable. No 3D effects will catch your eye besides maybe the leaves getting kicked up by your tires. I do enjoy the relentless, grinding soundtrack, and the deep career mode can keep you busy for a long time. Asphalt 3D isn't bad if you can get it cheap, but it's not exactly a showcase title for the system. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Burnout (GameCube)
Burnout 2: Point of Impact (GameCube)
Need For Speed (Playstation)
Top Gear Overdrive (Nintendo 64)
Crash Team Racing (Playstation)

Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate
Grade: A-
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/6/17
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, mild suggestive themes, use of tobacco, violence)

screenshotI enjoyed Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U, 2013) but I like Blackgate even more! This has the playability of a classic 2D side-scroller with the style and visual pizzazz of a 3D Arkham title. The opening stage absolutely knocked my socks off as I chased Cat Woman around Gotham on a dark, stormy night. The characters and scenery are richly detailed and the 3D effects are visually arresting. This is easily the best-looking game I've played on my 3DS. Batman's movement is limited to a single plane, but this means less aimless wandering, less wasted time, and a tighter storyline. When the action transitions to the prison facilities there's less eye candy but the grungy, dilapidated scenery still looks impressive as hell. You'll need to move back and forth between locations, but I love how you acquire new items (like a zip-line) that let you access new areas. Hazards like spikes, poison gas, and electrical charges feel like throwbacks to the 16-bit era. The well-designed control scheme mimics the 3D titles, making it easy to climb, grapple, and perform sneak attacks. The combat places heavy emphasis on counters and combos, and it's satisfying to witness that final, slow-motion blow. I really got into this game. Heck, I even enjoyed using the detective mode and cracking codes with my crypto sequencer. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is no joke. This is one game that plays as well as it looks, and in this case that's really saying something. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U)
Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo 3DS)
Batman and Robin (Sega CD)

Cave Story 3D
Grade: D+
Publisher: NIS (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/3/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis one looks really good on paper. Cave Story 3D is a quirky 2D platformer that lets you explore subterranean areas while shooting bats, jumping between platforms, and solving puzzles. The rapid-fire shooting is the best part, and I like how you can fire straight up to destroy leaping blue blobs. To propel the story you'll converse with floppy-eared characters that offer clues on how to complete missions in dark forests and high-tech factories. The cartoonish characters, catchy music, and silly dialog give the game an old-school quality. The action is pretty slow however, requiring a lot of tedious exploration and plenty of trial and error. You can jump pretty high, but the slippery controls make it tricky to hop between narrow platforms. There are a heck of a lot of one-hit deaths, sending you back to your last save point (and there's no auto-save). I also have a little problem with the size of the characters. The main character is literally the size of a flea! This was the first video game that forced me to use my reading glasses! The 3D effects are modest at best and really have no bearing on the gameplay. Frankly I suspect the game would play better on a big screen. Cave Story 3D has some appealing qualities but in the end I found the gameplay more tedious and aggravating than fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Private Eye (Atari 2600)
OddWorld: Abe's Oddysee (Playstation)
Limbo (Xbox 360)
Maniac Mansion (NES)
Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360)

Centipede Infestation
Grade: D
Publisher: Atari (2011)
Reviewed: 2014/6/17
Rating: Everyone 10+ (animated blood, fantasy violence)


screenshotMy feelings toward this 3DS version of Centipede Infestation mirror those I have for the Wii version. You control a guy scampering around a confined area while unleashing rapid-fire shots at bugs crawling out of the woodwork. The game seems fun at first but the novelty wears off quickly. One issue is obvious right off the bat: you need to use the four face buttons to aim. You'll be wishing for a second thumbstick in the worst way. The touchpad is used to select special weapons you collect. The problem is, I only have two thumbs, which means I either have to stop moving or stop shooting to change weapons. That sucks, and it's not even worth it because the special weapons really aren't very special. Certain types of bugs you shoot will produce "sentries" which function like cannons that work on your behalf. That seems awesome, but it really just gives you less to do in a game that already has a lot of dead time between waves. Other bugs produce huge mushrooms which are super annoying because they tend to get in your way. Giant centipedes inject some excitement, but they only appear in the waning moments of each round. The 3D effects have little bearing on the gameplay, and they're actually more noticeable during the cheesy cartoon intermissions. Infestation comes up short when it comes to challenge, sense of progression, and replay value. This by-the-numbers shooter was a weak attempt to cash in on the Centipede name. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Centipede Infestation (Wii)
Centipede (Colecovision)
Centipede (Atari 2600)
Brain Dead 13 (CD) (Jaguar)
K.C.'s Krazy Chase (Odyssey 2)

Dead or Alive Dimensions
Grade: C-
Publisher: Tecmo Koei (2011)
Reviewed: 2016/2/22
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, partial nudity)

screenshotI knew I was in for a visual treat when I saw the title "Dead or Alive" grow towards me. That's some effective 3D! Like previous Dead or Alive (DOA) games Dimensions is a one-on-one fighter with musclemen, ninjas, and high-kicking babes in diverse exotic locations ranging from a cruise ship to a Japanese temple to a glacier. The curvaceous females are well-represented but far less sexualized than previous DOA titles. You view available moves on the lower screen as you fight, and the action places emphasis on combos and air juggles. The contests have a back-and-forth dynamic as the characters trade barrages of attacks. Stylish graphics literally pop off the screen between matches but I got tired of hearing the same tired lines ("I ain't about to lose!") The stages are very colorful but lack memorable detail. It's fun when a character gets knocked off a cliff or tumbles down some stairs, with the battle resuming in a new area. I just wish there was more interaction with the scenery. The graphics are sharp but sometimes the screen suddenly grows dim (bad lighting effects or my 3DS?) Chronicles mode explains the gameplay mechanics while telling a long, convoluted story. I felt like I was watching more than playing, and that's not something you want in a portable game! In its defense, the action scenes are quite exciting and show off the system's 3D prowess. Arcade and Survival mode offer instant gratification in the form of rapid-fire one-round matches. Unfortunately each mode consists of a list of "courses", and working your way through the easy ones feels time-consuming and tedious. You're constantly unlocking things but I'm not convinced any of it is really worth unlocking. Dead or Alive Dimensions is a visual showcase for the 3DS system but as a fighting game it could use a little more focus. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Dead or Alive 5 (Xbox 360)
Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360)
Dead or Alive (Playstation)
Tekken Tag Tournament (Playstation 2)
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo 3DS)

Dream Trigger 3D
Grade: F
Publisher: D3 Publisher (2011)
Reviewed: 2011/5/27
Rating: No one

screenshotI felt a disturbance in the Force, as though a great many people who bought Dream Trigger 3D cried out in pain, and were suddenly silenced. The box has the audacity to call it "the ultimate handheld shooter". What kind of gullible chump would fall for that one? Oh wait - that would be me. Good thing being a sucker isn't against the law, or I'd be doing hard time! Dream Trigger is a bad idea masquerading around as an even worse game. It cannot be played - only endured. Its 3D effects are limited to layered backgrounds which have absolutely no bearing on its incomprehensible gameplay. The idea is to rub moving squares on your lower screen, causing flower-shaped enemies to appear up top. You then move this fairy thing over targets with the thumbstick and press the shoulder button to shoot. The designers failed to take into account that it's really hard to watch both screens at the same time! While you're rubbing and shooting like a madman, hundreds of red projectiles appear from nowhere and criss-cross the screen in inescapable patterns. The fact that you're invincible while firing only further lowers my opinion of this putrid game. Dream Trigger's single redeeming feature is its serene soundtrack which envelops you in relaxing 3D audio. What a [expletive] waste. Designed on a cocktail napkin over a few drinks, Dream Trigger is a total sham. I'm calling out all critics who don't trash this game! You are a fraud! And for all the poor schmucks who made the mistake of buying this, I have a little piece of advice. Force yourself to play Dream Trigger every morning, and you can rest assured that nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (Atari XEGS)
Sssnake (Atari 2600)
Space War (Fairchild Channel F)
Total Recall (NES)
Protector (Atari XEGS)

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion
Grade: C
Publisher: Disney (2012)
Reviewed: 2013/1/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotPower of Illusion is the sequel to Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis, 1990). It tries to stay true to the original but the game is bogged down by its overused touch screen elements. Before you can play you're subjected to about 15 minutes of tedious dialogue and exposition. Get on with the game already! Mickey finds himself in a castle where he must save various Disney characters tucked away in magical rooms. Within these rooms you'll visit forests, castles, pirate ships, and distinctive locations from classic Disney films. The layered 2D graphics are understated but elegant, and a few distinctive sound effects have been brought back from the original game. The music from the opening stage is the same as Castle of Illusion, except this fully orchestrated version sounds remarkably lush and triumphant. Power of Illusion incorporates a wide range of Disney characters including Goofy, Rapunzel, Aladdin, Uncle Scrooge, and Captain Hook. It's fun to discover as many as you can. The platform action is decent, but Power of Illusion fails to recapture the magic of the original game. Mickey's primary attack is his "butt pounce" initiated by hitting the jump button while in mid-air. When you pounce on mushrooms, bats, and miniature knights, they leave dollar bills in their wake. This sounds like a great idea, but it's not. Pouncing on several enemies in a row is part of the fun, but having to go back to collect items is annoying. And since this is an "Epic Mickey" title, you'll also need to deal with obligatory painting mini-games. Painting allows you to create platforms or remove obstacles by playing a little tracing mini-game on the lower screen. It's fun for a while, but gets tiresome because you need to trace the same shapes over and over again. Ugh! The stages aren't particularly interesting, and the game has a lot of derivative elements like barrels to shoot from (a la Donkey Kong Country) and an unnecessary spin attack (a la Sonic the Hedgehog). I do like the short stages and the automatic save function. Power of Illusion contains elements of Disney charm, but be advised you'll probably find yourself getting tired of this game before long. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis)
Epic Mickey (Wii)
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck (Genesis)
Mickey Mania (Super Nintendo)
Klonoa (Wii)


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