The visuals are exceptional, with fluidly animated characters and scenic backdrops that reminded me of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons. The scenery is rendered using impressive textures, with the exception of those cheesy-looking, perfectly square hedges. I really enjoyed exploring the toy store and museum stages, and the carnival's vibrant lights look amazing against the deep blue night sky. Other stages are less intriguing however, like the Big Ben level where you have to leap between moving clock gears.
Dalmatian's gameplay is strictly by-the-numbers, but occasional mini-games serve to break up the monotony. You'll shoot bubbles with a toy cannon, bounce around a giant pinball machine, and ride a miniature train through the toy store. The stages are reasonably short with ample save spots, and thankfully you don't have to collect every item if you don't feel like it. Although the controls are responsive it's hard to run straight with the analog stick, so you'll want to use the digital pad for precise movements.
102 Dalmatians is mildly amusing, but the whimsical musical score and childish dialogue did start to wear thin on me after a while. Plus, the dog lip-syncing was way off (don't you hate that?). 102 Dalmatians is very easy and a little slow, but it's thoughtfully constructed and looks great. Bump up the grade by one letter if you're under 10. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
In the arcade mode, you need to reach the end of each stage within a certain time limit. There are four high quality, but relatively short stages. While a typical stage will take you halfway across the country (New York to Florida for example), it's actually only a four minute drive. Your view from inside the truck is remarkable, with do-dads swinging from the rear view mirror and items sliding over the dashboard. CB and radio noise add to the realism.
The outside scenery is fantastic, from congested highways, to dusty desert roads, to the hills of San Francisco. The tornado in stage three is easily the most impressive one I've ever seen in a video game. While your journey is mostly linear, there are a few branches and shortcuts. The key to finishing this game is utilizing the "slip stream", which requires lining up behind another truck to minimize air resistance, resulting in a speed boost.
You can also try to defeat your annoying rival trucker, who always seems to get in your way at the most inopportune times. Between stages, there are "parking challenges" that earn you bonus items. While the arcade mode is highly entertaining and very challenging, the replay value takes a dip once you finish the game, and with unlimited continues, you might finish it in one sitting. Still, it's terrific fun while it lasts. There are some other modes like a two-player split screen mode and a "score challenge" mode, but these aren't nearly as exciting. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Despite the breakneck pace, a solid frame rate makes it a smooth ride. The super-long tracks aren't spectacular, but at least there are a nice variety of locations. While the one player mode presents a major challenge, the two-player split screen mode is just crazy fun, as the races tend to be close and exciting. 4 Wheel Thunder is definitely a winner. Too bad there's no four-player mode.
. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately there's zero sense of speed so you feel as if you're just churning through the morass. Jumps are so floaty you might as well be racing on the moon. You're required to pass through marked checkpoints, but the wide-open landscapes allow for alternate routes over hills and through trees. The CPU-controlled trucks naturally know the optimal routes so you learn to follow them as they suddenly veer off the road and climb a nearby hill. Nauseating guitar music drones endlessly in the background.
The instant replay of the race looks better than the race itself, with a little driver seen behind the steering wheel. The process of saving your progress is labor-intensive and slow. You'd expect a bare-bones game like this to support four players, yet the split-screen is limited to two. So what's the point? Well, according to the box you could in theory race online against Mac and PC users. That might have been a selling point at one time, but that time has long past, and all that's left is this big ole' bucket of misery. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The premise has you becoming a member of a plane squadron like the Blue Angels - you know, the kind that fly in formations and do acrobatic tricks. It's a bad premise for a video game, and I know that for a fact because I've played Aerowings and I can attest that it's absolutely no fun at all. Sure, the controls are fine and the training missions start off easy enough, but once you reach stage eleven, things become inordinately complicated.
Here's a sample of the instructions you'll hear in your pre-mission briefing: "Start from the take-off position... keep brakes on and throttle to 100%... after releasing the brake bring flaps down 100%... when you reach 80 knots turn on the smoke... take off at 120 knots and maintain a low altitude... throttle down to 60%... when you reach the end of the runway, pull the stick back and go into a loop... try to keep your G's between 3.5 and 4.0... when pitch reaches -120 to -130 after loop apex, execute a roll two and half times before leveling out. Got that? There's more, but I think you get the gist of it.
You're prompted to do some of this stuff while in the air, but still, the instructions are overwhelming for those who don't aspire to be real pilots. After each stage you're prompted to save your replay, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to relive something so boring and tedious. After losing patience with the main mode, I switched over to "Sky Mission Attack" mode, which challenges you to buzz through loops over cities, islands, and canyons. It's refreshingly simple, but even that gets boring after a few minutes.
AeroWing's graphics are pretty good. The planes look sharp and detailed, and the scenery on the ground looks photo-realistic (until you get really close that is). The audio includes a lot of that random beats with samples tossed in. If flight simulations are your thing, you'll probably appreciate Aerowings, but those looking for arcade action will absolutely deplore it. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Simply flying around is pretty fun, and the easy-to-learn controls give you excellent maneuverability. Some people may not like the fact that the gameplay mostly involves locking on targets (some very far away) and shooting them down with guided missiles. There aren't many occasions to use machine guns, which only work at very close range. Shooting down planes is fun, but the enemy explosions are rather unspectacular. After each mission, you can watch a cool instant replay. It's not bad, but Airforce Delta is less than thrilling. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately they tend to be more confusing than fun! Who wants to sit through a tutorial just to play a glorified Bomberman clone? Some variations are ill-conceived. Who thought it was a good idea to have the screen black out for extended periods of time? And who in their right mind would ask players to perform math (!) in the middle of a game?
Even the graphics are confusing. Each variation uses different objects to form the maze, and the detailed, intricate art can be hard to make out. Are those stacks of books I'm blowing up? Certain power-up icons are ambiguous, and even the bombs assume random shapes. The four-minute rounds feel a lot longer, and that ringing sound effect had me checking my front door every 10 seconds! Not really.
Anyway my friends didn't have the patience for this. I tried the single-player tournament mode and won despite being completely disinterested. The one mode I did enjoy was high-score mode, which strips out all the superfluous gimmicks for some simple, quick arcade fun. Now that's more like it! Still, Alice Dreams Tournament is hard to recommend, especially since a "real" Bomberman game was already published for the system. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Each stage offers a set of platforms, colored keys, and locked doors. The pixelated graphic style has an NES charm, with clouds so inviting you'll want to jump on them. There are a lot of floating platforms but the controls are crisp and forgiving. Alice can hop on mushrooms to toggle between normal and tiny size. She actually looks like a completely different person in her shrunken form. Alice scampers quickly while normal but slowly when small. The stages are vaguely puzzle-like with a lot of repetition and backtracking.
The scenery is generic and your main adversaries seem to be squirrels that can easily be hopped over. The only challenge comes in the form of ubiquitous spikes and water, both of which are instantly fatal to touch. The spikes look more like mounds of mud, and they are deadly even if you rub against the side of one. When you die you have to restart the entire level, which is aggravating. You can collect gems but I don't see the point considering there's no score and you have infinite lives.
The game seems a little buggy with some unexplainable deaths and crazy vibration support that will have you ripping out your rumble pack. Your progress is automatically saved to a single slot, which is fine until someone selects "new game" instead of "continue", instantly wiping out your progress. The lush orchestrated music is crystal clear but it's so sugary sweet I couldn't stand it. The audio highlight is when Alice meets her demise and that creepy music-box tune kicks in. Alice's Mom's Rescue is definitely a kindler, gentler video game. I just wish it were more fun to play. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
You get a decent view of the action from behind your vehicle, but your firepower is weak. You tend to fight alongside one or more allies. Occasionally spot troops running along the ground who make satisfying squishing noises when you run them over. The game's on-line mode incorporated "real time voice chat" - a feature that was pretty novel for its time.
Despite what the title would indicate, Alienfront Online is quite playable off-line. The hard-as-nails "tactics mode" is a full-blown campaign with branching missions and multiple endings. There's also an arcade mode with shorter, more action-oriented missions (kill everything). Your progress is saved automatically in tactics mode and high scores are recorded in arcade mode.
Alienfront's graphics are respectable and the frame-rate is consistently smooth. The spacious Area 51 and Siberia locations are boring as hell, but it's fun to blast buildings in Washington DC and Tokyo and watch their walls crumble. I also like the manner in which enemy walkers keel over when destroyed. Alienfront's soundtrack blends edgy guitars with futuristic synthesizers.
The main problem with Alienfront is its shallow gameplay. I tried a variety of strategies like cat-and-mouse, circle strafing, and keeping my distance, but my tank just wasn't agile enough. The strafing controls are awkward, requiring you to push up on the thumbstick while holding in a trigger. Ultimately you'll settle for trading shots with an enemy and scooping up the health packs left in its wake. I suspect the on-line mode is long defunct, but I don't think we're missing much. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
And unlike other games that feature pitch-dark rooms (Silent Hill, Fatal Frame), there's more than enough light in these rooms to see all but the most obscure objects. The analog control is used to point your flashlight, and the shadowing is superb. The scenery is pre-rendered, and as a result, it's highly detailed yet surprisingly grainy in certain areas.
As you walk around a room, there are multiple pauses as the game loads each new camera angle, and some of the views leave much to be desired. The house itself really doesn't possess the foreboding atmosphere I was hoping for, but the game's biggest blunder is its idiotic monsters. I'm all for being imaginative, but I couldn't tell the head from the tail for some of these ridiculous creatures. Most aren't as frightening as they are annoying.
Finally, there are the puzzles, which tend to make no sense at all. Throw in some invisible portals, and the game becomes a confusing mess. There are even some curse words thrown in for good measure. Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare is a generic adventure that fails to scare or intrigue. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
It's a pleasure to power-slide around turns that sling you into the next stretch. Rubbing against the guardrails or other cars only slows you down slightly. And if you have trouble making progress in the arcade mode, check your garage where I discovered a nice selection of automobiles including a red convertible (a la Outrun), a yellow taxi (a la Crazy Taxi), and something that vaguely resembles the Batmobile. Perhaps they are the "legends"?
Arcade mode is fun but it's the career mode that gives the game its legs, offering a wide variety of quick challenges over diverse tracks. Sometimes you'll race, but sometimes you'll be required to complete a lap in 60 seconds. Sometimes you'll need to complete that lap without hitting a barrier. The fact that each challenge is so short gives them a "one more try" quality. The auto-save feature is pretty nifty too.
One area of the game that's a bit weak is the graphics. While tracks set in the desert and snow offer gorgeous color schemes, they aren't on the same level as a game like Ridge Racer (PS1, 1995). Even the underwater tube track seems pretty tame save for the occasional shark.
I noticed a few minor bugs as well, most notably when the frame-rate in career mode started to sputter after I restarted too many times (I had to exit the mode to reset). The two-player split screen plays well but the second player never gets credit for winning a race. Arcade Racing Legends delivers back-to-basic racing fun but it clearly lacks the polish of a big-name release. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
On the surface, Armada is a good-looking game with an Asteroids vibe. Played on a 2D plane (over 3D graphics), your ship can move in any direction and fire rapidly at aliens that relentlessly converge. The aliens resemble metallic cockroaches, and their screams reverberate nicely as they explode. Superimposed numbers indicate their health, and it's satisfying to wear them down - for the first five minutes or so.
After that it just gets old. What I am supposed to do and where am I supposed to go? Neither my friends nor me could figure it out. Armada might have been slightly more interesting if we could have purchased some of the fancy weapons and gadgets for sale at the space station, but they're so expensive it's unlikely you'll ever see them in action. You only collect one or two "credits" for most defeated enemies, and you'll need at least 800 to buy anything worthwhile.
I was hopeful that adding a partner or two (the game supports four simultaneous players) would expedite the process, but all we did was continually rag on this putrid game. Let's face it, life's too short for games as poorly designed as Armada.
. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Power-ups and shield upgrades are doled out liberally during the course of each stage. Once you get into a groove you'll be washing enemies off of the screen with bright white explosions bursting on the right side. Awesome! Enemies include all the usual suspects: jets, bombers, tanks, airships, and other mechs. When your special weapon is charged you can release a thick, steady green beam that will break down all but the most fierce opponents. It recharges on its own so don't hesitate to use it!
The shape-shifting bosses are fairly easy and you'll identify their patterns right away. There is some minor slow-down but you'll probably welcome it. The graphics are average but I enjoyed the city lights in the opening stage. The layers of buildings fading into hills appear to be digitized. The third stage features a city in ruins, and it's cool how you can blast the crumbling facades off the buildings. If you get tired of replaying early levels there's a stage select.
You also have the option to play "Armed Seven" which presents the game with a slightly more "serious" visual style which I prefer. I love how the game records high scores for every skill level. Armed 7 is quite exhilarating once you get a feel for it, delivering major destruction with an old-school flair. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Although most of these have been available on other compilations (on the Playstation), these are the closest adaptations I've seen. You even have the option to play them within "cabinet borders", but since that makes the game screen smaller, you'll want to turn that off. And since some of the finely-drawn vector graphics are difficult to see, you'll want to turn off any background graphics and make the playing field as large as possible. More practical options allow you to configure the control and difficulty of each game.
The three new titles included that I hadn't seen before on a console are Pong, Gravitar, and Warlords. Gravitar is sort of a dud. It's difficult to make out the graphics, even after screen adjustments, which makes it hard to play. Pong is actually better (and harder) than you would think, and Warlords provides some great four-player action. Unfortunately, most of these games were designed for paddles or trackballs, and the Dreamcast analog controller just doesn't provide the same degree of control.
But the biggest flaw is that you CAN'T SAVE anything to VMU! Can you believe it? It would have been awesome to save your high scores or game configurations, so what the hell happened? Anyway, the game does include some bonus material, containing press releases, screen shots, artwork, and an interview with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. There's some good stuff here. Atari Anniversary Edition should have been 'A' material, but this package is clearly flawed. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Your firepower is, in a word, awesome. You can choose between guided or bouncing missiles, and can fire them non-stop. On top of that, your special attack unleashes hundreds of projectiles in all directions - all without any slowdown! Bangai-O has a few anime cut-scenes and plenty of weird Japanese humor. As you play through the various stages, the game automatically saves your place. Bangai-O is a nice change, but it does get repetitive. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The text intro details some conflict between the "earth government" and "universe government" over a new metal called "battle crust". The gameplay is typical as you fire shots at pods and flying machines, unleashing the occasional charged blast to take care of the big guys. Like most vertical shooters, the action only consumes the middle third of the screen.
The graphics feature modest scaling and the explosions look a bit cheesy. If it sounds like I'm disparaging Battle Crust, I don't mean to. It's extremely playable and the bosses (including a giant termite and mechanical eye) are well designed. I'm not really sold on the time-consuming charge attack. At first I found myself charging more than my wife but soon realized my relentless rapid-fire was often safer.
Most of the scenery is forgettable, offering views of metal fortresses, green mountains, and bright blue skies. Stage three however is a beauty, taking you over a city at night complete with lighted towers, bridges, and skyscrapers. Pretty spectacular. This is also when the game gets tough, crowding you off the screen with large freighters.
The soundtrack conveys a weird, otherworldly quality reminiscent of Bio Hazard Battle (Genesis, 1992). I only wish the game recorded high scores. Battle Crust is a surprisingly strong title for the Dreamcast. It doesn't try too hard, but what it does it does well. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Blue Stinger's graphics are smooth but the blurry textures, ugly seams, and awkward camera angles are showing their age. You alternate control between two characters: a young guy named Eliott and a gruff sea pirate named Dogs. Switching between them seems unnecessary at first, but it's nice to swap one in when the other is low on health. You're also accompanied by a fairy for no apparent reason other than the fact that it's a Japanese game.
The monsters tend to be mutated people with multiple limbs that creep around silently. Your auto-aiming mechanism is pretty sweet, but I wish the creeps didn't regenerate so often. Killing a creature results in a fountain of blood and raining coins. Collecting these sparkling, ringing coins makes you feel like you're playing Sonic the Hedgehog.
Blue Stinger is an expansive adventure, and I couldn't imagine playing it without an FAQ on hand. You'll need to collect a slew of ID cards and enter a lot of numeric key codes. It's easy to go in circles thanks to the repetitive locations and lousy mapping system. Some of the doors look like walls. In one storage area you need to use one specific crate to access a switch, even though there is another very similar crate in the room.
Beverages replenish health, but your character takes his sweet time to drink it - not cool in the middle of a boss battle! Uneven save points and frustrating swimming controls will demoralize all but the most resolute adventurers. The orchestrated music is great, but the poorly-translated dialogue and stilted voice acting make for some of the most bizarre conversations I've ever witnessed. As is often the case, these faults give the game a certain charm. Blue Stinger never takes itself too seriously, and that might just be its saving grace.
. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Sega tried to inject new life into it by adding a slew of new modes and customization options, but the original four-player "survivor mode" is still the best of the bunch. Although the battlefields are rendered completely in 3D, the characters are flat sprites. The good news is that the 3D graphics don't hamper the gameplay like they did in some of the Playstation versions.
Perhaps the main attraction of this game is that you don't need to invite three friends over since you can play it online. The single player modes didn't appeal to me at all. If you've never played Bomberman, don't hesitate to buy this game, but if you have one or more Bomberman games already, you can probably live without this. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
The enemy craft and bosses are extremely original in design, and I love how they fluidly rotate into view from the background. The textures are so smooth and seamless that you barely even notice that this is a 2D game with 3D graphics. The massive explosions, fire, and smoke effects are some of the best I've seen in any game.
But Border Down is more than just a pretty face - the game plays like a dream! Your default weapon is effective, and the controls are completely intuitive. Holding in a button fires a constant stream of shots, and tapping it unleashes heat-seeking missiles. It's an ingenious scheme that works like a charm. You also have an ultra-powerful beam weapon that you'll want to reserve for the big guys. I love how this thing cancels out incoming beams, and obliterates weaker projectiles!
The game is slightly boss-heavy, but they don't tend to overstay their welcome. High scores are saved with your initials to a rankings screen. The electronic music isn't exceptional, but at least it has a nice old school vibe. It's a shame Border Down wasn't available during the Dreamcast's heyday, because this really shows off the system's power. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Bust-A-Move 4 (BAM4) attempts to further branch out the franchise by incorporating cute, cuddly characters and storylines for each one. Bad move! Not only does the character selection have minimal impact on the actual gameplay, but the infantile giggles and bubbly kiddy voices will drive you up the wall! Some characters take up too much real estate on the bottom of the screen, to the point of obstructing the playing field!
I recall one time where I had some girl on a pogo stick jumping up and down in front of my side - very irritating! Other un-asked-for features include "pulley" mechanisms in the puzzle modes, and "chain reactions" in the versus modes. Chain reactions occur when you break off more than one color at a time, and they typically clear a lot of bubbles away for you - automatically. While these certainly create a more fast-paced, unpredictable style of play, they also lead to a lot of cheap, undeserved victories.
I was totally sucking in one game, just about to lose, until one lucky shot triggered a crazy chain reaction, clearing my entire side and awarding me the victory! I didn't even know what the heck was going on! You can turn off the chain reactions in the options menu, by the way.
BAM4 offers plenty of playing modes, but where's the four-player split screen? It would have been a natural considering this is Bust-A-Move 4 (duh!!). There's a new "puzzle edit" mode, but for the life of me, I can't imagine why anyone would be the least bit interested in that. On a positive note, the controller's vibration function is used to good effect, and I like how the two-player mode allows both players to choose different skill levels. And despite the numerous distractions, the core gameplay is undeniably fun.
BMA4's simple graphics are colorful and appealing, but the music is uneven. It seems that for each song I really liked, there was one that I absolutely hated. With Bust-A-Move 4, Acclaim was clearly just following the old video game adage, "if it ain't broke, just add more features". Personally, I'll pass on the fancy window dressing and stick to Bust-A-Move 2. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The first stage has Buzz running around a farm of all things! Our hero is cell-shaded but the enemies are so blocky it's appalling! Comprised of a dozen polygons (if that), their flat faces appear to have been scribbled on by a preschooler with a magic marker. Each stage takes place on a new planet where you chase a villain down a branching path as a timer ticks down. Along the way you'll jump over pits, gather triangular tokens, and be attacked by robots and drones.
The shooting controls are so deplorable, you'll struggle to hit something right in front of you! The strafing is useless; instead of sliding over smoothly, Buzz hops side to side! Even the act of picking up items is complicated! Items are encased in force fields with prices on them. That's right, you need to collect items in order to collect items.
In stage two you'll chase some hot chick with a humongous head through a volcanic cave. Space slugs drop on you from out of nowhere, causing Buzz to run out of control towards the nearest lava pit. You only have so much time to complete each stage, but you never know how much time is left until a 15-second countdown appears. By then it's too late! The hoverboard is useful but that lousy jetpack won't even fly you safely over a pit! The camera is so disorienting you often find yourself headed in the wrong direction.
After completing the first two stages I denied access to stage three because it required three medals and I only had two and a half! Really?? Even Buzz's quips are really unfunny and frankly I don't think that's Tim Allen's voice. Aggravating and disjointed, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a disaster of galactic proportions. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com