Hardcore Heat isn't hard to play, but I was initially perplexed by the fact that the driving controls are not explained in the instruction booklet (although the replay controls are). I actually had to bring up the game's option screen just to view the control scheme. It's amazing how often I've seen this oversight with other Dreamcast games!
The racing action is entertaining enough, but since you're mainly off-road, it's hard to build up a head of steam, and you can expect a lot of spinning wheels in the mud. The uneven controls tend to give you either "too much" or "too little", especially in the split-screen mode. An unbalanced vehicle selection screen offers everything from dune buggies to powerful pick-ups, with the trucks holding a huge advantage.
Hardcore Heat's races are ideal in length, with a handy track indicator that makes it easy to gauge your opponent's positions. There are certainly better racers on the Dreamcast, but off-road fans shouldn't be disappointed with this one. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Although most of your foes are robots, I once had to battle an octopus with testacles, and it was disturbing. The angular warriors move freely around a wide-open battlefield as they sidestep, double-jump, and unleash devastating attacks (mainly of the projectile variety). There's a lot of jumping around and some robots can even teleport (cheap).
One original feature is the ability to collect diamond-shaped icons which rain upon the battlefield. You can cycle between these on the fly to enable various power-ups. Some provide you with a special weapon ("shell gun") while some offer more general powers ("defense up"). It's a cool system that adds a lot of strategy. The controls are responsive and a move list is available from the pause menu.
Tech Romancer has good production values but it makes things far more complicated than they need to be. The A and B attack buttons are mapped to the Y and B buttons, which is guaranteed to confuse the heck out of novice players. Instead of a health meter, there are damage meters which fill up not once but twice. Each match has several phases, and the action pauses as the announcer shouts "Armor damaged!", "Extreme Impact!", "Armor Destroyed!", and "Critical Impact!". I really don't know the significance of these. The robots look sharp but during close combat it's tough to tell who's hurting who.
The battlefields are sparse and the backdrops are dull. Two exceptions are the port with its sparkling water (looks digitized) and the stage with the gorgeous purple sunset (looks like California). The soundtrack isn't particularly memorable but it does have a Street Fighter-esque quality that's appealing. The game includes story, hero, and versus modes, and high scores are saved. Tech Romancer is one of those oddball fighters that offer a different take on the genre. It's by Capcom, and it's on the Dreamcast, so you'll probably want to play this. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
You'll want to crank up the difficulty level if you want any slopes at all. The swing mechanism is a curved version of the classic three-press meter (start, power, accuracy), and it works like a charm. Unfortunately, aiming your shot is difficult due to the fact that there's no overhead view. Once you learn to deal with the limited camera angles however, Tee Off is a pleasure to play. I especially enjoyed the soundtrack, composed of catchy synthesized tunes worthy of a Sonic Adventure game.
The pacing is pretty good, but it still took about an hour to go 18 holes against the CPU. The game prompts you to save your progress after every three holes, which is a great feature. A fun bonus game called G-Ball is also included, which plays a lot like croquet. It's not flashy or original, but Tee Off Golf is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The female players definitely have a unique feel, and tend to be more challenging. The graphics are definitely a step up this time around, which players that are muscular and life-like. At times you can even see the emotion on their faces. Sega took a real risk by slightly altering the excellent control scheme and adding an extra button for slice shots. While this doesn't hurt, it is completely unnecessary, considering you could slice in Virtua Tennis with the single button.
There's a second camera angle you can use in the one-player mode that really puts you close to the action, and although it's not as playable, it's still fun to try out. The new World Tour mode is very cool. It lets you create players, train them, and enter them in tournaments. The training mode is actually a series of addictive mini-games. Tennis 2K2 is an outstanding game that retains the solid gameplay of Virtua Tennis while adding some fun new features. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Like Gran Turismo, you earn money by winning races, and buy cars for your garage. The gameplay is shallow and unrealistic, but fun. Running into other cars sends them flying in the air. Cops try to run you off the road, but vehicles don't sustain any kind of damage. The city graphics are a mixed bag. Most of the buildings look fairly real, but "natural" scenery like rock formations look less convincing, and the lack of traffic and pedestrians makes the cities look artificial.
Still, I have to give Test Drive credit for the sheer length of these tracks. When you race through the city, it's one long trip, and there are no laps. Unfortunately, some poorly placed directional signs will direct you into walls if you're not careful. There's some minor slowdown and pop-up, but the action is fairly smooth for the most part.
The two-player split screen mode forces you to race on a vertically split screen, which is hard to get used to. Besides the normal and versus modes, there's also an amusing "cops and robbers" mode, and a less-than-challenging "challenge" mode. Test Drive 6 worked well with my steering wheel controller. It won't blow you away, but if you can get this for under $10 (like I did), it's a steal. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
These graphics are terrific - nearly Gran Turismo quality. You can even see the reflections of the scenery on your shiny car. The tracks are realistic, which usually means boring, but in this case the scenery is beautiful and there are some incredible lighting effects. You'll have to use your imagination during pit stops though, because your crew is completely invisible. The tracks tend to be narrow and curvy, and you'll need to lean on the brakes quite a bit. Moderation is the key, and arcade vets will have a hard time adjusting to the realistic handling.
There are ten tracks and twenty-four cars in all. Up to four people can play in a split screen contest, which maintains a smooth framerate. The steering wheel controller also works very well with this. The background music is relaxing, and the menu music has a Pulp Fiction flavor. I only have a few minor complaints. This game doesn't convey the illusion of tremendous speed, and this is even more apparent in the multiplayer modes. In the split-screen mode, the lap times are often displayed right in your line of sight, which is really annoying. Finally, the loading is frequent and long. Arcade fans may not go for Test Drive Le Mans, but Dreamcast owners looking for a realistic racer will love it. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
You'll cruise scenic seaside villages during the day and navigate treacherous snowy mountain roads at night. The visuals are crisp and colorful - a big step up from Sega Rally 2. Although Test Drive doesn't suffer from the "fog" that plagued Sega Rally 2, there is a good deal of "pop-up". Fortunately, this is only distracting on the Italy track, with its narrow, rocky gorges. The split-screen modes are surprisingly smooth and playable.
Like most rally racers, the game provides both visual and audio cues for upcoming turns and hazards. I especially like how it keeps you posted on your time in relation to the other cars - you can actually see yourself making up fractions of a second. Racing against the "ghost car" of your best time is also fun. The track editor is easy to use, and I constructed a simple course in about three minutes. But despite all of its nifty features, Test Drive V-Rally is still hard to get excited about.
One reason is the lack of opponents. There are only four cars (max) racing at a time, and after the first few seconds of the race, you rarely see another vehicle. The races tend to be long and often boring, and you really need to advance far into the single-player mode before the challenge kicks in. V-Rally's gameplay actually tends to be too forgiving, as cars recover from collisions and rolls almost immediately!
In addition, the collision detection is so bad that when you swing around a turn, it's not uncommon for half of your car to disappear into the rocky mountainside - that's just sloppy programming. On the whole, Test Drive V-Rally is just an average racer, but its tight controls and nifty split-screen modes make it worth a look. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The Ring gets off to a decent start, holding my interest for the first hour or so. You play Meg Rainman, a shapely businesswoman (nice polygons!) investigating her co-worker's mysterious death. Meg finds herself quarantined inside of an office building with only a few other people. As she begins snooping around and gathering clues, she's constantly harassed by her boss and a security guard, who are obviously trying to cover something up.
Like the movie, part of the story involves a disturbed girl who projects her thoughts onto a videotape. Unfortunately, that takes a back seat to a bizarre subplot about a virtual-reality computer program that sucks its users into a hellish alternate world. Even if you manage to buy into that nonsense, you'll still need to contend with some truly abysmal gameplay. Once you enter the ill-conceived "virtual reality" sequences, you're forced to aimlessly wander dark basements while shooting at creatures that resemble lizards and apes.
The Ring's stiff controls are clearly modeled after the first Resident Evil (Playstation, 1996), and the game even includes RE-style "chests" to store items in. Clunky and slow, the controls would be absolutely unbearable without that handy "run" button. Making matter worse are horrendous camera angles and atrocious aiming controls. The laughable creature encounters usually unfold as follows: You shoot the thing in the head, it slaps you in the face, you shoot it again, it slaps you again, you shoot it again, it slaps you again, you shoot it again, it falls over. It's unintentionally comical.
There are obvious flaws in the stage designs as well. Sometimes you'll attempt to climb a ladder, only to have you Meg say something like, "I can't go here". Why the [expletive] not, [expletive]!? In terms of graphics and sound, the Ring isn't so bad. The people models are smoothly animated, and the excellent music gets pretty intense at times. The dialogue is conveyed almost entirely through scrolling text, but I didn't mind because it was so easy to read. Hardcore Ring fans can bump up the grade by a letter (at their own discretion), but everyone else should pass up this survival horror debacle. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
I remember playing a demo of this "back in the day" and being seriously impressed with its smooth framerate. Actually, the game still looks exceptionally good today. As you weave through the sparse traffic under a moonlit sky, the controls are tight and responsive. Realistic lighting illuminates the roads and buildings add a bit of color.
The game's main quest mode involves driving around the loop challenging rivals who appear every few minutes. The actual racing format is quite original. Both you and your rival have a meter, and the further one of you is ahead, the faster the other guy's meter will drain. It's a cool concept, and things can get pretty intense when your meter starts getting low. Jostling for position is fun, but should you and a rival take different routes at a fork, the race is declared a draw, which is really lame.
Winnings can be used to upgrade your car or purchase a new one, and there are numerous ways to tweak your current ride. I enjoyed the night racing aspect of the game, but I do have a few issues with Tokyo Xtreme. First off, the scenery is awfully repetitive, with precious few landmarks to catch your eye. I'm not crazy about the idea of "finding" your next rival, because it feels like a waste of time. Your car tends to "bounce" off the guardrails, but that's probably fair considering this highway has some ridiculous sharp turns.
Although most stretches of open road are straight, the sense of speed is modest at best. A split-screen mode is included, but it's not as fun as the single-player mode. The techno soundtrack is a mixed bag, and I found most of the tracks to be lousy. Finally, could the text in the manual be any smaller?! Tokyo Xtreme Racer is a worthwhile title for Dreamcast fanatics, but it never quite reaches the level of greatness. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The scenery is more varied as well, with more distinctive landmarks, wild-looking tunnels, and expansive suspension bridges. If you thought the first game was too easy, you'll be happy to know that the rivals in this game are far more aggressive, trying to bang you into the guardrail at every opportunity. The user interface is better organized, and the sense of speed is improved as well. And instead of having your race end in a "draw" when you take a wrong fork, the game warns you of splits in the road and tells you which direction to take.
One new feature that I found a bit superfluous was the ability to customize your license plate - does anybody really care? Some of the other changes are actually a bit detrimental. I found it a bit harder to follow the road ahead, and I'm not sure if that's due to the increased speed or lower camera angle (maybe both). The brake lights of the cars ahead of you emit this big fuzzy red glow that looks awful. Finally, the split-screen mode has been axed altogether, so this is strictly a solo affair. Fans of the first game may find it worth the upgrade, but Tokyo Xtreme 2 didn't hold my attention for very long. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Technically this is just a PS1 game with smoother edges. The controls have been slightly modified but they continue to suck. The analog stick is now used to run, turn, and hop backwards. Piggybacking a precision control like turning with a quick action like running is just asking for trouble. The digital pad is used for more precise maneuvers like walking and strafing. Switching between the digital and analog controls is annoying. I hate how both let you climb sideways, yet only the analog lets you scuttle around corners.
Chronicles also introduces tightrope walking - an unwelcome feature if I ever saw one. The game is riddled with poor stage designs and puzzles more arbitrary than logical. In the first stage you can't open any of the many doors you pass, yet at the end of the stage you're required to open a particular door to advance. In another area you're required to pull a rope to activate gears, but you have to pull the same rope three times!
The game does introduce a few interesting new weapons like a sniper rifle, chloroform, and a grappling hook gun. The crystal clear natural sounds of bells, dogs, and birds had me thinking they were coming from my window. The problem is, you can hear them just as well while Lara is swimming underwater! Chronicles is better than Last Revelation, but it proved without a doubt that the Tomb Raider well was finally running dry. Note: In my experience, the temperamental Chronicles disk requires several tries to load. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics may boast smoother edges than its Playstation predecessors, but the detail isn't much better and unsightly seams abound. The developers went a little crazy with the lighting effects, forcing you to light flares in dark areas. The collision detection is erratic, so you need to position Lara perfectly in order to pull switches, pick up items, or perform critical jumps.
That's a serious problem, because the controls absolutely stink! The directional pad is used for running, but it's touchy and erratic. The analog stick lets you walk and strafe, but not turn. You must constantly switch between the two controls, and that just doesn't feel right. These clunky controls exacerbate puzzles that require precision jumping, and it's infuriating to instantly die as the result of performing a move you didn't even intend to make!
And who's the [expletive] lowlife who planted deadly spikes in every freakin' hole in the entire country of Egypt?! Man, that guy needs to get a life in the worst way. You'll encounter a lot of mummies on your journey, but they cough continuously - apparently the result of chain smoking in their former lives. Last Revelation has the feel of a rough PC port, especially in the "young Lara" tutorial which explains the controls in extremely vague terms ("jump and hang onto the ledge").
You'll experience some tense moments during your adventure, but Last Revelation is rarely fun. I enjoyed the jeep driving sequences, but only because I was able to run people over. Does that make me a sociopath? You can save your progress at any time, but there are no checkpoints, and it's easy to forget to save. Rest assured you'll remember the instant after an untimely impalement (as if there was another kind).
Last Revelation contains one huge glitch that proves to be the nail in the coffin. In the Valley of Kings level, if you don't take the jeep with you to a certain location, you become hopelessly stuck. Clearly Eidos was just going through the motions with Last Revelation, so it's no surprise that Tomb Raider's popularity went into free-fall mode after this. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Despite its winning premise however I didn't find the game especially fun or compelling. I liked fighting little green army men and searching for hidden items, but item-transport missions are just tedious. In the racing stages it's so hard to follow the tracks that you're better off following another vehicle instead. Toy Commander's controls are good but navigating tight areas is problematic. A nice split-screen mode accommodates up to four players, but it can be hard to locate opponents because they are so small! Toy Commander really isn't my cup of tea, but if you find the premise intriguing you should give it a try. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The analog control is a nightmare; Buzz refuses to walk straight! The D-pad is workable but feels touchy when walking on precarious ledges. The unhelpful camera veers all over the place, and even in "passive mode" it tends to misbehave. If you can look past its flaws, Toy Story 2 nicely conveys the spirit and fun of the movie. After you scour the bedroom for coins, you realize you have the complete run of the house!
Blasting robots with your laser is satisfying, and you can venture into unexpected areas like the garage. Your goal is to collect tokens by gathering items, winning races, and solving puzzles. Each acquired token expands your world, opening up the neighborhood, a nearby construction site, a toy store, and finally the airport. Collecting one token is enough to exit your current level, but chances are you'll want to stick around and discover everything it has to offer.
Whether you're exploring a rainy alley or somebody's backyard, there are always plenty of hidden surprises. If you're the kind of person who likes to collect every single thing this game can become an obsession. If only the controls were better. Buzz is supposed to grab onto ledges, but in some areas you'll have a heck of a time getting him to do so. It was bad enough that it made me stop playing. That's a shame because Toy Story 2 is a rare video game that exudes a child-like sense of wonder and discovery. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
You compete in a series of racing and challenge (trick) stages, but first you'll want to try the training exercises to get familiar with the tricks you'll need to master. Jumps and spins allow you to reach high places, "drills" let you smash through windows, and the speed luge lets you glide along rails. The courses themselves feature some wonderful scenery, providing ample opportunity to show off your stuff.
Locations include London, Manhattan, and Tokyo, and they all look attractive and occasionally amazing. The smooth sensation of surfing on a cushion air is fun and sometimes even exhilarating. The courses are fairly well designed, although you'll often need to memorize them to take first place. The difficulty of the courses is very uneven. While some of the early courses required many retries, I was able to win some of the advanced runs on the first try.
The control is average at best. Taking tight turns to be problematic, and it's hard to ride the rails. These problems are amplified in the challenge stages, where you're expected to pull off a series of tricks with precision. The futuristic music is appropriate, but somewhat unpleasant. Trickstyle is entertaining enough, but it's not a standout title. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Still, the visuals have that smooth, arcade quality Dreamcast games are known for, and the soft, purple-tinged color schemes are easy on the eyes. Exelica's graphics may be forgettable, but its unorthodox gameplay is not. In addition to rapid-fire guns and bombs, you can send off a special beam that locks onto small enemy ships, giving you "control" of them. Once you "reel" them in, you can use them as a shield or whip them around and hurl them into groups of on-coming enemies! It's a tricky maneuver to master, but quite satisfying when done correctly.
For bosses and ground-based enemies, this same mechanism acts as a "lock on" so you can zero in on weak spots. Destroyed foes release yellow corn kernels that you suck in for bonus points. You'll be faced with waves of enemy projectiles, but while they appear insurmountable at times, Triggerheart has the kindest collision detection I've ever seen, so don't give up and keep moving.
Exelica's background music is simple but pleasant and unobtrusive. The menus are in English, and include a number of extra modes and configuration options. High scores are saved automatically, and rankings can be viewed from the main menu. Triggerheart Exelica is a nice twist on a classic genre, and when my posse tested it out, it was the highlight of the night. Upon outscoring a friend my trash-talking included "Don't worry Jonathan, you're still good at English games", causing him to hang his head in shame. If you're a shooter fan, you'll find it worth your time and money to track down this gem. Note: You'll need a special loader or mod chip to play Triggerheart Exelica on a North American Dreamcast system. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The controls are limited to four buttons: shoot, rapid-fire (yes thank you!), transform, and bomb. Transform toggles your weapon between three basic types: wide spray, guided missiles, and straight laser. The guided missiles aren't as effective as you might think because they don't seek out enemies as much as they casually pursue them. The key is to accrue power-ups until you get combinations of the three weapons, at which point you can effectively wash the screen with death and destruction.
The stages are pretty standard as you blast airships in the sky, blow the turrets off tanks crawling through ruins, and systematically destroy the armaments of sprawling intergalactic battle cruisers. The fourth stage features deep-space shooting inspired in equal parts by Silpheed (Sega CD, 1993) and Asteroids. Power-ups appear early and often, so you're never in a helpless position. When your ship is destroyed, several power-up icons emerge from the wreckage, allowing your next ship to conveniently scoop these up. Some icons tend to linger near the top or sides of the screen, making for a tantalizing but risky prize.
Trizeal's visuals have an elegant, polished look, making heavy use of unusual colors like violet and magenta. In terms of bosses, there's nothing here you haven't seen before but their destruction is punctuated by a blinding flash that's quite satisfying. Trizeal's difficulty is reasonable compared to most modern shooters. Although you're often subjected to barrages of missiles, there's usually a clear escape route and the collision detection is forgiving.
The game does have a few minor flaws. One could argue the enemies are repetitive at times, and the slowdown is pronounced - even in the single-player mode. With two players your ship tends to get jostled around for some reason. Trizeal's electronic musical score is superb, and the opening stage's theme has a relentless undercurrent that really gets you into the flow.
Since the game is Japanese, American players will require a device that allows you to play imports, such as a Gameshark. The menus are mostly English. High scores are saved to VMU, and upon completing a level it becomes available in score attack mode. I can't get enough of this game. Trizeal is a quality shooter that seems to improve with repeated plays. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Words or phrases appear on top of each approaching monster, and each correct keystroke results in a hit, often blasting off an appendage. The last letter effectively kills the beast. The game provides plenty of instant gratification, briefly flashing a grade for each monster you kill. The words and phrases you have to type are entertaining in and of themselves, and many are completely off-the-wall. Bosses spice up the action by adding additional challenges, like requiring you to answer questions. At the end of the game, you get a comprehensive evaluation of your typing skills, including letters per second, accuracy, special keys, reflexes, etc.
The two-player mode is fun, and with keyboards going for $19, it's affordable too. Is the underlying game really much different from House of the Dead 2? Well the violence is a bit turned down; the zombies carry plungers instead of axes. The heroes run around with keyboards and Dreamcasts strapped to them, which looks hilarious. But the level designs look the same to me, so don't expect many surprises if you've already played through House of the Dead 2. I should also mention that this game seems to appeal to women - even my wife likes it. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com