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Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubisoft (2000)
Reviewed: 2020/4/3

screenshotBased on yet another animated television show from the 90's, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker is a different breed. There's a new Batman in town named Terry who's decked out in a black outfit with a red insignia. His mentor is an elderly Bruce Wayne - the original Batman. The gameplay is unusual as well. It's a side-scrolling brawler where you move in and out of the screen a la Double Dragon (NES, 1988). I normally love that style of play, but the animation here is pretty choppy.

Batman can punch, kick, and equip special weapons like nunchucks. He'll face a lot of scary bad guys including minotaurs, dog-men, and laser-shooting robots. There are traps as well, and Batman's ability to glide comes in handy for avoiding flames or spikes. Batman Beyond has a solid storyline and cool music that picks up in intensity when the action does.

What ruins the game is its confusing, maze-like stages. Every room looks the same, with doors and elevators leading all over the place. When you clear a room the Batman Beyond logo flashes on the screen and it kind of looks like an arrow. Is it telling me to go somewhere? That's what I thought, but then I ended up back in an old area where I had to fight the same goons all over again. Ugh. Batman Beyond could have been an intriguing title, but the game makes you feel like you're on some never-ending wild goose chase. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Return of Double Dragon (Super Nintendo)
Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
Batman: Return of the Joker (Game Boy)
Double Dragon (CD) (Neo Geo)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Nintendo 64)

Batman: Chaos in Gotham
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubisoft (2000)
Reviewed: 2020/4/3

screenshotChaos in Gotham begins with an exciting introduction that plays out in complete silence. What the heck is going on? The cutscenes are the same way. That's a bug, right? It's a shame because the game seems faithful to the New Batman Adventures television show. Batman runs in an exaggerated manner but is fluidly animated. In addition to jump-kicks and punches he has a useful dash move that stuns enemies before they can get off that first shot.

Beating up bad guys would be more fun if the sound effects were synced up better. But the platform jumping where Chaos in Gotham really falters. You can jump to hang onto a ledge and pull yourself up, but you need to be at just the right pixel to grab. It's not always clear where that spot is, and you'll incur a lot of damage trying to find it! The first stage is an ice palace that turns out to be the lair of Mr. Freeze (spoiler alert!).

The second stage is a museum where you find yourself fighting on the bones of fossilized dinosaurs before meeting the Joker and Harley. The third stage takes place on a train and features Two-Face. Each stage has its own villain! There are a few puzzles that usually require the sliding of blocks. Batgirl stars in several stages including a high speed motorcycle ride. Chaos in Gotham has all the ingredients for an action-packed adventure, but it feels too sloppy and uncooked to recommend. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
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If you like this game, try: Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
Batman Vengeance (Playstation 2)
Batman Begins (Game Boy Advance)
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Game Boy Color)
Batman: Vengeance (Game Boy Advance)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Grade: D
Publisher: THQ (2000)
Reviewed: 2008/9/30
Rating: Everyone (animated violence)

screenshotDespite a killer license, Buffy the Vampire Slayer doesn't have much to offer. Our blonde heroine simply kicks and punches her way through generic undead thugs in repetitive side-scrolling stages. The character sprites are flat but the animation is surprisingly fluid, calling to mind Flashback for the Genesis (1993). The fighting action is shallow, but hearing a ghoul shriek as you stake him through the heart is satisfying. Sometimes you're even treated to flying body parts!

The graveyard, mansion, and zoo locations are remarkably dull, and the sewers stages are marred by awkward platform jumping. Buffy's visuals are so dark that it can be tough to make out your enemies at times. Speaking of which, it's easy to get the impression that you're fighting the same zombie over and over again, who keeps returning in a new outfit!

The game isn't hard and there's no score, so where's the challenge? It feels like you're just going through the motions as you mindlessly forge ahead, scribbling down a new password after each stage. At least the jaunty soundtrack is relatively good, striking a nice balance between creepy and funky. The illustrated cut-scenes look rough, but the witty dialogue is consistent with the show, tossing out references to several episodes. Even so, Buffy fans will regard this as more of a collectible than a source of entertainment. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King (Game Boy Advance)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Xbox)
Flashback (Sega CD)
Renegade (NES)
Double Dragon (Genesis)

Dragon's Lair
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Reviewed: 2003/8/31

screenshotHere's an unlikely title for the Gameboy Color - an interactive animated movie featuring full-screen video! Yes, this is the original laserdisc game, not some lousy 2D platformer with a Dragon's Lair license. Dragon's Lair is a tall order for the Game Boy Color, but the results are interesting. Obviously the system can't replicate the gorgeous animation of the original game, but the graphics are sufficient for the most part.

It might be hard for new players to tell what's going on at times, but personally I had a ball playing this. In some ways it actually plays better than the original game, particularly with regard to pacing. This action moves swiftly from one room with the next without the constant loading that bogs down the disk versions. Although the gameplay still relies heavily on trial and error, the controls are more responsive and provide confirmation beeps to signal a good or bad move.

There seem to be fewer actions to take in each room, which compensates for some of the hard-to-see graphics. The stages are presented at random, and sometimes even "mirrored" to keep you on your toes. Except for some musical fanfares, the game is played in relative silence. All things considered, Dragon's Lair is still a good time, especially if you have fond memories of the original. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Dragon's Lair (3DO)
Space Ace (CD) (Jaguar)
Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)
Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp (Playstation 3)
Dragonstomper (Atari 2600)

Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Grade: D+
Publisher: THQ (2001)
Reviewed: 2008/5/23

screenshotIndiana Jones was always great on the big screen, but how would he look on the smallest screen of all? The answer: like a little spider! Wow, these characters are small. Close examination reveals some interesting animation, but still.

Infernal Machine's gameplay features Tomb Raider-esque shooting and platform jumping, but the 2D environments are poorly rendered. Multiple shades are used to convey depth, but it's hard to tell where you can and can't go. It's not unusual to fall unexpectedly or run smack into an invisible wall.

The gunplay is unrealistic but effective - just face an enemy's general direction and unload. Sometimes you'll engage in comical shootouts with a Nazi standing right in front of you. The platform action is weak, but not as bad as the underwater mazes you have to swim through as your air supply depletes.

On a positive note, the stages are reasonable in size, and the user interface makes it easy to manage your inventory. My favorite part of this game occurred when I blew up a wall with a grenade - much like I did 23 years earlier while playing Raiders of the Lost Ark (Atari 2600) with my sister. But besides conjuring fond memories of other games, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine doesn't have much to offer. . © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Atari 2600)
Tomb Raider III (Playstation)
Super Bee (Europe) (Odyssey 2)
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb (Xbox)
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (Wii)

Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Reviewed: 2018/4/29

screenshotPeople told me if I enjoyed Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992) then I would like Links' Awakening, and they were right! After a shipwreck Link finds himself trapped on an island, forced to collect eight musical instruments to escape. This game squeezes every bit of power out of the Game Boy Color with its sophisticated gameplay, smooth animation, battery backup, and an astonishing amount of content. When played on a Game Boy Player attached to a GameCube, you feel like you're playing an SNES title.

Your sword has excellent range which makes it fun to slash away at moblins, octoroks, and hopping skeletons. The eight dungeons are every bit as clever as a full-scale Zelda adventure, but outdoor areas feel more restricted and maze-like. New items are gradually introduced, allowing you to slowly unlock more of the island. The game is loaded with fun Nintendo elements like Shy Guys, Bow-Wows, and a Yoshi doll you can win in a claw game.

I'm not sure how to feel about the Super Mario-style side-scrolling screens; they feel a little out of place. A few of the bosses are kind of silly, like the genie clown tossing the Fruit Loops ("I'm your bad guy this time!"). The difficulty is pretty high for a portable game. It's easy to get stuck while scouring the scenery for an obscure item, and even when you know what to do (feed bombs to snakes) it can be difficult.

But my biggest complaint is the repetitive, unskippable text. Whenever you touch a rock, the game stops to display "Wow, this looks pretty heavy. You won't be able to move it with your bare hands." It wouldn't be so bad if more than four words were displayed at a time! Even when you acquire the power bracelet which allows you to lift rocks, you still need to equip it first, and since you can only equip two items at a time the juggling is constant. The game prompts you to save when you die, but an option to save in progress would have been nice too. Link's Awakening is a step down from Link to the Past, but no other portable title has ever glued me to the screen for as long as this one. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: battery
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If you like this game, try: Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2 (Super Nintendo)
Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The (Super Nintendo)
Neutopia (Turbografx-16)
Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)

Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, The
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Reviewed: 2004/5/30

screenshotOracle of Ages was one of two Zelda games released simultaneously for the Gameboy Color, the other being Oracle of Seasons. Both titles do a fine job of emulating the high-caliber gameplay of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992). Ages gets off to a slow start, with a lot of verbose exposition, much of it juvenile and corny. The background story involves an evil sorceress who kidnaps a girl who has the power to control time.

Once Oracle of Ages hits its stride however, it delivers the classic Zelda action we've grown to love. By traveling between the past and present, Link can acquire new items, gain new abilities, and solve puzzles on his quest to save the girl. The clean-looking graphics are about NES quality, but the well-orchestrated music and familiar audio effects sound as if they were lifted directly from Link to the Past. The stages are thoughtfully designed to provide constant clues and minimize backtracking.

The time-traveling aspect is a novel concept but it could have been better executed. It's hard to determine how changes to the past affect the present world, and traveling back and forth between the two ages gets old after a while. Magical rings are vital to your success, but their functions are hard to determine, and you can only change your ring when visiting the ring appraiser. In my opinion, Oracle of Ages is not one of the stronger entries in the Zelda series, but it's still a high quality mix of action and adventure. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, The (Game Boy Color)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The (Nintendo 64)
Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Game Boy Advance)
Legend of Zelda, The (Game Boy Advance)
Neutopia (Turbografx-16)

Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, The
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Reviewed: 2004/7/18

screenshotWhen starting to play Oracle of the Seasons, I was totally bummed out by how similar it was to Oracle of Ages. Yes, I know they were released at the same time as companion games, but heck, they're practically identical. They share the same graphics, gameplay, and music. Worst of all, even the storyline is similar! This time Link must rescue an oracle girl imprisoned in a tower who can control the seasons.

If you've played Oracle of Ages, the premise sounds awfully familiar. On the bright side, Oracle of Seasons does not contain the annoying time-travel mechanism of Ages, giving this one the edge in my mind. You still have to deal with the whole convoluted ring system though. Oracle of Seasons offers a few fresh ideas, but these are few and far between.

My favorite aspect of the game is its mine cart rides, which let you alter the configuration of the tracks by hitting switches. Oracle of Seasons is a respectable Zelda adventure, but if you've already played Oracle of Ages, be advised that this is just more of the same. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, The (Game Boy Color)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The (Nintendo 64)
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)
Legend of Zelda, The (Game Boy Advance)
Neutopia (Turbografx-16)

Montezuma's Return
Grade: B+
Publisher: Take Two (1998)
Reviewed: 2012/7/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI've seen many classics make the transition to the portable universe, and many arrive butchered beyond recognition. Fortunately Montezuma's Return is the exception to the rule, retaining all the qualities that made its predecessor, Montezuma's Revenge (Colecovision, 1984), such a hit. You control a little Indiana Jones exploring a pyramid composed of a huge grid of rooms jam-packed with danger. There are moving platforms, ropes, spikes, rolling skulls, and plenty of coins to collect. If you obtain a knife, you can survive one hit from a creature like a cobra, rat, or spider.

As in the original game, the controls are exceptionally crisp and responsive. Your explorer moves swiftly and can easily hop between platforms. I loved shimmying down ropes and sliding down poles. The levels incorporate all the stuff you'd expect to find in a real pyramid, like cobwebs, flaming pits, skeletons chained to the walls, and platforms that disappear at regular intervals.

The visuals are a little dark, and certain items (like the purple keys) can be a little hard to make out. Pressing the select button brings up a map, and there are 150 rooms in all! 150! Despite that, the game has a somewhat linear structure and it's pretty easy to get stuck. The soundtrack will get on your nerves, but you can shut it off via the options menu. All in all, Montezuma's Return is a heck of a lot of fun, mainly because it doesn't try to fix what's not broken. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 8,700
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Montezuma's Revenge (Atari 2600)
Montezuma's Revenge (Colecovision)
Barkley Shut Up and Jam (Genesis)
Skeleton+ (Atari 2600)
Apprentice, The (Philips CD-i)

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