system Index S-Z
Shantae
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Reviewed: 2021/6/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis late-arriving Game Boy Color (GBC) platform/adventure is so sophisticated you might mistake it for a Game Boy Advance title. It didn't sell many copies during its original release but Limited Run Games recently stepped up to give this rare gem a well-deserved encore.

By GBC standards Shantae is an audio-visual powerhouse. Its tropical visuals are bursting with color and alive with animation. Shantae is a "half-genie" girl who prances around with style, her long ponytail bouncing behind her. While in a village you view Shantae from the back, rotating her to face each entrance. Pushing up makes her dash towards it, and the scaling and animation is superb.

Shantae uses her hair to smack around enemies like spiders, pirates, and snake women. She even has a few dance moves up her sleeve. Her arch-nemesis is a sassy pirate girl by the name of Risky Boots. Diverse stages include scarecrow-infesting cornfields, enchanted forests, and towering waterfalls. There's plenty of precision platform jumping but it can be hard to discern the foreground from the background.

Shantae's controls take some getting used to. Shantae's hair attack is a little slow since she needs to "wind up". That's fine when you can anticipate enemies, but the game has a way of dropping them right into your lap! Should you find yourself overlapping with a creature, your hearts could be drained in a hurry. The attack button doubles as "run", but sometimes you're often required to make a running jump with very little room to work with.

Shantae has a lot of freedom to explore and the game is loaded with surprises. Use of items adds a layer of strategy. The jaunty soundtrack perfectly matches the level of enthusiasm and fun. The game includes a battery backup with three slots. Crafted with loving care, this is a quality titles that pushes the GBC to its limit. While not much different than Shantae's more recent outings, it's still pretty neat to own a copy of the original. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: battery
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Wii U)
Snake Rattle and Roll (NES)
Dynamite Dux (Sega Master System)
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (Nintendo Switch)
Montezuma's Revenge (Atari 2600)

Spider-Man
Grade: B-
Publisher: Activision (2000)
Reviewed: 2021/7/19
Rating: Everyone


screenshotWow, this sure is a big step up from that super-lame Amazing Spider-Man (Game Boy, 1990). This color Spider-Man offers simple controls, vivid graphics, and brisk pacing that embody the spirit of the comic. You begin in a downtown area with a spectacular skyline. The buildings not only look great from a distance but up close as well! Case in point: the churches have gargoyles. That's a letter grade right there.

Spider-Man strikes cool poses as he leaps between ledges, swings on his web, and climbs walls. He'll cross paths with crowbar-wielding goons, knife-throwing psychopaths, and Rastafarian kick-boxing dudes. He can punch these guys or use his web-shooter to incapacitate them. On the downside, his perpetual stickiness makes it aggravating to navigate tight spaces like the sewers.

I was expecting this game to be linear in design but Spider-Man is one big open world with separate areas to explore as you please. You can duck down into the subway, head off to the docks, or face Venon on the rooftops. One consequence of this design is that there are times where you have no idea where to go next.

My biggest irritation however is a tendency to overlap with enemies, draining your life while not being able to strike back. It can be downright infuriating during boss battles. The game also has its share of "nuisance" enemies like rats and birds. The bats in the sewers that seem impervious to attack, and why do seagulls hate Spider-Man so much?

The uptempo musical score sounds like it's careening out of control at times, but I like how it changes between locations. A score and password are both displayed on the pause screen as a terrific rendition of the classic Spider-Man theme song plays. Spider-Man feels like a fully-realized adventure, giving you unprecedented freedom to put those web-slinging skills to good use. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Spider-Man (Genesis)
Amazing Spider-Man, The (Game Boy)
Spider-Man (Game Gear)
Boxing (Atari 2600)
Spider-Man: Web of Fire (Sega 32X)

Star Wars Episode I: Obi Wan's Adventures
Grade: D
Publisher: THQ (2000)
Reviewed: 2019/6/22

screenshotI try to review every Star Wars game ever made but only recently stumbled upon this Game Boy Color cartridge. Obi Wan's Adventures gets off to a promising start with a slideshow of digitized stills from Star Wars Episode I. Even the severe pixelation can't prevent you from getting psyched up! The game itself is an isometric hack-and-slash adventure. You begin by forging through a Trade Federation ship while hitting switches, avoiding traps, and killing battle droids with your lightsaber.

Obi Wan is nicely animated but in general the characters tend to be small and indistinct. There's little satisfaction to be had from striking down the droids. Your first few hits seem to have no effect, like you're up against an invisible wall. Only after the delayed explosion do you know you were actually doing damage. The rolling droidekas are especially annoying since they have force fields that can absorb many hits. You'll wish you could avoid them altogether, but in most cases you're required to clear out enemies to advance.

In addition to your lightsaber you can toggle between a blaster and force powers. Cycling through the three is clumsy and the game tends to automatically switch you back to the lightsaber. The blaster is hard to aim and you quickly run out of shots. Since when does a blaster run out of shots?! Employing the "force push" is fun but you rarely get to use it. The orchestrated music is straight from the movie but it's on a short loop. Obi Wan's Adventure is okay in concept, but a real Jedi really should be able to kick a lot more ass than this! © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Star Wars: Obi Wan (Xbox)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Nintendo DS)
Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (Xbox)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Game Boy)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Game Boy Advance)

The Mummy
Grade: C
Publisher: Konami (2000)
Reviewed: 2019/9/4

screenshotThis is not the Mummy game I was expecting. You'll play as many characters from the film including Evelyn, Jonathan, and Rick, but the sprites are kind of tiny. Each stage is a little treasure hunt as you scour mazes for items like manuscripts or artifacts. The prison level actually wraps around on itself like an old NES title. In fact, Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (NES, 1989) came to mind more than once (sorry to dredge that one up!).

That said, the gameplay isn't bad. Responsive controls make it easy to clear gaps and ride on floating platforms. Special items like torches and dynamite help you access new areas. Once you unlock all the characters you can toggle between them via the start button. Jonathan has a wicked punch and Rick can fire a gun! Unfortunately when Rick shoots Templar Knights they just sort of disappear and reappear a few seconds later. Lame!

There's also this big statue-looking dude you can push around to use as a shield. Not sure what that's all about. The dark, dull scenery comes in shades of brown, with locations that include a ship, desert ruins, and dark tombs. The ominous musical score has an air of mystery to it, but after a few stages everything starts to look the same. The Mummy isn't anything to get yourself wrapped up in, but its old-school style is appealing. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Bug Hunt (Atari XEGS)
Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, The (Game Boy)
Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (NES)
Mr. Robot and His Robot Factory (Atari XEGS)
Bedlam (Vectrex)

The Mummy Returns
Grade: C
Publisher: Universal (2001)
Reviewed: 2019/9/4

screenshotI found The Mummy (GBC, 2000) somewhat bland but this sequel is more ambitious. It begins by displaying a set of hieroglyphics on the screen that magically transform into text when you hold in the A button. Pretty neat! That same text explains that Rick and Evy have uncovered an artifact in a tomb that's unleashed a wall of rushing water. Upon selecting one of the characters you find yourself running to the left, jumping and rolling past traps as a wall of water nips on your heels.

Compared to the first game, the characters are huge! The controls aren't particularly responsive however and it's easy to get caught up on hard-to-see hazards. Thank goodness this stage has frequent checkpoints. The second stage is a first-person duck-and-cover shooter like Time Crisis (PS1, 1997). I love the concept but the cursor is clumsy to aim and enemies tend to pop out of the same places.

The third stage takes place in a museum where you can run around shooting people, but your range is limited. There's an occasional sword-fighting challenge but it feels like a shallow exercise in button mashing. Still, the sheer variety makes for an interesting journey. A six digit password is provided at the end of each stage and the digitized "game over" screens look slick. The Mummy Returns offers a lot of game variations. None are particularly good but it's always interesting to see what's next. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: The Mummy Returns (Playstation 2)
Frogger 2 (Colecovision)
Namco Museum Volume 5 (Playstation)
Namco Museum 64 (Nintendo 64)
Kung Fu (NES)

The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror
Grade: D+
Publisher: THQ (2001)
Reviewed: 2017/10/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI've always been a fan of The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials, making it a point to watch every October. I was excited to discover a Game Boy Color title based on these episodes! Stylistically it's right on point. The characters are rendered remarkably well and the colorful stages incorporate iconic references like the three-eyed fish. The Simpsons theme in minor key sounds remarkable but it's on a short loop and will get on your nerves after a while. There are no less than seven stages, each based on a different story.

If you've ever wanted to explore the Simpson household the first stage lets you do that. Playing as Bart you're trying to locate four fuses to turn the lights back on. The controls could be better. Bart's slingshot only shoots rocks a short distance before they hit the ground. Worse yet, he must stand still to shoot, making him a sitting duck for rats, spiders, and flying books. Sometimes you'll exit a room only to find yourself right next to a haunted vacuum cleaner. That thing requires two shots to kill and there's only time to get off one. There's no shortage of cheap hits like dripping water and ghostly hands that reach out of the floor.

In stage two you fly around the kitchen as a little Maggie transformed into a fly. The Joust-like controls are okay but constant up-and-down made me queasy. Level three takes to the streets as an overhead zombie shooter starring Marge, and it might have been fun if her firepower wasn't so weak. Level four is a Castlevania-style side-scroller starring Homer in an ornate castle that's a feast for the eyes. But like Bart's slingshot, Homer's crossbow fires directly into the ground.

Stage five features a hilarious-looking robotic Homer and stage six puts a defenseless Lisa in a school-gone-mad. The game finishes on a high note with "King Homer" which is basically a take-off of Rampage (Sega Master System, 1986) with Homer as the ape. There's a nice password system so it's easy to sample all of these. I would have preferred one really good game over seven mediocre ones, but if you're looking for a Halloween treat, Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror may just do the trick. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 2,280
Save mechanism: password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Haunted Halloween '85 (NES)
The Simpsons Wrestling (Playstation)
Haunted Mansion, The (Xbox)
The Simpsons Arcade Game (Xbox 360)
Teddy Boy (Sega Master System)

X-Men: Mutant Academy
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (2000)
Reviewed: 2015/1/13
Rating: Everyone


screenshotOne-on-one fighters don't age well on portable systems. In the fifth grade you could "link up" with your friend Jimmy during recess, but now... not so much. The only thing left is a CPU opponent with weak AI. And crazy music! I swear it sounds like the guy who did the music was on methamphetamines or something. The hyperactive melody careens all over the place and never stops.

Mutant Academy lets you select between nine X-Men including Gambit, Sabretooth, Storm, and Wolverine. They actually look pretty sharp and a few of the stages (like London Bridge) provide scenic backdrops. The Egypt-at-night stage is a cool idea except it's so dark it's hard to make out the Sphinx. As for the fighting action, well, it's pretty shabby.

Limited to two buttons, the control scheme uses a lot of double taps and charge moves. Apparently you can only unleash your special attacks (like Cyclop's eye beam) when your "rage meter" is full. The controls feel mushy and I wasn't able to land a single air attack. The CPU is so dumb you can often remain in a crouched position and keep wailing away at his shins until he finally keels over. When fighters collapse they lie flat on their back, stiff as a board.

The audio effects are the worst. Instead of sounds you would associate with punches and kicks, you get a lot of buzzes and zaps. The game keeps score but it's only visible on the pause screen and never actually displayed. Mutant Academy may have sold a lot of copies on the strength of its license, but that's about all it's got going for it. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (Super Nintendo)
X-Men (NES)
Art of Fighting 2 (Neo Geo)
X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis)
X-Men Vs. Street Fighter (Japan) (Saturn)

Yars' Revenge
Grade: D-
Publisher: Telegames (1998)
Reviewed: 2004/10/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was dying to see what this classic Atari 2600 title would look like on the Game Boy, and was shocked to discover that it plays much like the original! In case you weren't paying attention - or living - back in 1982, a Yar is a missile-shooting, shield-gnawing galactic insect. Set in the darkness of space, the game lets you freely fly around a screen with the evil "Qotile" floating on the right side. Usually hidden behind a shield, the Qotile occasionally lashes out in the form of a swirling fireball. You can shoot him with your cannon situated on the left side of the screen, and nailing him in-flight is worth big points.

That's basically all there is to it - you just shoot him as many times as you can. In this updated version the graphics and audio are slightly improved, but the fun factor is not. Not at all! The original Yars' Revenge was played on a single screen, but this version scrolls sideways, doubling the size of the play area. This seemingly inconsequential change ruins the dynamics of the game. Since your armed cannon and the Qotile are never on the screen at the same time, it's difficult to take aim. Other unwanted changes include two "zone guardians" that hassle your Yar on the left side of the screen.

One element that should have gotten a facelift is that guided "missile" that slowly pursues you wherever you go. It looked like a cheesy cursor in the old game, and it doesn't look any better here! At least the cool original box artwork was used for the label and title screen. I was excited to see Yars' Revenge resurrected, but this ill-advised incarnation can only tarnish its legacy. If you know what's good for you, you'll stick with the original Atari 2600 version. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Yars' Revenge (Atari 2600)
Super Pitfall (NES)
Pitfall (Colecovision)
Star Castle (Vectrex)
Terra Attack (Colecovision)


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