Publisher: Tengen (1991)
An old arcade favorite, Marble Madness challenges you to guide a large white marble over three-dimensional platforms before time runs out. Using finesse and momentum you'll precariously navigate narrow strips while avoiding pesky obstacles like vacuums and slinkies. You view the action from a tilted overhead angle, and the Game Boy does an adequate job of rendering the features of each angular stage. Yes, it can be hard to make out some ridges and drop-offs, but after you play a stage once or twice you learn the "lay of the land". The digital pad is kind of a clumsy way to control your marble, especially when you need to move diagonally. Still, this game has a way of keeping you coming back. When you die the game immediately places you back where you left off. Each time you play, you progress a little further, and some stages have alternate paths that add a risk/reward element. The looping, vertigo-like music is both catchy and appropriate. I've played better versions of Marble Madness, but never one this small. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 14,130
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Publisher: Capcom (1992)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back features well-proportioned characters, digitized images, and a rousing rendition of the Star Wars theme. You begin your journey as Luke riding a tauntaun on the ice planet of Hoth. It's cool how you can freely dismount to wander through icy caves below the surface. When a character communicates with you, the screen displays their digitized face above the dialog (with cantina music playing, oddly enough). "Luke, the lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi". Thanks Ben, but I think we covered that in the first
movie! Luke fires shots rapidly and can perform a useful "super jump" by holding down first. After blasting probe droids and wumpas, Luke eventually locates his lightsaber. The graphics are detailed but the animation is painfully slow and choppy. Luke actually falls slower than he runs. The music is well orchestrated but hearing that Star Wars theme looping over and over
again will give you a Bantha-sized headache. Navigating the ice caves is a nightmare. The stages are full of regenerating enemies and the first boss took about 100 swats
of my light sabre to kill. When I died I had to restart the game from the very beginning!
Even using the force is a pain in the ass. Not only is it necessary to stock up on "force energy", but you need to collect "ability" icons to do anything. The game has no score and no password feature. I never even reached the AT-AT battle (*sad face*
). Capcom didn't put much effort into Empire Strikes Back and neither should you. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Super Mario Land
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
The Game Boy system was catapulted to greatness by Tetris
(Nintendo, 1989) but I prefer Super Mario Land. This may be the best portable platformer I've ever played!
It has all the core ingredients yet also has a quirky, boldly original way about it. The first few stages are set in ancient Egypt with pyramids, palm trees, tombs, and hieroglyphics. The scenery is quite exquisite despite being rendered with black outlines. All the basic Mario ingredients are here: bump blocks, pounce enemies, hop on floating platforms, and travel through pipes to underground bonus stages. But the game is loaded with clever puzzles, weird surprises, and even side-scrolling shooting stages. Whenever Mario appears to rescue Daisy, she turns into a monster and runs away! Turtles explode when you flip them over, so don't dawdle!
New enemies include sphinxes, flying bugs that drop spears, and even zombies! I like how that high-bouncing ball weapon can take out enemies both high and low, as well as snag coins out of reach. You can go through lives in a hurry in this game, but rest assured there are ample bonus lives and frequent checkpoints. Even the music is first rate. The controls felt a bit laggy on my GameCube Game Boy Player, but perfectly good on my Game Boy SP. There are no passwords but you can earn continues. Super Mario Land is so good it gives the console
Super Mario games a run for the money. If you were expecting a watered-down platformer, think again friend!
I'll take the Pepsi Challenge against Super Mario Bros.
(NES, 1985) any day of the week. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 116570
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
So I know what you're thinking "Oh here we go - some lame reviewer giving Tetris the obligatory A". [Wait - hear me out!] "This guy is so
transparent." [I can explain]. "I could see this coming a mile away
." [Give me a break!] It's not easy reviewing a legendary video game decades after the fact.
How objective can you be? For the benefit of those born this
century, Tetris is the granddaddy of puzzle games. The concept is to rotate and stack falling blocks so they form complete lines across, causing rows to collapse as the pace quickens. I very much remember Tetris mania of the late 80's [cue the flashback effects]. Back then Cynthia from work was always playing this in the break room, but she'd never let me have a go "because batteries". That's okay because I had a pretty slick version of the game at home on my Atari ST computer. Fast forward to 2018 and the question remains, is Tetris still
fun? I started playing this on level 5 (average) and frankly I was a little bored. So I cranked up the difficulty to level 9 (the highest) and suddenly I was riveted. We're talking about the kind of riveted where you forget to blink your eyes. Oh sure I was getting my ass handed to me but I couldn't stop! Not only does this game demand you be quick on the trigger, but it's imperative to stay one move ahead, keeping a constant eye on that little window that displays your next piece. This version of Tetris isn't going to do you any favors, and that's just a fact of life you're going to have to accept. Want to make a last-ditch effort to slide that piece into place? Too late!
Need to drag that square over to the other side? Tough [expletive]!
This game is a house of cards; one false move and the wheels come off. Once you hear that "bam BAM BAM
" of rapidly-stacking blocks, it's all over but the crying. Is Tetris still fun? The answer is an unqualified YES, but you need to be a man and crank up that difficulty. "Well, that was a pointless waste of time." [I'm right here!
] © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 9
Our high score: 14,909
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Wait - this
is supposed to be a Jurassic Park game? This clumsy platformer plays more like a bad Flashback
(Genesis, 1993) sequel. Your fluidly-animated character can run and leap like a track star but is hard to control with any precision. He tends to slide all over the place. In the opening stage you sprint over hills and through caves to collect ten compy eggs. Your adversaries include both dinosaurs and human hunters. Large dinos stomp you and small ones latch onto you, so they are equally annoying. The bad guys are super lame. You just run up to one (after taking several bullets), punch him in the face a few times, and grab the health icon that appears. Rinse and repeat! The second stage takes place in a forest where you retrieve pterodactyl eggs. At first it's alarming to get carried off by a pterodactyl, but they often carry you to where you need to go! The control scheme is awkward. The select button cycles between your weapons and hands, but you need your hands to open the crates so you're constantly having to switch. When fighting your guy performs a series of uppercuts and sweep kicks like he's in Mortal Kombat
(Genesis, 1993). Enemies have an annoying tendency to overlap you so you can't touch them. The lab stage is the worst; it's just an expansive maze with elevators. Everything looks the same. I did find it interesting how your objective is to collect floppy discs!
The remaining stages are blatant rehashes of the first three. The spastic "music" that plays throughout the game is just plain irritating. Good video games require skill, reflexes, and cunning, but The Lost World is just a matter of perseverance and pain. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
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