Publisher: Kaneco (1990)
This is one of those shallow, undercooked arcade titles that appeared early in the Genesis life cycle. DJ Boy is a fast-moving, side-scrolling beat-em-up on roller skates
. That's right - our hero is a kid who skates around town beating up gangs of bullies and bizarre bosses. The basic controls are punch, kick, and jump. Button combinations let you perform special moves like a jump kick. So how does the game play? Well, your enemies are constantly sliding around and the collision detection is questionable. Even so, it's satisfying to beat up a bully and watch big gold coin fall out of his body (or better yet - an entire sandwich). The predictable stages include city streets with trolleys, a subway, and the obligatory construction sites. I hate how the subway is completely dark except for the spotlight surrounding you. The characters are sizable but the enemies are monotonous. The bosses are not the most politically correct bunch. The first looks like Aunt Jemima, and are those pancakes
she's throwing?! Lord have mercy. Where's Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton when you need them? The second boss is some kind of break-dancing male stripper. This game thrives on absurdity. Too bad it sucks. The bosses are cheap, there's no continues, and the lack of a two-player mode adds to the disappointment. DJ Boy feels like a relic of Sega Genesis' past, but not all relics are treasures. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 161,600
Publisher: Data East (1993)
Despite its intriguing premise, Dashin' Desperadoes doesn't live up to its potential. Played on a side-scrolling split-screen, two players (or one against the computer) race towards the right, attempting to be the first to reach the babe at the end. It certainly sounds
like fun, and the graphics and music are better than average. Detailed stages feature scenic backdrops, multiple pathways, animals to hop on, trampolines, and even skateboards to ride. You can make life more difficult for your opponent by tossing bombs or "rolling" into him. It's quite competitive, and knowing the course layouts gives you a huge advantage. Stage themes run the gamut from lush jungles, to icy glaciers, to barren Western locales. The high quality soundtrack is impressive for the Genesis, including banjo music for the Western stages and steel drum music for the tropical areas. The incomprehensible voice synthesis, on the other hand, has got to go! Dashin' Desperadoes' early stages are a blast. Because they contain minimal obstacles, you can move through them at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, as the stages become more complex, the fun factor drops precipitously. Once you have to start dealing with moving platforms, spike pits, pools of lava, and switches to open doors, it just becomes a big headache. Worse yet, the computer opponent is notoriously cheap, often magically appearing right behind you in the heat of a contest. If only Dashin' Desperadoes had embraced its simplicity instead of betraying it, this could have been a winner. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
David Robinson's Supreme Court
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Like Pat Riley Basketball that came before it, David Robinson's Supreme Court doesn't feature any real teams or players. You would think that at the very least David Robinson would be playable, but no, he's only here to give color commentary at halftime and the end of the game! So why in the heck is he shown dunking on the cover? Anyway, while this game isn't great, it did lay the groundwork for the excellent NBA Live games that would be released later for the Genesis. The players are small but realistically detailed, and the court is viewed diagonally. Unfortunately, your view changes when you cross the mid court line, which is disorienting. The action is fast and the dunks look great, but jump shots and passes have little or no arc to them. The controls are fine for the most part, but making three point or foul shots is ridiculously hard. Blocking is nearly impossible on defense, but stealing is effective. The audio isn't bad; you can hear sneakers squeak, and the background music is kind of funky. It's not great, but Supreme Court was definitely a step in the right direction. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Kaneco (1992)
It's easy to dismiss this one-on-one fighter as a Street Fighter 2 knock-off, but not so fast!
Deadly Moves is a cut above the rest. I recently played this against my friend Chris who claims to have played it as a kid! That's surprising, because Deadly Moves strikes me as one of those generic titles few people have heard of. The game has a lot going for it despite its suspiciously familiar characters. Joe is a Ryu clone, Li Yong is Chun Li, and Baraki is clearly Blanka's second cousin. Bu Oh ("Lord of Dance") looks a lot like David Bowie, and his red hair is literally
a deadly weapon! The stages are unspectacular but more interesting than your garden variety fighter. The raft stage features tropical island scenery (check out the blimp) and a desert stage puts you on the back of a moving train. The dinosaur bones stage looks idiotic, mainly because one set of bones is still standing!
How is that even possible? The voice samples aren't bad, and some of the music has a cool Streets of Rage flavor. So how is the fighting action? Well, it's a little on the slow side but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Two special moves are listed in the manual for each character, and they are easy to execute. The game's simplicity, coupled with its deliberate pace, makes Deadly Moves feel more strategic and less like a button-masher. One unusual feature is the ability to move your fighters in and out of the z-axis. It's not a major factor, but sometimes you'll be able to side-step a projectile or rush attack. My friend Chris pointed out that there's no clock, so stalling tactics (my specialty) are not an option. After each round, I like how the background scenery changes to black-and-white, and then fades to black, leaving only the victor on the screen. In the single-player mode you can only play as Joe, but you can select the order of your opponents. Joe's attributes increase between stages, and a password is provided. Deadly Moves could never challenge Street Fighter 2's throne, but if you want a nice change of pace, this is a viable option. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 64800
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Razorsoft (1992)
I love the old magazine ad for this game. It depicts a white box with an official-looking notice: "Contrary to published reports, Death Duel has been banned only in certain European countries; however, it is still legal in all 50 states as of the date of this notice. Any reports indicating otherwise are unfounded." That's pure marketing hype for you. Yes, there's a certain degree of blood and dismemberment, but these are pixilated monsters
for Pete's sake. Still, the box does state, "Not suggested for children under 13." Actually, I found this odd first-person shooter to be a nice change of pace. Using a cursor to aim, you engage in one-on-one shootouts against a series of nine creatures, including a dragon, giant insect, and cybernetic troll. These things are impressively large - the "largest 16-bit characters EVER" according to the box. Each has its own distinct attack patterns and weak spots. During battle, your opponent remains a fixed distance away, but moves sideways - sometimes behind partially destructible walls. Armed with three weapons, you can spray bullets with your machine gun, launch missiles, and lob grenades. The limb-blasting, missile-dodging action can get pretty intense at times. My biggest gripe is that your opponent sometimes moves so far to the right or left that you can't even reach them - what's that all about? It's always interesting to see what the next stage has in store, but you'll always have to defeat the cyborgs in order. Between stages there's a fun shooting gallery stage, and you can purchase weapons from an eccentric merchant with a pet monkey. This is where the game exhibits some offbeat humor, including a sign that reads, "Please touch my monkey". Outfitting yourself with the right weapons is critical to defeating your next foe, and this requires some trial and error to discover what's effective. Your ammo is limited, and the last thing you want is to run out on the battlefield. This is a good game, but the poor instructions don't adequately explain the meters and basic gameplay, which is frustrating. Once you figure everything out however, Death Duel is a lot of fun. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Death and Return of Superman, The
Publisher: Sunsoft (1994)
In 1992 DC Comics pulled off a bizarre publicity stunt. They had Superman briefly "die" at the hands of Doomsday, an event which inexplicably spawned four new alternate Supermen in the process. That's the premise of this underachieving side-scrolling brawler. Death and Return of Superman reeks of untapped potential. The blocky city skyline in the opening cutscene looks horrible. The opening stage is a fenced power-plant that's seriously lacking in the eye candy department. Were they even trying?
Subsequent stages include the obligatory elevators, street scenes, rooftops, and laboratories. The lack of detail in the scenery is glaring, especially when you look down a city intersection and see nothing but a solid blue wall! You face the same mutated goons over and over again with cute names like Rambeau and Eyegore. Palette-swapped thugs are to be expected, but this game takes the "cookie cutter" concept to whole new level by duplicating entire stages
with different color schemes. It's a shame because the game itself is quite playable with large characters, smooth animation, and tight controls. I love how Superman grabs enemies and hurls them into walls much like the Caped Crusader in Batman Returns
(SNES, 1992). The fact that the walls actually incur damage may be the highlight of the game. Superman will take flight if you tap C twice, and he looks cool hovering over a backdrop of layered buildings. There are icons to collect but they all just look like Superman logos. Occasionally you can throw an object, but you'd expect tossing an engine block on a guy would do a little more than minimal damage. Superman's eye beam attack is positively worthless, but his ground pound (A+B) is effective. The action is one-player-only, there's no score, and it's impossible to make significant progress without the Game Genie. Considering how far side-scrollers progressed by 1994, Death and Return of Superman comes off as a super lazy effort. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1991)
This offbeat platformer doesn't make much sense but it's a heck of a lot of fun. Decap Attack stars an eccentric mummy named "Chuck D. Head". Chuck can rapid-fire punch foes with a head that bursts from his chest. Yes, that is awesome. Occasionally he's equipped with a skull on his shoulders he can hurl, but it's really easy to lose. I love how the skull changes expressions when you leave it sitting on the ground. The platform action is responsive as you hop between platforms, stomp cartoonish monsters into the dirt, and smash totems to collect potions. You can land on gray clouds and flutter in the air to slow your fall. The assortment of enemies include werewolves, cattle skulls, dudes with propeller hats, and black birds that look like Daffy Duck on crack. Your goal is to reach the exit of each stage, although it's not always clear where that lies. Potions you collect become available for use on an item screen accessible by the A button. You can use this screen to read descriptions of each item, but the user interface is terrible!
It would help if the scrolling text could display more than five words at a time! It's very easy accidentally use an item you didn't intend to. These short-lived power-ups offer invincibility, extended punch range, and high jumping. Don't hesitate to use the potions, as most do not work on the bosses! Decap Attack's stages depict barren landscapes with skulls hanging from trees. I think they are intentionally bleak to convey a Halloweenish spirit, and it works. I really like those translucent platforms. The weird, jaunty music is great, and I love that creepy organ music that kicks in when you die. The lack of a score and password is a bummer, but it's fun just to see how far you can get. Decap Attack may look like your garden variety platformer but proves to be anything but. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Demolition Man was a futuristic action film starring Sylvester Stallone as hero John Spartan and Wesley Snipes as villain Simon Phoenix. You should never get your expectations up for a movie-licensed game (by Acclaim
no less), yet Demolition Man proves an exception to the rule. In the opening stage our hero bungees from a helicopter down onto a rooftop, accompanied by the well-placed voice sample ("send a maniac to catch one"). As you leap between rooftops the run-and-gun action is explosive!
Your rapid-fire gun lets you rack up a high body count and ignite flammable crates that rock the screen as they explode. I love how you can shoot in any direction while hanging off a ladder, dangling on a wire, or bouncing on a bungee cord. The blood red skyline is striking and bass-heavy music will pump your adrenaline. The second stage switches to an overhead view as you shoot thugs in a museum while saving hostages. The characters look cartoonish but the fun doesn't let up one bit. It's easy to mow down gangs of approaching thugs that literally pour out of the woodwork. It's even possible to strafe by holding down B and C (although support for the six-button controller would have been nice). Each stage ends with a mini-encounter with Simon Phoenix. The developers really knew what they were doing. The platform-jumping controls are good and the enemy shot detection could be described as generous. The checkpoints are well-placed and the boss encounters are short. Demolition Man is one shooter that lives up to its name, serving up non-stop action, unbridled violence, and wanton destruction. Good times! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 66,600
Publisher: Warner Bros. (1994)
During the early 90's the fascination with interactive cartoons reached fever pitch, catapulting to popularity mediocre titles like Taz Mania
(Genesis, 1992) and Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions
(SNES, 1993). Desert Demolition stars the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, paying homage to their classic cartoons with lovable animations, endearing sounds, and countless references to the old shows. It's a fitting tribute, but from a video game standpoint this is a complete trainwreck. You can be either the coyote or roadrunner, but selecting either one is punching your ticket to misery. The coyote is so slow and clumsy that simply reaching the end of the stage before the timer runs out can be a challenge. Wacky gadgets like springs and jet shoes typically send him into the nearest wall! He can't even walk into a boulder
without taking damage. The swift road runner seems like a better option, especially when you see him peel through Sonic the Hedgehog-style loops. But once he's in the desert he's moving too fast to avoid anything so he runs right smack into every damn cactus! You can collect little waving "Acme stamps" for points, and despite what my friend Scott says those are not
mini Confederate flags! What's the point of collecting them when the game never displays your score? You'd think they could show it on the "game over" screen, but I guess they forgot. And then there's the matter of the coyote actually catching
the roadrunner. In the long-running cartoon, the roadrunner evaded capture for more than 50 years
, yet my friend snagged that bird in ten seconds
. Way to destroy a legend Chris! Oh wait - the designers of this game already beat you to it! © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Here's an exciting action/strategy game that was clearly inspired by the Gulf War. You pilot a helicopter in a series of missions in a desert environment, viewing the action from a three-quarter overhead perspective. From large building complexes to tiny soldiers, the graphics are realistic and well detailed. The excellent control system makes it easy to control the helicopter. The A, B, and C buttons are assigned hellfire missiles (powerful), hydra missiles (medium), and machine guns, respectively. The Start button brings up your current status, a map, and your current objectives (no need to have the manual on hand). Desert Strike is fun to play and requires quick thinking as well as strategy. If you go in just trying to blow everything up, you'll use up all of your ammo and wind up a sitting duck. As you take out specific targets, additional fuel and ammo become available. There is a wide variety of missions including destroying targets, rescuing prisoners, capturing an ambassador, stopping an oil spill, and taking out SCUD launchers. Passwords allow you to save your progress after completing each mission. The difficulty ramps very gradually. Desert Strike is a very original and well-designed game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Password
Publisher: Sega (1990)
I just recently discovered this vintage shooter and I'm glad I did! Dick Tracy is a stylish side-scroller with some nifty innovations. Our hero is decked out in his trademark yellow trenchcoat and walks in a slow, deliberate manner. On the street he's accosted by gangsters in colorful suits that can be shot (or punched) using the A button. The action seems pretty straightforward until thugs begin to fire at you from the other side
of the street. You can unload your machine gun
on those goons by holding down C and directing your bullets with the directional pad. I love that! It's especially satisfying to mow down several well-dressed gangsters in a row, watching them all hit the pavement one by one. You can even damage scenery like windows and fire hydrants, and while though it doesn't earn you any points, destruction of property is a heck of a lot of fun! The city stages are nicely detailed, but my favorite are the restaurant and dock locations. The game takes place at night so that's when it's best to play. One annoyance is how locations are heavily reused. You mean I have to go trudge through that warehouse stage again?!
The drawn-out boss encounters are a pain. These guys require about 20 shots
to kill, and they can even fire at you when they are invincible (blinking). On top of it all, the boss stages are timed, and I've never been able to take out "Big Boy" without the clock running out first. Dick Tracy has its flaws, but I'd still recommend it on the strength of its colorful graphics and unique dual-attack gameplay. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 81,950
Dick Vitale's Awesome Baby College Hoops
Publisher: Time Warner (1994)
Nobody knows basketball like Dick Vitale, but this basketball game is a disaster. Awesome Baby attempts to use a 3D rotating court (like NCAA College Basketball on the SNES) but the Genesis just isn't powerful enough to handle it. The frame rate is slow, the animation is incredibly choppy, and the action feels like it's happening in slow motion. Just trying to keep track of the blinking ball is nearly impossible. The players don't look bad, and the background features a dimly lit stadium of fans. The six-button controller is supported, but as you can imagine, it's not very responsive. The background music is more suitable for a porno flick, and Vitale's commentary is surprisingly sparse. And here's the kicker: there are NO real college teams, just a bunch of states!! That hurts. Awesome Baby is one of the worst sports games I've seen on the Genesis. "It's Awful, Baby!!!" © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
It wasn't easy to track down a full copy of this Dino Land, but I figured it was worth the effort since Renovation produced so many quality titles for the Genesis. Dinosaur-themed pinball sounds awesome, and it should have been. Instead we're subjected to the cute, chubby variety of dinosaurs one step above Barney on the barf
meter. If you can stomach that, you might enjoy spending some time in Dino Land. I sleepwalked through this game the first time I played before realizing the default difficulty is "biginner" (not my typo). The main table has two sections, both with its own set of flippers. The top features rollers on the right, a slot machine on the left, and bumpers that tend to relocate. The lower section features baby dinosaurs roaming in a circle and a T-Rex head that occasionally swallows the ball. Hit enough targets and you initiate a boss stage. The boss battle occurs on a separate screen, and it's confusing as hell. Apparently you can transform your ball into a small dinosaur? In general the progression of the game is hard to understand. The graphics are grainy, objects flicker, and the sound effects are muffled. As with most pinball games, the key is to get off to a good start and rack up multipliers early. Although prehistoric by today's standards, Dino Land does have a one-more-time quality that will keep you coming back. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 1,170,100
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Accolade (1992)
I used to love playing Double Dragon with my friends on my Atari ST computer back in the day, but this is a shoddy translation. The graphics are below average (at best) with generic urban landscapes and poorly animated characters. The game begins with a somewhat brutal opening sequence where a thug punches a hot chick in the stomach and then carries her off. Our heroes Billy and Jimmy Lee spring to the rescue armed with punches, elbows, jump kicks, and standing kicks. Unfortunately your attacks aren't very potent, so thugs continually get up and re-enter the fray. The collision detection is lacking, making it hard to land jump-kicks. Occasionally you'll grab a thug and knee him in the face repeatedly, but the lousy graphics make this look more like a lewd act.
The sound effects are muted and sometimes absent altogether. Even the control scheme
sucks, assigning kick to A, jump to B, and punch to C. Putting lowlifes out of their misery is a tiresome chore, and the boss encounters are especially long and repetitive. There are occasional weapons like bats and whips, but you'll drop them as soon as you take a hit, and hits are unavoidable once you're surrounded. Double Dragon was released in 1987, and its age is showing. If you're looking to get your kicks, stick with Streets of Rage. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 21,940
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Flying Edge (1992)
The Double Dragon series was a huge hit on the NES, so you'd expect the Genesis edition to be a slam-dunk, right? Hell
no! Not only does Double Dragon 3 (DD3) pale in comparison to Streets of Rage, but it's not even as fun as the NES games! As with all Double Dragon titles, this side-scrolling brawler lets one or two players punch and kick their way through stage after stage of generic thugs, this time in locations from around the world. DD3's gameplay is a hapless mess, and there's minimal technique as you plow through a steady stream on oncoming foes that all look exactly the same. The Cupid-inspired Roman archers of the Italy stage look especially idiotic. Half the time enemies don't even flinch when attacked, making you wonder if you even made contact! The punching and kicking action would be totally bland if not the ability to "buy" power-ups and special moves. Among these are the ability to perform hurricane kicks (yeah that's
original), or become a homosexual giant (just what I always wanted!). The only attack I truly enjoyed was the ability to stomp on a guy's head
when he's down on the ground. If only it inflicted some amount of damage! The character graphics look blurry and indistinct, and the backgrounds are remarkably lame. The opening downtown stage looks cheesy as all hell, and subsequent locations provide precious little in the way of eye candy. In the Japan and Italy stages, large trees and columns in the foreground partially block your view of the action. The first stage does feature a catchy theme song, but the subsequent Asian-inspired tunes got on my nerves. DD3 is a mercifully short romp, and since you get a ton of continues, the challenge is minimal. Even the most devout Double Dragon fans will find themselves nodding off after a few minutes of this garbage. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Publisher: Sega (1993)
This is one of those games that didn't attract much attention when it was released, but if you get your friends playing it, they'll be at it all night. This Tetris-like game is a spin-off from the Sonic the Hedgehog series of games, in which Dr. Robotnik was the main villain. It plays like this: pairs of beans descend down the screen, and you can rotate each pair and position where they fall. If you get four beans of the same color adjacent to each other, they explode, and the result can lead to some nifty chain reactions. This game is pure fun. The concept is so easy to grasp that anyone can pick up a controller and start playing, but when the action heats up only careful strategy will prevail. Three modes include a scenario mode and a head-to-head challenge. There's even a little tutorial to get you started. The music is excellent too. Bean Machine is the kind of game that appeals to everyone. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1992)
This pinball game seemed awfully familiar before I realized it is a remake of Devil's Crush
(Turbografx-16, 1990). Dragon's Fury is the best pinball game I've played on the Genesis. It has the "feel" of real pinball (good ball physics) yet incorporates elements that could never exist on a physical table, like an extra long design, moving targets, and six
bonus mini-tables! The dark, macabre theme is conveyed using images of skeletons, monsters, sorcerers, and medieval contraptions. The plunger looks like an overheated buzzsaw, and the centerpiece is the head of a female warrior who gradually transforms into a dragon. The effect is exciting, and once fully transformed you can hit the ball into her mouth to initiate a bonus stage. Speaking of bonus stages, these fantastic single-screen tables look like twisted works of art. In one stage the lower kickers are blinking "eyes" that the ball rolls into, and the effect is unnerving. Be sure to focus your efforts on these bonus stages, because that's where you earn the big points! The main table features moving monks, skeletons, and baby dragons that might seem annoying but actually help circulate the ball. The flipper controls are responsive but having the nudge button assigned to A means you'll probably never use it. With only three balls the games are short but addictive. The morbid theme is compelling, and by virtue of playing for high score the replay value is pretty much unlimited. I don't think it's quite as good as Devil's Crush for the Turbografx, but Dragon's Fury is a strong, underrated Genesis title. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 17,552,600
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
(Tengen, 1992) was a remarkably well-executed pinball game with a creepy, medieval motif. This sequel on the other hand feels like a cheap knock-off. The gameplay, visuals, and sounds just aren't as compelling. Heck, even the box art is a simplified version of the Fury's cover. Still, Dragon's Revenge has its charm. An impressive intro screen features the face of Sharon Stone turning into a dragon. Revenge has an interesting table design with more targets and variety. Since the table scrolls sideways slightly, there's more winding passages and side areas. The playing field is extremely detailed with embedded jewels and engravings, and the graphics are brighter and more crisp than Dragon's Fury. Once you launch a ball however, it's obvious that the physics is all wrong. It feels I'm hitting a rubber super ball
instead of a metal one. The female face in the center is now fully digitized, but you can't hit her directly. Instead, hitting other targets around the board inexplicably cause her to moan ("oh... ooo... yes!
") I'm not sure what the deal is when she starts floating around the table. The bonus games are rendered in an oil-painting style that doesn't match the main table, and they are less edgy than the ones in Fury. They challenge you to battle a vulture, trolls on a bridge, and a freaky tree creature. I really hate how these stages are all-or-nothing affairs; you either beat them or earn nothing. Dragon's Revenge also has its share of bugs. It's not uncommon to have the ball pass through a flipper, and the game even locked up on me once. Five balls instead of three results in much longer games, but there is a password feature. Dragon's Revenge isn't a bad looking sequel, but it pales in quality to the original. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SDZ 6,862,000
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 player
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Here's one a lot of you might remember. The cover of the game has a photo of an Arnold look-alike with face paint and a big gun. Dynamite Duke is a "behind-the-back" shooter, similar to Nam 1975 (Neo Geo) or Cabal (NES). You move your gunner side to side across the bottom of the screen as soldiers, tanks, and helicopters shoot incredibly large, slow-moving projectiles in your direction. Your weapons are mostly semi-automatic, so you can mow down groups of bad guys at a time, giving you a nice warm feeling inside. One odd thing about Duke is that there's a huge hole in the middle of his body that lets you see through him. Duke, that's never going to heal if you don't stop picking at it! Dynamite Duke may not have the most detailed graphics in the world, but I'll give it props for having some HUGE sprites. I also like how you can blow up much of the scenery, revealing weapons and power-ups. While most of your time is spent dodging missiles and spraying bullets, the end-of-stage bosses provide the opportunity for some hand-to-hand action. By far, the bosses are the most difficult aspect of the game. You'll routinely roll through a whole stage without breaking a sweat, and then blow through all three continues on one boss. In close combat, Duke's punches look pretty cool, but his kicks look pathetic! If you like short, action-packed arcade games, Dynamite Duke is a fair way to pass the time. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 119340
Publisher: Sega (1994)
to be enjoying this game. That's what I've been told. I'm trying, but man, Dynamite Headdy is hard for me to wrap my mind around. I had no clue what the hell was even going on in the initial "wild chase" stage. I thought
I might be controlling Headdy, but seemed to have little or no bearing on events. Then I was forced to participate in several "practice" rounds designed to get me acquainted with the controls. Enough already! Upon beginning the game in earnest, I discovered it was not unlike most platformers - just weirder
. The stages take place on a theater stage loaded with colorful sets, puppets, and marionettes. It's almost carnival-like, and some of the bosses are downright freaky. Needless to say, I didn't find this style very appealing. The main character, Headdy, is a puppet with the ability to fling his head at enemies. It's not the first time we've seen this gimmick - Decap Attack and others used it years before - but Dynamite Headdy takes the concept a step further. You can change you head often during a stage, which dramatically modifies your abilities. For example, the Spike Head lets you climb walls, Vacuum Head lets you suck in objects, Super Head speeds you up, and Empty Head makes you invincible. It's interesting to experiment, and the game is good about providing heads appropriate for the current situation. A secondary character is "Beau", a flying face that points out the weak spots on each boss. He's useful, because this game is seriously boss-heavy. A bonus stage challenges you to knock basketballs into nets, and while it sounds like fun, I actually hated it and wanted to make it stop. Overall, Dynamite Headdy is well programmed, with rich graphics, elaborate sound effects, and pinpoint controls. There's no slowdown, even when the action get crazy (which is often). Genesis fans looking for something substantial will appreciate Dynamite Headdy, but I suspect most will scratch their heads in bewilderment as they reach for the Sonic cartridge. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
ESPN Baseball Tonight
Publisher: Sony (1994)
ESPN Baseball Tonight makes a terrific first impression. The players look plain, but the animation is absolutely stunning, particularly the pitcher delivery and the way the ball comes off the bat. The designers tried create the look of an ESPN telecast, but the results are mixed. There are bits of commentary by Dan Patrick and Chris Berman, but most of the time the game is strangely silent - even the fans get very quiet. Your view is always from behind the catcher, which is often not an ideal angle. The camera might pan from side-to-side, but it never zooms in on the fielders. When the ball is hit to the outfield, you have to control fielders in the far distance, and it's hard to judge the ball. The pitching is impressive, but the fielders are pretty stiff, and it's hard to react to balls hit down the line. Despite these problems, ESPN Baseball is still playable. It has all the major league teams and players, but is sorely lacking the stadiums, which is a big deal in my book. In the end, ESPN Baseball Tonight only amounts to another long fly ball. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
ESPN National Hockey Night
Publisher: Sony (1994)
ESPN National Hockey Night transports you back to 1994 when the Ducks were the Mightly Ducks and teams like the Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques were still in the NHL. When you fire up the game you see a panning shot of a digitized arena as that rousing ESPN theme kicks in. Sweet! A well-designed option screen lets you select your mode, view (vertical or side), rules (offsides off, naturally), and game length. Each contest is introduced by digitized anchorman Bill Clement at a sports desk, and that's a really nice touch. I usually favor an overhead view in hockey games, but in this case it really limits your vantage point. The side view not only looks more attractive (cool reflections) but offers a wider viewing angle. The players, ice markings, and digitized crowd look exceptionally detailed. The crowd noise sounds more like a water faucet but the organ music is right on point. A commentator chimes in with occasional quips like "ouch" and "that had
to hurt". That end-of-period horn could use some work; it sounds like an injured sea lion. The digitized ref really gets in your face. What did I do to piss that guy off? I just wish Hockey Night's gameplay was a little tighter. It's hard to dislodge the puck because you tend to slide off players you're trying to check. The passing controls are lousy and your players are never in proper position anyway. The goalie sometimes appears to lunge in the wrong direction, but I couldn't verify that because there's no instant replay. ESPN National Hockey Night really could have used a few iterations to get up to speed, but for hockey fans it's still a nice change of pace from EA's offerings. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Earnest Evans wants to be Indiana Jones, but he's not even Pitfall Harry. This game has all the necessary elements of an exciting adventure: Caves, traps, idols, skeletons, and porcupines, but the gameplay is lacking. The action consists mostly of platform jumping and using your chain
(not a whip!) to dispose of monsters. The Earnest character is huge and funky-looking. He moves more fluidly than most game characters because his body is composed of a series of individual sprites. Somebody programmed sprite rotation into this game, and it's used to good effect. Earnest will automatically crouch in tight quarters, and roll when sliding. Unfortunately, trying to get him OUT of those positions is hard to do, especially when a huge worm is chomping at him. The collision detection is terrible, and you'll often find yourself stuck partially in walls or floors. Most of the monsters here are pretty generic, but I was definitely impressed by those giant skeletons - very intimidating. Unfortunately, many monsters appear with little warning, and some can kill you almost instantly. The bosses are surprisingly dull and uninteresting. The music is standard Genesis fare, meaning it's pretty much interchangeable with any other action title on the system. Earnest Evans provides several continues, which mercifully allow you to pick up right where you died. The game has its share of innovations, but the unresponsive control really spoils the fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Shiney Entertainment (1994)
At a time when platform games were running short on ideas Earthworm Jim made a splash with its unique style, superb animation, and wicked sense of humor. The lead character is an intergalactic worm in a muscle-bound suit who can whip his own head
at enemies. Jim can also glide like a helicopter and shoot rapid-fire in any direction. The stages take place on surreal planets with platforms that twist and turn to convey a sense of depth. The artistry and use of color are so extraordinary that the scenery looks practically painted
on the screen. The first stage is conventional in nature but later stages are remarkably inventive. In one you must escort an oblivious skipping puppy to safety, and another puts you in a bungee-jumping contest with a huge ball of snot. One stage takes you through the intestines of a monster, and a psuedo-3D stage lets you race through a space tube (worm hole?) while avoiding asteroids. One of the final stages takes place in almost complete darkness! The character animation is remarkably fluid and Jim's mannerisms are hilarious. The ability to "launch a cow" is indicative of the game's offbeat humor. The rapid-fire shooting makes it satisfying to blast the beaks off psychotic crows and reduce maniac dogs to bones. The fact that you can't actually see
the bullets was a novel concept for 1994. The platform jumping action could be better. I like how Jim grabs any nearby ledge, but some stages have too many spikes and it's easy to find yourself moving in circles. The bosses can be exceptionally difficult, which makes the lack of a password feature all the more glaring. Having to start each game from the first stage is a travesty, and you don't even get a score! Earthworm Jim is jam-packed with memorable sights and sounds, but the game's fun factor never matches its level of creativity. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Shiney Entertainment (1995)
Earthworm Jim 2 delivers more intergalactic antics from the comical muscle-bound worm. Expanding upon the same whimsical platform-shooting formula, this sequel introduces five new weapons and an innovative new "snot swing" maneuver. The difficulty is moderate and thank goodness there is
a password feature. The more conventional platform stages tend to incorporate simple puzzles, like loading pigs onto a scale. Some stages are so "out there" I can only surmise that mind-altering drugs played a key role in Earthworm Jim 2's brainstorming sessions. In the carnival-style stage Jim inflates his head
with helium, letting him float through the stage in hilarious fashion. There's a side-scrolling shooting stage where you glide over beautiful islands and shimmering blue water. Each stage seems to introduce a new gameplay mechanic, but even the most ingenious concepts can fall flat. In "Lorenzo's Soil" you traverse an underground maze by blasting through the dirt, and it may be the most agonizing stage I've ever endured. The puppy-tossing mini-games are fun at first but soon wear out their welcome. I learned to avoid the "bonus stages" like the plague, as they have a way of taking a fun concept and beating it to death. The "stair chair" stage with the raining old ladies is one such example, although I still love how they accuse you of being "fresh" when they land in your lap. The fun factor wavers at times, but you'll usually want to see what the next stage has in store. Earthworm Jim 2's surreal graphics are first rate and the sound effects are about as good as they get on the Genesis. After viewing the humorous ending I realized the strong influence of Monty Python on this franchise. Earthworm Jim games tend to be somewhat overrated in my opinion, but you can't deny their entertainment value. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Sega (1995)
It's easy to mistake Ecco Jr. for the third act of the Ecco the Dolphin trilogy, but this is just a kid's game with low difficulty and watered-down action. Ecco Jr. offers three playable characters that all play the same as far as I can tell: Ecco, Ecco Jr., and a baby killer whale. The stages are only a few screens wide with missions that take just a few minutes to complete - if that
. I enjoyed the treasure-hunting tasks and the ability to shatter crystals with my sonar. The game was less entertaining when I was required to "corral fish" or "play tag" with a dolphin. Some of the more interesting missions have you reuniting a baby sea turtle with its mom or retrieve a seal's toy (red ball). The ability to use your sonar to locate objects makes the game really easy. Another thing that separates Ecco Jr. from the other Ecco games is the complete lack of undersea violence. You can't die or eat fish. Heck, even the sharks
are harmless. The graphics are certainly up to Ecco standards and with coral formations that appear photo-realistic. The controls are responsive and it's always exhilarating to leap high out of the water. The Ecco series is known for its music, but the soundtrack here is uneven. Some tunes exude an otherworldly quality while others sound like nursery rhymes. The three-character password is handy but there are only about 24 short missions. Seasoned Ecco fans will finish the game in one sitting, but youngsters can probably bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Ecco the Dolphin was critically acclaimed in 1992, and hailed as the first of a new breed of games that would eschew violence in favor of constructive, thought-provoking gameplay (Ha!
). Ecco is more puzzle game than arcade game, with spectacular water effects and a brilliantly colorful undersea world. Your dolphin's movement is silky smooth, and swimming around in the open sea and jumping out of the water is fun in of itself. The goal of each stage is not immediately apparent, but you'll discover hints by "talking" to other sea creatures you encounter. You'll open passages, save other dolphins, avoid deadly sharks, and eventually destroy an "ancient evil" in the grand finale. Your 25-stage journey will even take you through back through time to the lost city of Atlantis. It's fun to see what each new stage has in store. The difficulty level is ideal, providing plenty of challenge but little in the way of frustration. A password is provided at the end of each stage. In addition to its gorgeous graphics, Ecco's music is also amazing, with sometimes ominous yet mostly relaxing undersea tones. Action-oriented gamers may find Ecco a bit tedious, but ultimately this is a very satisfying adventure. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Ecco The Tides of Time
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Your favorite dolphin is back with a whole new collection of puzzles, so if you liked the first Ecco, it goes without saying that you'll love this one. In this edition you'll rescue baby Orcas, teleport to distant lands, and even morph into other sea creatures. The gameplay is more complex this time around, resulting in tougher and more complicated puzzles. There's a new pseudo-3D obstacle course stage in which you swim through rings, but it didn't do much for me. Like the first Ecco, the graphics and sound are top notch. The music is more funky this time around, and it will grow on you. With over 40 levels of head-scratching puzzle fun, Tides of Time is a solid sequel. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Renovation (1993)
Wow, another nice shooter for the Genesis! Elemental Master doesn't make a great first impression, but ultimately it proves itself worthy. You control a warrior walking up the screen who can shoot rapidly either forward or backward (but not both at once). Since you're walking on the ground, you'll need to navigate around rocks and pits, and the scenery looks pitiful. The grainy, blocky landscape looks like something from an ugly old computer game (Ultima comes to mind), but at least the monsters are an interesting bunch. You'll face giant bats, skeleton warriors, crabs, centaurs, wizards, and floating eyeballs. The variety of adversaries is remarkable - there's always something new on the horizon. The bosses, which include a lava man, serpent, and giant porcupine, look good and aren't excessively difficult. Power-ups are exposed by shooting treasure chests. You can choose the order of the first four stages, and each rewards you with a new "elemental" shooting power. I found the diagonal-shooting "fire" weapon to be the best of the bunch. Not only can you switch these weapons on the fly, but holding down the fire button powers up a single devastating burst. There are eight stages in all. Elemental Master is not a well-known Genesis shooter, but it's definitely worth investigating. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 83750
Eliminate Down (Japan)
Publisher: Soft Vision (1993)
I'm not sure what the deal is with this stupid name, but I suspect it means "Awful Translation" in Japanese. Eliminate Down should look attractive to Genesis collectors. This fast-paced, side-scrolling space shooter is similar to Gaiares
(Genesis, 1990) and Hellfire
(Genesis, 1990). You can fire rapidly, collect power-ups, and switch weapons on the fly. You'll blow up a lot of stuff and have a fairly good time doing so. Your three weapons consist of a forward, side, and backward shot. The B button engages auto-fire and the other buttons cycle through your weapons. Cycling through three weapons might seem reasonable, but in the heat of battle it's clumsy. Eliminate Down just feels too damn generic. Something is definitely missing from this game - a smart bomb maybe? The waves of enemies are relentless but repetitive. You'll blast the obligatory cannons, satellites, asteroids, and space ships. Some enemies have the annoying habit of trying to surround you, or worse yet appear out of thin air. The zombie heads and slinky centipede look slick, but there are few memorable sights. Backdrops like the asteroid belt only serve to confuse the action in the foreground. The collision detection is loose, but usually fails in your favor. The bosses, musical score, and even the bonus mini-game are ho-hum. Had this been an early Genesis title I might have cut it some slack, but it's not. Eliminate Down is pretty rare but I would advise against anyone shelling out big bucks for this forgettable shooter. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 604,520
Publisher: Sega (1993)
It was a cold snowy day in 1993 when I found myself suffering from a bad case of fighting-game fever. In my delirious state I began calling around to stores asking if they had any copies of Eternal Champions. I finally hitting pay dirt at a Asian video shop ($56 if I recall). I was pretty stoked but when I invited Steve and Brendan over to play they were underwhelmed. Eternal Champions was Sega's attempt to cash in on the one-on-one fighter craze. Its cast of fighters are plucked from all periods of history, including a caveman, vampire, acrobat, bounty hunter, gangster-era gumshoe, warlock, assassin, cyborg, and fish-man from Atlantis. It sounds promising, except the warlock looks like a pencil-necked geek, the gumshoe could be an investment banker, and the bounty hunter has the physique of a weatherman.
The stages are forgettable with the exception of the creepy New England witch-trial-era village. The music is hokey, the sound effects ring hollow, and some of the attacks look cheesy. The hits lack impact and the collision detection is imprecise. Eternal Champions was designed for the six-button controller, but it's also compatible with Sega's infamous "Activator". Have you tried
this thing? It's a motion-sensing ring that lets you fight using real martial arts moves. In reality you find yourself hopping around like some drunk failing a sobriety test. Even with a proper controller the special moves are hard to execute - and ineffective
to boot! Get too cute and your button-mashing friends will beat you to a pulp. On a positive note, Eternal Champions features gory fatality sequences that occur more or less at random. It's entertaining to watch some poor schmuck consumed by a sea serpent, tossed into a giant fan, or burned at the stake. Eternal Champions is moderately fun against a friend, but the single-player mode sucks
. The CPU blocks everything you dish out, and you can't adjust the difficulty. There's no score and you can't change characters. Hell, you can't even quit out of this mode
. You are forced to play... eternally.
I love how the box boasts of a tournament mode that supports up to 32 players
. I'll be sure to pull this out next time I have 31 of my closest friends over. Eternal Champions holds a place near and dear to my heart, but honestly, it's not very good. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Evander Holyfield is easily the best and most realistic of the 16-bit boxing titles. The fighters, ring, and crowd look sharp, and a fine bikini-clad babe introduces each round. The boxers are viewed waist-up from the side, providing a close vantage point. Considering all the punch combinations you can throw, the three-button control scheme is well-designed. Unfortunately, like so many boxing games, the controls seem less-the-responsive as your boxer lags behind your commands. Then again, conserving your energy (as opposed to button mashing) is a key part of the strategy. The attractive graphics include realistic details like face cuts and flying sweat. In addition to the one or two-player exhibition mode, you can create your own boxer and work your way up to the championship in the Career mode. Real Deal is definitely one game that sports fans won't want to miss. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Ex-Mutants is based on an obscure comic featuring superhumans fighting mutants in a post-apocalyptic world. For an X-Men rip-off it's a pretty solid platformer. I love the title screen showing damaged skyscrapers against a blood red skyline. This game embodies all the standard conventions you'd associate with classic 16-bit action. You navigate maze-like laboratories and caves. You hack at creatures that explode into meaty chunks. You duck under traps that fire at timed intervals. You collect coins for points and break open crates for power-ups. Each area concludes with the obligatory boss. Ex-Mutants isn't just a collection of platform cliches; it's a celebration
of them. And it's a lot of fun too. There are six Ex-Mutants but you can only play as two because the others have been captured. You can be the hatchet-wielding Ackroyd or the more agile Shannon. The controls are precise and I like how characters punctuate beat-downs with lines like "Die, scumbag!". The fact that many enemies resemble Ewoks just give you added incentive. On medium difficulty however the little bastards absorb too many hits so I recommend the easy level instead. You usually have a handful of projectiles but sometimes you get stuck with mines, and they suck. The stages include a subway, Temple-of-Doom style caves, and forests with tree huts. Exploration is fun thanks to alternate routes and hidden areas. Some of the trap configurations are pretty ludicrous though. In one area you need to hop between disappearing ledges with spikes below and a moving buzz saw above. The dart traps are excessive and even the flies around the campfire
are lethal! A minecart bonus stage offers a harrowing ride because you're standing
on a flat platform while jumping over hazards and attacking enemies! At least the game lets you continue close to where you left off. During one cut-scene Ackroyd says "Give it a rest boy; this isn't a video game." Ex-Mutants is textbook old-school, which is probably why I like it so much. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 112,500
Publisher: Universal (1995)
Exo Squad is one of those late-arriving Genesis releases packaged in the cheap cardboard boxes. If you're a collector trying to track down a copy, don't break your piggy bank. This uninspired mech title begins with a gravelly, phlegm-laden voice announcing "We are... Exo Squad
". The title is apparently derived from a 1990's cartoon series which would explain all tedious character bios and exposition. Exo Squad is really three games in one, none of which are worth playing. The controls so complex it forces the player run down a checklist of moves
before each stage. The behind-the-back flying/shooting stages are horrible. Whenever you move to dodge, it seems the incoming missiles move with you. Most objects are impervious to attack, which I was forced to learn the hard way. The second stage is a painfully slow side-scroller where you trudge past dull scenery of girders, rocks, and mountains. The animation isn't bad, combining sprite rotation with grinding machine noises to convey mass. You blast little drones that fly in formation or roll along the ground. It's very monotonous and time-consuming, so when you die at the boss and find yourself restarting the entire stage, the proper response is "oh hell
no!" Exo-Squad also incorporates one-on-one fighting with a wide range of moves like flying, shooting missiles, and delivering an overhand smash. This mode can be played against a friend, but what is the point? The game issues a password but there's no score. Exo Squad offers a few technical flourishes but fails to provide any compelling reason to play. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players
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