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.
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.
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.
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 pseudo-3D stage lets you race through a space tube (wormhole?) 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.
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.
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 retrieving 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 so-so. 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.
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 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.
You'll face a wild menagerie of creatures including arrow-slinging centaurs, boulder-dropping trolls, levitating beholders, hopping lizard men, and flying one-eyed bunnies. The sheer variety of adversaries is remarkable; there's always something new. I love the way my shots make that pitter-patter sound as they beat against enemies - like rain on a tin roof. Shooting chests reveals power-ups including one that creates several mirror images of yourself.
One weak area of the game is its dull, featureless stages. They look so grainy it reminded me of an old Ultima game from the 80's. Each landscape has unseen hazards and it's easy to get hung up on the scenery. Those boulder-spewing volcanoes are the worst. How am I supposed to know where those rocks are going to land? The game seems very hard until you beat a boss - any boss.
After that you're equipped with a chargeable weapon. In addition you're equipped with a little fairy who flies around attacking things for you. Suddenly the stages seem shorter and the bosses a lot tamer. Bosses include a lava man, flying serpent, and giant porcupine. There are eight stages in all. Elemental Master takes a while to get up to speed, but once you get over that initial hump you're in for a good time. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
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 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 spaceships. Some enemies have the annoying habit of trying to surround you, or worse yet appear out of thin air.
Besides zombie heads and slinky centipedes 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.
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 possible 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.
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 gives 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 projectile options 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.
The controls are so complex it forces the player to 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.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum