Jack Nicklaus Power Challenge Golf
Publisher: Accolade (1993)
In the early 90's I was a big fan of PGA Tour Golf
(Electronic Arts, 1991), so now I'm playing catch-up to see what the other golf titles had to offer. Jack Nicklaus Power Challenge features impressively realistic graphics and crisp control. Each hole begins with a digitized photo of Jack offering tips. You get a peek at an overhead view of the hole, but I really wish that would remain on the screen while you're lining up your shot! I was expecting to play as Jack, but instead I'm some Asian guy. You get a high angle of the fairway nestled in pixelated foliage. It takes several seconds for the scenery to render, drawn from the middle of the screen outward. The problem is, whenever you adjust your aiming crosshair - even by one pixel - this scene has to painstakingly redraw itself. Why in the heck does it do
that? It doesn't even look any different! I tried the "fast play" option but that didn't help (fast play my ass!
). The bottom offers information overload with a dozen or so gauges and indicators. The swing meter runs the width the screen and provides pinpoint accuracy. I love my player's fluid swing and the way the ball comes off the tee. Once the ball settles in the distance an options menu lets you continue, view a replay (normal or reverse), or access "other options" like consulting your scorecard and stuff like that. Power Challenge does a nice job of selecting the proper club which saves you some time. The putting game is problematic because the grid overlay isn't very helpful in determining the break of the green. The "wind meter" pulls double duty as slope indicator, but frankly it doesn't perform either function particularly well. Other than the screen draws, the pacing of the game good and you can get into a nice rhythm. There's very little audio as you play, except for the occasional dunk in the water or claps from an invisible crowd. At the end of my round I was congratulated on my score and prompted to enter the date, and guess what? It saved it to the cartridge! This game can be aggravating at times but if you're the patient type Power Challenge really isn't that bad. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players
James Bond: The Duel
Publisher: Domark (1993)
I wasn't a 007 fan until Daniel Craig hit the scene, so now I'm playing catch-up. James Bond 007: The Duel is pretty awful. Is that supposed to be Timothy Dalton on the title screen or Chris Kattan?
Similar to Rolling Thunder in design, you move from floor to floor shooting bad guys, climbing ladders, and collecting items. I'm not sure what "the duel" refers to; this is a very conventional single-player platform-shooter. You shoot milk men, save a bunch of ladies in cocktail dresses, and head to the finish. The opening stage takes place on a sprawling cargo ship, and the orange steel and island backdrops look very nice. James can fire sideways or diagonally, and he can even fire while hanging on a ladder. The lead character looks the part but the control is terrible. You have to make a concerted effort to finagle your way up ladders or simply turn to face attackers. Jumping is problematic because you can't tell what you can jump on or what's just part of the background. When you get shot you often fall off your current platform, and falling just about any distance is fatal. I do like how James automatically picks up any objects he runs by. Enemies tend to mindlessly scamper back and forth. You'll get into the habit of shooting while running so if an enemy appears on the edge of the screen he'll run right into the bullet. In stage two Bond is jumping between trees like a monkey in a tuxedo and it looks ridiculous. The Duel plays so poorly that even when you know exactly what to do survival is largely a matter of luck. You'll find yourself inadvertently finishing stages but when you shut this game off it will be no accident. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 313,000
James Pond II: Codename Robocod
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
For some reason I've always overlooked the James Pond series. If not for a reader pointing out this was a Christmas game, I may have never given it a second look. The unlikely premise behind James Pond II is that Dr. Maybe (yeah, that's his real name) has populated Santa's toy factory with assorted baddies. The opening screen exudes holiday cheer as our fish hero approaches Santa's towering factory in a raging snowstorm. The music isn't necessarily Christmas, but it has that same festive sound. As you enter each door of the factory you explore worlds of stuffed animals, delectable treats, mechanical toys, and board games. These colorful areas are outfitted with all the standard contraptions like floating platforms, spiked pits, trampolines, and slippery slopes. James Pond defeats enemies by pouncing on them, and this is accompanied by a satisfying "snap" sound effect. James also has the ability to elongate his body to any height and grab on to the underside of certain platforms. He can't climb up on them, but he can move arm-over-arm to reposition himself. You can't always tell what platforms you can latch onto until you try. Likewise, it's hard to tell if certain walls are in the foreground or background. The best part of the game is snatching up the high-value bonus items like stars, presents, and ice cream cones. There are also alternate routes and bonus areas to discover. You can leap pretty far and certain power-ups give you the ability to fly freely around the stage. The difficulty is fair and continues are available. James Pond II: Codename Robocod is a heck of a lot of fun and even more enjoyable around the holiday season. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 337,600
James Pond: Underwater Agent
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
This game stars a cartoon fish by the name of James Pond
- an "underwater secret agent". Get it? Yeah... kind of a reach. At first the bright graphics and responsive controls had me excited. This feels like an arcade game! James can dash around quickly and can even leap out of the water to bump Mario-style blocks! The opening mission has James rescuing lobsters from cages, and it's a blast. The stage has a fun Bubble Bobble
(NES, 1988) vibe as James traps enemies in air bubbles and before popping them to reveal bonus items like carrots, flowers, umbrellas, headphones, sneakers, and other random objects. Then things get complicated. In stage two you're supposed to "escort" other fish to safety, but where you need to escort them to
is not readily apparent. I actually had to consult the manual! In the next mission you'll collect gold bars in a shipwreck while dealing with mushrooms that teleport you all over the place. Ugh. Next you need to blow up an oil rig while contending with invisible walls and crabs that latch onto you. When there's a lot of activity on the screen it's hard to tell why you're taking damage. When you touch an octopus the screen starts going black intermittently, and I could have sworn it was a bug in the game! I wanted to like James Pond with its arcade style and zany aquatic theme but I could only languish for so long. When you can't tell the features from the bugs in a game, it's time to move on. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 592,110
Publisher: GTE (1994)
Attempting to combine a streetwise style with the "dunktastic" gameplay of NBA Jam, Jammit borders on self-parody. This one-on-one slamfest is played on a half court, forcing you to "clear" the ball during each change of possession. This little detail is easy to forget, and as a result you'll accidentally score more than a few points for the other team. The open-court action is pretty shabby. Despite utilizing the Genesis six-button controller, there are no effective special moves to the basket. Players tend to get "stuck" on each other when they collide, resulting in some very ugly, stilted animation. One thing Jammit does right is its shooting controls, which require one button press to jump and a second to release the ball. When in close proximity to the hoop, a dramatic close-up shows both players soaring over the rim. I love how that second press "pulls the string" and slams the ball down. Likewise if the defender is in position he can swat it away with a well-timed swipe. The meager character selection includes two black guys and - get this - a white chick
! Not only does she look totally out of place, but inexplicably she can jump higher than the guys! Her mere existence should cost this game a letter grade - she looks like somebody's mom
running around for Pete's sake! Jammit tries to convey "attitude" by incorporating funky music, trash talking, and urban scenery, but it all seems phony and contrived. The bass-heavy music is okay, but the repetitive voice samples ("C'mon sucker!") are lame. On a positive note, most of the nighttime backdrops are colorful and attractive, particularly the one with the sunset over the ocean. Despite its general cheesiness, Jammit can still be fun if played against a friend thanks to its satisfying slam dunks. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl
Publisher: Sega (1992)
It would be unfair to give a high grade to such a sloppy game, but Pigskin Footbrawl is a game I wanted to like. The gameplay is more like rugby than American football, as players run, pass, and kick their way past slugging opponents. It's basically a five-on-five free-for-all. The two playing fields consist of a meadow and a coliseum, and the medieval cartoon graphics give the game a distinct personality. But although the premise of Footbrawl is great, the implementation is lacking. For one thing, you can only control a single player (can't even switch), and your guy is constantly off the screen. The field is filled with too many obstacles that are almost impossible to avoid. The animation is rough, and you have zero control during fights. I discovered that positioning your man to the endzone and waiting for a long throw is an effective (but very cheap) strategy. The voice samples ("ouch!") are repetitive and too loud. There are a few nice touches like a green troll that enters the game late to help out the losing team. Footbrawl could have used more polish, but the game can still generate some fun. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1991)
By the name alone you might dismiss Jewel Master as just another Tetris clone similar to Columns
(Sega, 1991). In fact, Jewel Master is a side-scrolling platformer more along the lines of Rastan Saga II
(Taito, 1991). I love it! What makes the game special is how you collect magic rings which you arrange on your fingers (via the pause screen). Each hand has its own power. Various ring combinations imbue you with weapons (wave, ice, fireball) or special abilities (speed, high jump, shield). Before playing I'd advise you to alter the button configuration so the jump button is B, with left and right hand powers assigned to A and C (by default jump is C). You'll need to use your powers strategically as you creep through crumbling ruins while fending off goblins, scorpions, mudmen, and fireball-spewing statues. The layered scenery is alluring and I especially love the ivy-covered temples. The stage designs are a little repetitive but there's a nice variety of locations. You can pretty much predict where enemies will appear and thankfully they do not
respawn. What makes the game challenging is that you're relatively slow, especially compared to bosses like a pouncing cheetah or floating skeleton. You get three continues, but you always restart from the beginning of the stage, and they can be pretty long. Jewel Master is slow and methodical, but experimenting with the rings opens up a world of fun possibilities. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 83,800
Joe Montana Football
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Joe Montana is a surprisingly entertaining title, especially considering it was Sega's first attempt at football on the Genesis. Montana Football actually looks very much like John Madden Football, except the players here look sharper. There are also fewer lulls in the action -- you can select plays and hike the ball much quicker. One very innovative feature is the passing system. When you choose to pass, you get a first-person "helmet view" of your receiver, and you use crosshairs to "lead" your throw. This is fun and it works surprisingly well. Unfortunately, you can only see one receiver at a time, which may be why the system was not used in subsequent games. As I was playing Joe Montana, its main flaw became obvious: bad AI. The computer is a really lousy opponent, dropping easy catches and missing tackles all over the place. There are 16 teams to choose from, but the options are very limited. Still, as a two player game, this isn't half bad. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Joe Montana II Sportstalk Football
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Montana II doesn't offer much in the way of gameplay, but it does have one cool gimmick: play-by-play announcing. That might not seem like a big deal today, but in 1993 it was monumental. I can remember when my friend Keith brought this over my house and all the guys were crowded around the TV waiting to see what the announcer would say next. The commentator is pretty good actually, although he does occasionally fall behind or repeat phrases. If you do something stupid (like attempt a 90-yard field goal) he'll say "I can't believe it!" The gameplay itself is pretty average. In this edition they went back to an old-fashioned side view of the field. It works okay but going deep is a problem since your receivers run off the screen. The players are fairly small, but when the ball is passed or handed off, the camera zooms in six times closer. This is especially helpful for runners trying to find room. Although running up the middle is still very difficult, this is one of the few Genesis football games where you can actually "break away" on a run. After each quarter or score, a great looking statistic screen is presented, complete with little graphs. Montana II lacks Madden's polished look. The players are animated fine until they are hit, at which time they immediately fall flat on their stomachs or backs, and it looks pretty stupid. The controls seem to have been intentionally designed to be different from Madden, and as a result they are not very intuitive. For example, before the play the C button switches players, but the B button performs that function during the play. The B button is supposed to choose the closet player, but rarely does. Joe Montana II isn't a great game, but it's fun to look back on. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
John Madden Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1990)
This is the first edition of a series of football games that revolutionized video game sports. It features an angled vertical view of the field, giving the game a pseudo-3D look. A nice selection of actual NFL plays are at your disposal. Many of the typical moves that we all take for granted today are here, including spin, dive, jump, and hurdle. Playing this game recently, I was surprised at just how good this is. The players look cartoonish but are easy to see, and the running and passing games are well balanced. I always liked how you can control the velocity of a pass by holding down the button - brilliant. There are only 16 teams to choose from, and the game has no fancy bells or whistles like subsequent editions. When choosing plays, you also need to choose which type of players you want, including big, hands, fast, or normal. After that, you often have to wait for half the team to run off the field, and THEN wait for the substitute players to run ONTO the field! This needlessly slows down the game. The physics aren't very realistic. Players can dive for over five yards or be knocked back just as far! Passing windows are used to view your three receivers, and while these windows do indicate how open your receiver is, they do not tell you how deep he is, or how many defenders are in the vicinity. As a result, luck plays a major role in the passing game. The sound effects during the game are minimal, dominated by grunts and the "water faucet" crowd. It's a bit rough around the edges, but overall it was a great start for a classic series. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? No
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Like the movie itself, you're not likely to remember this by-the-numbers platform game ten minutes after you take out the cartridge. The awful film starred Sylvester Stallone as a cop in 2070 serving as "judge, jury, and executioner" for an endless parade of lowlifes he encounters. Adding a little comic relief (very
little) was his sidekick played by Rob Schneider. Stallone's outfit looks absolutely goofy
with those huge, gold-plated, feathered shoulder pads. In the game you fight crime on generic platforms as futuristic cityscapes loom in the background. I found it very difficult to spot the ladders in this game because they're viewed from the side
. Climbing them isn't much easier! Judge Dredd's controls are very touchy. You can fire at several angles, but it's hard to aim because you're running
at the same time. The graphics are nicely detailed (you can even make out the rusty bolts) but the industrial scenery grows tiresome after a few stages. The characters are quite small and it's hard to tell what's happening during close combat. You'll find yourself navigating around gas vents, electrical fields, elevators, and floating platforms (yawn). And yes
, in one stage you do
walk through sewers flowing with green sludge! Joy! The so-called "missions" all share a predictable underlying thread - dispose of the scumbags! Your rapid-fire capabilities may tempt you to lay waste to everything in sight, but shooting someone in the act of surrendering will cost you health. That's probably the only original element of the entire game - too bad it's not any fun! When you properly handcuff a thug, a little disc flies in and whisks them off to prison. Judge Dredd is challenging enough, but it ultimately comes off as monotonous and bland. Where the hell
is Rob Schneider when you need him? © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 37350
Publisher: Virgin (1994)
I remember seeing Jungle Book over my friend Brendan's house back in the day. He and Steve had rented it and were playing it on a small TV in his room. I didn't pay much attention at the time but now I love it. This game is so much fun. The title screen features the jaunty banjo tune "Bear Necessities" that's sure to have you tapping your toes. You play as Mowgli, a scrawny little boy raised by a pack of wolves. Each stage challenges you to collect a certain number of red gems in the jungle before locating an end-of-stage character like Baloo the bear. Mowgli is a nimble little fellow who effortlessly climbs, swings, and leap between branches. The controls are so crisp! The jungle is crawling with dangerous animals like monkeys, snakes, wild boars, scorpions, and anteaters. Some of these creatures tend to blend in with the lush environment. Mowgli can turn them to dust by either pouncing on them or hitting them with bananas. The ability to toss bananas in a rapid-fire manner is awesome - and you can even do it while hanging on a vine! Falling into water or thorns is fatal, but you can hold down the directional pad to get a peek at what's below. The stages are short and sweet and I love the whole treasure hunting element. Many gems and other goodies are hidden or located in hard-to-reach places. Fortunately you don't need to collect all
the gems to progress. The graphics and animation are nice but not as awe-inspiring as Aladdin
(Genesis, 1993). The sound effects tend to be very scratchy and could use a little more punch. Jungle Book may not be a showcase title, but its happy-go-lucky gameplay should appeal to all ages. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 238,190
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This is a decent sequel to EA's Desert Strike, but to be honest, it didn't hold my attention all the way through. Like the first game, you control a helicopter on a series of military missions. Jungle Strike covers much more territory than the first game, including Washington D.C., a jungle river, and a snow fortress. I was hardly impressed by the D.C. stage because the scenery was entirely too sparse - it looked like a big park! In addition to your helicopter, certain missions also allow you to control a motorbike, hovercraft, and Stealth bomber. Don't get too excited though - these new vehicles are tougher to control and ultimately not as much fun. Oh well, at least they break up the monotony. Jungle Strike takes a long time to complete. There are eight campaigns compared to four in the first game, and each has a long list of missions. Casual gamers might not go for this, but if you couldn't get enough of Desert Strike, this is the game for you. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Password
Publisher: Sega (1993)
My friend Eric brought this cartridge over my house when Jurassic Park mania was in full swing. Turn it on and a T-Rex roars "Sega!" Now that
is awesome. I also like watching that huge Jurassic Park gate slide open, although I'm pretty sure they swing
open in the movie. The intro cutscene is dark and scary, depicting a jeep attacked by a T-Rex on a stormy night. You begin play as Dr. Grant in a dense jungle, where you shoot, squat, climb, jump, and move hand-over-hand along vines. When he comes up short on a jump he'll grab the ledge and pull himself up. Grant looks realistic but the animation is choppy and the controls are stiff. It's hard to tell where to go at times, and it seems like you're constantly sliding down a slippery slope or falling into an unknown chasm. The erratic framerate not only degrades the controls, but even the music
slows down. Environmental hazards include spikes, boulders, and electric wires. Touching water or a tumbling rock means instant death, forcing you restart the entire level! Despite its flaws there's something compelling about this game. The digitized dinosaurs look and sound amazing! You'll face raptors, spitting dinosaurs, pterodactyls, and those annoying tiny green dinosaurs. If you don't attack the Triceratops he won't charge you, and that makes your life a lot easier. The T-Rex is never seen full-body but he makes his presence felt by sticking his huge noggin wherever it will fit. You can't actually kill any dinosaurs but you can tranquilize them, and it's neat how their chests rise and fall while sleeping. Running is often your best course of action, especially in the shadowy power station where you're stalked by raptors. Ducking into a vent at the last possible moment is exciting, but the music that plays during this stage is just plain weird. The river raft stage may be the most visually appealing, but navigating towering waterfalls while fighting dinosaurs is hard.
The option to play as the raptor is fun, mainly because you can jump a country mile. Still, chomping small dinosaurs and pouncing on helpless security guards gets old after a while. Jurassic Park has its share of frustration but I feel like it captures the spirit of the film and you can't ask for much more than that. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition
Publisher: Universal (1994)
As if trying to make up for the shortcomings of the original Jurassic Park Genesis game, this "Rampage Edition" was a quick follow-up. The game begins with a stage select screen - always a welcome feature. You can start at the docks, the aviary, or in the savannah where you ride on back of a galloping dinosaur (who is not
named Yoshi for once). For some reason the game pits you against armed soldiers - as if the dinosaurs weren't enough, right? I'm surprised by the way they altered the graphic style for this game, giving all characters and objects black outlines. I guess it's supposed to make them stand out more, but it looks less realistic - and a little cheesy. The controls are very responsive and the animation is smooth. The only thing missing is the ability to grab onto ledges, and it's sorely missed. Your weapon arsenal includes electric zappers, grenades, machine guns, and flamethrowers. Yes, you can
kill the dinosaurs this time. Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is the kind of game that drives me crazy. It has all the necessary building blocks but doesn't put them together right. Like the first game, areas tend to "wrap around" on themselves in a confusing manner. Enemies can absorb a crazy
number of shots before going down (even on the easy level). On the aviary screen you'll be making excellent progress only to have a pterodactyl snatch you up and carry you all the way back to the beginning of the stage! That wouldn't be so bad if all your enemies hadn't regenerated! Otherwise the action is fast and fun, and there are plenty of checkpoints and hidden areas. Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is better than the original game in some respects, but worse in others. Overall I'd say it's a wash. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Easy
Jurassic Park: The Lost World
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This game was released late in the Genesis life cycle, making it a pretty rare title. Unlike the first two Jurassic Park Genesis games, this is an overhead, free-roaming adventure. It sounds a lot like the SNES Jurassic Park game, but this one looks far more realistic. If only it were more fun. You start by wandering around a savannah surrounded by heavy brush. Hitting the start button brings up a "web site". Yes, this was an early attempt to emulate the world wide web in a game. Apparently one of the developers thought the Internet was actually going to amount to something someday (idiot). This fake web site contains email messages, a map, and the all-important "dino facts" (hurrah). I like how the missions branch, but every one felt like a tedious wild goose chase. Typically you must rescue some poor schmuck by blasting obstacles and disabling electronic generators. Each time you encounter an electric field you have to scour the area to locate its power generator, and it's usually the furthest possible distance from your current location. Every stage feels like a maze, and don't get me started about these pesky dinosaurs. They aren't particularly aggressive, but your weapons are so freakin' weak
that you can't get rid of them! Even with a machine gun you'll barely chip away at the health of a small dinosaur. The action is tediously slow, and it just gets slower with more activity on the screen. I was hoping Lost World might be a hidden gem but this is one Jurassic Park game best forgotten. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Justice League Task Force
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
From the name itself, few people would guess this is a superhero fighting game. Heck, Justice League Task Force sounds more like some boring government commission! But the thing that really struck me about the game is just how incredibly mediocre
it is. Having been released well after the 2D fighter boom, you would at least
expect this to be as good as Eternal Champions, but it's not even close. The game combines run-of-the-mill graphics with second-rate gameplay and minimal sound. The main attraction is your ability to fight as Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, or the Flash. Unfortunately, Task Force was made at a time when DC Comics had made a few ill-advised changes to the look of the characters. Superman and Aquaman have long, flowing hair that makes them look more like Fabio than superheroes, and Green Arrow looks like a complete ass in that Robin Hood outfit. Also included are three villains I've never heard of: Cheetah, Desperdo, and Darkseid. The backgrounds are static, and with the exception of Batman's Gotham City, are extremely uninteresting. The gameplay is equally uninspired. The special moves aren't very special, and the collision detection is suspect at times. The sound effects are terribly muffled, and the low, rumbling background music is barely audible. If not for its famous cast of characters, Justice Task Force would have been a complete bust. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Way back in "the day", I remember my old buddies Steve and Brendan telling me about this game after they had rented it for a night. They wrote it off as a run-of-the-mill platformer, but playing it today, I would definitely give it more credit than that. Yes, Kid Chameleon (KC) borrows liberally from Mega Man (among others), but a game doesn't need to be original to be fun. If you've grown weary of 2D platform games, KC might just rekindle your enthusiasm. The game's background story is a load of incomprehensive nonsense involving a virtual reality arcade machine. Just ignore that. KC's gameplay is quite familiar as you hop across platforms, pounce on enemies, and bump blocks to reveal items and power-ups. The star of the game is a kid with a bouffant hairdo (who looks like Brendan), but he's constantly changing forms. He'll transform into the wall-climbing Iron Knight, the headfirst charging Berzerker, the axe-wielding Maniaxe, the insert-like Micromax, the laser-shooter EyeClops, the hoverboard-riding Skycutter, and the flying/drilling Cyclone. Juggernaut transforms him into a skull-firing tank! Each form has its own standard abilities and special powers that can be triggered after you've collected a certain number of diamonds. KC's graphics and audio are about average by Genesis standards, with stages depicting scenic lakes, wave-swept beaches, floating castles, volcanic caves, and jungles. The levels tend to be short but well designed, although occasionally you'll find yourself sliding into a bed of spikes (or pool of lava). One stage that's especially bizarre places KC in the jungle where he's pursued by a huge wall of spikes. Your adversaries are a motley crew that includes stone heads, crawling hands, and baby dragons. Kid Chameleon is generally easy to control, although some of the more narrow platforms can be slippery. I like how Kid adjusts his body when walking up or downhill - something you never see in a video game. What makes the game so fun is its reasonable difficulty and sheer variety. The scenery is constantly changing, and the ability to change forms provides multiple ways to complete each stage. Kid Chameleon tends to get lost in the vast sea of 16-bit platformers, but once you start playing you may find it hard to stop. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
I remember my friend Tuan and I planned a big fishing trip in the early 90's, and we spent the night before playing this game for hours. King Salmon may not have great sound or graphics, but the gameplay will have you hooked! Until Sega Bass Fishing (Dreamcast) came out, this was easily the most fun fishing game I had played. The main reason is the game is so easy to play. After checking the weather, you drive your boat around a lake looking for a good spot. After choosing a strategic area, you get a closer view which provides a nice view of schools of fish in the water. By dragging your lure through the fish (trolling), you wait to get a bite. An easy-to-use menu allows you to change your lure, depth, or line. When you finally hook a fish, the fight sequence is suspenseful and exciting. The fighting screen is plain, but clearly displays what's going on. Sometimes a timely event will occur, such as your hook getting stuck on a piece of wood, or the fish making a zigzag run. You are then given three choices of how to react. Make the wrong decision and the line could snap or the fish could escape. When you finally pull in a fish, you'll see a nice picture of it on the scale. Each catch improves your ability and skill level. This game is simple but addictive! The music is awesome, and that's a good thing because it plays nonstop! If you do catch enough fish, you progress to a new lake. You can save your progress using a password feature. Don't hesitate to give King Salmon a try. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 23165
King of the Monsters
Publisher: Takara (1991)
The King of the Monsters series never made a big splash on the Genesis, but its basic style of play seems to have been adopted by the latest generation of 3D monster games, notably Godzilla (GameCube) and War of the Monsters (PS2). There are four creatures to choose from, including the Godzilla-like "Geon", the rock golem "Rocky", the bug-like "Beetle-mania", and the Ultraman-inspired "Astro Guy". The first three are well designed, but Astro Guy looks like a dork in a cheap superhero costume. The graphics and animation are good for the Genesis, although you can't help but wonder how much better this might look on the Neo Geo. Unlike many fighting games of this nature, it's actually easy to tell what's going on, even when the combatants are holding or chomping on each other. The four cities are remarkably detailed, with large buildings, bridges, and markers indicating the boundaries of the battle. Smashing up the city is part of the fun. The military is a constant presence, and you can pick up these ships, tanks, and planes to hurl as weapons! Despite using only three buttons, there are a surprising number of moves and combinations you can execute. King of the Monsters has a strong wrestling influence, which has a detrimental effect on the gameplay. It's bad enough to see monsters execute suplexes, body slams, or piledrivers, but watching them "pin" their opponent for the win is almost embarrassing. Not only does it look ridiculous, but you can always escape the first two pins anyway. I hate how a monster can keep fighting after
its life meter has been completely depleted. Also annoying is how the winner's health does NOT recharge between fights. The roars and other audio effects are muffled, but at least the music is decent. King of the Monsters is an interesting title - too bad it's not very fun to play. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
King of the Monsters 2
Publisher: Takara (1993)
A huge improvement over the original, King of the Monsters 2 is a much deeper game with a slew of new monsters and stages. Now there are nine creatures in all, three from the previous game and six bizarre new creations. Actually, bizarre is an understatement. Some of these things have so many appendages, eyes, and teeth sticking out all over that you can't tell the head from the tail! Claw Head is certainly nightmare inducing, but others like Aqua Slug look like a shapeless mess. Initially the graphics look about the same quality as King of the Monsters, but as you move your creature around you'll notice it rotates
to keep facing his opponent, which looks terrific. The control scheme has changed a lot, mostly for the better. Now you can hold back to block Street Fighter-style, and there are special moves which also employ the standard joystick movements. Thankfully, monsters are now defeated when their life meter is drained completely, and they no longer need to be "pinned". The nine stages provide plenty of variety in terms of color, but the scenery isn't as interesting as the first game. The cities look fine but the Grand Canyon and ocean floor stages are pretty sparse. Small wandering creatures have been added to spice things up, but these tend to be annoying and rarely impact the contests. It's no classic, but King of the Monsters 2 does a good job of addressing the shortcomings of its predecessor. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Krusty's Super Fun House
Publisher: Flying Edge (1992)
A platform game starring an unlikeable, obnoxious clown might sound
like a good idea, but... uh, scratch that - it's an awful
idea! Loosely based on The Simpsons television show, Fun House combines the mindless action of a generic platformer with the tedium of a strategy game. Each stage is a room with stacked blocks, twisting pipes, underground passages, and hidden areas. You'll hop between platforms, toss rocks at snakes, and kick pink blocks to reveal bonus items. Purple rats scamper around each room, and by strategically placing items you can guide the mindless vermin to a "rat crusher" machine (that's nice). The puzzle element reminds me of Lemmings, and at first it seems to be the game's saving grace. Unfortunately, once you get the hang of it, the game becomes a monumental pain in the ass! You need to manipulate multiple items to complete each stage, but you can only carry one at a time. Worse yet, it's possible to work yourself into a no-win situation, leaving no choice but to kill yourself by placing Krusty under dripping water
. Need I say more? The level designs are dull, and all the vivid colors in the world can't atone for the extreme lack of imagination. In most games hidden areas reveal fun bonuses, but here they actually contain items critical to completing the level! And just when you thought you couldn't be more miserable, the atrocious circus music will push you to the brink of madness! The Simpson's license is completely wasted here, as other characters appear only as static images - sometimes as posters on the wall! C'mon man!!
I don't know who thought Krusty's Fun House was a good idea, but they need to have their heads examined. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 33,080
Lakers Vs. Celtics
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1990)
The first time I played Lakers vs. Celtics I was still living at home, and as usual, a bunch of my friends were hanging out in my oversized bedroom playing video games. My buddy Keith had brought over Lakers Vs. Celtics, and we were all very impressed with it. The game's TV-style presentation features two anchors at a desk who comment on the game via scrolling text. Actually, the black guy never says anything, but he does crack a smile periodically and it looks hilarious. During halftime, a brief highlight is shown of another game "in progress" - nice! On the court, the wood surface looks realistic, the lanky players perform their famous "signature" moves, and coaches pace the sidelines. I still recall my friend Tuan pointing out how the players actually wore the correct numbers on their jerseys! Playing Lakers Vs. Celtics just recently was an eye-opening experience. Only ten teams are available, but Michael Jordan is on the Bull's roster! In most subsequent basketball games, Jordan didn't appear due to licensing issues. Compared to modern basketball games, Lakers Vs. Celtics is slow and choppy, and it takes a while to run the length of the court. There's no turbo or crossover move, so it's nearly impossible to penetrate to the hoop. As bad as it sounds, these limitations force you to rely on well-timed passes, making the gameplay more strategic. It's surprisingly fun, and the slow-motion dunks are quite satisfying. On the downside, instead of the "star" icon used in later games, your "selected" player sports black shoes which are hard to see. Sometimes a player will score even when the ball clearly didn't pass through the hoop. The rebounding game is fairly atrocious, and it's not usual to see offensive players follow up their own missed lay-ups or dunks - several times in a row. And for goodness sake, turn OFF that blaring music that plays nonstop during the game. That leaves you with a crowd that's dead silent until you score. Lakers Vs. Celtics definitely shows its age, but if you accept its limitations it's still worthwhile. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1993)
Based on the disappointing film by the same name, Last Action Hero is an example of how not
to craft a side-scrolling beat-em-up. This is so bad, I don't think a review can do it justice. The lead character (Arnold Schwarzenegger) looks so out-of-shape, he resembles Al Bundy from the old show Married with Children! In the opening street stage red crosshairs inexplicably swarm the screen before thugs emerge with knives and baseball bats. Your punches and kicks are so delayed you end up taking mandatory hits left and right. Your "jumping split" attack would be more appropriate for Jean Claude Van Damme (who incidentally made a cameo in the film). Occasionally several slow-moving bullets
drift across the screen for you to avoid. Would you believe I once died when I jumped into the air and landed
on a passing bullet? If you survive the street level you'll enter the school to fight goons tossing molotov cocktails. It's fun to kick in doors, but don't be quick to move on, because often a health item will appear a few seconds after
clearing an area. The scenery has a grainy, semi-digitized look with splashes of color. The stage layouts are repetitive however, and sometimes you're required to jump onto a platform completely out of view. The sound effects are muffled and the twangy looping music sounds like the Country Bear Jamboree. Considering the game was released in 1993, there is really no excuse. My friend Chris is a big fan of the movie, yet even he admitted he "could not die fast enough". © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 11050
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Last Battle was released at the dawn of the 16-bit era when character size was more important than gameplay. Last Battle's shallow kicking and punching action reminds me of Black Belt
(Sega Master System, 1986). Your shirtless warrior Aarzak sashays around like he's wearing high heels, and doesn't adjust his posture when he kicks. It looks like he's auditioning for the Rockettes
for crying out loud! He encounters hooded, sword-wielding goons that fall from the sky and rise from the ground. The collision detection (or lack of) is comical at times. All you have to do is touch one of these guys and they launch off the screen like they're wearing freaking jet packs
. Your kicks and punches can knock down incoming projectiles like knives and axes. Wouldn't that hurt your hand? One thing I like about Last Battle is its branching stages. The moonlit desert villages look very nice with their layers of stone archways. Unfortunately you're also subjected to trap-laden dungeons with rolling boulders, shooting flames, and worst of all, dead ends. For the novice player a stage like this is a death sentence. Some bosses are damn near impossible, like that short ugly dude with green breath. The text dialog is unintentionally hilarious when Aarzak yells stuff like "I am the only one who can save the world!" Does this guy have an ego or what? And when Aarzak discovers a guy encased in concrete, he exclaims "I want you to help me!" Uh, I think that guy needs your
help more! Last Battle was originally based on the First of the North Star anime series, which may explain some of its quirks. In retrospect those quirks are what make the game worth playing. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 51000
Leader Board Golf
Publisher: US Gold (1992)
Before EA arrived on the scene with its excellent PGA Tour series, Leader Board set the standard. This golf simulator ruled the personal computer market of the 1980's, delivering realistic golf action with precision control. Upon firing it up I noticed several names already in the save slot. That's right - after almost 30 years that battery is still working! Leaderboard may lack a PGA license but it does contain three real golf courses along with the fictional "Gauntlet". Prior to each hole you're presented with a graphic rendering of the hole on a levitating chunk of earth, like something you'd see in an Avengers movie. The shot screen is less impressive. Your golfer at the bottom is downright tiny by 16-bit standards, and the fairways and sand traps look angular as hell. An overhead map on the right shows where the ball is on the current hole, scaling in and out while the ball is in flight. Selecting the proper club is all on you, although a "caddy advice" option lists the club distances. Leader Board employs a circular swing meter you hold in for power, release at the apex, and press again for accuracy. Setting the power is touchy and the meter snaps back so fast it's hard to hit the ball cleanly. Putting is tricky because the viewing angle fails to properly convey distance. That said, golf purists may appreciate the fact that Leader Board doesn't hold your hand. You really do need to focus. One errant shot can spell disaster, placing you behind a wall of trees (pro tip: use a chip shot). The sparse audio is basically limited to the sound of your swing and the ball rattling into the cup. The commentary is equally sparse, with the occasional gravelly voice remarking "can't be too happy about that one". I enjoyed Leader Board's brisk pacing but it's not nearly as playable as PGA Tour Golf
(Genesis, 1991). For hardcore golf fans however this game is guaranteed to put their skills to the test. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: battery
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Konami (1993)
One memorable night in 1993 I visited the local Video Game Exchange with my posse in tow. I had my eye on the new Lethal Enforcers light gun shooter. I was intrigued by the big blue box, but at $70 I was concerned about replay value. The guy behind the counter gave me the option of purchasing a used copy for $5 less! What a guy.
I wouldn't actually acquire the game until many years later when I started collecting "retro" titles. I recently sat down to revisit this oldie but my 27" Toshiba CRT was letting me down. Even after closing the shades and cranking up the brightness, half of my shots didn't register and many that did were often off-target. So I started digging through my stash of "standby" CRTs in the garage and found a 20" JVC that actually worked well with this game. Lethal Enforcers is still a lot of fun but its "cutting edge" qualities haven't aged well. The once-impressive digitized video looks grainy and washed out, and the digitized audio is awfully scratchy. Still, there's a certain charm when crooks yell "eat lead!"
and "you can't shoot me!"
Lethal Enforcers comes with a blue "Justifier" light gun and when it's working the game is a blast. The opening bank robbery stage features crooks in ski-masks popping up from behind counters, and I love to shoot that pornstashe guy in a gray suit. It's satisfying how when shot they yell and fall back. Hesitate or miss and you may suffer damage in the form of a bloody hole in your TV screen. Occasionally an innocent civilian will leap out, and if you accidentally shoot them a bloody red X appears as they scream in horror. You can't shoot up the scenery, but snipers fall from windows, tires can be shot out, and clever thugs pretend to be innocent civilians. The bank stage transitions to a back alley scene before finishing up with a car chase. When you shoot the guy hanging out of a car he rolls right out on the street and that is freaking awesome. The gritty "action movie" soundtrack is very good. After defeating the rocket-launching boss you're assessed on your performance. Unless you're a dead-eye dick, you're likely to see the message "Too many rookie mistakes - reloading same assignment." That sucks!! Later stages include knife-throwing karate dudes in ChinaTown, terrorists at an airport, and guys in gas masks at a chemical factory. The pink "player two" gun (sold separately) allows two people to play at once, but it's confusing because both players have the same colored shots. Using a normal controller is also an option but for the true Lethal Enforcers experience you'll want to be using guns as God intended. Just be advised that it may require some effort on your part. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 5,210
1 or 2 players
Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters
Publisher: Konami (1994)
After the first Lethal Enforcers
(Genesis, 1993) a Wild West version was inevitable. I mean, how hard is it to dress up a bunch of dudes as cowboys and position them around some old Hollywood set? In addition to shootouts in banks, jails, and saloons, Gun Fighters offers exciting high-speed chase scenes involving a stagecoach and a train. In many ways this is a better game than the original. The pacing is faster and the gun feels slightly more accurate. When you don't hit an enemy squarely he'll flinch but won't go down. Your targets tend to be generic outlaws, indians, and vaqueros, but there are also bigger guys that can survive several shots. I like how you can shoot select parts of the scenery like windows, signs, and lamps. While cooperating with a second player your shots are now color-coded which makes things much easier. There are some really awesome weapons in this game including a cannon (!) and a gatling gun (!!). There's even a bonus stage where you try to shoot as many bottles off the bar as you can in ten seconds. But for all its bells and whistles Lethal Enforcers 2 still manages to shoot itself in the foot. They went completely overboard with the digitized voices, overloading each scene with repetitive quips like "you ain't gonna get me
, sheriff!" Even if I shoot some guy in the face
manage to finish that damn sentence! But what ultimately drags down the fun factor is exhausting boss encounters. The first boss fires cannonballs non-stop and you need to hit that son of a [expletive] about 100 times. All that wear and tear on your trigger finger has side effects, like not wanting to play the game
. At least you're always allowed to progress to the next stage regardless of your performance. The wild west theme fits like a glove, but Lethal Enforcers II is shallow, fleeting fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 2440
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Koei (1993)
This simulation lets you play out the events leading up to America's declaration of independence in 1776. Liberty or Death gives you the option of playing as the "good" George Washington side or the "bad" Thomas Gage side. British people hate
this game! Liberty is thought-provoking and intelligently designed, but its scope is overwhelming. The game is played over a collection of map screens which track the status of dozens of "districts" within the original 13 colonies. There's a lot of numbers and color codes on the screen which are never sufficiently explained. It doesn't help that the 85-page manual is in black-and-white!
It doesn't even bother to explain the options
menu for Pete's sake! Juggling materials and units is a monumental chore as you wade through layers of menus while shuffling commanding officers and randomly adjusting amounts of food and money. A tutorial would have been nice! The game periodically goes into autopilot mode as various reports come pouring in and events begin to unfold on their own accord. The game is a little easier to grasp when a battle is initiated. The battle screen lets you strategically position troops to take advantage of the geography, and the reasonable number of options makes for some tactical fun. Liberty's graphics are very good, with colorful illustrations depicting key events and small animations conveying troop movements and attacks. The text is large and easy to read, and pleasant patriotic music plays throughout. There's clearly a lot of substance here, but wrapping your brain around Liberty or Death is a colossal challenge and I was not up to the task. It's not that I dislike
strategy games, but if I'm still lost after the first hour, I'm moving on. History buffs with a lot of patience can bump up the grade by a letter, but despite what the name would imply, "not playing" is also an option. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Don't be fooled by the name; Lightening Force is actually Thunder Force IV. Sega of America altered the title for stateside release and did you notice they didn't even spell it right?
"Lightening Force" would be a more appropriate name for a bleach detergent
for crying out loud. Anyway this side-scrolling shooter might kick ass on most systems but on the Genesis it feels middle of the road. You select the order of the first four stages: lake, desert, air-raid, and space ruins. The stages scroll up and down a bit, giving you extra room to maneuver. The lake stage is probably the best despite those fake-ass looking clouds. The desert stage simulates a windstorm and its grainy visuals are a little hard on the eyes. It does however look cool how certain enemies drop from the sky and burrow through the sand. The stormy sky stage is confusing because there are all these ships coming at you and they seem impervious to your shots. Your firepower is substantial, with numerous powerups and the awesome "claw" which disperses your shots nicely. Tight controls allow you to strategically change weapons on-the-fly, which is key. The explosions are excellent and some enemies even model damage before falling off the screen. Modest rotation and scaling is used to convey enemies approaching from the background. The pulse-pounding soundtrack is great but the graphical style leaves much to be desired. Enemies tend to look like shapeless mechanical blobs, and those "growing-walls-in-space" are super annoying. But the biggest issue is slowdown. When an enemy begins to multiply or pump out projectiles, the action slows to a crawl. It adversely affects the controls and is disconcerting. There also seem to be a lot of lulls in the action where you're just waiting for something to happen. I've always had mixed feelings about Lightening Force. It feels like a case of the series taking two steps forward and three steps back. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 375600
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