Publisher: Sega (1992)
I love me some 2D shooting, but can the Game Gear handle intense shooting action with waves of enemies and projectiles? I had my doubts, but it can! Barely. Aerial Assault is a very conventional side-scroller. During the first stage you fly along a generic city skyline. Pretty boring, but a colorful sunrise and scenic bridge add a little variety. Your plane's default pea shooter seems sufficient at first because enemies approach in predictable formations, unleashing slow-moving orange projectiles. The first stage is so long and easy it gives you a false sense of security, so when you die you might end up losing two or three lives in a row! Like any good shooter collecting power-ups lets you amass substantial firepower, including homing missiles, green waves, and three-way shots. Some weapons making an annoying "tweet" sound that kind of undermines their destructive force. The homing missiles are always fun to watch. They have a wide turn radius which means they often miss their targets and have to double back. The three-way shot is money, and I was shocked when I discovered I could upgrade it to a five-way shot!
Aerial Assault is fun to play for score because your points continuously rank up by virtue of flying forward! It takes a while but eventually you'll encounter a boss that looks like a huge battleship floating up and down in space. The second mission take place up in the clouds with vivid sunsets and thunderstorms. The game over displays the harsh message "You mission was a disaster". Aerial Assault takes a while to take flight, but once it does you're in for a good time. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 140,590
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Unlike the remarkable Aladdin games for the Genesis and SNES, this generic platformer is as bland as they come. The first stage finds our hero running from a sword-wielding goon while jumping barrels and dodging falling objects. It's more aggravating than fun, and the other stages aren't much better. Most are just a matter of finding a key on one platform and opening a door on another. Sometimes you'll toss an apple, but that's about as exciting as it gets. With repetitive, unimaginative levels and cheap hits out the wazoo, the action gets old real quick. Even the flying carpet sequence lacks any sense of thrill or excitement. Then there's the problem with imprecise controls that lead to many underserved deaths. On the bright side, the graphics and sound aren't bad at all. The characters are large and nicely animated, the backgrounds are attractive, and the music is taken straight from the movie. But the flashy presentation isn't enough to save the uninspired gameplay. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
After going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over Power Strike
(Sega Master System, 1988) I was thrilled to discover its sequel was readily available for the Game Gear. It's a Japanese cartridge but fortunately the system is not region-locked. Actually the title screen reads "Power Strike II". It may not come cheap but Aleste II packs more action than any other game for the system. Your firepower never wanes as you plow through non-stop waves of alien vessels, some of which resemble Tie Fighters. The mesmerizing amount of on-screen activity is astonishing for a portable 8-bit system. Power-ups assume the form of canisters rained down from supply ships, and scooping them up before they fall off the screen is part of the challenge. The weapon icons are big, colorful, and distinctive. It's fun to watch homing missiles feast on enemies, but I prefer the napalm missiles. Not only do they provide an effective shield, but when fully-powered they unleash a wall of death that marches up the screen. Once you get that thing going, it's almost unfair. Your shots not only destroy enemies but neutralize their missiles as well, allowing you to fire right down their throats! There are some imaginative bosses including a giant head with eyeballs that float around the screen. The opening space stage is pretty long, causing my non-blinking eyes to be blinded by the bright blue skies of stage two. There's also an Afterburner-style bonus stage. The fact that this game wasn't released in the US proves we've been really missing out. When it comes to portable shooters, Aleste II is the undisputed champ. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 629,850
Publisher: Sega (1992)
As an avid fan of Golden Axe (Genesis 1989), I was anxious to see what this portable version had to offer. Imagine my dismay when I started up Ax Battler and witnessed what resembled (gasp) an RPG! The diminutive characters and scrolling text were a far cry from the side-scrolling hack-n-slash mayhem I was anticipating. As it turns out, Ax Battler does contain its share of side-scrolling action, but it also incorporates (albeit unsuccessfully) RPG elements. The background story is hackneyed to say the least: the Golden Axe has been stolen by an evil army, and only one man can rescue it. Okay, I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but the fact that the hero's real name is "Ax Battler" seems awfully contrived. Gameplay involves guiding a tiny cartoon character across the countryside where you encounter a wandering monster every few seconds. When this happens, both characters are presented on a separate screen in their full-sized, realistic form. However, instead turn-based combat, both fighters simply slash away at each other. It's as shallow as it is repetitious. Once you reach a specific destination (like a cave), the game turns into a more conventional side-scroller, but even these stages are dull and poorly designed. Ax Battler is ill conceived, attempting to incorporate both action and exploration. This ambition weighs the game down. Ax Battler's graphics and sound aren't bad, but you'll need the patience of a saint to finish this. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
If you thought Batman Forever was an abomination on the Genesis, wait until you get a load of this portable version. It's slower, blockier, and even more pathetic. I guess Acclaim's first mistake recycling their Mortal Kombat fighting engine. Digitized characters look cool on the big screen but on a portable they look like pixelated blobs. The fighting action is painfully slow and repetitive, especially when even the weakest goons require six or seven hits to kill. With names like Bully, Angry, and Shady, these guys were destined
for a life of crime. The first boss is clearly Two Face, yet his health meter says "Hologram" for some reason. I guess they're saving the "real" Two-Face for the end, but how do you fight a hologram?! Between slogging through fights you'll punch exploding plants and rescue hostages who raise their arms like they've won a contest. The cookie-cutter "bank" backdrops are sparse and the looping "musical" notes are just mind numbing. But the worst aspect of Batman Forever is the controls, which incorporate complicated Street Fighter-style button combinations. I suspect most players won't be able to find their way out of the first room
. The secret is pressing down and up, causing Batman to jump through the ceiling (?!) to the level above. Even the exit door is too small - it looks like Batman should bang his head on it! I may have escaped that first room, but the game's incompetence eventually caught up with me, trapping me in the circus area. Hey - I had been looking for an excuse to shut this thing off anyway. This sad part is, the film contains all the elements for a great video game including colorful characters, interesting locations, and a distinctive cinematic style. All sadly squandered here, I'm afraid. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 85,940
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Batman games have a spotty history but they really seemed to hit their stride during the Batman Returns era. Not only does this play like a full-fledged console title but unexpected bonuses abound. The city streets of Gotham retain that trademark gothic look except with colorful Christmas accents. In one stage it actually begins snowing, gradually picking up in intensity! Batman faces off against a wide range of circus goons who shoot, slide, breath fire, and fire rocket launchers. Batman slings batarangs which can be adjusted for range and strength via the pause screen. Dispatching clowns is fun but sometimes they keep coming back after you think they're down. Also, a few explode on contact so keep your distance. Swinging around via your grappling hook is intuitive and fun. Adding replay value is a stage select, letting you choose you path through streets, rootops, department stores, and sewers. Batman even has a "smart bomb" of sorts he can use in emergencies, prompting a cool cut-scene featuring the Batmobile. Unless you're in the sewers that is, in which case you'll see the Bat Boat gliding through the green water instead. It's that kind of attention to detail that's rare in a portable title. I've enjoyed many versions of Batman Returns but this Game Gear version rates near the top in terms of atmosphere and playability. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 174,100
Publisher: Majesco (1994)
I suppose if you were stuck in a hotel room by yourself and wanted to pass the time, Caesar's Palace wouldn't be a bad game to have. With video poker, video horse racing, slots, blackjack, craps, roulette, and keno, there's more than enough variety. You start with $5K, moving a guy around a multi-tiered casino. For some reason, moving is a hassle because you're always getting caught up on the scenery. The music is absolutely terrible, so you'll want to turn down the volume immediately. Not being much of a gambler, I gravitate towards the blackjack and video poker. Unfortunately, some games are initially unavailable (including blackjack), and certain tables are reserved for "high rollers". Boy, you'd think Majesco was deliberately trying to make the game less fun! A few of the games, like slots, keno, and roulette, aren't even worth playing because they rely solely on luck. Graphically, the game has a few nice digitized images, but in most games you need to scroll around to see everything, which is a pain. Likewise, placing bets seems to require more work than necessary. For a gambling game, Caesar's Palace serves its purpose, but just barely. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This endearing little platform game really grew on me. The bizarre premise is that Uncle Scrooge has obtained a cursed relic that's transformed him into a floating balloon and Donald must return the relic to undo the curse. I understand this is also under consideration as the plot for the next Indiana Jones movie. Like Quackshot for the Genesis, Deep Duck Trouble has that certain charm only Disney can deliver. The graphics are top-notch, with large characters that are humorously animated. Donald can hop on enemies (ala Mario), but even more fun is your ability to kick blocks, which can knock off enemies, expose power-ups, or open new areas. You can choose what order you play the stages, and there's plenty of variety within each. The only stage I didn't find particularly fun was the obligatory underwater stage. The control is dead-on, but expect some slowdown. In fact, the game seems like it's moving in slow motion at times, especially if you've just finished a game like Sonic the Hedgehog
. All in all, Deep Duck Trouble is a very straightforward platform game that's better than most. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Having recently suffered through the dismal Desert Demolition
(Genesis, 1994) I was apprehensive about Desert Speedtrap. Fortunately this is one of those instances where the portable game is actually more enjoyable than the full version. Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner are still up to all their wacky antics but the gameplay is a whole lot simpler. Playing as the Road Runner, you collect stars, peck bird seed for health, and try to reach the end of the stage before time runs out. The problem with a fast-moving game like this is that it's hard to see what's coming and react in time. It doesn't help that the controls are imprecise and slippery, especially when trying to land on small platforms. Still, arrow signs keep you headed in the right direction and it's exciting to try to beat the clock. Towards the end of each stage the coyote shows up to harrass you with some imaginative new gadget. Desert Speedtrap is not exceptional but it's one of the few Road Runner games to effectively get its point across. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 13,860
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Dynamite Headdy is one of so many platforming stars of the 90's currently residing in the where-are-they-now file. Headdy uses his detachable head to bash enemies, knock down obstacles, and pull himself up to higher ledges. Special icons modify his head to give him abilities like moving faster, spraying bullets, or sucking in enemies. The heads add variety, but their effects only last a few seconds so don't dawdle. The stages are brimming with color but it's not easy to tell what you can or can't jump on. The bosses exhibit a lot of Japanese weirdness in the form of possessed teddy bears and creepy dolls. The first boss confused the hell out of me. This bear would run into me, pause to be "recharged" by some kind of yellow pod, and repeat the process. I kept dying until I realized a few not-so-obvious things. First, it's possible to jump over
the charging bear even though your legs don't clear him. In most games contact like that would result in death. Next, when the bear briefly pauses it's possible to damage him, which is not obvious at all. After a few hits he floated off the screen, which I assume means he was defeated. The game has a lot of quirks, but I guess you could argue they give it some character. The controls are outstanding. A score is displayed every few rounds, but it would have been nice if it was displayed on the game over screen. Dynamite Headdy is no Sonic, but this light-hearted platformer is entertaining enough for a rainy day. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
During the 16-bit era Ecco the Dolphin
(Genesis, 1992) provided a welcome reprieve from a steady diet of platform jumping, space shooting, and spine-ripping. The game let you assume the role of a graceful dolphin navigating beautiful coral reefs while dealing with denizens of the deep. Ecco's vibrant scenery was accompanied by a tranquil, soothing soundtrack that placed you in a submerged state of mind. But these elements don't translate well to the Game Gear. The scenery looks washed out on the small screen, with objects like jellyfish blending into the background. The looping music is more grating than relaxing. Playing the game on my Retron 5 helped me to better appreciate the colorful reefs and haunting digitized marine noises, but it couldn't help the gameplay. It's hard to figure out what the heck you're supposed to do in this game. The coral mazes all look the same and certain enemies comes after you like heat-seeking missiles. When you die the game takes you all the way back to the beginning of the stage. Easy-to-enter passwords are provided, but after playing Ecco on the Genesis I found it hard to muster the enthusiasm for this one. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Judging from looks alone, Big Hurt is easily the best baseball game for the Game Gear. Players move with fluid motion, and the pitchers look especially good as they deliver their pitches. Although the gameplay is similar to other Game Gear baseball titles, there are too many lulls in the action. First, when you turn the game on, you're required to sit through no less than six
(!) intro screens. Let's get on with it already!! Once the action is underway, you then have to wait for each batter to approach the plate; the pitchers also tend to pause on the mound. I tried to adjust this, but even the "fast play" option isn't a marked improvement. Another flaw lies in the pitching controls, which are more complicated than they need to be. After aiming the ball, you select the pitch type (what the heck's a "sinner"?) and lastly, choose a pitch speed. The problem is, most of the time choosing a pitch's speed doesn't make any sense. Who would want to throw a slow
fastball or a fast
changeup? Batted balls tend to be hit weakly - most don't clear the infield. Fielding controls are decent, although they could be more responsive. Overall Big Hurt is a good-looking game but its pace is too slow for a portable title. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Fred Couples Golf
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This game makes a fine first impression with its appealing music and quick-cut animations of Fred Couples in action. Fred Couples Golf lets you compete against 31 pros on three courses. Before teeing off however you'll want to head straight to the options menu so you can turn off that God-forsaken background music. The over-amplified sounds of chirping birds and crashing waves are bad, but at least you'll be able to maintain your sanity. Swinging your club requires that you walk through a series of quick set-up screens. The first determines your direction, which is tricky because the overhead map is pretty tiny. Next you'll choose your club, although it's rarely necessary since the game always suggests the correct one. Setting your stance sounds complicated but it's just a fancy way for advanced players to apply draw or fade to their shots. Finally, there's a simple two-press power meter. This process may sound like a hassle, but in practice you'll whiz through these screens very fast. The ball also moves quickly so you won't need to sit through any lengthy rolls. I really got into a rhythm playing this, and how many golf games can you say that
about? This game is also very forgiving. In one case my ball landed in shallow water, and I was allowed to hit my shot from there! Putting is not a problem because the greens tend to be very flat. The action moves along at a brisk pace so you can squeeze in 18 holes in about a half hour. The tournament mode provides a password upon finishing the round, but only if you make the cut. Fred Couples Golf may lack the bells and whistles of modern golf games, but I'll take its quick pacing and hassle-free controls any day of the week. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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