Publisher: Data East (1994)
Side Pocket was charming on the Genesis and this portable version conveys the same smoky lounge atmosphere. This table looks terrific with its handsome wooden trim and shiny pool balls. Classy jazz music and Images of sophisticated ladies further enhance the atmosphere. There are several modes of play. I love 9-ball in real life but I don't see the point of this version. There's no opponent and no score; it's basically just a practice mode. Pocket mode is the real star of the show. The idea is to complete a series of stages by clearing tables while sinking consecutive balls for points. You must reach a target score and you're allowed a certain number of misses. The animated ball path is a useful guide, making it easy to judge bank shots. You execute your shot via a simple two-press power meter. Breaks tend to be weak (even at full power) so the balls don't get well distributed over the table. Fortunately you don't have to call your shots, and sinking balls unexpectedly is part of the fun. There are plenty of bonus opportunities including a "super ball" that bounces around like crazy. The surprisingly addictive trick mode offers 19 preconfigured situations, many of which incorporate strategically-placed wine glasses. Side Pocket for the Game Gear is like having your own little pool table in the palm of your hand. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Compared to the first Sonic title for the Game Gear, Chaos offers a far more satisfying experience. For one thing, you can choose between Sonic or Tails the fox, and Tail's ability to fly greatly alters the dynamics of the game and adds replay value. You'll notice a difference in the graphics right away, with larger characters and more elaborate scenery. The stages are larger and less linear, with multitudes of alternate pathways, breakable walls, and secret areas. And thankfully, Sonic Chaos is loaded with all kinds of all those crazy loops and corkscrews you can't get enough of. New gizmos include missiles you can fly around on and pogo sticks you can bounce on. In terms of control, the speed dash is a welcome new addition (essential in my book), allowing the hedgehog to go from zero to sixty in an instant. Unlike the first Sonic on the Game Gear, you can even continue your game after you've exhausted your lives. As good as Sonic Chaos is, it still shares a few flaws with the first game. The speed is very inconsistent, alternating between medium speed and near slow motion. And in later stages, it's too easy to fall off the bottom of the screen, resulting in instant death. But if you found the first Game Gear Sonic to be lacking, give this one a try. It's a major improvement. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
I get tired of playing Game Gear cartridges that are just scaled down 16-bit titles, so it's nice to play something fresh like Sonic Drift 2. This is basically Sonic's version of Super Mario Kart
(SNES, 1992). The first Sonic Drift was a Japan-only release. This sequel plays like Pole Position
(Atari 2600, 1983), only with narrow roads that make it hard to pass. The colorful stages are the highlight, reimagining classic Sonic levels like the green hill, casino, and chemical zones. The color schemes are gorgeous and there are a few surprises here and there. The stormy savannah track's raging thunderstorm occasionally blinds you with lightning, and the ice cap track has banked turns that make you slide around like a bobsled. There are an impressive 18 tracks in all. You race three random opponents at a time, each with a special ability. Sonic can boost, Knuckles can punch, and Amy overcomes opponents with her "heart" attack. Objects litter the course - some good and some bad. When you have an item you just push up to use it. Handing turns can be problematic, as you tend to slide off the track if you react late. There's a map on top of the screen but it's not very useful. The AI is like a rubber band as other drivers are constantly darting ahead and falling back. The GP mode consists of six short races, which feels just right. Sonic Drift 2 won't win over players on the strength of its racing, but the memorable stages and familiar cast of characters are bound to warm your heart. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Is it just me, or was the loveable hedgehog neutered
for this scaled-down edition of the Genesis mega-hit? Sonic really lacks his trademark speed on the Game Gear, and these unforgiving environments really limit his ability to run wild. And where are those crazy loops we all love so much? You won't find them here. Still, there's plenty of ring-collecting and enemy-pouncing fun to be had, and the upbeat music and sound effects are surprisingly faithful to the original game. The graphics are bright and cheery, with large enemies that are easy to make out. Some of the six zones are inspired by the Genesis game, but they tend to be very linear. The Green Hill zone looks great with its palm trees and dancing flowers, but the "Bridge zone" is a total bust. Devoid of any creativity or aesthetic value, it amounts to one endless bridge littered with fatal gaps. Adding insult to injury, in one section the screen automatically scrolls slowly to the right, making an already mundane stage just plain irritating. Things improve with the lush Jungle zone, but even that has far too many bottomless pits. I don't like how Sonic on the Game Gear forces you to proceed at a very slow, deliberate pace. The bonus stages let you bounce on trampolines and bumpers to grab rings, but they aren't very thrilling. Slow-down often rears its ugly head, especially after you grab a power-up. Taking a hit only causes one ring to fly loose, but your total is reduced to zero anyway. No score is displayed when the game ends, and that's too bad. This portable Sonic is respectable, but if you've already experienced the stellar Genesis version, this will seem awfully tame. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 86000
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Publisher: Sega (1992)
You can always count on Sonic games for fast-paced platform action and colorful environments, but this one is disappointing. Sonic 2 looks and plays a lot like the first Sonic, although it does benefit from less slowdown. The stages are more elaborate this time around, with plenty of alternate routes to discover and loops to run through. Some zones exhibit natural beauty, like the watery Aqua Lake, the sunny Green Hills, and the stormy Sky High zone. The aptly named Gimmick Mountain zone is a complete bust, but the "Scrambled Eggs" zone has a nice Earthworm Jim vibe. What really hurts this game is its hit-or-miss controls and unforgiving stage designs. You're required to make far too many blind leaps, and performing run-spins to break through weak walls can be unreasonably difficult. Unlike the Genesis version, there's no spin-dash move, and frankly, it's badly missed. There's a new hang-glider element, but it never takes off - literally! Controlling that thing is a pain in the ass, and when a Sonic game has you reaching for the manual, that's never
a good sign. Apparently the "trick" is to push back on the directional pad in short, measured intervals, but even then Sonic sometimes releases and falls to his death. The boss encounters also tend to suck - especially the first one with the scorpion and the pit. The secret to that one, as it turns out, is to do not much of anything!
The idea of facing bosses with no rings
is also troublesome. This game isn't bad as Game Gear titles go, but with a name like Sonic, you expect more. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 33700
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
Publisher: Sega (1994)
After giving lukewarm reviews to the first two Sonic games for the Game Gear, I started wondering if the system's hardware could handle a legitimate Sonic title. After playing Sonic Triple Trouble, I realize the answer is yes
. Not only does this game deliver graphics and gameplay comparable to the Genesis Sonics, but it's one of the best Sonic games I've played period!
Genesis owners might as well refer to this as Sonic 4
- it's that good! Sega not only redesigned the game's engine and graphics from the ground up, but addressed the annoyances that plagued the previous Game Gear Sonics. Gone are the blind leaps, fatal falls, awkward controls, and unreasonable difficulty. The spin-dash move is in full effect, and it really comes in handy! The character sprites are large and bold, and the layered scenery is very easy on the eyes. As with any Sonic title worth its weight, there are plenty of inviting tropical stages with multiple routes and hidden secrets. Adding a little variety are original stages like Sunset Park with its gorgeous orange sky and Robotnik Winter with its snow and ice. And get this - Sonic can even snowboard!
You can play through the game as Sonic or Tails, and Knuckles appears as a villain. So what's the catch? Well, the game does suffer from its share of slowdown, but it doesn't adversely affect the gameplay. The difficulty is much
lower than previous Sonics for the Game Gear, to the point where it's sometimes hard
to lose a life! That's okay, because this game is a joy to play, delivering the fast action Sonic fans crave with minimal frustration. It's a shame Triple Trouble was released so late in the system's life cycle, because this game is the real deal. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1992)
The cartridge label says Spider-Man and the title screen reads Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin, so which is it? The graphics are very nice. There are some handsome building skylines, and even the sewers
look good! The animation could use some work however. Spider-Man struts like a bodybuilder, and when he beats up thugs they bounce off the screen like basketballs! What the hell? The first stage is set in front of the Daily Planet building with police shooting at you from the sidewalk and people punching you from the windows. Apparently you've been framed by the Kingpin so everybody thinks you're bad. Swinging around on a pixelated web strand reminded me of Spider-Man
(Atari 2600, 1983) but the swinging controls are worse
. To complete the first stage you just need to climb into an open window - easier said than done! Most stages are just open areas with random enemies you beat up until the boss appears. Spider-Man can bind enemies with his web before moving in for a flurry of kicks and punches. The second stage takes place in a spacious warehouse where you kick pigs (?) and punch henchmen wearing motorcycle helmets. Defeating Doctor Octopus isn't hard thanks to your rapid-fire low kick. One innovative feature is the ability to take snapshots which earn you money later in the game. Between stages you have the option of resting in your apartment to replenish your health, and why wouldn't you? Because there's a ticking time bomb - that's why! Doctor Strange makes a cameo in the game, giving you a rainbow-colored medallion. I didn't have the heart to tell him it clashed with my outfit. It did comes in handy however when I fell into a spiked-lined sewer pit and it allowed me to magically escape. There are some cool features in the game, but so-so controls and poor stage design prove Spider-Man's downfall. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 10150
Sports Trivia Championship Edition
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Based on the title alone, Sports Trivia sounds like a worthless piece of [expletive]. It screams of bargain-bin material, but sports fans who take a chance on this are in for a pleasant surprise. Sports Trivia is actually two games in one, with one being a football simulation. The main screen depicts a miniature gridiron indicating the position of the ball, and the idea is to gain yardage by answering random sports trivia questions. On defense you'll answer questions to slow the CPU's drive, but even when you get an answer right you may give up a few yards. Small animation windows complement the action by depicting players fighting for yardage or catching passes. Sports Trivia's game-within-a-game design demands strategy in addition to sports knowledge. The play selection screen offers several options so you can play it safe or go for big yardage. Each question is slowly displayed on the screen, followed by four answers. Considering time is a factor (fast answers net more yards), I wish they would simply flash the damn thing up there. You'll be tempted to hit a button to expedite the process, but that's the worst thing you can possibly do, because the text will just stop and you'll be forced to answer blindly. The emphasis of the questions is clearly on football, baseball, and basketball. Many of them are very enlightening such as "How many players were selected before Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft?" (two), and "What man played in the most World Series games?" (Yogi Berra). As a sports fan, I really had a blast trying to answer these. Occasionally you'll get a question about hockey, golf, or auto racing. I found those questions to be a good time to use an "audible", which basically lets you skip the question. The main problem with Sports Trivia is that not enough yards are awarded, and as a result you get a lot of back-and-forth stalemates. It seems like whenever the CPU gets any kind of momentum he'll cough up the ball before he can score. It's not unusual to go to overtime with a 0-0 tie! And what's up with that Kung Fu background music? Sports Trivia could have used a lot more offense, but its multi-dimensional gameplay will captivate sports fans nonetheless. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: LucasArts (1993)
I wasn't expecting much from this miniature version of Super Star Wars
(SNES, 1992) but I was impressed by the title screen which resembles the original movie poster. And when I saw the ominous Star Destroyer fly into view in the opening cut-scene, I realized this was a quality title. In the first stage you play as Princess Leia running around on her ship, and it's nice to see her as a playable character for a change (armed with a blaster no less). It's easy to move between floors thanks to ubiquitous air vents that suck you right up, and they makes Leia look hilarious as she flails her arms and legs. The shoot button doubles as run when you hold it in, enabling death-defying leaps. As you progress you'll also be able to play as Luke and Han Solo, although the graphic style makes them all look like little kids scampering around. It's fun to blast jawas, stormtroopers, and sand people, and it's easier if you start shooting before they even enter the screen. Some of the scenery looks nearly digitized including the desert sands of Tatooine and the hangar bay of Mos Eisley. The cantina and Millennium Falcon look amazing
. The music from the film sounds fine, but some of the other tunes sound really odd. Star Wars is remarkably playable and most of the stages are a lot of fun. The sandcrawler however is a real torture chamber, and I'm not even talking about the rapid conveyer belts, spikes, and crushing machines. I'm talking about circular paths that drop you back at the beginning after a missed jump. I'm talking about Jawas that drop right in front of you and require five shots to kill. And I find the concept of running up walls both silly and unnecessary. The Death Star stage is another prime offender, combing confusing elevator mayhem with blind leaps of faith. You get eight continues but there's no score or password. Did LucasArts expect people to complete this in one sitting?
Exciting but inconsistent, Star Wars is still an enticing intergalactic adventure. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Star Wars Return of the Jedi
Publisher: LucasArts (1995)
The force is strong in this one. Like its impressive SNES counterpart, Return of the Jedi delivers challenging platform action with top-notch graphics and amazing music. The stages loosely follow the storyline of the movie, including Leia rescuing Han from Jabba the Hutt, Han knocking out the shield generator on the moon of Endor, Luke defeating the Emperor, and finally, Lando destroying the new Death Star. If you've played any of the SNES Super Star Wars games, you know there's a lot of platform jumping involved, and it can border on tedious at times. Fortunately, Jedi has outstanding control that makes it easy to navigate even the narrowest ledges. You can choose between several characters for each mission, and there are even two vehicle missions to spice things up. You'll face some huge bosses including the Rancor, but some bosses take far too long to defeat. I really enjoyed Jedi until I reached the speeder bike chase sequence in the woods of Endor. Yikes - those pseudo 3D graphics look awful and you can't even tell what's going on! Other than that aberration, Return of the Jedi is pure gold for your Game Gear. A password feature is also included. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1030
Streets of Rage 2
Publisher: Sega (1993)
This game is remarkable! The Genesis Streets of Rage 2 set a new standard for side-scrolling fighters, and this Game Gear version is a surprisingly close adaptation. In fact, it looks like the exact same game - only in miniature. You can choose between Axel, Blaze, and Skate, and the characters look almost identical in to those in the original game. Max the wrestler isn't included, but you won't miss his big slow ass anyway. Most of the stages are included, although slightly abbreviated. My personal favorites are the bar and the amusement park. A few minor details have been left out, like the rain in the back alley at the end of stage one. I find it amazing how all the fighting moves have been preserved despite the fact that Game Gear only has two buttons. This game rates sky-high in terms of fun. There's nothing quite like the feeling of walking down a street and wacking complete strangers with a long lead pipe. Even the music sounds like the original. Two players can link up for some cooperative action. Streets of Rage 2 is a stellar title, and Sega did one heck of a job of squeezing it into a Game Gear cartridge. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Majesco (1994)
Looking like an update of Atari's Battlezone, Super Battletank unsuccessfully tries to straddle the line between arcade game and simulation. Dedicated to the men and women who served in Desert Storm, this first-person tank shooter takes place in the dull, brown desert of Iraq, so there's really no scenery to speak of. You embark on a series of missions, usually to destroy a group of targets such as tanks, helicopters, or scud missiles. A scanner screen provides the location of all of your targets, and you can move between them fairly quickly. The main screen is loaded with indicators and gauges (most unnecessary), leaving only about a third of the screen for your first person view out of the tank. Enemy vehicles look surprisingly detailed and realistic, but their erratic movements make them frustrating to hit. Despite having several weapons at your disposal, each encounter is like a cat-and-mouse game, and there's little fun to be had. Only one enemy appears at a time, and keeping it in your crosshairs is a constant struggle. The missions are all pretty much the same. Overall, Super Battletank probably won't hold your interest for long. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1990)
At first Super Monaco GP seems to have all the ingredients of a great racer. Your Formula 1 car looks nice at the bottom of the screen and the sensation of speed is effective. The tracks featured layered scenery with buildings and hazy purple mountains in the distance. If only you could stay on the freakin' track!
The turn arrows don't appear until the turn has already started, and they tend to blend in with all the other indecipherable signage lining the course. You can anticipate turns by keeping an eye on the map at the top of the screen, but that's awkward. And once you begin sliding off the road it's almost impossible to recover. Super Monaco GP was an institution on the Genesis but this portable version is lacking in the driving department, and that's kind of a big deal. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Surf Ninjas has more depth than your standard side-scrolling slugfest. You play a "mellow surfer dude" who just so happens to be the last heir to a 4000-year-old throne. A half-robot villain has dispatched ninjas all over the world to kill you. As the title would suggest, Surf Ninjas offers a few sunny outdoor locations like a tropical island and the docks of Venice. There are also some elaborate indoor stages like a fancy palace restaurant. With two buttons you can perform all sorts of nifty moves including roll, high kick, low kick, jumping high kick, body throw, and a supremely effective jumping power-punch. Some items let you unleash fireballs. And when you need a boost, you can use your "zatch" to transform into a powerful warrior for a short time. The pause screen displays your vital statistics and provides access to hints, a shop, and a treasure screen. Using a hint triggers a brief animation of a little kid in heinous pink shorts focusing in on his own Game Gear screen! Button pounding is not enough to beat Surf Ninjas. You'll need to collect items and use them strategically to prevail. The bright graphics are complemented by upbeat music, but the controls prove problematic. You walk very slowly and can't run. Jumping moves you along quicker, but that can result in leaping into unseen danger. Vaulting onto high ledges is confusing, and I often accidentally rolled while trying to perform a leg sweep. The controls lag too, making it hard to target swift creatures like swooping hawks. It's a little on the sluggish side, but there's much more Surf Ninjas than meets the eye. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 17,214
Vampire: Master of Darkness
Publisher: Sega (1993)
I don't know what the story is behind Master of Darkness, but it looks and plays a heck of a lot like Castlevania, and that is a good thing. Vampire takes place in the late 1800's, and you control a well-dressed fellow with the odd name of Ferdinand Social. The turn-of-the-century London scenery is quite realistic and conveys a nice atmosphere. There's plenty of platform jumping, but nothing too frustrating, and there are plenty of weapons hidden behind white masks. Stages include the Thames river, a cemetery, a laboratory, and my personal favorite, the wax museum. This museum stage reminded me of an old horror flick I watched as a kid called "House of Wax" starring Vincent Price. That movie was creepy, and this stage recreates the spine-tingling chills of seeing wax figures come to life. Other monsters in the game, including zombies, skeletons, and wolves, are large and nicely animated. The control scheme is identical to Castlevania - one button jumps and the other attacks, and pushing up while firing engages your special weapon. With the exception of navigating the stairs, the control is right on the money. Even the music is sinister and well orchestrated. Vampire is really an amazing game, and probably one of the best titles for the Game Gear. I only wish a password feature was included so it wasn't always necessary to start from the beginning. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 49,370
Winter Olympic Games: Lillehammer '94
Publisher: U.S. Gold (1993)
The Genesis edition of Lillehammer '94 had its share of issues, and this portable version isn't much easier to swallow. I like Lillehammer's brisk pacing and snowy winter scenery, but the events are a constant struggle. The games begin with a brief opening ceremony. It's modest, but still more than I've seen from most modern
Olympic titles. I'm kind of surprised that the USA isn't represented in this game. Lillehammer contains four skiing events which are entirely too difficult. Faint blue lines in the snow indicate the proper direction, but it's really, really
hard to stay within the gates. The steering controls are coarse and the gates are spaced too far apart (often outside your field of view). When turning, your skier flinches in a very disorienting manner. It's easy to run into a tree, or worse yet, come to a complete stop in the middle of the course! Hell, simply qualifying
in a single ski event is a monumental achievement! The bobsled and luge events offer impressive behind-the-sled views as you careen down the half-pipe, but your control is limited to making slight adjustments. Speed skating is one of the more exciting events as you tap buttons and jockey for position against three CPU-controlled skaters. The ski jump event is another highlight, combining simple controls and plenty of eye candy. The biathlon isn't inherently bad, but it wears out its welcome due to its length. The mogul skiing lets you perform stunts, but its overly-complex controls confounded me. Not every event is a winner, but there's enough variety and the CPU is no pushover. Instead of competing in all ten events, you have the option of selecting the specific ones you'd like to play, and that's a nice option for a portable title. Lillehammer '94 is too difficult for its own good, but being able to play an entire winter Olympics in under 20 minutes keeps the frustration factor to a minimum. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
World Series Baseball
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Sega knows a little something about baseball games, and this diminutive version of World Series Baseball provides some terrific, ultra-fast arcade action. The speed of the game is beyond fast - it's frantic
. I can only assume Sega programmed it like this so you could play a whole season before your Game Gear batteries wore out. The behind-the-batter pitching view features large players and a perfect view of the strike zone. The simple, intuitive controls reminded me Sportstalk Baseball (Genesis 1992). This is a game that anyone can pick up and start playing right away. When the ball is hit, an overhead view of the field appears, and your fielders can jump or dive to snag balls. Unfortunately, the action moves so fast
that you have almost no time to react. You won't see many extra base hits or double-plays in this game. At first, I wished Sega had slowed down the action to something more reasonable, but after playing a few exciting games at break-neck speed, I got used to it. Problem is, now I can't sit through a "normal" baseball game (too slow!). Sound effects include a voice umpire and non-stop in-game music that could, quite possibly, drive you insane. World Series has a lot of nice features as well, including a slew of playing modes, two-player link, a battery back-up, and all the major league players and teams. This is an ideal game for sports fans with short attention spans. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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