system Index A-E
Action Fighter
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2007/7/11

screenshotIts name would suggest a side-scrolling brawler, but Action Fighter is actually a vertical road shooter along the lines of Spy Hunter. Its bright, colorful arcade graphics feature inviting palm trees, building-lined city streets, and ports with shimmering blue water. And there's certainly no shortage of action. You begin on a red motorcycle, where you tend to be knocked around by other cars and cyclists on the road. As in real life, you need to retaliate by shooting them from behind. This is the first game I've played when you earn points by shooting ambulances. Your speed is determined by how high you are on the screen, and it's best to move at the same rate as other traffic. Keep an eye out for the red Sega truck, which effectively upgrades your weapon from a weak peashooter to devastating rockets. Collecting letter icons in the road lets you upgrade to a sports car and eventually a jet! At that point, the game turns into a Xevious clone as you shoot down aircraft and bomb targets on the ground. The concept behind Action Fighter is absolute money, but a few rough edges prevent it from being an elite Master System title. First off, I hate how you instantly explode when you touch a freakin' guardrail. Since the road tends to suddenly branch or become narrow, you'll be crashing on a regular basis, disrupting the flow of the game. If the guardrail just slowed you down, that would have made the game much better. By the same token, I found the controls to be extremely touchy. There's nothing worse that being outfitted with brand new weapons, only to suddenly veer into a guardrail accidentally! Other flaws include the cheesy looping soundtrack and the fact that your score doesn't truly seem to convey how well you played. Action Fighter is fast and addicting, but could have benefited greatly from some fine tuning. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 17320
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Spy Hunter (Game Boy Advance)
Spy Hunter (NES)
Super Spy Hunter (NES)
Spy Hunter (Colecovision)
Spy Hunter (Playstation 2)

Aerial Assault
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2015/3/13

screenshotI'm always in the mood for a rapid-fire shooter and Aerial Assault fits the bill perfectly. This might just be the most addictive game I've played on my Sega Master System. In this intense side-scroller you pilot a fighter jet against formations of planes, battleships, and missile bases. The graphics looks terrific. The jet on the title screen looks practically digitized, and the cockpit interior shown on the mission screens looks awesome. As you begin your assault you'll face small but relentless waves of enemy planes. I like the way they rotate and peel off their formations. My wrist gets really tired from tapping the fire button, but then I remember I can just hold it in. Duh! The second button drops bombs. Aerial Assault is extremely challenging, partly due to crossfire conditions created by planes in the air and anti-aircraft fire from land. The first stage is set over water with gorgeous clouds blooming on the horizon. You can fly low to take out ships but be careful not to crash into the water. Icons provide power-ups but it's hard to tell them apart. The triple-shot weapon is sweet, but many other weapons are just plain irritating (like the one that fires in the direction you move). A speed-up icon is helpful, but if you grab more than one you'll find yourself careening out of control! The problem is, these icons move so far up and down they are almost impossible to avoid! The first boss is a mammoth battleship but the fact that it doesn't sink after a protracted battle is anticlimactic. The second stage takes place up in the clouds where you'll contend with missile barrages and... lightning? How am I supposed to dodge that?! The looping music is okay but some of the "bloop bloop bloop" weapon sounds are weak. It has its flaws, but there's something about Aerial Assault that keeps me coming back again and again. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 68,900
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Mission X (Intellivision)
Radar Lock (Atari 2600)
U.N. Squadron (Super Nintendo)
Stealth (NES)
Dodge 'Em (Atari 2600)

Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2011/10/18

screenshotThe Master System was in way over its head trying to handle a graphically intensive shooter like Afterburner. You view the action from behind your F-14 Tomcat, shooting down enemy planes that quickly scale in from the horizon. You can fire machine guns or unleash missiles that lock onto enemies. The action begins with an animated sequence of your plane taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier, and I have to admit it looks pretty cool. The graphics are not the problem with Afterburner - it's the animation that sucks. The frame-rate is so choppy it's hard to tell what's going on in the heat of battle. When your plane goes down in flames you usually have no idea what the [expletive] hit you. There's little sense of speed or control. You can survive by shooting like a madman and continuously performing barrel rolls, but that's not much fun. Your heads-up display is sparse with a useless map in the corner and no score displayed. The planes are exceptionally well detailed but the flat scenery is dull. Are those trees sticking out of the ocean? Those gray "smoke" circles that trail your plane before you crash look absolutely pathetic. The music sounds like it's being played on a toy piano, so unless you're a toddler it's not likely to pump your adrenaline. Lacking even a minimal degree of playability, Afterburner for the Master System should have never seen the light of day. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 231,700
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Afterburner II (Genesis)
Afterburner (Sega 32X)
Warbirds (Lynx)
Stealth (NES)
Tomcat F14 Fighter Simulator (Atari 2600)

Alex Kidd in High Tech World
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2012/4/7

screenshotThe first two Alex Kidd games were nothing to write home about, but Alex hit rock bottom in High Tech World. If making bad games was a crime, the designer of this one would have gone to the chair years ago! High Tech World is a clumsy combination of puzzle solving and platforming. The main character is "Prince Alex" who resides in a sprawling mansion. In the first stage he discovers there's a new arcade in a nearby town, but the only way he can locate it is to find and assemble eight pieces of a map. That's the kind of stuff people had to do before we had the Internet. Fortunately for Alex, all of the pieces are conveniently located in his house. To gather them up you'll move between floors, explore rooms, speak with people, and collect random items. It's like Maniac Mansion, except for the fact it makes no sense. If you try to put on a suit of armor, you die. If you turn on a computer, you die. There are bizarre messages posted on the wall like "Sega #1" and "Katie is the fattest". When you ask your father for a piece of the map, he'll give you a "fake" one the first time, so you have to ask a second time. Who came up with this garbage? In one case a lady won't give you an item unless you take an actual test with math, science, and history questions! I actually failed the first time! Stage one is mainly trial and error, so thank goodness you get a password after completing it. Stage two is a shoddy side-scroller where you battle ninjas in a forest. It's crazy hard thanks to unforgiving collision detection and deplorable controls. A single hit sends you all the way back to the beginning of the stage. The final two stages include a village area where you need to "pray" exactly 100 times in order to acquire a critical item! This game is an atrocity, and I'm still trying to figure out why it's called "High Tech World". I've played my share of bad games, but this one is Verizon Customer Service bad! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (Sega Master System)
Maniac Mansion (NES)
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
Jigsaw (Philips CD-i)
Heart of the Alien (Sega CD)

Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2012/4/1

screenshotWas Alex Kidd really supposed to be Sega's answer to Mario? Really Sega? Miracle World's bright graphics and happy-go-lucky theme are appealing, but the control and stage design is pretty shabby. Alex Kidd is supposed to be human, but he looks more like a monkey (or Monchichi) with those big ears and red suspenders (which seem to be all the rage in the monkey world of fashion). The game's opening stage makes a terrible first impression as you make your way down a series of platforms nestled between two cliffs. Instead of bumping blocks and pouncing on creatures, you use your fist to break blocks and defeat enemies. Hitting certain blocks reveal a bag of money, but sometimes a "phantom" will appear and take your life. The controls are not exactly crisp and the collision detection is also erratic. My friend Chris noted that the control scheme is the exact opposite of Mario, which can be a little disconcerting. The first stage is a bear, but if you survive that, things improve dramatically. You can shop for items between stages, and if you can afford a motorcycle you'll be able to plow through stage two with no trouble at all. The boss encounters are literally rock-paper-scissors contests. Who could have possibly thought that was a good idea?! I can see how someone who played Miracle World as a kid would have fond memories of it, because the game has an innocent charm. But any objective observer would have to agree that this has some serious issues. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11,000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (Sega Master System)
Mario Clash (Virtual Boy)
Super Monkey Ball (GameCube)
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (Guest Review) (GameCube)

Alex Kidd in Shinobi World
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2012/4/7

screenshotIt's a shame this game is so rare, because of the four Alex Kidd titles made for the Master System, this is the only one truly worth hunting down. Alex Kidd in Shinobi World ditches the puzzle-solving garbage of High Tech World in favor of good, old-fashioned hack-n-slash action. Think of it as Shinobi Light. The levels are thoughtfully designed and the graphics are simple yet fun. Alex looks awfully funny with those big red ears though. My friend Chris thought he had a flower in his hair! In the first stage you battle ninjas in the streets and the colorful scenery looks terrific. It's easy to slash bad guys with your sword and there are plenty of power-ups including darts and a screen-clearing "tornado". Best of all, you can transform into a fireball by swinging on poles and fence posts! Not only is this a great attack, but it also lets you break through walls or soar over dangerous obstacles. The collision detection is very forgiving, and you can even fall into water without dying! Alex is easy to control, with the exception of when he's on a ladder, in which case he tends to get very squirmy. Advanced levels are tricky to navigate (plenty of spikes and pits) but there are plenty of hearts to replenish your life. The stages are reasonable in length and even contain hidden areas and alternate routes. There's no password, but a limited number of continues are available. Alex Kidd has put his fans through hell and back, but those who kept the faith are in for a pleasant surprise. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 26,200
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Shinobi (Playstation 2)
Shinobi Legions (Saturn)
3 Ninjas Kick Back (Sega CD)
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
Alex Kidd in High Tech World (Sega Master System)

Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2012/4/7

screenshotI'm not sure why this is called "the lost stars" since your objective is clearly to collect magic balls. Whatever the case, this second Alex Kidd adventure represents a major overhaul. The objects are much larger and Alex himself is easily twice as big. He must have had a growth spurt. The stages are nicely detailed but ugly. There are too many bright fluorescent colors and flashing objects. Stage one is practically blinding at times with its pink and yellow color scheme. There's a modest amount of voice synthesis ("find the magic balls!") but the piercing sound of Kidd's digitized scream will make you cringe. The more you hear it, the more you want him to suffer. The stages feature a hodgepodge of disjointed themes including a toy land, an aquarium, a desert, a forest, and a space station. There are some truly bizarre sights, like the dog who regurgitates the letters B-O-W-W-O-W, and a naked guy in the Halloween stage who farts bubbles in your direction. Stay classy, Sega! The controls are improved from the first game. You can't punch but you'll collect some kind of weapon during each stage. It would be nice if you had that weapon up front so you didn't have to sustain so many cheap hits. The stages are now timed - and they don't leave you a second to spare! Each stage feels like a speed-run, with each hit knocking a few seconds off the clock. The game features fourteen stages, and with unlimited continues, it's quite possible see them all. Whether you'll want to is another story, because this weird platformer is more obnoxious than fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 13,400
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Wonder Dog (Sega CD)
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
P.O.W. (NES)
Desert Falcon (Atari 2600)
Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)

Alien Syndrome
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2005/3/13

screenshotThis overhead shooter has elements of Berzerk and Robotron, but doesn't come close to delivering the frenetic action of those classics. Your mission in Alien Syndrome is to rescue the crews of seven alien-infested space stations. Moving your soldier between contiguous rooms, you must locate and touch each crew member before the exit opens. Alien Syndrome's graphics are pretty slick, and pulsating background music ratchets up the intensity. The space stations look generic, but each stage introduces a new set of large, colorful aliens. Predictably, the first set is inspired by the creatures from the Alien films (except they are red). Although the aliens look terrific, they aren't very bright and tend to wander aimlessly. Your initial firepower is woefully inadequate - a peashooter that fires about three feet. The severely limited range forces you approach aliens to kill them, and it's usually safer to avoid them altogether. I recommend you upgrade your weapon as soon as possible to lasers or fireballs. Each stage ends with an obligatory boss encounter on a black screen with just you and the monster. I will admit that some of these shape-changing freaks are pretty disgusting. The one thing I hate about Alien Syndrome is how the aliens simple materialize out of thin air with little warning. Not only does it look cheesy, but it accounts for too many cheap deaths. I also found the controls to be somewhat slippery and inexact, making the game harder than it really should be. Alien Syndrome is certainly playable but ultimately unremarkable and forgettable. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 19100
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Alien Syndrome (NES)
Alien Storm (Genesis)
Alien Vs. Predator (Jaguar)
Alien Trilogy (Playstation)
Alien 3 (Super Nintendo)

Astro Warrior
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2001/2/11

screenshotThis is a generic shooter if I ever saw one, but that doesn't mean I didn't have any fun with it. Astro Warrior is a vertical scroller that gives you full range of movement around the screen. The game throws waves of choreographed enemies at you (like Galaga). You also fly over pseudo-3D platforms with plenty of squares to shoot out (like Xevious). And naturally there's a big ol' boss at the end of each stage. The first thing that bugged me about this game was the lack of a rapid-fire button. In order to get off a lot of shots, you need to tap the fire buttons incessantly, which is annoying and hard on your hand. The gameplay is good though. The enemies come in all shapes and sizes and there's never a dull moment. The bosses are large but static; they simply float side to side while dropping bombs on you. The repetitious background music got on my nerves. The best aspect of this game is the power-ups. In the first stage, you can accumulate a great deal of firepower, and this can carry you a long way. Unfortunately, once you die, it's back to the weak single-shots, and after the first level the power-ups are few and far between. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 114400
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Astal (Saturn)
Galaga '90 (Turbografx-16)
Xevious (NES)
Star Soldier (NES)
Panic Bomber (Virtual Boy)

Aztec Adventure
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2018/8/28

screenshotFor me the name Aztec Adventure calls to mind fun romps like Montezuma's Revenge (Colecovision, 1984) and Aztec Challenge (Atari XE, 1983). Don't be fooled though - Aztec Adventure is a tedious, slow maze crawler that's anything but fun. You move your hat-wearing explorer between contiguous screens, fighting adorable puppies and bunnies decked out in traditional garb. You can only swing your tiny sword downward, and it's infuriatingly hard to hit anything. It doesn't help that enemies hop around the screen and can absorb several hits. Add in poor collision detection and over-caffeinated music and you have the makings of a major headache. The ability to collect weapons like cannonballs, fireballs, and arrows seems promising but it's awkward to cycle through them and most prove useless. The boundaries of the maze are lined with colorful vegetation but the screens look so similar it feels as if you're moving in circles. Aztec Adventure does have one uniquely bizarre feature, and that's the ability to make animals "join up" with you and fight by your side. You do this by - wait for it - throwing money at them! Who came up with this idea? Well, in the 1500's the Spanish conqueror Cortez did in fact ally himself with indigenous Mexican tribes in order to defeat the Aztecs. Still, it's tacky, and the execution of this feature is flat out abysmal. Instead of mauling enemies the animals just sort of meander around aimlessly, eventually drifting off the screen. This game is horrible! Aztec Adventure is Sega's attempt to create a cute, cuddly version of one of the most bloody, destructive chapters of history. I am at a loss for words. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 20,400
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Montezuma's Revenge (Colecovision)
Bloody Roar 2 (Playstation)
Final Fight Revenge (Japan) (Saturn)
Pop Flamer (Sega SG-1000)
BC's Quest For Tires II: Grog's Revenge (Colecovision)

Batman Returns (Europe)
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2012/12/28

screenshotI was pretty psyched up about this European import, but I held off playing it until my friend (and renowned Batman expert) Eric arrived in town. The opening stage of Batman Returns looks inviting. Christmas decorations adorn the streetlamps and the dark background makes the purple and red accents really pop. The characters are small but nicely animated, and I like how Batman's cape flutters in the wind. In terms of audio, Eric described the theme music as "the same song they use in all Master System games". He has a point. Using your Bat-a-rang to defeat the Penguin's lackeys is fun. You'll take down bomb-tossing acrobats, trigger-shy bozos, and fat rolling clowns. You'll battle through the streets of Gotham, Shreck's department store, and the rooftops before descending into the sewers. Swinging between platforms with your grappling hook is an integral part of the game, but the controls are absolutely abysmal. Sometimes you can pull yourself up onto a higher ledge, and sometimes you can't. All too often you'll just plunge into the abyss. Touching a villain means instant death, and even touching a parked truck is fatal! C'mon now! In the department store clowns spring out from any door you approach, so keep your distance. Collecting bat-shaped icons let you improve your speed, increase your Bat-a-rang damage, or earn a new life. The best part of the game is how each stage offers two routes to choose from. I like how this adds challenge and variety, but Eric was not impressed. The game has no score and no password. Batman Returns isn't a bad-looking game but its clumsy controls and one-hit deaths prove a lethal combination. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Batman Returns (NES)
Batman Returns (Super Nintendo)
Batman Returns (Genesis)
Batman: Dark Tomorrow (Xbox)
Adventures of Batman and Robin, The (Super Nintendo)

Black Belt
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2011/3/5

screenshotboxBlack Belt features the worst box cover art in the history of games, with a single foot in the lower left side of its plain white box. How lazy is that?! The game itself isn't half bad. Black Belt's fighters are realistically-proportioned and the kung fu action is non-stop. The first stage takes place in a courtyard as a parade of henchmen who all look exactly the same approach from both sides. You can punch and kick in a rapid-fire fashion, causing foes to literally shatter into block-shaped chunks! Good times! The real challenge is trying to snag the food icons that occasionally travel across the top of the screen. You need to press down-and-up to leap, and it's hard to get the timing right in the heat of battle. Periodically the thugs clear out and a sub-boss appears to break up the monotony. These specialized martial artists each have their own distinctive fighting style, and many carry weapons. At this point Black Belt is already on par with most fighting games of its era, but then it takes things to the next level. The end-of-stage boss battles are presented in a "close up" view with larger, more detailed characters! They don't exactly fill the screen, but for the Sega Master System, they look positively huge. And these guys really mean business! The best strategy is to let the boss unleash his fury, and then move in to land a few quick hits when he's catching his breath. Upon defeating a boss, your character will automatically unleash a flurry of rapid-fire kicks or punches as a "finishing move" of sorts. It's kind of awesome, but mostly silly. Black Belt won't win any awards, but if you can embrace this game in all of its absurdity, you might be surprised by how much fun you have. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 208,500
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Kung Fu (NES)
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu (NES)
Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
NFL Fever 2003 (Xbox)
Escape (Arcadia 2001)

Blade Eagle 3D
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2011/5/5

screenshotI'm going to venture a guess that this was Sega's first foray into 3D, because they clearly had no idea what the [expletive] they were doing. Blade Eagle 3-D is your standard vertical space shooter with formations of alien ships and cannon-fortified space stations. But there's a twist. Using button 2, you can toggle between high altitude and low, making your ship appear larger (closer) or smaller (further away). In theory, you can attack aliens on two separate planes, but it's never quite clear which one you're lined up with. The 3D effect is not good, and it made my eyes dry out. You'll experience a lot of double vision that will have you wondering if you're looking at a pair of objects, or just bad 3D. Not only is it hard to tell what you can or can't shoot, but you also don't know what things can hurt you! Unfortunately, that means you'll need to assume that everything can hurt you all the time! Your only saving grace are the power-ups. If you can crank up your firepower and tack on a few escorts you can inflict substantial damage - at the cost of substantial slow-down. Unfortunately, you'll often pass through a vital power-up because you're on the wrong plane! Ugh! The visuals improve with the second stage which features metal towers rising out of water, but the steep difficulty makes it hard to get that far. Blade Eagle 3D is an ill-advised title that serves as a cautionary tale for future shooters with 3D aspirations. Note: This game requires the Sega 3D glasses. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 38,200
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Zaxxon 3D (Sega Master System)
Poseidon Wars 3D (Sega Master System)
Alien Invaders (Arcadia 2001)
Missile Defense 3D (Sega Master System)
Demon Attack (Atari 2600)

Bomber Raid
Grade: C+
Publisher: Activision (1988)
Reviewed: 2011/3/5

screenshotI enjoy games with depth and intricate strategy, but sometimes I just want to blow [expletive] up. Bomber Raid gives Master System fans the destruction they crave. This vertical shooter puts you in a WWII bomber against plane squadrons, tanks, destroyers, and submarines that actually submerge. The vibrant graphics are extremely easy on the eyes with bright orange beaches, deep green foliage, and inviting blue waters. The action begins with a nice cut-scene of your plane taking off as your crew waves you on. Once in the air you can fire your cannon rapidly, but alas, there's no rapid-fire option. That said, I felt lucky as hell to own a rapid fire attachment (bump up the grade by a letter if you own one). The second button is used to unleash cluster bombs. Bomber Raid's gameplay is simple and fun as you blast targets over jungle, desert, and sea locations. The looping enemy planes and huge destroyers look great, but what in the heck are those rotating flying square things supposed to be? Keep moving when tanks or cannons are in the vicinity, because their turrets are always trained on you. Bomber Raid's power-up system is bizarre. The icons appear almost constantly! Most reveal either a weapon boost (P) or speed increase (S). At first the weapon icons cause your narrow missiles to become longer, which frankly doesn't make much of a difference. After collecting a few more your shots become wider, and eventually you're firing large circles. Enjoy it while it lasts, because losing a plane puts you all the way back at square one. The speed power-ups are helpful at first, but eventually your plane becomes hard to control, at which point you'll want to avoid them like the plague. On rare occasions you'll encounter a special power-up which adds an escort plane (or two) by your side. These escorts would be great if they didn't tend to fire sideways and backwards! WTF? Also annoying is the monotonous, happy-go-lucky music. Your high score is displayed at the end of each game, egging you on to try again. Bomber Raid could have been better designed, but at least its heart is in the right place. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 122,600
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Mission X (Intellivision)
Sky Shark (NES)
Twin Eagle (NES)
Battle Garegga (Japan) (Saturn)
Blue Max (Atari XEGS)

California Games
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2019/11/15

screenshotAfter being disappointed by the Genesis version of California Games (Genesis, 1991) I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to track down its 8-bit incarnation. As is sometimes the case however, this lower-tech version is actually more fun, with more events to boot! You can tell the programmers took pride in their work, constructing a rich audio/visual experience easily mistaken for a 16-bit title. The opening screen plays a tuneful rendition of Louie Louie over a shiny California license plate, which really gets you psyched. The opening half pipe event is challenging as hell, partly because you have to unintuitively press up and down to increase your skateboard speed. Footbag (aka hacky-sack) is more accessible as you use good timing to keep a little ball in the air with your feet. A bridge provides a scenic backdrop, and hitting a seagull nets you bonus points. There's not a whole lot to the surfing event, as you just carve around and perform the occasional jump. Still, the frothy blue water looks refreshing and it's cool how a shark or dolphin will cross the screen after each wipe out. The skating event really has a fun-in-the-sun beach vibe as your bikini-clad babe navigates a boardwalk strewn with hazards like cracks, grates, sand, and beach balls. In the BMX stage you race a bike along a hilly dirt track, launching off ramps and performing stunts. Wrapping things up is flying disc which takes place at a picturesque park. After first hurling the disc with a golf-style meter, you then move a second player to catch it. It's very satisfying when you make a diving catch! You'll probably want to keep the manual handy to reference all the elaborate controls. It also includes a glossary of California lingo like gnarly, tubular, and aggro. I enjoyed playing California Games both alone and with friends. It's ideal summer fun and probably the best version you'll find. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: skating
Our high score: 1310
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: California Games (Lynx)
California Games (Genesis)
California Games (Atari 2600)
BMX Airmaster (Atari 2600)
Malibu Bikini Volleyball (Lynx)

Captain Silver
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2016/8/20

screenshotLong before Captain Jack Sparrow made pirates fashionable (in more ways than one) Captain Silver ruled the Sega Master System. As one astute reader observed, this is one of the few games not named after its protagonist but instead it's villain! A side-scroller with colorful graphics and simple gameplay, Captain Silver is captivating fun. Assuming the role of an old-world adventurer by the name of Jack Avery, you jump and slash your way through towns, ships, islands, and caves. Complementing the rich visuals is a rollicking musical arrangement that embodies the carefree spirit of a swashbuckling adventure. Your sword has terrific range and pixie power-ups enable you to unleash bursts of shooting stars. You can direct these up, down, and even sideways while hanging off masts and ladders. The action is slow and methodical but satisfying. Defeated enemies leave behind floating letters, and collecting enough to spell "Captain Silver" to earn a free life becomes an obsession. Your first few foes are pretty tame, including giant teddy bears (ahem... "werewolves"), green pumpkins, and Cheshire cats. Later you'll battle bloodthirsty buccaneers, poisonous frogs, and natives with spears. The game doesn't keep score but your gold can be used for this purpose. American gamers may find certain aspects of Captain Silver confusing. Why don't the pirates fire their guns? Why does the instruction booklet show a witch, cyclops, dragon, and banana king? As it turns out, this American version omitted large chunks of the original game to save memory costs. We're talking about enemies, bosses, and entire levels! Fortunately you can still get the full experience by importing the European version. In retrospect, this abbreviated Captain Silver feels like a warm-up to the real thing. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 97,200
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pirates Gold (Genesis)
Captain Silver (Europe) (Sega Master System)
Dragon Spirit: The New Legend (NES)
Skuljagger (Super Nintendo)
Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (Xbox)

Captain Silver (Europe)
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2016/8/20

screenshotFor so many years I thought my Captain Silver cartridge was perfectly good. While the game was short and easy, I loved its detailed graphics, lively music, and swashbuckling spirit. Then last month I came to the realization that everything I've ever known is wrong. A reader broke the heartbreaking news to me that the American release is in fact a shortened version (some might even say neutered). In order to make a few extra cents per game the tightwad son-of-a-[bleep] publisher stripped out a substantial portion of the content (including entire stages and bosses) to squeeze the game into a smaller chip. Can you believe that!? Fortunately Master System games are not region-locked, so I could still experience the superior, fully-realized European version. All I can say is "wow". One thing that stands out is the difficulty. Just getting past the first stage is a tall order. Enemies are far more aggressive and there are many more of them including a witch boss! She's one of the several bosses completely missing from the American version. The pirates in stage two actually fire their guns! This game is a thrill, and if you're a Captain Silver fan you owe it to yourself to try this European version. It's like a whole new adventure! © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 63,600
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Captain Silver (Sega Master System)
Pirates Gold (Genesis)
Son Son II (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
Ms. Pac-Man (Lynx)
Chip's Challenge (Lynx)

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2018/1/31

screenshotCastle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis, 1990) is a wholesome, leisurely platformer that enchants everyone who plays it. That's a fact. This Sega Master System version offers less enchantment but more challenge. The graphics are exquisitely detailed beginning with the castle in the opening scene. The first three stages are set in a magical forest, a toy land, and wonderland of sugary confections. You can play these stages in any order you want, and that's always a great feature. The gameplay is not what I was expecting. It's actually more complicated than the Genesis version, oddly enough. It's all about picking up and throwing objects. If you push Mickey against an object and he wraps his hands around it, you can pick it up and chuck it. But if you approach an object you can't pick up, like a radio transmitter, you take damage. That's kind of bogus. I like how the stages have multiple paths and hidden goodies. There's plenty of variety as hop between tree branches, climb down into caves, and leap between floating leaves. You'll perform your lethal butt-bounce to take out spiders, animated chess pieces, and toy airplanes. Castle of Illusion is fun but not without its irritations. Sometimes you'll fall right through a solid floor, which is really cheap! Nothing's worse than surviving a perilous sequence only to fall through a floor. In the confection level it's really hard to tell what you can or can't jump on. It makes no sense that floating candy is harmful considering you collect cake slices to refill your health! The music incorporates the same melodies as the excellent Genesis soundtrack, but its high pitch is less soothing to the ears. Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse is no walk in the park but it's still one of the better platformers for the system. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 16,660
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis)
Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Europe) (Sega Master System)
Mickey Mania (Super Nintendo)
Fantasia (Genesis)
World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck (Genesis)

Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1985)
Reviewed: 2000/12/14

screenshotThis action-packed helicopter game was available on many systems, but this version is easily the best. It's also the most difficult. Your mission is to rescue hostages in enemy territory while avoiding enemy fire. The graphics are sharp and well defined. From the architecture of the buildings, to the clouds in the sky, to the tiny animated people, there is plenty of attention to detail. A nice surprise is the ocean level, in which you need to rescue prisoners from ships at sea. This is a great idea, and although it plays the same as the land levels, it looks fantastic. As I mentioned before, the difficulty is fairly extreme; you'll take ground fire from cannons, tanks, and jeeps, as well as air fire from enemy planes. You can't stay in any place for long, especially when picking up prisoners. This is one exciting game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 52600
1 or 2 player 

If you like this game, try: Choplifter (Atari 7800)
Blue Max (Atari XEGS)
Mission X (Intellivision)
Twin Eagle (NES)
Super Huey (Atari 7800)

Dead Angle
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/3/13

screenshotI wasn't sure what to make of this game the first time I played it. Dead Angle is a cross between a first-person shooter and a lightgun game, and you can see the yellow outline of your character's upper body in the middle of screen. You move a crosshair around to aim, and by pushing the crosshair against the sides of the screen, you can scroll the scenery side to side or up and down. When gangsters in suits emerge from the scenery (and sometimes from thin air), you use one button to shoot and the other to duck. Apparently you're only susceptible to incoming fire when a bad guy is positioned directly in front of your outline, which is when you're suppose to hit the duck button. Dead Angle constantly warns, "Do not stand in front of enemy", but that's easier said than done. The duck button doesn't seem very effective, and I prefer not to use it. Dead Angle is certainly unique, but I don't think it turned out as well as Sega had hoped. For one thing, the crosshair movement is clumsy, making it hard (if not impossible) to aim precisely. Occasionally you'll find a machine gun that lets you spray bullets, which is easily the highlight of the game. The gangsters are large, realistic-looking, and nicely detailed (some in pin-striped suits), but their movements are awfully choppy, making them much harder to hit. Once you die, your character yells "ouch!" in a wimpy, high-pitched voice. The scenery includes the streets of Chicago, the docks of New York, and a hotel, but there's not a whole lot to see. I'll give Sega credit here for trying something different, but Dead Angle is only mildly amusing. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 85500
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Escape From Cyber City (Philips CD-i)
Front Line (Colecovision)
Cannon Fodder (Jaguar)
Stealth (NES)
Sword of Sodan (Genesis)

Digger Chan
Grade: C
Publisher: Aypok (2011)
Reviewed: 2012/2/20

screenshotIt's rough around the edges but I love having this homebrew in my collection. Digger Chan is a brand new Sega Master System game that comes complete in a case with a glossy, full-color manual. Heck, there's even a Usage and Precautions booklet! (Side note: Do not submerge this cartridge in water!) The game's premise will be familiar to those who've played Mr. Driller (Dreamcast, 1999). You control a little guy digging into the earth by making groups of colored blocks disappear. Destroying larger groups of contiguous blocks lets you descend quicker and rack up more points, but you'll need to keep a close eye on your "milk meter". If you spot a bottle of milk, be sure to work your way over to it so you can replenish your health. Occasionally you'll stumble upon a bundle of dynamite, and when that happens you'll need to run for cover. Digger Chan is easy to grasp and fun to play for score, but its controls are a liability. It's easy to get stuck on the edge of a block and occasionally you'll even get stuck in mid air! Scientists have been unable to explain this strange phenomenon. The erratic controls are especially frustrating when you uncover dynamite and Digger is suddenly less-than-responsive. In terms of graphics the colorful blocks look nice but the animation is pretty stiff. The music that plays throughout the stages sounds a little random, but the tune that plays between stages strikes a nice old-school chord. My friend Scott made a good point about the main character. Could they have come up with a less-Asian-looking guy to play the part of Chan? I mean, the guy has blonde hair and blue eyes for Pete's sake! Was the name "Digger Olaf" already taken? And don't get me started about that haircut. Despite its quirks this game is a commendable effort that deserves support from classic gamers. For more information check out the official Digger Chan web site. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: arcade
Our high score: 4967
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Christmas Carol Vs. the Ghost of Christmas Presents (Intellivision)
Mr. Driller (Dreamcast)
Qwak (Game Boy Advance)
Mr. Do!'s Castle (Atari 2600)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Fixed) (Atari 2600)

Double Dragon
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2000/12/14

screenshotThis is a lousy version of the classic two-player fighting game. The characters aren't very detailed and the backgrounds are plain. There is a tremendous amount of flicker, which makes the two-player version nearly unplayable. The control is fair, but this game doesn't deliver much in the way of fun. Too many hits are required to take out the bad guys, and they always manage to get in a few cheap shots. Throwing barrels and using weapons provides the most satisfaction, but these are sparse. When there's only one bad guy left, he tends to hang out at the edge of the screen, making you wait for him. The sound effects and background music are both pathetic. This game is a chore to play. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Double Dragon (Atari 7800)
Meteoric Shower (Colecovision)
Hang On (Sega Master System)
Sonar Search (Fairchild Channel F)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft version) (NES)

Dynamite Dux
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2018/9/23

screenshotIt's hard to take a game seriously with a name like Dynamite Dux, but sometimes a wacky side-scroller is what you really need. I probably would have never even heard of this had I not stumbled upon its review in an old 1989 GamePro magazine. This arcade-style brawler incorporates a lot of weird, random ideas. The background story is typical: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, monster abducts girl and transforms boy into blue duck. He'll exact his revenge on inviting city streets with branching thoroughfares and colorful building facades. Wait - is that Colonel Sanders loitering in the background? The single-player fighting action boasts the most forgiving collision detection in the history of video games. There can be a sizeable gap between you and your foe, yet throwing a punch will send them flying! It's crazy. Your hodgepodge of foes includes hopping dog heads, roller-skating cats, rabbits on pogo sticks, and belly-dancing rhinos. The jump button is mainly an evasive maneuver, but your wind-up punch is the real deal! It can take out multiple enemies at a time and make short work of bosses. But the true highlight of the game is the ability to use weapons like machine guns and bazookas! My cat Claire watched me play this and even she looked on in disbelief. The soundtrack consists of happy-go-lucky tunes of the carefree variety. Dynamite Dux is a little short and easy, but let's face it - playing oddball titles like this is one of the joys of classic gaming. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 525,850
1 player 

If you like this game, try: DJ Boy (Genesis)
Deadly Duck (Atari 2600)
Bloody Roar: Primal Fury (GameCube)
Custer's Revenge (Atari 2600)
Super Pitfall (NES)

Enduro Racer
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2000/11/18

screenshotThis motorcycle game reminds me of Excitebike for the NES. You ride on a diagonal-scrolling screen, jumping ramps, passing other vehicles, and trying to make it to the finish line before time runs out. The ten levels take you through five environments, including country, ruins, desert, marsh, and mountains. The graphics are nice, but the scenery isn't very spectacular; basically trees and rocks. And what's up with the color? The trees and the mountain trails are both blue, which makes it look like I need to adjust my TV. It's really an endurance test to make it through all ten races. Each race lasts a minute or less. Between races you can use your bonus points to upgrade your bike, and the upgrades make a dramatic difference. I wasn't exactly hooked on Enduro Racer, but trying to make it through all ten races is a worthy challenge. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Motorodeo (Atari 2600)
Star Wars: Episode One Racer (Dreamcast)
Super Off Road (NES)
Excitebike 64 (Nintendo 64)
Excitebike (NES)

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