system Index B
Banjo Kazooie
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Posted: 2003/6/19

screenshotAs one of the more beloved games for the Nintendo 64, Banjo Kazooie took the Mario 64 style of gameplay and expanded it every which way. Banjo is a likeable honey bear and Kazooie is his smart-aleck feathered sidekick. Working together, they can execute an astonishing number of moves, ranging from your standard double-jump to the lightning-fast "beak bomb" attack. Fifteen moves are listed in the instruction manual, but they're introduced gradually over the course of the game to ease the learning curve.

A helpful mole character appears in each stage to advise you, so you'll rarely get stuck. Your mission is to save Banjo's sister, held captive by an evil Witch named Gruntilda. Unlike the generic villains of most adventure games, Gruntilda is a very funny and interesting character. There's plenty of stuff to do in Banjo Kazooie, with expansive new areas constantly opening up. Our adventurous pair face their share of adversaries, but the strength of the game lies in its intelligent, thought-provoking puzzles, which are rarely frustrating and often quite satisfying.

If there's one aspect where the game goes a bit overboard, it may be the item collecting. There are about nine sets of items to collect, and at times it seems downright gratuitous. Still, the game is well paced and fairly easy. The control scheme is intuitive enough, although you will encounter occasional camera glitches. When it comes to sheer production values, Banjo Kazooie is first class all the way.

The graphics are outstanding, brimming with subtle details like cracks in rocks, shimmering water, and flowers blowing in the grass. The music, audio effects, and dialogue are expertly performed, although their childlike nature may turn off some mature gamers. All things considered, Banjo Kazooie is a terrific game that is adored by legions of fans. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Neutopia (Turbografx-16)
Metroid Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)
Defender (Atari XEGS)

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Grade: C
Publisher: Ubisoft (2000)
Posted: 2009/12/15

screenshotNot your typical Batman game, Beyond represents some kind of bizarre off-shoot of the comic book series where Bruce Wayne is an old man mentoring a young, spry new Batman. Robin is not in the picture due to some bizarre circumstances revealed during cut-scenes. The Joker is your primary foe, although you'll face several sub-bosses you've never heard of like Woof and Ghoul.

Batman Beyond is weird as hell, but it gets by on its hard-hitting hand-to-hand combat and easy-to-grasp controls. The game is rendered with 3D polygons, but the side-scrolling fighting action is more along the lines of 2D brawlers like Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). Most of the stages take place in high-tech facilities, and they're pretty boring. The 3D scenery is composed of clean textures and nice lighting effects, but plain metallic walls and stacks of boxes make for dull scenery. This game lacks the interesting illustrated details you find in 2D brawlers.

Batman controls well as he goes up against generic thugs, robots, and creepy hyena-people. You can punch, kick, duck, block, jump, and brandish weapons. You have several outfits to choose from, each of which is suited to a unique play style. Personally I prefer the defensive suit with its super-effective shoulder charge. Fighting is satisfying because you can easily dish off a quick succession of hits, and enemies hit the floor with a resounding thud. The audio is terrific with its edgy guitar soundtrack and jarring explosions.

Batman Beyond's primary flaw is its questionable replay value. You'll get several continues but no password, so each time you play it's back to the start! The game is pretty short with its five stages, and there's no score or rating to gauge your performance. Batman Beyond had some potential, but Ubisoft didn't put enough effort into this. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Game Boy Color)
Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
Final Fight One (Game Boy Advance)
Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety (Genesis)
TMNT (Game Boy Advance)

Battletanx: Global Assault
Grade: C
Publisher: 3DO (1999)
Posted: 2020/3/11

screenshotWith three friends on hand I anxiously loaded up Battletanx, bracing myself for some explosive multiplayer mayhem. But what ensued was more a sense of bewilderment than bedlam. The four-player split-screen visibility is downright horrendous, and who came up with this crappy portal concept? I hate how tanks are randomly disappearing and reappearing all over the place.

There's a wide variety of tanks to choose from but the fact that they all control differently adds to the confusion. Despite the bad first impression all was not lost. I gave the single-player campaign mode a try and it's actually not half bad! The missions are short and the battlefields are reasonable in size. Each mission has specific objectives (like rescuing people) but they largely boil down to blowing up everything on the map.

And there's no shortage of firepower. A single mortar will blow out an entire building and the second shot will reduce it to rubble! And that's not to mention special weapons like swarmer missiles and lasers. Thunderous explosion effects add to the fun.

The bland scenery isn't much to look at, consisting of truck stops, train yards, and ports. The night missions are a pain because it's hard enough to tell where shots are coming from. Still, the wanton destruction is habit-forming. So don't let the multiplayer blues get you down. Stick with the Battletanx campaign and you'll have a blast. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Blast Corps (Nintendo 64)
Desert Strike (Genesis)
Tanks But No Tanks (Atari 2600)
Seek and Destroy (Playstation 2)
Airforce Delta (Dreamcast)

Beetle Adventure Racing
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Posted: 2011/7/26
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMy recollections of this oldie are a little hazy, but if the "best times" records screen is any indication, my friends and I played the hell out of this thing! I'm seeing the names of people I haven't talked to in ten years! Beetle Adventure's arcade-style tracks were sensational in 1999, and frankly they still look pretty good today.

Mount Mayhem offers snow swept mountains and Metro Madness boasts a gorgeous shimmering city sunset. The Jurassic Park-inspired "Inferno Isle" features a harrowing route through an active volcano. There are plenty of unexpected surprises (like a hungry T-Rex) and even some "big air" moments. Your car selection is limited to Volkswagen Beetles of various color schemes.

The controls are excellent thanks to the trigger/brake which allows you to execute power-slides with tight turn radiuses. The roads are heavily constrained with guardrails, rocks, and fences to keep you on track, and hitting them doesn't slow you down much. Since there's no damage modeling, it's often advantageous to sideswipe a wall or bump an opponent.

The single player mode pits you against seven CPU cars, and it's addictive and challenging to unlock the tracks. Each race is three laps, and you'll want to be alert during that third one because the route will change unexpectedly. The two-player split-screen mode is less exciting because there are no CPU racers and the scenery is less impressive.

This mode also exposes the game's most serious flaw, which is the inability to adjust the number of laps. Considering each lap can last up to five minutes, things can get boring if one person takes a commanding lead. Did the designers purposely make the tracks as long as possible? In some cases it seems they are "padded" with similar repeating sections.

Crashing puts you back on track almost immediately, but occasionally you'll become stuck in a hopeless location - like on the wrong side of a fence! Shortcuts abound, but you should exercise extreme caution before heading off the beaten path. More often than not you'll find yourself in no-man's-land desperately trying to find your way back onto the main road!

The four-player battle mode is a nice bonus but it's hard to track your opponents. The multi-player modes don't live up to expectations, but the solo racing will not let you down. Beetle Adventure Racing has an arcade flair that stands the test of time. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Ski-Doo Snow X Racing (Playstation 2)
Jurassic Park Interactive (3DO)
Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)
Excitebike (NES)
Final Lap Twin (Turbografx-16)

Big Mountain 2000
Grade: C+
Publisher: Imagineer (2000)
Posted: 2016/4/24

screenshotBeing a sucker for snowboarding games, Big Mountain 2000 didn't take long to win me over. Its clean, natural-looking courses are a refreshing change from the fake rollercoaster-style trails popularized in games like SSX (PS2, 2000). I'm all about getting close to nature.

Big Mountain lets you choose between skis or snowboards. Courses include a day trail, a gorgeous sunset run, and a scenic night course complete with passing trains. Varied terrain is nicely reflected through crisp sound and effective rumble effects. Steering feels good and I like holding the A button to carve the snow. The B button lets you jump and perform tricks but they aren't integral to the game.

Free ride mode lets you explore branching paths, but the slalom modes are fun too, challenging you to pass through gates. You can play solo to level-up characters or go against a friend via split-screen. I really wanted to like Big Mountain 2000 but there's one blatant flaw that costs the game at least one letter. My friends were wondering why they kept falling down for no apparent reason. As it turns out, going too fast causes your speed bar to flash, indicating you must slow down or crash. Why in the hell would anyone program something like that into a game?

Another issue is the collision detection. You'll miss a tree by a foot and your boarder acts like he just slammed into a brick wall! I swear there were times when I hit a tree after I was already past it! Making contact with any competitor causes you both to fall, which is a drag. Big Mountain 2000 captures the spirit of the sport but a few head-scratching flaws prevent it from reaching its potential. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Skiing (Atari 2600)
Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding (Jaguar)
1080 Degree Snowboarding (Nintendo 64)
Snowboarding (Playstation)
SSX (Playstation 2)

Bio Freaks
Grade: D
Publisher: GT Interactive (1998)
Posted: 2005/1/22
Rating: Mature (animated blood and gore)

screenshotThe Nintendo 64 isn't known for its one-on-one fighting games, so Nintendo must have been pretty desperate to allow this butt-ugly button masher onto their system. Bio Freaks is a futuristic brawler featuring fighters more machine than human, with metal spikes, buzz saws, jet packs, and machine guns jutting out all over their bodies.

The eight combatants include the aptly named Zipperhead, a Duke Nukem-wannabe named Bullzeye, the flame-throwing Purge, the minotaur-like Minoteck, a vomiting monster named Ssapo, and an obligatory, scantily clad hottie by the name of Delta. The character models look fairly chunky, and their animation is equally unimpressive. Fighters seem to glide when they walk, and action is choppy.

The enclosed stages have got to be the most boring arenas I've ever witnessed in a fighting game - there's really nothing to see. On a positive note, there are an ample number of moves, and the game comes with a handy special move sheet (all fighting games should come with those!). The fact that all the fighters can hover with jetpacks seems to have potential, but adds little to the gameplay.

What's most surprising about Bio Freaks is the excessive gore. The blood isn't particularly heavy, but you can actually dismember your opponent (although you probably won't even notice until the dust settles). Bio Freak's audio is painfully weak, with generic grinding guitars and voice samples I could barely discern. I've played worse fighting games in my time, but I try not to. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Heavy Metal Geomatrix (Dreamcast)
Super Street Fighter II (Genesis)
NFL '95 (Genesis)
Battle Arena Toshinden 3 (Playstation)
Samurai Shodown (Genesis)

Blast Corps
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Posted: 2000/7/30


screenshotWhen it comes to guys, there's only one thing we like better than building stuff, and that's blowing stuff up! Thank goodness Blast Corps gives us guys an outlet for our primal urge to unleash destruction and mayhem. Each stage begins with a large truck carrying explosive materials slowly crawling up the screen. If it touches anything, it's game over, so you must obliterate all obstacles standing in its way.

There are a variety of vehicles at your disposal, including a bull-dozer, dump truck, train, and an Ultra-man style robot. The buildings tend to crumble easily like they do in old Godzilla movies, which is satisfying. Alarming sound effects add a degree of tension as they increase in intensity as the truck approaches an obstacle.

Blast Corps' control is generally good, although it can be clumsy when it comes to intricate operations like pushing TNT crates. What really makes Blast Corps a riot is its incredible explosions. Sweet! Although most levels are well designed, you'll occasionally find yourself asking "What the heck am I supposed to do now?". All in all, Blast Corps is a highly original game that will satisfy real men with an appetite for destruction. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Firepower 2000 (Super Nintendo)
Robo Army (Neo Geo)
Battletanx: Global Assault (Nintendo 64)
Spider-Man/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge (Super Nintendo)
Godzilla Destroy All Monsters (GameCube)

Body Harvest
Grade: C-
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Posted: 2022/11/21
Rating: Teen (animated blood and violence)

screenshotI've had plenty of requests for this one, but from the outset I was unimpressed. Technically Body Harvest encapsulates everything wrong with the N64. The landscapes are soft, rounded, and featureless. You can never see very far again because everything is shrouded in heavy fog. Objects are angular, the camera is unwieldy, and graphical glitches abound.

That said, Body Harvest may be the most ambitious game ever made for the system. It's a full-scale War of the Worlds scenario as you save the planet from giant alien bugs and robots. Massive in scale, this game not only spans four locations (Greece, Syberia, Java, US) but four time periods as well.

Your character looks like an orange Master Chief. His objectives are constantly updated, and often involve fetching a key item or performing some task. You can quickly traverse the landscape thanks to cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and even airplanes! It's nice how you can also explore on foot, allowing you to enter houses and caves. This sense of freedom must have been pretty exhilarating in 1998.

Groups of aliens drop from the sky at every turn. Fortunately the best aspect of Body Harvest is blasting the [expletive] out of them. Not only are the explosions tremendous, but the creatures unleash a screeching roar like something out of an old Godzilla movie! Awesome! Your firepower is potent and the collision detection is highly forgiving.

Still, Body Harvest has its problems. The compass in the top corner is useless. When I try to use it, I always end up in the wrong spot. There's often a 3D arrow on top of the screen, but I don't know what it's for or where it's even pointing. You'll need to rely heavily on a map screen, and it's just the worst. It takes a few seconds just to pull it up, and it's so blurry! I get a headache just trying to make it out!

The objectives are often unclear. Sometimes I'll complete a mission and yet it remains highlighted on the map, forcing me to go back to make sure I didn't miss anything! Certain objectives didn't really jive with the map highlights, sending me on wild goose chases.

I'll give Body Harvest credit for sheer ambition. The ability to freely navigate expansive areas was novel for the time, and there's a heck of a lot to do! Who knew saving the world would be so complicated? The graphics are antiquated but the soundtrack is pretty solid. Body Harvest has a lot of fans out there, but I do wonder how many of them have played the game this century. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Save: battery
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Heavy Metal Geomatrix (Dreamcast)
Alien 3 (Super Nintendo)
Cybernator (Super Nintendo)
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (GameCube)
Spy Hunter (Playstation 2)

Bomberman 64
Grade: F
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1997)
Posted: 2018/8/4
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotI've been on board the Bomberman train since Super Bomberman (SNES, 1992) but this 3D version is off the rails. Adventure mode invites you to wander around maze-like levels, blowing up obstacles and slow-moving enemies to collect items. Just imagine Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U, 2014)... if it sucked. Bomberman 64 suffers from blurry graphics, cryptic objectives, awful controls, and an unwieldy camera system.

This game is a constant struggle. I got stuck in the very first stage because the final gem was obscured from all sides. That's bad design by any measure, but in the first stage?! First impressions make it hard to enjoy a game like this, but rest assured you won't! The graphics will make you cringe; those flat "steps" turn my stomach.

The stages feature all the obligatory themes (water, volcano, snow) but tend to be claustrophobic with bombs raining down all over the place. Patrolling enemies like snowmen and fish people are slow and easy to blow up, but touching just about anything in this game will cause you to spontaneously combust. There's a weird pause when you walk through a doorway; is the cartridge loading the next area?

The controls are idiotic, forcing you to press two buttons at once to perform the basic actions. Don't even attempt this game without instructions or a walk-through. Using the four yellow buttons to manipulate the camera is a headache as usual. Even the light, breezy soundtrack failed to sooth my growing rage.

I tried battle mode with my friends which features open 3D battlefields that let you kick bombs diagonally and stun your opponents. While playable, it's plagued by slowdown and most stages are so convoluted you can't tell what's going on. Bomberman 64 is downright detestable. The fact that someone thought it merited a sequel blows my mind. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Bomberman Online (Dreamcast)
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U)
Alice Dreams Tournament (Dreamcast)
Super Bomberman 2 (Super Nintendo)
Super Bomberman (Super Nintendo)

Buck Bumble
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubi Soft (1998)
Posted: 2022/6/18

screenshotThe reggae music that plays over Buck Bumble's title screen is so damn catchy it's practically worth a letter grade. Too bad it doesn't play during the actual game. Buck Bumble is a third-person shooter that comes across as a kid version of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (LucasArts, 1998). It's non-violent because you're shooting insects. Then again, if you happen to be a bug this game is violent as [expletive].

Buck Bumble's high score board would seem to indicate an arcade experience, but it's not that kind of game. No, this is one of those mission-oriented games with long, multi-part objectives that are nearly as hazy as the scenery. You'll fly around enclosed backyard areas performing "missions" like exterminating weevils or destroying satellite uplinks. Apparently this game takes place during an advanced stage of evolution where bugs have become fully militarized. A quick check of the instructions confirmed it does in fact take place in 2010.

The controls could be better. Using the trigger allows you to shoot rapidly but there's no auto-fire. You need to line up perfectly to shoot down wasps and beetles, but it's hard to hover because you slowly drift downward. You'll need to get dangerously close to most targets just to get in firing range. What's truly annoying are the crawling bugs you need to shoot in the head, but they immediately turn around whenever you approach. There's a button that makes you fly in an evasive loop, but a "turn around" button would have been more useful.

The graphics are nothing to write home about. Despite the fact that the outdoor environments are heavily constrained by walls, you can't see one side from the other because everything is shrouded in fog. The in-game music is kind of rinky dink, but the explosions and sounds of kamikaze bees are crisp and often alarming.

Buck Bumble is a pretty obscure game and I'm guessing that's because nobody bought it. Why would they? Well, the exploration element is mildly fun, as is systematically wiping out pests. Collectors may take interest, but they're likely to find this one looks better on their shelf than on their TV. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

Save: controller pak
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (GameCube)
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (Nintendo 64)
Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (GameCube)
Star Wars Arcade (Sega 32X)
Rogue Trip (Playstation)


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