Each of the nine courses sports a different configuration, and there's plenty of eye candy among the crowds in the stands, trucks, trees, and buildings. A tall scoreboard in the center clearly shows the lap count of each racer, and a tiny man waves the white and checkered flags. There are even men that hold up "PIT" signs when it's time for maintenance. Each race consists of five cars, and if you have a multi-tap, you can connect four controllers and challenge a group of friends! Can you guess who's driving that yellow car that always seems to win? Yeah - that's Danny Sullivan!
The controls are simple as can be, but there's plenty of strategy involved with timing your turbo boosts and using the pit stops in the most efficient manner. The tracks tend to be narrow, so there's a lot of bumping going on as you jockey for position. In the pit area, tiny crew members leap out to work on your car, which looks funny but impressive at the same time. This is one of the few games where pit stops really do make a difference! Between races you can easily and quickly use winnings to upgrade your vehicle. Expertly designed and programmed with care, Indy Heat sets the high water mark for old-school racing fun. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Your first order of business is to rid the streets of pesky silver robots that run, jump, and hover. The fighting action leaves a lot to be desired and that's a serious liability for a fighting game. It's difficult to line up with the robots and when you're right on top of one your attacks don't even register. The superheroes are poorly balanced. Buzzsaw Girl's projectiles are super effective, but trying to "hammer down" a flying robot with Jet Headstrong is frustrating as hell. I couldn't get the special moves to work, and the counterintuitive map will have you moving in circles.
The best aspect of the game by far is the scenery. The storefronts are meticulously detailed including a drug store, bank, library, nightclub, and auto repair shop. You can even enter most of the buildings! If you manage to clear the streets the remaining stages take place in a mall, sewers, and factory. It's a shame there's no score, continues, or password. I love the concept behind Defenders of Dynatron City and its eye candy is off the charts. But man, its fighting action leaves a lot to be desired. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
One thing I hate about Demon Sword is your ninja's outfit. He appears to be wearing a red dress with a slit up the side, and that's not a good look for him! You can throw stars in any direction and slash with a sword that's remarkably effective considering how tiny it is. Careful - you could poke somebody's eye out with that thing! Eventually you'll acquire fragments which elongate your sword, and this gives the game a sense of progression.
Your ninja can jump a country mile, and while gliding through the air is fun, it's possible to land in spikes, fire, or a bottomless pit. That's not cool. I really like the skeletal enemies you face - especially the dogs. Foes struck by your stars will get back up after a few seconds, and I'm not crazy about that. The controls are better than those in Kage, and the scenery is far more detailed. Unfortunately, it's also very repetitive, and you'll often have the uneasy feeling that you're moving in circles.
Each level features several locked doors, some of which hold treasure or a sub-boss. When you obtain magic (like the ability to hurl fireballs) you'll want to save it for the end-of-level boss, because killing a boss with normal weapons takes too long. Speaking of bosses, the second one is a dead-ringer for George Washington, and I'm pretty sure the third boss is the Pope.
Demon Sword doesn't display your score at the conclusion of the game, which is annoying. The in-game music grows on you, but that deplorable intro tune is the video game equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. All in all, Demon Sword isn't so bad. It definitely expands upon the Kage formula, but I wouldn't say it necessarily improves upon it. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The actual battles play out automatically on a split-screen, with random explosions taking out units on each side. The attacker always goes first, and that makes a big difference because you can wipe out half of your adversary before they can even return fire. The interface for managing your units is surprisingly simple and the action moves along at a brisk pace. The CPU opponent is smart and quick at making decisions. Things become more intense as your units dwindle and the turns become shorter.
It's interesting how one critical battle can turn the tide. Pressing the start button brings up a map, and select shows the statistics of what's left on the battlefield. That's necessary because it's hard to remember if that generic tank icon represents one lone tank or a whole squad. Keep an eye out for strategic locations you can use to resupply or dig-in. A triumphant military march plays in the background, and it fits the game perfectly. Whether played versus a friend or the CPU you're bound to be enthralled by Desert Commander. It's easy to get into but hard to quit. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Armed with lasers and completely useless torpedoes, you encounter enemies that resemble imperial transports from Star Wars, and these typically appear one at a time. Earthstar's sloppy animation prevents you from ever feeling in control. Enemies tend to jump across the screen schizophrenically, forcing you to shoot fast and hope for the best before they zoom off.
At that point you'll have to slowly turn your ship 180 degrees to get them back in your sights. It takes several hits to destroy anything, making the battles feel long and arduous. The screen contains a slew of gauges on the lower half, but as it turns out, it's mostly just for show. Perhaps a more appropriate name for this lame shooter would have been Destination Bargain Bin. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Wandering freely around a flat island, the idea is to drill into the ground, creating fissures that cause large chunks of the island to break away into the sea, sending your foes to Davy Jones's Locker. It sounds like a blast, but the controls are surprisingly counter-intuitive. You can only drill in certain spots, and it's not readily apparent which half of the island is going to break off. More often than not, it's the side you're standing on! You can still pump enemies full of air, but blowing them up won't earn you any high scores.
As the stages progress and the islands begin to assume odd shapes, Dig Dug II becomes more of a puzzle game than an arcade title. I can certainly appreciate how its sharp graphics and excellent music stay true to the original, but frankly, this game is not very fun. Much of the blame lies with the awful controls. My friend Steve was so unimpressed that he asked me if this was some sort of "bootleg" game! Without an ounce of the magic of the original, Dig Dug 2 has largely faded into obscurity. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The game is a mildly-fun combination of platforming and puzzle-solving. The platform action is aggravating, as Dizzy has the annoying habit of going into an uncontrollable roll after jumping. When you see a row boat floating your way your first inclination is to jump on it, yet you end up rolling off into the water. Naturally, water is fatal to the touch.
I have to admit some of the caves and castles are pretty neat to explore. It's also satisfying when you solve a puzzle and see those flashing point values on the screen. Dizzy can carry up to three items at a time, and when used in the right way these tend to open up new areas. A pickaxe breaks a boulder blocking a cave and a coin grants you a ferry ride, for example. You exchange items with characters just loitering around and the dialog is mercifully brief.
Unfortunately the mechanics for using items is a little obtuse. It would never occur to me that dropping a rope and logs next to each other would result in a bridge appearing. Just don't drop them on top of each other, because that doesn't do anything. The three item restriction is a real drag, forcing you to constantly backtrack to retrieve something you were forced to drop much earlier in the game.
Throughout the entire game you're subjected to high-pitched, whining music that can't be shut off. I like the puzzle element of Dizzy the Adventurer, but the game demands a lot of patience and a pair of earplugs. Note: This game only runs via the Aladdin Deck Enhancer. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Grabbing the hammer lets you smash barrels and fireballs, but don't get cocky because it will not make you invincible. Lucrative bonus points are earned by grabbing out-of-the-way items like umbrellas and pocketbooks. This edition has all the subtle details of the arcade including barrels that bounce and hammers that gleam.
Everyone recognizes the hero as Mario, but many mistake the damsel in distress as Peach or Princess Toadstool. According to the manual, her name is actually Pauline! The game's audio is actually more robust than the arcade, and Mario's shoes are as squeaky as ever. The one thing missing is the fourth "conveyor belt" screen, and frankly I'm surprised it was left out. Donkey Kong on the NES is a title that embodies platform gaming at its purest. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The screens are configured with Donkey Kong hanging from two vines at the top, aggravating bees' nests on either side. The bees swarm down and steal flowers lined across the bottom of the screen. To protect them you move side-to-side while firing bursts of bug spray at the oncoming insects. Shooting Kong pushes him higher up the vines, and the stage ends when you push him to the very top. Not many games advocate spraying pesticides on live animals! Where the [expletive] is PETA when you need them?!
Donkey Kong 3 doesn't feel like a Donkey Kong game at all. Chris speculated that this was originally a dead side project until somebody at Nintendo said, "Hey, if we put a monkey in this we can call it Donkey Kong!" Playing DK3 is about as fun as drinking non-alcoholic beer. Annoying worms block your shots and constantly tapping the fire button is hard on the wrist. More of a curiosity than anything else, Donkey Kong 3 was one ill-advised experiment I'm sure even Nintendo would like to forget. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The vertically hanging vines are easy to move between and fun to scuttle up and down on. Complicating matters are egg-dropping birds and small munching "jaws", but you can dispose of these pests by strategically dropping hanging fruit. Donkey Kong Jr. is far more challenging than the original Donkey Kong, but this version is more forgiving than most.
The four screens include the blue "electric" platform stage, which my friend Chris maintains is just silly and doesn't fit the theme. The chains screen doesn't include the breaking ropes (as seen in the Colecovision version), but you do get a sweet "ending" animation of Donkey Kong falling and being caught by his son. Imaginative and fun, Donkey Kong Jr. is a worthy sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Enemies catch on to your tricks however and will learn to duck under jumps and roundhouse kicks. I like how you can throw objects, smashing barrels over their heads. And when you brandish weapons like nunchucks or baseball bats, you can actually hold onto them for some period of time to inflict major damage. Heck, you can even transport them up ladders. One way to quickly dispatch foes is to knock them off ledges.
There's a few graphic glitches here and there but nothing that detracts from the fun. The only thing missing from Double Dragon is the "double". The two-player mode is turns-only, but it's not so bad considering how much fun the single-player mode is. The game has a cinematic flair, like when the first boss meets his demise by falling off a conveyor belt. The familiar Double Dragon theme is great but some of the later music is a little "out there". I wasn't expecting Double Dragon to age this well, but rest assured it still packs a punch! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Once again the city is being terrorized by aerobic instructors. Some baddies even enter the screen doing cartwheels! When will the cardio carnage end?! And what's with the boss that disappears and reappears in the same spot? Worst. Superpower. Ever. Unlike the first game special moves like throws and spin kicks are available up front so you can get right down to business. I love those one-two combos - especially when you finish with a mighty uppercut! What I dislike is how the weapons suddenly disappear from your hands after just a short period of time. Double Dragon II has good variety including climbing buildings to get a nice view of the skyline. Just make sure you don't fall off a ledge!
According to a recent CDC study falling off ledges is the number one cause of death for ninjas who fight in public! One dramatic stage features a fight aboard a helicopter, and when the boss gets sucked out of the door it feels like a scene from an action movie. Later stages include an underwater lab with environmental hazards like spikes on ceilings, so watch your head. The two-player action is enjoyable despite some noticeable slowdown and flicker. There are three skill levels to choose from. Double Dragon II is just as solid as the first game, but the two-player action puts it over the top. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Bad guys also tend to sprint onto the screen and jump-kick you before you can react. Get stuck between two thugs and it's game over. On top of everything, the bad guys now work together to orchestrate team attacks! I might think that was cool if I wasn't getting my ass kicked so badly. I did notice I could hit select and choose a nunchuck weapon via a confusing interface. This works great but only lasts a short period of time. Some of the bad guys look a little too much like the good guys, which confuses the two-player action.
The scenery is fairly uninspired, and the fact that there's no score makes it even less satisfying when "game over" appears. I've never felt less guilty over using a Game Genie, and even with that it's a struggle. You get multiple characters to toggle between after mission two, but how many people will make it that far? Double Dragon III was a potentially good game ruined by an unreasonable difficulty. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
I also love the well-designed foul-shooting system, consisting of a simple ring moving up and down over the hoop. It requires good timing, and is far superior to the overcomplicated schemes employed by modern basketball games. The court itself looks terrific, but it can be hard to determine which player you're controlling. Defense is especially tough because there's no audible cue when a steal occurs. Once the player with the ball blows by the defender, he's home free, violating the unwritten rule stating "the defender should always be slightly faster than the man with the ball".
Double Dribble's audio is rough, mainly limited to the basketball pounding against the hard wooden floor. The teams are uneven, providing a convenient excuse when you're getting your ass handed to you (not that this ever happened to me). As you might expect from Konami, there's a terrific halftime show complete with cheerleaders and mascots. Although somewhat uneven, Double Dribble still provides for a very fun and easy-to-play game of hoops. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Dr. Mario isn't much to look at, with featureless backgrounds and a lot of small moving pieces. The single player mode is enthralling however, and the head-to-head mode lets each player set his own difficulty level. The audio isn't anything to write home about, with only two corny melodies available that are bound to get your nerves after a few refrains.
Dr. Mario must have been a hit on the NES because it was later re-released for the SNES and N64. Despite being one of the few video games my wife enjoys playing, she was rather critical of this NES version. Compared to the N64 edition, the visuals look indistinct and even I have to admit the difference is pretty dramatic. There are better versions out there, but Dr. Mario is inherently fun on any platform. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Much like Xevious, you can shoot missiles at foes in the air and bomb those on the ground. Unlike the arcade version of Dragon Spirit however, you can't shoot and bomb at the same time. I think it's better this way, since it adds a bit more strategy. Your missiles and bombs are unleashed in a rapid-fire manner, which is great for spraying pterodactyls or carpet-bombing deadly plants on the ground. There are ample power-ups which tend to drift toward you, including some that let you grow a second or third head to double or triple your firepower.
Dragon Spirit's graphics are colorful and vibrant, but while some creatures look great, many appear to be shapeless blobs. You're bound to confuse some of them with the pixelated background scenery. While I enjoy Dragon Spirit's rapid-fire shooting, I found this version to be a bit easy. Each of your three dragons can withstand a number of hits before dying, and your enemies don't stand much of a chance against your considerable firepower. Also, there's never more than a few enemies on the screen at a time. If you're looking for a standard shooter, Dragon Spirit will do the trick, but it probably won't set your world on fire. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
You can select between three dragons (red, blue, gold) and it really does make a difference. Each has different armor ratings along with unique primary and secondary weapons. The landscape beneath you varies in elevation, and advanced stages are more like mazes. The control pad lets you toggle between high and low planes, but the abrupt scaling looks bad. Judging the geography is difficult, and often you won't know you're hitting ground until you get "knocked up" to the higher plane. The cliffs look okay but the water is just a bunch of squiggly lines.
The dragons flap their wings with fluid motion, but when defeated they spin around like a top, and that looks cheesy. Enemies drop icons that let you replenish your strength, but I really wish the game restored your health between stages. You'll need full health facing a boss, especially one like the giant Kraken that requires about 25 hits to defeat! There's no score but there is a password feature. Dragon Strike has originality going for it, but it didn't exactly set my world on fire. I like the concept but it's just too awkward to play. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The game sports a top-down view for exploration, and there's no world map, so get used to walking around a bit. You must bring up a menu for common actions like talk, search, and "stairs", and this naturally slows things down. The sprites are colorful and imaginative as you stroll through towns, desert, ruins, swamps, and of course dungeons. The game's simple music is enjoyable if not repetitive, and it changes in different locations. The encounters are random, and the combat is turned-based and first-person in nature. Boy howdy is there a lot of it.
I remember playing this as a child, but now I wonder how I had the patience to suffer through all the grinding (that's killing monsters to level up, for you non-RPG fans). At least the illustrations of the monsters are pleasant, thanks to the handiwork of Akira Toriyama (known also for Dragon Ball and Chrono Trigger). Your only roadblock to exploring the world as you please is the increasingly difficult monsters you face as you stray far from home. But get this: there are no boss fights! As you level-up your character receives a small arsenal of spells such as sleep, heal, and "hurt".
You can periodically upgrade your sword, armor, and shield. I find it very convenient how your new piece is automatically equipped and the old one is automatically sold. You can buy items but sadly lacking is one that restores magic points. If you die (and you will), you awaken before the king with half the gold you've acquired (mugged by monsters, no doubt). This instills in the player a fear of death, which some games lack entirely. One slightly aggravating limitation is how you can only save your progress in a single location - by speaking to the king.
The plot itself is simple, and there are really no story points aside from "rescue the princess" and then "defeat the big bad guy". There are benefits of a simple story with few quests however, like not having to remember what you were doing after you walked away from the game for too long. To sum up, Dragon Warrior was challenging but becomes repetitive as the game draws on, and that save feature is a hassle. It's fun though, and absolutely a trailblazer in the world of console RPGs. As a child, this was the game that turned me on to the genre, and sent me out into the back yard to fight imaginary monsters for gold and experience. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
It's a shame that the game is practically unplayable. Like the arcade version, cheap hits abound and only through tedious trial and error will you forge ahead. Actually, it's worse than the arcade because you have a lot more options available at any given time. It doesn't help that Dirk is so freakin' unresponsive - it takes a full second for him to duck after you press the directional pad down.
The stage objectives are completely counter-intuitive, and luck plays a critical role. The very first screen involves crossing a bridge to enter the castle, and I was so baffled that I had to resort to a walk-thru just to survive it. Dirk is so fragile that even jumping into a wall causes him to shatter into a pile of bones! Dragon's Lair for the NES is a complete debacle, and I can't imagine anyone deriving any degree of enjoyment from this. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The sparse scenery consists of a tree and bush, and it never changes. Although the instructions claim the NES light gun has a range of up to six feet from the TV, the optimal distance seems more like three or four feet. To be honest, the difficulty of the game is largely a function of how close you're sitting to the screen.
The first variation (one duck at a time) bored me to tears, but the second variation is better, tossing out two ducks at a time. A two-player option lets the second player control the ducks, but there's really no point to that. The best variation is the clay shooting, where you take aim at pairs of small gray disks launched into the sky. Duck Hunt hasn't aged particularly well, but it's just the ticket if you're looking for some simple shooting action, or maybe just a stroll down memory lane. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics are remarkably sharp and vibrant, and festive harmonized music perfectly sets the mood. Adversaries include bats, apes, bees, ghosts, aliens, snow bunnies, and even mummified ducks! Uncle Scrooge's main attack is hopping around on his cane like a pogo stick, bouncing creatures right off the screen. You can hop around continuously, but this really makes you vulnerable to flying enemies. You will also discover that some enemies (like the flowers) are impervious to attack. Your pogo stick also allows you to reach high ledges and elevated treasure chests.
Collecting diamonds increases your point total, and ice cream cones replenish your health. Both of these items have exactly the same shape, which is confusing. The branching stages feature alternate routes and even some Super Mario World-style hidden areas. As in Quackshot (Genesis, 1991) you must find a key item in one stage to make progress in another. Vines and chains take you underground or up into the sky, but you can't jump from these, just awkwardly fall from them. In general the game is surprisingly tough and unforgiving. Duck Tales won't cut you much slack, but it will ultimately win you over with its good humor and Disney charm. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
You'll collect gems, diamonds, hearts, and coins, but you need to be the correct color to snatch them up. You change colors by touching "attitude converters" which look like colored mugs. If you clear a screen before time runs out, you receive a password and advance to the next screen. Since the basic concept is so weak, the developers decided to complicate matters by incorporating invisible walls (ugh!) and special icons that wreak havoc on the controls (gah!).
It's impossible to cross "water blocks" without first touching a boat icon. Who in their right mind could have possibly thought this was a good idea? The game quickly progresses from a mindless romp to a full-blown headache, and the "hip attitude" is unconvincing to say the least. Dudes with Attitude has an option to create your own levels, but even if I were stranded on a desert island with this game I could find something better to do with my time. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum