The backgrounds employ striking colors and vivid silhouettes to dramatic effect. Scenes of a deserted playground or grain silo against the waning sunset are truly haunting yet beautiful at the same time. Fun minor details bear out the 1985 timeframe, including an "NES Club" poster in the school and a Suncoast Video-style "VHS store" in the mall - complete with purple neon lights.
Haunted Halloween's gameplay is a satisfying mix of punching and platform jumping. It's satisfying how zombies crumble to dust after you beat them down, but those diving crows are a pain. Why doesn't my uppercut work on them? Some of the super-narrow platforms would be ridiculously hard to traverse if not for the excellent controls.
Instead of a life bar, taking hits gradually transforms you into a zombie, adding a layer of tension. Seek out candy corn to reconstitute your health. The minor-key "chip-tune" music is eerie but a little shrill for my tastes. The first-rate packaging offers a glossy box, colorful manual, and "zombie green" cartridge. Overall I am thrilled with this. Classic gamers have a new reason to celebrate Halloween this year - like it's 1985! © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Another new feature is the ability to toggle between a guy and girl character using groundbreaking new Tag Team Technology (TM). This gives you a new lease on life when one of your characters is starting to look a little green (if you know what I mean). Prior to each stage you can select from a list of special moves including a dodge, charge attack, and defensive shockwave. I always go with the double-jump first since it gives me a fighting chance against those pesky stalactites in the cave. Stages like the mineshaft have multiple platforms but it took me forever to figure out how to drop downwards. It turns out you need to double-tap down. It makes sense, but I totally missed it in the manual because it was listed as "platform hop".
Anyway, like the first game the scenic backdrops make excellent use of vivid silhouettes to create scenes you wouldn't expect to see on the NES. I also found the frenetic music to be an improvement over the first game. Imaginative new locations include a river, train, and boiler room. There's also a handy password feature. Haunted Halloween '86 lacks that small-town 80's vibe that made the original such a charm, but considering all the new features I'd have to say that this game is one year better. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Unlike most shooters your default weapon is pretty effective, allowing you to shoot rapid-fire in any direction with good range. It's tricky to hit the diagonals at times, so play it safe and spray bullets like a madman! Power-ups let you temporarily unleash flames or a 3-way shot. A hefty supply of grenades is also available, but they deal minimal collateral damage. It's pretty easy to mow down oncoming enemy soldiers, especially since they pause before taking aim. Sometimes this game feels like an old Arnold Schwarzenegger flick as one goon after the next steps into your line of fire.
The ones in bright green outfits look like a bunch of Riddlers, but you'll want to pay closer attention to the red ones which drop keys to open lockers. Some lockers contain power-ups, but others contain parts of Heavy Barrel itself. As you construct this weapon, you'll see pieces fall into a gun-shaped template at the bottom of the screen. The first few pieces are pretty big, but the next few are so tiny you start to wonder if you'll ever get the frickin' thing. But once you hear that horrible voice synthesis, you know you're strapped with one big bad killing machine.
It lets you spray waves of destruction for 99 blissful seconds. The gun actually looks more like an oversized rolling pin, but Heavy Rolling Pin would have sucked as a title. Heavy Barrel's graphics are average at best, and sometimes it's hard to tell where the floors end and the walls begin. The music however features multi-part electronic melodies that get your adrenaline pumping. It sounds like every NES tune I've ever heard, and it's great. Heavy Barrel isn't very original, but takes a winning formula and adds a cool twist. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
My character doesn't look very extreme. Why is he wearing a pink jacket? You view the action from a side angle, but while traveling downhill the scrolling abruptly switches between diagonal and horizontal. It's a jarring effect that totally throws off your steering as you try to skillfully navigate around trees and over bridges.
The collision detection is so unforgiving that just passing close to a tree will cause you to wipe out. Adding insult to injury, the game then forces you to restart the entire stage!
The controls are garbage. Pressing right puts you into a "tuck" position, but wait, doesn't the A button do that? No, that's a "duck" position. They are different. And oh yeah - be sure not to press the jump button when trying to jump off a ramp, or you'll crash.
Simply completing the beginner stage requires a flawless run. If you don't go full speed the whole time you'll be called for a penalty in the middle of the course as the clock runs out, making you wonder what the hell is going on. Should you complete an entire trail your "reward" is a semi-digitized face of a girl with the word "good" underneath. Weird!
The half-pipe stage is a shameful place where terrible graphics collide with incomprehensive controls. The survival stages are more interesting because you need to avoid obstacles like a semi-truck. But just like everything else, the key is not so much skill as memorization. In the end Heavy Shreddin' is a game that delivers bright winter scenery, good variety, and absolutely horrendous gameplay. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.
Hogan's Alley is tricky because one of the innocents is an unshaven old guy that could easily be mistaken for a criminal. I sometimes take a shot at him by accident, and feel relieved if I miss. The lady in the pink dress holding a cat is easy to spot. The policeman is dressed in dark clothes but has a friendly smile.
Game B is a bit more interesting as a camera pans across buildings and storefronts with characters appearing in various windows. Since the characters are spread out, the gun accuracy is terrific. Still, I find this a little slow and methodical.
Game C ("trick shot") is completely different. Tin cans tumble through the air from the right, and by shooting below them you propel them upward onto shelves lining the far left. The lower shelves are worth a lot more points. Adding extra challenge is how the cans bounce off the edges of each shelf.
If you enjoyed the wholesome fun of Duck Hunt, give Hogan's Alley a shot. It may not be quite as memorable but its simple brand of target-shooting has lasting appeal. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.
Like the movie, the object is to keep two bandits at bay by planting household items as traps. To win the game you'll need to avoid these guys for 20 minutes (until police arrive). I could only last for a few minutes but still enjoyed playing for high score. As you scamper around the house you'll pick up well-defined "trap" boxes labeled with icons that symbolize spiders, Christmas bulbs, toy cars, tacks, and other hazards.
The instruction manual implies there's some strategy involved in planting traps, but that wasn't my experience. You can lay them anywhere around the house, and when bad guys run into them they'll pass out for a few seconds. You'll want to keep one (or two) traps on hand for when the crooks are hot on your tail. And that happens a lot because these guys run about twice as fast as you do!
The controls seem reasonable until you need to navigate stairs, which can be a nightmare. It seems like most of my "deaths" were the result of getting stuck on the edge of those God-forsaken stairs. The pause (and game over) screens show a nice map of the house, indicating where you caught the bad guys. Like the film, Home Alone provides some light family fun. It's a little shallow but I enjoyed the simple premise and holiday theme. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Kevin is pursued by bellhops, maids, store merchants, and jumping old ladies with umbrellas. As if they weren't annoying enough, the programmers incorporated suitcases, mops, and vacuums that move around on their own accord as if they were possessed by demons. The Plaza Hotel looks attractive enough with its elegant chandeliers, marble floors, and posh furniture. Unfortunately the remaining stages didn't get nearly as much attention and look pretty shoddy.
In addition to jumping, Kevin can perform a knee slide "attack". He'll collect plenty of items like cookies and necklaces but it's often unclear how these are supposed to be used. And you won't get far unless you take some mandatory hits to obtain the toy gun at the start of each stage. Home Alone 2 is a really sloppy game. You need to ride elevators in the hotel stage, but it's not clear how to call for them.
Worse yet, the elevator "chimes" blend in with the awful, unabating music. The platform action in later levels is marred by collision detection issues. And even if you stock up on weapons, they may have no effect on the end-of-stage bosses. There's not even a score. Much like the movie, Home Alone 2 on the NES feels like a rushed, by-the-numbers money-grab. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Red and white birds attempt to thwart your efforts, but these are slow and easy to knock down with your hammer. Boy, it sure is frustrating when they fill in the holes I've worked so hard to make! Ice Climber's screen scrolls vertically as you make your way up, and reaching the top initiates a short bonus stage.
Ice Climber's bright graphics are cute and arcade-like, but the droning background noise is monotonous. Even more annoying are the unforgiving controls. Jumping straight up is no problem, but jumping sideways enough to catch the next ledge is hard unless you have some momentum. Maybe that's just how the controls were designed, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Ice Climber does offer two-player simultaneous play, but I didn't find it to be any better than the single player mode. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The bright, attractive ice rink scrolls from side to side. Passing and shooting the puck is fairly easy, but it's hard to tell what players you control on the defense, since he only flashes faintly. Controlling your goalie is surprisingly easy, even in the midst of the frantic action.
Ice Hockey's gameplay is wide-open and fast-paced, and the computer opponent is tough. The game is also famous for its catchy background music and zambonis that polish the ice during intermissions. It may take a back seat to Blades of Steel, but Ice Hockey is still a winner. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
In terms of difficulty, Ikari Warriors is no cakewalk, and I'd advise you to keep moving forward. Enhancing the action are lush jungle scenery and a superb musical score that's sure to bring back memories for many long-time gamers.
The one poor aspect of the game lies in its embarrassing "death" animations, which are hands-down the worst ever seen in a video game! When shot, the pudgy enemy soldiers appear to float away while shaking their extremities as if they're dancing! My friend Scott best described them as "Pillsbury dough boys on crack". Besides that aberration, Ikari Warriors is a fine shooter that spawned two sequels. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
But while their increased size makes them look more intimidating, it also makes them bigger targets. And if you thought the first game was hard, this one is nearly impossible! And get this - you only get one life! Hey, at least it's realistic. Don't worry - there's a simple button sequence that allows you to continue indefinitely: A, B, B, A.
Ikari Warriors II is much deeper than its predecessor. You can purchase items at shops and you'll occasionally employ strategies like blasting through a rock wall. There are even a few bonus levels that resemble skeet-shooting. The graphics are more detailed with larger sprites, but there's ample break-up and it's hard to figure out what some of the "aliens" are supposed to be.
The music is first-rate, but that voice synthesis is incomprehensible! Who can understand them with all of that static? And another thing - why is it necessary to sit through black screens between stages? Is the game loading? Ikari Warriors II is an ambitious title, but it can't quite match the first game in terms of fun. Note: For a good laugh, check out the screens that appear after the game ends. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Enemies in later stages differ from the earlier ones only in that they require more punches to defeat. Occasionally several will leap out in unison in what appears to be a choreographed dance number! Cheesy! I was hoping my soldier would acquire a permanent weapon somewhere along the line, but it never happened.
The graphics are noticeably cleaner than previous Ikari games, with more lifelike characters that appear less pudgy. The awesome first stage looks spectacular with its green jungle scenery and sparkling blue water, but after that you have to forge through endless warehouse stages! What's the deal with that? Ikari 3's soundtrack is also lackluster. Unlimited continues are provided, perhaps in response to the overwhelming difficulty of the previous games. I think it's safe to say that Ikari Warriors 3 is my least favorite chapter of the trilogy. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The pacing is painfully slow to begin. Only one or two enemies appear at a time and there's a lot of waiting for the next one. Holding the button will fire continuously, but you'll want a rapid-fire controller to give you that extra *umph*. The second button lets you toggle between four speeds.
Image Fight gains traction when the power-up icons start appearing more frequently. Shooting rotating green pods cracks them open, revealing a new weapon or a pod that fires alongside your ship. There are two types of pods: blue that fire forward only, and red that can be directed to fire in any direction.
There are a slew of weapons to discover and experimentation is part of the fun. One weapon fires diagonally while another generates waves to both sides. One projects a protective shield while another emits "bubbles" in a wavy path. Your firepower is extremely potent once you're loaded up. Enemies tend to use a lot of guided missiles however so you can never really get comfortable. Once you take a hit, all your fancy weapons are gone!
I enjoyed the oceanic landscape of the first stage, which appears littered with the remains of crashed Star Destroyers. As you progress the perilous stages force you into narrow space station corridors with ample crossfire. The bosses are surprisingly easy by comparison. Your score and lives are only visible when you pause for some reason. It's kind of a quirky game but once Image Fight sucks you in with its tractor beam, the odds of escape are slim. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
The Temple of Doom arcade game was a fun platform fighter with separate beat-em-up and stages. This home version tries to meld the two elements, and the results are disastrous. The tilted overhead view tends to defy logic. You can't really jump sideways unless there happens to be a hook nearby, in which case you'll latch onto it with your whip and swing across. Most of the time pressing jump inexplicably drops you downward. If there's a platform below it will catch you, but if there's a river of lava between you and it, you're toast.
The fighting aspect of the game feels like a complete afterthought. Indy's whip looks like a damn yo-yo! Thugees mindlessly fall from platform to platform, often hurling themselves into the lava. How are you supposed to use all these guns and knives you collect? Would you believe you need to hold select while moving the directional pad?
Temple of Doom's butt-ugly graphics feature repulsive color schemes and pitiful animation. Your primarily objective is to free enslaved kids, but your escape route is usually a mystery. Sometimes you'll appear to have stumbled across the exit, only to discover you've returned to the previous stage!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is hard to wrap your head around and the controls are so slippery that climbing a frickin' ladder can be a challenge. This cartridge is so frustrating it makes you want to rip out its circuit board, tie it to a metal rack, and lower it into a pit of lava while laughing maniacally. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
Indy trades punches with Nazis in a German castle, a freighter at sea, and on a moving tank in the desert. Enemy soldiers are hard to fight because they hop around like fleas and constantly regenerate. Indy's movements are so erratic you'll struggle to wiggle up a damn ladder! His punch and kick moves make him look like he's doing a Michael Jackson imitation. The only thing missing is a red jacket!
The German castle stage is a never-ending maze of hallways and doors that all look the same. The catacomb stage is basically just one of those "slide the square" puzzles that I hate. Last Crusade's highlight is the motorcycle chase. As you zoom up a vertically-scrolling road, you'll need to carefully adjust your speed to avoid hazards and leap over chasms. Best of all, you can whip soldiers that pull up alongside you.
The final stage is pretty good too, taking you through the three challenges of the grail. Intermissions are displayed between stages with nice illustrations and text dialogue from the movie. In terms of audio, the suspenseful castle music is fine but the Indiana Jones theme sounds off-key. Last Crusade is hard to recommend, but at least it makes an effort. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
This is the most hideous thing I've ever seen on an NES. What's the deal with the ugly character outlines? The limited palette makes it hard to tell what's water, since it's just as brown as everything else. I guess you could say the main difference is that it kills you!
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie provided plenty of stage possibilities, but this game even makes jumping the cars on a circus train seem dull! The first stage, entitled "Exploring the caves", contains all kinds of cheap hits including stalactites that fall but only when you step under them. It's hard to grab climbing ropes and fights amount to trading punches until somebody falls over. The collision detection (or lack of) is a joke.
Adding insult to injury, your torch periodically goes out making it even harder to see. And don't be surprised if you suddenly drop dead because a timer you weren't even aware of happened to run out. Last Crusade is a complete embarrassment, especially considering it was released in 1993 - and by LucasArts no less! © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.
Navigating each stage is tricky, as your path is strewn with ruins, pits, and acid pools. In addition to rapid-fire shooting, you can somersault out of harm's way, and unleash a barrage of bombs while in mid air. Power-ups are all over the place, so apply them liberally. Aliens assume a wealth of interesting forms so the game never feels repetitive or monotonous. The graphics are crisp and the frame-rate holds up very well. The electronic musical score is equally outstanding, with its upbeat rhythm and catchy melody.
Isolated Warrior features seven lengthy stages, and provides both passwords and continues. For most stages, a fully powered-up "wide-angle" weapon will practically obliterate everything in sight, and I have to admit it feels a bit cheap as you wipe the screen with that thing. For boss encounters, you'll want to switch to the more-concentrated "straight fire" weapon. Isolated Warrior is one of those tight NES shooters that draws you back again and again. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum