Publisher: Taito (1989)
Here's something you don't see everyday: a light gun game that's best played without
a light gun! Strange but true, Operation Wolf is far more enjoyable when you mow down bad guys by moving a cursor around the screen. Each of the game's six stages is a war-torn battle zone, with locations including a jungle, command center, airport, and prison camp. One button is used to shoot, and the other throws grenades that inflict heavy damage. You'll have to constantly replenish you ammunition by shooting icons that appear in place of fallen soldiers. At any given moment there are plenty of vehicles and soldiers running across the screen to fire at. The action is frantic, but take care not to shoot the occasional prisoner or medic squad. So what's wrong with using the Zapper light gun? Well, besides the constant clicking noise, the gun causes too much flashing on the screen. Stick with a normal controller however and you'll definitely have a good time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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Publisher: SNK (1989)
P.O.W. was one of many Rambo-inspired games to appear on the NES in the late 1980's. You play a soldier escaping from a jungle camp rendered with lush scenery and an attention to detail. The wooden floors have texture and moss can be seen growing around cell doors. There's one point in the first stage where you climb a tower and are treated to a breathtaking view over the canopy of trees. If the visuals don't get you pumped, P.O.W.'s spirited musical score should do the trick. The fighting action feels pretty standard as you punch, back-punch, and kick your way through waves of soldiers that appear two or three at a time. The key to beating these guys is keeping them separated. If you get sandwiched you're going to take some hits. Keep kicking and punching until enemies fly off the screen. I found he jump-kick to be hard to perform and not very effective. One unique feature is how you can enter huts, trucks, and caves in the background. If you clear them out you're awarded a prize like brass knuckles or a bullet-proof vest. Unfortunately when you lose a life you also lose any items acquired. Occasionally you'll face a soldier with a machine gun, and it's satisfying to take it from him and shoot the guy with his own gun! Some soldiers have grenades but they are so dumb they tend to throw them in the wrong direction. I noticed some graphical breakup in P.O.W. (especially during boss encounters) but it doesn't affect the gameplay. A bigger issue is that enemies and tactics don't change appreciably over the course of the game. That said, I found myself returning to P.O.W. quite often, always looking to top my best score. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 27,500
Publisher: Tengen (1984)
Pac-Man was past his prime when he arrived on the NES yet he still managed to represent
. This is a pretty faithful rendition. You get the title screen introducing each ghost, intermissions between levels, and a maze that looks exactly like the arcade. I did notice that Pac-Man and the ghosts are slightly oversized, just barely fitting within the lane boundaries of the maze. The sound effects are fair but lack that resonating quality you're used to hearing when you chomp a power pill. Pac-Man is timeless fun but in this case I feel like the controls could be better. As much as I love the NES control pad it totally sucks with this game! I found myself constantly missing turns and colliding with ghosts head-on. Using a quality joystick like the NES Advantage helps a little, but it still feels a little off during advanced levels when the action gets hectic. If you're looking for Pac-Man, you'll find it here, but this is not the best
Pac-Man. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 22,880
1 or 2 player
Publisher: Tengen (1990)
Pac-Mania feels like a logical 3D extension of the original Pac-Man formula. No longer limited to two dimensions, Pac-Man appears round as he moves around a scrolling 3D maze with a slightly diagonal overhead view. This not only gives the visuals more pizzazz, but also incorporates the concept jumping
. That's right - when surrounded by ghosts you can just hop over one (or more) to escape. Just keep in mind that in advanced stages the ghosts can jump too! Each stage offers a completely different layout, although several tend to be influenced by the classic 2D games. The white one is my favorite; it looks like a winter wonderland! Since the mazes are more sprawling the game feels slower because you have a lot of ground to cover. Alerts are displayed when a fruit or power-up is available, since the center of the maze may not be in view at the time. There are up to nine ghosts (!) in each stage, but they seem less tenacious than the four in the original Pac-Man. You can rack up some insane multiplier bonuses by chomping them all up. When the eyes of an eaten ghost travel the same path as Pac-Man, it looks like he's wearing glasses! In addition to bonus fruit there are power-up pills. Most of these have subtle effects, save for the speed demon icon that lets you move twice as fast. Each game begins with the option of skipping to an advanced level a la Millipede
(Atari 2600, 1984). The fact that you earn a big fat bonus up front for doing this (up to 150K) seems a little unfair. The game has happy-go-lucky music in the tradition of the series but the intermissions are not particularly memorable. That's the problem with the game in general. Despite all the extra bells and whistles I'd be just as happy to play the original Pac-Man instead. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 175,770
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tengen (1988)
I really miss the innocent days of old when every video game didn't involve saving the entire universe. In Paperboy you're just trying to deliver some damn newspapers for Pete's sake! The screen scrolls diagonally as you ride your bike through attractive suburban neighborhoods with inviting scenery. If that doesn't put you in the mind of a sparkling summer morning, the happy-go-lucky music should do the trick. Your goal is to toss a paper on the doorstep of each subscribing house, or toss papers directly into their mailboxes for bigger points. The houses are conveniently color-coded with subscribers in light-colored homes and non-subscribers in ominous red houses. What makes the game extra fun is how you earn points by breaking windows, hitting gravestones, knocking over trash cans, and just creating chaos in general. Your paper supply is limited but you'll find extra bundles at random. Paperboy is challenging because you're confined to the lower right corner of the screen with little room to maneuver and a small turn radius. Riding on the street give you little time to react to oncoming cars and storm drains. The sidewalk has its own share of hazards like dogs, construction crews, and runaway lawnmowers. There's one house where a crazy woman bolts out of the front door with a knife!
If that's not alarming enough, you'll encounter death himself - the grim reaper!
At the end of each street is an obstacle course. I'm glad this is just a bonus stage, because it's hard to line up your bike correctly with the ramps. Paperboy's gameplay is super fun and loaded with surprises. And even if you fail, at least it's not the end of the world. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: CJS 29,950
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1983)
It's easy to pass this off as a shallow, generic pinball game, but with repeated play it proves surprisingly addictive. There's only one table, and it's theme is... well, it really doesn't have a theme, but that's okay. The game switches between two screens that display the top and bottom halves of the table, each with their own sets of flippers. You get all the standard pinball trappings, including bumpers, spinners, flippers, and traps. The graphics aren't anything to write home about, but the action is smooth and the physics is realistic enough. You only control the flippers - there's no "nudge" button. Pinball may not be much to look at, but it's challenging, well-balanced gameplay is more than respectable. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 38,910
1 or 2 player
Publisher: Jaleco (1990)
I was so impressed with Pinball Quest on my Retro Bit Generations console I decided to pony up for the real McCoy. The cartridge offers three distinct tables: Pop Pop, Viva Golf, and Circus. Pop Pop has a recreational theme with bowling and billiard elements. Viva Golf is obviously golf-related, and Circus has a clown motif that's only mildly creepy. The physics is not terrible and the tables scroll smoothly as the ball shoots from bottom to the top. As with all pinball games, the action begins slowly but once you get into a groove you can rack up some serious points. Each table features mini-games like pool, slots, and a "catch the animals" challenge. These offer a nice change of pace but they kick in too frequently, disrupting the flow of the pinball action. One innovative feature is ability to relocate you flippers to the high and low areas of the table by simply pressing up or down. That's kind of cool (I guess) but far too easy to do accidentally. There's nothing worse than inadvertently moving the flippers out of the way
just as the ball heads down the drain. Why not just have two sets of flippers? The three tables offer substantial replay value but it's the RPG mode that puts this cart over the top. Featuring a slew of fantasy tables with impressively textured landscapes, you'll take aim at mythical creatures and bosses, purchasing power-ups between encounters. Pinball Quest is a pinball title that goes beyond the call of duty, offering an original twist you won't find anywhere else. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Pop Pop
Our high score: 142,640
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Ultra (1991)
This game is held in such high esteem by many classic gamers that it's practically review-proof. For an NES title, Pirates is a surprisingly deep mix of text-based strategy, sea battles, and sword fights. You begin with a modest ship, but gradually gather a crew and assemble a fleet as you defeat enemy ships and plunder ports. You'll guide your ship around a huge map of the "new world", occasionally encountering foreign vessels. While engaged in a sea battle, you must carefully maneuver your vessel to avoid incoming cannonballs while launching your own. Invading an unfriendly town involves exchanging fire with forts. Interior land battles require you to strategically position groups of your men, although the actual fighting is fairly "abstract" and mostly automatic. Most land battles climax with a swordfight between you and the opposition's leader. The swordfights aren't much to look at, thanks to swords that look more like batons. Otherwise Pirates' graphics are bright and inviting, with scenic towns and dark taverns rendered in meticulous detail. I also love the shimmering bright blue sea and the swashbuckling musical score. Patient gamers will relish the layers of strategy, which include opportunities to spread your influence, betray treaties, marry a wench, and discover lost treasure. Less patient gamers like myself however, are likely to lose interest over time due to the sluggish sea battles and repetitive nature of it all. The cartridge allows you to save your place, and wouldn't you know, my used copy still contains a bunch of old saves! Wow, those old batteries must be pretty powerful. Subsequent editions of Pirates incorporated additional features and eye candy, but its basic gameplay has always remained the same. Strategy-minded gamers will do well to track down this golden oldie, but casual players will only find it mildly amusing. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sunsoft (1988)
Platoon features well-defined soldiers and rich, dense jungle environments, but its gameplay can be described as "missing in action". Playing Platoon is more irritating than it is fun. In the first stage you explore endless jungle screens, jumping over wire traps and shooting an endless parade of brainless enemy soldiers. There's precious little technique involved, and the action gets terribly repetitive in a hurry. You'll also find yourself absorbing an excessive number of mandatory hits thanks to enemies that leap out suddenly from trees or behind bushes. Worst yet, you'll pull your hair out trying to navigate the endless labyrith of jungle screens, which all look the same and contain numerous dead ends. Just completing the first stage will test the patience of even the most seasoned gamer. Subsequent levels contain some good-looking first person shooting action, but these prove equally frustrating and hardly worth the effort. Platoon looks great, but Sunsoft should have gotten someone to play test this thing before inflicting it on the masses. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Play Action Football
Publisher: Nintendo (1990)
Although probably nifty in its time, this old football game has not aged particularly well. Upon turning on Play Action Football you're treated to an elaborate performance of the national anthem, although that black guy playing the trumpet doesn't really match the electronic notes you hear. The game itself features an overhead view with the field running diagonally
across the screen. Play Action Football's play-calling screens are well designed, letting you select from eight plays and four formations. A high-angle view of the players moving into formation is accompanied by an annoying helicopter sound effect. A "high" view is used for passing plays, but a closer angle is employed for running plays. The action on the field unfolds slowly, thanks to the players' turtle-like speed and passes that float in the air for an eternity. The controls are pretty good however, borrowing a page or two from Tecmo Bowl. You can tap the A button to avoid tackles on offense, or speed up on defense. Pressing both A and B switches you to the nearest defender. The kicking game is solid, but the football looks absolutely huge
as it sails through the goal posts. No wonder there are so many bounces off the posts! My first game of Play Action Football got off to an inauspicious start as both the CPU and myself ran back kick-offs for touchdowns. And if that wasn't unrealistic enough, we both missed our extra points as well! Play Action Football tries to incorporate voice synthesis, but it's unintentionally comical. When the referee yells "First down!" it sounds like he's saying "Prison!" And before each snap, instead of "Ready, set, hut!" the QB seems to be shouting "Goodie, set, hut!" Surprisingly, Play Action is equipped with an NFL Player's Association license, so actual player names and faces are displayed on the bottom of the screen! I have to give Play Action credit for incorporating some cool bells and whistles you don't even see in some modern football games. For example, when a player gets hurt, trainers come out onto the field with a stretcher. And when a first down is in doubt, the officials bring out the chains to measure up close! There's even some cheerleader action during halftime. As usual, Nintendo incorporates a lot of little musical jingles into the game, which are actually quite catchy and memorable. There's no way this can possible compete with excellent Tecmo Bowl games, but Play Action Football represents a decent effort on Nintendo's part. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
A reader recently alerted me to this game, and frankly, I'm astounded
at the quality of it. I've played Popeye on a number of the classic consoles (Atari 2600, Colecovision), but this version seems arcade-perfect
. The vibrant graphics are very high in resolution and exhibit no hint of flicker. The characters are faithful to their cartoon roots, even conveying trademark expressions and mannerisms. Popeye must traverse three screens of platforms in an attempt to collect items tossed out by Olive Oyle at the top of the screen. In the first screen it's hearts, in the second it's musical notes, and in the third (pirate ship screen) it's letters that spell out "HELP". Making your life harder are bouncing skulls, swooping buzzards, and a marauding bully by the name of Brutus. Avoiding Brutus is largely a game of cat-and-mouse, but eating your spinach lets you turn the tables on him, delivering a mighty punch that sends him bouncing around the screen. Just be sure to keep moving because Brutus is quite nimble for his size, and can pounce on you unpredictably. Each screens offers its own unique elements, like a trap you can trigger or a teeter-totter that catapults you to a higher platform. The music is also first-rate. Not only does each screen feature its own catchy jingle, but a lively rendition of the Popeye theme plays when you eat your spinach. Some might contend Popeye is a second-tier platform title, but I haven't had this much fun on my NES in a while. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: B
Our high score: 31,320
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Taito (1991)
This run-and-gun shooter should bring joy to the hearts of Contra
(Konami, 1987) fans. Power Blade takes place in 2191 where the future looks just like Seattle! The dude on the title screen is a dead ringer for Arnold Schwarzenegger - the archetype hero of the 1990s. Your mission is to recover computer tapes - a storage media that apparently makes a big comeback (I knew
it!) The stage select screen lets you choose between six locations including an atrium, sewers, and a space shuttle launch pad. The stages tend to look very similar but I like how there are alternate routes and secret areas. A few (like the waterfalls) have flickering scenery that's kind of unsightly. Your primary weapon is a boomerang. Not only does it inflict serious damage but you can throw it in any direction - including diagonally!
Once powered-up you can unleash them in a rapid-fire fashion that's very satisfying. The ability to knock down drones while hanging off ladders is especially fun. The fluid controls make it easy to traverse platforms and leap to and from ladders. Just be sure you're on the very edge
on a platform before initiating your jump. This game is not
forgiving. About halfway through each stage you'll rendezvous with a team member to obtain an ID card. Why is his face blue? An onslaught of enemies include soldiers, pink gorillas, and robots that look like ED-209 from Robocop. Many adversaries have shells that make them frustratingly impervious to attack. Instead of clearing out each room you'll be wise to make a quick exit as converging enemies nip at your heels. Power Blade needs more checkpoints. It's infuriating when you travel deep into a stage only to fall and have to restart from the beginning. Still, the tuneful NES synth music keeps your adrenaline flowing. I wish the game had a score but at least there's an easy-to-enter password which allows you to make progress in small chunks, stage by stage. You can really get into a zone playing Power Blade, especially once you get familiar with the layouts. I'm not saying you should break your piggy back for it, but you probably won't regret it. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Twentieth Century Fox (1988)
When you fire up this game you'll want to pay attention to the amazing introduction. It shows Predator traveling to Earth in a pod deployed from his hawk-shaped space ship. That's like watching a deleted scene from the film! You're then treated to a title screen that alternates images between Arnold and Predator over menacing music and the subtitle "Soon the Hunt Will Begin". I love it! At this point most critics would have slapped an "A" on this bad boy and called it a day, but I happened to be in the mood for some improbable jungle shenanigans. In the opening stage Arnold appears to be decked out in pink pants and white boots. Wait what?!
Oh that's right - this was made in the 80's!
Falling into the first pit will leave you hopelessly stuck, despite the breakable wall
and a supply of grenades!
Apparently somebody forgot to test
this level. It was probably the same guy who forgot to test all the other levels
. In fact, the stages are so poorly constructed that a "self destruct" mechanism had to be included. But since it's accessed from the pause screen, you're more likely to accidentally
blow yourself up (gah!
). Some stages offer multiple paths but I'd recommend taking the high road to avoid crawling rocks, scorpions, and crazy people. Subterranean areas force you to jump between narrow ledges, but the jumping controls aren't bad. Enemies occupy some ledges, but if you wait they tend to fall off on their own. The initial encounter with Predator is anti-climatic, as you simply shoot him 14 times as he somersaults around. After every few stages you're subjected to what the instructions call "the big mode". These stages were clearly developed as a separate game, but the manual tries to rationalize them as some kind of "ethereal zones." The oversized characters look impressive but the orb-dodging gameplay is pointless. Predator has no score but there is a continue option. This game is technically deficient, but Predator fans may still want to check out this so-bad-it's-bad film adaptation. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1990)
The Hudson Soft logo is normally a sign of quality but I guess they can't all be winners. I've received numerous requests to review Princess Tomato over the years. It turns out that this cartridge is pretty rare so I had to settle for a reproduction. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is a whimsical text adventure set in a magical place inhabited by personified vegetables. You play the role of Sir Cucumber trying to save the princess (naturally). The game screen consists of a picture window in the center, text commands lining each side, and a dialog box along the bottom. Typical commands are move, look, check, talk, take, use, give, and buy. Less obvious options are hit, praise, dump, and "Percy". The game is broken up into chapters, with passwords allowing you save your progress between them. The well-designed user interface makes it easy to enter commands, using one button used to select and another to back out. I found the illustrated cartoon graphics somewhat endearing, but there's minimal animation and the happy-go-lucky music got on my nerves. I could have embraced a quirky game like this if it made any sense but it does not. Most of the puzzles are illogical. To extract a coin from a fountain you need to "check" the fountain and then "hit" it? How did people ever make progress before the internet? Like Infocom's classic Zork text adventure series, your actions are heavily constrained ("don't give anything away now"). Even when you choose the right action it's often necessary to execute "talk" or "check" multiple times to get the desired result. In one case I had to check a trash can in a bathroom twice
to discover a donut!
What is this - a Seinfeld episode??
Princess Tomato is a cute, innocent adventure but its trial and error gameplay is impenetrable without a FAQ. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
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Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Nintendo (1987)
This outstanding boxing game was originally released for the NES in 1987 as "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" Unfortunately, Mike got himself into legal problems, so Nintendo was forced to drop him from the label. This new version is identical except the final challenger (Mike Tyson) has been replaced with a white guy by the name of "Mr. Dream". From what I've heard, Mr. Dream is easier to defeat than Mike Tyson originally was. So if you want to be the ultimate Punch-Out champ, you may want to track down a copy of the original. See review of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! for further details. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ultra (1989)
This one was tough to review. On the surface, it appears to be one of the best adaptations of the Q*bert ever made. Its colorful, vibrant graphics rival the arcade, and all of the game's elements are included. Having played many scaled-down versions of Q*bert, I had almost forgotten about the green ball that paralyzes adversaries, or the little green creature that changes squares back to their original color. The screen is always teeming with enemies, so the action is non-stop and the challenge is high. In order to address possible issues with the game's unique diagonal-direction control scheme, you can fully configure the controls to your liking. This could have been the ultimate Q*bert, but it has a fatal flaw. Like most classic arcade games, the goal of Q*bert is to play for high score
. However, when your game ends, you're immediately presented a black game screen with two prompts: end or continue. The problem is, your score is never displayed anywhere! Considering how great the game is otherwise, this massive oversight is a real shame. Other minor issues includes muffled audio and the fact that you get five lives instead of three (three lives should always be standard). © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1990)
I remember Qix very well from the arcades way back in 1981, although to be honest, I've never been sure how to pronounce its name. Qix is great because it's totally original and dares you to take risks. The game begins with you controlling a little diamond on the perimeter of a big blank square, with a "helix" flying around the interior. This helix looks like a twisting set of colored lines, and it's quite lethal. Using the fast or slow "draw" buttons, you move your little diamond to draw lines, attempting to enclose areas of the screen without being touched by the helix. The goal is to capture as large a percentage of the screen as possible, but when you reach 75% the stage ends. If you're a skilled player, you can lure the helix into a tight area and "trap" him there, capturing well over 90% of the screen with that last "draw". Complicating matters are deadly sparks that move around the perimeter, force you into harm's way. While this edition of Qix is a fair approximation of the arcade game, I wasn't overly impressed. I don't like how the areas enclosed with the slow draw (worth twice as many points) are filled with the same colors as the fast draw. The music is good and the control is decent, but the graphics and colors are drab. This is not as fun as I remembered. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 76,266
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Codemasters (1993)
If you enjoy 2D platform jumping games, you might appreciate this four-games-in-one Aladdin cartridge (plugs in a special Aladdin "game enhancer" attachment). The first title is a Mario Bros clone called "Linus Spacehead". The first stage takes you underwater where you character must "ride" rising bubbles to reach the surface. After that, the stages become more conventional and are generally forgettable. Spacehead's background music is pretty catchy, which is fortunate since it plays non-stop
. The second game, Robin Hood, takes place in a castle where you collect keys, unlock doors, shoot bad guys with arrows, climb ropes, and jump over pits. Robin Hood looks absolutely freaky
with that big goofy smile on his face. Momentum plays in a key role in the game, as you'll need it to slide under walls or leap great distances. It's no prize, but Robin Hood is probably the best of the bunch. Next up is Boomerang Kid, and this one makes no sense at all. Your character collects boomerangs, but get this - he can't throw them
! Supposedly an Australian, this idiot looks more like some country bumpkin. Most of the action takes place in trees, and falling to your death is a common occurance thanks to lousy controls that make it hard to judge your jumps. The final game is Treasure Island Dizzy. Yes, the "Eggman" is back, but Treasure Island isn't as bad as Dizzy The Adventurer, a game I detested. This time Dizzy's user interface has been streamlined, so you can manipulate objects without calling up a separate screen. Dizzy is also easier to control since he doesn't roll around as much. Treasure Island Dizzy is playable until you reach one particularly stage loaded with wall-to-wall cheap traps. With only one life and no continues, I have no patience for that kind of crap. All in all, Quattro Adventure offers a lot of gaming, but whether there's any real value here is arguable. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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Quattro Sports (Aladdin version)
Publisher: Codemasters (1991)
Quattro Sports is four games in one, so you'd hope at least one
would be worthwhile. Would you believe me if I told you that they all suck?
Each has at least one serious flaw that renders it borderline unplayable. Baseball Pros includes teams that inexplicably hail from all over the world, including the Moscow Bears, Roman Centaurs, and Boston Graduates. The pitcher/batter screen is respectable, but once the ball is hit the runners move like turtles!
Fielders are never positioned where you expect them to be (where's my [expletive] shortstop?!
) and fly balls are hard to judge because the shadow tends to be far to the right. The annoying music sounds like a wacky cartoon theme playing on fast-forward. The second game, BMX Simulator, tries to be an old-school, overhead racer, but it's deplorable. The courses are so littered with junk
that you have no idea where you're supposed to go! Touching anything turns your bike into a twisted wreck as you watch the CPU riders lap you again and again. Soccer Simulator is probably the most playable of the bunch, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement. The unimpressive overhead view lets you easily pass the ball, but trying to get the ball into that tiny goal is an exercise in frustration. Last (and probably least) is Pro Tennis, featuring unattractive, flabby players playing in a chicken coop. The gameplay is equally unappealing, considering you can't even serve the ball in-bounds!
My friend Scott noted that the best strategy is to set the controller down and sip your beer while watching your opponent double-fault time after time until you eventually win the match. Quattro Sports is proof that four games aren't necessarily better than one, especially when they're as half-baked as this collection. Note: This cartridge only works with the Aladdin "deck enhancer". Also, I could only get it to work with a top-loading NES and a really old TV. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 3 players
Publisher: Rare (1987)
is what old-school racing is all about! Simple, fast, and fun, R.C. Pro Am plays like a one-player version of Micro Machines
(NES, 1991). You get an isometric view of the track, which scrolls smoothly in all directions. The "remote controlled" cars are nicely animated and easy to control. The courses curve all over the place, but helpful arrows prompt you for upcoming turns. The races are short and sweet. You can't leave the road, and that's good because the tracks have a lot of speed boosts. You'll collect items scattered over the road for weapons, upgrades, and bonus points. Shooting cars ahead with missiles is fun, as long as you don't slam into their smoldering wreckage. Bombing a car on your tail is also satisfying. You'll compete against three CPU opponents over a series of 32 tracks. You keep racing until you come in last (fourth place), and a handy indicator shows your position at all times. As you progress the races get faster and more chaotic. Slowing you down are obstacles like puddles, miniature squalls, oil slicks, and pop-up barriers. Those barriers pop up from out of nowhere and I really don't like them at all. The AI has a bit of a rubberband quality, so it's easy to go from first-to-worst if you let your guard down. There's a lot to like about R.C. Pro-Am, but the lack of a two-player mode is glaring. That was addressed in the sequel, which didn't arrive until five years later. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 28,254
Publisher: Rare (1992)
The first R.C. Pro-Am was a groundbreaking racer, and this sequel just ups the ante. I'm a little surprised that it was five years
before Rare got around to following up such a popular title. Pro Am 2 offers the same brand of arcade racing, but it's more refined. The cars are smaller, but that just makes it easier to react to upcoming turns and jockey for position. The courses now have angular hills, and it's fun to turbo up them and bounce past cars on the other side. The tracks are more elaborate with crisscross designs and streams to splash through. Occasional surprises include an airplane that drops bombs on the track. The vehicles handle extremely well, and I like how it takes a second for your turbo to kick in. Between races you'll use your winnings to soup up your car's motor, tires, and weapons. This adds considerable depth, but the menu interface for selecting these upgrades leaves much to be desired. My friends were psyched about the multiplayer mode (supporting up to four players), but the execution is lacking. The game insists on keeping all four cars on the screen at all times, and those who fall behind get a boost with no apparent penalty. It really sucks when you're in the lead and the game slingshots a straggler right past you! Worse yet, all the back-and-forth action renders the weapons pretty much useless. There's little joy to be found in the multi-player, but as a single player experience R.C. Pro-Am 2 is even better than the original. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
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Recommended variation: continues
Our high score: 54
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Tengen (1987)
This outdated relic isn't one of the better NES baseball games, but it did lay a solid foundation for future installments of RBI Baseball. The freakish players are short and fat with oversized heads. They move like snails and can't jump or dive. Considering the shoddy graphics, it's surprising that RBI has actual Major League teams with real players on the rosters! While pitching, the action is viewed from behind the plate, with two windows displaying runners on first and third. The pitches fly across the play at high velocity, but once the ball is hit, the action slows to a crawl. RBI Baseball does do a few things right. The controls are simple and intuitive, and you can toss the ball around the bases with ease. The ball scales out (becomes larger) as it ascends, making it easy to judge fly balls. Still, RBI has a lot of issues. First of all, the non-stop music will drive you nuts. Next, there are far too many homeruns, and most tend to fly way
out of the park. The CPU opponent is dumb, allowing you to steal bases and stretch base hits unchallenged. RBI Baseball will suffice as a simple baseball game for young kids, but everybody else should seek out its excellent sequel: RBI Baseball 2. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tengen (1990)
Not only is RBI Baseball 2 an enormous improvement over its predecessor, it's one of the best baseball games I've ever played! The players look fairly realistic this time around, and the pitchers look exceptionally good during their windups. The controls are superb. Players can dive for grounders and jump for line drives, and runners even slide head-first! You can select between two skills levels, turn off the music (thank you!), and the homerun frequency is reasonable. You get all the real major league teams and players. Bonus features include voice synthesis for umpires and - get this - instant replays
! If there's one thing that annoyed me, it would be the excessive number of foul balls. Otherwise, RBI 2 is outstanding. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players
Publisher: Square (1987)
Rad Racer looks and plays like a second-generation Pole Position. There are eight tracks, each with a series of invisible "checkpoints" that provide additional time to finish the race. Your car routinely tops 200 MPH, and there's unlimited "turbo". Of course, there's no way you can take corners or weave through traffic at high speeds, so the brake is quite useful. The controls are tight, allowing you to skillfully execute power slides around curves. If you cut your teeth on flashy racers like Outrun, you may be disappointed by Rad Racer's sparse visuals. The background scenery in the Grand Canyon stage looks like crap - literally! The night stages look better thanks to their attractive city skylines, but Rad Racer is more about gameplay than graphics. The game requires plenty of skill and is quite addictive. There's even a "3D" mode in case you have some blue and red cardboard glasses lying around. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 7817
Publisher: Romstar (1990)
This vertically-scrolling motorbike racer can be a lot of fun just as long as you take a slow, deliberate approach. When I first played this with a friend we tried to tear right through the course but didn't get far because touching just about anything means instant death. No, Rally Bike requires you to skillfully navigate narrow paths, moderate your speed, anticipate upcoming hazards, and keep your distance from other bikes. Memorizing the course helps a lot. When you begin the screen says "qualifying rank: 30", which means you need to finish in the top 30 to advance to the next race. You begin in the final position (50), but don't be in a rush to move up, because these races are long
. In fact, I'd say the first race is too long and hard for its own good. You begin on a wide open bridge, but soon have to navigate thick brush, narrow city streets, and even deal with oncoming trains! The first stage of most games helps ease you in, but this is a trial by fire. Even so, scaling the ranks isn't too tough because your brain-dead opponents constantly crash, littering the screen like bugs on a windshield. Occasionally a helicopter drops a bonus icon, and this gives the game a Spy Hunter flavor. Some icons provide extra gas or bonus points, but my favorite supplies "helper bikes" that ride alongside you and let you ram adversaries. Rally Bike has its share of surprises like cars that pull out onto the road without warning, and marauding trucks that squash everything in their path. The controls are simple as can be, with one button serving as accelerator and the other the brake. Although the scenery changes drastically even within each race, the bridges, beaches, and palm trees give the game a real summer vibe. Simple to play but surprisingly deep, Rally Bike spells good times for NES gamers. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 24,500
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Acclaim (1988)
Rambo has never been dumber or gay
er than he is in this laughable side-scroller. Not only does Stallone look like a clueless moron on the dialogue screens, but he prances around the game in what appear to be red tights
. The game begins with "Trautman" offering Rambo a mission and asking "Are you up to it?" I couldn't resist choosing the option "I feel better in prison," prompting Trautman to explain, "The game doesn't start until you say YES". After chatting with a few military guys in a hangar you're taken onto a helicopter and dropped in the jungle. Rambo can switch between a variety of knife and arrow weapons, but he's forever at the mercy of attacking bees, snakes, and invisible cave creatures. In the swamps he must contend with deadly bubbles
and ferocious flamingos
. Killer bubbles make a lot
of sense to me, and who isn't terrified of flamingos? As if the bizarre assortment of enemies isn't bad enough, the screens aren't even arranged logically! You'll exit a swamp to the left, only to head back right to discover a forest! Is it any wonder I spent most of the game wandering in circles? The only thing Rambo has going for it is a distinctive, melodic soundtrack that is guaranteed to trigger 80's flashbacks. Equally precious is the thought-provoking dialogue that includes gems like "What? You should know us. We wanna get on the boat. Here's money." It's possible that Rambo is actually meant to be a parody
of the film, but that doesn't make it suck any less. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hi Tech (1989)
I'm sure you remember this TV show; it's the one everybody hated
! The amazing thing is, MTV stopped playing music videos
so they could broadcast crap like this instead! And that's when the channel went from being utterly indispensable to completely disposable. This Remote Control cartridge does a fine job of capturing this game show's unlikable format, complete with the annoying host tossing out clever quips like "Whoa, are you related to Einstein or something?" I don't know what I hate most about this guy - his annoying smirk or his spastic, disembodied arm. The game is a simple quiz show with multiple-choice questions. The odd thing is, most of these questions were antiquated even before the show aired in the 80's! We're talking about ancient programs like Bewitched, My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, The Odd Couple, and All in the Family. Adding insult to injury, the mechanism used to answer questions is totally based on luck. You "ring in" before
choosing your answer, making it a button-mashing contest to see who can ring in first. The computer usually lets
you win in the one-player mode. Awful, repetitive music plays incessantly throughout the entire contest. Playing Remote Control ranks right up there with being kicked in the groin over and over again - it's that
much fun! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players
Publisher: Taito (1987)
This side scrolling brawler looks looks like a Double Dragon clone but has a few tricks of its own. The controls are unusual, as the B button attacks thugs to your left, and A attacks those on your right. It takes some getting used to, but it's cool how you can engage bad guys approaching from both sides. You can also "daze" an opponent with repeated punches, and then grab him and throw him off a platform or into other bad guys. Double-tapping the directional pad allows you to run, although it's hardly necessary. The action is definitely repetitive, and the bosses are a serious pain in the ass. I really wish there were some weapons laying around. Half the thugs approach with sticks and smack you all over the place. I do like the cool motorcycle sequence where you can kick other riders off of their bikes. And you have to love inspired dialogue like "You ain't tough enough for me!" Renegade isn't great, but it may have influenced later brawlers like Streets of Rage. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
River City Ransom
Publisher: Technos (1988)
If there were a popularity contest for NES games, River City Ransom would fare quite well. I don't recall hearing much about this game back in the day, but every NES player I talk to thinks it's awesome. And they are right. River City Ransom is a side-scrolling beat-em-up with RPG elements that add surprising depth. The heroes are two brothers attempting to save River City from a gang of thugs. The characters are rendered as short and boxy, but that doesn't hinder the fighting action very much. Considering only two buttons are used, the number of moves is amazing. You can punch, kick, jump, throw, sprint, and block. There are plenty of weapons lying around, including chains, brass knuckles, lead pipes, and trashcans. But it's the special moves you acquire from the book stores that really put the game over the top. River City Ransom never ceases to amaze, and you'll often discover new moves like running on a tire. Unlike Double Dragon, it doesn't take many punches to defeat the bad guys, so the fights don't feel as repetitive. The graphics are clean, but there is significant flicker and break-up when two players are fighting at the same time. The backgrounds offer some simple but attractive scenery including bright city skylines and scenic canals. The bottom of the screen displays colorful dialogue, most notably "BARF!!" when a thug is defeated. Perhaps the game's most innovative feature is how you earn and spend money to restore your life, raise your attributes, and acquire new moves. There are four shopping malls, each with a different set of stores. When using the gym sauna, you see your character's bare ass, which looks hilarious. River City Ransom provides a password save, but this thing is huge
! I'm not sure I could write it down without making a mistake. It's also possible to find yourself "stuck" and unsure how to proceed, which happened to me and my friend George. Despite its minor flaws however, River City Ransom is a quality two-player beat-em-up that has withstood the test of time better than most. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players
Publisher: Data East (1989)
This side-scrolling shooter does a fair job of capturing the spirit of the 1987 film. What I find odd is how a game based on an ultra-violent R-rated flick was marketed to kids!
The graphics are cheesy at times and the controls could be better, but in general I enjoyed Robocop's brand of wanton violence with a dash of exploration. The game begins as you would expect, with our armor-plated hero patrolling the streets of Old Detroit. The foreground is dominated by barbed wire fences and run-down buildings, but a nice city skyline can be seen in the distance. At first Robocop uses his fists to beat up male ballet dancers (in purple tights), dogs, and guys in turbans. Hey - I thought he was the good
guy!? The action really picks up when Robocop brandishes his automatic weapon and starts shooting thugs in the face
. I also love how the bad guys in windows will hurl themselves down to the pavement below when shot. The instruction manual states "at the end of each level, there's a foe who's much harder to defeat than any of the rest". That sounds like every NES game I've ever played!
The first boss is a strongman who is gun-resistant but apparently not fist-resistant. Stage two takes place in an upscale hotel, and I like how you're free to explore and discover hidden areas. The remaining stages include factories and office buildings. Robocop can be confusing to play because the game arbitrarily decides when you can use your fists or guns. Stairs are aggravating to navigate, and when you want to shoot low, you often shoot diagonally down instead (which is useless). I also hate how Robocop's energy is always running low. It's a real drag when you're totally kicking ass and suddenly he keels over due to a lack of energy. The game's soundtrack is catchy, but it's always the same, so it gets monotonous. The cut-scene following stage one is hilarious. It looks like Robocop just got back from the dentist and he's trying to talk with a mouth full of novocaine. Robocop serves its purpose as a standard crime-fighting side-scroller. If you think it sounds mediocre, wait until you see its two sequels. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 33,850
Publisher: Ocean (1990)
The first Robocop was resepectable, so what the hell happened here? Robocop 2's low-resolution, cartoonish graphics make it look more like a "Robocop Junior" game. The short, squat characters look goofy, and the pastel-colored stages look like something out Super Mario World! The opening stage takes place outside of a factory, and as pathetic as it looks, it might be the best stage in the game. In stage two you enter the factory, but it looks more like a funhouse with a hideous purple-and-aqua color scheme! You never know what objects can harm you, and when you die you don't even know why! The controls are deplorable. In the first game Robocop couldn't even jump, but this game is all about
jumping, and momentum is crucial. You'll need to get a running start to reach most platforms, yet you rarely have the room to get a head of steam. In the time since the first game was released, Robocop has apparently lost the ability to shoot upwards or diagonally. He can no longer backtrack either, which is problematic because most stages require him to collect a certain number of "nuke" icons in order to progress. Failing that, you're forced to endure a first-person shooting range stage which feels a lot like punishment. Robocop 2 is pure torture to play, and is an embarrassing example of how badly a sequel can suck
. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 494,200
Publisher: Ocean (1993)
Robocop 3's title screen depicts our hero with what appears to be a doll
on his shoulders. That's just creepy!
Once you start playing however, Robocop 3 feels like a return to form for the series. The city street stage looks properly grungy and the moon looming in the night sky is a nice touch. Robocop doesn't look quite as realistic as he did in the first game, but he doesn't look like the cartoon character of the second game either. He can jump between platforms like the second game, but you don't need to deal with any of that momentum garbage. Robocop has a real sense of mass, so he clanks when he lands. Robocop can't shoot straight up, but he can fire diagonally. The fact that he can't backtrack is a real drag. When shot, enemies will fly off the screen like a bat out of hell. Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard to shoot people because they tend to overlap with you with maddening frequency. That's just bad design. The factory stage features a lot of harrowing jumps over acid. It's a good thing you can escape the acid, because it's almost impossible to avoid. I have my doubts about this game being faithful to the movie. Did Robocop really fight a ninja
in the third film? Between stages you can "repair" various parts of Robocop, but it's not readily apparent what the benefit is of fixing his head or leg. The music is lousy - it sounds like somebody flicking rubber bands. Robocop 3 is better than the second game, but that's not exactly a glowing endorsement. I'm still trying to figure out how a "can't miss" franchise like Robocop could falter so badly on the NES. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 54,600
Publisher: Jaleco (1988)
For the love of God
man! This has to be one of the most insanely hard
video games I've ever played! I couldn't even make it through the first stage
for Pete's sake! Robowarrior puts you in control of a bomb-dropping robot, attempting to forge through a series of side-scrolling stages populated with bushes, rocks, and other obstacles. The game combines elements of Dig Dug and Bomberman, but Robowarrior is far more demanding. As you blast new pathways, you're constantly being attacked by roving monsters and skeletal birds. Blowing stuff up is fun, but the controls are awkward. Pressing the "bomb" button places a bomb directly in front
of you, forcing you to immediately step back in order to avoid the explosion. Bomberman veterans will find this concept hard to grasp. It's also quite easy to get caught up in the scenery while trying to take cover, and blowing yourself up is a common occurrence. If that's not bad enough, you'll need to keep an eye on your energy level, because it drains constantly and you only have one life! Should you manage to reach the end of a stage, you'll still
need to figure out which rock the exit is hidden under! On the bright side, Robowarrior's soundtrack absolutely kicks ass, and the game has an addictive quality that kept me coming back for more and more punishment. I use the term advisedly; Robowarrior is brutal. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 101,000
Publisher: Namco (1989)
I have a cure for boredom and it's name is Rolling Thunder! This excellent arcade port kicks off with a stylish intro culminating with a green, pointy-eared villain guffawing "heh heh heh". I want to kill
that bastard! The side-scrolling gameplay can be described as Shinobi
(Sega Master System, 1988) except with secret agents instead of ninjas. Our hero is a dude I call "daddy long legs" who wears tan pants pulled up so high he looks like he belongs on a 1978 cop show. As you infiltrate some evil facility you encounter scary-looking dudes with sacks over their heads. Naturally they come in an assortment of colors so you can tell how many hits it will take to kill each one. The shooting action is supremely satisfying for several reasons. First, the crisp controls allow you to quickly toggle between a standing and squat position, unloading several rounds at a time. Your default weapon is potent, even if its bullets are a little slow. It's really not a bad idea to fire first and "follow" your shots. I love watching enemies keel over, with the first shot typically bringing them to their knees. The digitized grunts are great too. Special weapons like machine guns only serve to ratchet up the fun. Most areas offer two levels you can jump between, as well as doors that let you duck out of the line-of-fire. It was very considerate of the bad guys to clearly label their ammo closets with signs like "BULLETS". Just keep in mind that enemies tend to enter from those same doors. You'll be tempted to rush through this game but it pays to be cautious. Your life meter is only two units long so there's little room for error. The only thing I don't like about Rolling Thunder is its shrill music which is a little hard on the ears. The scenery is a bit repetitive but surprises abound like black panthers that try to pounce on you! Requiring equals parts tactical strategy and quick reflexes, Rolling Thunder is an outstanding shooter for the NES. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
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Our high score: 28,070
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Konami (1987)
In this challenging side-scroller you are a soldier trying to infiltrate an enemy base and destroy its secret weapon. Although the instructions don't specify the country in question, the enemy's hats would indicate Russian (get it - Rush 'N?). The action isn't much different from so many other NES shooters, but this one is intense than normal. Rush 'N Attack begins with a cool intro sequence showing your soldier parachuting into enemy territory. You arrive armed with only a knife, but you'll find other weapons along the way. The background graphics are interesting, featuring massive missile launchers, cargo planes, and enemy watchtowers. The game can be extremely difficult game without one vital piece of information: To defeat the jump-kickers, jump straight up and stab. Once you get that move down, progress comes a bit easier. Whenever possible, try to save your shooting ammo for the bosses. Each of the six stages requires some strategic thinking, and experience is the best teacher. The background music is quite memorable and the controls are responsive. Rush 'N Attack provides no continues, so you'll need to be a pretty skilled player to reach the later stages. The two-player mode is fair, but this game is better suited for solo action. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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Our high score: 60,900
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Tecmo (1987)
Rygar is classic NES action all the way. In this better-than-average platformer, you control a mysterious warrior armed with a weapon that resembles a huge yo-yo. Rygar is mainly a side scrolling affair, but there are a few overhead stages, although these are marred by a lack of diagonal movement. The creatures you encounter are weird beyond description, with mutated birds leading the pack. Rygar is great fun despite some significant slow-down and graphic break-up. A mysterious dojo appears every so often to provide guidance, but it's usually pretty cryptic stuff. My favorite aspect of this game is the music. It sounds like every other tune you've ever heard on your NES, but it's great nonetheless. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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