The graphics are attractive, especially the digitized hands that deal the cards. A dealer's voice lets you know what's happening at all times. The selection of slot machines includes fruit, Halloween, Ancient Egypt, the Wild West, and baseball. My main beef with Caesar's Palace is its lack of atmosphere. The game makes no effort to create the feeling of being in an actual casino.
There's some cheesy music and background voices, but you feel very alone playing this game. Everything is menu-driven, so you never see other people or view any scenery. Another complaint is how there's no in-game tutorial, so you'll need to read the manual to learn how to play the games. Caesar's Palace is not my idea of a good time on a Saturday night, but it wouldn't be a bad game to pick up before a trip to Vegas, just to get familiar with the games. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
The action is fully 3D; in fact holding L2 lets you roam freely. The basic controls offer three attacks, a block, and a jump. Pressing toward the enemy while blocking executes an elaborate throw sequence that's fun to watch. The vibration effects are effective and the asymmetrical stage designs are refreshing. Most fighting games have square or round arenas, but here they come in a variety of configurations set in temples, caves, bridges, and castles. The only stage I didn't like was the jester's spinning arena, which actually made me ill. Stages also feature environmental hazards like lava rivers and runaway minecarts. Walking over chests equips you with power-ups and weapons.
The AI is lousy. Once you find an effective attack you can often use it over and over. If time runs out, the fighter with less health simply keels over and that looks ridiculous. There's also a lack of progression. There's no score and when you save to memory card I'm not even sure what it's saving. Cardinal Syn is the type of game that's fun to tinker with for a little while, but you'll forget about it by tomorrow (if not sooner). © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Foes come in all shapes and sizes, from skeletons, to tiny hunchbacks, to huge mythological creatures. The floating puppets are downright disturbing! Symphony's lavishly orchestrated soundtrack is remarkable, and it plays a key role in the game's ominous atmosphere. The voice acting is somewhat over-the-top, but the sound effects are fantastic.
Castlevania's intricate storyline can be confusing, especially if you're new to the series. Symphony inexplicably begins with a boss battle, followed by some of the most gratuitous exposition I've ever seen in a video game. Once it gains traction however, Symphony proves to be extremely fun and challenging. There are plenty of bosses but only a few strategically-placed save points.
As in previous installments, you can strike candles to reveal hearts and power-ups. There are a good number of weapons, items, and relics, and being able to juggle them effectively is key. I especially like the weapon that "stops time", letting you hack away at paralyzed monsters. Symphony of the Night's castle is massive, and it's easy to get lost within its maze of platforms and corridors. But the challenge is relentless, and you'll never get bored. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
You can now rotate your ship and move anywhere on the screen, but the pace is much slower and less exciting than the original. The analog control is reasonable, but the frame rate is poor and the chunky graphics look sloppy. The original 2D arcade version of Centipede is also included, and it's so superior that you wonder why Hasbro even attempted the upgrade. As with Frogger, Hasbro has fallen into the trap of trying to improve a game that was perfect to begin with. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
You control multiple characters in Clock Tower and spend a lot of time going from place to place, talking to people and gathering clues. Scrolling through the bad text dialogue is admittedly tiresome, and I really wish they had real audio for that. Clock Tower feels more like a PC adventure than a console game. An arrow cursor is used to move and examine items, and the PS mouse is also supported. Using the digital pad to move the cursor is clumsy at best.
The real action occurs in the frightening encounters with Scissorman. Typically you'll find yourself locked in a building or house with him, and you'll have to find a way to escape. Your heart will race as you dash from room to room, frantically searching for some way to subdue this slow but relentless fiend. There's even a "panic button" you can use to make a last-ditch effort to escape his clutches! Like any bad horror movie, the characters will do dumb things like go back inside a house after escaping. Likewise, the dialogue is predictable and often idiotic. Harris: "We'll all be going home soon." Helen: "Okay, well, no need to lock up then."
The graphics do the job, but the people look rough and the animation is lacking. Still, Scissorman looks quite intimidating and some of the gore is shocking. As chilling as Clock Tower is, its gameplay can be frustrating. Sometimes you'll discover something useful like mace, but inexplicably won't be able to pick it up! At other times the actions you need to take to keep Scissorman at bay seem to defy logic. But in terms of pure horror, Clock Tower stands tall in the genre. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Clock Tower 2 has an archaic point-and-click cursor interface that takes some getting used to. Most of the time you just move your arrow over everything in sight until it changes shape, indicating something you can examine. The rough, pixelated graphics make Alyssa look awful - her legs look like toothpicks! The monsters don't look bad though - they look pretty scary actually. Alyssa begins her journey locked in a house where her relatives have been brutally murdered and mutilated.
Despite its mediocre graphics, Clock Tower 2 actually scared the heck out of me quite a few times. The sound effects and music alone are enough to freak you out. Sometimes you'll be pursued from room to room until you find a good hiding spot. Get too close to a monster and you'll trigger "panic mode", forcing you to tap the square button like crazy to escape!
One aspect I didn't care for was the whole split personality thing. You sometimes have to be a certain personality to perform different tasks, and it's a pain to switch between them. Clock Tower 2 boasts 13 (!) different endings, but are these really necessary? Do they really expect anyone to finish the game 13 times? Still, Clock Tower 2 succeeds despite its flaws. If you enjoyed the first game, you'll probably like this one too. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The game is a series of short missions, most of which involve eliminating a set of targets ranging from small fighter ships to hulking freighters. The mission briefings look slick but they are long-winded and boring. Most of the game boils down to dogfighting in open space. I like how blue brackets surround enemies, making it easy to spot small fighters in the distance. Navigating your ship is easy thanks to responsive controls that let you freely rotate and adjust your speed.
You can cycle between several primary and secondary weapons, but most are worthless. I found myself sticking with the red lasers since they at least appear to make contact with enemy ships. My friend Chris described this as "the age-old Wing Commander problem", where you're called upon to save the universe but sent into battle with a peashooter instead of nukes. You really need to lead your shots in this game, and you need to be right on top of an enemy to pummel it. Even then it takes about 20 hits to destroy anything.
The battlefields are often cluttered with large friendly ships you need to avoid shooting or slamming into. An arrow directs you to targets, but I've come to learn that you can't really trust that thing. It will often lead you astray, so it's best to rely on your radio for instructions. The missions can be confusing, like when you need to shoot down a massive ship and can't tell if you're supposed to aim at a particular spot. The branching mission concept is novel but confusing, and there's no save option between missions. Heck, you're not even given the option to save until you die! Patient gamers may be able to immerse themselves in the richness of Colony Wars, but I found it to be an overblown mess. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The polygon graphics do a lousy job of conveying depth. When men appear in jet-packs, it's hard to tell how high they are, and you'll find yourself hopping around like a flea to shoot them. The graphics are mediocre but I was impressed by the diverse menagerie of enemies which include tanks, dinosaurs, man-eating plants, and possessed street lamps. The explosions are satisfying, but why do destroyed cannons spin through the air and get sucked into the sky!? Apparently one of the programmers got really carried away with the Playstation's rotation effects.
Legacy's musical score is very complex and I found its intertwining melodies to be a good fit for the game's chaotic nature. What ultimately brings down Legacy of War is its abysmal controls. The R1 and L1 buttons are used to toggle your strafe mode, which is a horrible idea. There's no strafe indicator on the screen so you're constantly fiddling with it. To cycle through your weapons you'll need to press the triangle button, which means you need to take your thumb off the fire button. Why couldn't they use L2 and R2 instead? The awkward controls are exacerbated by an impossible "normal" difficulty level. Your health is displayed as a small number, and it's really hard to tell when you're taking damage.
Legacy of War is most playable when you team up with a friend on the easy difficulty, although frequent slow-down is a problem. Sometimes you can high-tail it through most of a stage to minimize confrontation. You can save your progress between stages, and there's a neat little tank/maze bonus game in the jungle area. Legacy of War also includes a 3D mode played with blue and red 3D glasses. The effect is modest at best, and since the colors appear dull and washed out, it's not worth it. In the end, Contra: Legacy of War is yet another example of a series that tried to make the leap to 3D but fell flat on its face. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
I really like the simple controls, which are limited to jump, tight turn (carve), and grab. The only tricks available are simple rotations and grabs, and they're remarkably tough to execute. The trails tend to be so narrow that it's a challenge just to avoid hitting the "walls", although the tight turn button makes it possible to navigate with precision. Novice players however may find themselves bouncing from side to side like a pinball. The game conveys a decent sense of speed, and this is far more evident in the first-person view.
You have two characters to select from (a guy or girl), but they both look like complete dorks. The trails have a "winter wonderland" quality that's appealing, but the graphic quality is rough. Ugly seams are clearly visible in the angular hills, and it's sometimes difficult to anticipate upcoming turns in the course. There's little scenery except for a few castle-like walls. Digitized mountains are visible in the background, but these are so grainy you probably won't even notice them.
Cool Boarder's guitar-driven soundtrack is surprisingly good. Unlike the music in most modern snowboarding games, it's edgy but not headache-inducing. There's also a "totally rad" teenage commentator who spews all sorts of repetitive and annoying comments. Cool Boarders is interesting to look back on, but its minimal gameplay was just a taste of things to come. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The "tour competition" mode is the heart of Cool Boarders 2, pitting you against seven opponents in a series of downhill and stunt/jumping events. This mode also unlocks new courses, so be sure to enable the "auto save" option. And while you're on the options screen, you'll want to turn the voices and background music off. The muffled commentator and grinding guitar soundtrack are nothing short of an assault on the eardrums. The only thing you want to hear is the sound of crisp snow beneath your board - very relaxing.
Stunts are much easier to execute this time around, although the poor instruction manual never sufficiently explains how to perform them. The exciting downhill races feature ample scenery, including quaint resorts and death-defying cliffs. Despite the improved visuals however, there are still far too many unsightly seams.
The split-screen mode divides the screen down the center, and while it's certainly playable, the fact that you're only racing against one opponent means you'll rarely see anyone else on the course. Cool Boarders 2 was a major step up for the franchise, but the best was yet to come. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
The refined graphics feature smooth, rounded hills, which are a welcome sight after carving the angular slopes of the first two Cool Boarder games. The characters are also less blocky and come in an assortment of fashionable models. While the back of the box mentions 34 courses, don't believe it. There are really only six locations, and there's little to see besides trees and mountains.
That's fine with me however, because I prefer natural beauty over artificial hazards. The trails are strewn with rocks to jump over, pipes to grind, and ugly, pixelated trees to swerve around. The final trail places you in a race against an avalanche, which is usually futile but always exciting.
Cool Boarder 3's control scheme has been overhauled to finally support analog steering, and the difference is dramatic. Thanks to the vibration feedback function, you can practically feel your board carving into the icy tundra. Navigating the courses is a pleasure and performing tricks seems effortless at times. The game seems to automatically reorient your character as he's about to land from a jump, which makes the game much easier.
The music consists of generic guitar noise, and you'll want to turn it down in favor of the excellent whooshing and crunching of snow. Bonus features include multi-angle replays and the ability to punch your opponents - always a plus. If you're a fan of snowboarding games, you owe it to yourself to track down this oldie-but-goodie. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Certain courses are too long and so wide open that you rarely need the "tight turn" button. I actually found myself getting bored at times, which is never a good sign! Another thing I dislike are the "deep snow" areas. Not only do these slow you to a crawl, but it looks ridiculous when the snow reaches shoulder height!
And while the game's case brags about four-player support, in fact only two can play simultaneously. On the bright side, the wonderful locales include Vermont, Colorado, Alaska, France, and Japan. There's not much to see alongside the trails, but Cool Boarders 4 does make excellent use of digitized background graphics. Whether you're looking down on a snowy French village or up at a magnificent mountain range, the looming scenery looks spectacular.
The controls are extremely responsive, letting you dodge trees and pull off tricks on the half-pipe with ease. Unlike Cool Boarders 3, the trees are more varied in appearance and pose less of a hazard. The Tournament mode is largely unchanged, except annoying cheering sound effects have been added. Sony actually licensed professional snowboarders for this game, so your opponents are real people. The franchise seemed to lose a bit of momentum with this fourth entry, but this is still a very respectable snowboarding title. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Although Crash can move on any axis, he is generally restricted to a narrow pathway, although some stages do branch. Your goal is to traverse a series of hazards while smashing crates and defeating animals with well-timed spins and pounces.
In most stages you run "into" the screen, but in a few you run "out" of the screen, and there are even some side-scrolling levels. From its shimmering water stages, to Indiana Jones-inspired giant rolling boulder stage, Crash Bandicoot's 3D world is loaded with fun surprises. If this isn't a Playstation classic, what is? © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
There are plenty of familiar sights and sounds in Crash Bash, but its gameplay comes off as rather lukewarm. Unlike most party games that feature 50 or more unique "mini-games", Bash only has six basic games with several variations on each. One is a cross between Warlords and Hungry Hungry Hippo (remember that board game?), where you must deflect metal balls away from your goal.
Another is a blatant rip-off of Poy Poy (Playstation), where you hurl boxes at other players. In another players knock each other off a floating island - a concept taken straight from Mario Party. These games are moderately fun but tend to run too long. This is especially the case in the adventure mode, which lets you and a friend unlock new features. Crash Bash is high quality multiplayer title, but has an uninspired, "me too" quality. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
CTR's comical characters were introduced in the first three Crash games and serve as a nicely diverse set of drivers. The tracks may look rougher than those Mario Kart 64, but these are far more interesting and imaginative. The backgrounds are clearly inspired from past Crash games, incorporating locales like jungles, snowy ridges, ancient temples, and massive sewers. Each track features ramps, shortcuts, and ample power ups.
In terms of control, Naughty Dog has succeeded where others have failed. Your kart is easy to control, so instead of struggling to stay on the track, you can concentrate on the racing instead. Naughty Dog also recognized that jumping ramps is fun, so they reward players who catch "big air" with a speed boost when they land. CTR's play modes include adventure, arcade, versus, time trial, and battle. The addicting adventure mode challenges the solo player to beat each track and collect special items, unlocking new racers and tracks in the process.
The versus mode allows up to four players to go head-to-head via split-screen, and it's a blast. CTR's frame rate remains consistently smooth, even with four players. The battle mode is just okay, but with so many racers buzzing around the open playing field, it's hard to target anyone in particular. Overall, CTR is an awesome title, one that should go down as one of the best kart racers of all time. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
The scenery is both foreboding and attractive, with colossal, ominous structures. The surreal music almost contributes to the dark, mysterious atmosphere. Critical Depth's controls are basically the same as Twisted Metal, but its gameplay isn't quite as compelling. Since there's no gravity, it's very easy to become disoriented, especially in the split screen mode. Critical Depth is probably best played solo. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Croc was hardly the Mario 64 killer I was looking for, but it's still a sharp-looking platformer with good production values. Cuddly critters were the rage in the 90's, and Croc is a cartoonish reptile who walks upright and whips his tail at enemies. The stages look attractive enough (love the snow levels), but even the outdoor areas are heavily constrained by rock walls.
The gameplay is predictable as you leap over lava pits, travel on floating platforms, slide boxes to solve puzzles, and break boxes to collect gems. The stages are short, if you're not interested in collecting every single item you can plow through the game in an afternoon. The fact that the stages are so short makes the lengthy load screens all the more arduous. Croc was one of the first Playstation games to support analog controls, but it's a little touchy. Sometimes you'll try to swing the camera only to send poor Croc plummeting into the nearest abyss.
The game does offer some advanced features, like the ability to monkey-climb or hang onto a ledge when your jump comes up short. The music is pleasant enough, but the ringing sound effect you hear when collecting gems is a little harsh. There are far more enjoyable platformers for the Playstation (Crash Bandicoot comes to mind), but you have to respect Croc's innocent charm and easy-going style. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our anti-hero is stiff and slow, walking around like he has a pole up his butt. His moves include spinning kicks, backhands, and uppercuts. Weapons at your disposal include baseball bats, knives, guns, crowbars, and Molotov cocktails. The controls are not particularly responsive and the collision detection is erratic.
The pre-rendered scenery is dark and atmospheric, but the camera angles are awful! It's disorienting as you attempt to move from one area to the next, and I frequently found myself inadvertently returning to the room I just left! Occasionally you'll find yourself walking against an invisible wall, and that's just plain cheesy.
On a positive note, the gritty scenery, moody lighting, and discordant music convey a memorable surreal environment. A password is provided between stages. It would be easy to write off The Crow: City of Angels as complete garbage, but this game actually has a so-bad-it's-good quality that collectors (and fans of the movie) may find appealing. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The pixelated graphics are fairly awful, but certainly an improvement over the Saturn version (hard to believe, I know). Most of the creatures are rendered with scaling sprites which appear extra chunky up close. The only 3D creatures are giggling water monsters which are so irritating that they give polygons a bad name. Crypt Killer's scenery is varied, but it's also very angular and riddled with seams. The aiming controls are sketchy.
Since the game is too old to support Namco's Guncon, you'll need to settle for an older model like Konami's Justifier. These guns aren't known for their accuracy (especially near the edges), so you'll want to crank up the brightness on your TV and calibrate your gun before joining the fray. From what I've described so far, Crypt Killer sounds like the worst game ever, but it's actually a lot of fun!
A disembodied head with crossed eyes appears periodically for no discernable reason, speaking hilariously bad dialog like "Do not be surprised. I am Galaza, the spirit of travel. I will join you on this adventure for a while." The shooting action is satisfying because the creatures tend to explode into nice meaty chunks. Keep an eye out for special power-ups and grenades. The game moves "on rails" but the camera swings wildly as monsters attack from every direction.
Periodically you'll select between two paths by shooting doors secured by chains. The bosses assume the form of mythical creatures like Medusa, and they'll easily chew up most of your lives and continues. After the game you're prompted to enter initials, but since they're not saved, don't bother. Actually, hitting the "end" button on the lower corner of the screen is usually impossible. It's a bit of a mess, but Crypt Killer is still entertaining if you're in the mood for mindless shooting fun. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com