system Index C
Caesar's Palace
Grade: C
Publisher: Interplay (2000)
Reviewed: 2000/10/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotCaesar's Palace is a decent casino game as far as these things go, but there's nothing special about it. Its main strength lies in its variety of games, including six different card games, roulette, keno, slots, and video poker machines. You begin with $1000, and can save your winnings to memory card at any time. Up to four people can play simultaneously if you own a multi-tap. The streamlined user-interface allows you to bet quickly to keep things moving.

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.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack (Intellivision)
Caesar's Palace (Game Gear)
Vegas Stakes (Super Nintendo)
Super Caesar's Palace (Super Nintendo)
Casino (Atari 2600)

Cardinal Syn
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 2019/4/11
Rating: Mature

screenshot3D fighting games were the rage in the late 1990's and this one was developed by 989 Studios - a developer best known for its sports titles. Cardinal Syn's epic CGI intro runs for so long I can only surmise it accounted for the bulk of the game's budget! This one-on-one slugfest stars a motley crew of medieval characters caught up in a convoluted tournament storyline. There's a jester, cyclops, Egyptian princess, limping corpse, and an oversized dwarf just to name a few.

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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Las Vegas Poker and Blackjack (Intellivision)
Basic Programming (Atari 2600)
Swordquest Fireworld (Atari 2600)
Unreal Tournament (Dreamcast)
Riot Zone (CD) (Turbografx-16)

Castlevania Chronicles
Grade: C+
Publisher: Konami (2001)
Reviewed: 2001/10/12
Rating: Teen (blood and violence)

screenshotOnce again Konami has brought Castlevania back to the Playstation, this time in the form of a late-80's Japanese PC title. Compared to Symphony of the Night, Chronicles is simpler and decidedly more old-school. There's no separate screen to juggle your items, and the sound effects are tinny, as you might expect from an old PC game. The graphics however are remarkably good, with high-resolution monsters and interesting background animations. The control is a little stiff, and there are a few annoyances including "instant death" falls and irritating bats. Even so, Castlevania fans will relish this long-lost gem. An interview with the game's producer is also included. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Warcraft II (Playstation)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Playstation)
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (PSP)
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Game Boy Advance)
Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (CD) (Japan) (Turbografx-16)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Grade: A-
Publisher: Konami (1997)
Reviewed: 2002/10/20
Rating: Teen (blood and violence)

screenshotAs one of the most celebrated Playstation games of all time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night routinely appears on critic's top 10 lists. In the mid-1990's, Sony had an ill-advised policy that discouraged 2D games on their console, so it was quite a victory for gamers when Symphony was finally released. The production values of this macabre side-scroller are top-notch, with each room painstakingly detailed with gorgeous gothic architecture.

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.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Castlevania Chronicles (Playstation)
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Game Boy Advance)
Castlevania (Nintendo 64)
Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (CD) (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
Castlevania (NES)

Grade: D-
Publisher: Hasbro (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/9/3
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAfter Frogger, this is Hasbro's second attempt to "update" a classic arcade game, and it's only slightly more successful. The world of Centipede is now rendered in 3D, with more enemies and a slew of power-ups. Power-ups were never part of the original game, but they do add some variety. The new levels are so expansive that you can only see a portion of them at a time. So how does this new Centipede play? Well, it feels nothing like the old Centipede.

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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Centipede (Dreamcast)
Frogger II (Atari 2600)
Frogger (Tiger
Frogger (Playstation)
Galaga Destination Earth (Playstation)

Classic Games from the Intellivision
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/10/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOnly long-lost Intellivision fans will want to dabble in this ill-conceived collection of 30 Intellivision games from the late 70's and early 80's. Everyone else should avoid this disk like the plague. I can't express how disappointed I am with this. First off, the bloated user interface that lets you select games and variations is just as poor as the Activision Classics disk of Atari 2600 games. There are endless load screens despite the fact that these games should load in a split-second. Most of the games run agonizingly slow, and trying to emulate Intellivision keypads with a Playstation controller results in some nightmarish control schemes. Finally, those sports games that Intellivision was so famous for are two-player only, so you'll need a friend to play most of these. A very, very good friend. The Intellivision was a great console, but this package does it a major disservice. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Activision Classics For the Atari 2600 (Playstation)
Intellivision Lives (Playstation 2)
Warcraft II (Playstation)
King of Fighters 98 (CD) (Neo Geo)
Intellivision Lives (Nintendo DS)

Clock Tower
Grade: B-
Publisher: Ascii (1997)
Reviewed: 2002/10/20
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, and gore)

screenshotThis cult classic is truly one of the most horrifying video games ever made. Playing Clock Tower is like watching an intense slasher film with one heart-stopping sequence after the next. The villain is a short, ugly, limping monstrosity armed with a huge pair of scissors - that's right - SCISSORS. You can always tell he's coming by the clanking sounds, accompanied by some rather alarming music.

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.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Clock Tower 3 (Playstation 2)
Clock Tower 2 (Playstation)
Dark Mage (Atari 2600)
D (Saturn)
Warcraft II (Playstation)

Clock Tower 2
Grade: B-
Publisher: Agetec (1998)
Reviewed: 2003/10/12
Rating: Mature (animated violence, blood and gore)

screenshotHere's a survival horror game with blocky graphics, laughable dialogue, and a storyline that will have you rolling your eyes. So why am I trembling with fear? You play as Alyssa Hale, a schoolgirl who's out for revenge after being buried alive. She's pursued by possessed beings, primarily a lunatic in a devil mask. Oh, and did I mention Alyssa has a split personality? Man, it sure is tough being a kid these days!

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.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Clock Tower (Playstation)
Clock Tower 3 (Playstation 2)
Alone in the Dark (3DO)
Journey Escape (Atari 2600)
Fatal Frame (Playstation 2)

Colony Wars
Grade: D+
Publisher: Psygnosis (1997)
Reviewed: 2013/3/1
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotI always felt this first-person space shooter was overrated, and I was right! Yes, its production values are impressive, especially with James Earl Jones narrating the cut-scenes. I'm not much for melodrama however, so the epic "save the universe" storyline didn't sweep me off my feet. Still, Colony Wars looks great with its slick menus, smooth frame-rate, and sweeping musical score. The explosions look amazing as bright light pours from the cracks of a ship before it breaks apart.

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.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (3DO)
G. Darius (Playstation)
Marine Wars (Atari 2600)
Shadow Squadron (Sega 32X)
Sonar Search (Fairchild Channel F)

Contra: Legacy of War
Grade: D+
Publisher: Konami (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/3/8
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotThe once-mighty Contra franchise lost some luster during the 16-bit era, and it practically faded into obscurity after this ill-conceived 3D attempt! Legacy of War depicts the action with a tilted overhead view as you run-and-gun through war-torn streets, dense jungles, and ancient ruins. Using flamethrowers, "spray" guns, and homing missiles, you'll blast attacking soldiers, robots, and mutated creatures.

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.

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Recommended variation: Easy
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Super C (NES)
Operation Wolf (NES)
Missile Defense 3D (Sega Master System)
Jet Moto 3 (Playstation)
Dark Cavern (Atari 2600)

Cool Boarders
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sony (1997)
Reviewed: 2006/2/1
Rating: Kids to Adult (Suitable for all ages)

screenshotAs a fan of just about anything snow-related, I've always enjoyed the Cool Boarders series on the Playstation. The first Cool Boarders does a fair job of capturing the general "feel" of snowboarding, but in retrospect there's not much to it. You can race down five different hills and perform a few stunts, but there are no competitors - it's just you against the clock! Fortunately your best runs are saved to memory card.

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.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Snowboarding (Playstation)
Cool Boarders 2 (Playstation)
Winter Extreme Skiing and Snowboarding (Super Nintendo)
Cool Boarders 3 (Playstation)
Cool Boarders 4 (Playstation)

Cool Boarders 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/2/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis snowboarding sequel is a substantial improvement over the original, with more challenges, better graphics, nine courses, and a much-needed two-player split-screen mode. I was pleased by the customization options which offer a wide selection of modes, boarders, gear, and background music.

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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Cool Boarders 3 (Playstation)
Cool Boarders (Playstation)
1080 Degree Snowboarding (Nintendo 64)
Ski-Doo Snow X Racing (Playstation 2)
Cool Boarders 4 (Playstation)

Cool Boarders 3
Grade: A-
Publisher: 989 (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/2/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Cool Boarders franchise really hit its stride with this outstanding third edition. Intuitive controls, realistic courses, and crisp graphics elevate Cool Board 3 to one of my all-time favorite snowboarding titles. The game's scope is much expanded from previous editions, with events that include big air, half pipe, slalom, and downhill. You'll face three competitors in the single-player competition, but alas, there are still no CPU opponents in the split-screen contest!

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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: 1080 Degree Avalanche (GameCube)
Cool Boarders 2 (Playstation)
Cool Boarders 4 (Playstation)
1080 Degree Snowboarding (Nintendo 64)
Skiing (Atari 2600)

Cool Boarders 4
Grade: B
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Reviewed: 2006/2/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotCool Boarders 4 is okay, but it failed to advance the series as previous editions of the games had. Of the many "enhancements", some are unwelcome and a few are downright irritating! The graphic engine has been tweaked so the courses look slightly sharper than those in Cool Boarders 3. The smooth animation features plenty of "big air", but the sense of speed and momentum is diminished.

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.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Cool Boarders 3 (Playstation)
Cool Boarders (Playstation)
BMX Airmaster (Atari 2600)
Cool Boarders 2 (Playstation)
Mortal Kombat 4 (Playstation)

Crash Bandicoot
Grade: A
Publisher: Naughty Dog (1996)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis fantastic 3D action/platform game served as the perfect showcase of the Playstation's graphical capabilities. When released in 1996, nothing else could touch it. The frame-rate is silky smooth as our marsupial hero traverses lush, tropical environments with fantastic overgrown ruins. The audio is also first-rate, with excellent bongo drum music adding to the game's exotic flavor.

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.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy (Nintendo Switch)
Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex (Playstation 2)
Crash Bandicoot: N-tranced (Game Boy Advance)
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (Wii)
Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure (Game Boy Advance)

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Grade: A-
Publisher: Naughty Dog (1997)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis fine sequel offers more of the same stellar platform gameplay, only with additional moves and interesting new stages. Our agile bandicoot can now slide, crawl, and body-slam. Innovative new stages equip Crash with jet skis (fun) and jet packs (less fun). Cortex Strikes Back also introduces the "warp zone" concept which lets you determine the order in which you'll play some stages. Crash 2 is extremely fun but also very difficult. Not only is the basic gameplay far more challenging, but in order to complete the game you need to locate secret areas so elusive you'll probably need a cheat book to find them all. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex (Playstation 2)
Crash Bash (Playstation)
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (Playstation)
Sonic Advance 3 (Game Boy Advance)
Crash Twinsanity (Playstation 2)

Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Grade: A
Publisher: Naughty Dog (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhile retaining the winning formula of previous Crash games, Warped incorporates noticeable improvements to the graphics and gameplay. The motorcycle, jet-ski, and airplane bonus levels are so brilliantly executed they could easily pass as games in of themselves. Crash can now fire a bazooka, which adds a terrific new destructive element to the fun. The difficulty level is just about perfect. There are a few really tough puzzles, you don't need to solve them all to finish the game. Believe it or not, the completion percentage actually goes up to 104% (maybe higher!). A real gem, Crash 3 offers more depth and variety than the first game but without the frustration of the second. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (Playstation)
Splashdown (Playstation 2)
Kawasaki Jet Ski (Wii)
Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy (Nintendo Switch)
Jet X2O (Playstation 2)

Crash Bash
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Reviewed: 2001/8/14

screenshotOnce Mario Party (Nintendo 64, 1998) caught on, it was only a matter of time before the other video game mascots chimed in with "party" games of their own. Sony's entry was Crash Bash, which offers a collection of minigames in that distinctive Bandicoot style. Watching the intro to Crash Bash reminded me just how great Crash Bandicoot games of the past have been. Their graphics were always so rich and clean, with interesting music and whimsical sound effects.

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.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Mario Party (Nintendo 64)
Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Boom Blox: Bash Party (Wii)
Mario Party: Island Tour (Nintendo 3DS)
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (Playstation)

Crash Team Racing
Grade: A
Publisher: Naughty Dog (1999)
Reviewed: 2000/1/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotRealistic racing games are fine, but when it comes to multiplayer fun, you can't beat a good kart game. Kart racers have been with us since Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo, 1992), but the Playstation didn't get its first one until Crash Team Racing (CTR). Fortunately, CTR was well worth the wait, effectively blowing all of its competitors out of the water (including Mario Kart 64)!

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.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo)
Mario Kart 7 (Nintendo 3DS)
Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)
Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
Rumble Racing (Playstation 2)

Critical Depth
Grade: C+
Publisher: Singletrac (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/7/11
Rating: Teen (violence, blood)

screenshotThis undersea vehicular combat game comes from the makers of the original Twisted Metal (Playstation, 1995). You can select from twelve oddly-shaped subs bearing an arsenal of torpedoes, bombs, and mines. The visually impressive stages include lost ruins, a completely submerged city, and the mystical realm of the Bermuda Triangle.

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.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Twisted Metal Small Brawl (Playstation)
Twisted Metal: Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition (Playstation 2)
Bermuda Triangle (Atari 2600)
Vigilante 8 (Playstation)
Twisted Metal (Playstation)

Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Grade: C
Publisher: Fox (1997)
Reviewed: 2010/5/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI didn't own a Nintendo 64 in 1997, and to be honest I was a little jealous of Super Mario 64 players with their expansive environments and freedom of movement. This was a relatively new concept for consoles, and a tough nut for the original Playstation to crack. Wanting a piece of that action so bad led me to purchase Croc. The box promised "free roaming 3D gameplay in six different worlds" and while technically that's true, the levels turned out to be pretty small.

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.

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Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Crash Bash (Playstation)
Super Mario All-Stars (Super Nintendo)
Jersey Devil (Playstation)
Mario Clash (Virtual Boy)

Crow, City of Angels, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2010/3/24
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated violence, blood)

screenshotThe first Crow movie was terrific, but the ill-conceived City of Angels sequel was loud and mindless. This video game adaptation is equally bad yet compelling in an odd way. City of Angels is a third-person brawler starring a resurrected hero bent on revenge. You'll wander through dark, dinghy locations including a bar, graveyard, and dock. The game's violence is unflinching, and the full-motion video intro really sets the tone with a brutal execution scene.

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.

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Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Resident Evil (Playstation)
Area 51 (Playstation)
Shadow the Hedgehog (GameCube)
Dishaster (Atari 2600)
The Mummy Returns (Game Boy Color)

Crypt Killer
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1997)
Reviewed: 2010/6/13
Rating: Teen (violence, blood, and gore)

screenshotCritics shellacked this game, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Crypt Killer. I enjoy the simplicity of light gun shooters, and the occult/mythology theme is appealing. Crypt Killer's six stages whisk you through caves, temples, swamps, and forests as you blast monsters that pour out of the woodwork. You'll encounter gallivanting skeletons, flying gargoyles, and "Creature From the Black Lagoon" lizard-men. Skeletons toss daggers, mummies hurl toilet paper, and zombies toss bones they pull out of their own chests.

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.

Recommended variation: continues
Our high score: 373,800
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Crypt Killer (Saturn)
Point Blank (Playstation)
House of the Dead, The (Saturn)
Time Crisis (Playstation)
Corpse Killer (3DO)

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