Dance Dance Revolution
Publisher: Konami (2001)
Despite being a heterosexual male, I tend to enjoy music and dancing games. I think Bust a Groove (PS) and Samba De Amigo (DC) are two of the best party games of all time, and Dance Dance Revolution is cast from the same mold. DDR's gameplay involves pressing buttons in rhythm with the music, but in this case the buttons are laid out on a "dance mat" (included with the game). The game contains literally dozens of songs, but you're not likely to recognize any
of them. Heck, I couldn't even tell the song titles from the artist names! As far as the quality of the music goes, it's a mixed bag. Most of these up-tempo tunes are pretty good, but a few are almost unbearable. Using the dance mat requires coordination and practice. Expect to get a pretty good workout! You can purchase better mats, but the one included is hard to stay situated on, as it tends to slide around. And don't expect to learn how to dance playing this game, because you'll be looking pretty ridiculous playing this. The game is definitely fun, but the difficulty is a bit harsh for beginners. Playing with the normal controller is much easier, but that defeats the purpose of the game, doesn't it? © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: THQ (2000)
Rating: Teen (animated violence, animated blood, suggestive themes)
I picked this one up on a whim at a used game store. I had never heard of Danger Girl but that bright comic-book style cover reeled me in. Apparently it's based on a comic book series starring a trio of hot chicks (what a concept!
) Danger Girl sets the stage with some exotic cinematics that look a whole lot like Tomb Raider
(PS1, 1997). These cut-scenes really make a point of accentuating the bountiful assets of each character. The comic-book style menus and load screens look so sharp and colorful that you'll be disappointed when you play the actual game. The dark jungle environments in the opening stage look murky and washed-out. The action is viewed from a third-person perspective but the camera is a mess. When you try to adjust it via the right thumbstick you'll wish you didn't. The radar display is equally confusing and unhelpful. Nevertheless, Danger Girl manages to packs a punch. It feels like a run-and-gun version of Tomb Raider thanks to nifty strafe controls and a handy auto-aim. You automatically lock onto any enemy you're facing, so you can just tap X to unload your Desert Eagle or AK47. So satisfying! Stealth attacks are also possible but I have no patience for that. At times the game feels like a battle of attrition, as you try to survive long enough to reach the next health pack. Danger Girl also incorporates quick-time events ("get ready for some action!
") that culminate in exciting stunts. You'll acquire useful gadgets like night-vision goggles and demolition charges as you infiltrate enemy camps and facilities. The brooding, pulse-pounding soundtrack is fantastic, and I love the way enemies scream when shot. The voice samples are clear but they sound less like a woman fighting for her life and more like a babe in a recording studio. There are definitely some bugs in this game related to teleporting soldiers and collision detection. I can overlook those, but the lack of checkpoints is unforgiveable. When you die you must restart the entire stage, and that's harsh. Then again, I think it was that high difficulty that kept me coming back. Danger Girl is a lot better that you'd think, and it gets extra credit for a colorful, illustrated manual. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1996)
Rating: Teen (violence and blood)
If there was ever a fighting game that valued style over substance, it's Darkstalkers. Basically it's Street Fighter II with monsters, including a vampire, a werewolf, a mummy, and a sexy cat-woman. Darkstalkers is loaded with funny animations, gorgeous backgrounds, over-the-top moves, and scantily clad women. Each of the ten characters has their own arsenal of attacks and super moves, and the ladies are quite easy on the eyes. What more could you ask for? Well, better gameplay, for one thing. Darkstalkers is rather shallow, and the shape-shifting moves are hard to follow and encourage button mashing. The action gets particularly confusing with faster characters like the hyperactive werewolf. The load times are a bit extreme, and the title sequence is idiotic. Still, if 2D fighters are your thing, Darkstalkers should keep you entertained for a while. It's only an average fighter, but at least there's plenty of eye candy. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1998)
Rating: Teen (violence)
In case you're wondering what happened to Darkstalkers 2, that game was called Night Warriors and only released for the Sega Saturn. Compared to the original game, Darkstalkers 3 is a noticeable improvement. There a many more characters, and they tend to be larger and better animated. At its core it still plays like Street Fighter 2, but its offbeat humor and macabre style give it a distinctive flavor. The fun, sometimes nightmarish backgrounds are highly detailed and a feast for the eyes. It's not the deepest fighter in the world, but fans of the series should flip over Darkstalkers 3. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Dead In The Water
Publisher: ASC (1998)
It's difficult to remember the last time I enjoyed a game less
than Dead In The Water. The premise of the game - Twisted Metal with boats - certainly has potential. The boats themselves are imaginative and detailed, and you can even soup them up with the money you win from races. Unfortunately, the sea resembles a huge vat of Jello and the gameplay is just hopeless. Unresponsive controls and poor track design make navigation difficult to say the least. The weapons don't do nearly enough damage, so the battles just go on forever. That sissy machine gun isn't even worth messing with, and neither is this game. Despite a boatload of options and features, Dead In The Water is a disaster of titanic proportions. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tecmo (1998)
Rating: Suggestive Themes
Dead or Alive has become a well-respected fighting game franchise, but its debut was somewhat of a joke. All anyone could talk about, it seems, is the game's over-the-top simulation of bouncing breasts. Dead Or Alive is probably the best looking fighter on the Playstation, with visuals that even exceed the Tekken games. The characters feature remarkably smooth, well-rounded bodies, and Kasumi looks unbelievably hot
for a Playstation character. It's a shame that of the eight fighters, only three are female, because the males seem boring by comparison! Graphics notwithstanding, Dead or Alive one is of the better fighters available for the system. Each character has literally dozens of moves (listed in the manual), and the silky-smooth animations make the bouts entertaining to watch. The gameplay is solid but not quite as deep as Tekken 3. I like how you can stomp a fighter who's on the ground, but it's a shame there's no side-step move. Dead or Alive rewards aggressive behavior, so don't be shy about pounding the buttons. The breathtaking background graphics feature photorealistic city skylights, tropical islands, and industrial areas at sunset. The music is equally good, and it varies greatly from stage to stage. Playing modes include training, team battle, survival, time attack, versus, and tournament, but my favorite is the "Kumite Mode", which pits you against a series of computer opponents. Since the minimum number of battles in Kumite mode is 30, you may want to set the match point to "one round" before undertaking this. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1998)
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated blood and gore, animated violence)
This medieval adventure was released hot on the heels of Tomb Raider, when Eidos was the hottest developer around. All things considered, Deathtrap Dungeon was a disappointment. It's certainly less memorable than its racy magazine ad featuring a mega-hot dominatrix with a whip. The game's CGI introduction is entertaining enough, depicting a goofy knight stumbling his way through a dungeon while contending with dart-traps, skeletons, a pig strapped with dynamite, and a rampaging T-Rex
shamelessly recycled from Tomb Raider. You select from two playable characters including a muscular dude and a Shirley Manson look-alike in a skimpy leather outfit. Tough choice, right? Sadly, the technology for rendering female form wasn't very far along, so the chicks in this game look more angular than sexy. As its name would imply, the game features a series of dungeons loaded with floating platforms, elevators, levers, traps, and fiends. You'll battle orcs, giant spiders, bulldozers-of-death, and annoying gnomes that giggle as they scamper around. The first time I played Deathtrap Dungeon I hated it because I couldn't make any progress. Later I discovered that when standing on a platform, you simply press the square button to put it in motion! That makes absolutely no sense but it makes the game a heck
of a lot easier. It's a shame the analog controller had not been introduced before this game, because these controls are terribly clunky. Your character turns slowly, making it hard to face approaching foes. You can execute several different sword attacks, but the swing controls are unresponsive. Fortunately one hit is usually enough to slice your attacker into meaty chunks. The lack of any camera control makes it difficult to gauge jumps, and the health meter and inventory system are poorly designed. Hints are provided in the form of arrows on the wall (really?) and cheesy inscriptions like "you can climb here" (c'mon now!). The audio may be the strongest aspect of the game. Sound effects like pounding drums and rumbling stone blocks pack plenty of bass, and the ominous musical score is also effective. Despite its shortcomings, Deathtrap Dungeon has its moments. When you're stuck in a room trying to lure hissing snake women into traps, it's exciting. The short stages are packed with secrets, and it's always interesting to see what the next area has in store. There are plenty of save points, but not nearly enough health icons. Deathtrap Dungeon can be an interesting dungeon romp, but only if you set your expectations low enough. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Psygnosis (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Let's say that a certain critic, who will go unnamed, overrates a game by a country mile. Many years later the aforementioned critic realizes his blunder and dramatically revises his grade. Does that make me - I mean him
- a bad person? I guess this is the point when I bow down and beg my readers for forgiveness. Destruction Derby has what it takes under the hood but can't quite reach the finish line. The highlight of the game is its devastating collisions, complete with flying shards and smoke. There's even some modest damage modeling. Two types of contests are available: stockcar racing and smash-up derby. Races are held within narrow, confined tracks, and there's not much to see. The boxy cars all move in the same direction so things don't get interesting until you reach an intersection. Now
we're talking! I'm not sure what's more fun - narrowly slicing through traffic or slamming into the side of a speeding car. Plowing into a large traffic jam is satisfying too. Just don't get spun around because it's easy to become disoriented and hard to get back on track. A diagram in the lower corner indicates the status of your car, and it's pretty exciting as you enter those final few laps on your last legs. Simply completing a race is tough, especially since they can be up to 20 laps long! Sometimes your damaged car will begin veering to one side, and that really sucks
. If the races bore you, give the smash-up-derbies a try. These take place in a wide-open, circular arena, and begin with all 19 cars (!) barreling towards the center. If you don't think that's fun, well, sorry - I can't help you man. The frame-rate slows on occasion, but that just gives you more time to take in the mayhem. Points are earned for spinning other cars around, but not for straight-on collisions (boo!). Destruction Derby is tailor-made for multi-player action, but would you believe there's no split-screen support?
The link cable is supported, but to my knowledge not a single person in the whole wide world ever bought one of those freakin' things. The soundtrack is an uneven mix of cool techno tunes and annoying wacky ditties. Destruction Derby shows its age but at the very least it still delivers a healthy dose of mindless destruction. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Destruction Derby 2
Publisher: Psygnosis (1996)
The first Destruction Derby was fun, but this one is a piece of [expletive]. In theory, Destruction Derby 2 (DD2) has a lot going for it, with improved graphics, faster gameplay, and more interesting tracks. Unlike the first game, cars can flip over and get knocked high into the air, resulting in more spectacular wrecks. But DD2's gameplay positively stinks! The circular smash-up-derby arena from the previous game is back, but this time it's virtually unplayable. As soon as your car gets hit, it goes sailing into the air. Then you find yourself getting gangbanged against a side wall as cars relentlessly plow into you. You can never seem to regain control, and it feels frustrating and pointless. The racing modes are better, but not great. The tracks are wider this time around, minimizing the congestion and pileups that made the first game such a hoot. Although there are some exciting jumps, some ramps are crooked, causing your car to inconveniently flip over. Your vehicle handles poorly, and each time your car bangs into something, you end up facing the wrong direction. Consequently, a tedious three-point turn is required to get back on track. There's a pit stop available, but just like so many other racing games, it's not very useful. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of DD2 is that it contains no
two-player options at all! The original Destruction Derby is decent, but steer clear of this lackluster sequel. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Destruction Derby Raw
Publisher: Psygnosis (2000)
Despite addressing most of the issues that plagued the ill-conceived Destruction Derby 2, Raw is still not very exciting. The reason is simple - the collisions are lame
! The crashes in the original Destruction Derby were punctuated by flying debris, billowing smoke, and ear-crunching sound effects. In Destruction Derby Raw, you basically just bounce off the other cars, which is not satisfying at all. It's a shame, because otherwise this is an impressive effort. The analog steering has a nice loose feel and the cars handle like a dream. The dirt tracks have a gritty, industrial look and feature some interesting layouts. Unfortunately, they also tend to be pretty wide and long, so even though you're racing against 19 other cars, it's possible to go a whole lap or two without even seeing anybody else! In addition, you rarely witness any major wrecks or pile-ups. As a one-player racing game, Destruction Derby Raw is respectable, but the split-screen action is a bore. DDR's graphics are good, and its grinding rock music isn't bad either. It's a decent racer, but it would benefit from more "Destruction" and less "Derby". © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, gore)
This is a very nice adaptation of the popular PC action/adventure. Viewing the action from a tilted overhead perspective, Diablo takes you through sixteen dungeon levels teeming with goblins, spiders, and demons. Naturally there's an obligatory village area where you can gather information at the pub and purchase items. Diablo starts off as a slash-fest, but once you acquire the ability to cast spells, there's a lot more strategy. You'll outfit your warrior from head to toe, and there's an amazing variety of armor, weapons, scrolls and items. We all know the PC game is great, but how does this Playstation version compare? Well, the dark dungeon graphics are not nearly as detailed and small creatures are difficult to discern. The control scheme takes some getting used to, and you're likely to waste a few spells before you get comfortable with the button combinations. The audio is fantastic, with creepy sound effects and intense background music. The biggest problem with the game is its excruciating load times between levels and during game saves. PC gamers will find this Diablo second rate, but newcomers will find this Playstation edition engrossing enough, and should also check out the exclusive two-player mode. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Fox (1996)
Rating: Mature (blood and violence)
Die Hard Trilogy is an incredible value when you consider it consists of three completely separate games, including a third-person shooter, a light-gun shooter, and a driving game. Each of them are of exceptional quality, featuring top-notch graphics and exceptional control. The light-gun shooter (based on Die Hard 2) is the best of the bunch, boasting a level of realism and gore unsurpassed for a 1996 title. Blowing away terrorists in an airport has never been so much fun! In the third-person shooter you controlling a little Bruce Willis trying to infiltrate an office building, and it's hard as hell. The driving game involves finding a time bomb in a city and features Sam Jackson's frantic yelling. No question about it, Die Hard Trilogy is one very impressive package. Note: Namco's Guncon controller is not
supported in this game. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Die Hard Trilogy 2
Publisher: Fox (1998)
Rating: Mature (blood, gore, violence)
The first Die Hard Trilogy game was a huge hit, released when the Playstation system was still fairly new. This game on the other hand didn't much media attention. Like the first Trilogy, this sequel features a third-person shooter, a light-gun shooter, and a car chase game. The "arcade mode" lets you dive right into any one, and the "movie mode" alternates between all three games, tying them together with full-motion-video cut-scenes. The third-person shooter is outstanding, with large characters and interesting stage locations. An auto-aiming feature makes it a pleasure to mow down the bad guys, and believe me, there's a lot
of blood-letting to be had! The light-gun game is also impressive, and it supports Namco's Guncon - the most accurate gun you can get for the Playstation. You'll need it, because many targets are quite small, including knives being tossed your way (a la Lethal Enforcers). In the driving game you ram over cars to destroy them, but it's probably the weakest of the three. You'll race through the country as well as downtown, but the steering is problematic. Even with the analog control, your turn radius is too wide, making it difficult to turn around. Die Hard Trilogy 2 does feel a bit like a rehash, but it still delivers a lot of bang for the buck. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Rating: Mature (blood, gore, violence)
The first Dino Crisis was basically Resident Evil with dinosaurs, and much of its gameplay consisted of slow puzzle-solving exercises. This terrific sequel takes just the opposite approach however. In Dino Crisis 2, the dinosaurs just keep coming
, turning this into an arcade shooter with endless Jurassic Park-inspired scenes. Much of the time you're literally running for your life! The controls have been improved so you can now run-and-gun, and a clever aiming system makes it easy to pick off raptors that seem to come out of the woodwork. The creatures look remarkably lifelike. The raptors are ruthless, but the T-Rex is so slow and dumb you can run circles
around him! Killing dinosaurs earns you points used toward the purchase of weapons, items, and tools. The graphics are Resident Evil-quality, which is to say, excellent. A ridiculous storyline nearly spoils the game, but the frantic action makes that easy to overlook. Once I began playing Dino Crisis 2, it was difficult to stop! This is one of the most exciting adventures you'll have on your Playstation. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Disney (1997)
Just like the classic Disney games on the 16-bit systems, Hercules combines high quality cartoon graphics with simple platform action. All the characters from the movie are here, and they are exceptionally well animated. The colorful, multi-tiered backgrounds are brightly detailed and fun to look at. Although most of the action is 2D, there are some 3D stages, including the amazing "Cyclops Attack" level where you run down the street of a crumbing city as a giant cyclops looms in the distance. Hercules generally follows the storyline of the movie, and even contains film clips between levels. The comical voice samples and background music are lifted straight from the film, and there's even a music video included! Most importantly, Hercules is fun to play, with plenty of variety, secret areas, bosses, and power-ups. Whether you enjoyed the film or not, this is a very entertaining title that will appeal to gamers of all ages. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1995)
Boasting over 50 hellish stages, this is a superb translation of the classic PC title. Doom is first-person shooting at its purest. It's satisfying to shoot demons in the face with a double-barreled shotgun as you navigate multi-tiered fortresses. The antiquated graphics look chunky but the frame-rate keeps pace even when you're being ambushed by a gang of fireball-throwing imps. Doom conveys a harrowing atmosphere that often borders on terrifying. Its ominous soundtrack makes you wary of impending... uh... doom
, and the resonating sound effects are alarming. Colored lighting is used to good effect. Flamable barrels are the equivalent of water coolers in hell, so If you spot several possessed soldiers congregating around one, blast it to splatter their guts all over the floor. Doom is packed with memorable sights and sounds, from an imp spitting up blood, to the digitized mountain backdrops, to a demon snorting his final breath. As an early PS1 title, the analog controls are not supported, so you'll need to use the D-pad. I'd recommend reconfiguring the controls to use X to shoot instead of triangle. The lack of a jump button is actually refreshing considering jumping always sucks in an FPS. Most stages are relatively short but numerous secret areas add replay value. It's nice how text displays on the screen alerting you to what item you've picked up. If I have one complaint, it's the inability to save your progress to memory card (the game provides a password instead). Two-player modes are available, but only via the link cable which nobody owns. With its compact stage designs, clever puzzles, and frequent surprises, Doom is more than the sum of its parts. There are plenty of versions of this game available for various consoles, but this is the one you really want. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Dracula: The Last Sanctuary
Publisher: Dreamcatcher (2001)
I tried so hard to enjoy Dracula: The Resurrection
(Dreamcatcher, 2001) with its spooky atmosphere and photo-realistic graphics. Sadly I was turned off by its dark visuals and cryptic objectives. I was hoping Sanctuary might address those issues but instead the developers decided to double down!
Oh dear. You begin this first-person adventure as John Harker standing in front of a mansion on a cloudy day. Yes, I said "day" so you can actually see your surroundings. So refreshing! The computer generated scenery looks very real and I love the "fish-eye" view as you look in any direction. Unfortunately my hopes and dreams were dashed when I entered the house and found myself in pitch darkness, with only a few rays of light shining through shuttered windows. At this point I felt as if I had to "feel" my way around using a cursor that turns into an arrow (to move) or a magnifying glass (to examine). There are so many items to manipulate in this game that there are two
"item wheels" instead of one. Wonderful.
It's often necessary to combine
items - something never even mentioned in the literature. Does this game really expect you to discern vital clues that are barely visible on the screen? That smudge on the wall is supposed to be a key hook? C'mon!
That tiny brown square below the doorknob is a padlock? Give me a [expletive] break!
There is however one trick that will make your life easier, and that is to simply crank up the brightness of your TV! I normally keep my brightness at 50% but you'll want to set it to at least 80%. I guess this game was designed to run on PCs with sharp monitors - not televisions with low resolutions. Also problematic is how items aren't labeled, so you don't even know what you're holding! As if all the trial and error isn't frustrating enough, some sequences are timed!
You can save at any point, but that's a time-consuming process. Even with an FAQ on your lap you'll be in for some serious frustration. Dracula: The Last Sanctuary is certainly more sophisticated than the original, but that added complexity comes with a price in the form of decreased playability. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Dracula: The Resurrection
Publisher: Dreamcatcher (2001)
I vaguely recall spotting this budget title at Best Buy in the waning years of the PS1 system. I only rediscovered it recently while searching for new Halloween titles to review. I must say that Dracula: The Resurrection commanded my attention from its opening cutscene which blew me away with its excellent graphics and lifelike animation. Whoa!
This first-person adventure is like nothing I've played, although my friends suggested Myst
(Jaguar, 1995). The moonlit scenery looks nearly photorealistic and the ability to look around 360 degrees is pretty amazing. I love the atmosphere of the snowy trails, cozy inns, and shadowy graveyards. The sound of wind and other ambient noises make you feel like you're "right there". You play by moving a cursor around the screen. It turns into a directional arrow if there's a way to go, a magnifying glass if there's something to examine, or a hand if there's an object. I love the concept but found the gameplay confounding at best. When you step forward the viewpoint changes in a disorienting manner, and I soon found myself moving in circles. Locating a critical item often requires you to place the cursor over a pitch black
area! This game is so dark my friend Brent asked if we could turn the brightness
up! Even when you have an item you may not be able to use it if you haven't talked to another character about what it's for! Speaking of characters, the female innkeeper is by far the most frightening part of the game. *shudder* Brent and I forged through much of the game with FAQ in hand and we couldn't imagine playing without it. He asked if the game was almost over when I informed him there was still a second disc!
Dracula: The Resurrection is the kind of game horror fans like to get lost in. And with its poor navigation and arbitrary rules, you undoubtedly will. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: GT Interactive (1999)
Rating: Teen (mild language
Driver places you in the role of a criminal on a series of exciting missions that usually send you racing through the streets while eluding cops who are trying to run you off the road. Driver's graphics are superb and its frame rate is smooth, giving the game the look and feel of a Starsky and Hutch car chase! It's quite a rush to bounce over curbs and side-swipe cars in a desperate attempt to flee from the cops. This was one of the first games to let you drive freely through a city with traffic and pedestrians. The heart of the game is the mission-based story mode, which features a number of 1970's trademarks including afros and jive talking. Most gamers however will prefer the "survival mode", where you see how long you can last against a squad of kamikaze police cars. It's absolute chaos, and you can't help but laugh at the carnage that ensues. None of my friends could even last for more than a minute! Following each try you can view an instant replay, and these are hilarious. The game's four locations include Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Although the cities do contain familiar landmarks, they are not laid out like the real places. The scenery is detailed and attractive, but Driver suffers from a terrible case of "draw-in", where entire buildings suddenly appear in front of you as you approach. There's also some slowdown when things get hectic, but that should be expected considering the nature of the game. There are some technical issues, but they should not chase you away from this thrill-a-minute title. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
ESPN Extreme Games
Publisher: Sony (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)
This was one of the very first Playstation games I purchased, and to this day it's one of my all-time favorites. Whether played solo or split-screen, ESPN Extreme Games really lives up to its name. You race on bikes, skateboards, skates, and luge sleds through scenic locations like San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Italy, and Utah. The action moves at a breakneck pace and the sense of speed is sensational. You can use kicks and punches to knock opponents to the curb, and there's nothing more satisfying than the sound of a skateboarder hitting the asphalt at high speed. In recent years I had acquired the repackaged version of this game called 1Xtreme
(989 Studios, 1998), yet I sensed something was missing. One day I finished the game and noticed an empty monitor on the screen. It then dawned on me that the original game had video clips!
I then tracked down an original copy in the "long box" format so I could once again experience Extreme Games as it was meant to be. The game opens with an obligatory intro video showcasing "extreme" stunts. Before and after each race some hip commentator provides information about the course and grades your performance. It's really not that big of a deal, but I like it. Live video was one of the hallmarks of the early Playstation titles, and it's something you rarely see anymore. I prefer this over 1Xtreme, not just because of the video content, but also because the title is a lot less stupid! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Agetec (1999)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, mild language)
I enjoy survival horror but this obscure title had slipped under my radar until a reader brought it to my attention. Echo Night is a slow-moving but intelligently designed adventure in which you play a character investigating the disappearance of his father. Most of the action takes place on an ominous ship at sea, where you'll communicate with ghosts, scour for clues, and solve puzzles to put restless souls at peace. The rooms and hallways tends to be very dark, so you'll always want to look for a light switch (which keep evil ghosts at bay). Echo Night generates a lot of suspense with its deliberate pacing and foreboding atmosphere. The scenery looks pretty remarkable thanks to its rich textures and excellent lighting effects. The characters tend to be stiff with distorted faces, but this makes them all the more creepy. Most of the action involves exploration and manipulating items to solve puzzles. You play from a first-person perspective, which can be disconcerting in close quarters, conveying a sense of claustrophobia. The controls are digital only and they feel stiff. The button configuration takes some getting used to, as the left shoulder buttons look up and down and the right ones are used to strafe. Echo Night's narrative is a little hard to follow. Some of the awkward dialogue and bizarre cut-scenes don't make much sense, but that might be a translation problem. Flashback scenes take you to brighter, less scary locations which attempt to fill in holes in the story. Is Echo Night scary? Yes! I freaked out when I saw that floating girl in the hallway, and whenever I heard her giggle my blood ran cold. The vibration feedback and stereo effects will also give you a jolt. Slow-building but effective, Echo Night is a cinematic horror title that will keep you on the edge of your seat. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Squaresoft (1998)
Rendered in graphically stunning 3D, Einhander ushered side-scrolling shooters into a new age. Its layered backdrops, swinging camera angles, huge adversaries, and realistic explosions make Einhander a feast for the eyes. There are several weapons available which you can aim on the fly. Einhander is fun, but you must always begin on stage one, and reaching the later stages is difficult and time-consuming. Also, since your ship is large and the bosses are huge, there's rarely enough room on the screen to maneuver around. It might not be a classic, but many fans of the shooting genre consider this an old favorite. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Working Designs (1997)
I had a habit of picking up obscure titles in the late 1990's, some of which turned out to be valuable collector's items. Buying Elemental Gearbolt was one of the best things I ever did. This elegant light gun title was published by Working Designs, a company that specialized in Japanese game translations. Its impressive packaging includes a double-wide CD case and thick instruction book. This has got to be the best CD-sized manual I've ever seen. Printed on quality stock with a metallic cover, its 48 pages contain beautiful artwork, extensive background information, and even an interview with the game's art director. This is the kind of physical media you're proud to own. Gearbolt's anime intro and intermissions are first-rate, setting up a dramatic storyline with a lush orchestrated score. The game itself is played from a first-person view where your movements are automatic. The fact that Namco's super-accurate Guncon is supported is key, as you'll be expected to hit some very distant targets. The graphics are breathtaking as you're whisked through townships, forests, and across shimmering lakes. The chunky textures are compensated for by the artistry of the graphics and a silky smooth framerate. The pacing is damn near perfect. Your rate of fire is slow and deliberate, forcing you to carefully choose your targets. The good news is there's no need to reload. You'll aim at giant dragonflies, leaping lobsters, and hulking guards with hammers. Hitting consecutive targets racks up your combo meter, adding a risk/reward element. Do you go for that gem in the distance, or play it safe to preserve your combo? It almost becomes a game within a game. You can toggle between three elemental weapons but the "fire" shotgun is all you need. The game is very easy to play. Rotating wireframes highlight monsters about to attack, and your shots are represented by large bright orbs. Between stages you're presented with a trade-off screen that lets you sacrifice bonus points for more power. It's not an all-or-nothing decision; you can adjust the percentage. Ranking in the top three gives you the honor of carving your initials
into a stone. I was really blown away when I saw that cursive "D" I inscribed more than 20 years ago! The attention to detail makes other light gun shooters feel like carnival games. The one downside to Elemental Gearbolt is that it's a very linear experience that's always the same. But it is an experience, and when you take into account the pinpoint controls, rich artistry, and thoughtful design, this may be the best light gun game ever made. NOTE: Light guns only function on old-style CRT televisions. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
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