Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2002)
The first Harry Potter game was a by-the-numbers affair buoyed by its low difficulty and brisk pacing. I was expecting more of the same from the Chamber of Secrets, but it's noticeably better. Locations are reused from the first game but the graphics are improved. The forests don't look nearly as fake and cool lighting effects makes the interior of the Hogwarts school look more grandiose. An orchestrated score plays throughout although it's very understated. The new autosave feature works like a charm, making the action flow a lot better. Like the first game, Chamber of Secrets doesn't follow the film except during its static cut-scenes. Your adventure begins in the area surrounding the Weasley country house where you'll engage in several mini-games including gnome-tossing and a wizard duel. Some of these mini-games are a lot of fun! I also enjoyed the harrowing flying car ride through a train tunnel with the Hogwarts Express bearing down on me. Certain missions pit you against strange adversaries like animated lawnmowers and possessed washing machines. The R1 button allows you to lock on during combat, but it feels erratic. When Harry casts his "Flipendo" spell it sounds like he's yelling "Nintendo!
" The puzzles are easy but don't always make sense. How does placing a boulder on a stump pop a lock off a gate?! Navigating the castle is confusing because door handles and padlocks look so similar! Bad design there! There are endless items to collect in this game including beans and wizard cards. When it comes to flying a broom, you now have the option of using reverse steering controls, which makes the quidditch stages much easier. It's like night and day really. My least favorite part of the game is when Ron gets sick and begins barfing all over the place. It actually made me feel ill! Despite that unpleasant bit, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is highly respectable, and once you start playing you may not want to stop. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2001)
Harry Potter video games had an amazing ten-year run, spanning three generations to culminate on the Xbox 360. This first entry looks primitive by comparison, with forests that look like hallways lined with green wallpaper. At least the game doesn't waste any time. The Sorcerer's Stone flashes a series of illustrations that gloss over Harry's origins before arriving at the Hogwarts school of magic. Once the action gets going there's rarely a lull. Harry can quickly scamper around the halls of Hogwarts and between-stage intermissions whisk him between locations. This game is ideal for people with short attention spans. The school is rendered with elegant textures but the rooms are sparse and lack atmosphere. Still, there are some nice touches like floating candles, living portraits, and random ghosts milling about. The character models are standard for the original Playstation, with faces mapped onto angular heads. The people look only vaguely like their movie counterparts but they do sound like them. It's cool to see underused characters like Nearly Headless Nick the ghost in key roles. The analog controls are responsive and I like the Zelda-style auto-jumps. The short missions don't really follow the film but Harry's main goal is still to elevate his Gryffindor gang over the evil house of Slytherin. There's a lot of fetching, racing, and lightweight combat. It's not hard to make progress, especially with locks literally falling off doors when you grab certain items. One thing I struggled with were the broomstick-flying stages which lack the option for reverse steering controls. How I managed to win that quidditch match I'll never know. The loading screens are brief but where is the music in this game? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone isn't a standout title but its easy-breezy gameplay is something you can knock out in an afternoon. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Hooters Road Trip
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes)
Hooters Road Trip is a mediocre racing game along the lines of Outrun, but it has one killer gimmick: Winners are treated to pictures and videos of Hooter girls! Yes, this is the only game I've played where the loading screens are more compelling than the game itself! These chicks are hot! The racing action is somewhat boring as you challenge other cars to race from city to city. The scenery is modest at best, but at least the framerate is smooth. Road Trip might have been half-way decent if not for the controls. The steering truly sucks, whether you use the analog stick or digital pad. Over-steering is the order of the day, causing your car to veer wildly around curves. It's even more frustrating when attempting to avoid oncoming traffic. You'll see a truck coming a mile away, yet will still
struggle to avoid hitting it head on. Fortunately, crashes only slow you down a bit, and it's easy to qualify for each race (finishing first is only slightly harder). Does seeing a video of four Hooter girls jumping around in bikinis make the marginal gameplay worthwhile? Well, if you're a guy the answer is probably yes
. But be forewarned: You will not
be playing this game for fun! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1998)
The Hot Shots Golf series is a Playstation institution
. Most golf games of the 90's strived for realism, but Hot Shots adopted a whimsical style with bright graphics and simple controls. The anime-style characters are cute and endearing, and the rolling green courses are extremely inviting. When the balls roll near the hole, the close-up shot is amazing.
Hot Shots uses a conventional three-press control scheme (popularized by EA's PGA Golf games), and it's quite responsive. Six courses are available, along with ten golfers, but you'll need to invest some time to unlock most of them. That's fine, because the action moves along at a steady clip, and the load times are minimal. Playing against a group of friends is always fun and competitive. The background music is pleasant, and the crisp sound effects include the "whoosh" of your swing and the "tink" of the ball falling in the cup. It's possible to cue applause and voice sound effects ("Hurry up", "Nice shot") by hitting buttons when you're opponent is up, and once your friends figure this out, they'll absolutely annoy the hell
out of you. Hot Shot Golf has aged well because its core gameplay is good as gold. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Hot Shots Golf 2
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Electronic Arts once had the market cornered on golf games, but their emphasis on realism made their games feel slow and tedious. This left the door open for the lighthearted, cartoonish Hot Shots Golf, which dominated the market with its friendly, easy-to-play style. Hot Shots 2 is great looking sequel, offering the same pick-up-and-play action with new characters and courses. The golfers are strictly caricatures, but many of the new characters (like the fat bald guy) are freakish and unlikeable. The courses and physics however are quite realistic, making this game appeal to hardcore golfers and casual gamers alike. It's hard to tell the difference between Hot Shots 1 and 2 at a glance, but close examination reveals a few new bells and whistles. New visuals include amazing close-ups that reveal the ball's dimples and logo as it rotates in the air. The new camera angle of the golfer reaching into the cup to pick up his ball looks incredible. If Hot Shots 2 has a flaw, it lies in its irritating audio effects. They really went overboard with the wind sounds, and some idiot yells "C'mon hurry up!" every ten seconds. Also, some of the Japanese-translated dialogue doesn't come across very well ("You are decent!"). I also have to take issue with the "fold-up" manual, which is difficult to open and reference. Who's idea was that
anyway?? All in all, this is another great Hot Shots game, but it's a questionable upgrade if you already own the first one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Titus (2000)
Rating: Teen (violence, comic mischief, suggestive themes)
I almost had an incredible crisis when I realized I had spent my hard-earned cash on this train-wreck-of-a-game. Incredible Crisis is actually a set of 24 mini-games, mostly involving button tapping or timing meters. One video game magazine referred to this as "old-school", which is an affront to all classic gamers. Old-school is characterized by simple graphics but fun gameplay. There's nothing "fun" about these games. All feature simple 3D graphics with varying camera angles, poor control, and confusing instructions. You'll need to play the games in order, although once you complete a game it becomes available from a mini-game menu. Sadly, these are not
the kind of games you'll want to play twice (or even once
, for that matter). Adding insult to injury, you can only save after every four
games, and it's quite likely you'll get stuck on one of them. Incredible Crisis is an incredible piece of garbage. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
International Track and Field
Publisher: Konami (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This addictive Olympic-style game has clocked a lot
of hours on my Playstation. Featuring eleven track and field events, one to four players complete in the pole-vault, long jump, shot put, javelin, discuss, hurdles, sprint, triple jump, high jump, and swimming. Like any good video game, the button-mashing controls are easy to learn but tough to master, and the 3D visuals are smooth and lifelike. Record-setting performances can be saved to memory cards and replayed. International Track and Field is challenging when played solo, but it's an absolute riot with a few friends. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Invasion From Beyond
Publisher: GT Interactive (1998)
I really hated the movie "Mars Attacks!" and this video game induced flashbacks of that awful movie. The whole time I was playing this game I was thinking, "What the hell
is going on?!?". Invasion From Beyond's controls are atrocious, and its graphics are terribly confusing. There are a series of missions that require you to hover your spacecraft over a small town while blasting flying saucers and relocating objects on the ground. The nightmare of a control scheme places the fire and thrust buttons right next to each other, making it difficult to do both at once. When firing into a group of flying saucers, it's hard to tell if you're inflicting any damage, especially since they tend to regenerate. On the bright side, the town below looks nice with its rolling hills and detailed landmarks. The cheesy music also suits the game well. But ultimately Invasion From Mars is a total bust due to its extremely dull gameplay. It only cost me a few bucks, but in retrospect a nice sandwich would have been a better investment. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Rating: Teen 13+ (animated violence)
In the mid-90's polygon fighters were the "new hotness" and a TSR Dungeon and Dragons-licensed brawler sounded appealing. I remember my friends Steve and Brendan being totally stoked about Iron & Blood, at least until they played its demo on my Playstation Underground disc. The obligatory CGI intro is impressive as hell, depicting a band of warriors marching toward an ominous dark tower. The diverse cast of 16 playable characters includes a masked executioner, werewolf, goblin, knight, archer, one-armed dwarf, and floating wizard. But the style of the game is a real turn-off. The character models look kind of goofy and their voices are really
annoying. Iron and Blood comes across as a shallow button-masher but it does have some depth. There are two dodge buttons, two block buttons, and you can even attack foes on the ground. It's a shame the game's ambitions are undermined by its clumsy controls and jerky animation. Whenever your opponent dodges or runs, you must wait for your fighter to slowly rotate
to face the right direction! Blocked attacks pass harmlessly through your opponent's body, and sometimes you can strike your opponent while facing the opposite direction.
The camerawork so poor you often can't see what's going on. The small battlefield is surrounded a force field. It's easy to inadvertently lunge into this force field, causing you character to get thrown to the ground unconscious. The digitized backdrops ooze atmosphere but lack interesting detail. The sound effects lack punch and the voice samples are loaded with sniveling comments like "I'm just too fast for you!
" Torches that gradually extinguish are a poor substitute for life bars. The single-player campaign spices up battles with magical artifacts, but the D&D license feels squandered. Promising much but delivering little, Iron & Blood is a really unlikeable fighting game. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Telegames (2000)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
This late-arriving Playstation title should appeal to Atari Jaguar fans, considering the first two Iron Soldiers were among the best games for the Jaguar system. Iron Soldier 3 delivers the same brand of 3D destructive mayhem, but its slow, methodical style hasn't aged well. A first-person shooter, Iron Soldier 3 places you in control of an enormous "mech", which is actually a giant robot. Your mech is equipped with a number of weapons including an assault rifle, gattling gun, grenades, and even a giant chain saw. Twenty-five challenging missions await you, but if you're the impatient type, you can just dive right into the arcade mode where the object is to simply destroy everything
. You'll meet fierce resistance from tanks, cannons, helicopters, and other mechs, but a handy scanner lets you track them all. The virtual city of loaded with skyscrapers, explosive gas tanks, and warehouses that hold power-ups and ammunition. As you would expect, these graphics are more detailed that the Jaguar games, but still maintain the same style. I like how the levels aren't completely flat - the hills and valleys add strategic value. The controls take time to learn, and it's too easy to get caught up on a piece of scenery. You can't always tell when you're under fire, so it's possible to incur a good deal of damage without even realizing it. Finally, the vagueness of the mission objectives can be really annoying. Otherwise Iron Soldier 3 has its bases covered, with a pulsating soundtrack and even a split-screen two-player cooperative mode. Be sure to check out the amazing cinematic intro, which features some amazing special effects. Jaguar veterans will appreciate Iron Soldier 3, but its deliberate pace and steep learning curve may deter novice gamers. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1999)
- a game that lives up to its name! This oddity is based on a Japanese game show, and I find it remarkable that it ever made it to the shores of America. Without a doubt, Irritating Stick has the worst title ever conceived
for a video game. It sounds more like a bad porno film! And if you think the title is bad, wait until you play the game! Basically it involves moving a dot through an electric maze without touching the sides, and your time is limited. It's stupid, repetitive, and... well...okay... irritating
! The only thing worse than running out of time after working your way through a lengthy maze is having to start over
! I don't think I've ever played anything so aggravating. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hasbro (1998)
Jeopardy tries to recreate the feel of the TV game show, but feels forced and contrived. The video cuts of Alex Trebeck are generic and really serve no purpose except to slow down the pace of the game. Your answers must be painstakingly spelled out letter by letter
, and while the user interface tries to help you out, it's still a tedious process. Fortunately, you can adjust the "tolerance level" so the game will accept an answer even if it's spelled wrong. With 3500 questions, this game will please Jeopardy fans, but most others will find it a bore. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1998)
1998 was a time when Playstation gamers were desperate
for a free-roaming 3D platformer on par with Super Mario 64
(Nintendo 64, 1996). I know because I was one of those gamers! Jersey Devil was one of the early attempts to fill the void, and it's a solid effort. There were other contenders with more expansive stages (Croc comes to mind) but during the Fall months Jersey Devil is your best option (trust me on this one). The game's distinctive Halloween theme is evident in its spooky environments, pumpkin-headed bosses, and mad scientist storyline. The star of the game is based on an actual creature that has been terrorizing southern New Jersey for over 100 years now (see Jersey Devil Wikipedia entry
). Frankly, his depiction in this game is a little cheesy. I can't decide if he looks more like a kid in a purple superhero outfit or "the Noid" of Domino's Pizza fame. The stages are slightly creepy but mostly cartoonish, with enemies that include bats, mummies, cobras, apes, and giant spiders. There are a lot of free-floating platforms but the jump-and-glide controls are forgiving enough. The stages are short and sweet, which works in the game's favor. In 1998 gamers craved huge levels, but the modest-sized areas in this game prove more manageable and fun to explore. Collecting pumpkins to earn extra lives is addicting, and the sheer number of hidden items gives the game substantial replay value. The production values are high but Jersey Devil does suffer from many issues typical of early 3D titles. The stages tend to be confined and you'll often need to finagle with the camera (using the shoulder buttons) to get a sense of your surroundings. There are graphical glitches (like clipping problems) and the control scheme isn't particularly intuitive (jump and glide are separate buttons). The analog control works much better than the digital pad. The animated intro is a treat, but the sweeping orchestrated musical score seems inappropriate. You can save your progress between the stages. Overall I'd have to say that this game has aged surprisingly well. They don't make platformers like this anymore, and that's part of what makes Jersey Devil so appealing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Despite being a total Playstation die-hard in 1996, there was one
particular Nintendo 64 game that really caught my eye, and that was Wave Race. The idea of a jet ski game was so appealing to me that when Jet Moto came out I immediately bought a copy. Granted, Jet Moto is not technically
a jet ski game, but it was close enough! Not limited to open water, Jet Moto's levitating bikes can glide over any type of flat terrain. That would seem to open up all kinds of interesting possibilities, but it really doesn't! Despite being able to travel over mud, concrete, and lava, the best tracks by far
are the ones on the open water. Playing this game for the first time in ten years, I was tempted to slap it with an "F" for its awful course designs and idiotic control scheme. The first track, set at a sunny resort, is great, but it's all downhill from there. Not only do many tracks force you to plow through dingy muddy swamps, but the narrow pathways are poorly marked and strewn with obstacles. The fact that some tracks double-back on themselves might sound exciting, but it's just a pain in the ass. As for the controls, the turbo button doesn't provide much of a boost, and the "magnetic grapple", which lets you execute tight turns, is one of the worst ideas ever conceived for a racing game. But as bad as it is, Jet Moto isn't a total loss. If nothing else, I can clearly remember my buddy George and I playing this for many hours just to unlock the courses. The difficulty progression was fair and a split-screen mode is always nice. I also like Jet Moto's slick presentation, with its gnarly
surfer music and stylish illustrations boasting some seriously hot
chicks. The game is also notable for its liberal use of advertisements, including copious ads for Mountain Dew and Butterfinger. Jet Moto somehow sold enough copies to merit two sequels, but I suspect that was more due to lack of competition than quality gameplay. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Despite my disdain for the original Jet Moto, a few readers encouraged me to give Jet Moto 2 a try. Sorry guys, but this game sucks
. Not only does this ill-conceived sequel retain the blatant flaws of the first game, but its control are worse
. This was the first Jet Moto game to support analog control, but its oversensitive steering is dreadful. Adding insult to injury, your vehicle moves insanely fast, despite the fact that the tracks are narrow and poorly defined (not unlike the first game). You'll need to lean on the brake constantly just to keep yourself pointed in the proper direction. Perhaps in an effort to compensate for the lousy controls, the developers dramatically toned down the difficulty. As a result, despite constant wipe-outs and bumping into every wall I could find, I would still
regularly finish in the top three! The courses include a post-earthquake Los Angeles, a desert canyon, and an iceberg-laden Arctic. But like the first game, the scenery looks awful and the tracks are hard to navigate until you memorize the layouts. The soundtrack is pretty good, but the process of saving your progress is needlessly complicated. All in all, Jet Moto 2 was such an ordeal to play that it actually brought down my grade for the first
Jet Moto (and maybe those yet to come). © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1999)
While not nearly good enough to redeem this sorry racing series, Jet Moto 3 is certainly a marked improvement. The tracks are much wider, easier to follow, and far more interesting that the claustrophobic mazes of the first two games. The "lost ruins" stage is fascinating, especially as you blaze through its spacious coliseum. Equally impressive is the volcanic island, mixing gorgeous tropical scenery with vibrant red volcanic tunnels. The wider tracks make it easier to control your levitating bike, but it still moves far too fast, causing you to constantly "climb" the invisible walls surrounding the course. The tracks now feature branches and alternate routes, but these tend to make things more confusing, and you'll often end up heading off in the wrong direction. Like Jet Moto 2, you can have an absolutely abysmal run and still somehow wind up in first place. Gamers who could tolerate the lousy course designs and poor control of the first two Jet Motos should be thrilled with this third chapter. Jet Moto 3 marked the end of the franchise, but it was probably for the best. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Jurassic Park: Warpath
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
I enjoyed this one-on-one dinosaur fighter more the first
time I played it - when it was called Primal Rage
(thank you, David Spade). Granted, Primal Rage (1995) had its issues, but at least that game had some sense of style and originality. Warpath feels like a cheap knock-off solely designed to cash in on the movie franchise. Its 3D dinosaur models look okay with their scaly skin textures, but the stages are incredibly boring. The only interesting location is the tanker ship in the San Diego harbor, which offers a gorgeous nighttime view of the San Diego skyline. Warpath's packaging boasts about "destructible environments", but all I could find were huge TNT boxes that blow up when you rub against them. In general, Warpath offers little in the way of fun. Like Primal Rage, the animation is rough and the collision detection is poor. There are no interesting attacks to speak of. How many ways can a dinosaur really attack anyway? Besides chomping with its jaws or swinging its tail, there's little room for technique. Sensing this limitation, the developers incorporated some ill-advised jumping attacks which just look silly. The blows are weak, with only small splashes of blood used to differentiate hits from misses. The slow-motion instant replays magnify the game's graphical woes, making you wonder why they were included. Even watching a "finishing blow" will leave you feeling hopelessly bewildered. Warpath is one of the rarer titles for the Playstation console, and now you know why. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Take-Two (2000)
Rating: Teen (mild language, suggestive themes)
My original review for this game lamented the fact that it contains no KISS music
- only generic guitar riffs. That in of itself could justify an "F". I mean, did they or did they not license the band?! Then one reader pointed out that it's possible to play your own music CDs
during the course of the game. I checked the manual, and sure enough it does mention this. Anyone who would purchase KISS Pinball would certainly
own a KISS CD or two, right? Sure enough, I had a few on hand! So after loading up one of the two pinball tables I paused the game and inserted KISS Alive 2. After fast-forwarding to Calling Dr. Love (via the R2 button), I soon realized that the game's guitar-riff audio effects completely butcher
any music you play - no matter how kick-ass it may be. The pinball action itself is some the worst I've ever experienced. The uninspired tables are grainy and the ball travels too fast to follow. Responsive flipper control is critical in pinball, but these flippers are sluggish and tend to "stick" after you trigger them. If you want to return to the main menu to save high scores or switch tables, you'll need to replace your CD with the game disk. That's a lot of trouble to go through just to play a cheap product designed to cash in on the band's popularity. Giving this game a second chance only cemented my hatred for it. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Rating: Teen 13+ (animated violence, blood)
Killing Zone is a "sensational 3-D fighter". And if you don't believe me check the front cover; it says it right there!
Despite the violent title and the promise of "buckets of gore" (back of box) Killing Zone is remarkably tame. There is no intro video and the lack of menu screen music is glaring. What Killing Zone does offer is eight classic monsters including a werewolf, mummy, minotaur, skeleton, and Frankenstein monster. The ladies are represented by a dark faerie and the half-snake gorgon. Depending on whether you're player one or two, the creatures are identified by different names which seems confusing and unnecessary. An announcer kicks off each battle exclaiming "Reach around!
" (whatever that means). Killing Zone's character models aren't terrible. The creatures look fearsome enough and some moves surprised me, like when the mummy grows twice as big or stretches his arms like Dhalsim in Street Fighter. I noticed that characters actually turn their heads to keep an eye on their opponents. Unfortunately the fighting action is marred by stilted animation and erratic collision detection. The screams and sound effects have a nice resonating quality but the mountainous backdrops look awfully grainy. The soundtrack incorporates a perfectly good rip-off of the Mortal Kombat theme. The game's ultimate undoing is its lack of replayability. The normal mode doesn't keep score and the bizarre "auto mode" only lets you suggest
moves as the action plays out. The options are sparse with no save capability. A remarkably bare-bones fighter, Killing Zone is playable but you probably won't want to. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Konami Arcade Classics
Publisher: Konami (1999)
This superb collection of ten early 80's arcade games is a dream come true for retrogamers. Scramble, Super Cobra, Time Pilot, Gyruss, and Pooyan, are legitimate classics you'll enjoy playing over and over again! Road Fighter, Roc N Rope, and Circus Charlie are second-tier titles, but they're still fun to play a few times. The final two games, Shao-Lin's Road and Tie Ar Kung-Fu, are a pair of archaic fighters that are only interesting from an historical perspective. Scramble is one of my favorite arcade games of all time, and I remember it well from the local bowling alley. This side scroller lets you shoot missiles and drop bombs at the same time, and you'll need to destroy fuel tanks in narrow caverns to maintain your energy. Super Cobra is actually the sequel to Scramble, but this time you pilot a helicopter and it's much harder. Time Pilot is a classic shooter that lets you fly a plane in any direction, shooting down aircraft and rescuing soldiers in parachutes. Each stage takes place during a different time period, pitting you against biplanes, jets, and UFOs. Gyruss is an unconventional space shooter with a ship that moves around in a big circle, firing at enemies that emerge from the center of the screen. That catchy music is classic Bach, believe it or not. Pooyan is a cute, cartoonish shooter with a pigs vs. wolves theme. In Roc N Rope, you scale a mountain by shooting ropes at cliffs and climbing across them. The poorly-named Road Fighter is a basic racer where you attempt to pass as many cars as you can. Circus Charlie offers six unique circus challenges, including tight-rope, trapeze, and flaming hoops. In Shao-Lin's Road you face gangs of thugs, but your arsenal is limited to kicks and jump-kicks. Yie Ar Kung-Fu is an early one-on-one fighter, and although it's pretty bad, it does remind me of Street Fighter in some ways. You can save your high scores and settings to memory card, and analog control is also supported. When you're in the mood to get back to the basics, this is the collection you need. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Psygnosis (1995)
Early Playstation titles tended to incorporate low-budget video clips which I tend to get a kick out of. Krazy Ivan's intro blends computer-generated imagery (CGI) with bad acting, perpetuating every Russian stereotype in the process. It's hilarious to hear military personel barking orders in English with outrageous accents. Krazy Ivan is revealed to be a renegade Russian soldier manning a mech warrior. When Ivan moves his body, his mech mimics his movements. Considering this concept has been used in so many modern films (Pacific Rim comes to mind), it's hard to believe this game came out in 1995!
Its first-person shooting gameplay feels like an advanced version of Cybermorph
(Jaguar, 1993). Enemy robots materialize from nowhere but it's fun to blast them with missiles and machine guns. They're easy to destroy and they often release captive soldiers you can collect for points (I thought I was running over them). There are enemies in the air too, but using L1 and R1 to aim up and down is awkward as hell. You can't see particularly far into the distance but the animation is smooth as you navigate the mountainous landscape. There are some frame-rate and audio hiccups, especially when your female commander appears in the corner of the screen. Each stage requires you to defeat several mech warriors and then destroy a shield generator. The mechs come in an interesting assortment, some resembling robotic wild animals like a gorilla or tiger. The sound effects that accompany these beasts can be pretty unnerving. Strafing is integral in battle, but instead of continuous movement you tap the shoulder buttons to "shunt" one step at a time. Between stages you're treated to some video clips with comedic elements to keep things light. When your mech is destroyed the game abruptly ends and prompts for your initials for the high score screen. I like Krazy Ivan. It's a pretty solid shooter and its cheesy video intermissions make it all the more endearing. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Dragoon, The
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
The credentials required to be a "PlayStation Greatest Hit" must not be terribly high. As Sony's first foray into the world of RPGs, the Legend of Dragoon was largely inspired by the wildly popular Final Fantasy VII. Harvesting ideas from various other games and incorporating a plot drawn up by some employee's 11-year-old nephew, this mediocre RPG combines weird gameplay and laughable voice acting. You play the role of Dart, a generic fighter with spiky hair and a grudge against a mysterious monster that killed his parents. On your quest to vanquish an evil empire, members of your party gradually begin to acquire strange powers. In times of crisis (read: combat) they can transform into "Dragoons"; endowing them with dragon armor and the ability to fly (and dish out some serious damage as well). After playing the first disc, I nearly threw the whole game out the window. For being released in 2000, the graphics were well behind the standards of the time. The polygons look rough and the backgrounds are awfully bland. Still, the full-motion video is nice and the music isn't half bad. Voices are only heard when characters attack, and the remaining dialogue is completely text-based. In terms of quality, I'm convinced the voice actors were picked up off the street (at least for this English version). The combat system is slow to load, and making matters worse, all special attacks are rhythm-based
! No RPG had done it before. No RPG has done it since. You can upgrade your attacks by using them often, but I had trouble just using them at all
! Heck, you have to tap eight buttons in sequential order, with a directional-pad motion in sync - just to perform a move! The one original concept I do like is how defending successfully replenishes a little bit of your health. It makes no physical sense mind you, but it sure helps when you're out of healing potions! All in all, this is a nice first try for Sony, but gamers should save themselves the $3.50 this game is worth and invest in a beer instead. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Lethal Enforcers I & II
Publisher: Konami (1997)
Rating: Mature (realistic violence)
After playing the much
slower 16-bit versions of Lethal Enforcers this arcade edition feels like a shot of adrenaline!
The digitized graphics are so clean I noticed subtle details like checking slips littering the bank counters. Clearer audio substantially improves the music, particularly in Lethal Enforcers II. But what really caught me off guard was the breakneck pacing. Bank robbers pour out of the woodwork so fast you barely have time to reload! They like to yell stuff like "Eat lead, copper!"
and "You missed me pig!"
You can even shoot out parts of the scenery like windows, cameras, and hostages (whoops!
). One consequence of the sharper graphics is character pixelation and the fact that they appear "removed" from the scenery. Lethal Enforcer's five stages take place in a bank, docks, airport, factory, and Chinatown. The sequel is set in the wild west, and if you thought the first game was frantic, this one is just insane. Right off the bat there's about six outlaws firing at you at the same time. These guys are practically piled on top
of each other! As if to compensate for the arcade difficulty each game gives you a whopping 30 continues!
Once I tried blowing through all 30 but my trigger finger was sore by the time I reached 15. It's just not natural
to use any more than three continues. The Justifier light gun is reasonably accurate provided you crank up the brightness on your CRT, but even under the best conditions entering your initials into the high score screen is nearly impossible. The lack of precision isn't as big a deal in the actual game since you have unlimited ammo. Lethal Enforcers I & II brings the arcade experience home; just be glad it doesn't take quarters. Notes: Not compatible with Guncon. Light guns do not work with HDTVs. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Interplay (1996)
This overhead shooter was a hit in 1996, thanks to its rapid-fire shooting, colorful lighting, and senseless violence. Loaded was also one of the first games to sport a mature rating. After selecting from one of six demented souls (including a psychotic clown and a fat dude in diapers), you are plopped in the middle of a dark, dank, maze-like prison. With a nod to Gauntlet and Smash TV, one or two players mow down mobs of mindless lunatics as constant explosions and gratuitous gore fills the screen. You can unleash a constant stream of bullets, and L1 provides a handy strafe function. For the first few minutes the game is genuinely fun, although the frame-rate seems rougher than I remembered. The sights and sounds of bodies splattering on floors and against walls are satisfying, as are the bass-heavy explosions. But unfortunately, Loaded proves that there is
such thing as too much
of a good thing. The main problem is the repetitive, oversized stages. By requiring you to acquire colored keycards to access new areas, the game actually promotes
tedious backtracking. I enjoy gratuitous violence as much as the next guy, but my thumb was killing
me by the end of the first stage
! There's not much variety, and if you play the game for too long it will
give you a headache. And with unlimited continues and no score, there's little in the way of challenge. Loaded's graphics are rendered with scaling sprites, and in general they look great. The game received numerous accolades for its lighting effects, and the colorful lights really do add a visual flair to otherwise non-descript hallways and rooms. But Loaded's greatest asset is its kick-ass soundtrack, which is absolutely phenomenal
. If you can imagine the Halloween movie theme with a club vibe, and you'll have a good idea of what these tunes sound like. Another nice feature is the two-player simultaneous mode, although the game actually takes longer with a partner because you need to coordinate your movements. Loaded is shallow and should only be consumed in small doses, but shooter fans will find merit in its dark theme and kick-ass soundtrack. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Looney Tunes Racing
Publisher: Infogrames (2000)
For the longest time I had assumed this was simply a degraded version of Looney Tunes Space Race
(Dreamcast, 2001). In fact this is a completely different racer - and a surprisingly good one at that! The box makes the bold claim "LTR might surpass Crash Team Racing as the best PS kart racing game to date." A bold statement for sure, but not as crazy as its sounds. Looney Tunes Racing may lack a four-player split-screen but its head-to-head and single-player action is wild! The all-star cast includes Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian, Tasmanian Devil, and Lola Bunny as the obligatory female. The stages are reminiscent of the classic cartoons, set in a castle, desert canyon, cartoon "backlot", Mars, and in a giant's vegetable garden. The scenery is a little chunky and hard to follow at times but the artistic style is right on point. The races are short and sweet with a playful orchestrated score that includes the "Figaro" opera song and Lone Ranger theme. The vibrant graphics and rollicking music make it feel like you're playing an old cartoon! The animation remains smooth despite all the pie-slinging, anvil-dropping, and storm clouds chasing cars around. Passing through a flashing arch will unleash mayhem on cars ahead, triggering a roaring locomotive, giant ray gun, or avalanche. Another neat concept is your ability to collect coins to increase your weapon meter, a la Gradius
(NES, 1986). The voice quips ("What's up doc?") can get repetitive but the racing action is wholesome fun. I even enjoyed the challenge modes which let you unlock various items. It may not be quite up to Bandicoot standards, but at the very least Looney Tunes Racing is an underrated gem. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Infogrames (1998)
Lucky Luke was painful
to review. Its cover suggests a budget-priced kid's title but I doubt this game would be enjoyable for any demographic. It's a wild west platformer that begins with a cut-scene of claymation crooks blowing their way out of jail. The characters are rendered in a vaguely-creepy Santa Claus Is Coming to Town style. Maybe they should have used that style in the game? Instead the characters look flat and cartoonish. They aren't even animated
well, and their jerky movements prove detrimental to the controls. The stage locations offer dusty towns, hazardous mineshafts, and twangy music. Luke moseys around so slowly
I felt obligated to hold in the run button the whole time. The control scheme is ass-backwards. A running jump is needed to clear many barriers, but the button placement will have your fingers in knots!
I find it incredulous how you can push a crate in one direction but not the other. Certain outlaws are defeated by ricocheting bullets, but the targets you need to hit are often off the screen
. The first boss encounter is just plain wretched. Some fat guy is tossing logs at you and you need to smack them back with... a frying pan?!
Terrible collision detection makes this an exercise in sheer perseverance. Beating him gives you the opportunity to purchase a password or extra life. Wait what?
The game charges you
for a damn password? Had I known I needed $100 I might have paid more attention to those dollar icons! The second stage puts you on a running horse which should
be fun but it's miserable. The side angle doesn't give you nearly enough time to react to obstacles and depth perception is a problem as well. After that stage guess how much money I had? $98! Wonderful. The third stage takes place on a train, culminating with a ridiculous boss battle against two guys in stack of barrels. Why can't I use my dynamite on them? Turns out I was supposed to shoot
their bombs back at them with my gun. I don't hold my video games to the highest standard of realism but Lucky Luke is flat out infuriating!
How "lucky" can Luke be if he ended up in this outhouse of a game? © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
Publisher: Working Designs (1999)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
Lunar is a port of the very highly regarded RPG for the Sega CD. Some of the quests have been altered for this re-release, and since they had a ton of room left over on the CDs, they threw in a nice intro movie and a dozen or so anime cut scenes. Packaged as a "box set", Lunar also includes a cloth map of the game world, the game soundtrack, and a leather-bound instruction booklet containing staff interviews and a lengthy preview of the player's guide. Lunar's story revolves around a young man named Alex and his aspirations of becoming a "Dragonmaster" like his idol. Alex has a pet baby dragon with a smart mouth, along with a handful of friends he meets on his quest to become a Dragonmaster. Without revealing too much of the plot, Alex strives to save those he loves while combating newly-emerging forces of evil. The sprites and backgrounds appear to have been touched up from the Sega CD version, now with an almost cartoon-like appearance. The full-motion anime segments are crisp, with barely any noticeable "mosaic effects". The game boasts terrific voice acting performed by a very talented staff. Lunar's loading times are fair, but especially noticeable when saving or loading from the memory card. Speaking of saving, you can do it wherever you please! That's right - no more dying right across from the save point. You can have up to five people in your party at once, all with unique abilities and techniques. Combat is fast-paced and simple, and the battle screens load quickly. You enter all of your party's commands at once, and teaming up is key for getting the biggest bang out of your magic points. As a bonus for beating the game, you're rewarded with some pee-yourself-funny voice acting outtakes. Lunar doesn't stretch the limits of the PlayStation by any means, but it does provide a fun and enjoyable game worthy of multiple plays. Especially considering all the extras, it's well worth its price. RPG enthusiasts (especially those who are suckers for packaging) need to have this game on their shelves. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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