Publisher: Hasbro (1999)
Hasbro has been rather inconsistent in their attempts to update classic games, but I think they got it right with this one. Especially when you consider how Hasbro butchered
Frogger, this is a pleasant surprise. Q*Bert offers three modes: Classic, Head-to-Head, and Adventure. Classic is the original arcade version, although you can choose between the original or updated graphics (good call). Anyone who has played the original Q*Bert knows how simple yet relentlessly addicting this silly game is. In case you don't remember, Q*Bert is the orange character with the big nose who hops around a pyramid, attempting to turn all its blocks the same color. He needs to avoid a gang of wandering enemies, most notably Coily the snake. Q*Bert's gameplay stands the test of time, and its head-to-head mode provides some enjoyable two-player simultaneous action. The Adventure mode challenges the solo player to complete some wild non-pyramid layouts, and you can save your progress between stages. This game is configurable in every way, including the control scheme. That's significant when you consider the game relies on diagonal movements. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Mud Duck (2003)
Where in the hell
did this game come from? Most late-arriving Playstation One titles proved to be duds, but Qix Neo rocked
my world. As a huge fan of the original arcade classic (1981), I'm extremely pleased with this brilliantly conceived update. The classic gameplay was wisely retained, but as you might suspect the graphics and audio have been upgraded dramatically. The original Qix didn't really have much of a theme; you simply tried to cordon off 75% (or more) of the playfield while avoiding wandering hazards. Qix Neo has a decidedly intergalactic flavor, with planet surfaces serving as backdrops for each innovative stage. Instead of avoiding a roving set of twisted lines, each screen features a distincitve "boss" along with a number of smaller creatures on patrol. You're constantly being hounded but you can trap creatures for bonus points. Qix Neo is far more forgiving than the original game. The bosses assume many interesting forms, including a giant centipede and a mechanical hand. Capturing strategic boxes awards like power-ups like "micro" (decrease boss size), laser (shoot at your enemies), and speed boosts (duh!). But by far the most desirable power-up is "time", which freezes your enemies momentarily. Despite the new wrinkles, the same basic strategy still applies. You'll want to thoughtfully section off the screen, creating alcoves to "trap" wandering adversaries. The game's otherworldly sound effects are amazing, and unlike anything I've heard before. An "arranged" playing mode is also included, offering a completely new set of stages. Qix Neo is immensely fun and addicting, and it even saves your high scores (for both modes). The game even adjusts your bonuses based on whether you use continues or not. If I had any complaints, I might point to the lack of a two-player mode, and the fact that some scoring bonuses are a bit excessive. Still, this is easily the best version of Qix I've ever played - even better than the original! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Agetec (1998)
R-Type Delta is an old school-inspired, side-scrolling shooter with eye-popping 3D graphics. Like previous R-Type games, you're armed with a deployable weapon called a "force module". The force module really adds a lot of strategy to an otherwise typical shooting experience, and you can even attach it
to large creatures to inflict substantial damage. Delta's graphics are truly impressive, with huge bosses that approach menacingly from the background. The post-apocalyptic scenery looks okay, but there's nothing particularly imaginative about it. The objects on the screen tend to be large and detailed, but sometimes your ship will run out of real estate, which can be frustrating. Fortunately, the pace of the game is slow enough that you can usually navigate out of harm's way even when things get hectic. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ascii (1999)
This unremarkable compilation features arcade-perfect ports of R-Type 1 and 2, along with a few minor bonus features. The original R-Type is a classic side scrolling space shooter that was popular in the early 90's. Both games feature cool bio-monsters, deployable weapons, and insanely hard gameplay. It seems like you're constantly losing ships even when you know where the enemies are coming from
! The graphics and sound are respectable, even by today's standards, but the lame bonus material is limited to screens describing technical details about the ships and enemies. I was disappointed that they didn't include more R-Type games on this disk, since several other editions of the game were previously released. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (2000)
This late-arriving PS1 game is aimed squarely at those who make remote-controlled (RC) vehicles at hobby. Judging from the video intro, there is a large contingent of people who take the hobby very seriously, custom-building their own models and entering them into tournaments. My interest in remote controlled cars doesn't run very deep, but I did enjoy racing them around my neighborhood as a kid, and RC de Go does a pretty good job of capturing what that same feeling. Unlike conventional racing games, your view is always from the far edge of the miniature track, as if you were sitting next to the actual course. Consequentially, it can be hard to judge curves on the far side. A championship mode challenges you to complete in fourteen races, and I found the controls to be touchy but effective. You can buy parts and upgrade your car between races, and that's important, because you won't get too far without making some dramatic improvements. From the detailed car designs and sheer variety of parts, it's evident that many RC experts had a hand in the design of RC de Go. The realistic miniature tracks look almost photographic at times. Although set in various locations (including the roof of a building), there's not much to see in the background, so all the courses look pretty much the same. RC's music is okay, but the mindless announcer repeats the exact
same lines during every race. On the first lap, expect to hear, "It's still early in the race - you've still got time to turn things around" - even when you're winning
! But a bigger flaw is the lack a two-player split-screen mode, which could
have been a lot of fun. As it is, only RC die-hards will really truly appreciate this game. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Racing Lagoon (Japan)
Publisher: Square (1999)
Despite the language barrier I really appreciated the concept behind this "high speed driving RPG". Racing Lagoon is a street racer set in 1999 Yokohama, Japan, with its action taking place at night. There's just something cool about cruising around sparsely-populated streets under the moonlit sky. Lagoon's cinematic style features striking camera shots of gorgeous skyscrapers, majestic bridges, and well-lit industrial areas. This looks more like a PS2 game. The jazzy soundtrack is mellow and relaxing, allowing you to get into a zone behind the wheel. The hub of the game is an overhead map where you guide what appears to be a little toy car between destinations. While trying to advance the story you'll frequently enter random street races which allow you to rack up experience points and earn car upgrades. Unfortunately you can't decline a street race challenge and they become tiresome after a while. The stylish cut-scenes feature of a lot of spiky-hair tough guys in leather jackets. I had to page through plenty of Japanese text but still appreciate the artistry of the scenes. Navigating menus can be a challenge, especially when faced with two options: "ok" and "end". Huh? I was able to see a few tracks but didn't advance very far. The racing is satisfying thanks to a smooth framerate and impressive lighting. The distant scenery looks fuzzy but that just adds atmosphere and mystery. The analog controls are a bit touchy; I prefer the digital which let you make minor adjustments. Turns can be hard to see coming, even with on-screen warning prompts. In addition to the primary RPG mode there's also a battle mode that lets two players race via split-screen. Like most Japanese titles the manual is glossy and colorful. I'm bummed that Racing Lagoon was never released in the states. I can't quite grasp this game yet yearn to be a part of its world. Some nights I'll kick back with Racing Lagoon while sipping an adult beverage and just try to soak it all in the best I can. Note: I reviewed this import using a modified Playstation. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This game is Ridge Racer 3 in all but name. That's a shame because I'd really like to file it next to my other three Ridge Racer games. Rage Racer is so good I can hardly believe it. Building on the winning formula of its predecessors, it ups the ante with additional cars, new customization options, and crazy eye candy. There are three courses but frankly they're all just variations of the same one. That's okay because the track is fantastic!
It twists and dips like a rollercoaster as you race through watery ruins, towering falls, San Francisco-style hills, and a bright Greek seaside village. New lighting effects add realism but make the scenery look a little gritty. I noticed a few unsightly seams here and there. The arcade controls are consistent with previous Ridge Racer titles, complete with the fishtail weirdness. I found the jazzy music to be a huge upgrade over the previous games, as is the woman announcer who provides moral support. The sense of progression is terrific as you're constantly unlocking new features and upgrade options. There's a lot of pressure to finish each race in the top three because you only have five credits. Even after all these years Rage Racer stands as a testament to how much fun arcade-style racing can be. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Raiden Project, The
Publisher: Sony (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)
It only took me ten years
to discover this phenomenal shooter. I stumbled across Raiden Project at my friend Dave's house, and it totally rocked my world. This old-fashioned 2D vertical shooter is easily one of the best I've played. As one of the earliest Playstation titles, Raiden Project was largely overshadowed by fancy 3D titles like Ridge Racer and Battle Arena Toshinden. Ironically, this game has aged better than either of those games. It plays similar to the previous Raiden games for systems like the NES and Turbografx, but this one is arcade perfect. Not only that, but you can completely configure the controls, display, difficulty, and even save your high scores. Playing this game is pure joy. As you weave across the screen spraying missiles at tanks and helicopters, you can even see cows grazing in the pastures below. Not many shooters can say they have cows. Huge airships catch on fire as they incur damage, and the explosions are supremely satisfying. Holding down the fire button engages rapid-fire, and there's no shortage of power-ups. Your earth-shattering bombs act as shields in addition to unleashing widespread destruction. Each stage culminates with a giant mechanical boss, but these don't monopolize the game as in so many other shooters. Two players can blast away at the same time, and a pulsating soundtrack helps you get into the zone. This disk actually includes both Raiden 1 and 2, although the second is more like a remake of the first. The graphics are slightly more detailed and there are some new weapons in Raiden 2, but the exciting twitch gameplay is exactly the same. There aren't many games like this for the Playstation, so shooter fans would be well-advised to track this one down. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This off-road racer clocked a tremendous number of hours on my Playstation back in the day, mainly due to its competitive four-player split-screen mode. Rally Cross pits compact cars against pick-up trucks in races through tropical jungles, sandy deserts, icy cliffs, and mine tunnels. The graphics are exceptionally sharp with finely detailed vehicles and scenic, rolling tracks. The physics is best described as "bouncy", so hitting a bump at a bad angle can send you tumbling end over end. When you find yourself flipped over, you need to "rock" your vehicle by alternately pressing the shoulder buttons. To avoid this predicament get used to tapping the brakes around each curve to execute a controlled power slide. Rally Cross was one of the first racers to include a split-screen mode for four players, and my friends and I played the hell
out of it. Despite its degraded visuals and choppy frame-rate the contests were consistently fun and exciting. There's nothing better than T-boning a friend or simply plowing straight into a traffic jam. There's no damage modeling but the track designs provide ample opportunity for devastating collisions. I also like how the pixilated water and mud splashes as you slice through it. Rally Cross does have a few annoyances. When using automatic transmissions you'll still need to manually place your car into first gear to begin the race. Usually you forget and just sit there revving your engine as everyone else darts out ahead. It's also necessary to manually shift gears when you need to reverse, which is a pain. The camera doesn't behave well in tight places, and if you wind up facing the wrong way inside a cave, you're really screwed. The mine and jungle tracks are terrific but the garden and snow tracks are too long and dull. The fantastic sound effects include creaking suspensions and crunching metal, but the generic guitar music is a bit grating. You might expect a game like Rally Cross to have aged poorly, but it has not. The pixelation in its graphics adds charm, and that crazy physics just adds to the challenge. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 989 Studios (1998)
As a huge fan of the original Rally Cross, my friends were pretty shocked when I didn't run out to buy this sequel. There happened to be a good reason for that. I had read that 989 Studios had unceremoniously axed
the four-player split-screen mode that had drawn my friends and I to the first game. I was devastated. It was twelve long years
before I finally decided to give Rally Cross 2 a try. Like so many sequels, this one takes several steps forward but a few steps back. First off, the whole manual gear-shift issue has been resolved, so the control scheme is simpler. Analog steering and vibration feedback is supported. The default steering is ultra-sensitive, but you can adjust that in the option menus. Although it's still pretty easy to roll your car, the physics is definitely less bouncy. Cars not only get dirty as they drive through mud but also model damage to a modest degree. The first three tracks wind through a construction site, forest, and rail yard. They are tricky to navigate despite the constant arrow prompts. The remaining tracks can be unlocked via the season mode, and it's a pretty time-consuming process. The main problem is that the tracks are super long, and at five laps each, it's too much. Still, I will admit it's really exciting when you're trying to maintain a lead in the final lap with other racers right on your bumper! I actually worked up a sweat
playing this! The extra tracks are definitely worth unlocking. Rocky Pass is a snowy winter track and County Air is bursting with fall colors. The scenery in Rally Cross 2 is more refined and interesting than the first game, although the vehicles look slightly less
detailed. I like how cars leave skid marks during slides, and the marks remain visible in subsequent laps. The forest stage features excellent thunder and lightning effects which are a bit startling. Rally Cross 2's rich season mode gives you the ability to make adjustments to your car between races to match the conditions of the upcoming course. There's a make-your-own-track editor that's remarkably intuitive to use, but it hardly makes up for the lack of a four-player mode. Rally Cross 2 is a quality racer, but when you compare it pound-for-pound to the original, it's basically a wash. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Spaz (2000)
This long-overdue sequel to Ray Storm doesn't quite live up to the legacy of the original. Like the first game, Ray Crisis features rapid-fire shooting, lock-on missiles that target multiple enemies, and transforming bosses that take forever to defeat. Excellent overhead 3D visuals offer cool camera angles and nifty visual effects. Unlike the first game, you can select the order of the stages, and you have four different ships to choose from. But Ray Crisis has some glaring problems. First of all, the two-player mode has been dropped completely, which is a major disappointment. And unlike the magnificent stages in Ray Storm, the levels in Ray Crisis seem awfully generic (lava stage, desert stage, etc). Finally, you'll have to deal with some extra-long loading times that you didn't have to put up with in the first game. Ray Crisis provides more of the same for fans for Ray Storm, but in this case more is less. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Spaz (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Ray Storm is one of the most spectacular shooters you'll see on the Playstation, thanks to its incredible overhead 3D graphics. The impressive scenery includes towering skyscrapers, ruins sticking out of the ocean, and huge galactic star cruisers. Your ship is equipped with rapid-fire cannons, lock-on missiles, and bombs that devastate everything on the screen. You'll battle enemies of all sizes from both the ground and air, and your lock-on missiles can target multiple enemies to maximize damage. Two people can play simultaneously, creating tremendous mayhem and devastation. While Ray Storm is an amazing technical achievement, its gameplay is flawed. First of all, the bosses take way
too long to destroy. It seems like I spent half the game
just pounding away at these mechanical beasts! And although the early planet stages are outstanding, the advanced space stages are far less interesting. It's uneven in quality, but shooter fans will still find Ray Storm appealing. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Gremlin Interactive (1996)
I've played some crappy sequels in my time, but Reloaded borders on criminal!
The original Loaded
(released earlier the same year, 1996) was no classic, but it did supply fast-paced shooting action with a satisfying degree of destruction. This game offers neither. In contrast to the original's dark, mysterious environments, Reloaded features bright, generic planet surfaces. The camera angle is more tilted than overhead, emphasizing the lack
of detail and dreadful pixelation
of the characters. Platforms are of different elevations, and some are only accessible via ramps or elevators. Apparently somebody thought this was a good idea, but it has a really detrimental effect on the game's speed. Your character moves slowly in general, and when shooting he moves like a snail
! It's so bad that you'll actually avoid shooting
whenever possible! What kind of a shooting game makes you not
want to shoot? A really bad
one! Reloaded's stages are more reasonable in size than the previous game, but their nebulous objectives make them less satisfying. The new mapping display is counterintuitive, and the music consists of weak, generic beats. By rushing this ill-conceived sequel out the door, Gremlin effectively killed the promising series. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1996)
With apologies to Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil (RE) is the grandfather of survival horror games. Brilliantly conceived, this third-person adventure stands the test of time as one of the scariest games ever
. The dark storyline of biological experimentation gone wrong takes place in a mysterious mansion crawling with mutated creatures that can jump out at any time. Crooked camera angles are used for dramatic effect, and beautifully-illustrated graphics boast amazing detail. Giant spiders scuttle convincingly and zombies stagger with amazing, motion-captured realism. The game is violent and gory by nature, with plenty of gratuitous blood and flying body parts. But what makes RE truly great is how it effectively builds atmosphere and tension. The scene with dogs bursting through the windows has got to rank up there as one of the greatest scares in video game history. Despite the high quality presentation however, RE's poorly-translated dialogue is laughable, and the stilted voice acting has a "so bad it's good" quality. Although deliberately paced, the gameplay is fun and engaging despite its stiff controls. Turning around is slow, and your limited carrying capacity is aggravating. RE also features a "live action" video intro which is largely an artifact of the early 90's gaming scene. It doesn't mesh with the game's polygon graphics at all, and looks completely out of place. Interestingly, this footage was censored to omit a shot of a severed arm (included in the Japanese version), much to the consternation of American gamers. Resident Evil remains a landmark game, and horror fans owe it to themselves to play through this at least once. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1998)
This second chapter of the Resident Evil saga expands the scope of the original in a number of ways. This time the entire town of Raccoon City is a burning disaster area overrun by zombies. Spread across two disks, Resident Evil 2 offers multiple missions and two playable characters. The graphics have been refined, and the ferocious new bosses include a giant alligator lurking in the sewers. While the premise might suggest a free-roaming game experience, in fact your movements through the streets are heavily constrained by cars and burning wreckage. Most of the action actually takes place inside of public buildings including a large police station. There's one particularly startling sequence in the station involving a mirror that scared the living hell out of me! Despite being a bigger adventure, the gameplay follows the same winning formula as the original, with thoughtful puzzles and intense monster encounters. As a terrific sequel that remains true to the original formula, many fans consider Resident Evil 2 to be the pinnacle of the series. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
The first Resident Evil (RE) set the standard for survivor horror, and RE2 expanded its scope from a single mansion to an entire town. In some ways, this third chapter feels like Resident Evil 2.5, since it takes place in the same burning city and even reuses
some locations (notably the police station). Despite a strong sense of deja vu, it's hard to beat the tried-and-true Resident Evil gameplay, with its awesome pre-rendered scenery, interesting puzzles, and jump-out-of-your-seat scares. The main character, Jill Valentine, looks seriously hot
running around in her boots and miniskirt. But the real star of the game is a hulking boss named "Nemesis" who keeps coming back much like Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. He's pretty scary, especially when you're limping around with that ugly bastard hot on your heels. Since Nemesis loves to sneak up on you and can crash the party at any moment, the intensity level is always high. The improved control scheme offers a quick turn-around move, a dodge, and a nice auto-aim mechanism. Other new features include the ability to manufacture different types of ammo (about as fun as "mixing plants"), and new "decision points" that can slightly alter the branch of the story. Resident Evil 3 feels awfully familiar, but those who can't get enough of the series will appreciate this well-designed third chapter. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil Director's Cut
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
This "Director's Cut" was clearly just a marketing ploy designed to generate hype for Resident Evil 2. Ironically, its main selling point was supposed to be its "uncensored footage" showing a detached arm in the opening scene. Gamers had been incensed when it was ommited from the original game, and due to a mix-up at Capcom, it's not in this version either! Resident Evil Director's Cut does offer a slightly modified version of the original game with shuffled puzzles, a few new camera angles, and multiple difficulty modes. The music has been changed, but considering how good it was in the original game, what's the point? What really caused a stir in 1997 was the second disk, which includes an playable demo of Resident Evil 2. It gives you a nice taste of the sequel by letting you fend off hordes of zombies on ravaged city streets, if only for a few minutes. This Director's Cut is not a critical upgrade for owners of the original version, but if you've never played Resident Evil, this is an ideal package. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil Survivor
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Survivor is such a monumental disappointment, it probably doesn't even deserve to bear the Resident Evil name. Previously Resident Evil (RE) games had always been played from a third-person perspective, but over the years rumors were swirling about a first-person version. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but this piece of garbage feels like a low-budget throw-away project. Survivor's 3D-rendered graphics are extremely blocky and pixelated, and the scenery is marred by unsightly seams and glitches. The audio is completely recycled from past RE games, but it's the control that really drags Survivor down. You can't strafe, and turning is painfully slow. Targeting zombies involves moving a clumsy crosshair around the screen, and you can't even tilt down far enough to hit creatures chomping on your legs! The need to explore is eliminated by the "quick search" button which automatically zooms in on any useful objects in a room. Likewise, objects in your possession are automatically used when needed, eliminating the need to think. Survivor is a linear experience with a lot of "find the key, open the door" puzzles. All that's left is constant shooting at monsters, which is surprisingly lame. Adding insult to injury, the load screens are frequent and you can't even save your progress! Clearly, Survivor was ill-advised and should have never seen the light of day. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Time Warner (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
When I first purchased this game "back in the day" I thought it was pretty amazing. Return Fire is an overhead shooter with capture-the-flag gameplay, and it's designed for two-player split-screen action. Each side has an underground bunker stocked with tanks, helicopters, armored support vehicles (ASVs), and Humvees. Controlling one vehicle at a time, you penetrate the enemy defenses, destroy his base, and transport the enemy flag back to your bunker. The overhead 3D graphics look great, and effective scaling is used to zoom the camera in automatically. The explosions are satisfying, and it's great fun to "squish" screaming soldiers with your tanks. A wide selection of battlefields are available, and they become more sprawling as you progress. Return Fire has a quirky sense of humor, incorporating classical music and old film clips. But there's more style than substance. The problem is, you can only use one vehicle at a time!
This severely limits your strategic options, and it's a colossal pain in the ass having to return to base just to switch vehicles. Hell, you're better off sacrificing your vehicle
than enduring that time-consuming return trip! Return Fire seems like the perfect head-to-head game on paper, but none of my friends ever wanted to play it for long. Fortunately there's also a single-player mode that challenges you to complete missions in the shortest possible time. It's nothing to write home about, but it's something. Lacking the playability of an arcade title and the depth of a strategy game, Return Fire falls squarely into "no-man's land" of gaming. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1994)
Rating: Kids to Adults
As the pack-in game for the original Playstation, Ridge Racer is one fantastic arcade racer. During its loading process you can actually play
a minigame of Galaga! At the time I thought all
future video games were going to have that feature! Once the game is loaded you can swap out the game disc for any music CD to substitute the music tracks! The first Foo Fighters album is an ideal high-energy soundtrack, and to this day I insist on using that CD with this game (sadly, the swap trick will not work with a PS2). Ridge Racer features bright graphics, simple controls, and non-stop action. Ultra-modern skyscrapers with animated billboards soar into the bright blue sky. Hot babes introduce each race, helicopters buzz the track, and jumbo jets take off from a nearby airport. You'll drive up mountain sides, race through tunnels, and cruise past scenic beach resorts. As day turns to night, stars come out and the buildings light up. The fact that the road is granular in appearance really helps convey the illusion of speed. You'd expect the third-person viewing option to be easier, but the collision detection seems far more forgiving in the first-person view. The digital controls take some getting used to, requiring you to rapidly "tap" the directional pad around turns. Hitting the brake sends your car into a power slide that feels more like a fishtail. While it seems clumsy at first, it's effective when mastered. Initially you're limited to four cars, and I prefer the yellow model due to its high speed and acceleration. There's only a single course but it's one of the best tracks I've ever played. On medium and hard difficulties the track is extended by a section that snakes through a construction zone. The CPU drivers leave little room for error, and trying to edge out an opponent at the finish is so intense, you might forget to blink! The game saves best trial times and unlocking extra cars and mirrored tracks is addictive. If Ridge Racer has an Achilles heel, it's the audio. The soundtrack is a nonsensical mishmash of high-pitched voices singing over chaotic electronic beats. The snarky commentator is obnoxious but does toss out some oddly amusing lines ("Hey that was a great
counter! You must be one genius
of a driver! You gotta teach me!
"). The game's fun arcade spirit is the reason Ridge Racer stands the test of time. There's no tedium here - just thrills and excitement. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Ridge Racer Revolution
Publisher: Namco (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This tepid sequel offers little more than a new track and a rear-view mirror! I was anxiously anticipating a two-player split-screen mode, but Ridge Racer Revolution only provides head-to-head action via a link cable
. I never knew anyone who even owned
one of those things. The quality of the graphics is the same as the first game, which is not a bad thing. The new course has three variations, but the general layout seems suspiciously similar to the original. Still, I like driving past those lighted tiki huts at night and racing through the tunnel carved into the side of the mountain. The controls haven't changed but the tracks tend to be more narrow, making it harder to maintain control during the fishtailing power slides. The new rear-view mirror feature is kind of a bust. On the plus side you can use it to "block" oncoming cars. On the down side, it's kind of big and tends to obscure the scenery. As in the first Ridge Racer, you can play a Galaga minigame during the load screen, but you can no longer swap in your own music CD. That's a problem, because some of the techno jams sound like a cacophony of noise. All things considered, Revolution is still a fun game with the same arcade sensibility of the original. There are additional options including the ability to save best times for each track. But instead of feeling a big step forward, Ridge Racer Revolution just feels like a big step sideways. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Ridge Racer Type 4
Publisher: Namco (1999)
The Ridge Racer franchise set the standard for arcade racing and Type 4 is arguably the pinnacle of the series. This is a heck of a lot more sophisticated than previous Ridge Racer entries, with more configuration options, an elaborate event structure, and a wide range of tracks. If there's a flaw with the game, it may lie in the abundant setup screens you're forced to wade through before each race. The graphics are so outstanding they even rival Gran Turismo
(Sony, 1998). While no individual track lives up to the arcade splendor of Rage Racer
(Namco, 1996), the courses look a lot more realistic thanks to some phenomenal lighting effects. When the sun sets the sky turns a reddish hue which looks absolutely breathtaking. Namco employed a new "blur" visual effect on car taillights, and it's certainly eye-catching. Ridge Racer Type 4 is the first game in the series to support two-player split-screen, believe it or not. But the most notable improvement lies in the controls. This is the first Ridge Racer to support the analog stick and it works like a charm. The "fishtail" physics of the previous Ridge Racer games have been replaced with new powerslide controls that let you effortless navigate tight turns. I own the Limited Edition of Ridge Racer Type 4 which included an innovative Jogcon controller. This oversized gray controller has a little wheel in the center which not only simulates a steering wheel but has force feedback! Hold on tight because if you hit another car or take a turn too quickly the wheel will fight
you! I would opt for a regular controller if my life depended on winning but the Jogcon adds realism. I found the game's background music to be tranquil and relaxing, allowing you to get into a zone while sliding around windy roads. As icing on the cake, a bonus disk includes a 60 frames-per-second (smooth) version of the original Ridge Racer! Ridge Racer Type 4 is one of the best arcade-style racers you'll ever play. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1998)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Capcom die-hards will relish every moment of Rival Schools, but just about any gamer with a pulse has to appreciate this well-crafted title. It's a remarkably playable 3D fighter brimming with personality and flair. The premise involves two schools that take matters into their own hands when students begin to mysteriously disappear. The unintentionally hilarious story mode is a treat thanks to priceless dialog like "So what do you want, mister younger brother of the big boss?" The game's 14-character roster includes a schoolgirl named Sakura that Street Fighter fans should recognize. Some characters incorporate sports equipment into their attacks such as baseballs, bats, soccer balls, and volleyballs (in your face!
). The female character models look smooth and clean, but the larger males look downright chunky. The animation is fast and fluid, giving matches an almost choreographed quality. Rival Schools is easy to play, yet advanced techniques like counters, evasive maneuvers, and juggle moves give the combat tremendous depth. You select two characters and can swap them between matches. Rival Schools combines the crisp, responsive gameplay of a 2D title with the flashy visuals of a 3D game. The elaborate team attacks look outrageous as both teammates toss around their opponent like a rag doll. The "healing" moves are usually good for a laugh (what is she doing
to him?!). The 2D stages tend to be pretty ho-hum, although the snowy town is quaint and that classroom looks huge!
The uptempo music is okay, but there's only one or two tunes that really stand out. Rival Schools comes on two discs: one with the arcade-perfect original, and one containing an "evolution" edition with extra modes and characters. There's a lot of bonus material to unlock, and high scores are saved to memory card. Capcom was really on top of their game when they gave us Rival Schools. I don't think I'll ever get tired of playing this one. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Robotron X was developed in an era when publishers assumed that if you gave an arcade classic the 3D treatment, you could basically print money. In retrospect these 3D incarnations generally lacked playability and often looked much worse
than the originals! Robotron's simple premise involves running around a crowded screen while blasting robots and snatching up helpless people for big points. Robotron X retains the formula, and for a while it's fun to strafe the screen and vaporize robots. Unfortunately the game employs a "medium zoom" which offers little in the way of eye candy and fails to give you a good sense of your surroundings. You can move independently of your aim, but the game was developed before
the dual-analog Playstation controllers came along. That's a shame because this game begs
for dual joysticks. Using the face buttons to aim is awkward, but the controls are the least of your problems. The screen is so loaded with sloppy polygons that it's hard to tell what the [expletive] is going on! Slowdown and choppy animation are the order of the day, and the collision detection is heinous
. These factors increase challenge, but in a bad
way. Robotron X tries to add a few original elements, but the consequences are dire. New robots are continuously dropped onto the screen, destroying any sense of progress or accomplishment. Waves are preceded by pointless intro screens which kill any sense of momentum. They also reveal the main character to be one ugly bastard. The concept of power-ups (like a two-way shot) had potential but is badly underused. The "pumping techno soundtrack" is generic and unimpressive. Robotron X is constantly showering you with unwanted "bonus" lives, turning the game into a never-ending ordeal. It's possible to save a game in progress, but it's not
possible to save the contents of the high score screen. My friend Chris summed up Robotron X like this: "Let's make it 3D because we can.
" It's too bad because the original Robotron was one of the most addicting, intense arcade games of all time. Midway wisely did not include it on this disk, probably because it would have really exposed Robotron X as the ill-conceived 3D rehash that it is. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 121,000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Singletrac (1998)
Rating: Teen (animated violence, suggestive themes)
Here's yet another car combat game from the good people that brought you Twisted Metal 1 and 2 (989 Studios took over for the third installment). Rogue Trip may lacks spectacular graphics, but it certainly doesn't lack a sense of humor. Everything about this game is wacky. The only truly original element is your ability to pick up "tourists" and drive them around to earn money. It sounds dumb, and it probably is, but it does add a bit of strategy. Rogue Trip's whimsical cars and stages are interesting but appear a bit sloppy. The energetic soundtrack includes some fine tunes from popular artists you're sure to recognize, and there's a nifty split-screen mode. Rogue Trip didn't push the limits of car combat, but its irreverent tone and multiplayer fun make it amusing nonetheless. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Psygnosis (1998)
For the longest time I considered Wipeout the premiere futuristic racing series for the Playstation, but now I think Rollcage deserves the honor. It's easy to play and one of the best-looking games for the system. Each gravity-defying track lets you roll up walls and even race upside-down in tunnels. The cars have oversized wheels so when you flip over you continue racing along. Collecting icons awards you with weapons, and you can hold two at a time, applying them strategically. In addition to launching missiles at other racers you can blow up signs and buildings, leaving explosions and debris in the road for the cars trailing you. The graphics are extremely polished and attractive. Stages tend to be dark but make excellent use of color, lighting, and pyrotechnics. One track winds through an island with a gorgeous sunset while another looks like Gotham City at night with burning oil drums and industrial scenery. Most tracks are nice and wide, but a few have a tendency to screw you over. On the red Mars track you can get hopelessly stuck in a dead-end if you miss a key jump. The sense of speed is exciting but the analog steering is touchy. When you get struck by a missile or glance off scenery you often find yourself facing the wrong direction. It's especially bad when you're soaring through the air, watching your car slowly rotate in the wrong direction! The game can be so disorienting it dedicated the O button to an "auto correct" function. But instead of instantly pointing you the right way, it spins you around a bunch of times first. One thing I love about Rollcage is its brisk pacing. The menus are a breeze to navigate, the load times are short, and even the race countdown is brief. A challenging league mode lets you unlock features and the two-player split-screen mode is also exciting. Rollcage is a lot of fun to play and frankly I wonder how I missed out on it the first time around. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Rollcage Stage II
Publisher: Psygnosis (2000)
The original Rollcage
(Psygnosis, 1998) caught me off-guard with its electrifying arcade look and feel. As you would expect from a proper sequel Rollcage Stage II offers more tracks, weapons, modes, and eye candy. One track takes you through lunar caves while another lets you race through underwater tubes. My personal favorite is the elevated track set in a raging thunderstorm!
Intriguing new weapons include "laser blades" which shoot electronic spikes out of your tires and "wormhole" which leap-frogs you with the car ahead (whoa!
). New modes include a two-player tournament and head-to-head combat. The combat mode is a bust but working your way through the campaign is compelling stuff. The knock-out rounds are so intense you'll forget to blink! The action becomes especially exhilarating when the finish line is in sight and missiles are whizzing by and cars are being tossed all over the place. I like how the game lets you enter your initials to save the best lap times. Sadly, not only does the game suffers from similar maladies as the original game, but the developers seemed to double-down
on them! The tracks are darker and more claustrophobic than ever, and it's still quite possible to get hopelessly stuck in a dead end. Certain weapons are remarkably annoying, like the "time warp" which wobbles the screen in a nausea-inducing manner. Rollcage Stage II is an impressive futuristic racer, but all things considered it's not appreciably better than the first. Note: While playing on my PS2 the menu highlighting did not work correctly. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
Jam-packed with breakneck downhill races, Rush Down totally lives up to its name. There are three distinct types of playing modes: snowboarding, kayaking, and biking. All three share a common control scheme, yet each offers a unique look and feel. As the title would imply, each course has you careening down steep trails at dangerous speeds while trying to avoid obstacles. The tracks tend to be narrow, sometimes taking you through tunnels or over the edge of cliffs. Rush Down's controls feature responsive steering, using the L1 or R1 buttons initiate tight turns. The X button is used to speed up, and it might as well be an accelerator pedal, because it provides an instant boost! You're always racing the clock, and there are frequent checkpoints that tack on additional seconds to the timer. The courses are interesting and exciting. The snowboarding and biking trails offer scenic mountain views, while the kayak stages boast amazing cascading water effects and majestic waterfalls. The locations span the globe, and high scores are saved for each course. As much as I enjoyed Rush Down, the game does reveal some technical limitations of the PS1 system. The snow courses show a lot of seams, and there's significant "draw-in" on the horizon. It can be hard to tell which way the track is turning, and even the arrow signs can be hard to make out from a distance. And what's up with the signs that have nothing but exclamation points
on them? If hope I never see one of those in real life! The characters are blocky and one appears to be wearing a thong!
that's not a dude! The collision detection is clumsy at times, making it easy to get hung up on a rock or log. The split-screen mode is a little on the choppy side, but still fun. I enjoyed the game's techno beats, although its voice samples can get on your nerves. It has some flaws, but I enjoyed Rush Down's high speed thrills. I find it hard to believe this was panned by critics, because I regard it as a hidden gem in the PS1 library. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Psygnosis (1996)
This racer has old-school goodness written all over it, and if not for its deplorable controls
, Rush Hour would have won me over in a big way. A reader originally described this game as an "arcade-style racer", prompting visions of Ridge Racer to dance in my head. What I discovered was an overhead racer that looks like a holdover from the 16-bit era. Rush Hour is more Virtua Racer than Ridge Racer. Its high camera angle offers a nice vantage point, but prevents you from getting a good look at the scenery, composed of textured polygons. You can zoom in slightly via the shoulder buttons, but you're basically limited to "far" and "farther". The tracks snake their way through snowy railroad stations, seaside resorts, and a nighttime metropolis. Despite directional indicators that warn of upcoming turns, the tracks are difficult to navigate, especially when they veer off-road or contain sharp turns. But Rush Hour's biggest downfall is its poor steering controls.
Designed for use with the digital pad, your turn radius is extremely
tight, so wild oversteering is a constant problem. It's not unusual to plow directly into a wall while attempting an easy turn. Another huge issue is how you need to hit periodic checkpoints before a timer runs out or your game ends abruptly. Even on the novice level, you'll need a flawless run to hit every checkpoint. A two-player split-screen mode is provided, but it's really hard to follow the track if you're not familiar with it. The best times are saved automatically for each track. I like the concept behind Rush Hour, but poor controls and excessive difficulty really take the air out of its tires. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
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