system Index M-R
Mansion of Hidden Souls
Grade: B
Publisher: Vic Tokai (1994)
Reviewed: 2000/9/21

screenshotThis game has a bizarre premise. A boy and girl find a butterfly in a field at night, and the girl says she wishes she were a butterfly. The next thing you know, the boy finds himself in a mysterious mansion, searching for his sister. Its rooms contain talking butterflies that used to be people. The boy's sister will soon be turned into one as well, unless you can find her before "the hunter" does. It sounds pretty silly, but Mansion of Hidden Souls gradually drew me in.

Gameplay consists of exploring rooms, finding items, and opening new areas. The first person view makes you feel like you're actually walking through the house. The controls are simple - just push the joypad in the direction you want to go. The graphics are smooth and detailed, and although the rooms don't look particularly dark or scary, eerie music and mysterious voices help convey a creepy atmosphere.

The layout of the house is actually quite similar to Resident Evil (Playstation). The story is interesting, and the puzzles are fair and never frustrating. Mansion of Hidden Souls has little replay value, but it's probably worth playing through once. . © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Echo Night (Playstation)
Ico (Playstation 2)
Resident Evil (Playstation 4)
Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare (Dreamcast)
Alone in the Dark (3DO)

Grade: B-
Publisher: Older Games (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/5/9

screenshotThis formerly unreleased Sega CD title is surprisingly likeable and fun. If you've ever played Soccer Kid on the Atari Jaguar, then you'll find Marko's similar platform gameplay to be less polished but arguably more fun. The main character is a rather generic blond-haired kid with a magic soccer ball. He's out to stop a madman at a toy factory who's transforming animals into slime monsters. Each level offers plenty of items to collect and monsters to defeat using your ball.

Marko can kick the ball low, high, backwards, and even head the ball. Kicking a soccer ball at monsters is a refreshing change of pace from simply pouncing on them. The ball tends to bounce around a lot, and it's super fun to watch one kick dispose of several targets. Since your adversaries aren't particularly aggressive, the game moves along at a rather leisurely pace. The controls are less-than-exact, and a few crucial jumps are frustrating.

The colorful graphics are very easy on the eyes, with well-defined scenery and super smooth animation. The bright visuals combined with the catchy, playful music put me in the mind of watching a Saturday morning cartoon "back in the day". The stages include city streets, a forest, and a circus, and these are quite interesting to explore. The only dud is the sewer stage. Perhaps sewers were cool when this game was programmed in the mid-90s, but now they're just passé. Marko also falls victim to other annoying clichés including the much-maligned spiked pits.

Checkpoints take the form of a little girl who snaps your picture when you walk by, and a password is provided every few stages. Between stages there are mini-cartoons, but these are only mildly amusing. Marko is not a remarkable platform game, but it is a pleasant way to pass the time. If you're a Sega CD fan, I'd advise you to give this one a try. It's available from . © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Soccer Kid (Jaguar)
Wonder Boy (Sega Master System)
Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)
Mega Man Soccer (Super Nintendo)
Realsports Soccer (Atari 2600)

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Make My Video
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2011/11/20

screenshotIs there a day that goes by when Mark Walhberg doesn't cringe at the thought being associated with this? The "Make My Video" titles are inherently bad, but this Marky Mark edition is the worst. The opening scene shows a kid searching his bedroom, and the murky, monochromatic visuals prompted my friend Chris to ask if something was wrong with my system. No Chris, this is how Sega CD games really look! Three rap songs are featured: "Good Vibrations", "You Gotta Believe", and "I Need Money".

Good Vibrations is catchy enough (C'mon c'mon! Feel it feel it!) but the other songs are pretty bad. The "game" (and I use the term loosely) involves editing a music video by switching between clips and applying pointless video effects. Prior to each song you'll watch a set-up clip that gives you guidance on how to edit the video. Some of these scenes make no sense. What in the world is that young girl doing in a men's locker room asking a sweaty boxer how he wants the video to look? Just before the action it sounds like Marky is yelling "Make my video gay!"

The video edit screen doesn't give you a whole lot to work with. You can toggle between three sets of running film, but the small screen dimensions coupled with poor video quality make the footage hard to make out! Besides clips of the original music video, there's a lot of throw-away black-and-white footage that Sega clearly did not have to pay anything for. There are clips from old cartoons, movies, and random things like boxing cats. I considered bumping up the grade to a D for the boxing cats, but then remembered that I still have to live with myself.

Applying effects will chop up, flash, color, and generally obfuscate the already-grainy footage beyond recognition. In fact, if you apply more than two effects, it looks like a garbled mess! The "reward" for your efforts is watching the resulting abomination of a video in a window that takes up about one-fourth of the screen. And no, you can't skip it! If Marky Mark isn't the worst Sega CD title ever made, it's certainly the most mock-worthy. This one might need to be witnessed first-hand to appreciate the full extent of its badness. . © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Power Factory Featuring C&C Music Factory (Sega CD)
INXS - Make My Video (Sega CD)
Flashback (Sega CD)
King of Fighters 97 (CD) (Neo Geo)
Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Grade: F
Publisher: Sony (1994)
Reviewed: 2014/11/4

screenshotBased on the horrible film by the same name, this game begs the question, "who in the [expletive] thought this was a good idea?" Part adventure, part fighting game, and all bad, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is an unholy amalgamation of genres. You begin play by guiding the monster around a cottage looking for ways to overcome contrived hazards like a pool of electric eels. The interface for manipulating items makes no sense so you start tapping buttons and hope for the best. Certain items allow you to avoid combat which is always in your best interest.

When the game shifts into a Street Fighter 2-style one-on-one fighter, it becomes a national embarrassment. To see the monster go from a limping corpse to a high-jumping kung-fu master is almost surreal. His human opponents (hailing from 19th century England) also happen to be experts in the martial arts. The fights are difficult until you realize you can dispatch most foes with a series of non-stop punches to the crotch. The exploration and puzzle-solving aspects of the game try to follow the King's Quest formula. Experimenting with items might hold your attention for a while, but interacting with the environment is awkward even when you know what to do.

The scenery is nicely detailed but it's hard to tell where you can and can't go. It's especially frustrating when you keep exiting an area by accident! No video or images from the film are used. Some grainy clips of computer-generated scenery are displayed between stages, but the lack of audio gives the game an unfinished quality. There is a handy save feature. I was willing to cut Mary Shelley's Frankenstein some slack based on ambition alone, but then I reached the forest stage. This incomprehensible maze of contiguous screens had me walking in circles until I thought I would lose my mind. Much like Frankenstein's monster, this game is powered by electricity but will only bring you pain and suffering. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Shaq Fu (Super Nintendo)
Kung Fu Master (Atari 7800)
Supreme Warrior (Sega CD)
Kung Fu (NES)
Tron Maze-A-Tron (Intellivision)

Masked Rider
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2003/8/9
Rating: Teen (realistic violence)

screenshotThis surprisingly good full motion video (FMV) game is an interactive science fiction movie with elements of Terminator, Predator, Alien, Phantasm, The Matrix, Clash of the Titans, and even The Fly. At the heart of the story is a scientist trying to create the "perfect monster" - not your standard University research project. For some unexplained reason, the creatures break loose and go after the scientist's son, and it's up to the Masked Rider to save the day. Our hero looks a heck of a lot like Ultraman, except with a grasshopper influence.

The game begins with three Japanese kids walking home from school, and the voice acting is bad. One of the boys sounds like a grown man talking in a high-pitched voice! As the story unfolds, the game cues you to press certain buttons. Reacting quickly and correctly keeps the story going, and a chime or buzz confirms if you did the right or wrong thing. The gameplay is shallow, but the awesome visuals make it worth your while.

Amazing creatures, over-the-top battles, and god-awful acting make this a marvelously entertaining spectacle. The monsters include the Terminator-inspired "Doras", the bat-like "Draculan", and the grotesque stop-motion giant spider "Aracnia". Each of these is well designed and pretty darned scary looking. Cool special effects include explosions and morphing, but the video is grainy and only fills about 75% of the screen - a 32X version would have looked much better. You'll hear cheesy dialogue like, "Hiroshi, why would a flying silver monster be after YOU?".

The game is mostly linear, but there are a few decision points that can alter the action slightly (or end the game abruptly). I do like how both you and the monsters have "life meters" during fights, but I hate it when the monster's meter runs out before the battle is actually over, meaning you'll just be watching the end of the fight. The first stage is a long, wild ride, but the subsequent stages are shorter and less involved. There might not be much of a game here, but Masked Rider is still quite enjoyable. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Strahl (3DO)
War of the Monsters (Playstation 2)
Invaders From Hyperspace (Odyssey 2)
God of War: Ascension (Playstation 3)
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Sega CD)

Grade: F
Publisher: Toolworks (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/3/12

screenshotMegarace is an over-produced, pitiful racer that completely annoyed me. The goal is to win a series of futuristic races, but you also need to destroy all the other cars in each race, and your ammo is VERY limited. In order to get the other cars into shooting range, you need to ride over certain icons on the road that speed you up.

Unfortunately, there are just as many icons that SLOW you down, and since they are hard to see coming, you'll be forced to memorize their locations! Unless you drive a perfect race, you'll never win, and there are no second tries or continues - just endless full-motion video (FMV) and loading screens. The pre-rendered tracks don't look half bad, but the scaling is choppy, and cars often disappear and reappear mysteriously.

Like too many other Sega CD titles, there's a buffoon that mocks you relentlessly before and after each race. If the developers had spent as much time on the gameplay as they did on the cheesy cut scenes, this game might have been worth playing. But Megarace is just a frustrating mess. . © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Road Trip (Playstation 2)
Road Rash 2 (Genesis)
Tarzan (Colecovision)
Surgical Strike (Sega CD)
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Sega CD)

Grade: D
Publisher: Psygnosis (1993)
Reviewed: 2011/11/20

screenshotWith its grainy graphics, bad acting, pre-rendered backgrounds, and severely limited gameplay, Microcosm is standard FMV (full-motion video) fare circa 1993. In some ways the game is a microcosm of the entire Sega CD library! An elaborate introduction depicts a futuristic city reminiscent of Blade Runner, and the video is so well produced so it's hard to tell where the special effects end and the live actors begin. After some confusing scenes with a helicopter on a rooftop, your attention turns to a doctor being forced to perform some kind of medical experiment. This sets up the Microcosm's premise, which is that you're guiding some kind of tiny ship through a person's body.

The backgrounds convey the illusion of whisking through lower intestines and other disgusting organs. Your path is predetermined, so you just focus on shooting whatever pops up. Most of the time you can move freely around the screen, but sometimes you need to be careful not to brush against the scenery. Your enemies are "mechanical agents" that come in a variety of shapes, colors, and formations. Holding down the fire button unleashes a steady stream of shots, and that's good because most targets can absorb many hits. Power-ups let you toggle between special weapons you pick up including bombs and double-shots, but these never last long.

One area of confusion is how the yellow, star-shaped enemy missiles look the same as yours. The collision detection is lousy, making it hard to tell if you're taking damage or inflicting it. You need to be super defensive to make any progress in this game. The electronic soundtrack is good, but I really hate how you can't pause the action. The opening stage is far too long and difficult, and it's frustrating when you lose your ship and have to restart the whole thing. The passwords are a series of indecipherable symbols, and that's no good. Microcosm has an interesting premise and decent production values. It's too bad not enough attention was paid to getting the gameplay right. . © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 30,995
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Silpheed (Sega CD)
Super Cobra (Atari 5200)
Super Cobra (Odyssey 2)
Galactic Space Wars (Fairchild Channel F)
Megarace (Sega CD)

Midnight Raiders
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/10/23

screenshotThis full-motion video shooter looks like a sequel to Tomcat Alley, but this time you pilot an Apache helicopter and also engage in a ground mission. Like Tomcat, the video is full-screen but awfully grainy. The story involves some cocky CIA agent who's apparently been given authority by Congress to carry out a top-secret mission. Gameplay involves moving a cursor around the screen and shooting any target with green brackets surrounding it.

Targets can be in the air or on the ground, and they tend to jump around, making it hard to get a good bead on them. It doesn't help that the directional pad doesn't provide pinpoint control. Eventually, I figured out a winning strategy: Shoot constantly and one of your shots is bound to be on mark! When it is, you'll witness some nice video clip of a missile firing and blowing something to smithereens.

I'd have to say that the explosive video footage is the highlight of the game. There's something about seeing a tank explode that's very satisfying. Unfortunately, the video clips that you have to watch between these action sequences are pretty bad and tend to repeat like a broken record. There's a lot of friction between the CIA guy and the military chief, and apparently they like to take out their frustrations on you.

Later in the game you actually land and have to infiltrate a factory armed with a gun. These sequences play pretty much like the rest of the game, but at least it's a nice change of scenery. Midnight Raiders is okay, but after playing through it once, I didn't have much desire to play it again. . © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Tomcat Alley (Sega CD)
Surgical Strike (Sega CD)
Army Men Air Attack (Playstation)
AH-3 Thunderstrike (Sega CD)
Stealth (NES)

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/2/11

screenshotThis full-motion video (FMV) game is basically clips from the television series with interactive prompts grafted over them. Each of the seven chapters begins with a skippable cut-scene. Much of the story's entertainment value is derived from its cheesy effects, bad dialogue, and laughable acting. The premise is that five "teenagers with attitudes" have been recruited to battle an intergalactic sorceress and her army of henchmen.

Each teenager is bestowed with the power of a dinosaur, but since when are mastodons and saber-tooth tigers considered dinosaurs? Individually the Rangers wield weapons and perform kung fu, but fused together they form a massive robot that fires laser beams. The full-screen video may be grainy but it's still some of the best I've seen from the Sega CD. The game does a decent job of incorporating the prompts. Lightning arrows move across the screen to indicate directional moves, and button icons flash for punches, blocks, and kicks.

This game is better than you think. By earning continues I was able to complete it on intermediate, but the expert level proved a worthy challenge, forcing you to respond to rapid-fire prompts. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers isn't bad as FMV games go, but its replay value is limited. Still, fans of the show can probably bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: int
Our high score: 392,780
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Kung Fu (NES)
Supreme Warrior (Sega CD)
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Genesis)
Wonder Dog (Sega CD)
Megarace (Sega CD)

Mortal Kombat
Grade: D
Publisher: Midway (1992)
Reviewed: 2003/4/13

screenshotBeing the huge blockbuster it was, Mortal Kombat (MK) had to make an obligatory appearance on the Sega CD, despite the fact that its CD capabilities could not improve the game one iota. The video intro features a commercial showing MK screenshots interspersed with kids running through the streets screaming. In terms of video quality, this is the most revolting thing I've ever seen on my Sega CD. The pixelation is so excessive that it's painful to watch.

Once you get past that bit of unpleasantness, you'll find yourself at a title screen exactly like the one on the Genesis version. If you wait a few seconds, the game will start cycling "character screens" just like the arcade. Otherwise, the only difference between this and the Genesis version is higher quality music and slightly improved sound effects. Raiden's electricity caught my ear, but the voices still sound terribly fuzzy. The box mentions something about extra animations, but only die-hard MK fans will notice.

The main thing CD technology brings to MK is LOAD TIMES. It takes about 8 seconds to load a match, and while that's tolerable, it's still 8 seconds longer than you had to wait for the Genesis version. Harder to forgive is the fact that the disk is sometimes accessed DURING BATTLE, resulting in noticeable pauses that interrupt the action. A major disappointment, you'll probably want to avoid this ill-conceived version of Mortal Kombat. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Bill Walsh College Football (Sega CD)
Mortal Kombat II (Sega 32X)
King of Fighters 94 (CD) (Neo Geo)
King of Fighters 98 (CD) (Neo Geo)
King of Fighters 96 (CD) (Neo Geo)

NFL Football Trivia Challenge
Grade: D-
Publisher: Capdisc (1993)
Reviewed: 2012/9/24

screenshotThis NFL trivia game should have been enjoyable for a football fan like myself, but it's too damned slow and clunky! You know you're in trouble when the first screen shows a pink Colts helmet. I mean, I know the Sega CD color palette is limited, but c'mon now! Sitting through the tutorial is usually a good idea, but this particular one is worthless. Instead of focusing on the gameplay, it goes on and on about how to navigate the menus and make selections - like we couldn't figure that out! The narrator wraps up the tutorial by saying "I should also mention that teams can't play with themselves" (except in privacy of the locker room of course).

Trivia Challenge turns out to be a bit of a tug-of-war contest as players answer multiple-choice questions to move the ball towards their respective end zones. Only one player is ever actually answering questions at a given time, which is lame. The multiple-choice questions are presented through text, audio, and grainy video clips. The photo occasionally gives away an answer, but sometimes belies the answer. This game was made in 1993, and the questions date back to the 1940's!

My friends Scott and Steve really had their hands full on "rookie" level, despite the fact that they are seasoned football fans. Trivia Challenge is poorly designed, with non-responsive controls and a really dumb user interface. Answering a question faster is supposed to award you with more yardage. After a score you're rewarded with a video clip that looks so bad you'll want to avert your eyes.

There are a set number of questions during each quarter, so there's really no way to mount a big comeback or throw a "bomb". The game has a lot of pauses due to loading, so it never establishes any kind of rhythm. I tried to play against the CPU, but despite what the box claims, this is a two-player game only. Football fans looking for a better option should check out NFL Instant Replay (Philips CD-i, 1994) with its awesome "you make the call" gameplay. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Rookie
2 players 

If you like this game, try: Sports Trivia Championship Edition (Game Gear)
NFL Instant Replay (Philips CD-i)
NCAA Football 2002 (Playstation 2)
Blackhole Assault (Sega CD)
Trivial Pursuit Interactive Multimedia Game (Sega CD)

NHL '94
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2000/9/21

screenshotBoy, this is a tough game to rate. NHL '94 for the Genesis was, in my opinion, the greatest hockey game of all time. This Sega CD version is basically the same game with clearer sound, some grainy video clips, and annoying load times. Don't get me wrong, this game is a blast to play, but I prefer the Genesis version. As far as the sound effects and music being better, yeah, I guess they're a little clearer, but the difference is not dramatic. The back of the box makes a big deal out of the "real organ music". Who cares? And I'll also pass on that low-quality video. The bottom line is that it's still the same game underneath - and that's a very good thing. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: NHL '94 (Genesis)
NHL '94 (Super Nintendo)
Flashback (Sega CD)
King of Fighters 96 (CD) (Neo Geo)
NHL Hockey (Genesis)

Night Trap
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2012/9/23

screenshotIt's hard to believe an innocuous game like Night Trap once caused a national uproar. In 1992 Senators Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) and Herbert Kohl (Wisconsin) lashed out against this full-motion video (FMV) title for "inciting violence against women". Had they actually played the game, they'd know that the object was to save five girls at a slumber party. The "violence" is negligible. Critics enjoy bashing Night Trap for its cheesy acting and low-budget effects, but it's those B-movie qualities that make it such a treat.

Its premise is ingenious. Five bubbly teenage girls (and one younger brother) are invited to spend the night at a house by a lake, and it gradually becomes apparent that the hosts are a family of vampires. Complicating matters are zombie-like "augers" that lurk in unoccupied rooms and attempt to kidnap the guests. One of the girls is actually an informant, played by the late Dana Plato (of Diff'rent Strokes fame). Your job is to monitor eight locations around the house (via security cameras) and trigger traps to dispose of the goons.

It's fun to snoop around, and the game is logically designed so it's possible to follow characters between rooms. When you spot an auger (or two), wait until he's in the proper position (meter turns red) before springing the trap. The creeps are disposed of in a variety of interesting ways, and it's satisfying to watch them fall through trap doors or get catapulted off the roof. Multiple events occur around the house at the same time, so you never have a complete picture of what's going on. This adds replay value, since repeated plays are required to flesh out the story.

One valid knock on the game is its marginal video quality. In addition to being very grainy, the video area consumes less than half of the screen. The game is still fun despite a few design flaws. Periodically the house owners change the "trap code", and if you're not tuned in at the right times you can lose your ability to spring traps.

Night Trap contains multiple endings but even if you don't finish it's a challenge to see how many thugs you can bag. Unfortunately your "commanding officer" tends to pull the plug on your mission too early, bringing the game to an abrupt end. It could have been better, but even after all these years Night Trap remains a fascinating trip. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 26
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Night Trap (CD) (Sega 32X)
Night Trap (3DO)
Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition (Nintendo Switch)
Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition (Playstation 4)
Double Switch 25th Anniversary Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Grade: F-
Publisher: Data East (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/1/4

screenshotThis dreadful game makes no sense at all. Panic is supposed to be an offbeat puzzle game with zany cartoon graphics. Each screen puts your cartoon character into a wacky situation, and in order to "restore order" you need to push the correct button on a panel. These panels consist of 7 to 10 buttons with odd symbols on them. If you push the correct button, you go to the next puzzle. Push the wrong button and you'll see some kind of madcap animation. For example, your man might pull a parachute cord and an elephant might appear. That's so funny I forgot to laugh. Most of the puzzles make absolutely no sense, so you're reduced to pressing the buttons at random, and the resulting animations are incredibly stupid. It's difficult to believe that this game is intended for "mature audiences", considering how infantile it is, often sinking to the level of toilet humor. I really can't say enough bad things about this one. It's astonishingly bad. I think I hate it. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Earthworm Jim 2 (Saturn)
Jigsaw (Philips CD-i)
Conker's Bad Fur Day (Nintendo 64)
NFL '95 (Genesis)
Splash Lake (CD) (Turbografx-16)

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Grade: C-
Publisher: Activision (1994)
Reviewed: 2018/7/1

screenshotThis CD edition of Pitfall The Mayan Adventure kicks off with a stylish video clip of some dude running for his life through a shadowy jungle with dangers lurking at every turn. Man, I wish I could play that game. Instead you get the same Mayan Adventure as the Genesis, except with "upgraded" music and sound effects. Plus: load screens! The new guitar-riff laden music adds intensity, but the sound effects? Is louder considered an upgrade? The sounds are more pronounced to the point of being abrasive.

In terms of graphics, I think the developers used the old "crank up the contrast" trick to make the things look slightly different. In case you haven't played other versions of this game, The Mayan Adventure is an underachieving platformer with confusing stages and slippery controls. It's not bad if you stick with it; you're bound to get a little further each time.

The boomerang weapon is helpful, homing in on every little pesky bat or spider. And catapulting yourself from those red schlongs is always a good time. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is a questionable upgrade from the Genesis, but ranks about the same in terms of fun factor. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 47,832
1 player 

If you like this game, try: King of Fighters 96 (CD) (Neo Geo)
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (Sega 32X)
King of Fighters 99 (CD) (Neo Geo)
Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (Jaguar)
King of Fighters 98 (CD) (Neo Geo)

Popful Mail
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2012/2/7
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotSerious collectors view Popful Mail as one of the premiere titles for the Sega CD, and they are right. This "magical fantasy adventure" combines hack-n-slash combat with RPG elements (inventory, status, story, etc). The main character is a red-headed elf chick named Popful Mail, but you'll have the option to play as two other characters over the course of the game. In the animated intro our scantily clad heroine dukes it out with creepy dolls in a forest, and anime fans will love the exaggerated expressions, corny dialogue, and outrageous action sequences.

The game itself is pure platforming joy. The graphics are not spectacular, but the lush, layered scenery is easy on the eyes. Defeated foes drop bags of money which you'll use to stock up on armor, weapons, and food at the local village shops. Typical enemies include furry spiders, praying mantis, wizards, and those weird raccoon creatures that show up in so many anime titles. Most of the dialogue is voiced by actors, and while it slows things down I found it a refreshing change as opposed to reading a wall of text.

The controls are exceptionally crisp and I love how you can jump off (or onto) any ladder. CD-quality music plays throughout the game, and you can save your progress at any time (!) to three slots. My main issue has to do with the unforgiving difficulty. Death-by-touch is all too common, and some bosses absorb an obscene number of hits (like the Wood Golem).

Some stages (like TreeSun) are repetitive in design so it's hard to tell if you're forging ahead or revisiting an old area. Still, Popful Mail is a quality title that will keep you busy for a long time. Its colorful instruction manual is embossed, printed on heavy stock, and contains interesting translation notes. If you're a Sega CD collector, this is one title you'll definitely want in your collection. . © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Magical Chase (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
Mystery Science Theater 2600 (Atari 2600)
Fantasy Zone (Sega Master System)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King (Game Boy Advance)
Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)

Power Factory Featuring C&C Music Factory
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (1992)
Reviewed: 2006/8/15

screenshotI have some fond memories of C&C Music Factory and their brand of catchy dance music. During my college years, I remember hanging out at my friend's house and watching their videos on MTV all the time (that's right kids - they used to play music on that channel). This disk includes the band's three hit songs: "Gonna Make You Sweat", "Things That Make You Go Hmmm", and "Here We Go". Nostalgia aside, I could never get away with giving this thing an average grade. Like similar CD titles of its time, Power Factory barely qualifies as a game.

The idea is to create a music video on the fly using three sets of constantly running video clips while spicing them up with visual effects. Once you're through the editing process, you can sit back and watch your creation. The video selection includes C&C music videos, old movies clips, cartoons, and other random (and often bizarre) footage. Since each video is already synchronized with the music, it's hard not to make a decent video.

But it's the visual effects department where Power Factory really falls apart. While you can slice, dice, color, freeze, blur, and pixilate the video in any number of ways, most just make your video muddy and hard(er) to watch. Worse yet, the slippery controls make it impossible to initiate certain effects when you want to. This is especially problematic in the "Edit Challenge" mode, where you're instructed beforehand to employ certain effects at specific times during the song.

Another problem is the limited number of songs. I recall being fairly sick of these tunes in 1992, and even now, having to listen to any one of these twice in a row (during edit and playback) is tiresome. Finally, the video is always played on a very small screen, making it frustratingly hard to make out the hot babes. If you have fond memories of C&C, you can bump up the score by half a grade, but gamers looking for some substance should keep their distance from Power Factory. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: INXS - Make My Video (Sega CD)
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch: Make My Video (Sega CD)
DDRMAX2: Dance Dance Revolution (Playstation 2)
In The Groove (Playstation 2)
Dance Dance Revolution Supernova (Playstation 2)

Prince of Persia
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/7/29

screenshotThis Arabian Nights-style platformer challenges you to traverse an underground dungeon in one hour (real time) to save a princess. Prince of Persia's lifelike animation was groundbreaking when first released for the Apple II in 1989, but it's underwhelming on the Sega CD. I did enjoy the opening cut-scene, mainly because I've never heard voice actors read off cue cards before.

The game itself looks like an arcade-style platformer but it demands a slow, deliberate approach. Each screen plays out like its own little puzzle. Traps triggered by loose panels or pressure switches send you falling into spiked pits for a bloody death. Navigating these perilous dungeons requires becoming intimately acquainted with the controls, and that's no small order. Your prince can either tiptoe slowly or run.

When you're not pussyfooting around you tend to lurch off-screen or into a trap. Pulling yourself up ledges is no problem but climbing back down is another story. You know you're in trouble when a move requires you to press A and C at the same time! The animation is fluid but the box's claim of "quick, responsive controls" is a joke! They feel quite laggy, turning the sword fights into crapshoots.

The save option only works at the beginning of each new level, and why is "name entry" the third option when you need to do that before you save? Someone clearly didn't think this through. The exotic musical score is far too loud and I hate how it continues when you pause. Conquering each stage can be a satisfying achievement but requires a lot of restarting since there's no checkpoints. Except for the intro and possibly the music Prince of Persia could have been a normal Genesis game. It may be a classic but the sands of time have been less than kind to this Sega CD edition. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Prince of Persia (Super Nintendo)
Prince of Persia (CD) (Turbografx-16)
Double Switch (Sega CD)
K.C.'s Krazy Chase (Odyssey 2)
Flashback (Sega CD)

Prize Fighter
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2000/12/1

screenshotWow - a boxing game with full motion video! This game actually puts you into the ring! Talk about realism! Why didn't I hear about this game before? Probably because it's no fun! The production quality isn't bad. The acting is great, and there's even a cheesy background story. The cinematography is expertly done, and it really does put you in the boxing ring. Unfortunately, all of the video is grainy black and white, and the actual game screen is quite small.

Two gloves are superimposed over the screen, letting you perform various jabs, crosses, uppercuts, dodges, and blocks. Unfortunately you can punch away all you want but you'll rarely hit your opponent, no matter how close he is. In one match I threw over 300 punches and connected with 18. If there's a strategy to connecting, I couldn't figure it out, but I think it's mainly luck.

When you do land a blow, there's a video sequence of your opponent getting hit, but it does NOT seamlessly blend into the action. It looks like they taped these clips in an empty room, and it's downright funny to watch. The video sequences of your corner between rounds add realism, but the gameplay just isn't there. It's too bad, because the concept was interesting. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Supreme Warrior (Sega CD)
Toughman Contest (Genesis)
Toughman Contest (Sega 32X)
Boxing (Atari 2600)
Realsports Boxing (Atari 2600)

Racing Aces
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2002/3/12

screenshotRacing Aces was an ambitious 3D title, but the Sega CD hardware just wasn't up to the task. You fly an airplane in a series of races, viewing the action from behind your plane. The tracks are mountainous, with polygon-rendered landscapes and poles marking the way. Not only do you race against eight other planes, but you also do battle with them by picking up weapons hidden in balloons.

While it sounds like a lot of fun, the frame rate just can't keep up, and the visuals range from "somewhat" choppy to "what the heck is going on" choppy. It doesn't help that the control lags badly and lends itself to some serious over-steering. The planes are sprites and the scenery is composed of large triangles. The landscapes don't look bad from a distance, but it's hard to tell how close you are to the ground, and it's easy to scrape your wings.

The combat portion of the game never quite comes together, and unless you have guided missiles, targeting other planes is nearly impossible. All the planes tend to be bunched up at the beginning of the race, but once things get under way you rarely encounter other planes. Racing Aces was an interesting idea, but the hardware just wasn't ready yet. . © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Mission X (Intellivision)
Ace of Aces (Atari 7800)
Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)
Afterburner II (Genesis)
Doom (Saturn)

Revenge of the Ninja
Grade: C
Publisher: Renovation (1994)
Reviewed: 2017/11/17

screenshotToday we expect our games to be in high definition but in 1994 Sega CD owners were accustomed to a level of video quality substantially below television broadcast standards. Revenge of the Ninja's video only consumes about 3/4 of the screen and has all the clarity of a VHS tape that's been dubbed over 100 times. You'd expect the audio to be good at least (it is a CD) yet the music and voices aren't particularly clear. As our hero forges through a sprawling palace he somersaults around traps, fights undead warriors, and faces a fire-breathing hydra.

The gameplay is strongly influenced by Dragon's Lair (3DO, 1993) and certain stages (like the underground rapids) might be considered blatant rip-offs. You must react swiftly to prompts that appear during action sequences or be subjected to a whimsical death sequence. The default normal skill level doesn't give you enough time and the audio feedback lag doesn't help. The hard difficulty omits the arrow cues which is ludicrous because a lot of the moves aren't even intuitive. Fortunately I found the easy difficulty to be just right. It'll keep you on your toes but at least you'll be able to enjoy the stylish action sequences.

You'll battle ninjas in trees, escape a giant red fish underwater, and fight a giant Samurai warrior in the rafters. Although never truly in control, pressing the button to brandish your sword always feels good. The randomized stages aren't very long and it's nice to get a break between stages as the game tallies your score. Once you see that crystal clear "game over" screen however you realize just how grainy the video is. It may not be particularly easy on the eyes but Revenge of the Ninja has enough personality to please anime fans. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 330,440
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Dragon's Lair (Sega CD)
Dragon's Lair (3DO)
Dragon's Lair Trilogy (Nintendo Switch)
Dragon's Lair Trilogy (Wii)
Ninja Assault (Playstation 2)

Revengers of Vengeance
Grade: F-
Publisher: Absolute Entertainment (1994)
Reviewed: 2012/9/23
Rating: MA-13

screenshotboxDoes Revengers of Vengeance know how bad it is, or is the joke on me? Its sensationalized box art ("Fight or Die! Freaks! Freaks! Freaks!") feels like a desperate attempt to attract unsuspecting impulse buyers. This weird fighting game/RPG hybrid straddles the line between "bad" and "huh?" You select one of ten remarkably unlikeable characters including a knight, ninja, werewolf, and a bird-woman.

Your journey begins in a small town that comes across like a parody of every RPG ever made. The local pub serves coffee and you earn attributes by working out in some kind of medieval gym! In order to embark on a mission, you'll need to pay a pretty steep fee! Who thought that was a good idea? Upon departing town you're presented with a number of destinations, each of which has a warrior opponent waiting for you.

The ensuing one-on-one battles are reprehensible by any standard. The characters are rendered in a lame cartoon style that just looks as if they were scribbled in the margin of a notebook during English class. The static dragons and castles in the backgrounds look like toys. The controls are absolutely pathetic, and the larger characters are practically unresponsive.

Fighters float across the screen in slow motion, and any blows you land deal minimal damage. In one case I keeled over in the middle of a fight for no apparent reason, as if the game took a while to realize I didn't have any health left. And just when I thought things couldn't get more bizarre, I was awarded 100 gold coins - for losing! Revengers of Vengeance makes me feel as if I'm in some kind of Bizarro universe where video games try to be bad. File this one under F - for freak show! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Escape (Arcadia 2001)
Congo Bongo (Intellivision)
Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
Math Gran Prix (Atari 2600)
Rikki & Vikki (Atari 7800)

Rise of the Dragon
Grade: C
Publisher: Dynamix (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/10/11

screenshotIn this point-and-click graphic adventure, you play an investigator in the year 2053. To say that this game is inspired by Blade Runner would be an understatement. Heck, even the title screen calls it a "Blade Hunter Mystery". I'd recommend Rise of the Dragon to very patient gamers only. You start off in a bedroom, and it takes a few minutes just to get out of there! This game emphasizes dialogue and item manipulation.

The storyline is good and has enough plot twists to keep things interesting. The game is rated MA-17 thanks to some "harsh" language ("hell", "frickin", and "F'ed up") and the presence of lurid dancers and hookers. Rise of the Dragon reminded me of Snatcher, but it's not quite up to those standards. The system for manipulating items is confusing, and I was always accidentally leaving items behind at locations. It's also easy to get stuck in "dead end" situations that occur when you fail to make a crucial move, and these can be hard (if not impossible) to recover from.

Some of the puzzles, like connecting wires, can be annoying, but at least you can save your place at any time. There are also two arcade-style mini-games thrown in. A lot of people love Rise of the Dragon, but I found it to be difficult and somewhat tedious. If you're into detective games, it may be worth a look. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Snatcher (Sega CD)
D (Saturn)
Midnight Magic (Atari 2600)
Maniac Mansion (NES)
Dead In The Water (Playstation)

Road Avenger
Grade: B+
Publisher: Renovation (1992)
Reviewed: 2003/2/14

screenshotI know a lot of you players out there aren't crazy about these full motion video (FMV) games, but Road Avenger is a trip! Like most Sega CD games of this style, you watch video and quickly respond to onscreen cues that prompt you to turn, hit turbo, or brake. Road Avenger's gimmick is that it's played completely in first-person view, so you feel like you're in for the ride! And it's a wild one. You'll weave through oncoming traffic, squeeze between trucks, plow through motorcycle gangs, and steer through an obstacle course of explosions. Sometimes you'll drive inside buildings, reminiscent of those comical intro scenes from the Naked Gun movies.

The action is non-stop, and if you can pay attention to the graphics (and not just the arrows) you'll find the game to be pretty exhilarating. My favorite parts of the game were jumping the drawbridge and shaking the motorcycle thug off of my hood. The colorful graphics and animation are about Speed Racer quality, which is good or bad, depending on your point of view. Although the visuals are slightly grainy, the only real issue is the frame rate, which barely manages to keep up with the action.

The game is totally linear, and although there are numerous stages, most are very short. That's okay because your thumb will need a rest. I had a great time with Road Avenger, and I think it's one of the best games I've played on the Sega CD. I should also mention that my buddy Keith McDowell does a great rendition of the Road Avenger theme song, despite knowing none of the words. To this day, Keith swears up and down that the guy singing in the intro is none other than Frank Stallone. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: 4 Wheel Thunder (Dreamcast)
Time Gal (Sega CD)
Cobra Command (Sega CD)
Strahl (3DO)
Speed Racer (Playstation)

Road Rash
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/8/9
Rating: Kids to Adults (6+) (animated violence)

screenshotRoad Rash for the Sega CD is pretty much what I expected: The same ole' stuff except with CD-quality tunes and some grainy video clips. The grinding guitar music ranges in quality between fair and unbearable. It's too bad Electronic Arts didn't splurge and license some popular songs. The only well-known band on here is Soundgarden (Who the heck is Paw? Swervedriver? Monster Magnet?) Personally, I much prefer the computer-generated tunes from the original Road Rash.

The video clips show a bunch of redneck bikers, and once you've seen one video, you won't be able to skip them fast enough. Remove the video and music and all you're left with is the same Road Rash that you've played so many times on the Genesis - although that's not really a bad thing. Oh sure, there's a few minor new features. Oncoming cars now include convertibles, pickup trucks, and sports cars. Every now and then you'll see a pedestrian in the street, and you can now knock the policeman clean off his motorcycle.

But when the game tries to get ambitious, it turns into a joke. The "city" stage, which was so remarkable on the 3DO, is a sad sight here. The large buildings in the background never get bigger, and all you see on the side on the road are tiny buildings the size of phone booths! The other four stages are standard, Genesis-quality fare. There's a two-player mode, but it's alternating only - no split screen.

Yeah, this is pretty disappointing stuff. The only redeeming feature is that you can save your progress to memory (no long passwords). Road Rash on the Sega CD is still a decent game, but the CD features didn't make it any better. NOTE: If you don't have plenty of memory available when you run this game, you'll get the message "PLACEHOLDER" in the corner, and won't be able to play. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Road Rash 2 (Genesis)
Road Rash 3 (Genesis)
Fatal Run (Atari 7800)
Victory Run (Turbografx-16)
Road Rash Jailbreak (Game Boy Advance)

Robo Aleste
Grade: B+
Publisher: Tengen (1992)
Reviewed: 2014/5/10

screenshotOn a system replete with full-motion video titles and Genesis rehashes, it's refreshing to play an old-fashioned 2D shooter like Robo Aleste. The game begins with a long, overblown introduction presented in widescreen (for cinematic effect). This boring history lesson goes into tedious detail about feuding warlords in ancient Japan, touching on topics like redistricting and tossing out the names of dozens of historic figures. I actually grabbed a pen and started jotting down notes for fear that the game might spring a pop quiz on me!

Robo Aleste's gameplay is refreshingly simple, as you control a robot flying up a vertically-scrolling screen while being escorted by satellite pods. You'll unleash rapid-fire shots against whirly-bird contraptions, mace-swinging robots, and ninjas leaping from airships. The more pesky enemies tend to be small and indistinct, like floating papers and white fuzzy things.

Your robot is large but the collision detection is forgiving. Keep some distance from the bottom of the screen, as enemies will sneak up from behind. You begin with weak weapons and gradually build them up. Three weapon types are available, but the yellow "homing" missiles are easily my favorite, incinerating enemies like a bug zapper.

Once you amass enough firepower, your goal shifts to preserving it by avoiding careless collisions. The samurai-inspired boss encounters are mercifully short, and a high score at the top of the screen gives you something to shoot for. Besides the pulse-pounding soundtrack, Robo Aleste doesn't leverage much of the system's capabilities, and the first two stages look downright grainy! It isn't much to look at, but Robo Aleste is probably the most addictive game I've played on my Sega CD. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2,349,320
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Sol-Deace (Genesis)
Ninja Spirit (Turbografx-16)
Fear Effect (Playstation)
Einhander (Playstation)
Lords of Thunder (Sega CD)

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