The simple pitcher/batter screen is easy to control, with handy windows showing runners on base. In the field, the players tend to be sluggish but have cannons for arms. The outfields are expansive, resulting in an inordinate number of extra base hits. Cal Ripken Baseball's graphics aren't very detailed, but the players look sharp. Perhaps in an attempt to reproduce the grass-cutting patterns you see at many ballparks, the fields sport fat green stripes on the grass that look really, really bad. The control is much better than the Genesis version, except for the diving, which is terribly clumsy.
The baseball has a tiny shadow that makes fly balls difficult to track down. In terms of audio, this is a pretty quiet game. Low-key background music plays throughout the contest, and an enthusiastic umpire calls strikes and outs. Cal Ripken Baseball's best feature is the "zoom window" which displays full screen close-ups of exciting plays. These are cool but brief, so don't blink or you may miss them! All in all, this is a respectable baseball game for the SNES, but there's no way it can compete with the faster and more polished Ken Griffey Baseball. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
In hang gliding it's hard enough to stay aloft (thanks to abysmal controls) but you're also expected to drop water balloons on buoys and feed fish to dolphins! Do all hang gliders take off with a bucket of fish? Jet surfing (aka jet skiing) is a real atrocity. Instead of carving waves you're navigating a flat maze projected on the surface of the water. While it employs the mode 7 effects like F-Zero (Nintendo, 1991), the mere concept of a water maze is idiotic. I thought there were dead ends but it turns out they are flat ramps! Did I mention you're supposed to pick up garbage floating in the water?!
Snowboarding is even more bizarre, inexplicably limited to the far right edge of the screen. As you careen down nearly-vertical slopes all you do is hit a button to jump over hazards. The next event is something called bodyboarding. I didn't know anything about bodyboarding before, and I still don't! I couldn't even figure it out, disappearing over the top of every wave.
Skateboarding is another clunker. You travel down an endless half-pipe, periodically riding through round "aqueducts". During each event some bratty kid appears on the top right shouting stuff like "Yes way!", "Bogus!", and "Dweeb!" The best thing about California Games II is that it presents the games rapid-fire, so before you can realize how much one sucks you're quickly whisked off to the next one. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The opening stage features burning ruins with nifty fire effects, but the water-color look clashes with the other stages. Later you'll forge through elegant ballrooms, clock towers, mines, and moonlit crypts. You'll crack your whip at the levitating medusa heads, axe-throwing knights, floating eyeballs, and fire-breathing dragon statues. For some reason dog skeletons look a lot creepier than people skeletons.
The jumping controls try to incorporate momentum, but it doesn't feel intuitive. I hate how you fall back when taking a hit - even from behind- which frequently sends you plunging to your doom! Some checkpoints are poorly placed. Stage two begins with a harrowing bridge section with leaping lizard men that disrupt your jumps between collapsing columns. When I died at the hands of the giant bat boss, wouldn't you know that I had to restart that whole damn bridge sequence?
Dracula X exhibits noticeable slow-down and some of the music sounds a little cheesy. The sound effects are very crisp, and it's satisfying to hear the crumbling of bones when you slay a skeleton. The password is nine symbols, which is not exactly easy to write down. Fortunately the kid who originally owned my instruction manual took the time to jot down a few! Dracula X for SNES is mediocre by Castlevania standards, and if you've ever tried the Turbo Duo version you'll understand why controversy has always swirled around this one. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The opening stage is pretty ho-hum as you walk through a park while pouncing on turtles, bugs, and jumping fish. Unfortunately it's hard to tell who's hurting who - a problem I eventually chalked up to some really bad collision detection. Get used to it! The first boss seemed insurmountable until I realized I could just let him walk right by me! Too Cool to Fool tends to have you respawn in the same place you died, which is a really, really bad idea! One power-up is a guitar that lets you jam in place while creatures walk into you and die. Why are they walking into you? Why is the music fatal? These questions have baffled scientists for years.
A tennis shoe power-up lets you run and take long leaps, but let's face it - this really should have been a standard ability. The sunglasses let you locate hidden items, but using them dims the entire screen. Not only does this look bad, it makes no sense either considering Chester is always wearing sunglasses. You'll collect a lot of "paw" icons including big ones that give you health and small ones that can earn you an extra life.
The game does have a few things going for it including fluorescent graphics that really pop off the screen. The madcap musical score is well done, and the low difficulty compensates for the awkward controls. My wife was headed to the store while I was reviewing this, and wouldn't you know, I asked her to pick up a bag of Cheetos. As mediocre as it may be, this game clearly served its purpose. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The colorful background graphics are a real treat, depicting a lush tropical jungle and scenic mountains. Choplifter 3 succeeds in the graphics department but falters badly in terms of gameplay. The first few stages are too easy and time-consuming, and it doesn't help that you get five lives from the start. Be sure to have at least an hour free before you sit down to play this. At first it's tempting to clear out every enemy troop you encounter, but they regenerate so don't even bother.
The fact that you cannot shoot your own soldiers might seem like a good thing, but it actually waters down the difficulty and eliminates the satisfaction of performing a "surgical" extraction. Choplifter 3 also suffers from a terrible case of boss-itis. Every few waves you're forced to deal with an oversized tank or cannon that takes an eternity to destroy! Adding insult to injury, the game exhibits some horrendous slow-down during these sequences. By the time your last helicopter goes down in flames, your desire to play this game will have gone up in smoke. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Throughout your quest, choices you make in the past affect the future. As a result, the game has an astounding 13 possible endings! Chrono Trigger is a classic 2D, turn-based RPG. The sprites and backgrounds are clean and bright, as if lifted from a cell-shaded animation. The musical score is catchy and effectively conveys mood. Chrono Trigger's gameplay is fantastic. You can have three characters in your party at any given time, and Akira Toriyama (character designer for Dragonball and Dragon Warrior) lends his pen to create a truly memorable cast.
As your party runs down a hallway and encounters a monster, the battle menus scroll in and the fight takes place on the same screen. Armed to the teeth, your characters have two types of special moves: magic spells, and "tech" attacks. It's innovative how tech attacks can be combined, so up to three characters can contribute to one massive monster hurting! I haven't seen this done in any RPG since.
The story is a work of art, and obviously a lot of thought went into the various subplots and determining how events affect each outcome. Throw in some fun mini-games, a bunch of enjoyable side quests, and some pop culture references, and you have one of the most enjoyable RPGs ever made. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
I will give Clayfighter credit for being imaginative. The well-rendered but unlikeable clay characters include an Elvis impersonator, a scarecrow, a blob, a fat opera woman, and an evil snowman. These are not exactly your usual suspects when it comes to fighting games. They perform some humorous animations and sound bites, including Elvis saying "thank you very much" after winning a bout. When executing their bizarre attacks the fighters will sometimes transform into oversized weapons like hammers and buzz saws.
While amusing at first, you can expect a lot of cheap hits and minimal technique. Although the characters are nicely rendered, they lack smooth animation, making it hard to tell what's going on in the heat of battle. You can adjust the game speed, difficulty, and controller configurations. Clayfighter is amusing for the short term, but in the long term it's more irritating than anything else. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
The kicking and punching action is intense, and proper technique is required to properly dispose of gangs of converging thugs. You can block their attacks, but where is the throw move? It would have been nice to send these goons plunging to an icy death. Enemies blink and disappear when defeated, but sometimes they blink and then get back up in clear violation of video game ordinance. I hate it when they continue fighting with only a tiny sliver of life remaining. Die already!!
In addition to beating the living crap out of everybody Gabe must overcome perilous platform challenges. You'll jump between narrow ledges with gunmen situated on them. You'll hop across floating logs that only surface briefly. You'll scale the side of a mountain as riflemen shoot at you from point-blank range. But the toughest part of the game by far is the ridiculous run-from-the-avalanche stage. It wouldn't be so bad if Gabe didn't trip over every little twig. You'll need to memorize the stage to get through, and it'll cost you many lives in the process.
There are continues available, but they take you way back to the beginning of the stage. Cliffhanger makes up for its by-the-numbers gameplay with its attractive snowy mountain scenery. The icy cliffs, snow-encrusted trees, and mountain backdrops look bright and inviting.
This version looks sharper than the Genesis edition but plays slower. That's fine, because the slower pace actually helps you navigate some of the more hazardous areas. Maybe it's the nostalgia, but I find myself enjoying this game more and more each year. If nothing else, it's enjoyable to play on a snowy day. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
My friend Eric is a die-hard college basketball fan, and he was totally disgusted with College Slam. In the one-player mode, you can't even select your opponent - the computer chooses it randomly! The crowd is a bit more defined and there are some cheerleaders on the sideline, but the gameplay is still a poor man's NBA Jam.
There's really no good reason to purchase this pathetic rehash. Note: At Best Buy, this game initially came with a free "so-bad-it's-funny" VHS tape called "Slams, Rams, and Jams" featuring a few minutes of old grainy footage of unremarkable plays. As low quality as it was, it actually had more entertainment value than this game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The opening stage takes place in Times Square, and the layers of neon-lit buildings look great. The characters are oddly designed with huge upper bodies and short legs. After dispatching a few waves of henchmen you encounter a very cheap boss. Bosses usually possess some kind of weapon or a physics-defying attack, so when they unleash their fury it's best to just stay out of their way. Stage two pits you against freaky "demon clowns" on Coney Island, and another stage puts you in a dance club against roller-derby chicks.
The controls are pretty basic (two buttons) but your ability to attack guys lying on the ground spices up the action. The ability to swing one around by his legs (to clear out surrounding thugs) is the most effective move by far. You can also bash their heads into the ground, which is both therapeutic and enjoyable.
The frame-rate and collision detection are pretty loose, but the game is still fun with one or two players. There's no score, but completing the game is challenging enough to keep you coming back. The passwords issued between stages are will not let you continue the game - they only unlock new characters in the worthless "versus" mode. Combatribes won't win any awards but it's worth playing if you're in the mood for some shallow fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The first stage features bright but sparse tropical scenery and some pleasant steel drum music (always a crowd pleaser). The jumping controls are responsive enough, but I couldn't perform the head-dive mentioned in the manual. You can swing a club to knock out pterodactyls and cavemen, but since there's no accompanying sound effect it feels very unsatisfying. The stages are cookie-cutter to-the-max with their obligatory palm trees, spiked pits, and floating platforms. There's not much to see and collecting those ubiquitous yellow gems isn't very rewarding.
The stages are generally poorly designed, and some are absolutely atrocious! There are too many floating platforms, and sometimes you have no frame of reference, making it appear as if you're standing still when you're really moving. Certain areas feature stacked platforms that you tend to bang your head on.
Congo can swing between branches, but this leads to blind falls and cheap deaths. Were the designers trying to piss me off? If so, they did a great job! Power-ups are awarded via a mini slot machine. Bonk fans will notice so many ripped off elements that their eyes will be rolling like a slot machine. Would you believe that Congo even works his way through the inside of a T-Rex's body!? Oh no he didn't!
The only thing I like about this game is how the monkey shakes his booty when you set down the controller. It's hardly a ringing endorsement when the highlight of a game is a monkey's ass. Congo's Caper has become lost in obscurity in past years, and frankly I'm doing a huge disservice by bringing it back to people's attention. My bad! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
One or two players can blast their way through six harrowing missions to save the planet from invading aliens. Besides firing at everything that moves, you'll leap over fireballs, hang from rails, and perform death-defying somersaults. You're also equipped with a few smart bombs, and can even commandeer tanks and plow right through those alien bastards.
Although mainly a side scroller, two missions offer an overhead view, providing a nice change of pace. The bosses look absolutely disgusting. Contra's controls take a bit of getting used to at first, especially when it comes to dropping to the ground. The game offers a few continues, but no passwords, so your journey is going to be a long one. But at least with Alien Wars, you know it's worth the effort. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Not all the graphical changes are for the better however. A metal panel spans the top with your vital indicators, but it looks ugly. The graphics look slightly washed-out and the reggae music doesn't sound as clear (which is surprising considering the SNES audio superiority).
The gameplay is fun but not quite as satisfying as it was on the Genesis. The controls aren't as crisp and Spot does not automatically latch onto ropes in stage two (the dock stage). Enemies tend to regenerate, which is a bummer when you die and need to replay a section. That said, Cool Spot on the SNES still has the same happy-go-lucky spirit and fun-in-the-sun gameplay. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately, the storyline sometimes gets in the way by forcing you to scroll through endless text (Do you mind? I'm trying to blow stuff up here!). Although the screen tends to get overcrowded with large objects, the graphics are high quality and the explosions look exceptional. The controls are fair (every button is used), but navigating around enclosed areas can be awkward. The high-energy music is a big plus. In retrospect, Cybernator is much better than I ever gave it credit for. I guess I owe Steve an apology. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum