You can accumulate some serious firepower by gathering icons, eventually spraying bullets across half the screen. The sound effects of your missiles firing however sound like someone tapping their fingers on a table! As a general rule, you'll want to hold down the fire button to engage rapid-fire, and stay away from the bottom edge of the screen where jet fighters attempt to ram you without warning.
Mixed in with the normal shooting stages are "exploration" stages that let you use the triggers to toggle between high and low altitudes as you blast dinosaurs in a prehistoric world. It sounds like a good idea on paper, but in practice it's a mess as you increase altitude only to collide with giant birds you didn't know were there. Even more disturbing is how you're expected to blow the heads off of triceratops on the ground.
D-Force seems fun at first, with a high level of difficulty that keeps you coming back for more. Once you reach the more hectic stages however, the framerate goes to hell and you'll often find yourself exploding for no apparent reason. Upon losing your last life, there's a sorry sequence showing your copter spiraling down into some insanely pixelated "foliage" below. D-Force has a catchy theme song, but it gets repetitive in short order. The raw challenge of D-Force commanded my attention for a while, but technical glitches prove its undoing. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Daffy can shoot, block, jump, and fly short distances using a jetpack. There's also a "go cuckoo" button that destroys all enemies on the screen. Prior to each stage you can purchase a variety of weapons and power-ups, adding a little strategy. The stages burst with technicolor but are cookie-cutter in design. As you can guess, the obligatory desert, water, and ice environments are all represented. Only the final level featuring cameos by several Warner Bros characters feels vaguely inspired.
Each maze-like stage scrolls in all directions, making it hard to tell where you're supposed to go. That said, I like how there are multiple routes and hidden bonus areas. You can access a map via the start button, but it's about the size of a postage stamp! How am I supposed to read that thing? The controls feel slippery which is problematic considering some platforms are very narrow and each area is loaded with cheap hazards like dripping lava and flying cinders.
Your weapons have a mean kickback, and even the weakest of foes can absorb five or six shots. Who are these pesky lava men and cactus monsters anyway? The first boss is a plane with mechanical arms that takes forever to defeat. I still remember my friend Eric calling me up in the early 90's just to complain about that!
This game feels generic but I'll still take it over Taz Mania (Genesis, 1992) any day. The audio packs funny digitized quips ("mother!") and a madcap musical score. The lack of a password feature is glaring, but Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions gets enough mileage out of its awesome Looney Tunes license. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
The first medium-sized enemy you encounter is a red fish, and it might as well be a boss because it takes forever to destroy. Be wary of red tanks that deploy heat-seeking missiles! But the worst are the rotating "space jacks" of stage two which take about 100 shots to destroy! After getting my ass handed to me a few times I read an article on the internet complaining how easy this game is! Not helpful!
Once I dialed down the difficulty I began to enjoy the game. Not only could I plow through the opening stage but I also got a chance to accumulate some power-ups! You don't lose your weapons when you die, and that makes up for the lack of smart bombs. The ability to select branching stages is a key feature, but I found most to be repetitive and bland. There are no continues but the game does have a decent two-player co-op mode. Darius Twin could have used some fine-tuning but I found it to be fairly addictive nonetheless. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Serving the ball requires some very weird timing. When playing against my friend Steve, we struggled with our serves for the duration of the match! In general it's hard to judge where the large ball is with respect to your player, and if you're on the far side of the court, good luck! The net completely blocks your view! The controls let you execute hard, soft, lob, and drop shots. But since returning the ball is challenging enough, there's little strategy aside from hoping your opponent hits the ball out of bounds.
The outdated player outfits are hilarious, with guys wearing spandex under their short-shorts and donning shirts with pastel colors. The manner in which they scamper to and from the net makes them look like complete sissies. David Crane's Amazing Tennis is terrible, and one could argue that the $5 Footlocker coupon included with it is more valuable than the game itself. And yes, I'm taking into account that it expired in 1993! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Enemies like penguins, rats, spiders, and jack-in-the-boxes transform into collectable presents when you hit them with your wintery snow attack. At first I thought the idea was to collect all the presents, but apparently they are just bonus items and your main goal is just reaching the end of the stage. The festive scenery hits all the right holiday notes with rolling snow drifts, frosted windows, gently falling flakes, and giant climbable candy canes. Actually the snowflakes look more like feathers from a pillow.
The festive music offers renditions of several traditional Christmas carols but there are also some generic tunes thrown in. The difficulty is easy and the first snowman "boss" is probably the weakest you'll ever face. Most stages are enjoyable but there are a few tedious scenarios like "wood factory" and "flooded basement".
In one stage you fly over England dropping gifts into smoking chimneys and the London skyline looks amazing. Collecting special icons power you with life and invincibility, but it's the hot cocoa icon that really caught my attention by turning Santa into a... demon?! Is he supposed to be Krampus?!
Daze Before Christmas has a fun pick-up-and-play style, but some parts are confusing. Santa tends to blink while touching innocent objects like reindeer or elves. Is he taking damage?? My niece Brooke, who otherwise loved the game, voiced similar concerns ("Did I just kill that reindeer?!") Daze Before Christmas has some issues, but as a holiday treat this is hard to resist. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
The action begins with a boss encounter against a huge zombie dragon which makes a rather dramatic (and frightening) appearance. It certainly grabs your attention, but it's probably not the best way to start a game like this. Upon completing the initial graveyard stage, you glide freely over a pixelated countryside to select your next challenge. Demon's Crest excels in presentation, but its gameplay could be better.
Navigating through the graveyards and castles of the early stages is no problem, but too many advanced stages are covered with thorns that are hard to avoid. The controls are touchy, so trying to navigate spiked labyrinths is frustrating. Your demon's size makes it difficult to avoid incoming projectiles, and he can only shoot forward, often unable to hit objects in clear view. Switching crests (powers) can only be done from a menu screen. Why isn't there a button assigned to that? There's no pause button either, which is annoying for reviewers trying to take notes (curses!). In general, I found Demon's Crest too difficult.
Its production values are outstanding however, with well-defined graphics and stereo effects so realistic they caught me off-guard. Upon hearing the howl of a ghost, I actually looked around to make sure there wasn't someone else in the room with me! The creepy organ music is also very effective. Flickering torches give castle ruins an eerie glow, and graveyards are overgrown with twisted trees and shrouded in mist. A twelve-character password allows you to save your progress. Demon's Crest is certainly a feast for the eyes and ears, but is it enough to overcome the difficulty and frustration? © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Dirt Trax FX challenges you to outrace dirt bike competitors over a series of truly pathetic tracks. The hills are extremely angular and the riders are rendered using chunky, pixelated sprites. When I decided to undertake the circuit challenge, little did I know I would have to endure 15 painful laps - and that's just the first race! At least that track was easy to navigate. Subsequent courses are narrow and maze like with all sorts of 180-degree turns (ugh!) It's hard to see where you're supposed to go and I was constantly driving over the retaining walls. When that happens, a huge arrow appears indicating where you need to re-enter the course.
The controls are so poorly designed that there's actually a button that lets you travel at 2/3 speed! Seriously?! The thumping music is decent, and I like the uptempo groove that kicks in when you take first place. Enjoy it while you can because a total bastard named T-Rex is constantly on your heels thanks to the rubberband AI. Dirt Trax FX is not the least bit enjoyable, and the split screen action gave me a splitting headache. This is no Star Fox, but it may be the anti-Star Fox. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
DKC's memorable soundtrack offers a collection of jaunty, playful tunes that will have you bopping along as you play. The digitized sound effects are noticeably good, beginning with the muffled yells of Diddy when you first discover him in a barrel. It's tempting to write off DKC as a case of style over substance, but this well-constructed 2D platformer is jam-packed with neat innovations.
The partner system lets you strategically toggle between Donkey Kong and the smaller, more agile Diddy Kong, and two people can play as a team. You can sometimes ride on animals like rhinos and swordfish, allowing you to plow through long stretches with minimal effort. Special barrels serve as floating cannons, allowing you to shoot your way across a stage with a series of well-timed blasts. And who can forget those rip-roaring mine-cart-on-the-loose stages? Even collecting bananas is a heck of a lot of fun.
DKC's main flaw is its difficulty. One consequence of the oversized characters is a tiny margin for error. The mine cart stages give you a split-second to react, making it hard to avoid hazards even when you know they're coming! The "Stop and Go Station" stage is particularly brutal, tipping the scales from challenging to frustrating.
Donkey Kong Country does deserve extra credit for having one of the best manuals ever. Not only is it colorful and informative, but old Cranky Kong chimes in with hilarious remarks like "Well well I've never seen so much rubbish! A good game shouldn't need any explanation!" Donkey Kong Country looks like a million bucks and backs it up with memorable classic gameplay. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
The stages are expertly designed with cleverly-hidden items and secret areas. In the volcanic cave area you hop across crocodile heads reminiscent of Pitfall (Atari 2600, 1982). The pseudo-3D rendered characters are animated with charm and personality. When Diddy Kong completes a stage he performs a rapper impression that made me laugh out loud. Aiding you on your quest are creatures you can ride including a bouncing snake, a web-shooting spider, and a parrot that flaps like the birds in Joust.
The visuals may be warm and friendly, but Donkey Kong Country 2 is surprisingly tough. It's generally easy to determine where you're supposed to go, but the unforgiving collision detection makes it hard to get there. It's downright infuriating at times, especially in the vertical levels where you can fall a great distance and negate a lot of pain-staking progress. Each set of stages has a "college" area where you can save your progress, but you'll need coins to save!
There's also a "game show" that quizzes you on stages you've completed - so pay attention! Later stages include an amusement park, haunted woods, and castle. Once you enter a new zone you are unable to return to the earlier stages. The surreal, moody soundtrack is often astonishingly good.
The two-player modes are disappointing, since you can only take turns. The manual is a real hoot, especially with Cranky Kong's cynical rants about this "unnecessary sequel." Diddy's Kong Quest may aggravate the heck out of you, but its sky-high production values elevate this platformer to premiere status. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
The stages are less inventive than the first two games, featuring a lake, a factory, beach, sewer, snowy mountain, and forest with giant trees. I like how in the snow stages the precipitation will vary in intensity. The bonus stages tend to be reused subsections of the normal stages, which is kind of lame. The platform action is exactly like the previous games, and that's a good thing. Dixie has the ability to make long jumps and slow her landing with a helicopter spin. Kiddy can ram enemies with barrels and skim across the water surface (not to be confused with Jesus Kong).
The enemies are the usual suspects of crocs, bees, and rats. There are also these green barrels with arms that are kind of creepy. One of the animals you can ride/control is a baby elephant named Ellie, but she freaks out if she sees a rat with a light shining on it. That's confusing to the player because the rat is always clearly in plain sight. The factory stages are a little repetitive, especially with the same owls shooting fireballs at you wherever you go. The swimming controls are too sensitive, especially since touching any fish spells instant death.
The humongous bosses look great but can be a pain when they crowd the screen. That said, Donkey Kong Country 3 is still a heck of a lot of fun. The challenge is there but you'll never "hit a wall" like the first two games. The ability to save between stages is a real lifesaver. Donkey Kong Country 3 isn't as inspired as the first two games, but its gameplay is probably the most accessible of the three. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
The animation is choppy and your movements (especially strafing) tend to lag. It's hard to make out enemies in the distance, so you'll often wonder what's shooting you. Doom probably has no business being on the SNES, but it's still playable. The bleak audio soundtrack is effective and the stereo sound effects are crisp (although slightly delayed).
Between stages there's a nifty "you are here" map screen that you won't find in any other console versions. Did I mention the game comes on a nice shiny red cartridge? A candy-like red cartridge. This is Doom stripped down to its bare essentials, and my friends were fascinated by it. It probably makes a better tech demo than a game, but this is a neat cartridge to have in your collection. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
When the packages get misdirected however Frank must travel all over the globe to retrieve them. I hate it when that happens! The first stage takes place in an expansive castle with dancing books, critters in the toilet, and monsters prowling the hallways. Navigating the stairs is so confusing! I just keep finagling with the controller until it does what I want. A bizarre assortment of foes include tornado monsters, zombie cooks, grim reapers, and flying green heads with propellers.
You have plenty of moves at your disposal including a fireball attack that freezes enemies in place. I hate how the "kick left" and "kick right" buttons behave differently depending on the direction you're facing. Forgiving collision detection makes it easy to dispatch ghouls, but once they overlap you your health will drain to nothing. Stages branch after the first but they tend to be more irritating than spooky.
In England airplanes bomb you from out of nowhere, and in Italy brick walls obscure your view of catacombs. It's really hard to tell what the heck you can or can't jump on. The music isn't bad and I enjoyed the zany sound effects. What I hate is how it says you have "one life" on the bottom of the screen yet when you die it's game over. A continue option would have been nice, but no - you always have to restart at the castle. The Adventures of Dr. Franken has a few good ideas but I'm afraid they're overshadowed by a metric ton of bad ones. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
The stages focus on platform jumping, item collecting, and creature killing. Fans of the original game will recognize a lot of familiar monsters like the striped snakes, the bouncy reptile king, and a black knight who discharges electricity. Upon killing a creature, flashing point values appear, giving the game a nice arcade flavor. As usual, the designers felt obligated to incorporate a lot of small pesky bats and spiders.
Dirk only swings his sword downward, which can be annoying when you're dealing with a bat fluttering in your face. In addition to wielding your sword, you can toss projectiles like axes or knives. Some stages have multiple exits, allowing the levels to branch. You'll find a few simple puzzles which usually involve the positioning of barrels. If the devil is in the details, Dragon's Lair fails miserably. Too often Dirk can't grab a rope that's clearly within his reach. His feet don't jibe with the stair steps - a sign of sloppy programming.
The platforms tend to be slippery and there are blind leaps of faith. The exit doorways are about half the size as Dirk, suggesting the game was originally designed for a shorter character. The unimaginative stages seem to be sprinkled with a random assortment of creatures. In the water stage you float in a bubble while pushing barrels around. Worst. Stage. Ever. And what's up with the low-key, melancholy music? Did someone die? Yes, that would be the spirit of the original game. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum