Even before your first race there are ominous signs. Despite supporting four-player split-screen only three characters are available from the start, so two people have to be the same character. Way to think it through Sega! When browsing the racers there's a palpable lag when trying to select a character. The tracks are poorly designed. I expected the twisting casino tracks to be disorienting, but even the bright summer-themed tracks are cluttered and confusing. One course has you racing on a layer of pink mist and you can't really tell where you're going. A little restraint could have gone a long way. One track is called "Frozen Junkyard" and that pretty much says it all.
The weapons are useful but you'll probably have no problem naming their Mario Kart equivalents. Likewise creatures like the lava monster and desert worms seem awfully familiar. The races are engaging but the physics is suspect, as I noticed CPU cars changing speeds erratically.
The story mode is mildly enjoyable despite the inane dialog you can't skip fast enough. Two players can work together on the same team, unlocking branching tournaments, challenges, and survival modes. The team mechanic lets you pass items or give your teammates a boost via your slipstream. To be honest, it's all very confusing in the heat of battle.
Even Sonic Team Racer's split screen action is technically deficient. If you're used to playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo, 2017) the low framerate in this game is bothersome. Brent actually had the nerve to ask me if there was a way to unlock "smooth mode!" Team Sonic Racing feels like it was designed in a boardroom by executives. It isn't terrible but there's a palpable lack of fun. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
If any game deserves the "Metroidvania" moniker, it's this one. Its 16-bit style is used to maximum effect, conveying remarkable atmosphere with artistically-rendered scenery and eerie lighting. With fluid animation and simple controls, Demastered calls to mind the great Axiom Verge (Badlands Games, 2017).
What initially caught my attention was the game's pulse-pounding musical score. The title screen music was so good I just had to crank up the stereo. The brooding synthesized mix adds a sense of intrigue and is consistently great throughout.
The stages are consistent with the film, including a graveyard, subway, sewer, and underground laboratory. These locations sound typical but are rendered with a cinematic flair. The graveyard stage is a sight to behold with its decrepit gravestones and church looming in the moonlight. When it comes to gothic artistry this game gives Castlevania a run for the money.
The controls are terrific. Armed with a default machine gun, you hold the trigger to plant your feet and fire in eight directions. The jumping is dead-on, and thank goodness because the stages can be perilous. Platforms crumble beneath your feet and bats knock you off your ledge, sometimes into a pool of green acid! Fortunately health is ubiquitous and save points are well-placed.
Enemies tend to regenerate with annoying regularity, and there's nothing worse than accidentally ducking out of a room, only to return and find it repopulated. I could also do without the bone-throwing skeletons. Not only are they a shameless Castlevania rip-off, but these bastards throw with pinpoint precision. The exotic bosses exhibit easy-to-read patterns but take about a million hits to kill. When in human form The Mummy looks a lot like Michael Jackson.
The first time I used a continue in this game I was dismayed to discover my grenades were gone. I later discovered I had to go back and kill my "old self" (now a zombie) to restore my old gear. It adds a new wrinkle but can be aggravating. It seems original except for the fact that Dark Souls (PS3, 2011) has been using this device forever.
Despite some minor gripes The Mummy Demastered is extremely habit-forming. Great production values and sheer playability will hook you from the outset, and a nice sense of progression keeps you coming back. With excellent controls and atmosphere to burn, this modern platformer has the look and feel of an old-school classic. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
The gameplay is simple as you hop and climb while slaying snakes, birds, and armed guards. The controls feel responsive and my new Pro Controller got a good workout. The directional pad is precise and much like Strider (Genesis, 1989) our hero can perch on the edge of a block and pull himself up. It's possible to execute a long lash or spin attack, but with no instructions I can't tell you how.
Tiny Barbarian is not as satisfying as it could be. Striking anything with your sword makes a lame "thump" sound, as if you're smacking someone with a wet sock. Slain enemies just sort of fall over when defeated. I would never advocate violence, but a little blood and gore never hurt anybody. The stages are colorful but what you see is pretty much what you get.
Frequent annoyances include enemies that repel attacks and skeletal hands that reach up from the ground. But the worst offenders are the birds or snakes that perpetually respawn, forcing you to rush through certain sections while absorbing hits along the way. Can a brother get a health icon?
Old-school references include the gnome from Golden Axe (Genesis, 1989) you can smack around for bonuses, and a God of War (PS2, 2005) inspired maiden scene. The animation has style and subtle humor. The problem is, Tiny Barbarian DX isn't particularly addictive and becomes progressively less enjoyable as you go.
What saves the day is its two-player coop. Trying to beat a stage with a buddy harkens back to the old sleepover days when you'd stay up half the night trying to conquer a hard level. And be sure to check out the Horde mode which challenges you to stay "king of the mountain" for as long as possible (usually under a minute). It won't win any awards but when it comes to old-school throwbacks Tiny Barbarian is legit. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
As you wandered over platforms suspended in space you collected gifts that had random effects while dealing with zany characters like an opera singer, a hula girl, or Santa Claus in a jetpack. Back in the Groove is a faithful, high-definition version of the original. The problem is, all those gee-whiz features seem pretty ho-hum in 2021. The randomized levels all play pretty much the same, although some do feature snow, desert, water, or darkness.
The stereotypical characters and "gifts" tend to be so obnoxious you develop a tendency to avoid them. You just move from one level to the next trying to cover every inch of ground to fill in the maps. Entering an elevator lets you ascend to a higher platform level, but it's pretty clear this psychadelic "elevator ride" is just a glorified loading screen.
I got sick and tired of wandering around in this game. The rap theme feels played out and what game nowadays doesn't have a "weiner meter" or Santa in a jetpack? At least the surround sound is strong, with zany noises and voices coming from all directions. Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove is fine if you just want to sit back and chill, but if you're looking for excitement, this isn't your stop. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
Toki is not a one-for-one remake like Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (PS4, 2018). While certainly inspired by Toki Going Ape Spit (Genesis, 1991), this new Toki stands on its own. It stars a comical monkey that climbs, jumps, and spits projectiles. The rapid-fire spitting gives the action a shooting flavor and I love the ability to spit diagonally.
Toki faces a weird hodgepodge of enemies like bats, warthogs, spiders, ghosts, and... Frankenstein monsters? The hand-illustrated stages are beautiful with orchestrated music so clear it sounds like the musicians are in the same room with you. Toki not only lives up its its source material; it exceeds it! This game is crazy fun. Although the sprites tend to be large they rarely overcrowd the screen and the collision detection is forgiving. The jumps are floaty and you can fall from any distance.
The backgrounds look sharp but certain objects do have a way of blending in. Only fools rush in and Toki is living proof. Ghosts can materialize out of thin air and just because you're climbing down a vine doesn't mean there's a safe landing below. The rapid-fire shooting is very effective, especially on bosses. Sometimes to clear out a crowd of enemies you'll go into a butt-pouncing, rapid-fire frenzy. As with most classic 2D platformers Toki is a linear game. You get nine lives but you can go through them in a hurry. There are plenty of continues and half of the fun is trying to beat your high score.
Toki is a GameStop exclusive and it's good to see that store catering to collectors. The Toki Retrocollector edition comes in a box with all sorts of fun extras including a comic, art, and a little cardboard arcade cabinet to house your Switch. This Toki remake was crafted with love and care, so retro-minded gamers will want to secure a copy immediately. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
I have to admit I'm loving the HD graphics. They add amazing detail while retaining the original distinctive art style. Ryu's moonlit temple and Ken's sunny yacht look gorgeous, and I love the sense of depth in Chun Li's market stage. The characters are so sharp you can actually see lines on Ryu's face! The original low-resolution graphics are available as an option, but they look downright harsh on a modern TV.
The original fighting lineup has returned along with newcomers Evil Ryu and Violent Ken. These guys seem suspiciously similar to their regular counterparts except they happen to be demonically possessed (it happens). The strategic one-on-one fighting feels just like the old days, but if you're used to cranking up the turbo setting it might feel a little slow. The improved clarity tends to undermine the collision detection, causing some obvious misses to be registered as hits.
The original musical score is back, but the remastered tunes sound a little less edgy. I'm pleased to announce Capcom has rediscovered their long lost "arcade mode" technology, and you can even rank in with your initials. Just be sure to crank up the difficulty to "master" (at the very least) because normal is ridiculously easy. It would be nice if the game kept a different set of high scores for each difficulty.
Playing with a Joy-Con controller takes some getting used to. I kept switching between the digital and analog directional controls but didn't feel completely satisfied with either one. By default heavy attacks are assigned to the right and left bumpers, but they are really hard to reach in the heat of battle. And why is it that when I pull up the move list I then have to select my character from a list? If I'm playing as Chun Li, just show me her damn moves! It's not that hard Capcom!
In addition to the standard online, training, and versus modes, Capcom tossed in two new modes of questionable value. Buddy Battle mode lets you team up with a friend (or CPU) to beat the living crap out of a CPU player. There's no score so it's basically just a novelty. Way of the Hado mode offers a first-person perspective as you execute Joy-Con motion controls to dispatch oncoming soldiers. The controls are so bad they feel like the worst Wii game ever. Ultra Street Fighter II is a lazy effort, but it's still worth owning, particularly if you haven't experienced this classic in HD. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Wallachia's menu interface looks a bit clunky and sparse. Upon starting a new game, controls are presented in a rapid-fire manner. Umm - excuse me, can you please repeat that? Nope! During the course of the game large "up" arrows appear over people or chests. These are just prompting you to talk or investigate, but they give the impression something huge is overhead.
Despite modest production values Reign of Dracula excels in terms of raw gameplay. Your bow-wielding warrior princess forges over rainy countrysides, mountain ranges, flowery bridges, and well-fortified castles. It's great fun to take out stiff soldiers and nail icon-carrying birds flying overhead. Your rapid-fire arrows are awesome, especially when loaded with triple-shots or exploding arrows. The left bumper is used to "lock in" your position so you can fire all around.
The controls feel clumsy at times, like when you squat while trying to shoot downward, or vice versa. Large characters provide precious little room to maneuver, especially during boss encounters. Special powers are not easy to use, and there should be more checkpoints. That said, the game's quirks add to the challenge, making it madly additive.
Wallachia: Reign of Dracula is not the poor-man's Castlevania you might expect. It's brimming with beautiful landscapes, exceptional music, and non-stop twitch-shooting goodness. If you have a short attention span, buy this immediately. That's what my buddy Scott M. did after the very first time he played it. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
The matches are short but intense, with upbeat music and vibrant arcade graphics amping up the excitement. There are several bright courts to select from, but you can't beat the sandy court with the tropical scenery. Windjammers is a great head-to-head game, but its single player arcade mode is fun too, letting you work your way through a series of competitors. There are even two bonus stages. One lets you control a dog running on the beach, leaping over sunbathers while trying to catch the disc. In another you knock down bowling pins.
It's nice to see Windjammers being exposed to a wider audience, but this is got to be the laziest port I've ever seen. They just plopped the 1994 game onto the Switch with no substantial enhancements or additions. The low-resolution graphics look pretty harsh and the Joy Con is a lousy substitute for those irresistibly tappable Neo Geo controllers. There are online leaderboards but local high scores are not saved which is unacceptable. Windjammers is an undeniably great game but it deserved better than this barebones treatment. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com