Nintendo 64 Reviews B

Banjo Kazooie
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Reviewed: 2003/6/19

screenshotAs one of the more beloved games for the Nintendo 64, Banjo Kazooie took the Mario 64 style of gameplay and expanded it every which way. Banjo is a likeable honey bear and Kazooie is his smart-aleck feathered sidekick. Working together, they can execute an astonishing number of moves, ranging from your standard double-jump to the lightning-fast "beak bomb" attack. Fifteen moves are listed in the instruction manual, but they're introduced gradually over the course of the game to ease the learning curve.

A helpful mole character appears in each stage to advise you, so you'll rarely get stuck. Your mission is to save Banjo's sister, held captive by an evil Witch named Gruntilda. Unlike the generic villains of most adventure games, Gruntilda is a very funny and interesting character. There's plenty of stuff to do in Banjo Kazooie, with expansive new areas constantly opening up. Our adventurous pair face their share of adversaries, but the strength of the game lies in its intelligent, thought-provoking puzzles, which are rarely frustrating and often quite satisfying.

If there's one aspect where the game goes a bit overboard, it may be the item collecting. There are about nine sets of items to collect, and at times it seems downright gratuitous. Still, the game is well paced and fairly easy. The control scheme is intuitive enough, although you will encounter occasional camera glitches. When it comes to sheer production values, Banjo Kazooie is first class all the way.

The graphics are outstanding, brimming with subtle details like cracks in rocks, shimmering water, and flowers blowing in the grass. The music, audio effects, and dialogue are expertly performed, although their childlike nature may turn off some mature gamers. All things considered, Banjo Kazooie is a terrific game that is adored by legions of fans. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Grade: C
Publisher: Ubisoft (2000)
Reviewed: 2009/12/15

screenshotNot your typical Batman game, Beyond represents some kind of bizarre off-shoot of the comic book series where Bruce Wayne is an old man mentoring a young, spry new Batman. Robin is not in the picture due to some bizarre circumstances revealed during cut-scenes. The Joker is your primary foe, although you'll face several sub-bosses you've never heard of like Woof and Ghoul.

Batman Beyond is weird as hell, but it gets by on its hard-hitting hand-to-hand combat and easy-to-grasp controls. The game is rendered with 3D polygons, but the side-scrolling fighting action is more along the lines of 2D brawlers like Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). Most of the stages take place in high-tech facilities, and they're pretty boring. The 3D scenery is composed of clean textures and nice lighting effects, but plain metallic walls and stacks of boxes make for dull scenery. This game lacks the interesting illustrated details you find in 2D brawlers.

Batman controls well as he goes up against generic thugs, robots, and creepy hyena-people. You can punch, kick, duck, block, jump, and brandish weapons. You have several outfits to choose from, each of which is suited to a unique play style. Personally I prefer the defensive suit with its super-effective shoulder charge. Fighting is satisfying because you can easily dish off a quick succession of hits, and enemies hit the floor with a resounding thud. The audio is terrific with its edgy guitar soundtrack and jarring explosions.

Batman Beyond's primary flaw is its questionable replay value. You'll get several continues but no password, so each time you play it's back to the start! The game is pretty short with its five stages, and there's no score or rating to gauge your performance. Batman Beyond had some potential, but Ubisoft didn't put enough effort into this. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Battletanx: Global Assault
Grade: C

screenshotWith three friends on hand I anxiously loaded up Battletanx, bracing myself for some explosive multiplayer mayhem. But what ensued was more a sense of bewilderment than bedlam. The four-player split-screen visibility is downright horrendous, and who came up with this crappy portal concept? I hate how tanks are randomly disappearing and reappearing all over the place.

There's a wide variety of tanks to choose from but the fact that they all control differently adds to the confusion. Despite the bad first impression all was not lost. I gave the single-player campaign mode a try and it's actually not half bad! The missions are short and the battlefields are reasonable in size. Each mission has specific objectives (like rescuing people) but they largely boil down to blowing up everything on the map.

And there's no shortage of firepower. A single mortar will blow out an entire building and the second shot will reduce it to rubble! And that's not to mention special weapons like swarmer missiles and lasers. Thunderous explosion effects add to the fun.

The bland scenery isn't much to look at, consisting of truck stops, train yards, and ports. The night missions are a pain because it's hard enough to tell where shots are coming from. Still, the wanton destruction is habit-forming. So don't let the multiplayer blues get you down. Stick with the Battletanx campaign and you'll have a blast. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Beetle Adventure Racing
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Reviewed: 2011/7/26
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMy recollections of this oldie are a little hazy, but if the "best times" records screen is any indication, my friends and I played the hell out of this thing! I'm seeing the names of people I haven't talked to in ten years! Beetle Adventure's arcade-style tracks were sensational in 1999, and frankly they still look pretty good today.

Mount Mayhem offers snow swept mountains and Metro Madness boasts a gorgeous shimmering city sunset. The Jurassic Park-inspired "Inferno Isle" features a harrowing route through an active volcano. There are plenty of unexpected surprises (like a hungry T-Rex) and even some "big air" moments. Your car selection is limited to Volkswagen Beetles of various color schemes.

The controls are excellent thanks to the trigger/brake which allows you to execute power-slides with tight turn radiuses. The roads are heavily constrained with guardrails, rocks, and fences to keep you on track, and hitting them doesn't slow you down much. Since there's no damage modeling, it's often advantageous to sideswipe a wall or bump an opponent.

The single player mode pits you against seven CPU cars, and it's addictive and challenging to unlock the tracks. Each race is three laps, and you'll want to be alert during that third one because the route will change unexpectedly. The two-player split-screen mode is less exciting because there are no CPU racers and the scenery is less impressive.

This mode also exposes the game's most serious flaw, which is the inability to adjust the number of laps. Considering each lap can last up to five minutes, things can get boring if one person takes a commanding lead. Did the designers purposely make the tracks as long as possible? In some cases it seems they are "padded" with similar repeating sections.

Crashing puts you back on track almost immediately, but occasionally you'll become stuck in a hopeless location - like on the wrong side of a fence! Shortcuts abound, but you should exercise extreme caution before heading off the beaten path. More often than not you'll find yourself in no-man's-land desperately trying to find your way back onto the main road!

The four-player battle mode is a nice bonus but it's hard to track your opponents. The multi-player modes don't live up to expectations, but the solo racing will not let you down. Beetle Adventure Racing has an arcade flair that stands the test of time. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 4 players 

Big Mountain 2000
Grade: C+
Publisher: Imagineer (2000)
Reviewed: 2016/4/24

screenshotBeing a sucker for snowboarding games, Big Mountain 2000 didn't take long to win me over. Its clean, natural-looking courses are a refreshing change from the fake rollercoaster-style trails popularized in games like SSX (PS2, 2000). I'm all about getting close to nature.

Big Mountain lets you choose between skis or snowboards. Courses include a day trail, a gorgeous sunset run, and a scenic night course complete with passing trains. Varied terrain is nicely reflected through crisp sound and effective rumble effects. Steering feels good and I like holding the A button to carve the snow. The B button lets you jump and perform tricks but they aren't integral to the game.

Free ride mode lets you explore branching paths, but the slalom modes are fun too, challenging you to pass through gates. You can play solo to level-up characters or go against a friend via split-screen. I really wanted to like Big Mountain 2000 but there's one blatant flaw that costs the game at least one letter. My friends were wondering why they kept falling down for no apparent reason. As it turns out, going too fast causes your speed bar to flash, indicating you must slow down or crash. Why in the hell would anyone program something like that into a game?

Another issue is the collision detection. You'll miss a tree by a foot and your boarder acts like he just slammed into a brick wall! I swear there were times when I hit a tree after I was already past it! Making contact with any competitor causes you both to fall, which is a drag. Big Mountain 2000 captures the spirit of the sport but a few head-scratching flaws prevent it from reaching its potential. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Bio Freaks
Grade: D
Publisher: GT Interactive (1998)
Reviewed: 2005/1/22
Rating: Mature (animated blood and gore)

screenshotThe Nintendo 64 isn't known for its one-on-one fighting games, so Nintendo must have been pretty desperate to allow this butt-ugly button masher onto their system. Bio Freaks is a futuristic brawler featuring fighters more machine than human, with metal spikes, buzz saws, jet packs, and machine guns jutting out all over their bodies.

The eight combatants include the aptly named Zipperhead, a Duke Nukem-wannabe named Bullzeye, the flame-throwing Purge, the minotaur-like Minoteck, a vomiting monster named Ssapo, and an obligatory, scantily clad hottie by the name of Delta. The character models look fairly chunky, and their animation is equally unimpressive. Fighters seem to glide when they walk, and action is choppy.

The enclosed stages have got to be the most boring arenas I've ever witnessed in a fighting game - there's really nothing to see. On a positive note, there are an ample number of moves, and the game comes with a handy special move sheet (all fighting games should come with those!). The fact that all the fighters can hover with jetpacks seems to have potential, but adds little to the gameplay.

What's most surprising about Bio Freaks is the excessive gore. The blood isn't particularly heavy, but you can actually dismember your opponent (although you probably won't even notice until the dust settles). Bio Freak's audio is painfully weak, with generic grinding guitars and voice samples I could barely discern. I've played worse fighting games in my time, but I try not to. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Blast Corps
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/7/30

screenshotWhen it comes to guys, there's only one thing we like better than building stuff, and that's blowing stuff up! Thank goodness Blast Corps gives us guys an outlet for our primal urge to unleash destruction and mayhem. Each stage begins with a large truck carrying explosive materials slowly crawling up the screen. If it touches anything, it's game over, so you must obliterate all obstacles standing in its way.

There are a variety of vehicles at your disposal, including a bull-dozer, dump truck, train, and an Ultra-man style robot. The buildings tend to crumble easily like they do in old Godzilla movies, which is satisfying. Alarming sound effects add a degree of tension as they increase in intensity as the truck approaches an obstacle.

Blast Corps' control is generally good, although it can be clumsy when it comes to intricate operations like pushing TNT crates. What really makes Blast Corps a riot is its incredible explosions. Sweet! Although most levels are well designed, you'll occasionally find yourself asking "What the heck am I supposed to do now?". All in all, Blast Corps is a highly original game that will satisfy real men with an appetite for destruction. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 player 

Bomberman 64
Grade: F
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1997)
Reviewed: 2018/8/4
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotI've been on board the Bomberman train since Super Bomberman (SNES, 1992) but this 3D version is off the rails. Adventure mode invites you to wander around maze-like levels, blowing up obstacles and slow-moving enemies to collect items. Just imagine Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U, 2014)... if it sucked. Bomberman 64 suffers from blurry graphics, cryptic objectives, awful controls, and an unwieldy camera system.

This game is a constant struggle. I got stuck in the very first stage because the final gem was obscured from all sides. That's bad design by any measure, but in the first stage?! First impressions make it hard to enjoy a game like this, but rest assured you won't! The graphics will make you cringe; those flat "steps" turn my stomach.

The stages feature all the obligatory themes (water, volcano, snow) but tend to be claustrophobic with bombs raining down all over the place. Patrolling enemies like snowmen and fish people are slow and easy to blow up, but touching just about anything in this game will cause you to spontaneously combust. There's a weird pause when you walk through a doorway; is the cartridge loading the next area?

The controls are idiotic, forcing you to press two buttons at once to perform the basic actions. Don't even attempt this game without instructions or a walk-through. Using the four yellow buttons to manipulate the camera is a headache as usual. Even the light, breezy soundtrack failed to sooth my growing rage.

I tried battle mode with my friends which features open 3D battlefields that let you kick bombs diagonally and stun your opponents. While playable, it's plagued by slowdown and most stages are so convoluted you can't tell what's going on. Bomberman 64 is downright detestable. The fact that someone thought it merited a sequel blows my mind. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Lemon64.com, Moby Games, YouTube, Games Database, The ISO Zone