Nintendo 64 Reviews O-Q

Paperboy
Grade: D-
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Reviewed: 2017/9/26

screenshotSince its arcade debut in 1985 Paperboy has challenged gamers to deliver papers in neighborhoods with assorted hazards like cars, dogs, and runaway lawnmowers. I've enjoyed most home versions of the game, but this Nintendo 64 edition has got to be one of the weirdest [expletive] things I've ever played. The designers decided to go "full polygon" this time, and the results are downright frightful.

Boxy graphics are to be expected on the system, but there appears to have been a concerted effort to make everything crooked and angular. The tacky music sounds like something from a cheesy 70's game show. The entire game has a creepy Pee Wee's Playhouse vibe. Your freaky paper boy looks like Pinocchio with that large, bulbous head and stick-figure legs.

Instead of riding up a diagonally-scrolling street, the game adopts a free-roaming, sandbox model. You can now move freely from one side of the road to the other. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't usually cooperate, forcing you to veer in unwanted directions just to improve the viewing angle. The controls are bizarre. Holding either shoulder button displays a throwing arrow you can aim with precision. Hell, the game actually slows down as you adjust it. It seems like the closer you are to your target, the harder it is to hit.

I will admit it's satisfying to see houses turn colors and point values appear. But what happened to the difficulty? Each stage has a suggested subscriber goal but apparently it doesn't matter if you reach it or not. Likewise there's little or no penalty for getting run over by a car or riding off of a pier. Can you even lose in this game?

Stage locations include the suburbs, a national park, trailer park, seaside area, and a Halloween-themed gothic neighborhood. That last one is the visual highlight, with wandering werewolves and shapely witches (so that's where all the polygons went!). Each stage offers plenty of random targets but there's little if any incentive to hit them. As with so many 3D remakes, this modern Paperboy completely misses the mark. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Perfect Dark
Grade: B

screenshotAs the spiritual successor to the wildly-popular Goldeneye, you can tell Nintendo spared no expense with Perfect Dark. This first-person spy thriller features menus so sophisticated and high-tech, I feel like I'm playing in the future! Instead of James Bond you control a redheaded heroine named Joanna Dark. In the action-packed opening stage you infiltrate a futuristic corporation while laying waste to scores of guards.

I really dig the modern skyscraper with its big windows and exterior views. Perfect Dark's storyline offers some intriguing twists, like when an evil female executive dares you to shoot her! Photographic faces are mapped onto the polygon characters models and they look striking. Mowing down bad guys is satisfying in large part due to their comical agonizing screams. The auto-aim mechanism works like a charm, and you can always fall back on the right trigger to position your crosshair with precision. The blood is modest, but apparently it was enough to make this the first Nintendo-published game to earn a Mature rating.

Perfect Dark was advanced for its time, predating spy games like Splinter Cell (Xbox, 2002). Special devices include password crackers and a remote-controlled drone that lets you scout out hazardous locations. One gadget I could do without are the night vision goggles, which gave me the worst case of eye strain ever. The framerate is generally smooth but during hectic combat situations it degrades substantially. In addition I found navigating tight spaces and stairwells to be a bit nauseating.

The game can be played cooperatively with a friend via split-screen and it records your best times over three skill levels. The audio is strong, with bullets whizzing by your ear and an outstanding futuristic soundtrack conveying a palpable sense of urgency. Perfect Dark's four-player split-screen is highly customizable. Not only can you introduce CPU-controlled "simulants", but you can assign them a wide variety of behaviors, from preying on the weak to hoarding weapons. Where the game shows it aged is its cookie-cutter environments. Both in campaign and multiplayer, the repetitive, maze-like stages are really aggravating. All things considered however, Perfect Dark is still one heck of a title for the Nintendo 64. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Pilotwings 64
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/12/15
Rating: Kids to Adults


screenshotLike the first Pilotwings (SNES, 1991), this is as much a technical demonstration as it is a game. Pilotwings 64 is certainly a huge technical leap over its predecessor. Instead of flat, pixelated landing zones, you get scenic islands with sprawling castles, rolling hills, and soaring skyscrapers. I especially love the rocky, snowy terrain of Ever-Frost Island. Your goal is to complete a series of aerial challenges while earning points to unlock new areas and bonus games.

You get a selection of wacky characters to choose from, and their high-pitched voices are comical. The main events are rocket-belt (jetpack), hang gliding, and a "gyrocopter" which looks like a helicopter but handles more like a small plane. The analog controls allow for fine adjustments, and a gentle touch is required to navigate the courses cleanly. The jetpack stages are much easier to control than the original game, but the severely limited camera angles make it hard to gauge your position.

It's especially aggravating when you're constantly bumping against buildings in the city stage. Typically you'll fly through rings and land on pads, but certain missions spice things up by requiring you to take pictures of landmarks or blast targets with missiles. The islands have a lot of interesting nooks and crannies, making them fun to explore.

Pilotwings 64 also contains three unlockable games which are arguably more entertaining than the main ones! These consist of skydiving, cannonball, and "jumble hopper". Cannonball lets you fire a cannon at a distant target, and it's hilarious to hear your character scream as he's launched. It's a shame Pilotwings is strictly single-player, because events like this would have made for a fun multiplayer contest.

Jumble Hopper puts your character in bouncy shoes that enable him to leap great distances, and it's also a lot of fun. Pilotwings 64 was released when there wasn't much else available for the Nintendo 64 (besides Super Mario 64), and it didn't create much of a stir. I can't vouch for its long-term play value, but this game has its charm. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Pokemon Stadium
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (2000)
Reviewed: 2002/1/26


screenshotOkay, I'm reviewing this game under the disclaimer of having never played a Pokemon game before! I actually picked up Pokemon Stadium on clearance, and it's not too bad! For the benefit of the older folks, Pokemon are a series of Japanese cartoon monsters you can collect and battle against each other. Kids who play Pokemon on their Gameboys can transfer their creatures into this game via a transfer pack that's included with this cartridge.

For Pokemon veterans, this cartridge is solid gold because it lets you download, view, organize, and trade your Pokemon. But you don't need a Gameboy to play Pokemon Stadium - you can "rent" Pokemon to play in the single-player tournaments or the multiplayer battles. Over 151 are available, and I was fascinated by the variety and creativity of these creatures. The battles seem surprisingly simple, but there are subtle nuances that will be lost on the casual player.

You choose a set of Pokemon for each battle, but the fighting is one-on-one. At the start of each round you select from a list of attacks. The action is carried out in the form of spells, with no physical contact between fighters. Certain types of attacks are more effective against specific types of creatures. You can swap your creatures in and out at any time, like a tag-team match. Once all creatures on a team are disabled, the match ends.

Pokemon Stadium's graphics and audio are mediocre. The characters look good enough, but the arenas are boring. The announcer's voice isn't very clear, so you may want to turn him off. Extra modes include a set of simple four-player games. Pokemon Stadium is probably a must-have for Pokemon fans, but everyone else will find it only mildly amusing. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Polaris SnoCross
Grade: C-

screenshotThere's something about snow-themed video games that I find appealing. Maybe it's the prospect of gliding through gorgeous snow-covered countryside without freezing my ass off. Polaris SnoCross has the right idea, offering a variety of scenic courses and supporting four-player head-to-head action.

The graphics are easy on the eyes as you race through quaint towns, forest clearings, and rocky gorges. You'll pass farms with cows, rumble over rickety wooden bridges, and jump off ramps. The gently falling snow has a calming effect and it feels soft under your snowmobile. The physics however is pretty bouncy, and the undulating hills will toss you around like a ragdoll. In fact, after a few runs you might find yourself becoming nauseous! I would not recommend using a rumble pack because that just magnifies the effect.

A fun tournament mode lets you unlock tracks, but the rubber-band AI means it's very easy to go from first-to-worst. There are three CPU competitors, and collisions with them lead to unpredictable results. The tracks tend to be a little too long, although branching paths add some variety. I was bummed out when I unlocked a new set of tracks and they were just night versions of the previous three.

The "night" effect is unconvincing, basically just dimming the background. They should have turned on the street lamps and lights in the houses. The split-screen mode plays okay, but there are no CPU racers so playing one-on-one is boring. Polaris SnoCross is a serviceable winter racer, but it never goes beyond the call of duty. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Quake
Grade: C
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Reviewed: 2008/4/8
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, gore)

screenshotIf you enjoy the classic first-person shooting action of Doom, you'll feel right at home with Quake. Its modest polygon count might make the dungeons look fuzzy and the demons angular, but its rich colors and fluid frame-rate manage to hold everything together. You'll face knights, chainsaw-toting ogres, and even rottweiler dogs while prowling dark, torch-lit corridors. The moody lighting effects are terrific, and the red skies with their swirling clouds are beautifully hypnotic.

The monsters can be fairly unpredictable. They'll fall over and get back up when shot, and sometimes they even turn on each other! Cool new weapons are available early and often, including nail guns, double-barreled shotguns, and the nasty "thunderbolt" which unleashes electricity like a water hose. The thumbstick is used to move, the C buttons strafe, and the trigger fires. As in Doom, it's not necessary (or even possible) to aim up or down. As long as your target is centered on the x-axis, it's vulnerable. Quake also gives you the ability to swim (I'm not a fan), and there are plenty of secret areas to uncover.

The graphics aren't bad for the Nintendo 64, and the brooding, bass-heavy soundtrack adds tension and a sense of foreboding. The single-player mode is incredibly challenging - even on the "easy" difficulty. When you die, you have to restart the entire level! Curses! And who says there are no load times in cartridges? It takes about ten seconds to "build" each stage!

There's a split-screen mode to accommodate two players, but its jerky frame-rate and dark environments render it practically unplayable. Like most first-person shooters, this game hasn't aged particularly well, but if you're up for a challenge and can stomach the graphics, Quake will serve up your demons medium rare. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 2 players 

Quake II
Grade: B
Publisher: Activision (1999)
Reviewed: 2008/4/8
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, gore)

screenshotThis has aged far better than the original Quake, partly due to its revamped control scheme, which uses the four C buttons to move and the analog stick to aim (like Goldeneye). The controls are touchy, but the ability to aim (and look) in any direction provides for a more realistic, rewarding experience. The visuals and sound effects are noticeably more high-tech this time around.

The stages look sharper, and excellent use of colored lighting adds a visual flair. The electronic musical score is generally understated, yet conveys an unmistakable feeling of isolation and paranoia. When you hear the sudden grunt of a monster, it sounds like he's breathing right down your neck! Each stage contains a few puzzles (usually of the find-the-key variety), and you'll sometimes need to contend with traps like timed laser beams.

Among the more interesting enemies are flying droids, femme fatales called "Iron Maidens", and Terminator-like "Tanks". The first time I heard the massive stomps of one of these Tanks, it scared the living hell out of me. Your potent weapons include chain guns, rail guns, and the ever-popular "BFG 10K". The pixelated flying blood is gratifying, and igniting flammable barrels is always a good time.

Quake II is challenging and fun for solo players, thanks to missions that tend to be short and sweet. The split-screen mode accommodates up to four players, but due to a choppy frame-rate it's just barely playable. If you're hankering for some solo old-school shooting action however, Quake 2 is food for your trigger finger. © Copyright 2008 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