Bad News Baseball
Publisher: Tecmo (1989)
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
I can't believe I had overlooked Balloon Fight for so long, because this game is unadulterated arcade joy. Its gameplay borrows heavily from Joust
(Atari 2600, 1982). In fact, it's hard to believe Nintendo wasn't sued by Atari! You control a little guy who flaps his arms while floating on a pair of balloons. Tapping a button gives you lift, but a light touch is required to control your altitude. Each screen offers a new set of grassy platforms, and a serene starry night sky serves as the backdrop. Each round begins with a bunch of mini Count Choculas pumping up balloons and taking to the sky. You pop their balloons by colliding with them when you're higher. This causes them to deploy a parachute, and if you can hit them again before they land you'll score big points. Taking down enemies is extremely satisfying, and I think the snappy popping sound effects have a lot to do with that. When both of your balloons are popped you fall and lose a life. Balloon Fight's gameplay is more forgiving than Joust, but if you dawdle storm clouds unleash "lightning sparks" that meander around the screen. Balloon Fight is easy to play and the instant your game ends you'll want to play again. My main reservation is how advanced stages contain annoying vertical platforms and pesky "spinners". A two-player simultaneous mode and a side-scrolling "balloon trip" mode are also included. Easy to grasp but difficult to master, Balloon Fight is one of those rare games with universal appeal. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 112,750
1 or 2 players
Barker Bill's Trick Shooting
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
During Barker Bill's intro a fat guy with a big mustache strolls onto the screen with a chick in a Playboy bunny outfit. After the "Trick Shooting" title comes crashing down the dog from Duck Hunt
(Nintendo, 1984) pokes out his head and does his trademark chuckle. Wait a minute... is the dog
supposed to be Barker Bill?
[Mind blown] Once the folksy banjo music kicks in you know this is vintage Nintendo. This game picks up from where Duck Hunt left off... five years later!
It's just a new set of lame target-shooting mini-games. Trick Shooting requires no light-gun calibration but keep in mind the gun only works on an old-fashioned CRT television (crank up the brightness for best results). The instructions recommend sitting six feet away but you'll probably settle in much closer. The game doesn't play well at all. The games are short and sweet but the controls are suspect
. Not only is the accuracy sorely lacking, but I often managed to hit things I wasn't even aiming
at! There are three basic game variations. In Balloon Saloon you shoot rising balloons and in Flying Saucers you shoot plates tossed into the air. Occasionally a bird will swoop in to grab a plate, and it's actually easier to hit the bird!
"Window Pains" has bottles and hammers falling through open windows, and it's the easiest of the bunch. "Fun Follies" lets you play all three along with a few bonus rounds. Even when I pulled my chair within two feet of the TV
I could not complete this mode, and boy oh boy does that constant click-clacking of the Zapper trigger get old. I didn't fare very well with Barker Bill's Trick Shooting, but maybe you'll have better luck with your old tube TV. One would hope. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Follies
Our high score: 19,900
Publisher: Ultra (1991)
Base Wars is a futuristic baseball game with robot players, much like SNK's Super Baseball 2020
(Neo Geo, 1991). It's an interesting premise and the robots look pretty slick. They all resemble Ultraman in the face, but their lower bodies are composed of wheels, treads, or flying discs. The pitcher/batter screen is impressive, with huge (albeit single-colored), smoothly-animated players. The pitcher literally fires the ball out of his arm, and by holding down the button, you can "power-up" your fastball. With total control of the ball in mid-air, you can make it do all sorts of crazy stuff. The fielding aspect is less impressive; it sucks, really. The screen seems to lag behind when balls are hit, and by the time your fielder comes into view it's usually too late. I tried to dive for the ball once, but alas - I had treads! I'll say one thing for these fielders: they have cannons for arms! No seriously, their arms are literally cannons. But the game's real highlight occurs during tag situations, during which the game is transformed into a one-on-one fighter. The characters are large but their attack controls are rudimentary at best. Cornering the other guy and bashing him in the head repeatedly is usually the best strategy. Of course, when playing against the cheap CPU you'll be lucky to get in one punch! Another annoying aspect of Base Wars is how every other hit is a freakin' homerun - enough already! Still, I enjoy the brisk pace of the game and its over-the-top action. Base Wars certainly is unique and should appeal to most arcade-minded sports fans. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
I thought this early Nintendo title would deliver some fun old-school action, but its gameplay turned out to be atrocious
. I like the idea of viewing the entire field on one screen (as in Atari 5200 Realsports Baseball), with a separate screen for the pitcher/batter duel. The ball movement is smooth enough, but the fielders are painfully
slow and choppy. Much of the fielding appears to be computer controlled, and it's all too common for outfielders to throw out runners headed to first. Baseball's sound effects are practically non-existent, and so is the fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Baseball Simulator 1.000
Publisher: Culture Brain (1989)
Publisher: SNK (1989)
Baseball Stars II
Publisher: Romstar (1991)
In this terrific sequel, Romstar has improved the graphics and added options but retained the same excellent core gameplay. Baseball Stars 2 offers versus and league play with fictional teams like the Texas Towers and Toronto Captains. This time you have four stadiums to select from, but you'll want to avoid the "Country Stadium" with its hideous dirt field. The graphics look more vibrant than the first game, and the pitching screen has been revamped to include "windows" of first and third base on each side of the screen (second base can be seen behind the pitcher). This makes good use of the screen real estate and allows the defense to keep a close eye on runners. Like the first Baseball Stars, the game is instantly fun and it's unlikely you'll need to consult the instructions for anything. Unfortunately, Baseball Stars 2 retains a few problems from the first game, including fly balls that are hard to track down. Controlling your runners on the base paths is exceptionally problematic during high fly balls, since you can't turn back once you reach the next base! Many of the customization options have been removed from the league mode, but you now have the ability to trade players with other teams. The audio effects are lighthearted and fun, like the pitch that sings like a bird and umpires that sound like owls. Pleasant background music plays throughout the game, but it does get tiresome after a few games. Funny how there's an option to turn the errors off, yet no option to turn the music off! I also find it amusing how Romstar advertises its other NES titles (like Cowboy Kid) on the scoreboard between innings. Baseball Star 2 isn't terribly realistic, but if you're just looking to have a good time, this is the way to go. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1988)
Bases Loaded 2: Second Season
Publisher: Jaleco (1989)
In this ill-conceived sequel, Jaleco effectively butchers their landmark baseball franchise beyond recognition. The original Bases Loaded was an old favorite that most NES sports fans have fond memories of. There was room for improvement, but Second Season breaks more than it fixes! The pitching screen has been slightly redesigned, and while the players are smaller, they're also better animated so it's hard to complain. Once a ball is put into play however, everything goes straight to hell. Instead of the classic "from the plate" fielding perspective, you get an awkward "down the baseline" angle that's as disorienting as it is ugly. Adding insult to injury are blob-like fielders that move in a choppy, unsightly manner, rendering the new dive moves worthless. Bases Loaded 2 is just sloppy in general, with lousy control exacerbated by rough outfield scrolling. But the game's worst arocity is its unbearable looping theme song that just won't go away. If someone were to blow a whistle into your ear for the duration of the game, it would be an improvement
. Second Season is so awful
that you start to wonder if Jaleco's first Bases Loaded game was an accident
! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1991)
It may be more playable than Second Season, but Bases Loaded 3 still isn't in the same league as the original. Catering more to the solo player, the game rates your performance in 13 categories while challenging you to play the "perfect game". You have three stadiums to choose from, but except for the scoreboard designs, you won't notice much of a difference. The pitcher/batter screen looks slightly more detailed this time, but the strike zone is smaller and harder to judge. It doesn't help that the swing controls are less
responsive so you need to commit earlier. But the biggest change is the new fielding perspective. Instead of viewing the diamond from behind home plate (as in most baseball games), the camera is situated behind second base, slowly pulling backwards for fly balls. There's a good reason why no other baseball game in the past, present, or future has or will ever adopt a system like this, and that's because it absolutely sucks
. For one thing, it's disconcerting to view the diamond upside-down. When you walk a batter, it looks like he's heading to third base (what are these - Japanese rules?!) And even if you get finally the hang of the odd viewing angle, you can never position your oversized fielders properly because they don't even appear on the screen until the last possible moment! The players are nicely animated and pretty huge by NES standards, but they're a lost cause. Be sure to turn the music "off" before starting a game, because the soundtrack has all the charm of a kazoo player. Once again Jaleco has dropped the ball with another half-assed sequel. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sunsoft (1989)
Our high score: 26,300
Batman Return of the Joker
Publisher: Sunsoft (1991)
Publisher: Konami (1993)
Our high score: 24,140
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Rare (1991)
Our high score: BSC 158,250
1 or 2 players
Publisher: LJN (1990)
Publisher: Wisdom Tree (1991)
Chock full of epic battles, colorful characters, and widespread disasters, the Old Testament is practically begging
for a video game adaptation! So how in the heck
did Bible Adventures turn out to be so frickin' boring?
The cartridge actually offers three games in one: Noah's Ark, Baby Moses, and David and Goliath. Noah's Ark requires you to scour a forest for animals to carry back to your enormous ark. It's not very difficult task, but it certainly is repetitive! Upon collecting them all, you progress to the next stage which is not necessary harder - only longer!
Does this thing ever end?
Where's the flood
button?! In Baby Moses you play a woman carrying a baby through a Super Mario-style obstacle course chock full of birds, spiders, and spear-tossing Roman guards. The animation is choppy and the scenery flickers something terrible. Worse yet, that poor kid ends up getting tossed around like a freakin' rag doll!
I think a call to Child Protective Services is in order! I was hoping David and Goliath would be a one-on-one fighter along the lines of Mortal Kombat, but alas - it's just another tedious exercise in animal collecting. This time it's sheep (joy!). Where's a good fatality when you need it? All three games have marginal entertainment value, and since the game doesn't keep score, there doesn't seem to be much of a point to it. Bible Adventures clearly had good intentions, but you know what they say about those!
NOTE: The Video Game Critic was struck by lightning shortly after posting this review and is recovering in a local hospital. He is reconsidering the grade. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Big Nose Freaks Out
Publisher: Codemasters (1992)
I guess this was the token platformer for the Aladdin "game enhancer" - an NES add-on that never really panned out. Big Nose Freaks Out is one of those "me-too" games that reeks of mediocrity. You control a wacky caveman character executing spin attacks in generic worlds with happy-go-lucky music. Big Nose rolls around on a small boulder over platforms set up like a rollercoaster. It's a pleasant surprise when you fall off one platform only to land on another far below (*whew*
). Much like Sonic the Hedgehog
(Genesis, 1991) there are multiple routes and hidden areas to discover. Big Nose wields a club and rotates fluidly during his spinning jumps. He also has a supply of rocks he can sometimes hurl three at a time. Enemies vaguely resemble animals like octopus, bees, snails, and armadillos. Moderately fun for a while, the game falls apart upon closer scrutiny. You're tempted to pounce on things but that will get you killed. Likewise you'll naturally want to jump between ramps. But instead of giving you more oomph
on take-off, hitting jump causes you to slow down and fall. Hopping on magic mushrooms results in various effects, some of which are really
unpleasant. One causes your controls be reversed
and another causes the screen to black out sporadically. The game feels buggy, partly because certain doors and mushrooms are completely invisible
. And how is it you can hop on cloud outlines?
The bonus screen is called the "Bone-Us" screen, prompting some serious eye-rolling on my part. I can see why Big Nose is freaking out; he's living in a virtual hell
. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 8660
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1988)
In this innovative action adventure, you're a soldier on a mission to infiltrate an enemy headquarters and foil an evil General's plans. I know - it sounds like every NES game you've ever played, right? Its story not withstanding however, Bionic Commando is in a league of its own. The "bionic" part of your soldier is his extensible arm, which pulls him up onto high platforms and allows him to swing to distant ledges. Getting comfortable with the arm control is the key to playing Bionic Commando, and it does take a while. You're also equipped with all the obligatory weapons including machine guns, bazookas, and rocket launchers. Although primarily a side-scrolling affair, there are also some terrific overhead stages that play similar to Mercs or Front Line. By accessing scattered enemy computers you obtain clues and can even spy on your enemies. Bionic Commando is loaded with unique stages, and you can choose the order in which they are played. No question about it - Bionic Commando was way ahead of its time. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hot B (1989)
Our high score: 12.7 lbs
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Some prefer Nintendo's Ice Hockey, but in my eyes Blades of Steel is the
definitive hockey game for the NES. Its realistic graphics, digitized sound effects, and tight controls combine to make this the complete package. Like Nintendo's entry, Blades is played on a side-scrolling rink, but the arena is larger and more realistic. Before each contest the teams enter the rink and skate in circles to a disco theme. What is this, the Ice Follies? The large players look surprisingly realistic and it's easy to determine which player you control because he flashes brightly. Passing and shooting are responsive and intuitive, and finding an open man in front of the net is key to scoring. Unlike Nintendo's Ice Hockey, your selected defensive player changes automatically, which is very convenient. Battling for the puck often leads to fist fights presented with a special close-up view. These battles let you pummel your opponent by mashing buttons, and the loser is left on his rump as the winner speeds away with the puck. Penalty shots also occur, and these are also impressively depicted with dramatic close-ups. Blades of Steel's gameplay is fast and intense, but like real hockey, scoring can be like pulling teeth. Digitized sound effects include grunts and referee voices, but I could do without that annoying whistling that accompanies the crowd noise. The limited play-by-play is mainly limited to "makes the pass!" every time you pass the puck. In the tournament mode, I was shocked
to see ads for other Konami
games ("All your friends will want it!"). There's even a shooter mini-game. Blades of Steel has it all. Not only is it one of the best titles for the NES, but it's one of the best hockey games of all time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sunsoft (1988)
Publisher: Hot B (1991)
Publisher: Data East (1990)
I have fond memories of playing Boulderdash on my 8-bit Atari computer in the early 80's, when it still under the Electronic Arts label. It was a good idea to resurrect this fun title for the NES. The main character who resembled an alien in the original has received the "Mario treatment", and now resembles a cute little miner. Borrowing many elements from Dig Dug, you dig through the soil, collect items, and dropping rocks on enemies. But Boulderdash takes this concept to the extreme, with non-stop, twitch gameplay and tons of rocks that tend to avalanche. The action is pretty intense but there's subtle strategy involved, and you'll often need to initiate a avalanche in order to gain access to a new area. Boulderdash has aged quite well, and includes a nice password save and a fine soundtrack. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,071
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Publisher: Sony (1993)
Our high score: 15,950
Publisher: Taito (1988)
In Bubble Bobble one or two players control bubble-blowing, chubby little green dinosaurs. The game is jam-packed with 113 levels(!), each with a unique platform configuration. Your goal is to blow bubbles at wandering beasts, trapping them inside and causing them to float towards the top of the screen. Popping these bubbles produces bonus items (fruit, vegetables, and jewelry), and popping several at a time is key to racking up big scores. The game has a Dig Dug vibe that I find appealing. Power-ups spice up the action, including one that wipes out all enemies on the screen. A pleasant musical theme plays throughout the game. Bubble Bobble seems simplistic at first, but there's actually quite a bit of technique involved. Some gamers consider Bubble Bobble to be an NES classic, and they may be right. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 98,720
1 or 2 players
Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
Publisher: Kemco (1989)
What we seem to have here is a platform game with no jumping
. After playing Crazy Castle, I'm starting to think that wasn't such a good idea! Playing as Bugs Bunny, your goal is to collect all the carrots on each level while avoiding characters like Sylvester the cat, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam. The stages are colorful but not very imaginative - just a bunch of empty platforms joined by doorways or tubes. Each side-scrolling stage measures about three screens in width. The graphics are high in resolution, but the characters are so tiny that it's hard to discern their animations. Apparently the best way to neutralize enemies is by dropping boxes on their heads, but since there's no jumping, getting cornered means certain death (unless you have a power-up). Crazy Castle is mildly amusing for a while, but it's too easy and you'll get bored as you rack up endless bonus lives. The controls are stiff, the stages are redundant, and the muffled music sounds like it was recorded in a mineshaft. Crazy Castle is one of those uninspired titles you play once and never again. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 32,700
Publisher: Vic Tokai (1988)
Here's a simple but entertaining little driving game that was popular in the arcades of the early 80's. You control a jumping car on a vertically-scrolling road, bumping other cars into guardrails or landing on them for points. Be sure to keep an eye out for rapidly-approaching gaps in the road that you'll need to jump over. Bump N Jump's graphics are colorful, with changing scenery that includes a bridge, city, and suburbs. A pleasant background tune plays throughout the game. It's not very intense, but Bump N Jump provides simple arcade enjoyment. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 20,900
Publisher: Taxan (1989)
Now we're talking! Burai Fighter is a shooter-lover's shooter. There's not much pizzazz but the gameplay is right on point. Burai offers unique controls, non-stop action, and loads of technique. At the start you're prompted to select between eagle, albatross, and ace options. Apparently they stand for easy, medium, and hard difficulties. Your spaceman wears a backpack, flying through perilous metal structures and creepy organic caves. One button initiates rapid-fire while the other detonates smart bombs (when available). Pinpoint aiming controls allow you to hold your fire in any direction (including diagonally) while moving independently. This ability to strafe makes it easy to knock out rows of armaments or zero in on a boss' weak point. Floating icons let you switch between missile, rocket, and laser weapons. And get this - the game retains the power level for each type, so switching to a laser doesn't diminish the firepower of your previous weapon. Collecting red pods provides you with a supply of smart bombs. The stages aren't particularly interesting but I really appreciate how scraping the walls is not fatal. There are even secret areas to uncover, which is something you never see in a side-scrolling shooter. The overhead stages are less fun, as you lose the ability to strafe and it's not always clear where to go. Burai Fighter accepts easy-to-enter passwords like BALL or DOLL. The colorful manual provides nice illustrations of the bosses as well as some of the alien varieties. Taxan really covered all its bases with Burai Fighter, so dust off your favorite joystick and give it a whirl. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 118,480
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Data East (1992)
While clearly inspired by the ladder-climbing hijinks of Donkey Kong, Burgertime's sandwich-building premise is innovative and fun. As your tiny chef walks over huge buns, burger paddies, cheese, and lettuce, you not only construct a burger but also bury pursuing hot dogs and eggs in the process. A limited amount of "pepper" can be used to temporarily disable your adversaries, but it's extremely hard to come by so you'll want to ration it. Burgertime isn't the most realistic video game I've ever played. In order to refresh your pepper supply, you'll need to collect items like an ice cream cone and teacup. Was a peppershaker too hard to render? I also find it curious how you're pursued by eggs
and hot dogs
. Considering they get trapped in the sandwich, pickles and onions would seem far more appropriate. Also, the hot dogs look like they're wearing glasses, and that's just crazy. Burgertime is addictive but insanely difficult. Once your pepper is gone, you're quickly overwhelmed by nefarious food items. To my knowledge, no one has ever
cleared the second screen. The game is available for a number of consoles, but this one looks particularly good. The crisp graphics and toe-tapping soundtrack are terrific, but the controls certainly could be more forgiving. You need to perfectly line up your chef with the platforms to walk across them, and it's easy to get hung up just as evil processed meat products are converging. It's also annoying how enemies tend to respawn near the edge of the screen without warning. Still, Burgertime is timeless fun, and its deceptively simple gameplay will give even the most seasoned gamers fits. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: GWC 10,950
1 or 2 players
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