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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

NES Reviews G

G.I. Joe
Grade: B+

screenshotMy friend Ken recommended this from his childhood, explaining how it was based on a cartoon series. Sure enough G.I. Joe is a winner! You begin by selecting a squad of three colorful commandos. There's Rock-N-Roll (well armed), Snake Eyes (ninja), Captain Gridiron (hand-to-hand), and Blizzard ("arctic warfare"). The opening stage impressed the heck out of me as you forge through a jungle in a storm. The wind whips the tree leaves around and lightning illuminates the entire screen. In addition to shooting sideways you can fire upward and even downward while jumping.

Most stages offer typical platform fare, but some let you blast red chunks of rock to reveal secrets and alternate routes. Some characters can jump very high but take care not to hit your head on dangers lurking above. Your characters represent your three lives, but you can switch between them at any time. It's fun to scour each stage for power-ups and ammo. There's variety too, including missions that require you to plant explosive charges in marked locations. The bosses come early and often but aren't overly difficult. Hell, I was able to punch one jet fighter right out of the sky!

Bringing the fun factor down are minor annoyances like manta rays that leap out of the water to disrupt your jumps. If you hang out in a certain area too long enemy soldiers can materialize right in front of you. And that indoor stage where every platform is a conveyor belt is ridiculous. What could they be making in a factory like that? Conveyer belts? There's no score on the main screen but it is displayed on the character select and game over screens. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is one action-packed romp that never gets old. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 305,720
Save mechanism: password
1 player 

G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1991)
Posted: 2016/8/4

screenshotMy friends were quick to dismiss this side-scrolling shooter as a Contra wannabe, but they say that about every game! G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor is one heck of a game. This time the soldiers are fighting through the partially-submerged city of Atlantis. A little H2O is no problem when you're decked out in wet suits and armed to the hilt! I love the look of this game with its mysterious ruins and high-tech facilities rendered in alluring blue hues. That frantic musical score really puts you in the mood to kick some ass. At first glance the character selection screen elicits cause for concern. It presents a grid with options like "move" and "cancel". Huh?

Relax, this is not a turn-based strategy game, only the most complicated character selection screen ever devised. Three of the menu options are "select", "decide" and "end". What the [bleep] is the difference? Once you pick your guy (there's only one to begin with for Pete's sake!) Atlantis Factor delivers in a big way with crisp platform jumping, soldier-punching, rapid-fire shooting mayhem. Wait a minute - why can't I shoot up and down? Did my soldiers forget that move from the last G.I. Joe game?! I do like how enemies spin around when hit, and sometimes even get back up. You can power-up your gun but sometimes your fists are the best way to dispose of a boss.

New characters are introduced as you progress and you can summon them for help using your radio. That's a pretty advanced concept for the NES. The game offers selectable paths which improve the replay value. A password is presented between missions, but get this: it takes the form of fourteen 3x3 grids containing letters, digits, and even special characters. For a game with about 20 stages (if that) this has got to be the most overblown password screen ever!! The number of possible permutations must be in the billions! GI Atlantis Factor is clearly guilty of making things more complicated than they need to be, yet it still manages to be fun in spite of itself. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 13,460
Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Grade: A
Publisher: Namco (1988)
Posted: 2004/9/24

screenshotIt would be hard to give Galaga anything less than an "A" considering it's practically identical to the classic arcade version. In fact, until I noticed some very subtle differences I thought I was playing an emulated version of the original! In case you're not familiar with this mega-popular shooter, it features bug-like aliens that circle around the screen before settling into formation.

One distinctive feature of the game is the double-shot power-up, which was really the first of its kind. In order to obtain it, you must first allow one of your ships to be captured. It's a risky proposition, but rescuing that ship effectively doubles your firepower, allowing you to breeze through the "challenge" stages and earn crazy bonuses.

This game is noticeably easier than the arcade version, so Galaga veterans are likely to tally some big scores. Holding down the fire button will allow for continuous shooting (and less wear on your thumb), but you'll fire twice as fast by tapping it. If you have a Nintendo Advantage joystick, this is an ideal game to use it with. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 66,570
1 or 2 players 

Gargoyle's Quest II
Grade: D+
Publisher: Capcom (1991)
Posted: 2019/11/2

screenshotThis cart is fairly rare, and you might enjoy it if you're a glutton for punishment. Gargoyle's Quest II stars that pesky flying demon named Firebrand of Ghosts 'N Goblins (NES, 1986) fame. He has the unique ability to shoot fireballs forward and hover sideways for a few seconds at a time. The appealing gothic scenery features stone towers, twisted trees, torches, and skulls. The stages are of the side-scrolling variety but the hub is an overhead RPG-style world.

I found the "training" level to be a bit of a nightmare, as I struggled to grasp the flying controls. Basically you just press the jump button a second time in mid-air to hover, which also lets you perch on the sides of walls and platforms. To complete the training you need to grab a floating flask high above some ruins and it's remarkably difficult! Not only do you need to jump at the last possible moment, you need to make sure you engage your hover at the highest possible point.

This challenge really sets the tone for the game because you really need to be perfect for so many jumps to avoid lava and spikes. The designers must have been the biggest pricks known to man. I did discover one helpful technique which is to jump as far as you can before engaging your hover, even if it means coming perilously close to the spikes below.

You fight a lot of hooded ghouls, spiders, and wispy spirits which approach at angles you can't defend. After taking a hit you tend to get knocked back, resulting in further damage. The stages tend to repeat which is annoying. Gargoyle's Quest II offers nice renaissance music, spooky imagery, and unique controls. Unfortunately the constant aggravation keeps the fun factor grounded. Note: The original game was for the Game Boy. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Tengen (1987)
Posted: 2014/10/3

screenshotIn the early 80's Gauntlet was a legendary arcade game. Not only did it offer expansive dungeons to explore, but you could join forces with three friends to battle ghosts, grunts, and demons. You get an overhead view as you collect keys, gather treasure, and clear out rooms teeming with wall-to-wall creatures. To fully exterminate them you'll need to destroy the portals that spawn the creatures. Or, if you have a bomb handy, you can obliterate them with the press of a button.

The colorful title screen shows evil creatures peering around corners of a decrepit dungeon as renaissance-style music plays. Once the character selection screen appears, you may be alarmed to discover the game only supports two players! For fans of the arcade game, this is heresy. If you play with a friend you might understand why the number of players is so limited. The characters are poorly-defined and sometimes it's even hard to locate your own character on the screen!

Slow-down is a frequent problem. You need to stick close to your partner, which is not easy when one of you is a speedy archer and the other is a slow dwarf. Ironically the game is far more playable solo. I like the fact that there are alternate paths and levels seem to be connected in different ways. The music is fine but the voice samples are comically bad. Gauntlet doesn't even attempt to deliver the multiplayer experience of the arcade, but it's not a bad little dungeon crawler if you're willing to go it alone. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 112
1 or 2 players 

Gauntlet II
Grade: D
Publisher: Mindscape (1990)
Posted: 2014/10/3

screenshotAfter being disappointed with the first Gauntlet on the NES, my friends were relieved that this sequel supports up to four players and looks a lot like the arcade game. Once we began exploring the first dungeon however, we wondered aloud if Gauntlet was really as good as we remembered. Sure, it's cool to team up with friends while obliterating demons, gathering treasure, and snatching up food. The problem is, everyone wants to go off and do their own thing. Invariably somebody ends up getting stuck in some odd corner and the other guys have to work their way over to him so he can rejoin the party. You almost need to appoint one player as the leader.

It doesn't help that the game has so many narrow corridors which defeat the purpose of working as a team. Many of the new features in Gauntlet II actually detract from the experience. For one thing, the overhauled graphics look grainy and objects are actually harder to make out. Are those supposed to be sheep latching onto me? It's bad enough that I can't kill them, but those squealing sounds are the worst.

With so many glowing areas of the floor, you wonder where it's even safe to walk. The invisible walls are obnoxious, forcing you to methodically "feel your way" around. Like the first NES game, Gauntlet II is best played alone. That way you don't need to coordinate movements, fight over food, or apologize for the poor gameplay. The dungeons are more elaborate, but some feel like puzzles, and it's possible to become hopelessly stuck. Gauntlet II is a bust, and a good example of a franchise that was moving in the wrong direction. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 4030
1 to 4 players 

Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (1986)
Posted: 2009/7/4

screenshotPeople who played games in the 80's will probably recall how disappointed they were by Activision's Ghostbusters. With all apologies to David Crane (the mastermind behind Pitfall), this game seems more geared towards wasting time than having fun. The main screen is an unimaginative grid of city blocks, and you freely move a Ghostbusters logo to your desired location. Places of interest include the Ghostbusters headquarters, a shop to purchase upgrades, a gas station, and the Temple of Zuul. When a city block is blinking red, there are ghosts to be captured.

After selecting your location, you're subjected to an extended and very boring driving scene. Moving your car up the vertically-scrolling road makes you go faster, but also makes you vulnerable to collisions with generic gray cars. You can run over barrels to replenish your gas - just like in real life! If your car is equipped with a "ghost vacuum", you can suck in wandering ghosts for cash. Unlike the home computer editions where the ghosts struggle to escape the device, in this game they just gravitate to it.

Adding insult to injury, upon arriving at your destination, your car goes into this long, slow-rolling stop. Your vehicle looks nothing like the white hearse in the movie, by the way. When you arrive at a haunted location, you'll see four generic ghosts flying in front of a building. Using the most non-intuitive control scheme ever devised, you position two Ghostbusters and fire proton streams to "push" the ghosts into traps. The ghosts are harmless to the touch, yet if you cross your proton streams both Ghostbusters become slimed! The guy who programmed this thing probably should have watched the movie first!

Eventually the Stay-Puft Marshmallow appears and you're told to enter the Temple of Zuul. There, you'll find yourself on a 22-floor staircase where you must tap buttons (ala Track and Field) to move up the stairs while avoiding wandering ghosts. This stage really takes the misery you're already experiencing to the next level!

The game usually concludes with some unceremonious text and doesn't even bother displaying a score or rating. The Ghostbusters theme plays non-stop throughout the entire game, and while it's a decent rendition, it will chip away at your sanity. I've known dozens of people who have played Ghostbusters, yet none have had the intestinal fortitude to successfully complete the damn thing. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Ghostbusters II
Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (1989)
Posted: 2021/10/26

screenshotVaguely based on the mediocre film, Ghostbusters II alternates between side-scrolling shooting and driving stages. It's no prize, but this game is not as bad as they say. Compared to the original Ghostbusters (Atari XE, 1984) game, this feels surprisingly fresh.

The opening stage has you running through a sewer, firing slime at ghosts while ducking under bouncing inanimate objects like busts and lanterns. Your shots travel in an arc and you can adjust the trajectory. I can understand wanting to shoot slimers, but what's the deal with those Ghostbuster symbols? Apparently shooting or collecting 20 of those earns you a life.

The second stage seems pretty exciting as your Ecto-mobile pulls out of the garage and upbeat music from the film kicks in. Cruising down the street you'll shoot generic ghosts and jump barriers. These driving stages have a Moon Patrol (Atari 5200, 1983) flavor as you steer around hazards while firing both forward and upward! The layered building backdrops look great.

Unfortunately you're also required to jump gaping chasms in the road, which turns out to be inordinately difficult. You must be A) driving full speed, B) hit a pink "boost" arrow, and C) time your jump at the very last instant. There's little room for error, and here's the kicker: that pink arrow can move. There's nothing worse than having this game pull out the rug from under you.

Once you master that first driving stage things become less frustrating. Stages repeat but with new locations like the courthouse, park, and museum. My friend Chris and I pulled out the old Game Genie so we could play through the whole thing, but the later stages are disappointing. The Statue of Liberty shooting scenes are long and repetitive. By the time you find yourself shooting at invisible ghosts, it starts to feel like an ordeal.

The game's excellent musical score features a number of upbeat tunes in addition to the obligatory Ghostbusters theme. Ghostbusters II is no blockbuster but there's something to be said for variety. If you're looking for something completely different, check out New Ghostbusters II which took an entirely new approach. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 27,600
1 or 2 players 

Ghosts 'N Goblins
Grade: B-
Publisher: Capcom (1986)
Posted: 2011/3/27

screenshotGhosts and Goblins is practically an institution on the NES. It launched a popular series that continues to this day, although many would argue that the franchise peaked with Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Genesis, 1989). You play as a comical knight who can fire projectiles forward and backward. It's a shame you can't fire upward, because many stages feature multi-tiered platforms with enemies above and below.

Zombies, skeletons, crows, and demons pour out of the woodwork as you forge through graveyards, burning villages, mountains, castles, and caverns. This is side-scrolling mayhem at its purest and the action moves at a frantic pace as the soundtrack plays a heroic refrain. If you check out the background of the first stage, you'll notice a preview of what's to come with a majestic castle nestled in the mountains. Ghosts and Goblins is best known for its difficulty. Diamonds aren't this hard!

Despite its short stages and unlimited continues, you'll struggle to make progress. Part of the blame can be placed on the controls, which are rigid and unforgiving. It's very easy to get stuck in a crouch position or become caught up on the edge of a gravestone. Taking a hit knocks you back, sometimes sending you into a pit! The checkpoints could be better placed, as sometimes you'll need to restart large stretches after dying. It's tough, but Ghosts and Goblins has a distinctive arcade style and whimsical medieval/horror theme that never gets old. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: ER 82,700
1 player 

Ghoul School
Grade: F
Publisher: Electro Brain (1989)
Posted: 2002/5/14

screenshotAs much as I wanted to like this game, my conscience prevents me from grading it higher than an F. Ghoul School looks great on paper but doesn't play well at all. You control a punk kid trapped in a school crawling with all sorts of creepy monsters. A few of these tend to be quite imaginative and detailed, like the red creature with the huge eye. A toe-tapping tune plays as you wander the halls and classrooms, collecting the items needed to defeat various monstrosities.

Unfortunately the school is a confusing maze consisting of hallways, stairs, and doors that all look exactly alike. The room numbers aren't even consecutive or logical! As a result, you end up wandering aimlessly until you stumble upon a key item (like spring shoes) or weapon (bat, towel, gun).

The combat is awful. The pathetic weapons have such an incredibly short range that you'll be limited to repetitive "hit and run" attack patterns. Adding insult to injury, the controls are less than responsive and you're constantly being tossed around. I like the concept behind Ghoul School, but the execution is a mess. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Jaleco (1989)
Posted: 2017/9/1

screenshotMy friend Brent swears this is the greatest soccer game for the NES. I will admit that its realistic players are a nice change of pace from the cartoons in most NES soccer titles. Goal is played on an diagonally-scrolling field, so going "straight" requires you press diagonally, which is not exactly easy on the thumb. I also tend to blame the perspective when I accidentally pass the ball in the wrong direction.

The field is expansive and the lack of a radar makes it hard to tell where you are. Fortunately if you just kick the ball ahead you'll usually find another player in the vicinity. The B button switches to your closest teammate but if you accidentally hit it twice you'll select somebody else, causing your "close" player to run away from the ball. Still, Goal has a lot to offer with brisk pacing, clean visuals, and upbeat background music.

One amazing feature is the ability to curve your shots while they are in the air. Not only does this let you "bend it like Beckham", but it's also quite useful for prevently long passes from veering out of bounds. After goals and between periods you're treated to cinematic intermissions of celebrating players and cheerleaders. Wait a minute...I'm pretty sure there are no cheerleaders in soccer! Nice try Jaleco. Goal may well be the best NES soccer game out there, but I'm not convinced the bar was very high to begin with. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: F
Publisher: Toho (1988)
Posted: 2000/5/14

screenshotI've always been a fan of those old Japanese monster movies, but Godzilla for the NES is just plain bad. The graphics are decent (despite some serious flicker), with characters pulled straight from the films, including Mothra (your weak ally), Gigan, Mech-Godzilla, and that big squid-looking thing. The gameplay involves taking turns moving Godzilla and Mothra around a hex-map (huh?) while attempting to wipe out all the enemies on the board.

When you move to an empty space, you're forced to play a side-scrolling "city" level with everybody and their mother bombarding your slow ass with missiles. Your best bet is to just keep moving, because the missiles don't inflict much damage - they just slow you down. Get used to this ordeal, because you'll have to endure this painful stage every turn!

That's right - even when you land on a monster's location, you must relive the same painful experience before the actual confrontation ensues. The battles themselves are a joke, consisting of both monsters floating in black space and smacking each other until somebody runs out of life. Even the music is dull and repetitive. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Posted: 2000/8/6

screenshotIt would be easy to be critical of this relic of a golf game. You can only aim in 45 degree increments. All trees are out of bounds. The screen doesn't indicate the range of your club, or even the ball's proximity to the hole. But despite having to perform the distance calculations in your head, Golf is actually pretty fun!

The swing meter is not unlike those found in modern golf games, and you can at least partially compensate for the coarse aiming controls by applying a draw or fade to your shot. Putting is tricky however, because the greens tend to be very fast. The overhead view of the hole is terrific, and the course is challenging and interesting in design. The game moves along at a brisk pace, allowing you to play 18 holes in just a few minutes. Not bad, all things considered. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 117
1 or 2 players 

Goonies II
Grade: F
Publisher: Konami (1987)
Posted: 2015/8/29

screenshotThis title is kind of confusing considering there was only one Goonies movie. I enjoyed the film and the original Goonies game (Atari XE, 1985), but this NES adaptation is a travesty. Part platformer and part puzzle, Goonies II manages to offer the worst of both worlds. You control the red-haired Mikey trying to rescue his six Goonie pals from the evil Fratelli family. You begin in a decrepit house before descending into monotonous underground caverns. I gave Goonies II the benefit of the doubt until I stumbled upon the slippery "ice" area, complete with walruses, Eskimos, and penguins! I sure as hell don't remember that from the film!

There are many doors you can open, revealing perfectly square rooms. In this first-person mode you'll find items, uncover clues, and talk to mysterious figures who don't seem to know why they're in the game ("I'm Eskimo. There's nothing here.") Some rooms are connected to others, but navigating between them is confusing! After making limited progress I consulted the FAQ which reveals the true extent of this game's absurdity. You need to punch walls to make objects to appear. You use keys to open safes with combination locks. You need to strike an elderly woman in the face five times to obtain a candle. Great, now we have a whole generation of kids who grew up thinking it was acceptable to punch old ladies in the face.

Some of the items are bizarre. A transceiver? Magic locator? Key holder? WTF? The dialogue may be the unintentional highlight of the game ("Get out of here, if you have nothing to do.") The platform action is the most annoying kind, populated with pesky creeps like bats, spiders, and snakes that continuously materialize out of thin air. Worse yet, they camp out in places like the top of ladders and front of doors. At least the game is forgiving, offering endless continues that let you resume right where you left off. The soundtrack offers a fair rendition "Goonies R Good Enough", but I'm afraid Goonies II is not good enough. Not even close. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Gotcha! The Sport
Grade: A-
Publisher: LJN (1987)
Posted: 2004/1/22

screenshotDo the words "Best light gun game ever made" mean anything to you? That's exactly what was running through my mind while playing this innovative and genuinely fun shooter. With its "capture the flag" gameplay, Gotcha The Sport is not unlike paintball (was that even around in the 80's?). The control scheme is unique, requiring you to use the control pad with one hand while firing the gun with the other. The pad is used to scroll the screen until your opponent's flag comes into view. Once you acquire it (by shooting it), you must scroll all the way back to return it to your base.

In the process you're constantly being shot at by enemies ducking behind obstacles and hiding in trees. Picking these guys off can be tricky, although the lack of accuracy can be partially attributed to the Nintendo light gun. The game is over when you run out of ammo, so be sure to shoot any "ammo packs" you come across. Keep in mind that enemy soldiers can also snag your flag! Use your scanner to locate the guy who has it, and shoot him to get it back. It's interesting how LJN went to great lengths to downplay the violence angle.

For one thing, all your opponents wear protective gear (including goggles). When shot, orange paint splatters across their chest, and they simply run off the battlefield. Oddly enough, when you get shot, you see a big red splotch (I told you to wear that protective headgear - but noooo!).

Gotcha's three stages include some colorful scenery, including a lush green forest level with scenic waterfalls, and a city stage with boarded-up buildings. But the third stage is by far the best, with its bright white snow and gorgeous blue mountains. The lounge music on the intro screen sounds a bit out of place, but otherwise the soundtrack is absolutely superb. Gotcha is a fun game that rekindled memories of playing "guns" as a kid. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Intermediate
Our high score: 31,580
1 player 

Grade: B+

screenshotThis influential side-scrolling shooter takes you through caves with hopping robots, mobile cannons, and incoming ships that weave in hard-to-avoid patterns. The first time you play Gradius you'll be lucky to last two minutes. Success hinges on your ability to collect pods and redeem them for power-ups and weapons. You will risk life and limb to grab these things!

The pods seem elusive at first. You must destroy a complete set of four orbs to earn a pod, and that last orb will flee the screen like a bat out of hell! Your rate of fire is slow, but that can be rectified with a rapid-fire controller like the Nintendo Advantage. Once I unleashed that thing my scores went through the roof!

Loading up on lasers, missiles, and options makes you feel unstoppable, making it all the more heart-wrenching when you take a cheap hit and lose it all. One thing that's kind of lame about Gradius is the boss, which is always the same hunk of metal with that flimsy vent protecting its core. This game was designed before every boss had to be epic in scale.

Gradius has a few cheap elements including a volcanic section that overwhelms you with spewing rock just before you reach the first boss. Likewise near the end of the second stage cubes materialize from thin air and converge on you. I found myself exclaiming "you gotta be [expletive] kidding me!" all the time while playing Gradius. It's hard to put down though and over time its catchy musical score will fuse with your very soul. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 178,100
1 player. 

Guerilla War
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1989)
Posted: 2007/7/27

screenshotSNK's knack for creating fast-action shooters is on full display in the amazing Guerilla War. I've always been a fan of Rambo-style games like Ikari Warriors, but this one-man-army game really ups the ante with tight controls, lush graphics, and pacing best described as "frantic". You are a soldier forging his way through well-fortified beaches, villages, rivers, and sewers. Like Rambo, you gun down legions of enemy troops, toss grenades to clear out barriers, and commandeer tanks.

Guerilla War plays almost exactly like Ikari Warriors and Rambo, but it's about ten times faster. Some of my friends thought it was too hectic, but not me. The action never lets up despite a crazy amount of sustained screen activity. There's no shortage of firepower, as even the default gun lets you spray bullets liberally. Other weaponry includes machine guns, rocket launchers, and devastating flamethrowers. Side effects of the ample mayhem include occasional flicker and "break-up" in the graphics. It's a small price to pay however, as Guerilla War delivers one of the most exciting shooting experiences you'll find on the NES.

The only thing preventing you from blasting everything to oblivion are the tied-up hostages that frequently appear. Picking them up will net you a cool 1000 points, but accidentally shooting them deducts 500 points from your score. Some enemies are a bit cheap, leaping into the fray as if they were on pogo sticks! If you grab a friend you can double the mayhem and compete for high score (which is not displayed until after the game). Guerilla War's musical score isn't great, but its chaotic layered melodies are still impressive. You may have a tough time going back to Ikari Warriors after playing this buck-wild blast-a-thon. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 124,900
1 or 2 players 

Grade: F
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
Posted: 2022/5/1

screenshotFrom the maker of beloved light gun hits like Duck Hunt (Nintendo, 1984) and Hogan's Alley (Nintendo, 1984) comes the worst light gun game ever made! Gumshoe is not what I was expecting. Your character is a detective continuously walking across a Mario-style landscape strewn with platforms and hazards. You make him jump by shooting him. This is the weirdest freaking game.

A clean shot will propel him into the air, but it's often necessary to hit him a few times in a row to make perilous jumps. You also need to avoid floating skulls, oncoming cars, and bottles thrown your way. Making contact with any of these spells instant death, and the collision detection does not cut you any slack.

It is possible to shoot incoming obstacles like birds and bottles, but it's hard because you're often shooting like a madman just to keep your stupid gumshoe aloft! This game is far less forgiving than Nintendo's other light gun titles, yet requires far more precision.

It seems like only half of your shots hit their mark, and in a game like this even one errant shot can be fatal. Unlike Duck Hunt, you're firing almost constantly, and the loud, resonating sound of that trigger will give you a headache.

The only way to make this game vaguely playable is sit directly in front of the TV and shoot from a foot away. The problem with that is, the screen is flashing like crazy as you're clicking away like a madman, and that's how you get epilepsy.

Gumshoe has a variety of stages (including city and water) and the challenge is considerable. Ultimately however this is one of those frustrating games that makes you wish you could ditch the gun and just play with a normal controller instead. NOTE: The Video Game Critic is not a certified physician. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 11,900
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Tonkin House (1990)
Posted: 2019/12/3

screenshotMany readers have recommended Gun-Nac over the years but when I looked it up on eBay it was over $600! Instead of mortgaging my house I opted for a reproduction. I'm glad because this vertical shooter is good but not $600 good. Gun-Nac is a parody of sorts where you take aim at rabbits, hamburgers, acorns, trophies, cigarette lighters, and many other random objects.

Technically the game is impressive. There's an exceptional number of fast-moving objects on the screen at any given time with no significant flicker or degradation. The stage backdrops are less imaginative, offering endless tracts of craters and long stretches of space. What makes the game interesting is its rapid-fire arsenal. Five weapons types can be powered-up several levels, and power-up icons appear early and often. Once I acquired the homing weapon however I found myself avoiding the others like the plague. It was so potent I thought I might finish this game on my first try!

There are also bomb icons which you can stockpile by the dozen. These tend to be quite imaginative, taking the form of acid rain or bullets darting around the screen. Normally you'd save them for the bosses but these bosses are pushovers. On top of everything you get "smart-bomb" icons that detonate on contact and obliterate everything on the screen. This game is just too much. The constant upgrades render the "store" between stages totally irrelevant. Gun-Nac is a well programmed shooter with an irreverent style but I'm afraid it far overshoots that "sweet spot" you want in a good shooter. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2,192,590
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Capcom (1988)
Posted: 2014/7/20

screenshotGunsmoke is a highly playable but flawed vertically-scrolling cowboy shooter. Armed with a pistol in each hand, you fire two bullets at a time, which is awesome. One button aims upward left and the other upward right. Pressing both lets you fire straight, but that's hardly necessary. Tapping the buttons lets you fire rapidly, and it's satisfying to watch gangs of bandits fall as you rain bullets upon them. A game like this screams for turbo control, so you'll want to dust off that old Nintendo Advantage joystick.

Shooting barrels reveal bags of gold that can be used to purchase better weapons like shotguns, magnums, and machine guns. Frankly your default weapon is so effective that upgrades seem unnecessary. And since your money doubles as your score, it doesn't pay to spend it. Sometimes your cowboy will mount a horse which amounts to having an extra life.

Gunsmoke reeks of old school charm. Not only can you purchase smart bombs, but there are even Super Mario-style "pow" icons! What gamer doesn't get excited at the sight of a pow icon? Enemies gang up on you, but their bullets have limited range. I was loving Gunsmoke until it dawned on me that I was walking through the same sections of town over and over again. Consulting the literature I discovered I had to first locate a "wanted poster" before I could meet the boss.

Not only is the poster invisible and located in an "empty area" of the screen, but you'll need to shoot it eight times to reveal it. That's pretty much the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If it's any consolation, the posters seem to be in the same spot each time you play a particular stage. Also, the vendors will eventually feel sorry for you and sell you the God-forsaken thing. Why do game designers sabotage their own games like that? It's a shame because Gunsmoke has plenty of originality and better firepower than most NES shooters. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: CJS 34,900
1 player 

Grade: C-
Publisher: Nintendo (1985)
Posted: 2009/7/12

robNES systems were originally packaged with "ROB the Robot", a mechanical add-on that enabled Nintendo to market their system as a toy. As gimmicks go, this one was pure genius, since many stores were reluctant to stock video games after the crash of 1983. By finding an imaginative way to get their system onto shelves, Nintendo captured the hearts of kids everywhere. Only recently did I personally get a chance to experience ROB first-hand, and I was pleasantly surprised! ROB can manipulate spinning tops by recognizing instructions flashed on the screen (literally). He can rotate his body, grasp things, and lift his arms. I think it's safe to say that in the 24 years that have passed, no gaming accessory has surpassed this contraption in terms of coolness. Not even close! ROB's replay value may be questionable, but his novelty factor alone is through the roof!

Gyromite was the "pack-in" game designed to show off ROB's capabilities, and it requires a bit of setup. Plastic pieces need to be mounted around ROB, including a pair of spinning tops called "gyros". The premise of the game is to navigate a professor over platforms to collect bundles of dynamite while avoiding chubby bird creatures. Some platforms are blocked by red and blue barriers, and by having ROB drop gyros on color-coded pads, the barriers move up and down. For situations where both buttons must be depressed, a special device is used to "spin up" one gyro to alarming speeds.

Once ROB places a spinning gyro on a button pad, the thing can spin on its own for quite a long time! It's amazing! My buddy Scott theorized that an army of ROBs could single-handedly solve our country's energy crisis! The game also has a satisfying "squish factor", as it's possible to drop barriers on your bird-like adversaries. Gyromite features a catchy soundtrack and a handy stage select, but I wish your score remained displayed after the game ends.

My friends were utterly mesmerized by ROB, but the novelty doesn't last. The robot moves very slowly and the action gets tedious over time. To compensate, it's a good idea to move him into position ahead of time in anticipation of your next move. But chances are you'll shut off Gyromite long before you exhaust that last life. As for ROB, he is well worth owning, but mainly to show off to friends and display on your shelf. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: SLN 68,000
1 or 2 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: Ultra (1988)
Posted: 2007/9/8

screenshotUltra took a few liberties with this "semi-classic" space shooter, incorporating oversized sprites, boss stages, and even a special weapon. In this case, it would seem that more is less. Gyruss is played by moving a ship around in a circle as aliens scale in from the edge of the screen before settling into the center. Like Galaga, there are "double-shot" power-ups and "chance" bonus stages. Two control schemes are available, and they both work pretty good. The lively musical score includes a piece by Sebastian Bach, and no, I'm not talking about the guy from Skid Row.

Gyruss was challenging and addictive in the arcade, but this watered-down version can't even hold its jockstrap. This NES edition is so excessively easy that it's a bore. You get five lives, and there's only one lame difficulty level. Unless you absolutely suck, you'll lose interest in the game far before you go through those five lives!

The swirling aliens are huge compared to the original game, but that just makes them easier to shoot (it's hard to miss really). In addition, they are totally harmless as they make their initial entrance. Every few stages you'll encounter an unimaginative boss, usually taking the form of four connected pods (oh brother!). You also have a limited number of "super shots", but who even needs them? Ultra was clearly trying to "beef up" Gyruss for the NES, but they inadvertently butchered it instead. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 160,900
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, NES Player, Moby Games, Universal Videogame List, Games Database, YouTube, Atari Times