Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Many Nintendo fans consider Ice Climber a legitimate classic, but I don't see it. This is a very generic platformer, and its gameplay is middle-of-the-road at best. You control one of two small hammer-wielding Eskimos attempting to scale a series of breakable floating platforms. Some platforms extend all the way across the screen, so you'll need to punch holes in them by banging them from below. Red and white birds attempt to thwart your efforts, but these are slow and easy to knock down with your hammer. Boy, it sure is frustrating when they fill in the holes I've worked so hard to make! Ice Climber's screen scrolls vertically as you make your way up, and reaching the top initiates a short bonus stage. Ice Climber's bright graphics are cute and arcade-like, but the droning background noise is monotonous. Even more annoying are the unforgiving controls. Jumping straight up is no problem, but jumping sideways enough to catch the next ledge is hard unless you have some momentum. Maybe that's just how the controls were designed, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Ice Climber does offer two-player simultaneous play, but I didn't find it to be any better than the single player mode. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 13,980
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1988)
It's not in the same league as Blades of Steel, but Nintendo's Ice Hockey offers its own brand of entertaining gameplay. It's a kinder, gentler hockey game with simple graphics and small, cartoonish players. Before each game, you can customize each of your player's physiques to be skinny, fat, or medium. The skinnier guys are faster but less powerful, so you'll want to build a team that best reflects your playing style. The bright, attractive ice rink scrolls from side to side. Passing and shooting the puck is fairly easy, but it's hard to tell what players you control on the defense, since he only flashes faintly. Controlling your goalie is surprisingly easy, even in the midst of the frantic action. Ice Hockey's gameplay is wide-open and fast-paced, and the computer opponent is tough. The game is also famous for its catchy background music and zambonis that polish the ice during intermissions. It may take a back seat to Blades of Steel, but Ice Hockey is still a winner. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1986)
This addictive vertical shooter plays much like Rambo (Sega Master System) and Front Line (Colecovision). One or two buff soldiers forge their way through enemy-infested jungle environments while laying down fire, tossing grenades, and commandeering vehicles. Your bullets are large and somewhat slow, but the responsive controls allow you to spray them with extreme prejudice. The grenades make it possible to destroy bunkers and vehicles, but the real mayhem occurs when you hop into a tank or helicopter and recklessly unleash missiles. In terms of difficulty, Ikari Warriors is no cakewalk, and I'd advise you to keep moving forward. Enhancing the action are lush jungle scenery and a superb musical score that's sure to bring back memories for many long-time gamers. The only poor aspect of the game lies in its embarrassing "death" animations, which are hands-down the worst
ever seen in a video game! When shot, the pudgy enemy soldiers appear to float away
while shaking their extremities as if they're dancing! My friend Scott best described them as "Pillsbury dough boys on crack". Besides that aberration, Ikari Warriors is a fine shooter that spawned two sequels. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 8,100
1 or 2 players
Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road
Publisher: SNK (1988)
After all the jungle-shooting action of the first Ikari Warriors, imagine my surprise when I discovered this sequel takes place on distant planets
! The gun-and-grenade gameplay is the same, but the appearance of the game has changed drastically. Apparently our heroes spent a lot
of time in the gym since the first game, because they look absolutely huge
! But while their increased size makes them look more intimidating, it also makes them bigger targets. And if you thought the first game was hard, this one is nearly impossible! And get this - you only get one life
! Hey, at least it's realistic. Don't worry - there's a simple button sequence that allows you to continue indefinitely: A, B, B, A. Ikari Warriors II is much deeper than its predecessor. You can purchase items at shops and you'll occasionally employ strategy like blasting through a rock wall. There are even a few bonus levels that resemble skeet-shooting. The graphics are more detailed with larger sprites, but there's ample break-up and it's hard to figure out what some of the "aliens" are supposed to be. The music is first-rate, but that voice synthesis is incomprehensible! Who can understand them with all of that static? And another thing - why is it necessary to sit through black screens between stages? Is the game loading
? Ikari Warriors II is an ambitious title, but it can't quite match the first game in terms of fun. Note: For a good laugh, check out the screens appear after the game ends. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Ikari Warriors III: The Rescue
Publisher: SNK (1990)
This third and final chapter of the Ikari Warrior saga provides yet another dramatic turn. This time our heroes are back on earth, but they are completely unarmed and forced to perform hand-to-hand combat
. At first it seems to work pretty well, using one button to punch, one to kick, and both to execute a jump kick. One thing that stinks however is the fact that you can't
attack diagonally. Punches seem much more effective than kicks, and the action is repetitive. The soldiers in the later stages differ from the earlier ones only in that they require more punches to defeat. Occasionally several enemies will leap out in unison in what appears to be a choreographed dance number! Cheesy! I was hoping my soldier would acquire a permanent weapons somewhere along the line, but it never happened. The graphics are noticeably cleaner than previous Ikari games, with more lifelike characters that appear less pudgy. The awesome first stage looks spectacular with its green jungle scenery and sparkling blue water, but after that you have to forge through endless warehouse stages! What's the deal with that? Ikari 3's soundtrack is also lackluster. Unlimited continues are provided, perhaps in response to the overwhelming difficulty of the previous games. I think it's safe to say that Ikari Warriors 3 is my least favorite chapter of the trilogy. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom
Publisher: LucasArts (1988)
Unlike most Indiana Jones fans, my favorite film of the trilogy is the dark, brooding Temple of Doom
. So you can imagine my disappointment when I sat down to play this ill-conceived crock of [expletive]. The stages are a series of underground caves full of platforms, conveyer belts, mine carts, and lava pits. Equipped with his trusty whip, Indy fights the bad guys, rescues kids, and tries frantically to locate an exit. It's mildly amusing to ride mine carts and swing between ledges using your whip, but the fun ends there. The controls are abysmal. When you jump up or down, you never quite know where you're going to land, but it's usually red and rhymes with java. Indy's movements are so slippery
that even climbing a frickin' ladder
without falling off is hard! Your primarily objective is to free enslaved kids, but your escape route is usually a mystery. Sometimes you'll appear to have stumbled across the exit, only to discover you've returned
to the previous
stage! Ugh! Temple of Doom's graphics are butt-ugly, with repulsive color schemes and pitiful animation. The Michael Jackson-impersonating thugs mindlessly fall from platform to platform, and often hurl themselves directly into the lava. The fighting aspect of the game feels like a complete afterthought. Switching weapons is awkward (hold select while moving the directional pad?!), and firing your gun will instantly kill a bad guy anywhere on the screen
! I also find it odd how you can grab the same item
over and over again to rack up points. Indiana Jones Temple of Doom is so bad that it made me want to rip someone's heart out, tie them to a metal rack, and lower them into a lava pit. But wouldn't you know it - it turns out that's illegal
in Maryland! Temple of Doom's only saving grace is the horrible Last Crusade game for the NES, which makes this look almost respectable by comparison. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 33,750
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito version)
Publisher: Taito (1990)
How hard could it be to program a half-way decent Indiana Jones game?! This is one of two
Last Crusade games for the NES, and I prefer this one only because it doesn't suck
quite as much as the other. The structure of this game is good, with selectable stages that combine elements of fighting, racing, and puzzle solving. You'll trade punches with thugs in a German castle, on a freighter at sea, and on a moving tank in the desert. The graphics look very sharp and detailed, but the animation stinks. Indy's movements are erratic, and you'll struggle to escape from regenerating thugs just because you can't get up the frickin' ladder! Indy can punch, kick, or jump-kick, but these moves look unintentionally hilarious
. If Indy's jacket were red instead of brown, he'd look just like Michael Jackson doing a dance number. The enemy soldiers are hard to fight because they tend to hop around like fleas! Also amusing is how Indy's little legs wiggle as he scurries up and down ladders. The German castle stage is particularly painful, with its never-ending maze of hallways and doors that all look the same! I can't tell you how long I languished in this stage, but it felt like days
. The most bizarre stage is the catacombs, which amounts to one of those "slide the square" puzzles. I was never any good at those, so I really hated this stage. Last Crusade's highlight is the motorcycle chase stage. As you zoom up a vertically-scrolling road, you'll need to carefully adjust your speed to avoid hazards and leap over chasms. Best of all, you can whip soldiers that pull up alongside you. The final stage is pretty good too, taking you through the three challenges of the grail. Intermissions are displayed between stages with nice illustrations and text dialogue from the movie. In terms of audio, the suspenseful music that plays in the castle scene is good, but the rendition of the Indiana Jones theme sounds totally off-key. The less said about the techno music in the ship stage, the better. Last Crusade has a lot of issues, but at least it makes an effort. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft version)
Publisher: Ubisoft (1993)
When I showed this to my friend Chris, his incredulous reaction was, "Wait a second - is this a GameBoy
game?!" Yes, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is an atrocity of outrageous proportions. Not only are the graphics horribly grainy, but the first stage is rendered in about two colors!
Okay, maybe three
- if you count black! This is definitely the most hideous
game I've seen on the NES. Indy looks even goofier than he did in Temple of Doom, if that's at all possible. The film provides for plenty of interesting stage ideas, but this shoddy game even makes jumping the cars on a circus train
seem dull! The first stage, entitled "Exploring the caves", is about as unimaginative as you can get, with all the obligatory cheap hits including falling stalactites. It's hard to grab onto ropes, and fights with bad guys amount to trading punches until somebody falls over. The controls are so stiff that I might as well be controlling C3PO
. Last Crusade is one truly pathetic piece of trash, and for a 1993 game (by LucasArts no less), it has absolutely no excuse. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 7,900
Publisher: Vap (1990)
This high-octane isometric shooter has some of the finest visuals I've ever seen on the NES system. Not only is the game exceptionally fun, but I can't recall playing anything quite like this before. You control the heavily-armed dude named Max Maverick defending a planet invaded by aliens. Amassing crazy firepower as you progress, you'll systematically blast your way through hordes of monstrosities and robots of all shapes and sizes. You start off on foot, but later get to ride motorcycles and hovercraft. Navigating each stage is tricky, as your path is strewn with ruins, pits, and acid pools. In addition to rapid-fire shooting, you can somersault out of harms way, and unleash a barrage of bombs while in mid air. Power-ups are all over the place, so apply them liberally. Aliens assume a wealth of interesting forms so the game never feels repetitive or monotonous. The graphics are crisp and the frame-rate holds up very well. The electronic musical score is equally outstanding, with its upbeat rhythm and catchy melody. Isolated Warrior features seven lengthy stages, and provides both passwords and continues. For most stages, a fully powered-up "wide-angle" weapon will practically obliterate everything in sight, and I have to admit it feels a bit cheap as you wipe the screen with that thing. For boss encounters, you'll want to switch to the more-concentrated "straight fire" weapon. Isolated Warrior is one of those tight NES shooters that draws you back again and again. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 472,100
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Ah yes - here is another superb military shooter for the NES. In most one-man-army games you can only control vehicles at certain times, but in Jackal, you play the entire game in a jeep! It's quite maneuverable, giving you the added advantage of being able to run over
enemy soldiers (which I highly recommend). It's satisfying to hear them "squish" under your tires! The B button is used to fire your machines gun, and these always fire towards the top of the screen, giving you a nifty strafe capability not found in many NES titles. The A button launches rockets and grenades, which always fire in the direction you're facing. As you forge through desert forts, Greek ruins, and rocky canyons, you'll contend with cannons, roving tanks, boats, and fire-breathing statues. The stages are sizeable and scroll sideways in addition to up and down. There are enough enemies to create crossfire traps, but nothing insurmountable. The one cheap aspect of the game is the way enemy vehicles sometimes appear suddenly as you're pushing against the side of the screen, making them hard to avoid. Jackal also has a rescue element reminiscent of Choplifter. Upon blowing up enemy buildings, captured soldiers emerge from the wreckage. You'll can pick them up and transport them to a helicopter pad, but you only score points by delivering them safely. This adds depth to the gameplay, as you tend to be less reckless when transporting cargo. Jackal not only provides excellent solo play, but a friend can join in for some two-player simultaneous action. The pacing is a bit slower and more deliberate than similar games, but also more satisfying. Even the military-style background music is appealing. I can absolutely recommend Jackal to all NES shooter fans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 23,700
1 or 2 players
Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1990)
I always enjoyed Jackie Chan movies and Action Kung Fu embodies the man's energetic fighting style and self-deprecating humor. His grinning face on the title screen looks hilarious. Action Kung Fu's frantic pacing will leave you breathless as you leap between crumbling ledges, duck under flying nunchucks, and battle pouncing tigers. Your basic moves are limited to punch and jump-kick, but icons let you perform special moves like spinning kicks or rolling attacks. The graphics are cartoonish but remarkably sharp and clean. Tight controls let you effortlessly leap between waterfalls and dissipating clouds. There are some colorful locales but man
do these stages feel cookie-cutter. It feels like you're doing the same thing over and over. Birds, snakes, and other nuisance creatures try to knock you off your jumps, sending you into the spikes, water, or lava below. Fortunately it only costs you one life point as the game jettisons Jackie back up to the top of the screen. Enemies drop green orbs which I was really into collecting until I realized they really weren't worth it. The upbeat music is fairly good and I was surprised at the wide variety of imaginative bonus stages. There's no score and no passwords in this game - just a bunch of continues. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu would be a perfect game for a speed run, except too much of the time you feel like you're on a treadmill. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: LJN (1987)
As a huge fan of the original movie, I was hoping this video game might capture some of the tension and suspense that made the film so great. No such luck! Jaws plays like a second-rate shooter, and an annoying one at that. You begin by guiding your boat around an overhead map. Unlike the film where the characters were stranded in the open ocean, the sea is chock full of islands and rocky areas, making it look more like a maze. The controls that guide your boat are awkward, making it easy to take a wrong turn. Periodically you're alerted that "you've hit something", causing a "diver screen" to appear as your character is tossed into the water underneath the boat. Manta rays, jellyfish, and occasionally sharks move back and forth across the screen, and shooting these creatures yields sea shells and bonus points. Should you gather enough shells, you can trade them in for "power-ups" at the ports. In time, you'll gain enough power to face down Jaws, but it's a very lengthy and repetitive process. You'll have numerous run-ins with Jaws in the meantime, but he's not very intimidating and surprisingly easy to avoid. The most annoying aspect of this game is how it constantly kicks you back to that damn diver screen, especially as you're just about to reach a port. A bonus stage lets you drop bombs on jellyfish from a plane flying over the water, offering a nice change of pace. Jaws might hook you for a little while, but extended play will have you wondering if this game is really worth your time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 50,100
Publisher: Data East (1991)
The title here is a bit misleading. Unlike the co-op arcade game this Joe & Mac is two-player alternating
. I should have been tipped off by the box cover which only shows Joe! Otherwise this is a pretty solid prehistoric platformer. You're a little axe-tossing caveman dealing with dinosaurs, man-eating plants, and leaping electric fish. The whimsical stages call to mind Bonk's Adventure
(Turbografx-16, 1990), especially when scampering over the bodies of snoozing dinosaurs. Creatures attack from all angles but that's okay because your life meter is about 15 ticks long!
You'll be hounded relentlessly by pterodactyls but they're not a problem once you get used to the controls. Pressing up lets you jump substantially higher - we're talking Michael Jordan
high - and pounding the button in the air lets you rain down axes. Better yet, while on the ground you can toss weapons straight up, knocking down anything flying overhead. But wouldn't those axes harm Joe when they came back down? Wow, you ask way
too many questions! My favorite weapons are the stone wheels (which look like Cheerios) because they roll along the contours of the landscape. Joe & Mac features impressively large bosses including a T-Rex, Pterodactyl, and a man-eating plant that chews you up and spits out your bones. While fighting these behemoths you'll need to stay "high and away", but mashing the directional pad is hell on your thumb. Once again my Nintendo Advantage joystick comes to the rescue. How did I ever live without this thing? Defeat a boss and a lovely cave-girl comes dashing out, running right past
poor Joe! Joe & Mac is a likeable NES platformer with charm and personality. Nobody ever said life was easy in prehistoric times but it sure was a lot of fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 189,390
1 or 2 players
Jordan vs. Bird: One on One
Publisher: Milton Bradley (1989)
A product of its time, this mildly-amusing one-on-one basketball game always brings a smile to my face. The game pits the high-flying phenom Michael Jordan against living legend Larry Bird. Larry is a deadly outside shooter while Jordan is known for his dazzling moves around the rim. It's an odd mix as both players embody such different styles of play. The characters are large and well-defined for the NES. On offense one button shoots while the other lets you spin and move laterally. On defense one button steals (which is rare) and the other blocks shots. The game is played on a half-court, making it necessary to "clear the ball" between possessions. It's easy to play as Larry Bird since he barely needs to move, sinking a three-pointer from anywhere on the court. To defend his shots you'll want to jump in his face to occasionally steal the ball at the height of his jump. Jordan is capable of more exciting moves and if you can finagle him close to the basket he'll unleash a 360-degree slam dunk. It's hard to play defense and fouls like charging and blocking seem totally random. Periods end with no warning, even if the ball is still in the air. Additional modes include slam dunk and three-pointing shooting contests. Jordan vs. Bird is amusing to pull out on occasion, but it's more a novelty item than a basketball game. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Journey to Silius
Publisher: Sunsoft (1990)
Journey to Silius isn't particularly bad
in any way, but there's nothing special about it either. It's your standard side-scrolling shooter set in a futuristic world of spaceships and robots. You control a kid out to avenge his father's death. The shooting action is pretty mediocre, only slightly improved by the fact you can collect and switch between weapons. The scenery is clean but sterile and uninteresting. The single highlight of the game lies in the first stage, where you can see cannons firing in the distance before their shots rain down in the foreground. If only the rest of the game was so innovative. The futuristic music is well done, but after repeated plays Silius feels more like an ordeal than a journey. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ocean (1993)
I really should have loved this game, but I couldn't quite sink my razor-sharp talons into Jurassic Park. The game is played from an isometric (tilted overhead) perspective as you guide a pudgy dude around a virtual Jurassic Park crawling with small dinosaurs. You'll escort people to safety, collect dinosaur eggs, shoot attacking carnivores, and operate computer terminals to open gates. Jurassic Park's graphics are rendered in a cartoonish style, but some of the larger dinosaur bosses (like the T-Rex and Triceratops) look quite imposing. The outdoor environments do a fine job of recreating the high-tech fences and control centers depicted in the film. Take caution when walking near trees or bushes - you never know what's going to pop out (hint: it's a dinosaur!). The indoor areas are less interesting; usually just a maze of generic rooms. The controls are responsive, but aiming is tricky and your ammo is limited. A catchy musical number complements the crisp graphics. I like the general concept of the game, but it's tainted by a few idiotic design decisions. First of all, many of the "mystery boxes" turn out to be traps that spell instant death, and you'll only know which ones are deadly through trial and error. There's also too much computer terminal interaction which really slows things down. Finally, the difficulty level so steep that even surviving the first stage is a major feat. I loved the Jurassic Park movie, but this game is a bit too frustrating for my tastes. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Kabuki Quantum Fighter
Publisher: Hal (1991)
Kabuki Quantum Fighter has a thought-provoking premise. In order to defend a compromised supercomputer a soldier has volunteered to be transformed into a stream of data to infiltrate the system's circuits. What form would this digitized soldier assume? How about a ninja in traditional garb with flowing red hair that can lash out at enemies? I bet you didn't see that
coming! The opening stage looks vaguely high tech with its circuit boards and wires, but what in the heck are pulsating red organs doing inside of a computer?!
You're attacked by soldiers, hopping dogs, and literal
computer bugs. My friend Brent was like, "Wait a minute - the dogs can shoot?!
" As if that's
where the game lost him because it was too far fetched. The second stage dispenses with the computer motif altogether as you're basically trudging through a sewer. Your character is a nimble guy with the ability to climb certain walls, hang from handles, and use them to vault. The jumping controls are responsive but the timing of your shots seems a little off. It's hard to land hits because enemies tend to jump around. Slow enemies absorb a ridiculous number of hits and others appear on a ledge just as you're about to land on it
. Ubiquitous hazards include spikes, conveyer belts, and iced-over ledges. As if that's not hard enough, advanced stages impose time limits!
If there's one notable aspect of the game it's the music. The tune that plays throughout the opening stage makes this very low guttural noise like nothing I've ever heard come out of my TV. Otherwise Kabuki Quantum Fighter is standard NES fare that becomes progressively less fun as you play. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 38730
Publisher: Data East (1986)
With all due respect to this early pioneer of one-on-one fighting games, Karate Champ hasn't aged well. The game features two fighters and a scorekeeper presiding over the action. The graphics are plain, but it's the animation that really kills this game. The fighter movements are extremely choppy, and the jumps are ridiculous. The control is terrible in general with hard-to-execute moves and fighters that tend to get stuck facing the wrong direction. Karate Champ may have been intriguing in 1986, but for those of us who cut our teeth on Street Fighter II, there's no turning back. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: LJN (1987)
This is one of the few movie-based NES titles that manages to capture the spirit of the film it's based on. Even if you didn't enjoy the old flick with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, you're still bound to become addicted to this side-scroller. It begins with a series of one-on-one kung-fu matches, where you must prove your worth in front of an audience. You can punch and kick high and low, and there are two special moves that you'll want to save for critical moments. One is the "drum punch", which lets you unleash a flurry of punches, and the other is the devastating "crane kick", which fans will remember from the film's climax. Starting with the second stage, Karate Kid turns into a more conventional side-scroller, as you jump between platforms while beating up thugs who all shop at the same clothes store. Occasionally you're awarded a bonus item which endows you with a special move or replenishes your life meter. The third stage complicates matters with harsh weather conditions and flying objects like birds and sticks. With so many projectiles you tend to get knocked around a lot, making it difficult to maintain control. Getting caught up on the scenery is also be a problem. The final stage takes place in some castle ruins, culminating with an encounter with a boss named "Chozen". Peppered throughout the game are fun bonus stages that challenge you to avoid a swinging hammer, crush ice blocks, or catch flies with chopsticks. Despite its control flaws, I had a great time playing Karate Kid. It requires more technique and offers more variety than your typical side-scroller. Fans of the movie should be pleased. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 56,400
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Data East (1987)
This likeable platform-shooter stars a musclebound bald Russian who resembles a henchman from an Indiana Jones film. My friend Chris fondly remembers this game from his childhood because his "fat friend" had it (everybody had a fat friend growing up). What makes Karnov unique is its exotic scenery and baroque soundtrack. The aged buildings and ancient statues look colorful and nicely detailed. As you forge through towns, mountains, and caves you're confronted with genies, winged demons, knights, and fireball-spewing stone heads. Fortunately you can fire projectiles rapidly and even upgrade to triple shots. Collecting icons award you with ladders, bombs, masks, boots, and wings. It's not clear how you're actually supposed to use a few of these things. It's easy to use ladders and bombs, but how in the [expletive] do I use the mask? The platform action is tricky and you'll need to be light on your feet. Certain enemies seem impossible to avoid, like the two birds that converge on you at the same time. Two hits will kill you but at least the checkpoints are generous. In fact you'll sometimes resume at a point further than where you died! The bosses aren't too bad and you get unlimited continues. Karnov feels a little sloppy at times, but its distinctive style helps it stand out from the crowd. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SDZ 6270
Publisher: Nintendo (1986)
Known for its extreme difficulty, Kid Icarus is regarded as a classic by many of the Nintendo faithful. You control an angel named Pit in this sharp-looking platformer that features both vertical and horizontal levels. Attractive stage scenery reflects a classical architecture style with columns, statues, and crypts. The vertical stages are interesting because as the screen scrolls downward you can walk off one side and reappear on the other. Enemies include penguins that fall out of the sky and walrus-looking creatures that are really hard to kill. Menacing red eyeballs are constantly flying around the screen. If you spot a grim reaper, stay out of his line of vision or he'll unleash his minions on you. Pit's bow is very limited in range but upgrades are available. The game has a whimsical charm that shines through with bosses like the "Eggplant Wizard" and a creature with big lips named "Mick". The mood is light but the difficulty is no joke. Don't bother blaming the controls, because Kid Icarus is just plain hard!
You begin with a sliver of life, and in the vertical scrolling stages it's very easy to fall off
the screen. Narrow ledges are common and some are even covered with ice!
You can collect hearts to purchase health and upgrades, but everything is super expensive. Advanced levels are jam-packed with booby traps. Some would argue that the incredible difficulty is what makes this game great, but Kid Icarus crosses the line into pull-your-hair-out
territory. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Kings of the Beach
Publisher: Ultra (1988)
I've played a lot of volleyball games in my time, and Kings of the Beach is the best
classic volleyball game! Its graphics are terrific, with scenic backdrops and well-defined players. Okay, one guy looks like he's wearing a diaper, but work with me here. A brilliant control scheme lets you spike, block, and even dive for the ball. One problem that plagues many volleyball games is the ability to get your player into proper position to hit the ball. Kings of the Beach addresses this issue by stopping
your player once he's moved into the correct spot, and that makes all the difference in the world. There's even a training mode to help you learn the moves. Volleyball is all about teamwork, and this game makes it easy to cooperate. Grab a multi-tap to form teams, or join forces with a friend to challenge a CPU-controlled team! Kings of the Beach is easy to play, but mastering it is another story, and the CPU opponents are no joke. So if you're in the mood to run around in the sand and spike a ball into somebody's face, Kings of the Beach is your game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
Kirby's Adventure is a kinder, gentler platformer with floaty jumps and adorable, puffy enemies. It's so good-natured I feel like a total bastard
bad-mouthing it! A pink ghost with a big appetite, Kirby has become a Nintendo icon. He can inhale certain enemies and spit them out as projectiles. Sometimes he'll copy the ability of the creature he consumes, allowing him to swing a sword, breathe fire, or sprout spikes. The control scheme is overloaded and confusing. Buttons assume multiple functions which can produce unexpected results. Each of the seven vast levels offers multiple doorways leading to a highly diverse set of areas. On top of that you're constantly being whisked off to some random bonus stage or boss battle. The bosses tend to follow a familiar formula - use whatever objects they throw at you to turn the tables. The first few stages feel awfully generic but they improve as you go. There are plenty of surprises including a fun "claw machine" bonus stage. The game itself is not very difficult. Much like Bruce Willis, Kirby doesn't die easily and free lives abound. Kirby's Adventure was clearly designed for the youngsters in mind and sure enough they can't seem to get enough of him. It's a little sugary sweet for my taste but I can't deny there is some Nintendo magic at work here. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 138,920
Publisher: Nintendo (1985)
Kung Fu may have set the world on fire in 1985, but those days are well done. Controlling a black belt warrior (who appears to be wearing high heels), you must dispatch an endless parade of enemies in a Japanese temple. You're limited to the standard punch, kick, and jump-kick moves. In the first stage, most foes are idiots easily dispatched with simple high kicks. The occasional weapon-trained ninja will require some strategy to defeat, but not much. The second stage incorporates a traps and tiny dragons, and the cheap hits come early and often. Kung Fu is not particularly fun to play. Its clean graphics and surprisingly good sound effects (including some voice clips) make it bearable, but its gameplay is dated and silly. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: A
Our high score: SLN 28,180
1 or 2 players
Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf
Publisher: SNK (1988)
I was intrigued by Fighting Golf because it's common knowledge that Lee Trevino is a master of the martial arts. His perfectly-honed body is an instrument of death, allowing him to dispose of a gang of thugs with a single flying round-house kick. Oh wait - I'm thinking about Jean Claude Van Damme
. Lee Trevino is a chubby Mexican golfer. My bad!
This game probably has the most misleading title
in the history of video games. Would you believe there's no fighting
in Fighting Golf? This is just a run-of-the-mill golf title. Besides Lee Trevino, you're limited to characters with names like Pretty Amy, Big Jumbo, Super Max, and Miracle Chosuke. The user interface lets you toggle between several views, but the controls are so non-intuitive, it's almost comical
. Even with only two buttons
to worry about, it took me forever
to figure out how to hit the freakin' ball! Once you get over the steep learning curve, the game really isn't that bad. I played against my friend George, and we had a pretty competitive round. If you're in the mood to deliver a roundhouse to the chops of Jack Nicklaus, you'll be disappointed, but if you're just looking for some fun on the links, Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf will do the trick. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taito (1986)
At first glance, one might mistake Legend of Kage for crap
. Looking more like a schoolgirl than a warrior, our hero can leap a mile between treetops (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-style) while battling ninja who randomly fly across the screen. Kage's high-jumping antics are absolutely ridiculous and totally awesome at the same time. Sure you'll take some random hits, but the frenetic pace is exciting. One button tosses shuriken and the other swings a kodachi (short sword). The kodachi is effective in close combat, and can also be used to deflect projectiles. The first stage is set in a stormy forest, and novice players may be thrown for a loop since you move the left
, not right as you do in most NES games. Running across the ground is more direct, but moving through the trees can net you some cool power-ups, including a scroll that instantly kills dozens ninjas trying to enter the screen from all directions. Some critics may scoff at the fact that you can hit your head on the sky
, but to me, that just makes the game all the more endearing. When you reach the far left of the forest, you'll need to wait for the red, fireball-casting boss, and this is not readily apparent unless you've read the FAQ. After defeating him, you'll need to survive moat, wall, and palace stages to reach the kidnapped princess. The game then starts over, but surprise - the seasons change! This is a great idea that adds variety and replay value. Legend of Kage is challenging and so addicting you'll keep coming back to beat your high score. Give it a try and you'll see why so many kids spent countless hours playing this back in the day. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 40000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1988)
Lengendary Wings is a curious shooter with average gameplay. Your winged character looks like a transvestite with his red shorts and pink boots (c'mon!). The gameplay offers a mix of horizontal and vertical stages, and in addition to shooting you can drop bombs (a la Xevious). Legendary Wing's graphics are generic and I didn't find the creatures to be particularly exciting. Some require multiple shots to destroy, but there's no way of knowing how much damage you've inflicted until they blow up. Power-ups are key to this game, and you won't get far without them. Unfortunately, they're few and far between, and if you don't snag the first one you may as well hit the reset button. A two-player simultaneous mode is included, but its slowdown is aggravating. Legendary Wings isn't all bad, but shooting fans can do better. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 44,500
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Ocean (1992)
If there was ever a single title in the history of video games that begged for two-player simultaneous action, it was Lethal Weapon for the NES. You'll recall that the movies feature Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as a mismatched pair of police partners, fighting the bad guys side-by-side. Well, you'll get none of that in this game. No, you can only play as Mel or Danny, which is inexcusable in my book. The gameplay involves systematically punching, kicking, and shooting your way through endless generic goons. One thing I noticed right away is that punching is just as effective as shooting, if not more so! The bad guys are awfully predictable. Just stand in front of the dark doorway and punch like a madman, and these brainless henchmen will walk right into your furious barrage. Adding insult to injury, they don't even fall over - they simply blink briefly and disappear. The most annoying criminals are the ones who pop out of manholes. Since your normal attacks are too "high", you can only strike them jump-kicks. Also annoying is that damn helicopter that shows up every five minutes. Defeating it always requires the same strategy - pick up an unexploded hand grenade and loft it into the air. The first stage is set in a park with shacks and tree houses that look awful. The scenery does improve later as you move into a restaurant-lined waterfront. Still, there's no interaction with the scenery (except for the occasional brick), so the action is monotonous. The "music" (if you want to call it that) is unpleasant and loops endlessly. Even die-hard Lethal Weapon fans will have a hard time getting excited about this cookie-cutter side-scroller. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Known as Salamander in Japan, Life Force is a spin-off of the Gradius
(NES, 1986) although its horizontal and vertical stages remind me of Vanguard
(Atari 2600, 1982). As with Gradius, its "hook" is a madly addictive power-up system. Orange-colored enemies leave pods you collect and a meter on the bottom shows what you can cash them in for. The cheapest power-up (one pod) increases your speed. You only want one or two of those; any more will cause you to lose control. Missiles fire both up and down, meandering over the landscape and destroying cannons that line the caves. Lasers provide penetrating power and the "ripple" gives you wider coverage. "Options" provide you with a little satellite that fires its own set of weapons, effectively doubling or even tripling
your firepower. Life Force teases you by providing plenty of pods early on, and then breaking your heart when you glance off a rock and have to start over with the pea shooter. Unlike Gradius, Life Force has interesting bosses including a brain that sprouts arms and an eyeball. One irritating aspect of the game are organic walls that can engulf you with no warning. It takes a while to figure out where to position your ship to avoid the fungus. The game also supports two-player simultaneous action, and while it's a nice feature, the ships can be hard to tell apart and the slowdown is pronounced. Life Force is claustrophobic at times and often infuriating, yet madly addictive all the same. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 28550
Publisher: Mega Cat Studios (2017)
I can't recall my friends snickering at the title of a game this much since Sword Fight
(Atari 2600, 1983). This new NES homebrew has a lot going for it starting with its green translucent cartridge shell. It's mesmerizing!
Log Jammer's gameplay pits two players running on spinning logs in head-to-head hammer-throwing action. The character selection includes three humans and three freaky monsters. The playing field is divided into an upper and lower area, with the idea to hurl a hammer at targets behind your opponent. Your opponent can intercept the hammer by touching it in flight. This is definitely a twitch game as you try to catch your opponent leaning the wrong way. I find it odd how the corners are worth more points considering the middle sections are a lot harder to hit. The matches are short and sweet. The graphics are remarkably sharp and well-defined, and the frenetic music isn't bad either. Log Jammer's gameplay might seem original to a garden variety critic, but I instantly recognized it a vertical variation of Windjammers
(Neo Geo, 1994). Random items add spice (including signature shots) but frankly these tend to get lost in the noise. I love the wide variety of stages ranging from shimmering blue pools to racid sewers to icy glaciers. You could play this game any time of the year and still be seasonally correct. It's hard to advance far in the single-player tournament mode but going toe-to-toe with a friend is always a blast. Like most modern games, this one records "achievements" which are saved to cart. Log Jammers isn't the kind of game you play for hours on end, but I've yet to find someone who didn't like it. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players
Lolo, Adventures of
Publisher: Hai (1988)
This charming little game challenges you to solve increasingly complex puzzles in a series of castle rooms. You control Lolo, a loveable blue ball with two big eyes. Each screen-sized stage requires quick reflexes and thoughtful strategy as you slide blocks, avoid monsters, and use power-ups to open the single chest in each room. You can the view the layout of each room before each stage, and you'll want to use this opportunity to formulate your strategy. To solve most puzzles, you'll need to perform a series of moves in a specific order, and if you mess up, you might not be able to correct your mistake! At that point you're forced to hit "Select" to forfeit play and restart the stage. Upon depleting your lives, a password is provided, and you can immediately continue where you left off. It's easy to get caught up in Lolo's addictive gameplay. Some of the puzzles of quite ingenious, and the graphics aren't bad either. The controls are crisp and responsive, and the heroic musical score is also very good. Lolo's innovative gameplay earned it legions of loyal fans and prompted two sequels. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Taxan (1990)
The first time I fired up Low G Man (not to be confused with Low T Man), I hated it. It just didn't make any sense. Shooting enemies only freezed them momentarily, and being able to jump really high wasn't helping much. Thank goodness I had the official literature on hand to shed some light on Low G Man's unconventional gameplay. As it turns out, after you freeze an enemy you're supposed to jump on top of them and stab downward
with a spear! I would have never
figured that out on my own. It's really bizarre... and kind of... awesome?
Once you get a feel for it, the gameplay is quite satisfying. I also like how you can climb into an ED-209 robot (of Robocop fame) and spray bullets all over the place. It's one of several vehicles you can commandeer. Low G Man is at its best when you climb on top of a boss and stab it repeatedly in the head! At its worst, the action feels so repetitive you start to actively avoid confrontation. The animation gets really choppy when there's a lot of activity. When you slay a foe he'll drop a useful object, but the icons immediately drop off the screen before you have a chance to grab them! That is so frustrating. And who in the heck are those chicks trapped in the phone booths? Potions will give you more health, but some of them apparently subtract
health too, which is bogus. A few checkpoints would be nice, as having to restart a level after you've progressed to the end is demoralizing. When Low G Man dies in mid-jump he falls flat on a layer of thin air. That's quality with a capital K right there! Low G Man is no prize but it's unique and that vintage NES music has a way of getting under your skin. Maybe we'll just call this one Low C
Man. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 156,600
Save mechanism: password