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)
Our high score: 33,750
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito version)
Publisher: Taito (1990)
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)
Our high score: 23,700
1 or 2 players
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
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)
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)
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 (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)
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)
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)
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)
Our high score: 156,600
Save mechanism: password