NES Reviews T

T&C Surf Designs
Grade: C+
Publisher: LJN (1987)
Posted: 2005/10/31

screenshotWhat the heck is T&C Surf Designs, a line of summer clothing? Whatever it is, I've talked to several people who have fond childhood memories of this cartridge, which offers both skateboarding and surfing action. This is an ideal game to play on a hot summer day. Skateboarding is easily the highlight, as you cruise down a boardwalk while jumping over obstacles and collecting coins. It seems like every time you play you advance a little bit further.

Surfing, on the other hand, isn't as enjoyable due to its hard-to-grasp controls. Just remaining upright on your board for more than a few seconds is a major feat. Fortunately the two games can be played separately, allowing you to forgo the surfing if you can't get the hang of it.

T&C features appealing, bright beach graphics, and the background music is a lot of fun to listen to. There's a two-player mode, but it's alternating only. On the whole, T&C Surf Designs is not great, but gets by on its sunny graphics and addicting skateboarding action. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Skate
Our high score: 9150
1 player 

T&C Surf Designs II: Thrilla's Surfari
Grade: B
Publisher: LJN (1992)
Posted: 2019/7/30

screenshotThrilla's Surfari stars a funky ape who can skateboard through the jungle and surf river rapids. This game is just plain fun. It offers a variety of side-scrolling challenges in some pretty amazing jungle environments. The controls feel good as you speed through dense foliage while vaulting off ramps and turtle shells. There are plenty of pits and logs in your path, so when in doubt, keep jumping!

It seems like every living creature is out to get you, from charging boars to water-shooting elephants to spear-tossing natives. Giraffes will stick out their necks just to trip you up! The animation is fast and you can earn style points for flipping in mid air. The raised side viewing angle takes a while to get used to. It's a little tricky to line up with ramps, and catching an edge results in a painful wipeout, forcing you to restart the course. Sometimes this will cause Thrilla's entire body to explode!

Thrilla's Surfari is easier once you realize you can regulate your speed. The surfing stages provide a nice change of pace, and plunging down the waterfalls is exhilarating! Boss encounters feature a rhino, scorpion, and great white shark. There are no continues but you earn plenty of free lives via the "guess which coconut" bonus stages. I got into a groove playing Thrilla's Surfari. It's easy to imagine a bored kid in the 80's memorizing every inch of every stage. If you play it enough, you will too. So what are you waiting for? © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Taboo The Sixth Sense
Grade: F
Publisher: Rare (1988)
Posted: 2004/9/24

screenshotAdvertised as an "electronic fortune teller", Taboo is more like a fortune cookie generator. After prompting for your name, sex, and birth date, Taboo lets you ask it a question. My first question was easy: How old am I? If the program had any intelligence at all, it would have determined my age from my birth date, but Taboo couldn't even figure that out!

Taboo responds to any question by playing mystical music while displaying psychedelic graphics, and then displaying a series of cards one by one. The cards reveal very general (and often confusing) "revelations" such as "Your near term goal or destiny is or is influenced by great determination", "Your present situation/attitude is criticism or quarrel", and "Others view you as you search for solitude knowledge or self denial." It didn't take long for me to realize that this cartridge is a pointless waste of time.

You'd think the developer (Rare) might have snuck something clever in there like "You enjoy playing Nintendo", or "You will witness a murder tonight!" But no, it's always very vague and uninteresting. Once all the cards are read, you're presented with a series of "lucky numbers". What's especially annoying is how you need to re-enter all of your personal information before every question. Maybe little girls at a slumber party could have some fun with Taboo, but I doubt it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (1991)
Posted: 2019/7/30

screenshotTalespin's bright title screen and toe-tapping music instantly put me into a good mood. I'd gladly sing along if I knew the words! Unlike other versions of the game, this is a leisurely-paced side-scrolling shooter. Baloo the bear pilots a little biplane over a quaint town before descending down a towering waterfall. Next he heads over shimmering blue waters to battle submarines that sprout propellers before taking to the sky.

To call the action slow would be an understatement. This is the opposite of rapid-fire; you only shoot a single bubble-like projectile at a time. Fortunately it only takes a shot or two to knock out most foes. If you miss an incoming enemy however you have very little time to get out of the way. You can fire diagonally but with absolutely no precision whatsoever. There were times when I found myself wanting to turn around and go back to collect an item I missed. Guess what - you can!

Just press button A and you'll fly upside-down in the other direction, causing the scrolling to reverse in the process! Just be careful not to get caught up on the scenery, because getting pushed off the screen will cost you a life. Despite its deliberate pace Talespin had me hooked. The bosses are reasonable in difficulty and you can upgrade your plane in a number of ways - including firepower.

The stages are short but unique, taking you through a baseball stadium and even in the clouds of a raging thunderstorm. Bonus stages let you "surf" clouds for big points. Your total is only displayed on the pause screen, so you may want to take a peek on occasion. Talespin is different from what I expected but its happy-go-lucky spirit won me over. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 18,500
1 player 

Target Renegade
Grade: F
Publisher: Taito (1989)
Posted: 2003/3/26

screenshotThe original Renegade game wasn't great, but at least it had a unique control scheme. Target Renegade on the other hand has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It's like Double Dragon minus the fun! As you guide a pudgy muscleman through repetitive scenery, you face the same group of thugs (who all dress the same) over and over again. The non-stop punch/kick gameplay is mind-numbing, and the ability to jump-kick cyclists off of their bikes provides little relief. The generic backdrops are awful, and serious breakup occurs in the character graphics. The bosses are large, but after they promptly whip your ass you don't even get a lousy continue for your troubles. And where's the two-player mode? Playing Target Renegade is pure agony. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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Our high score: 1,730
1 player 

Tecmo Baseball
Grade: C
Publisher: Tecmo (1988)
Posted: 2004/11/17

screenshotDespite some flaws, Tecmo Baseball is a pretty good sports game. An intuitive pitcher/batter screen makes it easy to track incoming pitches, and it's always fun to watch the catcher's mitt magically "float" away from his body when a pitch is far outside. When a ball is put into play, a high overhead view is displayed with small, squat players and an enormous outfield. The fielders move way too slowly, but the throwing controls are good. There's no infield fly rule, and you can take advantage of this to pull off some really cheap double plays.

After a homerun, the scoreboard shows the hitter rounding the bases, and he looks really queer waving his arms up and down. Between innings the scoreboard displays bizarre messages like "Go ahead!" and "Fight!" The players are completely fictional, the stadium is generic, and the crowd looks like a huge pair of plaid pants. A catchy theme song plays throughout the entire game, and I kind of enjoyed it. Tecmo Baseball has its quirks, but nice controls and brisk pacing makes it playable enough. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Tecmo Bowl
Grade: B+
Publisher: Tecmo (1988)
Posted: 2015/10/8

screenshotIt's hard to have a legitimate conversation about classic football games without the word "Tecmo" coming up. Before Madden came along Tecmo was the only football game that mattered, thanks to its intuitive controls, simple gameplay, and arcade graphics. Sanctioned by the NFL Players Association but not the NFL itself, Tecmo Bowl features real player names but only twelve teams referenced by city.

The action is viewed from the side and the main drawback is how you can't see receivers going deep. A handy dotted line on the field indicates where you need to reach for a first down, and this was ten years before the technology was used on live TV! The well-animated players are not only decked out in their proper uniforms, but even their skin color is correct!

The visuals are exceptional but it's the tight gameplay that makes Tecmo Bowl such a winner. A simple passing system makes it easy to target receivers, and throwing to a well-covered man usually results in an interception. The running game lets you tap the A button to break tackles, sometimes tossing players across the screen in the process! Defenders can dive a country mile, but if you miss, the ball carrier might just take it to the house! You can't switch defenders during the play, so it's easy to get burned by a missed tackle.

Tecmo Bowl only shows its age with its limited options. You can't adjust the game length, although 1:30 minute quarters seem optimal (the clock stops after each play). You only have four plays to choose from, typically two run and two pass. You can bring up your special teams menu on any down using button B.

Catchy music plays throughout and there's even some modest voice synthesis. I never get tired of watching the brief cut scenes (like players high-fiving) and the halftime show features some cheerleader hotties. The computer opponent is competent but the game excels at head-to-head competition. Trash talking optional but recommended. Tecmo Bowl is pure football joy and you'd be surprised how well it's held up over the years. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 to 2 players 

Tecmo NBA Basketball
Grade: C-
Publisher: Tecmo (1992)
Posted: 2016/4/3

screenshotThe cinematic intro to Tecmo NBA Basketball gets you totally amped up as a camera pans down an expansive arena packed with spectators. Cut-scenes of players in action are then displayed in a rapid-fire manner. If only the actual game was this exciting. The court is rendered with thick black lines meant to accentuate the wood but frankly it looks kind of ugly. The players blink like crazy and aside from their skin color they all look the same. After a score (or foul) the name of the player displayed, and yes, Michael Jordan is in this!

The numbers 1 or 2 appear over the user-controlled players, but vertical bars are used to indicate which plays you can pass or switch to. As a result, it looks like a whole lot of 1's out there! What a mess. The ball doesn't stand out, so even when you know your team has the ball (they all head down court) it's hard to tell which player has it. Players perform free throws by jumping at the foul line which looks ridiculous.

Once you get the hang of it, Tecmo Basketball is playable enough. I like how players mirror the talents of their real-life counterparts, and it's satisfying to finish strong at the hoop. Like Tecmo Bowl (NES, 1988) there are a few split-second cut-scenes spliced in with the action, but the lack of a half-time show is disappointing. The game offers a full slate of modes and options, including a coaching mode that I found really confusing.

I love the ability to adjust the game speed and length. I have to give the game extra credit for its instruction manual - a 43 page tome that breaks down every real NBA team in detail. The early 90's was an exciting time in NBA history, so reading about the teams and players really took me back. Tecmo Basketball never reaches the heights of Tecmo football, but hoops fans will probably find enough to like about this. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players 

Tecmo Super Bowl
Grade: A
Publisher: Tecmo (1991)
Posted: 2004/8/11

screenshotThree long years after the original game was released for the NES, Tecmo damn near perfected their pigskin masterpiece with this phenomenal sequel. Fully endorsed by the NFL, Super Bowl delivers all the excitement of the original game plus all the NFL teams and players, a larger play selection, an improved kicking system, spectacular cut scenes, player statistics, injuries, timeouts, and last but not least, a battery backed-up season mode! What more can you ask for?

The players are slightly smaller, but this allows more room on the field for sophisticated plays to unfold, including double reverses and flea flickers! You also can see a little further downfield. Like the first Tecmo Bowl, the field is viewed from the side, but it looks sharper and more realistic. Cheerleaders line the top of the screen and the first few rows of fans are visible. Interspersed with the on-field action are dramatic cut scenes that highlight diving catches, punts, sacks, and touchdown celebrations.

During field goals, you get an awesome view of the ball sailing through the uprights. Field goal kicking uses an accuracy meter instead of a power meter, which is far more challenging and satisfying. Receivers automatically leap for high passes, and many passes are tipped (which unfortunately you can't catch). As usual, there's some provocative cheerleader graphics shown during half-time. Why modern football games haven't adopted this cheerleader "feature" is beyond me! Packed with features and infinitely playable, Tecmo Super Bowl is without a doubt the ultimate football game for the NES. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Grade: C-
Publisher: Ultra (1986)
Posted: 2004/6/15

screenshotBased on the wildly popular cartoon series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is entertaining but unpolished. A slick opening sequence introduces our four zany heroes, armed with their respective weapons. You only control one turtle at a time on your quest to rescue hottie journalist April from arch-villain Shredder. By roaming around an overhead map (and avoiding its steamrollers) you enter doors and manholes that lead to side-scrolling stages.

These stages offer generic jumping and punching action, but some of the bad guys are surprisingly intimidating, especially the mechanical spiders and scary thugs with chainsaws. Pizzas replenish your health, and occasionally you'll find special weapons like throwing stars and boomerangs. The turtles control very well but are prone to cheap hits when walking near the edge of the screen. Once a turtle depletes his health, you choose another to take his place. The game doesn't end until you use all four, and three continues are available.

The graphics are mediocre at best. The turtles themselves look okay but some enemies can be hard to discern, and the fighting action is somewhat sloppy and plagued by heavy flicker. Swimming and driving stages effectively break up the monotony, although swimming through narrow caves of electrified seaweed is very difficult. TMNT's audio includes some catchy musical numbers that are bound to bring back memories for long-time NES fans. It's rough around the edges, but I think this oldie is still worth checking out. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 23,200
1 player 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1990)
Posted: 2004/6/15

screenshotThe subtitle is quite appropriate, because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 (TMNT2) has a distinct arcade flavor the first game lacked. Too bad the gameplay is so repetitive and boring! The unimaginative storyline pits our green heroes against Shredder, who has once again taken hottie reporter April captive. The game's visuals feature fluidly-animated characters, but instead of being limited to a 2D plane, they can move between the foreground and background like a Double Dragon game.

The stages look clean but unspectacular, ranging from city streets, to sewers, to a snowy central park. In the street stage, you can look into a store window to see Shredder and April on the TV news, which I thought was pretty clever. TMNT2 is one of the first console games I can recall that features blatant advertisements - in this case for Pizza Hut. Despite its polished look, TMNT2's gameplay is positively mind-numbing. Enemy ninjas make dramatic appearances by breaking down doors and jumping out of manholes. These guys are always pulling out new weapons like stars, dynamite, and even snowballs.

In addition to your normal attack you have a jump-kick, but it doesn't work well and you tend to leap right over your target. Other problems include excessive flicker, poor collision detection, and bosses that require upwards of 30 hits to defeat. It's especially annoying the way hazards like huge bowling balls pass harmlessly through the bad guys. A two-player mode is included, but the flicker and slow-down make it nearly unplayable. Even the music is weak. TMNT 2 might look like fun on the surface, but playing it proves otherwise. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project
Grade: B
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Posted: 2004/6/15

screenshotWould you believe that bastard Shredder has kidnapped April again?! Will someone please keep an eye on that woman?! I swear this [expletive] is more trouble than she's worth! And oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Shredder has also unearthed the entire island of Manhattan and flown off with that too. So begins the third exciting chapter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle saga, which trumps its predecessors in every way. Not only does it look sensational, but it's also a rip-roaring good time.

TMNT3's vibrant, sharp graphics are among the best I've seen on the NES. The flicker and slowdown is minimal in the one-player mode, although the two-player mode is still a mess. The improved graphic quality is particularly evident in the scenic backgrounds, which include a beach, a massive submarine, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Most importantly, TMNT3's gameplay is far more appealing and satisfying than previous chapters, thanks to additional moves that spice up the action.

Not only can you impale and throw those dirty ninjas at will, but you can even toss them into other enemies. The jump kick has been improved so you can even kick bad guys in fairly close proximity. The standard attacks are more effective as well, sending thugs flying all over the place. The bosses look sharp and are far more reasonable to defeat than the last game. TMNT3: The Manhattan Project is a real treat. Konami made all the right moves with this one. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 99,300
1 or 2 players 

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Grade: F
Publisher: LJN (1991)
Posted: 2016/5/27

screenshotThe title screen for Judgement Day boasts a cool image of Arnold Schwarzenegger with red light illuminating the metallic half of his face. Awesome! So how's the game? Miserable! The opening stage takes place at a truck stop with shiny vehicles, starry skies, and distant city lights. Why is Arnold so tiny? He looks like a little kid scampering around in a Terminator Halloween costume!

You'll use your fists to dispatch thugs that resemble Rick Flair with their flowing blonde hair. The fighting is an exercise in button-mashing and the animation is pathetic! Thugs being punched alternate between standing poses and throwing their arms back. When you try to exit the stage the game says you can't leave until you beat up more bad guys! Give me a [expletive] break! It turns out those motorcycle thugs are invincible! When I died the screen turned to white noise, and I thought my NES was broken!

In stage two you drive a motorcycle diagonally up a canal with an 18-wheeler bearing down on you. I like how you can shoot open doors but there doesn't seem to be any way to prevent that truck from overtaking you. Well, I did find one way... and it's called the Game Genie (ain't too proud to cheat!)

In stage three you're searching a hospital for Sarah Connor, shooting interns in the legs since the Terminator isn't allowed to kill people. It's actually more satisfying to shoot people in the legs because you get to watch them keel over in pain. It took me a while to realize the pursuing cop was actually the T-1000.

In the next stage you're supposed to blow up Cyberdyne Systems by collecting and depositing barrels. I toiled through this stage for an hour before finally giving up. Had a Terminator been watching me review this excruciatingly poor game, I'd imagine he'd say "I know now why you cry, but it's something I can never do." © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 8040
1 player 

Terminator, The
Grade: D-
Publisher: Mindscape (1992)
Posted: 2015/10/8

screenshotThe title screen for this game features a pretty cool image of the Terminator movie poster, but that pitty-patter midi music sounds horrible! The opening stage does little to inspire confidence. Do you remember the scene in Terminator where Kyle Reese trudges through a sewer dripping with green ooze? I sure as hell don't, and I don't appreciate how every NES game has to have a [expletive] sewer stage!

As you hop between platforms and pipes it's hard to tell what's in the foreground or background. Adding insult to injury, the collision detection royally sucks. The health bar colors are reversed, which is confusing. Terminators appear early and often, including some that bear a cartoonish resemblance to Arnold. The problem is they are so stupid! Half the time they walk right off their platforms and plunge to their death! They aren't very scary and you can often simply avoid them.

You're armed with a rapid-fire pulse rifle, but you must stop and crouch to use it. This makes the gameplay feel slow and clunky. While in the crouch position you can aim diagonally upward or downward. This helped me discover the little-known weak point of Terminators - their feet! It seems like I killed most Terminators by shooting them repeatedly in the foot. When you eventually emerge from the sewers it's a real breath of fresh air - literally!

The post-apocalyptic cityscape is a sight for sore eyes, although that moon looks more like the Death Star. There are a few driving stages but these are as shallow as they are brief (very). The next set of stages have you jumping between really narrow ledges while avoiding Indiana Jones-style spear traps. Wait what?! This is where you realize just how sketchy the jumping controls really are. And what's the deal with these grenades? Those things are absolutely worthless. No wonder we lost the war. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: CJS 40,100
1 player 

Tetris (Nintendo)
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
Posted: 2013/1/3

screenshotAs the "chess" of the video game world, Tetris is timeless fun that never gets old. The idea is to stack falling blocks to form full rows, causing them to disappear. Making multiple rows disappear requires skill and strategy, but it will net you some big points. Tetris is addictive and after a while it becomes downright mesmerizing. There are actually two Tetris games available for the NES - the other one made by Tengen.

Nintendo's Tetris offers two variations and nine skill levels. The A variations are a test of endurance as you try to last as long as possible against a relentless onslaught. You might think you have things under control, but one false move and the situation can deteriorate in a hurry. The B variations incorporate pre-existing blocks and your goal is to finish 25 lines. At first I hated how this variation ends abruptly, but the idea of a quick game of Tetris grew on me. The music selection includes three traditional Russian-style tunes, and the tempo picks up as the blocks pile up.

Comparisons between this and the Tengen version are unavoidable. The Tengen game was yanked from the shelves in 1989 after a Nintendo lawsuit, and many gamers believe it is superior. This Nintendo version probably has the edge in terms of single-player action. The blocks are bigger, the controls are more precise, and the music is better. This Nintendo version lacks a two-player mode, and for the life of me I have no [expletive] idea why they didn't include one. My friend Brent is a Tetris master (no joke), and he strongly favors this Nintendo edition (although he admits nostalgia may be a factor). Personally I think it's pretty much a draw. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: 9A
Our high score: BSC 103,626
1 player 

Tetris (Tengen)
Grade: B+

screenshotNintendo sued Tengen to have this cartridge pulled from the shelves in 1989. Many gamers swear up and down that this is the superior Tetris, but it's really not so cut-and-dry. Tengen's Tetris makes a better first impression with a vibrant title screen showing St. Basil's Cathedral and colorful fireworks. The main menu offers a variety of modes including one-player, two-player, cooperative, versus computer, and cooperative with the computer.

The basic one-player game has a few interesting features. Statistics are displayed at the top of the screen, and completed rows are punctuated with the words "single", "double", "triple", and "tetris". After completing a certain number of rows you're awarded with a bonus and treated to a little intermission with tiny Russian dancers. That's nice, but there are some minor flaws.

The statistics area encroaches onto the playing field, and it's hard to see the "next piece" in the top corner. The pieces are smaller than the Nintendo version but bolder in color. Unfortunately, when a piece drops into place, it turns the same color as the whole mass, and I don't like that. Finally, there are some subtle "rotation positioning" quirks that casual players will definitely not notice but experts probably will.

The two-player head-to-head mode is what makes this edition so attractive. Each player can choose his own skill level or handicap, and you can play for score or lines. The coop and computer variations are not as exciting as you might expect. Both players are forced to share the same play area, which is confusing and aggravating when blocks bump into each other. The rarity of this cartridge is subject to debate, but it certainly is pricey. Tengen's Tetris offers more razzle-dazzle than Nintendo, but I'm not convinced it's a better all-round game. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 9
Our high score: BSC 36,413
1 or 2 players 

The Rocketeer
Grade: C+
Publisher: Bandai (1991)
Posted: 2020/11/27

screenshotThere's something classy and elegant about these Rocketeer games. Maybe because they're based on a Disney film that harkens back to a more wholesome era? The box sports a beautiful art deco design and the manual looks like it's pressed onto sheets of copper. Unlike other versions of the game, this one is strictly platforming in nature.

Rocketeer's graphics are nicely detailed, beginning with the hangar stage decked out with old-timey airplanes, machinery, and air show posters. The characters however are very small. In fact, while jumping between ledges I felt like I was playing Pitfall II: Lost Caverns (Atari 2600, 1984). You'll duck behind crates and trade shots with color-coded bad gangsters. Men in black will go down with one shot but the red dudes can absorb three bullets.

You can run out of ammo, so grab piles of bullets wherever you can find them. You also have a supply of grenades that are so weak you basically need to nail an enemy in the face with one. Defeated foes disappear in some kind of purple pixie dust - perhaps to moderate the violence. What's irritating is how you can overlap with enemies, causing you to incur serious damage while being unable to hit them!

Still, I found the game to be quite fun and the excellent music helped me get into a rhythm. Certain areas let you zip around in a jet pack, but boy oh boy is it hard to control. The stages tend to run so long it feels like a battle of attrition with health hard to come by. I wish there was a score to help measure your progress. The Rocketeer boasts excellent production values but beyond that it's pretty vanilla. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: D
Publisher: Activision (1990)
Posted: 2022/5/21

screenshotI thought this vertical shooter looked pretty decent in NES Omnibus Volume 2, but its mission briefing screens scared the hell out of me! The commander looks like a freaky ventriloquist doll and every one of his four sons is a dead ringer for Judi Dench. Not a pretty sight. I would later discover that Thunderbirds was some kind of puppet television show? Creepy!

Once the action begins you're guiding some kind of rocket ship over the ocean, tapping the fire button to fire rapidly. Yeah - it's one of those tapping games. You'll definitely want to whip out your NES Advantage joystick for some auto-fire action. I hate how the sound of your shots interrupt the musical notes, making an otherwise spirited melody sound out of sync.

Thunderbirds seems terribly difficult at first. Your ship consumes a lot of the screen and isn't very maneuverable. Between large enemy planes approaching from the top and their criss-crossing missiles the screen gets crowded in a hurry. Once you reach land you'll deal with tanks that unleash rapid-fire shot barrages that eviscerate anything in their path.

Since there's no scoring you're better off just avoiding the more dangerous enemies. Instead focus on the red enemies that release power-up icons. Unfortunately these valuable icons tend to dance away from you when you try to snag them. The developer must have been a total dick. Sometimes they even float off the top of the screen!

Once you get over the initial learning curve Thunderbirds isn't so hard. Between stages you can select your next ship and location, though none are particularly interesting. Keep an eye out for hazards like hard-to-see geological outcroppings and indestructible mines. Thunderbirds provides a password but its input mechanism is awkward and time-consuming. If you're looking for an NES shooter you could do a hell of a lot better than this. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Grade: C
Publisher: Acclaim (1986)
Posted: 2011/3/27

screenshotIs Tiger-Heli one of the better-looking shooters for the NES? No way. Is the action smooth? Not really. But is it fun? Yes. Oh yes. In this vertical shooter you control a helicopter penetrating terrorist defenses. You begin by raising hell in a suburban neighborhood, sending soccer moms running for cover. I'm scoring points for this? When you reach the waterfront area you're accosted by real enemies in the form of tanks, cannons, and ships.

Their red missiles are slow but large, giving you little margin for error. Your helicopter hits an invisible barrier when it's about an inch from the edge of the screen, limiting your room to maneuver. Your potent firepower is the best part of the game, letting you fire four missiles at a time in rapid-fire fashion.

You also have a supply of bombs, and since you can't fire backwards, these come in handy when tanks sneak in from the lower part of the screen. Two special bombs are attached to either side of your plane, and taking a hit on either side will detonate one and save your life. It's like an automatic safety mechanism. Some power-up icons augment your firepower by latching on a small helicopter, and if you hook up a few you're nearly unstoppable.

Tiger-Heli's graphics are somewhat plain with static scenery. The developers were apparently trying to achieve a 3D polygon look with those angular forests. Nice try, boys. The game lacks an auto-fire option, but you can bump up the grade slightly if you own an NES Advantage joystick (which has an auto-fire feature). Tiger-Heli lacks the polish of a first-rate NES shooter, but if you're in the mood for some simple shooting action this one isn't a bad choice. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 44,720
1 or 2 players 

Grade: C+

screenshotToobin' is a leisurely jaunt perfect for a sunny summer afternoon. Sitting in a tire you drift down shimmering streams while navigating currents, tossing cans, and avoiding prickly hazards. If you find the idea of tossing beer cans at obstacles inappropriate, you've obviously never been tubing in West Virginia. Heck, people take an extra tube just to hold the cooler! Toobin's simple control scheme lets you toss cans diagonally down to the left or right, reminiscent of Paperboy (NES, 1988) and nearly as fun.

You can regulate your speed but in general the action is pretty slow. Just keep an eye out for the occasional crocodile. Dangers along the river banks including natives blowing darts and fisherman casting lines. Be cautious of rapids, as the game has a tendency to bait you into dangerous routes. There are occasional surprises like a green mass that turns out to be a shambling swamp monster. The graphics are bright and colorful but it's hard to tell what certain objects are supposed to be.

The "Jurassic" stage is a monumental letdown, with just a few cartoony dinosaurs lining the shore. The screen has an icon bar on the lower right but I couldn't tell you what those symbols and numbers are supposed to mean. They aren't even explained in the manual. The music features surfing and banjo tunes that put you in the right frame of mind. I was surprised how much my friends enjoyed Toobin. I guess there's something to be said for a game that lets you take your time and just relax for a change. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: KF 316,400
1 or 2 players 

Total Recall
Grade: D
Publisher: Acclaim (1990)
Posted: 2014/7/20

screenshotBefore playing this I watched the original Total Recall movie on Blu Ray. I thought it would properly prepare me for this game, but that was assuming the game made sense, which it does not. The first stage allegedly takes place on Mars, but it looks like a typical city street with boring office buildings and a little theatre where you can view the game's credits.

Apparently every living creature on Mars hates your guts. People driving in cars throw trash at you. Thugs hiding in trash cans shoot at you. Pink midgets drag you into back alleys and try to kick your ass. Hell, you can't even walk past a construction wall without little arms reaching out of holes to slug you! Police converge but a good punch or two sends them flying clear off the screen.

The first "boss" encounter is against Sharon Stone - the woman you thought was your wife. It's impossible to survive this screen unless you know one wildly non-intuitive secret. After killing Sharon Stone you have to jump over the guy standing in the doorway who is firing a machine gun non-stop. Oh yeah - that makes sense. Total Recall gets better as you progress, but not much better.

Revisiting locations from the film, stage two lets you fight inside of an X-Ray machine, causing everybody to look like skeletons! Okay, that's kind of clever. In the subway station you'll fight the same guard over and over while contending with annoying dogs that latch on to your leg. Winning Total Recall is more about learning the "trick" to each stage than exhibiting skill. If not for the movie license I doubt this one would be worth the aggravation. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 15,570
1 player 

Totally Rad
Grade: C+
Publisher: Jaleco (1991)
Posted: 2017/9/1

screenshotThe story of this game is about a neighborhood kid named Jake who meets a local magician named Zeb who believes Jake has "gnarly potential". The outdated dialog is hard to stomach, calling to mind Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (Lynx, 1991). Zeb the magician may be the creepiest character I've seen in a video game. With those bushy eyebrows, winking eyes, and quivering lips, he looks like a creature from one of those Leprechaun horror films.

Totally Rad begins like a typical side-scrolling shooter as you run along a path with nice amusement park scenery (Disney?) tucked away behind layers of trees. You'll blast green guys in hazmat suits, floating ballsacks, and old geezers flying around in pods. What makes the game interesting is your magic meter, which allows you to perform one of 12 spells at any time. And these are really useful, allowing you to replenish life, stop time, shield yourself, and fly. You can even unleash destructive spells to obliterate on-screen enemies.

Best of all, all spells are available from the start. Magic comes in handy because enemies absorb multiple hits and some can be a real pain in the ass. Stage two takes place in a circus tent, and if you harbor any fear of clowns, this will only serve to reinforce it. After you shoot one down from balloons, it comes lunging straight at you! That's disturbing! If you die you have to replay the entire stage which is really bogus if you've already reached the boss.

The third stage takes place in a gothic city, looking like a scene from Batman Returns (Konami, 1993). The game doesn't display a score, but if you scroll to the top of your spell screen you'll find an "enemy killed" counter. What the game really needs is a password. Totally Rad feels is extremely dated but the magic element adds an interesting, strategic twist. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 170
1 player 

Touchdown Fever
Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1988)
Posted: 2019/11/2

screenshotI got a fever, and the only cure is more touchdown! Touchdown Fever begins with some colorful picture-in-picture animations showing a receiver catching a pass and a running back leaping over a pile. Could we be in for some Tecmo-style pigskin action? Nope! This game has serious issues. For one thing, the field's proportions are way off. A single yard is the equivalent of three yards in any other football game. As a result, you'll think you've completed a long pass only to learn it's "2nd and 3.7". That's right, these "yards" are so long they need to be measured in decimals. Imagine having to gain 30 yards for a first down. You have no choice but to select "long pass" for every play!

The players are short and squat, which makes sense considering the overhead view. But what is the point of having the camera to pan all the way left and right before each play? The controls are a mess - especially after a reception. Sometimes pressing A makes your player run faster, but half the time it throws the ball back to your other receiver! If you're lucky a teammate will pick-off the errant pass before it's intercepted. I actually witnessed three interceptions occur during a single play! What the [expletive] is going on?!

Does Touchdown Fever offer any redeeming qualities? Well, I like how it cleverly emulates speech by using beeps of varying tones. For example when a referee shouts "first down" you'll hear two beeps that kind of sound like "first down" in your head. I also like the fact that there are not one but two halftime shows (one for each team) starring both cheerleaders and mascots. The music that plays throughout is quite good and the game length is about right. But it speaks volumes when you play a game called Touchdown Fever with a friend and neither one of you even sniffs the endzone for the entire game! C'mon man! © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Track and Field
Grade: B
Publisher: Konami (1987)
Posted: 2004/1/22

screenshotFor many old school gamers, the words "classic NES action" evoke fond memories of Track and Field in all its button-tapping glory. Picking up where the joystick-wiggling Olympic games of the early 80's left off (Summer Games, Decathlon), Track and Field combines simple controls with addictive, competitive gameplay. Your athlete competes in eight fun events: 100 meter dash, long jump, hurdles, javelin, skeet shooting, triple jump, archery, and high jump.

Each event is brief and easy to learn, and a few can be played by two people at once. In general the controls involve tapping a button to gain speed, and then holding down the directional pad to measure your angle. I remember back in the 80's when people were coming up with all sorts of crazy techniques for tapping the buttons, including running a coin back and forth feverishly over the controller. When you qualify for an event, the crowd roars and flashes enthusiastically, but breaking a world record is the ultimate achievement.

Most events are terrific but the difficulty is uneven, and I found games like skeet shoot and high jump to be excessively difficult to qualify for. Another issue is the obvious lack of playing modes, probably due to the game's arcade origins. You basically keep playing events until you fail to qualify, at which time your game ends abruptly. Upon completing a round, you advance to the next with a higher difficulty. Track and Field is a bit simplistic compared to latter day track and field games, but in terms of sheer fun, it's hard to beat. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Javelin
Our high score: 84'27"
1 or 2 players 

Track and Field II
Grade: C+
Publisher: Konami (1988)
Posted: 2004/1/22

screenshotWith the success of the first Track and Field, Konami went all out with this sequel, dramatically enhancing the presentation and expanding the event list. It's hard to compare this to the first game, because it's completely different. First of all, the graphics are nothing short of spectacular. The athletes look absolutely huge and well proportioned - a far cry from the cartoon characters in the first Track and Field. In fact, these graphics may be the best I've ever seen on the NES. The audio is commendable too, with numerous voice samples sprinkled throughout.

Track and Field II is more like Summer Games than Track and Field, with more realistic action and sophisticated control. The extensive event list consists of fencing, Taekwondo, triple jump, pole vault, freestyle swimming, canoeing, high dive, archery, clay pigeon shooting, hurdles, hammer throw, and horizontal bar. To be honest, I'm not sure if many of these events deserve to be in a Track and Field game. Fencing and Taekwondo play like mediocre fighting games, and I'm still clueless about how to use that stupid horizontal bar.

The highlights of the game are the "real" track and field events like the pole vault and hammer throw, which tend to employ the same tap and hold controls from the original game. The archery and shooting events have been completely overhauled from the previous version, and these new versions are brilliantly conceived and satisfying to play.

Track and Field 2 also offers new playing modes including training, championship, and a two-player versus contest. Unfortunately, the two player "versus" mode is sorely lacking, with only three events: Taekwondo, fencing, and… arm-wrestling?! There's no good reason why more two-player events couldn't have been incorporated. Overall, Track and Field II is an impressive technical accomplishment for the NES, but players who crave head-to-head arcade action will probably gravitate towards the original game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Hammer
Our high score: 24'08"
1 or 2 players 

Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1986)
Posted: 2003/3/26

screenshotThis is what classic NES action is supposed to be - simple in concept but still challenging and addicting. When you play Trojan and hear that distinctive music you'll feel as if you're back in the 80's again (if you were there the first time around). Trojan takes place in some war-torn, post-apocalyptic world, and the idea is to hack up enemies with a sword while blocking projectiles from snipers above.

Most NES side-scrollers have some kind of gimmick, and in this case it's a shield which can be positioned at five angles. This adds some much-needed strategy, particularly against the bosses. The action starts in a run-down city but later moves on to jungles and caves. Although the game is fairly linear, you'll occasionally wander off the beaten path, by falling into a sewer for example.

Some enemies look like knights with maces, and there's a red guy who looks suspiciously like M. Bison of Street Fighter II fame. Since Capcom made both games, it might not be a coincidence. I did encounter some minor problems with the jumping controls and collision detection, but overall Trojan is still a good time. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 40,450
1 or 2 players 

Twin Cobra
Grade: B
Publisher: Sammy (1989)
Posted: 2020/4/8

screenshotRaw simplicity is what's appealing about this arcade-style vertical shooter. You're the pilot of a chopper armed to the hilt, strafing freeways, ports, and battleships while decimating tanks, cannons, and pontoons. The upbeat music, vibrant backgrounds, and responsive controls are right on point. There's some graphic break-up and occasional slow-down, but it's a small price to pay for this much action.

I like how the screen scrolls a little left and right, allowing you to focus on certain areas while avoiding danger zones. You can change weapons by grabbing colored icons and each can be powered up several degrees. Those floating icons are elusive as hell, dodging you like they didn't want to be collected.

My favorite weapon is the yellow shot because it's so unusual. Not only does it fire in four directions at once, but its shots slightly curve toward enemies. You collect bonus stars from battlefield ruins, cashing them in for points if you make it back in one piece.

The difficulty is moderate and landing on the ship at the end of each stage gives you a well-earned breather and a sense of accomplishment. Twin Cobra is at its best when you're using a good joystick with turbo control. Otherwise your hand is going to be pretty sore. Also of note is that Twin Cobra is missing its twin; this game is one-player only. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 226,490
1 player 

Twin Eagle
Grade: C-
Publisher: Romstar (1989)
Posted: 2001/1/1

screenshotTwin Eagle is just your average vertical-scrolling helicopter shooter. As you encounter enemies on the ground and in the air, they unleash missiles in the form of big, slow red dots. Your helicopter moves slowly, which is not all bad since dodging these missiles requires some precision. A few power-ups are available, but they don't boost your firepower dramatically. The best weapons are the smart bombs which effectively decimate all enemies on the screen. You'll want to save those for tight situations.

The scenery includes water, desert, and jungle, and an enemy fortress. In certain stages you can actually blast enemy strongholds to reveal hostages to rescue. Twin Eagle's graphics are plain and lack detail. Soldiers have huge heads, and the green ones look more like Martians. Instead of bosses, the end of each stage bombards you with high speed enemies. A limited number of continues are available. Twin Eagle is not a great one-player game, but the two player mode drastically increases the fun factor. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, NES Player, Moby Games, Universal Videogame List