Publisher: 989 Studios (1998)
Rating: Everyone (realistic violence)
As one of my very first Playstation purchases, this game (originally known as ESPN Extreme Games) was a hit with my friends and still remains a personal favorite of mine. 1Xtreme lets you rollerblade, skateboard, bike, or luge through exotic locations around the globe. This game has aged well, partly due to its distinctive visual style. Unlike most PS1 games that use polygon graphics exclusively, the developers used old-fashioned sprites to render the racers and obstacles. These objects might look pixelated up close, but they look pretty sharp from medium range. 1Xtreme effectively conveys the high-speed, reckless thrills associated with extreme sports. You'll battle it out against 15 CPU-controlled opponents, and the ability to kick and punch gives the action a Road Rash
(Genesis, 1992) flavor. The hilarious animations of racers wiping out are complemented by crisp sound effects. Few things in life are quite as satisfying as kicking a defenseless luger to the curb! When you get knocked down, you can almost feel the burn while sliding across the asphalt. It's exhilarating to catch air, especially when you clear a moving trolley or train. Navigating the hazard-lined streets is tricky, but clipping a barrel will just spin you around instead of stopping you cold. I love how CPU players also suffer their share of mishaps, like running straight into a pole! Passing through colored gates rewards you with points, money, and the unlocking of alternate routes. I love the ability to duck or jump, but I always get those two buttons confused! 1Xtreme is fun, but its bright, imaginative stages nearly steal the show. The office buildings on the rolling streets of San Francisco look gorgeous
, and I love how the Golden Gate Bridge looms at the end of the race. The South America location features pyramids, lush jungle, and suspension bridges. Lake Tahoe features quaint wooden lodges and a reflective lake. Rounding out the locations are Utah and Italy. The split-screen framerate is very good despite including all the CPU competitors. 1Xtreme's menu system is clunky, but I love those big fat televisions on the option screens. So what's not to like? Well, the strength meter seems unnecessary and I'm not crazy about running over rabbits for bonuses. The game exhibits extreme rubberband AI with opponents that tend to sling-shot past you, and it's hard to crack the top 10 in a given race. 1Extreme isn't perfect, but it's still a one-of-a-kind title that I never get tired of playing. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults
I learned a valuable life lesson from 2Xtreme. I had loved 1Xtreme (aka ESPN Extreme Games) but sold the game back expecting this sequel would trump it in every conceivable way. What a naive child I was! 2Xtreme turned out to be a monumental disappointment! I was disgusted at the time, and I'm still
mad! The basic gameplay is the same as 1Xtreme, but you have fewer options. Instead of selecting your mode of transportation, you're limited to using a snowboard in Japan, in-line skates in Las Vegas, a mountain bike in Africa, and a skateboard in Los Angeles. Not only are there fewer locations (four instead of five), but the stages are far less impressive. What the [expletive] happened to the graphics? Everything is rendered in super-low resolution, making characters and obstacles appear insanely pixelated. The lack of detail in the scenery makes the locations look terribly fake. The slopes in Japan look angular and the jungles of Africa look like green tunnels. The Las Vegas strip looks dim and Los Angeles is just plain ugly
. I was looking forward to the night stages, but they're just the normal LA stages with the brightness turned down! Where are the [expletive] lights!?
The layouts are so repetitive you may as well be doing laps! In terms of gameplay, your speed and ability to catch air is increased. Unfortunately this takes its toll on the controls, and your character looks like an idiot when he catches air and starts flapping his arms
(like that's going to help). The lower shoulder buttons are used to activate power-ups, and these are meant to add strategy but really aren't that effective. The fighting element is rendered pointless due to the rough animation and poor collision detection. 2Xtreme is an extremely sloppy effort that signalled the beginning of the end for a once-promising series. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1999)
1Xtreme (aka ESPN Extreme Games) was terrific, but its sequel was a complete bust. In fact, 2Xtreme left such a bad taste in my mouth that it took 15 years
for me to even attempt
3Xtreme! To its credit, the developers started from scratch, delivering a game with an entirely new look and feel. The live-action intro video shows guys doing random stunts, and some of the wipe-outs made my stomach hurt. 3Xtreme eschews exotic locations in favor of realistic stages set around the Los Angeles area, featuring sea shores, parks, and dry river canals. Characters and obstacles are now rendered with polygons instead of sprites. The characters don't look bad from behind, but they look like zombies from any other angle. I dig the idea of realistic stages, but couldn't they have used less-pixelated background images? That blocky night skyline would look right at home in an Atari 2600 game! There's no reason why digitized photographs couldn't have been used instead. There's not much in the way of scenery. In the park stage you ride through the zoo, yet there are no animals - or anything else for that matter. The new control scheme lets you perform sharper turns by holding the pad diagonally down. This gives you more precision turning but it's not very comfortable, and there's no analog option! One area where 3Xtreme excels is the performing of tricks. The ease in which you can grind rails and flip off ramps would make Tony Hawk proud. Unfortunately the elements that made the original game so much fun are all but gone. Instead of competing against a crowd of opponents, there are only six competitors and you rarely even see them. You are now limited to skateboards, bikes, and in-line skates. The sensation of speed is minimal, and the new steering controls tend to cramp my hand. The menu interface is so poor that it takes a dozen steps just to save your progress. I'll give 3Xtreme credit for trying to "keep it real", but this lukewarm effort wasn't going to save the franchise from its tailspin. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1996)
Rating: Teen 13+ (animated violence)
The first game in this series was called Air Combat
(Namco, 1995), but apparently Namco thought "Ace Combat" sounded better. Each mission begins with the war room scene where you're presented with a series of official-looking briefings. Once in the air Ace Combat 2 delivers a sense of exhilarating freedom. The ability to use analog controls makes all the difference in the world. You still can't bank more than 45 degrees at a time, but the frame rate is smooth and it's easier to track your targets. A short-range radar display is visible at all times, and you can pull up the long-range radar at the touch of a button. The ugly hazy scenery of the first game has been replaced with sharp, clear scenery including realistic city skylines and snow-capped mountains. During one mission I had to make runs on an aircraft carrier in a bay, weaving around skyscrapers while taking ground fire. It was awesome. In another I had to traverse a narrow gorge, reminiscent of Afterburner
(Sega 32X, 1995). The missions tend to be diverse, short, and sweet. Some give you the option of a support plane. I found the "map replay" of your mission to be a brilliant idea. After completing one mission I was ready to dive into the next. So if you're wondering when this series started to get fun it was with Ace Combat 2. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Activision Classics For the Atari 2600
Publisher: Activision (1998)
This disk contains 30 old Atari 2600 games, including many legitimate classics like Pitfall, River Raid, and Kaboom. Most of the games look and play exactly like the originals, which is a good thing. Although the graphics are primitive, their timeless gameplay is surprisingly fun and addicting. It's a shame this package is spoiled by such a bloated, ill-conceived user interface. Loading and switching between games is an incredibly slow process, which is inexcusable considering how tiny these games are code-wise. Like most Atari 2600 games, most of these contain several variations that affect the skill level, number of players, and other options. On the Atari 2600, you could just flip a switch to change the variation, but Activision Classics forces you to exit completely and reload the game in order to change anything! Kaboom, one of the best games Activision ever released, was designed for use with analog paddle controls, and the digital control is a poor substitute. Why aren't the analog sticks supported?! Finally, there is no way to save high scores, although you can save a game in progress. Considering the games are short and the whole object is to beat your high score, that makes no sense at all. Did the developer even bother playing
any of these games? All in all, there are plenty of great titles here, but this package doesn't give them the treatment they deserve. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This early Playstation title showcased realistic dogfighting action with actual jet planes in realistic scenarios. While impressive for its time, Air Combat's graphics have not held up particularly well. The angular aircraft have a "paper airplane" quality and the islands below look like pixelated blobs swimming in a vat of pea soup. So how does Air Combat play? Good question, considering the manual doesn't bother to explain the controls. You do however get that obligatory page telling you where the X button is (the one with the X on it) and the circle button (oh that's the one with the circle on it). Fortunately the first mission was easy enough for me to figure things out for myself more or less. Like subsequent Ace Combat games (note they changed the name) you begin in the air and automatically lock-on to enemies in range. Then it's just a matter of hitting your fire button and letting the heat-seeking missile do its work. The only thing better looking than that trail of gray plume is a red explosion at the end of it. Your guns occasionally come in handy, like the time I found myself trailing a bomber by about ten feet. The fact that I could maintain that small distance is indicative of the game's arcade style. Still, the controls feel constrained. You can adjust your speed and altitude but releasing the controls will automatically level you out and revert to the normal speed. You can only bank 45 degrees and the digital pad is murder on your thumb. The hazy horizon makes it very easy to become disoriented. You can purchase new planes between missions, but once I finished a mission I was just glad to get it over with. Air Combat may have been fun at some point, but now it feels more like work. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
This intense first-person shooter will definitely appeal to fans of the Alien movies. Yes, it's your typical Doom-style shooter, but its dark, ominous atmosphere is remarkable. Dark corridors, dramatic music, and spine-tingling sound effects will keep you on the edge of your seat. There are plenty of interesting missions to complete, and the controls are excellent. Unfortunately, the game falters a bit when it comes to the aliens themselves. The face-grabbers look terrific as they scamper across the floor, but when they grab your face, the pixelation is horrendous. The normal aliens are also pixilated and flat, and never seem to come within five feet, even when they attack. It's not perfect, but if Alien Trilogy wants to make you feel like you're in one of the Alien films, it succeeds in a big way. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Arcade Party Pak
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)
I wouldn't characterize any of the old arcade games included here as "classic", but a few were quite popular in the late 80's and early 90's. This collection includes Smash TV, Rampage, Super Sprint, Klax, 720 Degrees, and Toobin'. Smash TV is easily the best, as you move from room to room furiously blasting enemies that converge from all sides. The game reminded me of Robotron, so I wasn't surprised to learn it was created by the same guy, Eugene Jarvis. Smash TV is also reminiscent of the movie "The Running Man", and it contains a surprising amount of blood and gore. It's shape-changing, oversized bosses seem obligatory now, but they were quite innovative in 1990. Rampage was another popular title which lets up to three gargantuan monsters tear down city skylines. I've never been a fan of this repetitive game, but it did spawn many sequels. The next game is an Indy 500 update called Super Sprint, where up to four players whiz around screen-sized tracks with ramps and banked turns. Klax is a solid Tetris-type game, and 720 Degrees is a skateboarding game with fuzzy graphics and a style reminiscent of Paperboy. In the slow-paced Toobin', you guide a fat guy down a stream on an inner tube while avoiding obstacles and passing through gates. There's entirely too much button pressing in this one. Arcade Party Pack also features interesting interviews with the game makers, and allows you to customize the game options. The dual-analog controller and multi-tap are supported. This isn't a "must have" compilation, but arcade fans will appreciate it. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults (mild violence)
This fantastic six-pack of arcade classics contains Asteroids, Battlezone, Tempest, Centipede, Missile Command, and Super Breakout. These are the exact same versions of the games you played in the arcade, and yes, they are just as addictive as you remember. Missile Command and Centipede are two of the best video games of all time, but you'll probably miss their roller-ball controls. The vector graphics in Asteroids, Battlezone, and Tempest look razor sharp, but only if you have an S-Video cable. I found Super Breakout and Battlezone to be somewhat awkward to control. As a nice bonus, you can also modify games settings including the difficulty and number of lives. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Midway Collection 2
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Rating: Kids to Adults (mild violence)
This fine collection of seven arcade hits includes Joust 2, Splat, Blaster, Moon Patrol, Tapper, Burgertime, and Spy Hunter. First the good stuff: Moon Patrol, Tapper, and Burgertime are extremely addicting and true video game classics. Spy Hunter is a terrific game, but suffers from control problems. Joust 2 is an interesting, rarely-seen sequel to the classic game, but although it offers more sophisticated graphics and gameplay, it falls short in the fun department. Splat and Blaster are two previously unreleased games, but they're mildly entertaining at best. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 2
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Rating: Kids to Adults (mild violence)
Here's yet another great collection of classic arcade titles. This edition includes Paperboy, Gauntlet, Roadblasters, Crystal Castles, Marble Madness, and Millipede. Millipede is crazy fun, and Marble Madness is an absolute blast with two players. Gauntlet is an old favorite, but the unlimited continues undermine the challenge, and the four player mode is not nearly as fun as I remembered. Paperboy is an excellent game, but for some reason its graphics didn't translate well and appear very blurry. Crystal Castles really requires a track-ball for proper control; even the analog control feels imprecise. The final game, Roadblasters, is the weakest of the bunch. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Williams
Publisher: Williams (1996)
Rating: Kids to adults (mild violence)
This arcade six-pack is an absolute "must have" for everyone who grew up in the early 80's and spent time hanging out at the arcade in the local bowling alley or 7-11. There are some top notch titles here: Robotron, Defender, Defender II, Joust, Sinistar, and Bubbles. Robotron is one of the most intense, addicting shooters of all time. Defender and Defender II are extremely tough but keep you coming back for more. Joust is known for its excellent two-player simultaneous play, which can be either cooperative or competitive. I had never even heard of Bubbles before, but this bizarre game won me over in a big way. As you guide a bubble around the sink, he grows as he collects other bubbles, but must avoid bugs and razors. Sinistar is pretty lame, but has the distinction of being the first video game to feature voice synthesis! As icing on the cake, this package includes fascinating and sometime hilarious interviews with the original programmers. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1995)
Rating: Mature (realistic violence)
Here's an engaging light gun game with realistic, full-motion video graphics. You view the action from a first-person perspective as you move automatically through Area 51, allowing you to concentrate on your precision shooting. Grotesque aliens pop up behind everything, but you can also destroy windows, barrels, and other objects. Just be careful not to shoot the good guys in blue! Shooting a specific set of objects will occasionally reveal a bonus level. Area 51 is fun for one player, but the two-player simultaneous action is even better. There's also a nice option that lets you start the game halfway though. Unfortunately, since Area 51 is an older game, it does not
support Namco's Guncon controller. For similar shooting action, see Maximum Force. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 3DO (1997)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Army Men's hilarious video introduction looks like a vintage newsreel, complete with cheesy music and grainy footage. The narrator describes the battle between the "green" and "tan" armies. Army Men 3D doesn't take itself very seriously, and thank goodness for that! You control a single plastic army man who tends to pose like the plastic figures you played with as a kid. Excellent control lets you fall to the ground, crawl on your stomach, and even roll. Your weaponry includes machine guns, bazookas, grenades, mines, and flamethrowers. Most of the time your choice weapon will be dictated by the situation. For example, if one enemy is running across the screen, you'll want to use the machine gun, but if three troops hiding in a bunker, tossing a grenade is the best option. You can even commandeer vehicles like jeeps and tanks! A radar display in the lower corner of the screen alerts you to enemy presence. The battlefields try to recreate WWII settings, but the graphics are pixilated and fairly sloppy. You can either embark on a series of solo missions, or face-off against a second player on a split-screen. The two-player mode isn't so hot, but the one-player missions are well-designed and worth the price of admission. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Army Men Air Attack
Publisher: 3DO (1999)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
This Army Man sequel places you in a toy helicopter, blasting away at the "tan army" in a backyard environment. Various missions have you transporting supplies, escorting toy trains, and picking up ground troops. It's not a particularly impressive-looking game, but blowing little plastic men to bits does have its charm. The graphics are okay, and the control is pretty good too. You can strafe your helicopter and easily lower a rope to pick up supplies. There are all kinds of weapons including homing missiles, napalm, and swarm rockets. Air Attack game reminds me of a whimsical version of Desert Strike, but it does get a bit repetitious. At least there's a nice two-player split screen mode that lets you and a buddy compete or cooperate together. There's nothing wrong with Air Attack, but it's nothing special either. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1998)
Activision did fair job of updating the graphics of this classic game, but its gameplay is actually much less fun
than the original. This game's main assets are its dark but attractive graphics and explosive sound effects. Despite its thunderous asteroid blasts, shooting of missiles still uses that old "choon choon" sound effect. New elements include different types of asteroids and UFOs, as well as the inclusion of power-ups. Regular asteroids rotate smoothly and break apart nicely, but the regenerating crystal asteroids are a serious pain in the ass! You can never seem to get rid
of those damn things! This updated Asteroids is much easier that the original and not nearly as addictive. The load times are reasonable, but the two-player mode is completely worthless due to its unfair scoring system. The original version of Asteroids is also included, if only to illustrate how hard it is to improve on perfection. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Atari Anniversary Edition Redux
Publisher: Infogrames (2001)
This collection of Atari arcade games from the early 80's is an improvement over the Dreamcast (DC) version, released a few months prior. The twelve arcade-perfect titles include Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Black Widow, Centipede, Gravitar, Missile Command, Pong, Space Duel, Super Breakout, Tempest, and Warlords. That's one heck of a lineup, despite the fact that Crystal Castles and Millipede are missing (they both appeared on the DC version). That's okay, because these have been replaced by two other games: Space Duel and Black Widow. Space Duel is a long-forgotten Asteroids-style shooter where you can control two ships tethered together
. I remember playing this in the dark, cramped game room at my local 7-11 about 20 years ago. When played cooperatively with a friend, it's outrageously fun. Another long-lost gem is Black Widow, which I had previously never even heard of! It's an excellent twitch shooter with gameplay similar to Robotron. All the games on this disk are fully customizable, and even feature an option for "arcade trim" graphics. You'll probably want to forgo those however in order to maximize the size of your game screen. Atari Anniversary provides mouse support, and I was even able to dust off my old Nyko track-ball, which also works great. You can even save your high scores and game configurations. There are no new bonus materials, but there's a lot of entertainment value and fond memories packed into this collection. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Austin Powers Pinball
Publisher: Global Star Software (2002)
Rating: Teen (comic mischief, mild language, suggestive themes)
This little $9.99 pinball game is okay, but it's not quite evil
enough. It's the Diet Coke of evil, and its Austin Powers license is largely squandered on boring tables and generic gameplay. The digitized sounds and graphics are mildly amusing but serve as mere window dressing. You'd at least think the music would be good, but the droning 1960's elevator music is so weak you'll barely notice it. Despite the lackluster presentation, the flippers are large and the control is right on. I had a good time challenging my friend Steve, although he thinks luck plays a huge role in this game (no way!). The game comes with two complete tables, and you can save your high scores. The user interface is needlessly confusing, and it took me a while just to figure out how to set up a two-player game. With its low production values nad uninspired design, Austin Power Pinball's main purpose seems to be to cash in on the films. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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