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

Playstation Reviews E

ESPN Extreme Games
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (1995)
Posted: 2014/11/29
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotThis was one of the very first Playstation games I purchased, and to this day it's one of my all-time favorites. Whether played solo or split-screen, ESPN Extreme Games really lives up to its name. You race on bikes, skateboards, skates, and luge sleds through scenic locations like San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Italy, and Utah. The action moves at a breakneck pace and the sense of speed is sensational. You can use kicks and punches to knock opponents to the curb, and there's nothing more satisfying than the sound of a skateboarder hitting the asphalt at high speed.

In recent years I had acquired the repackaged version of this game called 1Xtreme (989 Studios, 1998), yet I sensed something was missing. One day I finished the game and noticed an empty monitor on the screen. It then dawned on me that the original game had video clips! I then tracked down an original copy in the "long box" format so I could once again experience Extreme Games as it was meant to be.

The game opens with an obligatory intro video showcasing "extreme" stunts. Before and after each race some hip commentator provides information about the course and grades your performance. It's really not that big of a deal, but I like it. Live video was one of the hallmarks of the early Playstation titles, and it's something you rarely see anymore. I prefer this over 1Xtreme, not just because of the video content, but also because the title is a lot less stupid! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 player 

Easter Bunny's Big Day
Grade: D
Publisher: Mastiff (2003)
Posted: 2023/3/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThere aren't many Easter games out there, so naturally I had to review this. I tend to gravitate towards unusual, one-off titles no matter how awful they may be. Technically, Easter Bunny's Big Day is not terrible, but its complete lack of imagination is disappointing.

For the title screen I was expecting some classic Easter music to get me in the spirit, not some happy-go-lucky banjo diddy. Was the Peter Cottontail song not available? Surely Easter Parade has to be in public domain by now! Oh well, the game's music is pleasant enough and the game sports a lot of bright spring colors.

The premise is a bit odd. The idea that the Easter Bunny needs to find more eggs for his "big day" is believable enough, but was it necessary for him to enlist some egg-shaped robo-rabbit to do all the work? I guess that round thing was easier to animate than a lanky white bunny.

In "big adventure" mode you move between buildings of a town, each of which offers a set of mini-games. There's an egg-catching "action" game a la Kaboom! (Atari 2600, 1982), but with only one or two flying through the air at a time, it's not very egg-citing. I had a better time with the memory games, which play like a glorified Memory Match (Fairchild Channel F, 1978).

But the crux of Easter Bunny's Big Day is... wait for it... jigsaw puzzles. Don't get me wrong - I don't mind doing these on occasion, and the user interface for putting them together is great. It's easy to select the pieces and I love how they "click" into place. In the expert mode, a puzzle may contain up to 64 rotatable pieces. I prefer the easier puzzles, most of which reveal an artistic scene like an egg sitting in front of a city skyline. Some scenes are even animated.

Once jigsaw fatigue begins setting in however the game really doesn't have much else to offer. You'd think they could have whipped up a few simple, original mini-games to break the monotony. Easter Bunny's Big Day was obviously geared toward youngsters, who may find the idea of collecting all of the eggs rewarding. If you're a jigsaw puzzle fan (everybody needs a hobby) you might enjoy this. Otherwise you're better off investing your money in Peeps and Cadbury Eggs. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Echo Night
Grade: B-
Publisher: Agetec (1999)
Posted: 2013/11/4
Rating: Teen (animated blood, mild language)

screenshotI enjoy survival horror but this obscure title had slipped under my radar until a reader brought it to my attention. Echo Night is a slow-moving but intelligently designed adventure in which you play a character investigating the disappearance of his father. Most of the action takes place on an ominous ship at sea, where you'll communicate with ghosts, scour for clues, and solve puzzles to put restless souls at peace.

The rooms and hallways tend to be very dark, so you'll always want to look for a light switch (which keeps evil ghosts at bay). Echo Night generates a lot of suspense with its deliberate pacing and foreboding atmosphere. The scenery looks pretty remarkable thanks to its rich textures and excellent lighting effects. The characters tend to be stiff with distorted faces, but this makes them all the more creepy. Most of the action involves exploration and manipulating items to solve puzzles.

You play from a first-person perspective, which can be disconcerting in close quarters, conveying a sense of claustrophobia. The controls are digital only and they feel stiff. The button configuration takes some getting used to, as the left shoulder buttons look up and down and the right ones are used to strafe. Echo Night's narrative is a little hard to follow. Some of the awkward dialogue and bizarre cut-scenes don't make much sense, but that might be a translation problem.

Flashback scenes take you to brighter, less scary locations which attempt to fill in holes in the story. Is Echo Night scary? Yes! I freaked out when I saw that floating girl in the hallway, and whenever I heard her giggle my blood ran cold. The vibration feedback and stereo effects will also give you a jolt. Slow-building but effective, Echo Night is a cinematic horror title that will keep you on the edge of your seat. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Squaresoft (1998)
Posted: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotRendered in graphically stunning 3D, Einhander ushered side-scrolling shooters into a new age. Its layered backdrops, swinging camera angles, huge adversaries, and realistic explosions make Einhander a feast for the eyes. There are several weapons available which you can aim on the fly. Einhander is fun, but you must always begin on stage one, and reaching the later stages is difficult and time-consuming. Also, since your ship is large and the bosses are huge, there's rarely enough room on the screen to maneuver around. It might not be a classic, but many fans of the shooting genre consider this an old favorite. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Elemental Gearbolt
Grade: A-

screenshotI had a habit of picking up obscure titles in the late 1990's, some of which turned out to be valuable collector's items. Buying Elemental Gearbolt was one of the best things I ever did. This elegant light gun title was published by Working Designs, a company that specialized in Japanese game translations. Its impressive packaging includes a double-wide CD case and thick instruction book. This has got to be the best CD-sized manual I've ever seen. Printed on quality stock with a metallic cover, its 48 pages contain beautiful artwork, extensive background information, and even an interview with the game's art director. This is the kind of physical media you're proud to own.

Gearbolt's anime intro and intermissions are first-rate, setting up a dramatic storyline with a lush orchestrated score. The game itself is played from a first-person view where your movements are automatic. The fact that Namco's super-accurate Guncon is supported is key, as you'll be expected to hit some very distant targets. The graphics are breathtaking as you're whisked through townships, forests, and across shimmering lakes. The chunky textures are compensated for by the artistry of the graphics and a silky smooth framerate.

The pacing is nearly perfect. Your rate of fire is slow and deliberate, forcing you to carefully choose your targets. The good news is there's no need to reload. You'll aim at giant dragonflies, leaping lobsters, and hulking guards with hammers. Hitting consecutive targets racks up your combo meter, adding a risk/reward element. Do you go for that gem in the distance, or play it safe to preserve your combo? It almost becomes a game within a game. You can toggle between three elemental weapons but the "fire" shotgun is all you need.

The game is very easy to play. Rotating wireframes highlight monsters about to attack, and your shots are represented by large bright orbs. Between stages you're presented with a trade-off screen that lets you sacrifice bonus points for more power. It's not an all-or-nothing decision; you can adjust the percentage. Ranking in the top three gives you the honor of carving your initials into a stone. I was really blown away when I saw that cursive "D" I inscribed more than 20 years ago!

The attention to detail makes other light gun shooters feel like carnival games. The one downside to Elemental Gearbolt is that it's a very linear experience that's always the same. But it is an experience, and when you take into account the pinpoint controls, rich artistry, and thoughtful design, this may be the best light gun game ever made. NOTE: Light guns only function on old-style CRT televisions. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Moby Games, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Rotten Tomatoes, GameFAQs.com, Playstation Museum, YouTube, Video Games Museum, Game Fabrique, Super Adventures in Gaming