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.
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.
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.