Publisher: THQ (1998)
Set in an underwater world teeming with monstrous fish, this side-scrolling shooter boasts slick 3-D graphics and a two-player simultaneous option. G Darius is impressive to behold but chaotic to play. The number of objects on the screen is excessive at times, making it difficult to tell what the heck's going on. Capturing enemy craft is part of the game's strategy, but that just makes things more
cluttered and confusing. The game offers selectable branching stages, but you'll still need to replay the first stage every time, which gets old. G Darius isn't bad, but it has a certain disposable quality. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Galaga Destination Earth
Publisher: Hasbro (2001)
Okay, I think it's about time for someone to tell Hasbro to knock it off
with the 3D "updates" of classic games. I've been a Galaga fan since 1982, but I hate
Galaga Destination Earth! In the process of incorporating modern 3D graphics and fancy sound effects, Hasbro has inadvertently sucked every last bit of fun and excitement out of the franchise! This new Galaga is mission-based (yawn), which means having to sit through the endless obligatory CGI cut-scenes (Zzzz...). The first stage is much like the original shooter, except with some very mediocre 3D graphics. Unfortunately, this stage doesn't capture an ounce of the fun of the original. After that, you're off to a series of horrendous first-person stages with graphics so cluttered that you can't even tell what's going on. Other elements of the original Galaga, like the double-shot and challenge stages are included, but these are so poorly executed you'll wonder why they even bothered. With Galaga Destination Earth, Hasbro has taken a classic and watered it down with every boring modern game cliche known to mankind. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Gekioh: Shooting King
Publisher: Natsume (2002)
Rating: Everyone (violence)
Gekioh: Shooting King is a forgettable, low-budget shooter imported from Japan. Like most modern-day shooters, there's a heck of a lot happening on the screen at any given time. Still, Gekioh is more forgiving than most, limiting the number of projectiles and letting you retain your weapons upon losing a life. The multi-layered backgrounds are attractive but not spectacular, and enemies consist of planes, tanks, battleships, and large robo-warriors. Your weapons definitely pack some punch, and my favorite is the lightning bolt that moves from one target to the next. Also cool is how enemies go down in flames instead of exploding into nothing. Two-player simultanous play is supported. But easily the most interesting aspect of Gekioh is the extra modes. Mainly intended for laughs, these have little play value but are worth checking out nonetheless. There's the Pocket Mode, which presents the game in blocky black and white graphics like the original Game Boy. The Comical Mode features wacky sound effects and an irritating laugh track. The Slow Mode includes eerie music and sound effects. The Ancient Mode resembles an old black and white film, complete with distorted sound, a jumpy screen, and even an occasional hair in the frame! As you would imagine, these tend to be fun for the first few minutes, but have minimal replay value. The game has no options menu despite the urgent need for a screen adjustment option and a high score save feature. Fortunately you can switch off the unbearable vibrate function. All in all, Gekioh serves its purpose, but please don't ask me what that purpose would happen to be. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 910000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sony (1998)
When Gran Turismo first hit the scene, it knocked my socks off and set a new standard for realism in racing games. The graphics are remarkably lifelike, especially when viewed through the multi-angled replays. The cars almost look nearly photographic and the depth of gameplay is unprecedented. Over 140 actual car models are available, and they are customizable down to the smallest parts. Two thick manuals are included with the game, including one dedicated solely to driving techniques! Money is earned in races and used to purchase new cars and soup up the ones in your garage. Yes, this was the first time the "garage" concept was used, and it has been adopted by dozens of racing games since. I would sometimes take my car over my friend George's house (via memory card) to challenge his souped-up ride. Gran Turismo's play modes include tournament, two-player split screen, arcade, and time trial. The ten tracks are realistic but not very interesting. The rocking soundtrack features several licensed songs, including a track by my favorite band - Garbage. Gran Turismo was one of the first games to support vibration feedback, and it feels amazing as you roll over grass. Although the controls are supposed to be ultra-realistic, it's hard to steer rear-wheel drive cars in this game without fishtailing all over the place. Otherwise Gran Turismo is a landmark title for the Playstation that took the world of racing to a whole new level. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1999)
The first Gran Turismo set a bold new standard for realistic racing, and Gran Turismo 2 (GT2) effectively builds on that solid foundation. You'll find more cars, more options, better tracks, and even off-road rally racing! This may be the best racer ever released for the Playstation. The handling is improved substantially (especially with regards to rear-wheel drive cars), and the rally tracks provide some much-needed variety. The scenery is more exotic this time around, although there are some draw-in issues. GT2 comes on two CDs: One for ultra-realistic simulation, and one for pure arcade action. Both are jam-packed with unlockables. Like the first game, Garbage is featured on the soundtrack, but I was less thrilled to hear Rob Zombie's "Dragula", which seems to be in every
video game (enough already!). If you're looking for realistic racing on the Playstation, this is your game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Virgin (1997)
This obscure baseball title turned out better than I expected. Grand Slam is baseball without all the boring parts. The intro features an announcer yelling stuff like "alrighty then
" so you know this is going to be a little bit zany. Grand Slam has a Major League Baseball Players Association license but not the MLB. That means you get all the players but teams are only identified by cities and strange logos. It looks odd how in player photos the symbols were removed from their hats. I wonder how long it took some guy to do that? The game itself offers two pitcher-batter views. When batting you get a behind-the-batter view and when pitching you are behind-the-pitcher. Both work great. The players have a digitized appearance and seem to assume their real-life stances. The batting feels different than most baseball games. Instead of swinging ahead of the pitch, you need to hold back until the ball floats in. It's easy to hit once you get the timing down. The pitching controls are solid. You get a list of pitches to choose from and an inset window lets you view the catcher's signal. After choosing a pitch a two-press golf-style meter is used to throw. It's both quick and challenging. Once a ball is put in play the fielders chase down fly balls pretty much automatically. The commentator says goofy stuff like "Line drive! You could have hung your spring laundry on that one!" It's fun to whip the ball between the bases. Unlike real baseball, the players exhibit a sense of urgency, quickly scurrying back to the dugout after being called out. The only person not in a hurry is the announcer who tends to drag out each batter's name. "Now batting... Rooooobertooooo Alllllomar!" I guess they wanted to get their money's worth from that player association license. The semi-digitized stadiums are good approximations although they could be sharper. The pixelated crowds look awful. Overall I enjoyed playing Grand Slam. It's all the excitement of baseball but without the major time investment. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Rockstar (2001)
Rating: Mature (animated blood, strong language)
Grand Theft Auto (GTA) was controversial due to its criminal violence, blood, and profanity. It wasn't a best-seller however until Grand Theft Auto III
(Playstation 2, 2001) gave the series its third dimension. The crude, flat graphics of this game are a far cry from the virtual 3D world of GTA3. The overhead perspective doesn't always give you a good angle, since buildings and overpasses often block your view. The graphics aren't particularly good, with tiny people and pixelated scenery. The sound effects are amusing however, especially the "splat" of running over pedestrians. There's a car radio, but it doesn't play anything worth hearing. GTA's action is a mix of car driving and on-foot mayhem, and you receive mission instructions from pay phones across town. You'd be wise to carry out your dirty deeds without generating much commotion, because once the cops swarm they will drag your criminal-ass right out of your vehicle. A handy yellow arrow always points to your next destination, and it's absolutely necessary considering there's no map or radar display. As you can imagine, constantly following this arrow starts to feel tedious after a while. The missions are somewhat challenging, but that's mainly due to the controls. The directional pad controls your direction, but you need to hold down buttons
to run forward and backward, which is awkward to say the least. The driving is even worse. Not only does it seems like you're always turning in the wrong direction, but your car constantly gets stuck. It also doesn't help that the layout of the city is so poor. I've never seen roads that zig-zag through town (except that one in San Francisco), but in this game they're quite common. In light of the frustrating gameplay, the blood and profanity seem more silly and gratuitous than offensive. GTA2 was a slight improvement, but the series didn't grow teeth until its third installment. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atlus (1998)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Critics largely wrote off this fighter in 1998, mainly because it was a 2D game released at the height of the 3D fighter frenzy. Little did anyone know this series would actually prosper on the next
generation of systems. Guilty Gear conforms to the tried-and-true formula popularized by Street Fighter II, with basic attacks, special moves, and blocking by holding the joystick "away" from your opponent. Certain Guilty Gear characters tend to wield weapons, giving the game a Samurai Shodown
(Neo Geo, 1993) flavor. Despite its derivative mechanics, Guilty Gear's artistic style is all its own. The bizarre characters and unconventional backdrops tend to defy description. There's the hot blonde Milla with her killer hairdo (she will literally kill you with it), the heavy-metal inspired Axl, an anchor-swinging girl named May, and the hulking behemoth Potemkin. The imaginative locales include scenic palace courtyards, the wings of a flying plane, and mysterious occult sanctuaries. Guilty Gear's graphics are stylish but somewhat pixelated. Contests inexplicably commence with the words "Heaven or Hell!", and conclude with "Slash!". Players with an arcade-style joystick will love this game as they execute crazy, satisfying combos. Guilty Gear's gameplay is slower and less chaotic that most modern fighters, so you can actually tell what the hell is going on
. Guilty Gear has some interesting original features, like special moves listed on the load screens (great idea), health meters that "peel off" layers (not so great), and eye-popping "instant" kills (ouch!). I like how this game retains its original Japanese voice samples, but that grinding guitar background music has got to go. I was also disappointed that high scores and rankings are not
saved to memory card. Still, Guilty Gear is fun to play, and 2D die-hards will certainly want this in their collection. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Gunfighter: The Legend of Jesse James
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
In recent years light-gun games have been the exclusive domain of Namco and Sega, but this entry from UbiSoft is also worth a look. Gunfighter adopts a style of play like Time Crisis, where you constantly duck behind obstacles to take cover. Unfortunately, the action isn't quite as smooth, the graphics are rougher, and the control isn't as accurate. But Gunfighter has other things going for it. First of all, it supports any type of Playstation light-gun available. Also, this game has atmosphere, making you feel as if you've stepped into a western movie. Even the voice acting is good. The action is non-stop, and shooting certain destructible items reveal bonuses and power-ups. You even man a stationary gattling gun, allowing you to mow down bad guys by the dozen. The Gunfighter's one big misstep occurs at the beginning of the second level, where your partner is about to be hung. You only get one shot
to break the rope, and even with the best light gun, it's hard! You may find yourself blowing through your continues quickly at that point. It could have been better, Gunfighter is a rather pleasant surprise for light-gun fans, especially with its low price tag. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Gunners Heaven (Japan)
Publisher: Sony (1995)
This amazing 2D shooter was never released in the States because the overlords at Sony Corp Entertainment America (SCEA) initially banned 2D games for the original Playstation. I only recently discovered Gunners Heaven (aka Rapid Reload) through an old issue of Game Players magazine highlighting the Japanese PS1 launch. A rapid-fire, run-and-gun shooter, Gunners Heaven is the spiritual sequel to Gunstar Heroes
(Genesis, 1993). You select between two characters: Axel Sonic (?!) and Ruka Hetfield. Gunners Heaven truly lives up to its name with non-stop shooting that obliterates every soldier, cannon, and mech in sight. As with Gunstar, you can dangle off platforms, firing around in all directions. The over-the-top explosions reminded me of Metal Slug
(Neo Geo, 1994) but with no hint of slowdown. Your default weapon is so potent it seems downright gratuitous to power it up! You can toggle between other weapons on the fly and you'll discover uses for each one. The electricity gun is great when fighting two foes at once and the flamethrower is ideal for concentrated attacks. The level of destruction in this game is exhilarating but the generic stages feel more like an afterthought, with enemy clones attacking in the same repetitive patterns. Ascending upward is awkward because the controls make it difficult to jump and fire at the same time. But hey - you don't throw away a Cadillac just because it has a dent in it. Oversized bosses like a mechanical knight have digital health counters and it's fun to wear them down. You only get one life in this game and there's no save. You do however get endless continues. The game's upbeat soundtrack embodies that exuberant, feel-good spirit of the 90's. Playing Gunners Heaven is pure joy and it's a crime this was never released in the States. Note: This game only runs on a Japanese (or modded) PS1. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 158000
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2002)
The first Harry Potter game was a by-the-numbers affair buoyed by its low difficulty and brisk pacing. I was expecting more of the same from the Chamber of Secrets, but it's noticeably better. Locations are reused from the first game but the graphics are improved. The forests don't look nearly as fake and cool lighting effects makes the interior of the Hogwarts school look more grandiose. An orchestrated score plays throughout although it's very understated. The new autosave feature works like a charm, making the action flow a lot better. Like the first game, Chamber of Secrets doesn't follow the film except during its static cut-scenes. Your adventure begins in the area surrounding the Weasley country house where you'll engage in several mini-games including gnome-tossing and a wizard duel. Some of these mini-games are a lot of fun! I also enjoyed the harrowing flying car ride through a train tunnel with the Hogwarts Express bearing down on me. Certain missions pit you against strange adversaries like animated lawnmowers and possessed washing machines. The R1 button allows you to lock on during combat, but it feels erratic. When Harry casts his "Flipendo" spell it sounds like he's yelling "Nintendo!
" The puzzles are easy but don't always make sense. How does placing a boulder on a stump pop a lock off a gate?! Navigating the castle is confusing because door handles and padlocks look so similar! Bad design there! There are endless items to collect in this game including beans and wizard cards. When it comes to flying a broom, you now have the option of using reverse steering controls, which makes the quidditch stages much easier. It's like night and day really. My least favorite part of the game is when Ron gets sick and begins barfing all over the place. It actually made me feel ill! Despite that unpleasant bit, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is highly respectable, and once you start playing you may not want to stop. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2001)
Harry Potter video games had an amazing ten-year run, spanning three generations to culminate on the Xbox 360. This first entry looks primitive by comparison, with forests that look like hallways lined with green wallpaper. At least the game doesn't waste any time. The Sorcerer's Stone flashes a series of illustrations that gloss over Harry's origins before arriving at the Hogwarts school of magic. Once the action gets going there's rarely a lull. Harry can quickly scamper around the halls of Hogwarts and between-stage intermissions whisk him between locations. This game is ideal for people with short attention spans. The school is rendered with elegant textures but the rooms are sparse and lack atmosphere. Still, there are some nice touches like floating candles, living portraits, and random ghosts milling about. The character models are standard for the original Playstation, with faces mapped onto angular heads. The people look only vaguely like their movie counterparts but they do sound like them. It's cool to see underused characters like Nearly Headless Nick the ghost in key roles. The analog controls are responsive and I like the Zelda-style auto-jumps. The short missions don't really follow the film but Harry's main goal is still to elevate his Gryffindor gang over the evil house of Slytherin. There's a lot of fetching, racing, and lightweight combat. It's not hard to make progress, especially with locks literally falling off doors when you grab certain items. One thing I struggled with were the broomstick-flying stages which lack the option for reverse steering controls. How I managed to win that quidditch match I'll never know. The loading screens are brief but where is the music in this game? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone isn't a standout title but its easy-breezy gameplay is something you can knock out in an afternoon. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Hooters Road Trip
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes)
Hooters Road Trip is a mediocre racing game along the lines of Outrun, but it has one killer gimmick: Winners are treated to pictures and videos of Hooter girls! Yes, this is the only game I've played where the loading screens are more compelling than the game itself! These chicks are hot! The racing action is somewhat boring as you challenge other cars to race from city to city. The scenery is modest at best, but at least the framerate is smooth. Road Trip might have been half-way decent if not for the controls. The steering truly sucks, whether you use the analog stick or digital pad. Over-steering is the order of the day, causing your car to veer wildly around curves. It's even more frustrating when attempting to avoid oncoming traffic. You'll see a truck coming a mile away, yet will still
struggle to avoid hitting it head on. Fortunately, crashes only slow you down a bit, and it's easy to qualify for each race (finishing first is only slightly harder). Does seeing a video of four Hooter girls jumping around in bikinis make the marginal gameplay worthwhile? Well, if you're a guy the answer is probably yes
. But be forewarned: You will not
be playing this game for fun! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1998)
The Hot Shots Golf series is a Playstation institution
. Most golf games of the 90's strived for realism, but Hot Shots adopted a whimsical style with bright graphics and simple controls. The anime-style characters are cute and endearing, and the rolling green courses are extremely inviting. When the balls roll near the hole, the close-up shot is amazing.
Hot Shots uses a conventional three-press control scheme (popularized by EA's PGA Golf games), and it's quite responsive. Six courses are available, along with ten golfers, but you'll need to invest some time to unlock most of them. That's fine, because the action moves along at a steady clip, and the load times are minimal. Playing against a group of friends is always fun and competitive. The background music is pleasant, and the crisp sound effects include the "whoosh" of your swing and the "tink" of the ball falling in the cup. It's possible to cue applause and voice sound effects ("Hurry up", "Nice shot") by hitting buttons when you're opponent is up, and once your friends figure this out, they'll absolutely annoy the hell
out of you. Hot Shot Golf has aged well because its core gameplay is good as gold. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Hot Shots Golf 2
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Electronic Arts once had the market cornered on golf games, but their emphasis on realism made their games feel slow and tedious. This left the door open for the lighthearted, cartoonish Hot Shots Golf, which dominated the market with its friendly, easy-to-play style. Hot Shots 2 is great looking sequel, offering the same pick-up-and-play action with new characters and courses. The golfers are strictly caricatures, but many of the new characters (like the fat bald guy) are freakish and unlikeable. The courses and physics however are quite realistic, making this game appeal to hardcore golfers and casual gamers alike. It's hard to tell the difference between Hot Shots 1 and 2 at a glance, but close examination reveals a few new bells and whistles. New visuals include amazing close-ups that reveal the ball's dimples and logo as it rotates in the air. The new camera angle of the golfer reaching into the cup to pick up his ball looks incredible. If Hot Shots 2 has a flaw, it lies in its irritating audio effects. They really went overboard with the wind sounds, and some idiot yells "C'mon hurry up!" every ten seconds. Also, some of the Japanese-translated dialogue doesn't come across very well ("You are decent!"). I also have to take issue with the "fold-up" manual, which is difficult to open and reference. Who's idea was that
anyway?? All in all, this is another great Hot Shots game, but it's a questionable upgrade if you already own the first one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
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