Publisher: Namco (1995)
I remember people being mesmerized
by this at my first housewarming party. My wife's friend Julie, who doesn't normally take notice of video games, mentioned how she couldn't take her eyes off the screen because it looked like a movie
! With lifelike fighters and cinematic camera angles, Tekken elevated fighting games (and video games in general) to a whole new level. Not only do the character movements appear smooth and natural, but texture mapping adds a layer of realism to their skin and clothes. Tekken's control scheme is surprisingly simple, with punch and kick buttons that map to each arm and leg. Combinations of buttons are used to execute holds and throws. Once initiated, these moves are played out automatically via a series of maneuvers that typically culminate with a nasty "crunching" finale. Dramatic camera angles make the game as fun to watch as it is to play, and the slow-motion replays are fun to watch. Tekken's two-player versus mode is the main event, but there's also a single-player mode that lets you to unlock hidden characters and view each fighter's full-motion-video ending. For once, these endings are actually worth watching!
Although only released a few months after the popular Battle Arena Toshinden, Tekken beats that game in a Pepsi challenge hands-down. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1996)
This sequel to the premiere Playstation fighter offers many more characters, deeper gameplay, faster action, and buckets of extra features. Unfortunately, in order to accommodate these enhancements, the graphics have been noticeably downgraded!
In fact, these fighters look downright blocky
compared to the first Tekken. Not only are there less polygons, but there's less use of textures as well. King in particular looks pretty bad. Tekken 2's 3D fighting action still delivers the goods however, with smooth action that's noticeably faster. T2's underlying gameplay is beyond reproach, but it's a shame they had to compromise the graphics. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1998)
Tekken's third installment effectively combines the rich graphics of the original Tekken with the deep gameplay of Tekken 2. This is regarded by many to be the ultimate fighting game for the Playstation. The Brazilian Capoeira is a great new addition, and his fluid "dance" moves are amazing. Those who played through the first two are probably getting tired of Tekken by now, but this is as good as it gets. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Interplay (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
(Jaguar, 1994) took the vector-shooting goodness of the 1982 arcade classic and gave it a makeover with flashy visuals, dazzling power-ups, and a pumping techno soundtrack. The result was a feast for the senses, and it would have been a runaway hit had anyone been paying attention. With the release of Tempest X3 the game got a new lease on life, reprising the pulse-pounding shooting action for the Playstation masses. Gameplay involves moving a claw-shaped cannon around 3D geometric shapes, firing rapidly at creatures scaling in from the distance. The particle effects are amazing and there's so much razzle-dazzle it occasionally obstructs your view. Half the time you can't even tell how you lost a life! Tempest X3 differs slightly from the Jaguar original. The polygon panels are not solid but have some kind of swirling oil-slick pattern. A new power-up called the "Megadroid" is a juiced-up version of the AI droid, providing a powerful temporary ally. The green spikes that were a non-factor in the Jaguar game pose much more danger here. Tempest X3 begs for analog control but the game was released before Playstation controllers were outfitted with that option. The digital pad doesn't feel right, so on hunch I pulled out my old Nyko Trackball controller out of the closet. It works like a charm!
I suspect this device was designed for Tempest X3 because the control is so smooth and precise! Bump up the grade by one letter if you own one of these controllers. Tempest X3 includes all the modes from Tempest 2000, but the traditional mode looks tiny for some reason. I like the high score screen but wish it was broken out by mode. All things considered Tempest X3 is a strong title for those who crave "twitch" games. My friends joked that since the Playstation stole its best game, there's no reason left to ever own a Jaguar. I think
they were joking. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: ASC Games (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Ten Pin Alley is perfectly respectable for a bowling title, but its goofy graphics may turn off some gamers. You can choose between three sets of lanes, and they all look pretty slick, especially the neon "Congo" bowl. Your selection of bowlers is less impressive - mainly limited to unattractive nerds. Where are the babes?? Ten Pin Alley employs three meters (similar to many golf games) to control curve, speed, and accuracy. I love how the ball rumbles down the lane, and the background chatter of people makes you feel like you're in a real bowling alley. The physics and sound effects of the ball hitting the pins is exceptionally realistic. Numerous options allow you to adjust minor details like ball weight, lane slickness, and background music. There's even a brief promo video for the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis. Up to six players can takes turns in Ten Pin Alley. I really thought my friends would have a blast with this, but they weren't patient enough to sit through a whole game, so maybe this isn't as fun as I first thought. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Publisher: Activision (1998)
Being a big ninja fan a lot of readers have recommended the Tenchu series, claiming it provides the most realistic ninja experience. As I've always suspected, realism is vastly overrated. In Tenchu: Stealth Assassins you are a ninja named Ric Maru who looks a lot like Darth Maul. You embark on a series of missions with objectives like punishing an evil merchant or delivering secret plans. Prior to each you stock up on supplies like smoke bombs, grenades, mines, and poison rice. I prefer to stock up on throwing stars and health packs, as they are more conducive to my "aggressive" ninja style. I hate how the game won't let you reuse items you used during the previous game. You actually need to reboot
just to get a full selection of stuff! Tenchu's stages take place in fenced compounds that are annoyingly dark. The idea is to creep over rooftops and down dark alleys unseen, but that's easier said than done. It's hard as hell
to spot enemies, yet quite easy for them to detect you!
At first I thought evasion was an option, but you're actually required to kill a certain number of enemies. You don't have to do it in a stealth manner, but it's a heck of a lot better for your health if you do! For some reason I always end up in sword fights. Button-mashing lets you dish out some potent attacks, providing you can keep your target in front of you. When you deal a fatal blow the display of blood is crazy. Not only does it shoot out like a geyser, but it runs down the nearest wall! My main problem with Tenchu is its clunky controls. The lack of analog support (!) makes it hard to move with precision. Holding O puts you in stealth mode, but then you move like a snail
which is no fun at all! The aiming controls are haphazard, often pointing to the sky by default. I feel bad about all the dogs I killed in Tenchu. Maybe being a real ninja isn't all it's cracked up to be. I think I'll keep my day job. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Jaleco (1996)
Tetris is a classic puzzle game that's widely considered to be one of the great video games of all time, if not the
greatest. Despite its simple, blocky graphics, the gameplay is remarkably addicting. It's tough to screw up Tetis, but Jaleco came close with this ill-advised version. For one thing, the graphics couldn't possibly be more boring and plain. Next, the two-player mode allows for simultaneous play, but the computer doesn't bother to keep track of wins! Additional modes include puzzle and edit modes, but these don't add much play value. If you want Tetris on your Playstation, this will suffice, but just barely. Jaleco should be ashamed of themselves for not doing more with this valuable license. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
If you've played this then you probably hate it. The Lost World: Jurassic Park falters badly despite its top-notch graphics and sound. The smoothly-animated 3D dinosaurs look fantastic, with hulking Brachiosauruses that consume the entire screen. The 2D platform jumping action is complemented by 3D jungle backgrounds that allow the camera to rotate around the action. The audio boasts natural background noises and nicely orchestrated background music. So why did The Lost World have to be so [expletive] difficult and frustrating!? Didn't anybody bother to play-test
this thing? Depending on the stage you'll control a small scampering dinosaur called a small "compy", a vicious raptor, a rampaging T-Rex, or a human. The early levels emphasize precision platform jumping but the control is lacking. When touched by one of your numerous adversaries control goes out the window altogether. In addition, some of the branching paths make you feel like you're moving in circles. You'll use every bad word in your vocabulary before reaching the highly-anticipated human and T-Rex stages. You'd think controlling a T-Rex would be awesome but the novelty wears off quickly once you eat a few people. Lost World may have spared no expense in terms of presentation, but playing the game feels more like an ordeal
. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
The Lost World: Jurassic Park Special Edition
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
This box of Lost World: Jurassic Park Special Edition boasts of a new T-Rex level, mid-level checkpoints, and "stronger and longer lives". Clearly this Greatest Hits re-release was trying to atone for the sins of the original. The new opening stage features a T-Rex tearing through a warehouse, chomping on soldiers and flinging their lifeless bodies. The key is to maintain your health by consuming a guy every now. For the next nine stages you're a small but fleet-of-foot "compy" dinosaur, scampering through lush jungles, hopping between rocky ledges, and mauling small creatures when necessary. Lost World was an early example of 2.5D gameplay, with fluid animation and shifting camera angles that were absolutely mind-blowing in the late 90's. The compy stages begin to lose their charm once you start running into other creatures like raptors and flying insects. The collision detection is awful!
Sometimes you can leap over several raptors in a single bound and sometimes you'll get bounced between them like a pinball. The stage where you walk between the legs of a herd of Brachiosaurus was always amazing to me, but did they really need to include extra hazards like poisonous red plants and rolling rocks? In the next set of stages you play as a human hunter, but your default weapon is useless. The fun of the raptor stages is undermined by exploding crates and beds of spikes. Biting humans is less-than-satisfying because instead of clutching them in your jaws you just sort of bite through
them. Only a marginal improvement, this Special Edition proves lays bare just how fundamentally flawed the game was (and still is). © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Konami (2000)
Having recently rewatched The Mummy trilogy I was curious about the games they spawned. I had some trepidations, knowing full well movie-based titles have a tendency to suck
. The Mummy's video intro is lifted directly from the film, boasting dazzling CGI effects by 1999 standards. In the game itself the character models appear angular with digitized faces mapped onto their heads. They look very good... from the front at least.
The action begins in a dark tomb where you can only see a few feet ahead, even with a torch. When I stumbled upon two guys I immediately pulled out my guns and shot them dead. They were grave robbers... right?
Not many games let you brandish a pair of pistols right off the bat, but I think I like it! Later you'll face mummies which absorb more shots. The machete is my weapon of choice, allowing you to hack away at multiple foes at a time. The game had a habit of dropping enemies behind you while during combat, and that's bad news. Once you get surrounded you're toast. The craggy tombs are nicely rendered with spooky lighting and artistic engravings, but limited visibility makes each feel like a repetitive maze. The game quickly falls into a pattern of slaying creeps, grabbing items, pressing a switch, and moving on to the next room. The analog control is a lot better than digital but gauging jumps is tricky. Once I died for no apparent reason, and then it dawned on me I was standing on lava
. The sweeping orchestrated music adds weight but the voice actors don't sound like the actors in the film. The Mummy isn't terrible but the ravages of time have not been kind to its of rinse-and-repeat gameplay. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
The Simpsons Wrestling
Publisher: Activision (2001)
I spotted this one at a used game shop in Louisville and for three bucks I figured it was worth a shot. The Simpsons Wrestling was surprisingly popular back in the day, even topping sales charts at one point. It's one heck of a license, considering the show has featured so many colorful personalities over the years. You'd think the game would be worth at least a laugh or two... right?
The load screen displays a playful animation of Itchy and Scratchy pounding each other with mallets - so far so good. The cast of playable "wrestlers" includes Homer, Barney, Apu, Krusty, Willie, Bart, Lisa, and Marge. The fighting moves are obviously zany in nature. Homer brandishes a bowling ball, Bart shoots a slingshot, Krusty wields a mallet, and Marge swings a frying pan. Yet the bulk of each match consists of both fighters slapping each other silly as their health meters slowly
erode away. The confusing control scheme lends itself to rampant button mashing. Painstakingly collecting five letters allows you to "taunt" your opponent with an unfunny jibe ("in your face, loser!"). What is the point?
The scenery is remarkably dull and the random voice quips are lame. Matches drag on and on, and just when you think you've put your opponent away he'll snatch a health power-up! Even pinning him is not good enough to end the misery; you have to do it twice!
This game is absolute torture!
The animation is choppy, the collision detection loose, and fighters tend to face the wrong direction. And then there's the whole matter of watching Homer slap around Marge, which is beyond disturbing. There is a price to be paid for playing Simpson's Wrestling, and rest assured it's far more than three bucks. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Thunder Force V: Perfect System
Publisher: Technosoft (1998)
Thunder Force V marks the transition of the long-running shooter series to 3D. It features a lot of dynamic camera views which looked a heck of a lot more impressive in 1998. You begin by selecting from three remarkably bland stages. Am I supposed to be reading all this text on the load screens? The rapid-fire shooting feels like Thunder Force alright, with familiar weapons like the wave, hunter, and backshot. The new "free range" weapon lets you awkwardly maneuver a cone-shaped wire frame around your ship, obliterating anything in the cone when you fire. When used correctly it makes short work of bosses. I noticed the satellite "claw" power-up is now referred to as "craw", as if the Japanese developers just got sick and tired of trying to pronounce it right. Thunder Force V's rapid-fire action is crazy intense with enemies emerging from all over, including the background. It's pretty overwhelming and the weapon/score graphics on top tend to obstruct your view. The 3D graphics deliver some cool sights like motorcycles spinning out and alien monkeys swinging around, but how are you supposed to avoid that monkey when he's lunging all over the screen? The crisp explosions look amazing but I was turned off by the muddy, indistinct stages. Between the layers of grainy scenery, scaling enemies, and swinging camera angles, it's hard to tell where your ship fits in. Too often you'll collide with unseen environmental hazards. The music is high energy but lacking distinctive melodies. You get several continues and high scores are recorded with initials. Thunder Force V brings the franchise into 3D kicking and screaming, but it just makes you want to go back and play the old 2D games. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: n-Space Inc (1997)
I love the concept behind Tigershark. It lets you control a submersible that skims along the surface of the water, torpedoing ships before diving to destroy undersea targets. The first time I played this game I was just whizzing around sinking boats and blowing up land targets. When I finally realized I could dive it was like discovering a whole new world! There's an undersea city down there! The visual effects of moving above and below the water surface are convincing and I really like those bubble sound effects. The missions offer a series of targets to seek out and destroy, but that's easier said than done. Unfortunately the game was released before the Playstation analog controller, and it's hard to aim with the digital pad. Oh sure you have lock-on missiles, but they are useless!
Am I out of ammo or does this weapon just plain suck?
Your more effective option - by far - is your machine gun. Hell, you can sink an entire destroyer
by focusing your fire on it for a few seconds! When a ship sinks and hits the sea floor it sends shock waves that knock your ship around. Couple that with the fact that you're constantly taking fire from unseen sources, and you have a recipe for sheer frustration. Sometimes my ship seems to stop for no apparent reason, making me a sitting duck. And there are precious few power-ups to renew your armor. The radar is confusing and that green arrow will send you on wild goose chase. Messages on the screen instruct you to do things like "Destroy Russian tap 1." Am I supposed to know what that is?! When you die, you restart the entire mission from the very beginning, which is truly demoralizing. Tigershark is one of those games you want to like but it fights you every step of the way. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1997)
This exciting light gun game lets you select from two different scenarios: a hotel and a castle. Time Crisis requires Namco's Guncon controller, which is by far the more accurate light gun for the Playstation. The mediocre graphics that are not especially sharp or detailed, but the innovative control scheme allows you to take cover between shots, adding a new dimension to the gameplay. I especially love how the bad guys react depending on where you shoot them. Time Crisis isn't anything fancy, but if you're looking for a solid arcade shooter, you can't go wrong with this. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Time Crisis Project Titan
Publisher: Namco (2001)
For a sequel that took four long years to come out, I'm really surprised by how similar it is to the first Time Crisis. In some ways, it's actually less
impressive! The graphics and sound haven't improved one bit, and the blocky thugs tend to dress in dorky white shorts and pink jump suits. Clearly Namco was trying to make this game as non-violent as possible, because not only is there no blood, but thugs yell "SHUCKS!" when shot. The semi-interactive locations, which include a yacht, airport, and mineshaft, are not very interesting. The action is smooth and controls well, but the gameplay is strictly by-the-numbers, with no power-ups, grenades, or hidden items to spice up the action. There are two minor new features. The first lets you switch hiding positions when facing bosses, but this adds little in the way of strategy. The other is a consecutive hit counter on the top left of the screen. I don't know if it affects the gameplay at all, but I couldn't resist seeing how many hits I could make in a row. For a light gun game, Project Titan serves its purpose but doesn't break any new ground, and that may be good enough for most gamers. Note: You'll need Namco's Guncon to play this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Squaresoft (1996)
This early 3D fighter didn't sell as well as Toshinden or Tekken, but many Playstation gamers strongly prefer it. The reason? Tobal runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, and that makes quite a difference. The fighters are somewhat blocky (in a Virtua Fighter kind of way), but their movements look incredibly natural, and the controls are crisp and responsive. Besides the standard martial artists, there are extra-terrestrial characters that look like they were pulled from the Cantina scene in Star Wars. Characters vary a great deal in size and shape, giving each a totally unique feel. One of the bosses is positively huge!
Although both fighters are always facing each other, they have the ability to move around freely. The battles are played out on raised platforms, and falling off the edge is easy to do. Actually, the main strategy of one of the boss is to push you off! Tobal's graphics are simple but remarkably clean, making this game quite easy on the eyes. The background music is also quite good. Tobal No.1 is no joke, and if you're a serious fighting fan, this game belongs in your collection. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Tokyo Highway Battle
Publisher: Jaleco (1998)
Rating: Kids to Adults
I've always been a fan of Ridge Racer
(Sony, 1995) but only recently did I discover there were other, similar racers for the PS1. Some only saw release in Japan but Tokyo Highway Battle is one that made it stateside. In terms of graphics Highway Battle is a step down from Ridge Racer, although the menus look so similar you'd think the same developers were behind both. The framerate is fluid enough but the polygon graphics are less polished, with less detail and a few seams here and there. Three tracks let you weave around buildings, under overpasses, and through lighted tunnels. If the sense of speed seems modest, it might be because the whole idea is to gradually upgrade your car. The first race takes place against a bright blue sky but day quickly turns to night. I thought that was pretty nifty until it got light again... during the same race!
The laps are long but they're not that
long! Precision digital steering makes it easy to "thread the needle" between trucks, but power sliding via the L2 button is tricky. You tend to lose control and struggle to straighten back up. Still, it's fun to weave through traffic - at least until that aggressive prick in the sports car shows up. That's your rival. He's not easy to beat because he stays close and one slip-up will sling-shot him right past you. I was disappointed with the scenery, which is seriously lacking in the razzle-dazzle department. I've never been to Tokyo but I assume all the buildings are plastered with sparkling neon ads and flashing videos. Instead you're just cruising down an unremarkable highway with an unconvincing skyline twinkling in the distance. The soundtrack is a hodgepodge of beats, guitars, and scratches, and while it's better than Ridge Racer that almost goes without saying. Upgrading your car between races is confusing. Why does it keep telling me the part I want to buy is incompatible?! Tokyo Highway Battle is mediocre. It's plenty of arcade racing fun without any of the eye candy. Note: This game would not run on my PS2. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1996)
In 1996 Tomb Raider was a game-changer. This mind-blowing third-person adventure allowed you to skillfully navigate rich, 3D environments with a fluidly-animated young lady. Tomb Raider had a cinematic flair with surprises at every turn, but how has this classic held up on the years? Not bad! For starters, I found its stylized cutscene visuals more intriguing that the realistic look of modern games. The in-game graphics aren't too shabby either. Lara looks shapely from a distance and her movements are quite realistic. I love the way she pulls herself up onto a ledge. The controls have aged less well. You're forced to use the directional pad which feels clumsy. Maneuvering Lara into perfect position for a jump can be frustrating, especially while fighting for a decent camera angle. And there's nothing worse than trying to jump up straight up and accidentally vaulting sideways
... off a cliff. One thing Lara does exceptionally well is run forward, which sadly leads to a lot of smacking face-first into walls (oomph!
). Tomb Raider begins in the caves of Peru which happen to be infested with bats, wolves, and terrifying bears. The cave interiors are rendered with pixelated textures but excellent lighting effects exude tremendous atmosphere. You never know what's lurking in the shadows! Unfortunately the severe pixelation can make it hard to locate critical keyholes and levers. The gameplay is exciting. Whenever the music kicks in it sent my heart racing, knowing danger was afoot. The first time I saw that T-Rex coming towards me I realized this wasn't your standard Indiana Jones fare! Combat would be very frustrating if not for Lara's dual-pistols and nifty auto-aim. The puzzles incorporate a lot of keys, levers, and block-sliding. Medical packs replenish your health meter but don't get lulled into a false sense of security, as falling any appreciable distance means instant death. All the health packs in the world won't help when you're a crumpled heap on the rocks. There's approximately 20 to 30 minutes of action between save points which is perfect. The game also deserves a lot of credit for its cleverly-designed 3D environments. Everything tends to fit together veru well and many areas wrap around on themselves to minimize backtracking. Tomb Raider is not for the faint of heart, but if you're up for adventure, strap yourself in for one hell of a ride. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1997)
Tomb Raider II begins with our heroine Lara Croft being dropped by helicopter into a gorge near the Great Wall of China. The first thing I noticed were the vomit-inducing pixelated textures. What an awful first impression! Everything blends into each other, making it hard to locate surfaces you can safely climb on. The designers clearly went on the assumption that the player was already an expert on all the elaborate moves introduced by the first game. Don't expect any hand-holding this time! A grim darkness pervades the entire game, ostensibly in the name of "realism". You constantly need to light flares to see anything. The new save system lets you save any time, but apparently this was used as an excuse to ratchet up the difficulty. Expect a lot of annoying timed switches which leave zero room for error. I found myself saving so often I actually prefer the original system! The levels are expansive but you'll get tired of wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. The upside-down ship has an interesting Poseidon Adventure vibe but in general the game's graphics are flat-out ugly. Even exotic locales like Venice, the Opera House, and an Ice Palace look depressing. There are a few driving stages (including a snowmobile chase) sprinkled in to provide a welcome respite. Most of your foes are human this time around, although you will also encounter tigers, yeti, and sharks. The game has its share of epic moments but the areas between those are arduous. It originally took me two full months to complete Tomb Raider II and it left me exhausted. Taking two steps back for each step forward, this unforgiving sequel was clearly rushed out the door to cash in on the original's success. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (1998)
If Tomb Raider II
(Eidos, 1997) was aimed at experienced players, this third go-round is exclusively for seasoned experts. Tomb Raider III boasts a slew of new locations, additional moves (monkey swing!), and for the first time, analog controls. The graphics are an improvement over Tomb Raider II (not saying much) but the cheesy jungle foliage looks flat enough to walk over (until you fall through). There's an excessive amount of darkness so you'll go through flares like Don Draper burns through cigarettes. The new analog controls are so inexact I found myself reverting to the clunky digital pad. Switches are hard to see on walls because frankly they don't even look like switches. Likewise electrified platforms don't appear dangerous until you stand on them and keel over. It's hard to tell what item you're picking up because the game doesn't bother to tell you. The save system feels like a compromise between the first two games, letting you collect "save game crystals" which function like the ink ribbons in Resident Evil
(PS1, 1995). Huge new stages are set in London, Antartica, and Nevada. Somewhere in Area 51 I began thinking wispfully about the simple tombs of the original game. Experts will savor the challenge but casual gamers are in for an ordeal. I find it telling that the bulk of the manual is dedicated to ads for Eidos games and merchandise. There's even a Tomb Raider III tip line! Clearly Eidos wanted to milk their cash cow for all it was worth. High on difficulty but low on fun, Tomb Raider III was the first Tomb Raider game I failed to complete, even to this day. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1997)
Underappreciated in its day, many gamers now regard Tomba as a hidden gem in the Playstation One library. As much as I would like to concur, Tomba didn't win me over. The main character is a primitive dude with wild pink hair. A cheesy cartoon intro explains how his magical bracelet was stolen from him by a race of evil pigs. So far it sounds awful but Tomba has a distinctive look and feel that some might find appealing. Its friendly graphics are 3D-rendered but the action takes place on layered 2D planes. For example, at the start of the game Tomba moves side to side in front of a fence, but later he can run behind the fence. It works pretty well although it's not always evident where you can and can't go. The controls are extremely crisp and responsive. Tomba can bash enemies with his mace, pounce on them, and hurl them into walls. He can latch onto just about any wall, plant, or animal, and it looks like he's trying to hump
them. It's especially disturbing when he latches onto those pink, ass-shaped flowers. Did the programmers do that on purpose? The game can be amusing, but you spend too much time running tedious errands. Everybody's like "collect these" and "find that". You'll need to scour every nook and cranny of the stage to locate items, but fortunately the areas tend to be very constrained. This game doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There are these puff balls hanging from some trees, and once when I pulled on one a dwarf fell out of the tree! You'll need to collect a lot of unusual items including "evil pig bags" (I knew
I forgot something from the grocery store!) Overall I found Tomba's nonsense more aggravating than endearing. I think President Obama put it best when he said, "Look,
I have better things to do than hump flowers and yank on puff balls." Nope, he never said that. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2000)
After a three-year layoff, Tomba has returned with his spiky pink hair and a buff new body. The original game was a unique platfomer with a layered 2D style. This sequel tries to take the concept to the next level, but it's not much of an improvement. For some reason I expected this sequel to be faster, but Tomba 2 is just as slow. You still navigate platforms, climb walls, battle evil pigs, and run errands for everybody and their mother. You need to complete certain actions to progress and it's easy to get stuck. Fortunately the stages are small and confined so it's possible to explore every nook and cranny. The treasure-hunting aspect is great fun, and jumping between chains in the mine stage has a nice Donkey Kong Junior vibe. Fans of the original will be disappointed with the degraded graphics however. Since the game is now fully rendered in 3D polygons, the characters and objects take on a more pixelated, angular appearance. Your movements are still confined to 2D planes, but now there are now "crossroad" areas (designated by arrows) that let you change direction. This system allows for more sophisticated level designs but it can be awkward and disorienting. The developers included a few areas where you can move freely about, but navigating these areas is a chore thanks to a misbehaving camera. Some of the platform jumping tested my patience. I guess it's not so much the jumping that bothers me as it is all of the missing
. The fact that you can't adjust the camera is a problem, and falling into water is deadly. Tomba 2 lets you save your progress at designated spots, and the music is exceptionally good, especially in the coal-mining town. It never quite lives up to its promise, but fans with a lot of patience are in for a satisfying romp. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Tomorrow Never Dies
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, animation violence, suggestive themes)
Playing Tomorrow Never Dies gave me a serious case of deja-vu, probably because it's a heck
of a lot like 007: The World Is Not Enough
(N64, 2000). The production values are pretty good with realistic voice acting and an amazing soundtrack that conveys a sense of excitement. Cut-scenes intersperse clips from the film and you even get the complete movie intro featuring the Sheryl Crow theme song. Unfortunately these clips tend call to your attention to just how boxy the actual game graphics are. You play a 3D Pierce Brosnan with a close-cropped polygon hairdo undertaking ten missions that follow the plot of the film. The third-person shooting begins in snowy Siberia, where the purple twilight sky is really easy on the eyes. You'll move between camps while gunning down soldiers and collecting health and weapons. James Bond isn't capable of fighting without a weapon, believe it or not. You can always tell who the bad guys are because they have these big red and yellow targets superimposed over them. You commandeer a plane at the end of this mission, but sadly you don't get to fly it. The analog controls are clumsy and inexact, and I found myself running in circles around a key card I was trying to pick up. The camera unstable and jittery, and a nightmare in close quarters. I actually became queasy at times. At least the game is forgiving, offering plenty of ammo, checkpoints, and health packs. Certain stages let you ski or drive a car, and during one mission you gun down bad guys who fall into printing presses! Fans of the movie will be interested to know that Bond does have an encounter with an angular Terry Hatcher. Multiplayer split-screen modes highlighted the Nintendo 64 Bond titles, but they are mysteriously absent here. This makes the box claim of "the most complete Bond experience" ring hollow. Once you beat the short missions of Tomorrow Never Dies, there's nothing here to keep you coming back. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Publisher: Neversoft/Activision (1999)
Rating: Teen (mild language)
Oh yeah - this game rocks! Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is the ultimate "extreme" game, with more attitude than all the others combined. And you really don't need to know anything about the skateboarding to get hooked on this revolutionary game. You choose between several professional skateboarders and a number of locations including a school, mall, and warehouse. Each stage is loaded with ramps and rails for you to perform tricks on. The graphics are excellent, and the camera always seems to be in the right place. The music will really pump your adrenaline, with classic jams from punk rock bands like the Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies. No question about it - this is some of the best music I've ever heard in a video game. But the real star is the well-designed control scheme, which makes it easy to pull off some really eye-popping maneuvers. Like any good video game, it's easy to play, but mastering Pro Skater takes some serious practice. There's a great two-player split screen mode, but the heart of this game is the Career Mode, which challenges you to achieve five elusive goals in each location. Completing these goals unlocks additional levels and features. Typical goals include racking up a certain number of points, destroying a number of objects, finding five letters, or locating hidden objects. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is a modern classic that had a huge impact on the industry. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Treasures of the Deep
Publisher: Namco (1997)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Treasures of the Deep places you in a submersible vehicle (which looks like an jet ski) used to salvage lost relics in a series of undersea missions. I was really looking forward to freely exploring magnificent undersea ruins, so you can imagine my disappointment when I realized that most levels are linear
in design. Many stages are shaped like undersea mazes, and I didn't like those at all
. Even so, Treasures of the Deep is still occasionally exciting thanks to its variety of sea creatures, collectable items, and hidden areas. The murky ocean water looks realistic and is teeming with life. You can blast monsters and subs with torpedoes, and an easy-to-deploy net lets you secure treasures and send them to the surface. Some stages are enormous, but an overhead map helps track your position. I enjoyed the game's treasure-hunting gameplay, but you need to complete the missions in order, and you will
get stuck in the most annoying ones. Treasures of the Deep features a jazzy musical soundtrack that doesn't match what you're seeing on the screen. Gamers with an interest in scuba diving or marine biology might find Treasures interesting, but those looking for fast action should look elsewhere. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
Trick'n Snowboarder gets off to a rough start with a cheesy intro of an angular boarder performing tricks with obnoxious blur effects. The main menu is disconcerting because all the modes except "scenario" appear greyed out even though they are in fact available. Scenario offers a series of challenges in locations around the globe including Japan, Alaska, Argentina, and Italy. Prior to each event you're briefed by a big Hulk Hogan-wannabe who provides ample text to page through. I prefer snowboarding games that give you freedom to explore, but Trick'n is heavily regimented. The courses are so narrow you may find yourself bouncing off the walls!
There are several marked jumps along each course where you're required to perform a stunt - sometimes a specific
stunt. Analog controls make it easy to carve the powder but it's annoying having to constantly re-orient your board via the shoulder buttons. Pressing square (not X) to jump took me a while to get used to, and the timing is tough because ramps aren't well-defined. In the air you press O to flip, X to hold, and the trigger to spin. It's actually pretty hard to wipe out, as you nearly always land on your feet. I was doing pretty well until stage four when Hulk told me to pull off a 540 degree spin and I didn't know how!
Still, Trick'n Snowboarder has its appeal. The courses feature a lot of extreme terrain, changing weather conditions, and time-of-day lighting variations. In Argentina you actually snowboard through a freaking thunderstorm
. The framerate is impressively smooth with a nice sense of speed. Free mode allows you to race on any course and saves records for both trick points and fastest time. The versus mode is a let-down, lacking a any sensation of speed as well as any CPU competitors. The game's audio track features low-budget hip hop beats and repetitive voice samples. Overall Trick'n Snowboarder is a good-looking game that's just a little too hard to play. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Turbo Prop Racing
Publisher: Sony (1998)
In the warmer months I tend to enjoy games featuring water and tropical locations, but Turbo Prop is not
what I had in mind. The water in this game doesn't even look
like water - it seems hard as a rock! Your boat is difficult to control as the rigid, choppy waves toss you all over the place. Forget about the racing - your main goal is just to stay within the narrow confines of the waterway, since hitting land (or any other obstacle) sends you spinning through the air! The poorly designed, narrow courses are located in Miami, Utah, Canada, and even a volcano (wow - orange water!). The scenery doesn't look too bad, but the techno background music is the worst I've heard in a long time. The dual-shock vibration feature is supported, but it just feels like an annoying pager going off constantly. Why can't we have a good boat racing game on the Playstation? © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Singletrac (1995)
Twisted Metal is a revolutionary title that popularized the whole "car combat" genre. You drive one of twelve deadly machines, each loaded to the hilt with weaponry. There's a nice assortment of vehicles, including a monster truck, a police car, a dune buggy, and an ice cream truck driven by a psychotic clown. You collect weapons scattered across the battlefields, and each car has its own trademark "special" weapon. The stages range from a stadium, to a suburban neighborhood, to the rooftops of buildings. Twisted Metal's graphic quality is uneven. The vehicles look great but the scenery is heavily pixilated. Normally you view the action from just behind your car, but you can also play the game from an amazing first-person perspective! While the interiors and dashboards look remarkable, this view is less than playable because you can't tell what's going on. But the biggest problem with Twisted Metal is its frame-rate. Even in the single player mode, the choppiness makes it difficult to maintain control. The control scheme is well-designed, and the head-banging music is not bad. Audio effects include a distinctive signature sound for each vehicle - so you'll know who hit you. Twisted Metal was a truly innovative title that begat a long, popular series. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Singletrac (1996)
Regarded by many as the best game of the series, Twisted Metal 2 was a major improvement over the original, offering smoother gameplay, bigger battlefields, combo attacks, and a slew of hidden surprises. The vehicle lineup is largely unchanged, with the exception of a yellow tractor and a muscle man stuck between two huge tires (what the heck?). The new stages are more interesting and wide open, including Paris (where you can destroy the Eiffel Tower), Hong Kong (with a working subway), and Antarctica (glaciers). The new "combo" moves allow you to jump, shoot backward, or freeze your opponent by pressing certain button combinations. TM2's gameplay is deep, and the split screen mode allows you to either cooperate or compete with a friend. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 989 Studios (1998)
This third Twisted Metal game was a bit of a disappointment. It seems to take two steps forward and three steps back. The vehicle selection is about the same, but the new set of battlegrounds tend to be small. The good news is that your opponents are easy to find. The bad news is that these areas look sloppy and uninspired. Hollywood is nothing but a bunch of broken ramps stacked upon each other, and Calypso's Blimp is little more than a series of boring rooms (talk about unrealized potential!). The best reason to buy Twisted Metal 3 is its four-player split screen mode, which is genuinely fun despite the limited view. Another interesting new feature is the "CPU ally", which makes the one-player mode a lot easier. The music is this game is provided by Rob Zombie, who seems to be in every video game nowadays. Unless you're a fan, you might not appreciate his head-banging brand of music. Twisted Metal 3 still delivered destructive fun gamers crave, but the series was starting to show its age. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 989 Studios (1999)
Twisted Metal 4 begins with a nice video sequence depicting the "birth" of the Twisted Metal tournament, and its aged, grainy, black and white visuals are quite effective. The sequence ends in the present day, revealing that Sweet Tooth has in fact overthrown Calypso as the leader of Twisted Metal. That's nice, but if you're expecting anything new in terms of gameplay, think again. The new vehicle lineup includes a family truckster (remember that from the movie Vacation?), a UFO-looking hover bike, and Rob Zombie's "Dragula" mobile. Rob Zombie performed the music for this game, and it turns my stomach. The eight battlegrounds are a step up from those in the third installment. Highlights include a bedroom level where you battle it out Toy Story style. My personal favorite is the Carnival, featuring a haunted house and a roller coaster! Unfortunately, the main game engine hasn't evolved much, and its pixelated tracks and crude collision detection should have been better. The game has its share of bugs, and I even had to restart a game after getting stuck in a wall. With Twisted Metal 4, the series seemed to be wearing out its welcome. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Twisted Metal Small Brawl
Publisher: Sony (2001)
When I first heard about a Twisted Metal game with small, remote-controlled cars, I thought it was a major cop-out. But after giving it some thought, I decided maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. I mean, Twisted Metal was never realistic to begin with, and this would give the developers a chance to incorporate some creative new environments. Well, it almost worked. The vehicles are based on the classic Twisted Metal cars, but simpler and more cartoonish. The imaginative battlefields include a playground, fun house, kitchen, and miniature golf course. Since they tend to be small, you aren't likely to get lost or lose track of your opponents. The gameplay is classic Twisted Metal - tough but addicting. You get three lives in each
stage, and believe me - you'll need them all. Audio-wise, the background music seems inspired by "classic" Twisted Metal tunes (no Rob Zombie this time). So what's the problem? It's the graphics. You'd think that by the fifth
Twisted Metal incarnation on the Playstation, they would at least
be able to maintain a decent framerate, but no. The action gets terribly choppy, and the two-player split screen mode is almost unplayable. The physics is so lousy that your car will sometimes float through the air and take forever to land. Even the background scenery is sloppy and full of seams. Small Brawl is an interesting turn for the series, but there's no excuse for these ugly visuals. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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