Gallop Racer 2004
Publisher: Tecmo (2004)
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai
Publisher: Sony (2005)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
This coming-of-age samurai slasher has remained under the radar despite its exceptional gameplay and impressive production values. Playing the role of a young warrior in the Genshi clan, your quest is to destroy the evil Henshis using mysterious, powerful jewels called "Anamahagane" (I can't pronounce it either). While the premise seems awfully familiar, Genji succeeds thanks to its sharp graphics, crisp controls, smooth animation, and reasonable difficulty. In addition to your young warrior, you'll also get to play as Benkei, a colossal figure who swings a massive hammer like a baseball bat. As you travel through Japanese villages, leaky caves, and opulent palaces, you'll battle all sorts of sword-wielding thugs and vicious monsters. The strength of the game lies in how you can engage several aggressors at once. It's remarkably easy and satisfying to shift directions on the fly and deliver devastating blows to multiple foes in rapid succession. Unlike some other brawlers, you really feel
the impact of each blow. Much like "bullet time" in other games, the jewels let you slow down your enemies to better anticipate their attacks. The game reminds me of Ominusha in many ways, but Genji is more polished. The scenery is quite easy on the eyes, and the tranquil Japanese soundtrack is first class all the way. Save points are frequent, and the difficulty level is ideal. On the downside, Genji bored me a bit with its drawn-out storyline, extended cast of characters, and lengthy cut-scenes. In addition, the constant barrage of regenerating enemies (often falling from the sky) gave me a chronic case of deju-vu. Nevertheless, Genji is a worthwhile adventure, especially if you can pick it up cheap. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Games (2007)
Rating: Teen (alcohol reference, blood and gore, mild suggestive themes, violence)
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Publisher: Atari (2009)
Publisher: Namco (2003)
Rating: Teen (blood, violence)
I should have loved this game, but Ghosthunter just didn't do it for me. With gameplay clearly inspired by the film Ghostbusters (but without the humor), you play a tough cop hunting down ghosts in dilapidated schools, swamps, ships, and prisons. Ghosts assume the form of both transparent apparitions and grotesque creatures, including oversized demonic teddy bears (as opposed to the normal, garden-variety demonic teddy bears we're all familiar with). Using a special gun and ghost traps, you subdue and capture the spirits just like a real Ghostbuster. The background story is about as far-fetched as you can get, with an underground computer system mysteriously supplying weapons, providing training, and opening portals to various stages. There are a nice variety of eerie locations, but most seem annoyingly maze-like, and positioning the camera is quite a chore. Ghosthunter's graphics are about average but its brooding musical score is quite effective. Some of the more repetitive sound effects, including the shrieking pig-ghosts, are so annoying you'll be tempted to hit the mute button. But Ghosthunter's real problem lies in its non-intuitive gameplay. Capturing ghosts should be easy and fun, but it turns out to be remarkably clumsy and confusing. While dealing with the shrieking pigs, you're forced to play a tedious game of hide and seek. Each stage challenges you to complete several arbitrary tasks, many of which rely more on trial and error than logic. Often it's just a matter of returning to an old location to trigger an event. I like the general idea behind Ghosthunter, but the game lacks flow, and feels artificially constructed. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Go Diego Go! Safari Rescue
Publisher: Take Two Interactive (2007)
Very similar to the Wii edition, Go Diego Go Safari Rescue is a safe bet for preschool-aged children. In the main "Rescue" mode, our young Hispanic hero saves a series of wild animals in the African wilderness. It begins with some simple platform jumping, but gradually introduces new concepts like searching bushes, sliding down ramps, or bouncing off trampolines. Special "racing" sequences let you steer an elephant, jeep, canoe, or hang glider through obstacle-laden courses. The controls may be slightly less interactive than the Wii, but they do a decent job of approximating natural movements using the two analog sticks. For example, to bang the magic drum you move the sticks alternatively up and down. Diego collects "stamps" on his journey in order to unlock "patches", giving the game some replay value. I noticed that Diego tends to talk a little too much, slowing down the pace of the game. Although the Select button is used to "skip", you can only skip one sentence at a time
, which is annoying. One very thoughtful feature is the "Safari Helper" option, which lets a second player help out at certain parts of the game. This is a good way for a parent or older sibling to spend some quality time and prevent the little tyke from getting stuck. Safari Rescue's illustrated graphics are simple but colorful, and the music sounds pleasant enough with its steel drums and woodwinds. Go Diego Go also offers mildly amusing two-player action in its split-screen "Safari Race" mode. The speeding jeeps are cool, but watching two elephants trudging through water isn't too exciting. Also, it would be more fun if one player could actually get ahead of the other one
. Overall this is a well-crafted title for kids but I'd give a slight edge to the Wii version. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2006)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, language, suggestive themes, violence)
Publisher: Sony (2005)
Rating: Mature (Blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, strong language, sexual themes)
Publisher: Sony (2007)
Gradius III And IV
Publisher: Konami (2000)
I'm a sucker for side-scrolling shooters, and this package provides a healthy dose of old-school action. Many reviewers have criticized the game for not fully utilizing the Playstation 2's graphics capabilities, but I say fun is fun. Why should people have to pull out their old Genesis to enjoy a good 2D shooter? Gradius III was released in 1989, but its graphics still look gorgeous, and its gameplay is remarkably addicting. As with previous Gradius titles, you collect power-up pods and redeem for special weapons. The more pods you collect, the better selection you have, and selecting the right weapon for the job is a major part of the strategy. Fortunately, you can equip multiple weapons at once and amass some tremendous firepower. You'll need it, because Gradius 3 is HARD! Set the difficulty to "easiest" and load up on lives and you'll STILL struggle to finish the first stage! Fortunately, a handy level select allows you to bypass stages you've already completed. Gradius IV plays the same but looks more modern, providing some impressive liquid-metal enemies. But while its visuals are a step up, I didn't find its gameplay as compelling as Gradius III, and it doesn't provide a stage select - just continues. This is a nice buy for shooter enthusiasts. If only Konami could have included Gradius I and II, it would have been a must-buy. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (2004)
Rating: Teen (mild fantasy violence)
As a big fan of the original Gradius (NES) and its many sequels, I'm sorry to say that Gradius V is a disappointment. Sure its polished graphics are pretty, but there are fundamental problems with the gameplay. For one thing, you'll need to navigate a lot
of tight areas as doors close around you and oversized monsters crowd you to the edge of the screen. Thankfully, the collision detection is VERY forgiving, so you'll manage to survive some seemingly impossible situations. When you're not navigating tunnels, you're facing bosses - a lot of them, and often one after the other. This overemphasis on bosses is not new to modern shooters, but Gradius V takes it a step further. In one area I counted four bosses in a row
, each more painful to defeat than the last. And it's not like these things are even interesting - most are just generic metal structures with obvious weak spots. The normal targets are equally dull, and some bear a striking resemblance to Chex Mix
(and they make a great snack!) Gradius V's scenery is hardly memorable, and it's often hard to tell if objects are in the background or foreground (i.e., shooting range). Occasionally a "friendly" ship will join the cause and fight by your side, but since it looks exactly like your ship, it tends to confuse matters, particularly in the two-player simultaneous mode. The frequent cut scenes are awfully boring and cannot
be skipped. Gradius V is extremely challenging but not insurmountable if you load up on weapons early. Of course, once your ship explodes you lose everything but a pea shooter, and then you're in for a real hurting. In the end, Gradius V is a slick-looking shooter, but it can't hold a candle to the gameplay of the original. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2001)
Publisher: Sony (2005)
Grand Theft Auto III
Publisher: Rockstar (2001)
Grand Theft Auto III (GTA3) lets YOU be the criminal in the seamy underbelly of a crime-ridden city. In this mature-rated game, you commit murder, plant bombs, steal cars, and pick up hookers. It's a combination of Gran Theft Auto 2 (DC, PS), Midnight Club (PS2), and Driver (PS). It should come as no surprise that Rockstar also created GTA2 and Midnight Club. The previous Grand Theft Auto games had the same basic theme, but were restricted by their primitive, overhead 2D graphics. But in GTA3 you can walk or drive around a realistic 3D city teeming with traffic and pedestrians. There's so much to see and do that you don't even have to play the missions to enjoy the game. The expansive city is fun to explore, and it even has a monorail you can ride. I jumped in the back of a pick-up and got a free ride around town! If you're in the bad mood, you can take out your aggression by driving like a madman through the streets or beating down a complete stranger. The cops are out in force, but they only answer to serious crimes (like murder). The Mafioso-like missions are exciting, fun, and challenging. There are a lot of different cars to steal, and they all handle differently. I noticed a few minor flaws in GTA3. The character models are blocky, but at least their mannerisms are realistic, with the exception of the prostitutes who walk funny and look like they're wearing shorts. Although you can explore the city freely, there are very few buildings you can enter. The difficulty of the missions is wildly uneven, but otherwise GTA3 is a thrilling ride that I would recommend to mature gamers. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Publisher: Rockstar Games (2004)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Publisher: Rockstar (2002)
This highly anticipated title really lives up to the hype. It builds on the solid gameplay of the previous edition, but this time the story is more interesting and the scenery is incredible. But above all, Vice City has style. Set in the 80's, this game was obviously inspired by Miami Vice. The tunable radio features seven channels of classic 80's music, and the game often feels like an interactive music video. The graphics certainly do the job, but they're a bit uneven. The character animation is fantastic, but their bodies tend to have sharp edges and angular features. The city itself is a work of art. Each building is uniquely detailed, and gorgeous sunsets paint the sky various shades of red. I'll never forget the first time I ran out on the beach all the way to the ocean, and then turned around to view the majestic city skyline - quite a sight. Unlike the first game, you can actually enter a few of the buildings this time around, and eventually even purchase property! And your transportation is no longer limited to a car - you can travel by motorcycle, moped, speedboat, plane, and helicopter! The fine visuals are matched by superb audio. For the voices, Rockstar hired real actors including Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper, Philip Michael Thomas, and Burt Reynolds. The interesting storyline is propelled by a series of missions, but there are plenty of opportunities for sub-missions and exploration. Unfortunately, some of the missions can be frustrating due to control issues or ambiguous objectives. But there's plenty of replay value in this stylish, colorful game. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Guilty Gear Isuka
Publisher: Sammy (2004)
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence)
1 to 4 players
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence)
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Sammy (2001)
Publisher: Sammy (2003)
Rating: Teen (Mature sexual themes, violence)
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core
Publisher: Arc System Words (2007)
Rating: Teen (animated blood, language, sexual content, use of tobacco, violence)
Publisher: Red Octane (2005)
Rating: Teen (mild lyrics)
Publisher: Red Octane (2006)
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks The 80s
Publisher: Red Octane (2007)
The decade of the 80's was the absolute height
of guitar rock, so this special "encore" edition of Guitar Hero makes sense. The underlying engine is practically identical to Guitar Hero 2 (GH2), providing the same great co-op games, practice modes, and options to adjust the "lag" on your HDTV. But the songs are the real attraction, and this set may be the strongest of all the Guitar Hero games. It's certainly the most accessible, with 30 new wave and heavy metal tracks including "I Ran" (Flock of Seagulls), "I Wanna Rock" (Twisted Sister), "Heat of the Moment" (Asia), "Metal Health" (Quiet Riot), "We Got The Beat" (Go-Gos), "The Warrior" (Scandal), "No One Like You" (Scorpions), and "Hold on Loosely" (.38 Special). When it comes to vocal quality, this edition is a marked improvement over GH2. In most cases, the singers are dead-ringers for the original artists, most notably on "Synchronicity II" (The Police) and "Holy Diver" (Dio). There's also a more gradual difficulty curve, making it less likely that you'll "hit the wall" - a common problem with previous Guitar Hero titles. I also noticed more elaborate camerawork with vertigo-inducing, zooming camera angles. It may lack the originality of the first game and the innovation of the second, but Rock the 80s is arguably the most enjoyable Guitar Hero yet thanks to its excellent line-up of feel-good hits. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Publisher: Activision (2007)
I was the among the first critics
to extol Guitar Hero as the groundbreaking new franchise it was, but as the sequels pile up, its appeal is wearing thin. Despite building upon the previous games and adding a cooperative career mode, Legends is the weakest entry yet. When it comes to music games, song selection is key, and Guitar Hero 3's (GH3) play list doesn't live up to its "Legends" title. Sure, there are some real gems like Rock and Roll All Nite (KISS), Rock You Like a Hurricane (Scorpions), Cherub Rock (Smashing Pumpkins), and Welcome to the Jungle (Guns N Roses). But many tracks are weak, and some of the older numbers ("Sunshine of Your Love", "Black Magic Woman") seem very stale. I know it's all very subjective, but none of my friends could get excited about these tracks. Making matters worse, most songs have been needlessly extended, making the weaker ones all the more unpleasant. Oldies like "The Seeker" and "Paint It Black" are perfectly good classics that have been stretched into mediocrity. The controls have also been tweaked a bit. GH3 is more forgiving, giving you a bigger "window" to hit each note. It sounds like a good thing, but it actually makes it harder
to determine when your timing is a little off. But the most annoying aspect of GH3 is its head-to-head "face-offs" against guitar icons like Tom Morello and Slash. You might cruise through the songs, but these ridiculous, confusing battle stages will halt your progress like a brick wall. Thank goodness the game gives you a pass after you fail a certain number of times. Guitar Hero 3 is still a respectable rhythm game, but the series has apparently jumped the shark. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.