Publisher: Capcom (2006)
Rating: Teen (blood and gore, crude humor, fantasy violence, suggestive themes, use of alcohol and tobacco)
Much has been made of Okami's unique visual style, but underneath the artistic facade lies a rather conventional 3D adventure. And while its verbose prose and leisurely pace tried my patience, I can still appreciate its thoughtful design and touches of originality. Like interactive folklore, you control an ethereal white wolf saving the land from darkness and evil. An excellent lead character, your wolf has been bequeathed with godlike powers, and is accompanied by a feisty bug that provides the obligatory comic relief. Okami's characters and landscapes are rendered in an unusual Japanese style that combines several art styles including rough sketching, cell shading, and watercolor. As you banish evil from various locations, the land bursts forth with colorful flowers, rolling green hills, splashing waterfalls, and bright blue skies. The game's most innovative feature is your ability to "paint" the screen in order to battle enemies and solve puzzles. You'll paint suns, bridges, and bombs to achieve your goals, as well as slash monsters in half. The concept is ingenious, but the analog stick makes for a clumsy drawing device, and most of my circles ended up looking like squares. If the game were not so forgiving in this regard, it would have been monumentally frustrating. Otherwise Okami's gameplay is not exceptional, consisting of the typical exploration, item collecting, mini-games, platform jumping, and hack-n-slash fighting. The controls are responsive, and I like how you wolf gradually picks up steam as he runs across long stretches. Definitely on the easy side, the game actively "holds your hand" to keep you headed in the right direction. Okami's main fault is its excessive verbiage. The narrator and characters have a lot
to say, and they tend to go on and on as you scroll through their endless, redundant text. Heck, you have to scroll though about a half hour's worth before you can even get started! Gamers with short attention spans probably won't last long. In addition, I thought number of attributes, tools, artifacts and other items was a bit excessive. For patient gamers who savor every moment of their adventures however, Okami can be a very fulfilling quest. It struggled to hold my attention at times, but in this day and age, a healthy dose of originality is worth celebrating. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Rating: Mature (violence, blood and gore)
This respectable hack-and-slash adventure was initially hailed for its gorgeous visuals, and I can't argue with that. The jaw-dropping intro video is immensely entertaining, with special effects that rival those in motion pictures. You assume the role of Jubei, a ninja warrior out to avenge his family by recovering five sacred orbs. Along the way you'll encounter gruesome monsters, brain-teasing puzzles, and secondary characters you can sometimes control. The traditional Japanese scenery (including some that appears Mortal Kombat-inspired) is gorgeous and nearly photo-realistic. The water effects are particularly impressive. Character outfits possess astonishing detail, and even the faces look realistic. A wide range of locales include a bright marketplace, mysterious haunted houses, and dark caverns. Since the scenery is pre-rendered, you can't adjust the camera on the fly, but that's okay because the game automatically switches views as you move. This does present a problem during combat however, since the abruptly-changing angles affect the directional controls. You absorb souls of defeated foes for power (a la Soul Reaver) and consume herbs for health (a la Resident Evil). The exploration and combat is fun enough, but the item management aspect slows things down. A major part of the game involves presenting "gifts" to various characters in exchange for items and information, but this requires an awful lot of trial and error. Characters can have comical reactions to odd gifts like a chicken, love potion, and grilled fish. Ominusha 2 provides a generous number of save points, which also allow you to enhance weapons and armor. Still, it's painfully easy to get stuck, and constantly respawning monsters ratchet up the frustration level. Another issue involves having to use the digital control instead of the analog stick to move. You either run or stop - there's no walking, which is disappointing. The voice acting is pretty bad, although dialogue like "My daughter has been taken by monsters!" doesn't help matters. Still, those who enjoyed the first Ominusha will find this good-looking sequel worthy of their attention. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Rating: Mature (Blood and gore, violence)
An action-adventure with an artistic flair and strong Asian influence, Onimusha plays like a cross between Resident Evil and Soul Reaver. You play a lone swordsman who must battle his way through a village of nightmarish monsters in order to rescue a young princess. As you hack up samurai zombies and hideous demons, you'll also collect their souls and use these to upgrade your attacks (a la Soul Reaver). The game also features a series of puzzles which tend to be wildly uneven in difficulty. While most are reasonable, occasionally you'll come across one that's way
over the top. Periodically you'll team up with a female partner (a real hottie, by the way), and join forces to overcome obstacles. Onimusha Warlords is remarkable in several ways. The game's awesome cinematic introduction blurs the line between video game and movie, depicting an epic battle between two massive ancient armies. There's quite a bit of gore, but the sheer artistry and brilliant musical score elevates it well above your standard full motion video (FMV) fare. In fact, the sequence looks so good that once you start playing the actual game, it's almost disappointing. There's NO analog control, so you're either running or standing still, and the abrupt movements don't look good. The rest of the controls are better, including a block and a handy 180-degree turn move. When fighting, your warrior always turns and swings at the nearest enemy (thankfully). The graphics are outstanding, with life-like character faces and gorgeous scenery. In fact, I sometimes found myself pausing play just to marvel at the surroundings. The backgrounds are pre-rendered, which means they look super detailed but aren't very interactive, and you can't adjust the camera angle. All in all, Onimusha is a quality title for who prefer a good dose of action in their adventures. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast
Publisher: Sega (2006)
Digging Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast out of a bargain bin was the best thing I've ever done in my entire life
. Originally I thought this was just the PS2 version of Outrun 2
(Xbox, 2004), but I was a fool!
Yes, this disk does include Outrun 2, but it also
contains Outrun 2SP, which blows the doors
off its predecessor in both graphics and playability. Outrun 2SP offers a whole new slew of tracks, and wow - they are fantastic!
In the original Outrun arcade game (1986) you drove a red convertible through a branching course while trying to beat the clock. Outrun 2006 stays true to the formula, and the eye candy is off the hook
. You'll cruise the hills of San Francisco, the resorts of Palm Beach, the towering Niagara Falls, and majestic Mayan ruins. The sense of velocity is first-rate, and the steep, winding roads make the game feel like a virtual roller coaster ride. It's almost as fun to watch as it is to play! The responsive controls provide excellent handling and let you perform power-slides with ease. Outrun 2006 has a progressive scan option, and I highly recommend it. The visuals look much sharper than the Xbox version of Coast to Coast, with bold colors that leap off the screen. I prefer the classic "arcade mode", but the "coast to coast" mode does add replay value with its diverse set of challenges which include slamming into cars or avoiding UFOs. My biggest beef with Outrun 2006 is its lack of split-screen action - multiplayer is on-line only! Also, it's way
too hard to crack that high score screen, which is dominated by some guy named "Sega". Despite these oversights Coast to Coast is one truly spectacular game that manages to put the fun back into racing. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow
Publisher: Bethesda (2006)
Rating: Teen (alcohol reference, violence)
Video game magazines like every
game, and this proves
it! How such an unsatisfying, cookie-cutter title like this can earn critical acclaim is beyond comprehension. A bargain-bin title with a license, Legend of Jack Sparrow looks like a first generation PS2 brawler with pirates substituted for ninjas. Initially I had held out some hope for this game. Unlike the first Pirates of the Caribbean
(Xbox, 2003) game, this is easy to play and correctly places the emphasis on action. The problem is, its familiar hack-n-slash gameplay has already been done far better in countless other titles including Onimusha, Lord of the Rings, and Pirates - Legend of Black Kat. As you hack your way through a series of confined areas, you'll have to deal with hordes of regenerating clones that spawn out of thin air. The controls can be frustratingly unresponsive, and certain stretches of the game are terribly monotonous. The one feature I did enjoy was the ability to break wooden platforms, bringing enemies camped out on top of them tumbling down. In terms of graphics, there's not much to see and the animation looks choppy. By the time you reach the Shinobi-style Asian stages (not sure why they're even in
this game), Legend teeters precariously between boring and unbearable. Instead of following the movie's storyline, the game unwisely follows its own plot, which is all over the place. Two-player cooperative action is supported, and you can play as Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turning, or Elizabeth Swan. The main strength of the game is its audio. Johnny Depp lent his voice to Captain Jack, and the musical score is quite good. Bethesda really needs to call in the VGC as a consultant however, because this game is riddled with design flaws. When you open a treasure chest, the loot inside silently fades away, leaving you wondering what the heck just happened. Did I just get something or not? The "save game" screen offers two options: "continue" and "quit". Huh? Granted, it saves your game in both cases, but that's not intuitive at all. When you load your previous game, it doesn't even take you back to where you left off! Instead you need to navigate a map to locate your previous spot! After a while you get the impression that no one at Bethesda has ever played a video game before; they thought they were inventing the first one! Gamers with super low expectations or clueless magazines might approve of this, but hardcore gamers will see right through it. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Pirates: Legend of the Black Buccaneer
Publisher: Valcom Games (2006)
Rating: Teen (violence)
I gave this bargain bin adventure a fighting chance, but after while I just got fed up with it. Legend of Black Buccaneer places you on a monkey-infested tropical island in search of some legendary treasure. I tend to enjoy pirate-themed games, but Black Buccaneer's horribly dense stage designs are the stuff of a reviewer's nightmare. Not only is each area multi-level and mazelike, but the 2D map is worthless, and you're often forced to backtrack extensively. Attempts to move blocks or open doors trigger messages like "You are unable to move this at the moment" or "This seems protected by some mysterious force". Equally irritating is the manner in which enemies tend to constantly regenerate out of thin air. Black Buccaneer's graphics aren't bad, but they aren't great either. The lush jungle scenery looks inviting from a distance, but is claustrophobic and fake up close. Decent music and exotic sound effects make up the audio track. Buccaneer's gameplay involves a good deal of boss and monkey fighting, but it's primarily about platform jumping and puzzle solving of the hackneyed switch-pulling/block-pushing variety. The jumping controls are forgiving, but your pirate tends to hang onto every ledge, which is irritating when you just want him to drop down! I like the idea of using cannons to blast open doors, but this concept is overused in the game. The ability to transform in the hulk-like Black Buccaneer doesn't add much either. And just when you think you're starting to make progress in the game, you'll encounter an invincible monkey or fall through an unseen trapdoor onto a bed of spikes. Legend of Black Buccaneer doesn't make much sense, and its arbitrary rules and frustrating stages are enough to make you celebrate
a quick death! © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2002)
Decked out in a tight black leather outfit, Black Kat is the Lara Croft of the high seas. With the exception of the ill-fated Shipwreckers
(Playstation, 1997), few video games have tackled the pirate theme. Legend of the Black Kat succeeds due to its emphasis on fast action over tedious problem solving. You won't find any block pushing or memory puzzles here, thank goodness. Instead, prepare yourself for exciting swordplay, island exploration, and impressive sea battles. Even treasure hunting is fun, as the controller actually vibrates when a buried chest is detected nearby. Most of the action takes place in the open sea or wide-open land areas, so the camera angle is rarely an issue. The sea battles look awesome, with massive explosions and flying chunks of burning wood. Unfortunately, when a ship is destroyed, it explodes instead of sinking, which is somewhat disappointment. The ship battles can also be played in the two-player mode, but these are less exciting. Legend's graphics are only fair, with rigid character models, flat landscapes, and water that looks artificial, especially up close. The audio, on the other hand, is quite rich, with creaking boat hulls, booming cannons, exotic nature sounds, and even traditional pirate music. If you're looking for an action-packed adventure with a pirate theme, you can't go wrong with Legend of Black Kat. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Publisher: Ubisoft (2003)
Rating: Teen (blood, suggestive themes, violence)
Either some Ubisoft marketing hottie has been sleeping with all the reviewers (except me, alas), or paying them under the table to write favorable reviews for their games (more likely). Well, it's time somebody set the record straight on the horrendously overrated Prince of Persia. Don't get me wrong, technically the Sands of Time is beyond reproach, with seamless graphics, fluid animation fluid, flawless sound, and controls far more forgiving than most platform games. But unlike most other critics, I judge games in terms of how enjoyable
they are to play (I'm funny that way). Prince of Persia feels like the most perfectly programmed mediocre game there ever was. What's the deal with critics who claimed this was revolutionary? Haven't they ever heard of Tomb Raider
? I've played my share of adventure games, and Sands of Time gave me the worst case of deja vu ever
. Basically you navigate an endless series of huge rooms loaded with platforms to jump between, poles to swing on, traps to dodge, and ledges to hang on to. It's like a compilation of the most tedious parts of every platform game you've ever played. As in Tomb Raider, when you enter an expansive new area the camera pans around to highlight locations and items of interest. But unlike that classic, Sands of Time offers little pay off. The fighting element has its share of problems as well. The sword-to-sword combat looks
impressive but is mainly automatic as you tap buttons on the controller. It's irritating how monsters can disappear and reappear directly in your path, and your prince always turns to face them, even when you're attempting to run. I also hate how you're forced to "suck up" the souls of slain monsters using your magical dagger (a la Soul Reaver) before they can come back to life. Lucky for us, the remaining monsters usually stand around like dorks, considerately giving you a few seconds to perform your fancy little dagger move. Prince of Persia's graphics have a slightly cartoonish quality reminiscent of Beyond Good and Evil (yet another overrated Ubisoft title!). The scenery is certainly attractive but repetitive as all hell. I can't count the number times I asked myself, "Wasn't I just in this room?" The crisp sound effects are top notch, from the alarming sound of crumbling rock to the pitter-patter of light footsteps. The voice acting is very good, and the music has an appropriate middle-eastern influence. Sands of Time offers two features worth mentioning: the ability to run along walls and control time. The time control mechanism adds a strategic element, but it's hardly a revolutionary idea (Blinx for the Xbox comes to mind). The controls are exceptionally forgiving, especially with the "time rewind" feature that lets you repeat ill fated leaps. Ubisoft clearly employs competent programmers, but their efforts are largely wasted with this. On a final note, I've noticed that certain magazine editors have been critical of the gaming public for the tepid sales of this game and its successor. I think that just validates this review. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Irem (2004)
I was a little nervous about seeing a classic shooter like R-Type given the 3D treatment, after seeing so many others ruined by the transition (can you say Contra?). However, I'm relieved to report that R-Type Final is a smashing success, managing to stay faithful to the original game while incorporating every modern visual effect under the sun. You get vertigo-inducing camera angles, liquid-metal bosses, spectacular weapons, and superb water effects. R-Type Final begins with a bang as you're thrust into a war-torn futuristic world that's as disorienting as it is spectacular. The first sub-boss is a crab creature crawling on the bottom of a sphere, and this battle's viewing angle is unlike anything I've seen in a video game before. The second stage is more conventional, as you fly through a jungle environment with a river below. What's interesting about this stage is that you can submerge your ship under the murky water, which exposes new enemies and provides a whole different point of view. Set over a modern metropolis, the third stage lets you battle huge airships among the skyscrapers. As you blast away while facing the ground, you get an awesome view of the wreckage raining down onto the streets below. The weapons in R-Type Final are remarkably original. Take for example the innovative yellow electrical bolt that you can "sweep" from side to side, or the blue weapon that strikes the top of the screen and then rains down lightening bolts. Too bad these weapons can't be powered up. R-Type Final is not for the faint of heart, and certain areas can be frustrating. Like Einhander
(PS1, 1997), the large objects fill the screen, and you'll often find yourself running short on real estate. The explosions could be better - your ship looks like confetti when it explodes. R-Type Final is a robust game, which five skill levels, a slew of customizable ships, a virtual "museum", and a gallery of fine artwork. The game records high scores not only for each difficulty level but for each stage
as well. And I almost overlooked the "AI Mode", a very original and interesting two-player strategy game that's a nice bonus. In this head-to-head contest, you actually program the behavior of your ship and then sit back and watch the ensuing battle unfold. My one real beef with R-Type Final is the lack of a stage select. In a game like this where the early levels are long and intense, you really shouldn't have to replay all the levels you've conquered. But overall, R-Type Final is still the best pure shooter to come out in years. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: UFO (2007)
As an old school gamer with a real appreciation for 2D shooters, a new title like Raiden 3 warms my heart. This may look like a generic vertical shooter on the surface, but underneath lies a work of art. The graphics are rendered in 3D, but except for some modest scaling, you'll barely notice. The shooting action is completely 2D, and it's extremely well balanced. Most modern shooters try to throw more objects on the screen than any human could keep track of, but Raiden 3 always offers up a manageable number of foes. Even when faced with waves of projectiles, there's always a clear escape route. Your firepower is substantial from the start, and certain weapons let you to "sweep" the screen with a single beam of energy. Raiden also avoids the obtuse control schemes and complex scoring systems that plague many shooters. You have one main weapon (which operates rapid-fire) and a limited supply bombs that are just as defensive as offensive. Another thing I love
about Raiden 3 is how it's so forgiving
. Your firepower is insane, but your enemy's is not, and the game gives you "the benefit of the doubt" during close scrapes. Seven stages are available in the main mode, and you can also play them individually for high score (scores are saved automatically). Stage locales include business districts, harbors, and industrial areas. The graphics are modest, with static-looking water, flat forests, and pixelated buildings. I tend to overlook graphics in a game like this, but I have to call Raiden 3 on its unimaginative scenery and enemies. I'm not expecting anything revolutionary, but the locations are forgettable, and the bosses are extremely cookie cutter - usually oversized tanks, jets, or boats. Still, the game is relentlessly fun, and the two-player simultaneous mode is a blast. Raiden 3 didn't blow me away with its visuals, but I know a good shooter when I play one. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Rapala Pro Fishing
Publisher: Activision (2004)
Rapala is pretty much what you'd expect from a bargain-priced fishing game. If you already enjoy fishing you'll think it's great, but otherwise you'll probably hate it. Initially the game annoyed me with its lack of a tutorial. There are a lot of controls and techniques to learn, and having to figure them out on your own is a hassle. Fortunately, the control scheme makes enough sense that it only takes a few minutes to get accustomed to driving your boat, casting, and reeling. The triangle button is especially useful, allowing you to quickly "reset" after a bad cast. Once the line is out, you view your lure from a side angle, with your fisherman superimposed in the corner. The murky water and aquatic life look realistic enough, but the camera tends to swing in a disconcerting manner. It gets even worse when a fish appears, causing the screen to fluctuate between the lure and approaching fish. You really can't tell what's going on until the fish finally bites. The fights are rather conventional as you jerk and reel the line in response to on-screen prompts. When you go for a while without catching anything, the game offers helpful hints, like "try a larger lure". Each lure has an informative description, but the freakin' text scrolls by so damn slowly
that it's not even worth reading. I enjoyed Rapala's sloshing water sound effects, but there's a steady beeping sound that really got on my nerves. The game records you catches (along with a nice picture), and the challenging tournament mode could keep you occupied for weeks as you unlock new lures and locations. Rapala Pro Fishing may appeal to some desperate fishermen, but it seems tame compared to old favorites like Sega Bass Fishing
(Dreamcast, 2000). © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Ratchet and Clank
Publisher: Sony (2002)
Rating: Teen (mild violence)
Despite being somewhat weary of 3D platform games, I have to admit Ratchet and Clank is an entertaining romp. Ratchet is a dog-like alien, and Clank is his small robot companion that rides around on his back. Together, they embark on a series of missions on multiple planets with futuristic scenery. Released at about the same time as Jak and Daxter
and Sly Cooper
, Ratchet distinguishes itself by letting you blast enemies with a multitude of weapons. This shooting feature sets the game apart, but otherwise Ratchet and Clank treads on some very familiar territory. Items are hidden in crates that look like they were stolen directly from a Crash Bandicoot game. Heck, there are even exploding
crates here. And those flame-throwing thugs gave me a serious case of deja vu from Crash Bandicoot 2 (or was it 3?). Fortunately, Ratchet's tight control, polished graphics, and clever sense of humor are enough to overcome the game's derivative aspects. Instead of gathering coins, rings, or fruit, you collect nuts and bolts by the hundreds. Since it would be tedious to pick them up individually, they float to you like a magnet when you approach, and I love the clinking and clanking sounds they make as you suck them up. I also love the imaginative weapons like the "suck cannon" and "glove of doom". Ratchet and Clank has a very aggressive brand of gameplay that's lacking in most platformers. An auto-aim mechanism makes it easy to pick off one robot after the next, although the system doesn't work very well when your adversaries are off-screen. The game has a nifty auto-save feature, although you also have the option to save the game yourself at any time. Ratchet and Clank is one of the best platform games around, and I recommend it highly. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Infogrames (2000)
If you've always wanted to own a real pool table, Real Pool provides a cost-efficient alternative. It offers eight pocket games and six "carem" games, and you can play in practice, tournament, or puzzle modes. Graphically, the game is not too exciting. The pools halls are dull and sparse, and there aren't any spectators or hot-looking, scantily clad women to impress. The control scheme is unique in that there's no timed meter. You simply adjust your power, aim your cue, and press X. It doesn't require good reflexes, but it still works fine. Before each shot, you can choose between several viewing angles, but none seem to provide the perfect angle you're looking for. Thus, it's difficult to judge your shot, and the game can be very unforgiving at times. A free roaming camera would have been nice. I think the best and most innovative aspect of Real Pool is the puzzle mode, which challenges you to sink balls on oddly shaped tables. It's a lot of fun, and would certainly be difficult to duplicate in real life. Crisp sound effects complement the action, and the background music is a light jazz that sounds like Kenny G (yes, you can turn it off). Real Pool is okay, but there's got to be better alternatives out there. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: THQ (2001)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore)
There was plenty of hype surrounding the initial release of Red Faction, arguably the first high-quality first-person shooter (FPS) for the PS2. With the arrival of Halo (Xbox), Faction seems much less impressive now, but you can't question its tight gameplay. With a smooth framerate, realistic sound effects, and a compelling Total Recall-like storyline, this is one of the most engaging shooters I've played on the PS2. As a miner working underground on Mars, you join a force of workers in a rebellion against the oppressive Ultor Corporation. Like Halo, the comfortable control scheme lets you move with one analog joystick and aim with the other. You can crawl through vents or scale ladders as easy and you can walk down a hallway. The dark caves and industrial environments are somewhat bland, but the levels are cleverly designed, and you can destroy (or at least damage) just about everything. When a door is locked, you can literally make your own by blowing a big hole in the wall with a rocket launcher. That's what I love about this game; it gives you massive firepower up front, and you rarely need to worry about conserving ammo. And at any given time, it's easy to tell what you need to do and where you have to go. The gameplay is pretty standard, but there are a few innovations that make Red Faction unique. You can often preview upcoming areas using video monitors, and an excellent "auto-aiming" feature makes it much easier to pick off bad guys. Also, I really like how the game is NOT broken up into individual missions, but instead feels like one continuous journey. The audio is first-rate, with pulse-pounding music and official-sounding announcements over the intercoms. Enemy guards call for backup, and beg for mercy when shot. You can save your place at any time. There's a much-ballyhooed multiplayer mode, but I didn't find it to be anything special. Overall, I wouldn't call Red Faction revolutionary, but it's very solid all around. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Xs Games (2006)
Rating: Teen (violence)
I hear the developers of this third-person shooter had a hard time finding a publisher for their game. Maybe that's because The Red Star focuses on good old-fashioned gameplay over flashy graphics. Although I'd hesitate to call Red Star "old school" (this is
the PS2, for Pete's sake), its developers obviously grew up playing their share of classic 2D shooters. Red Star gets off to a slow start, beginning with bland intro explaining how an "alternate" Russia has been overrun with massive technology and futuristic weapons. I couldn't skip through the text fast enough, and the plodding first stage felt every bit like the tedious, extended tutorial it is. Once you hit the second stage however, Red Star starts to gain traction, offering a nice combination of melee combat and rapid-fire shooting. Firing from a distance is generally safer, but your guns are prone to overheating. The action is viewed from a tilted overhead angle, and there's no need for any sort of camera control. Gameplay is similar to X-Men Legends, but Red Star is better. Each stage puts you up against waves of well-armed soldiers, each of which employ their own distinct tactics. Much of the fighting takes place on elevated platforms, and it's satisfying to knock screaming foes over the edge. Oversized bosses assume the form of uninspired tanks, planes, cannons, and robots, but none take very long to dispose of. The first boss appears to emerge from a flat video screen, and this amazing effect is the visual highlight of the game. Bosses shower you with a large number of projectiles, but the missiles tend to be large and slow enough to reveal an escape route. You can play Red Star solo or forge through the game with a friend, and power-ups can be purchased between stages. It may not look like much, but Red Star's gameplay is pretty much on target. Gamers will an appetite for shooting won't be disappointed with this well-crafted budget title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil Dead Aim
Publisher: Capcom (2003)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)
The last time Capcom attempted a first-person Resident Evil game (Survivor, PS1), it was a complete disaster. What seemed like a cool concept was marred by poor graphics, shallow gameplay, and no light gun support. Well, apparently Capcom learned a few lessons from Survivor, because Dead Aim is a huge improvement. It's an exciting, highly visceral shooter that's hard to put down. The flimsy backstory is an unlikely tale about someone stealing Umbrella's T-Virus and then hijacking a cruise ship. Having the worst luck in the world, you find yourself onboard this Love Boat of the Dead. Dead Aim is best played with Namco's incredibly accurate Guncon 2 light gun. The control scheme is reasonable, although the directional pad on the back of the gun isn't particularly comfortable. As you wander through the ship, you view the action from behind your character, but once you pull the trigger, the first-person view kicks in. It's great fun blowing away the shambling zombies, which fall back against blood-smeared walls. The zombies look fairly gruesome and move in a very freaky manner. In time, you'll even battle a shapely metallic "terminatrix"-style boss. Dead Aim has its share of scary moments, especially when you get blindsided, or worse, mobbed by zombies. The game made me feel like a character in a George Romero film, although the cruise ship is hardly an appropriate setting. The 3D graphics are rendered on the fly, and while they hardly compare to the pre-rendered GameCube RE graphics, they serve their purpose well. The sparse, low-budget-movie audio effects are chilling, but moments of eerie silence are equally unnerving. You control multiple characters as you play through the game, including a Paul Walker wannabe and a hot Asian chick. Unlike other Resident Evil games, you don't get the "door opening" animations between rooms, and the save points are few and far between. Dead Aim is a nice mix of arcade and adventure, and while not particularly scary, the first person view puts you in the game like no other Resident Evil game can. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil Outbreak
Publisher: Capcom (2003)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence)
This on-line enabled Resident Evil title places the emphasis on teamwork as you attempt to escape zombies in a series of harrowing scenarios. Outbreak's on-line play was panned by critics, but this review covers the solo experience, which I can assure you is equally shabby. Outbreak does have a few things going for it. The separate chapters offer diverse environments like a bar, hospital, hotel, and underground lab facility. Like the original Resident Evil titles, Outbreak uses pre-rendered scenery which offers a terrific degree of detail. Unfortunately, the camera angles change abruptly as you walk, which is disconcerting and mucks with the directional controls. The characters appear extremely lifelike, especially the shapely females (including Jill, described as a "master of unlocking things"). The game generates a genuine sense of desperation as characters become injured and hobble around - just like a real horror movie! Characters have the ability to heal each other, provide cover, or exchange items. The CPU controls your partners in the one-player mode, and while they tend to wander around directionless most of the time, they magically reappear at critical junctures in the story. Outbreak's promise is dashed by a number of serious issues. I found the controls to be unintuitive and often unresponsive. Just like watching a slasher film, you'll be yelling, "run [expletive] run!" as your character meanders around in a daze, totally out of your control. The item management screens are awkward to navigate, which is especially problematic since the zombies keep coming
when you're fiddling with your inventory! The collision detection is lousy (see people walk through each other!), and there's a lot of random, inappropriate dialogue like "What a fool!" and "I don't think so!" A few of the puzzles make no sense to me. Why is it necessary to thaw out a frozen wrench before you can use it? But by far the worst aspect of Outbreak is its excruciating loading screens that kick in whenever you enter a new room
. These screens don't even give you anything to look at! Recognizing this glaring flaw, Capcom gives you the option of installing this game to the PS2 hard disk, in case you're one of the three people who own that thing. Last but not least, Outbreak is also prone to lock-up. I can appreciate Capcom wanting to take the Resident Evil series in a new direction, but this is one chapter in the saga you can safely bypass. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil Outbreak File 2
Publisher: Capcom (2004)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)
Resident Evil Outbreak File 2 is more interesting that the original, but since it's saddled with the same underlying engine, it suffers from the same technical flaws. The best part of the game is how its scenarios are all unlocked from the start, making it feel like you're getting four Resident Evil games for the price of one! The scenarios are far more imaginative this time around, including one that takes place in a zoo full of zombie animals. Wait until you see the rampaging zombie elephant - that thing is like a T-Rex! Exploring the zoo is fun, but you're often hounded by annoying insects and zombie pelicans (now there's
something you don't see everyday!). Another interesting chapter features a dilapidated abandoned hospital in the middle of a spooky forest, and another takes place in a subway infested with giant vermin. It's possible to play through several of these in parallel. Otherwise the gameplay is the same, which means you'll need to contend with some seriously atrocious loading times. I generally have a high tolerance for load screens, but I've never seen them this long and frequent. It's really unacceptable. Like the first game, Outbreak 2 allows you to play cooperatively on-line with a bunch of racist 14-year olds. I opted for the solo mode, and I couldn't believe
the CPU-controlled characters are! At one point me and two cohorts safely swam across a pond containing a large crocodile. But while I'm heading for the gate on the other side, what are they doing? Heading back into the water
! I also find it amusing how these guys seem to forget they have weapons until everybody's almost dead. The collision detection is lousy, and once you sustain injury, it's hard to escape from the relentless animals. Fortunately there are a good number of typewriters to save your progress. Resident Evil Outbreak 2 has its moments, but sloppy programming and horrible load times make this one hard to enjoy. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (2000)
Is this really the fifth Ridge Racer? This game looks suspiciously like the Ridge Racer One
, only with slightly improved graphics. In fact, one of the tracks was taken directly
from the first Ridge Racer. The graphics are sharp and the cars are shiney, but there is noticeable jagginess in the roads and backgrounds. In addition, the two-player split screen mode suffers from terrible fog and embarassing pop-up (scenery that appears suddenly as you approach it). Actually, the only impressive graphical element is the sexy Asian girl who appears in all the setup screens. There is a cool "spark" special effect when the cars scrape the ground, but this is overused to the max. The tracks are well designed, but there are not enough of them. Gameplay hasn't changed much over the years, but its arcade style of racing still provides a good time. Like Ridge Racer 4, there are several modes,and endless setup screens to let you select car type, car color, engine type, driver name, team name, etc. The sonic music is adequate, but the announcer is an annoying idiot. Ridge Racer V is fair, but it hardly shows off the capabilities of the system. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Takara (2002)
Here's a cute little racing game that really doesn't try too hard, and it shows. As a matter of fact, you'd think Road Trip was intended to be a bargain bin title from the start. These graphics would be better suited to the PS1. The cars look like boxy toys, and the tracks are remarkably simple and plain. Like most racing games, you advance up the ranks by winning races, acquiring licenses, and upgrading your car. But Road Trip has the added "feature" of driving between cities, each with its own set of tracks. This leaves plenty of room for hidden areas and goodies to be found along the way, but the scenery is far too ho-hum to make it worth the trip. In fact, most of these lengthy "road trips" are incredibly boring. The races themselves feature 24 cars, an impressive number considering Gran Turismo is limited to six. Some of the tracks are okay, but poor physics and programming glitches are constant companions. Worse yet, these races run in slow motion compared to most modern racers. The music is absolutely nauseating, as is the dialogue between the cars ("Win the Gran Prix and you can be President!"). I was hoping that the wacky array of mini-games might save Road Trip, but poor control and camera problems prevent these from being enjoyable. Even the promising "car soccer" game fell flat. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2001)
Here's a superb crash-up-derby style racer that seemed to come from out of nowhere. Rumble Racing has everything that makes racing games fun: simple controls, easy handling, shortcuts, ramps, and spectacular weapons. The graphics aren't flashy, but the action is fast and furious. A shoulder button allows you to perform tricks like flips and rolls, and well-performed stunts are rewarded with a speed boost. And if you've think you've seen every racing weapon there is, wait until you see the TORNADO! It's a sight to behold as the sky darkens and a huge funnel appears. The other weapons (bombs, landslides, shockwaves) are easy to use and look great. There are 36 vehicles and 15 well-designed tracks in all. Rumble Racing won me over in a big way. The only area where it stumbles is the sound department, thanks to an annoying commentator who never shuts up with his idiotic remarks. There are a nice variety of options and modes, including a two-player split screen mode (sorry, no 4 player), and a fun team mode. Rumble Racing is a game anyone can pick up and enjoy. If you're tired of those tedious "realistic" racers, Rumble Racing will provide relief. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Rygar: The Legendary Adventure
Publisher: Tecmo (2002)
Rating: Teen (Blood and gore, violence)
Rygar is a thing of beauty. I can't tell you how impressed I am with this thoughtfully designed platform game. Originally, Rygar was a popular NES side scroller back in 1987, and fans will be pleased with this elaborate 3D remake. The tone is set with an intro that's nothing less than mind blowing, and the game itself is a work of art on par with Sony's Ico
. It's set in an ancient, mythological world of Roman coliseums and Greek temples. It's almost dreamlike, and ruins have never looked so good. One stage in particular (the water stage), features some breathtaking rainbow effects. You know it's good when you actually stop playing just to gawk at the scenery. The gameplay gradually draws you in and refuses to let go. The main innovation in Rygar is his "diskarmor", which functions as both a shield and throwing weapon. Its uses increase as the game progresses, and it eventually doubles as a grappling hook. Do you like to destroy things? If so, Rygar is your game. Not only can you destroy nearly everything, but the game even encourages you to do so! You'll often inadvertently smash things you didn't even think could be destroyed, which was how I discovered many secret areas. Your diskarmor is a devastating weapon, slicing through several enemies at once. Rygar is also loaded with secrets and objects to collect. The bosses are a mixed bag, ranging from colossal rock titans to silly floating masks. I found the difficulty to be just about right, with a generous number of save points sprinkled throughout the game. Best of all, falling will not
kill you - you'll just get put back where you fell from. How refreshing is that? While gameplay is excellent in general, I occasionally found myself disoriented on rare occasions by awkward camera angles. I can't forget to mention the lavish classical score ranging from soaring epic compositions to delicate melodies. It gives the game a dramatic tone and a cinematic flair. Likewise the sound effects of rushing water and crumbling rock are uncanny in their realism. Rygar is one of the most addictive platforms games I've ever played on my PS2. Don't miss out on this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.