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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Playstation 4 Reviews T

Tales of Berseria (Guest reviewer DaHeckIzDat)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2015)
Posted: 2020/5/7
Rating: teen (blood, mild language, mild suggestive themes, partial nudity, use of alcohol, violence)

screenshotAfter the disappointment that was Tales of Zestiria (Bandai Namco, 2015), Bandai knew they needed to pull out all the stops to win back their fans' trust—and they did! Tales of Berseria (ToB) stars Velvet, a young woman who looks like she put her Hot Topic outfit through a shredder. She lives with her little brother Laphicet and her brother-in-law Artorius. When a mysterious sickness starts turning people into demons, Artorius sacrifices Laphicet to stem the demonic plague. Velvet's resulting anger turns her into a demon herself who vows to get revenge. She's joined by a goofy samurai, a theatrical witch, and a pirate cursed with bad luck.

The voice actors are all great and seem to be having a good time. After suffering through Zestiria's passionless cast these colorful characters are a breath of fresh air! ToB is a rip-roaring emotional roller coaster that runs 40-50 hours and I loved every minute of it! The story isn't the only thing that's improved however. The combat is more action focused, with Velvet stringing together combos like Bayonetta-lite! You can even design your own combos to determine which move each consecutive button press will unleash. It's not button mashing; it's personalized button mashing! And in an almost Dark Souls-like move, the extent of your combo is determined by a stamina meter. By stunning enemies you can extend your stamina meter, allowing combos to run even longer.

Experimentation will help you determine attacks enemies are vulnerable to, but be advised they'll do the same to you. Mechanically speaking ToB is the best Tales Of game I've ever played, but it's still a Tales Of game with the same Tales Of problems. The areas between cities and dungeons look better than previous games, but they're still just overly long hallways designed to pad out the game's run time. And as great as the story is, there are times when it goes overboard, subjecting you to cutscenes running upwards of fifteen minutes! I'm not sure what to make of all the subtitle typos, but they are everywhere and some are just plain weird ("I'm sure you can squeeze some privates!"). Still, there's plenty to love In Berseria, especially for gamers who like to lose themselves in a good story. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Tales of Zestiria (Guest reviewer DaHeckIzDat)
Grade: D
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2015)
Posted: 2018/7/19
Rating: Teen (Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence)

screenshotIf there's one thing you could always count on from the "Tales of" series of Japanese RPGs, it's a great story. So what happens when you take that away? Tales of Zestiria, sadly. The hero is Sorey, a young man raised by the angelic seraphim who leaves his peaceful mountaintop home to face a demonic plague in the world below. With his pure heart and spiritual abilities Sorey becomes a legendary figure prophesied to bring the world into an age of light. While previous Tales games featured complex storylines with ample twists and turns, Zestiria settles for the most cliched, predictable "chosen one" narrative imaginable.

Sorey comes off as the world's biggest goody-two-shoes and the supporting cast is equally bland. Cutscenes drag because no one has anything interesting to say, and even the voice actors sound disinterested. I made an effort to enjoy this, but it's just… so… boring! Little else has changed from previous games, with real-time combat that uses O for physical attacks and X for magic. You can map various thumbstick and button combinations but enemies tend to be pushovers so button mashing will suffice. The camera remains behind you during battle, making it hard to judge the distance between you and enemies.

The back of the box boasts of an open world adventure, but that's a bit of a misnomer. The over-world has indeed been opened up considerably but there's nothing to do but run between cities. I consider myself a fan of the Tales series but it's hard to ignore the shortcomings of Zestiria, especially without a strong storyline to hold the experience together. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Tekken 7
Grade: C
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2017)
Posted: 2017/12/14
Rating: Teen

screenshotTekken 7 received glowing reviews over the summer, leaving me to wonder what all the fuss was about. Besides its high definition graphics, has this game changed at all since the original Tekken (PS1, 1995)? It's still a one-on-one 3D slugfest with a button assigned to each limb. The selection of fighters includes old favorites like Law, Paul, Kazuya, and Jack. I always preferred King, despite the fact that his cat head is too small for his body. Nina now comes decked out in a tattered wedding dress, Kazumi can summon a ghostly tiger, and Heihachi plays the obligatory villain.

New entries include a hulking robot named Gigas who can catch an opponent in mid-air and throw him around like a rag doll! I was also surprised to see Akuma of Street Fighter fame. The remaining fighters seem to exist to meet some kind of diversity quota. The character models are sharp but robotic compared to the Street Fighter series.

The realistic stages include some really dull locations like an endless sandbar, a volcano, and a mountain top. I did enjoy the helipad stage which overlooks a city skyline at night, and the stage featuring a platform surrounded by robotic arms is also impressive. The fights are action-packed thanks to crisp controls, imaginative attacks, and flashy effects. One new wrinkle is the "rage art" ability, but since there are no instructions figuring out how that works is an exercise left to the reader.

The modes and player statistics are divided into online and offline categories. I like the concept but the offline selection didn't excite me. The story mode is so long-winded I could not stand it! The arcade mode employs some kind of "kyu progression" system I didn't understand. What ever happened to keeping score? Oh sure you win gold coins to unlock bunny ears and sunglasses but who the hell cares?! Tekken 7 is technically sound but it fails to offer the player compelling reasons to play. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Tempest 4000
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (2018)
Posted: 2018/9/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe original Tempest was a 1981 vector-graphic arcade hit that used a unique dial controller. The idea was to move a shooting claw around the perimeters of large geometric objects, blasting aliens crawling in from the distance. You could rapidly fire shots while strafing the lanes, and when you felt overwhelmed just unleash a "super-zapper" to obliterate everything on the screen.

Its sequel Tempest 2000 (Jaguar, 1994) served as the flagship title of the Atari Jaguar console. The game took the classic gameplay to new heights with psychedelic backdrops, power-ups, more stages, and catchy techno music. Tempest 4000 is surprisingly similar - even reusing the same soundtrack! Maybe that's not a bad thing. The rumbling intro really gets your blood pumping and the shooting mayhem is pure arcade fun. Using the thumbstick to navigate the perimeter feels inexact but is probably better than digital control. Holding down X engages rapid-fire but your shots feel intermittent until you upgrade your firepower. Obtain the "AI droid" and you'll get a robot who shoots by your side, doubling the destruction.

Tempest 4000 does add a few new twists. Enemies are now seen approaching from the distance even before they reach firing range. There are more shapes to shoot, and they tend to burst into crazy pyrotechnics. When you die the stage doesn't reset, but instead drops you back into the current level with enemies now teeming along the edge. It's a little unfair, especially if you don't have the "jump" power-up. Between stages you travel through a space tunnel while trying to remain centered for bonus points, but it's nothing special.

Tempest 4000 offers three modes of play, but you'll have to figure out the difference between them on your own because there's no [expletive] manual. The "classic mode" has so much flashing colors and distorted visuals it's sensory overload. Random messages like "PLEASURE" and "YES YES YES" make you feel like you're indulging in some sort of perverted fantasy. The game records high scores locally, and I love having the current high displayed at the top of the screen. For a longtime fan like myself Tempest 4000 is slightly underwhelming, but if you haven't experienced Tempest before you're in for quite a trip. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Tennis World Tour
Grade: F
Publisher: Bigben Interactive (2018)
Posted: 2020/4/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen I saw Roger Federer gracing the cover of World Tour Tennis I figured it had to be a safe bet. If you can't trust Roger Federer, who can you trust? I'll never make that mistake again.

Tennis World Tour begins with a time-consuming tutorial walking you through the basics like serving and aiming your shots. But what's the deal with these graphics? I was hoping the vaguely cartoonish players were just part of the tutorial, but no, the actual game looks this bad! Players in a PS4 game licensed by the pros should look photorealistic, not look like characters from a mobile phone game.

The gameplay tries to mimic Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast, 2000) by letting you hold down the swing button to "charge" your shot. You can also sprint via R1. I tried to remain cautiously optimistic heading into my first exhibition match. Taking the defaults, the game set up Wawrinka vs. Wawrinka - in the same outfit no less! Every volly felt stilted and I couldn't get into any kind of rhythm. And despite playing in a large arena with fans there was no atmosphere at all.

Then I tried the career mode and the wheels came off completely. When your opponent faults your player doesn't even react, as if the controller had disconnected. Sometimes my player would lunge in the wrong direction, and other times he'd give up on a shot and not even bother to swing! Whenever I approached the net my player seemed to have no idea what was going on and refused to swing. And when your computer opponents allow perfectly returnable shots to pass, it doesn't make for a very satisfying victory.

The commentator does his best John McEnroe impersonation but his commentary is weak, repeating the same lines ("Now's definitely not the time for a double fault") and making bizarre statements ("What power! Talk about ball abuse!") And why is the umpire yelling "out!" for winning shots that are in? Lacking the fun of an arcade title and the realism of a simulation, Tennis World Tour falls squarely into no-man's land. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Terminator: Resistance
Grade: D
Publisher: Reef Entertainment (2019)
Posted: 2022/4/25
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood, sexual content, strong language, violence)

screenshotTerminator Resistance takes place in 1997. Some of you may recall that was the year the Green Bay Packers won the Superbowl, George Clooney was named Sexiest Man alive, and Skynet became self-aware and caused nuclear armageddon.

Playing the role of soldier Jacob Rivers, Resistance immediately thrusts you in the middle of the "war against the machines." After a few close calls you meet up with members of the Resistance including Danny Glover, a cranky old hag, and of course some annoying chick who always wants to tag along.

The character models look like something from the PS3 era, but the game maintains that gritty Terminator look and feel. You'll trudge through burnt-out buildings, abandoned factories, and junkyards below overpasses. An amazing soundtrack instills a sense of dread during some of the more pulse-pounding scenes. Early on you're forced to employ stealth to avoid Terminators, and the suspense runs high.

The controls are responsive and easy to pick up for the most part. The setup screen however presents your weapons in a diamond configuration, giving you the false impression you can use the directional pad to toggle between them. The act of "hacking" is played out via a minigame that plays like Frogger (Atari 2600, 1982) except with worse graphics. It is pretty sweet however when you turn a turret to your side, causing it to mow down all approaching terminators.

The game can be annoying. Was it really necessary to incorporate so many "nuisance" enemies? There are a lot of flying drones and scampering spider droids that zap you with electricity. Worst of all are the metal bugs that roll at you and explode in your face before you can aim your weapon.

And is there a reason the game prompts you to hit a button after every loading screen? Did they think the player might want to wait just a little longer? Oh, and the crafting just plain sucks. I realize they were trying to give the game depth but I got really tired of collecting junk. You're often encouraged to converse with other characters but I was grateful "leave" is always an option.

Resistance held my attention until I reached this wide-open city with multiple objectives around a sprawling map. Everything looks the same and the battlefield is one big maze. It's hard to figure out what the game wants you to do. I'm trying to take pictures of installations and it keeps saying "not a target" or "bad quality" which is total BS. The final straw was not being able to hack a panel because my "skill level wasn't high enough".

I'm starting to think the whole Terminator storyline is played out. Resistance has high production values but the gameplay gradually wore me down my spirit. I understand a post-apocalyptic world is inherently depressing, but does the game have to be too? © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

The Bunker
Grade: D
Publisher: Wales Interactive (2016)
Posted: 2020/11/10
Rating: Teen (violence, blood and gore, language)

screenshotMy interest in full-motion video (FMV) games was reinvigorated by Late Shift (Wales Interactive, 2017), a stylish, interactive heist film. The Bunker is a little different. Instead of being prompted for quick decisions you move a cursor around the screen to examine items and move between areas. The box cover suggests a slasher flick but The Bunker is more of a psychological thriller.

You play a man named John who has spent his entire life in the seclusion of an underground government facility after a nuclear attack on the UK. The game begins by establishing his daily routine, and it's almost unbearable as you methodically point-and-click to repeatedly take vitamins, eat beans, and check the computer. When the facility springs a radiation leak John is forced to take action.

The deserted facility has a haunting quality with its colored lights and claustrophobic spaces. The sense of isolation is unsettling and the music is heart-pounding. As John urgently attempts to make the necessary repairs you'll see flashbacks of his childhood which explain what happened to the other personnel who worked down there.

As a movie the Bunker is fairly compelling. A brooding tension pervades a story that will keep you guessing until the end. As a game The Bunker is less successful. I felt as if I was being strung along while moving my marker around the screen looking for things to click on. On rare occasions a quick-time event demands a quick response, but these don't seem to impact the story much.

During the exciting climax the load screens and gaming elements tend to get in the way. Clocking in at over two hours, the game is long and exhausting. It was interesting to play through once but I will not be returning to The Bunker anytime soon. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 players 

The Golf Club
Grade: C
Publisher: HB Studios (2014)
Posted: 2015/8/16
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt may lack the big-budget production values of Rory McIlroy PGA Tour (Xbox One, 2015), but The Golf Club is a lot less aggravating. Instead of making you sit through a lengthy install/update process, the game just starts right up! What is this, the 80's?! There's no forced tutorials - just a well-designed menu with all the essential options. I was out on the links in no time, enjoying tantalizing views of rolling hills, sparkling lakes, lush foliage, and majestic mountain peaks.

The game doesn't tell you how to play, but that's okay because Golf Club is intuitive. Swinging with the right stick feels natural enough and unlike other analog swing implementations, there's no meter. You'll need to experiment to figure out how to adjust your power, and during approach shots it's really easy to overshoot the green. You need to do a lot of math in this game and applying backspin is kind of a mystery.

The camera angles that follow the ball are exciting and offer breath-taking views of your surroundings. The action moves along at a steady pace so you can play a whole round in about a half hour. The player and courses are fictional, but a course editor lets you generate and edit random courses, so in theory you have an infinite selection. I loved its streamlined design but there are times when The Golf Club feels like amateur hour.

The one-man commentator sounds less like a sportscaster and more like a drinking buddy. His remarks are so annoying and shallow that I shut him off. Another irritation is having to wait for the camera to swing around before I can line up my next shot. I enjoy the Friday Night Lights-style soundtrack but some of the natural sounds could use some work. Is that static emanating from my back speakers supposed to be a brook? PGA fans will probably opt for Rory McIlroy, but if you don't take your golf too seriously The Golf Club should suit you just fine. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

The Golf Club 2019
Grade: F
Publisher: 2K Sports (2018)
Posted: 2019/9/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe first edition of The Golf Club (PS4, 2014) didn't try very hard but was easy to play and showed potential. If Golf Club 2019 is any indication, that potential has been completely squandered. The first thing I noticed was how practically all the modes are online-only, so offline gamers can effectively kiss their career mode aspirations goodbye. The only thing left is to play a local exhibition match against a friend.

In terms of production values The Golf Club 2019 spared every expense. There are no real golfers or courses. So what's the [expletive] point of having a PGA license? I can appreciate the natural beauty of the lush, wooded courses, but the generic golfers look like holdovers from a PS3 title. The controls employ the "analog stick" swing which has to be the most braindead mechanism ever devised. I can hit the ball 100% straight every time, but power is another story. There's no way to gauge how far the ball is going to go!

Want to fine-tune your swing? Good luck with that. The icons are counter-intuitive and one is half-way off the right edge of the screen! There's no guarantee you'll get a decent view of your shot, and in one case my entire shot was obstructed by a single bush.

And then there's the audio quality - or lack of it! The lone announcer "Jon" lends sparse commentary like "this is hole four", "good shoot", and "nice!" Couldn't they hire somebody who could at least pretend to be vaguely familiar with the sport?

I found it hard to stomach an entire round on my own, so I tried two players with my buddy Eric. Not only did it take forever to set up a two-player game, but the action was downright embarrassing. If you grew up with golf games that were actually fun, trying to play garbage like The Golf Club 19 can be quite the sobering experience. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

The Quarry
Grade: B+
Publisher: 2K Games (2022)
Posted: 2022/10/11
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, violence, mild sexual themes, strong language)

screenshotFurther blurring the line between game and film, The Quarry is a 10-hour horror flick employing computer-generated characters played by real actors. Why not just film the actors? Well, this way you don't have to create any sets. In addition, certain areas allow you to wander freely a la Resident Evil (Capcom, 2015).

The game takes place at an ideal location for terror: a summer campground by a lake. There's actually quite a bit to explore including a spacious lodge, a boat house, and nearby police station. The story revolves around a group of councilors forced to spend an extra night at the camp when their bus breaks down.

How do the people look? Well initially I had that "uncanny valley" feeling. Something about them just doesn't look right. Over time however I grew accustomed to their appearance, and eventually learned to admire the exquisite facial detail and wide range of subtle expressions.

Real actors assume the roles (including David Arquette) and if you're a movie buff many are easily recognizable. I'd love to give you a rundown but I don't want to spoil the fun. These actors do a fine job delivering some poorly-written lines. Lacking humor and wit, the dialog seems designed with the primary purpose of dragging each scene out for as long as possible.

The Quarry is engrossing thanks to its first-rate cinematography, making each location feel eerie yet strangely alluring. Gameplay involves making decisions on-the-fly. Some are dialog-based while others are "quick time" events.

The game is not as scary as it could have been, and becomes less scary as the story unfolds. Still, there are a few alarming plot twists. The decisions you make are quite consequential, especially towards the end of the game.

One highlight is the old lady fortune teller who you meet with between chapters. She reads tarot cards you find and provides glimpses into possible futures. Actress Grace Zabriskie does an amazing job of instilling this character with charisma and personality. She will have you mesmerized.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Quarry but apparently made a lot of bad decisions, leading to an unsatisfying conclusion. In retrospect I think I was too aggressive. I'm not diving back in right away, but one day I look forward to having another ill-fated, tragedy-filled, blood-soaked trip to The Quarry. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

The Sinking City (Guest reviewer DaHeckIzDat)
Grade: D
Publisher: Frogwares (2019)
Posted: 2021/6/25
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, suggestive Themes, violence)

screenshotThe Sinking City falls into a hard-to-categorize gray area. It looks like a AAA title and clearly has a bigger budget than most indie games, yet a lack of polish and numerous bugs indicate the developers may have bit off more than they could chew.

You play as a grizzled 1920's detective who's come to the city of Oakmont to uncover the source of his strange, prophetic nightmares. Upon arriving you discover the town half-submerged with weird monsters and a populace that is going insane. The story is original yet incorporates elements from the works of classic horror author HP Lovecraft. Fans will recognize plenty of colorful characters as well as a treasure-trove of subtle references.

Oakmont's wet, soggy environment perfectly embodies how a Lovecraftian setting should look! Barnacles grow up the sides of buildings, ragged curtains billow in chilly winds, and everything is damp. The city's sprawl becomes an annoyance however as there isn't much to do and monsters only spawn in certain locations. Load times are unacceptably long, making even fast-travel feel like a chore. A motorboat transports you through the flooded parts of the city, but I feel as if they could have done more with it.

Detective work is one area where the game shines, but like everything else it becomes routine over time. You'll explore a building for clues, interrogate suspects, and use psychic powers to deduce what happened. The game will often present several events to piece together, but they're usually presented in chronological order anyway. I like how you have to deduce crime locations on a map instead of being led around by the nose. It makes you feel like a real detective!

The story is enjoyable but as a survival horror game Sinking City comes off flat. The slimy, grotesque monsters appear so often they lose their scare factor. Combat has a weird, slippery feel, causing your crosshair to slide right past where you're trying to shoot. As for determining if your melee attack hit, you might as well flip a coin. Choices made during the course of the game affect how the story plays out, but ultimately you always choose between the same three endings.

The Sinking City could have been great if the developers had tightened things up and been a little less ambitious with the scope. Half the content feels unnecessary and some of the game's most promising features feel janky and unfinished. That said, HP Lovecraft fans will likely still find a lot to love. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

The Witness (Guest reviewer DaHeckIzDat)
Grade: F

screenshotWhen it comes to modern puzzle games the bar was set pretty high by Portal (The Orange Box, Xbox 360). Not only did it mesh mind-bending puzzles with first-person shooting, but weaved in an engaging and often-hilarious story. Several other developers have since tried to copy the formula with minimal success. The Witness falls into that category.

The premise is that you are an explorer arriving on a scenic but strangely abandoned island. To get to the bottom of the mystery, you'll have to find and solve puzzles scattered around the landscape. When I say puzzles, I really mean "puzzle". Although The Witness proudly boasts "700 puzzles" in truth they are all slight variations of the same thing.

Each presents you with a grid of shapes. Your challenge is to draw a continuous line across the graph, satisfying whatever objectives you're given. Sometimes you'll need to connect a series of dots, form shapes, or separate different colored squares. On very rare occasions the developer shows flashes of creativity, but in general the game is boring.

Not every puzzle has an obvious solution, and several of them are based on their surroundings. For example, one set of puzzles has clues that only appear if you stand in just the right place for the sun to reflect off of them. Non-intuitive puzzles like these will have you reaching for the internet.

It's honestly sad that The Witness is so bad, because the graphics are both beautiful and strangely creepy. But ultimately the alluring island is just a device to dispense the same endless puzzles, and I don't want to do 700 of these! © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Titanfall 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2016)
Posted: 2016/12/11
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, language, violence)

screenshotIt's not easy to stand out in the competitive field of first-person shooters (FPS), yet Titanfall 2 manages to feel fresh and original. Your character has unprecedented agility by FPS standards, and your ability to battle from inside of a robotic mech adds a whole new dimension. I passed up on the original Titanfall because it was online only, but Titanfall 2 offers a monumental single-player campaign.

I can't get over how good this game looks and feels. The animation is fluid, the controls tight, and the graphic quality outstanding. The first-person shooting feels instantly comfortable as you target enemy soldiers, flying drones, and dinosaur-like wildlife. I love how helmets pop off when you shoot enemies in the head. Weapon loadouts have multiple capabilities, and while they seem complicated at first, it's fun to experiment with them. I got a kick out of the gravity grenades which pull enemies together so you can shoot them all in one place.

Pressing the touchpad button brings up your current objective marker, but I found the thin line indicator hard to follow. What shocked me about this game was the amount of platform jumping. Titanfall 2 not only makes heavy use of wall-running and double-jumps, but expects you to string them together in combinations that will leave you breathless.

Of course the true hallmark of the Titanfall franchise are its "titan" mechs. I like how your titan will grab you and stick you into his chest. The mech battles offer a brute force style of combat including lock-on missiles and a shield that absorbs projectiles and repels them back at adversaries. You'll spend most of the game running on foot but the titans play a major role in boss encounters.

The missions are ingeniously designed. In one stage you trek through a topsy-turvy factory stage that reminded me of a scene from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. In another you toggle time at the press of the button, switching from past to present to locate new paths and remove enemies. It's mind-blowing.

As I played through the game my opinion progressed from "not bad" to "this is great" and finally "I think I love this." I was close to giving it a solid A until the game crashed not once, but multiple times. I didn't try the multiplayer but have friends who have vouched for it. The bugs are unfortunate because Titanfall 2 is a head-popping, robot-wrecking good time. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Tony Stewart's Sprint Car Racing
Grade: B
Publisher: Monsters Games (2020)
Posted: 2021/8/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotFeaturing peppy little cars racing around oval dirt tracks, sprint car racing is wildly popular in small towns across America. Despite the sport's relative obscurity there's a surprising number of fine video game adaptations. The former king was World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars (Xbox 360, 2010) but Tony Stewart's Sprint Car Racing blows it out of the water.

The well-designed career mode kicks off with a personal video introduction by Tony himself who provides some history and guidance on ascending the ranks. After taking the default settings I wound up with the name "Dirt Racer", which is cooler than anything I would have come up with.

This game itself embodies the gritty feel of real sprint car action, right down to the cheap PA systems. Each event consists of several heats which typically kick off at sundown and continue into the dark of night. If you doubt sprint car racing is exciting, imagine 25 cars power-sliding around a banked turn at full speed while kicking up a blinding wall of dust. This sport is no stranger to fantastic wrecks.

The game's arcade style emphasizes playability over realism. Using opponents as guardrails can be effective, and should your car veer off-course you simply press the touchpad to reset it on the track. You don't have to worry about goggle tear-strips when your vision gets muddy, because the game is played strictly from a third-person perspective.

The cars handle like a dream as you jockey for position on straightaways and hang on for dear life around turns. The rear-view mirror combined with surround sound makes you feel as if another racer is hot on your tail. It's so intense I found myself leaning to the side while power-sliding. Once I nearly fell off the couch!

One disappointment is how the game consists of 24 "fantasy" tracks instead of actual venues. That's curious when you consider Tony Stewart himself owns one of the more famous tracks. Even so, those included embody that rural, blue-collar feel with their factories, grain silos, windmills, and water towers. Frankly I would not have guessed these tracks were fake.

The PA announcer makes charming small-town announcements during the race, like an alert about someone leaving their lights on in the parking lot. I find it amusing when he boasts how "all of tonight's proceeds will go directly back into the track!" Couldn't some sick kids use that money? The track looks perfectly good if you ask me!

In this day and age the inclusion of an excellent two-player split-screen mode is a gift. As icing on the cake, Tony Stewart's Sprint Car Racing is available on physical media, so you can own it forever. It shares a double bill with Tony Stewart's All-American Racing. Wow. If you're a sprint car fan, go ahead and bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet (Japan)
Grade: F
Publisher: Tecmo Koei (2016)
Posted: 2016/11/28

screenshotCall me a glutton for punishment but I've always gravitated toward "bullet hell" titles, and this is a unique take on the genre. Instead of moving up a vertical scrolling field while blowing away swarming ships, Touhou Genso Rondo: Bullet Ballet is a one-on-one fighter with rapid-fire shooting and melee combat. The basic concept is similar to Space War (Atari 2600, 1977) as you exchange fire with an opponent on a screen-sized battlefield.

The menu and setup screens offer a lot of fun music and colorful anime graphics. But as you would expect of any game with the word "ballet" in the title, it sucks. An endless tutorial explains the gauges, indicators, and attack modes in methodical detail. After paging through 500 text bubbles you'll just say to hell with it and quit out. There are so many subtle elements, like reconstituting your charge attack by "grazing" (brushing up close to enemy projectiles). Initiating a spell positions your opponent at the bottom of the screen and lets you pommel him with waves of bullets.

Despite its anime style Bullet Ballet isn't much to look at. There are two fighters who are tiny and surrounded by a pair of concentric circles. The background graphics are so uninteresting you won't even notice them. The bright-colored projectiles offer plenty of fireworks, but the action is mediocre at best and the constant shooting noise is obnoxious.

Most bullet hell shooters reward the player with eye candy and a sense of progression. Bullet Ballet provides neither and doesn't even save your offline scores! It's a real shame because I got the special edition with a soundtrack and art book. I think my friend Scott put it best: "I don't know what's going on here, but it's not fun." © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Game Zone, YouTube, MobyGames.com, Operation Sports, Video Chums, FMV World, Playstation.Blog, EuroGamer.net, GameSpew.com, Playstation.com, Gematsu, Gaming Trend