Sega CD Reviews H-K

Heart of the Alien
Grade: F
Publisher: Interplay (1994)
Reviewed: 2012/11/4

screenshotThis disk actually contains two separate science fiction adventures: Heart of the Alien and Out of this World. Sounds like a good value, right? Originally released for home computers, these cerebral platform adventures feature fantastic alien landscapes and smooth, motion-captured 2D animation. The opening cinematic shows an alien village being invaded by another tribe, and it's a pretty elaborate scene. The fluid visuals have held up well over the years, but the tedious, zero-room-for-error gameplay has not.

Even with an FAQ on hand, you'll find yourself retrying screens dozens of times. You need to time every jump perfectly, and if you're too close to the edge, you'll slip off. Clearly these controls were designed for the precision of a keyboard. There are no scraped knees or bruises in this game - the smallest misstep means instant death. Fortunately there are checkpoints so you shouldn't have to start too far back. Forging through the stages requires a lot of aggravating trial and error. You'd expect the first few screens to let the player gradually become acclimated to the controls, but they are pure, unrelenting torture.

Even the password screen is brutal as you painstakingly attempt to enter the four-character code. The second game, "Out of this World" is older so its problems are even worse! Trying to make it past the black slugs on the opening stage is beyond ridiculous. The collision detection is so unforgiving, it's criminal. Both games featured excellent storytelling and unprecedented eye candy for their time, but they will have you banging your head against a wall. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Backup RAM
1 player 

Hook
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sony (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/6/6

screenshotHook tries to leverage the wonders of CD technology but can't even pass platforming 101. Its awkward intro is a mesh of scenes rendered in completely different styles, complete with sappy, stomach-churning voiceovers. According to the game you control a "fat and old" Peter Pan (?!) although he doesn't appear that way on the screen. Still, it may explain why the game is so slow.

Peter's armed with a knife and when he attacks pirates it makes a satisfying smack noise. Sadly, enemy pirates don't die but instead drop their weapons and stand with their hands up. Lame! The only indication of this being a CD is its orchestrated music, consisting of some of the most irritatingly repetitive tunes ever recorded. At least the scenery looks good and the sound effects are crisp.

Hook could have been a passable platformer if the collision detection wasn't such a mess. Keep a wide berth from enemies because if you somehow overlap one you'll be subjected to multiple hits. To be honest it's hard to tell what can or can't hurt you. That man-eating plant will kill you if you jump over it, yet you can stroll right in front of it unscathed. You expect rolling rocks to deal damage, but boulders at rest? Heck I've seen rocks roll uphill in this game.

The controls suck too. Having to hold down A to run is awkward, and why initiate flight by double tapping B when the C button is unused? And how are you supposed to avoid those swarming bees? It doesn't surprise me that the Hook film was such a flop. This entire project was ill-advised. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 348,600
1 player 

INXS - Make My Video
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2000/10/1

screenshotHere's a game for people who watched MTV when they actually played music videos. Make My Video lets you edit together random video footage and spice them up with special effects to create your own INXS video. There are three songs: Heaven Sent, Baby Don't Cry, and Not Enough Time. All three of these are very good and well-suited for video-making.

There are two play modes: Edit Challenge and U-Direct. In Edit Challenge you try to edit a video to certain specifications, and you're rated when it's done. U-Direct lets you make the video however you want and even save it when you're done. The editing process on-the-fly as the song plays, where you flip between three screens of running film. Each displays random clips that include old movies, cartoons, nature shows, scantily clad women, and yes, the band.

The clips are so varied and fun to watch that it's hard NOT to make a good video, although there's not much room to be artistic. The special effect controls let you slice, dice, color, freeze, mix, mirror, and freeze the image (to name a few). Most of these effects just make the image harder to see, especially if you use combinations, so it's best to be conservative. Unfortunately, VERY touchy controls make it difficult to initiate a given effect at the right instant, and that ruins what could have been a very respectable CD game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Iron Helix
Grade: F
Publisher: Spectrum Holobyte (1994)
Reviewed: 2019/2/22

screenshotI'm always skeptical of Sega CD games that come with thick manuals; they seem to be a harbinger of boredom! I was bracing myself for Iron Helix. The game begins with cut-scenes of a space freighter sending an SOS message - not very original! The full-screen CGI is excessively grainy and the audio quality is even worse. Did they record the voice actors in a sewer? Your goal is to remotely control an explorer droid to obtain DNA samples on the distressed ship. Your main adversary is a roving "defender droid" who sounds pretty scary.

Iron Helix had potential. Your first-person view is small but the scenery is photo-realistic with smooth transitions as you travel down deserted hallways. A map screen actively tracks the prowling defender droid, giving Iron Helix a mild Alien Isolation (PS4, 2014) vibe. It's a shame the controls suck so hard! To turn or move forward you hold the directional pad in a particular direction. After a conspicuous delay you hear the sound of your Sega CD spinning, followed by a delayed movement sequence. These laggy controls make exploring the ship nearly unbearable, especially with so many areas sealed off.

Even the on-screen prompts are inconsistent. Sometimes a red arrow means you can't go forward, unless you're in an elevator, in which case it means you can exit. Using a robotic arm to access keypads is a neat concept, but most terminals say "access denied". Coming face-to-face with the defender droid should have been the game's defining moment, but you never even see the thing! Instead the game just abruptly ends when you cross its path! I'm glad my expectations for Iron Helix were rock bottom; it did not let me down. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Jaguar XJ220
Grade: B-
Publisher: JVC (1993)
Reviewed: 2015/2/11

screenshotI made a point to review this with my buddy Brent who happens to be a car enthusiast. He informed me that Jaguar XJ220 was the fastest car in the world when this game was produced. Brent was impressed by the quality of this title. He commended the graphical detail and even said the cornering physics seemed fairly accurate. Fortunately you don't need to be a car buff to enjoy Jaguar JX220. It has an arcade vibe my friend Chris compared to Outrun (high praise indeed).

There are 16 selectable tracks, each located in a different country with representative scenery (choose Switzerland for snow). Typically you'll view mountains in the distance but nothing memorable. Scaling scenery lines the side of the road, but some objects can be hard to make out. Driving under overpasses looks cool, but it's the tunnels that really steal the show. The one with the icicles looks amazing. Steering your car isn't hard but if you want to maintain your speed you'll need to begin your turns a little early.

The major flaw with the game is the way colliding with another car brings both of you to a near-stop. And who came up with this font? It's impossible to tell a 3 from an 8! The Grand Prix mode lets you repair (but not upgrade) your car between races, and you can save your progress as well. The practice mode lets you go head-to-head with a friend, and it works well despite a degraded framerate. You also have a nice variety of soothing tunes to select from. Jaguar XJ220 might be one of the more underrated titles for the Sega CD, and car enthusiasts should consider bumping up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Joe Montana's NFL Football
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2000/9/21

screenshotThis overhyped trainwreck of a game was probably the first nail in the Sega CD's coffin. How did this monstrosity even get out the door?? This game is actually far worse than any previous football game released for the Genesis. Let's start with the graphics. The extreme pixelation is unforgivable, and the blockiness reminded me of some old Atari 2600 titles! The framerate is so poor that it's hard to figure out what the heck's going on amid the choppy mess. Just keeping track of the football is not easy.

Next the pitiful controls have the worst response time I'm ever seen in my life. The game is consistently a step behind your commands. Then there's the sound, which may be the biggest crime of all. You'd think that being a CD game, this would at the very least offer some decent live play-by-play commentary. But no - commentary is only heard when you're choosing your plays, and it talks about the previous play. Heck, even regular Genesis games had live commentary in 1993. The sound effects are practically non-existent, with the exception of the water-faucet crowd in the background.

Finally, I have to mention that the computer opponent is incredibly slow and stupid. Often the cpu-controlled player will just stand there after a hand-off or catch. The game's one redeeming feature is the "Ask Joe" option, which is available during time-outs and displays a video of Joe giving advice for the next play. That's cool, but it's the only bright spot I could find. Sega must have been under a lot of pressure to release such a half-baked game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Jurassic Park
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2005/10/14

screenshotWow, this is so much different than what I had expected. Instead of a side-scrolling shoot-em-up like the Genesis version, this is an odd point-and-click adventure. I think I know what Sega had in mind. They wanted this Sega CD version to take the gamer to the "next level", by creating an immersive virtual Jurassic Park environment to explore.

By moving a cursor over a first-person view of your surroundings, you move from area to area, checking out the scenery and collecting items to solve puzzles. There are a few "aim the cursor" shooting sequences, but in general the pace of the game is slow and involves a lot of trial and error. Just move the cursor all over the place, and when it turns into a hand or a magnifying glass, you know you've found something.

Whether you enjoy this edition of Jurassic Park or not depends on your frame of mind. The first time I played it, I was in the mood for action and it just bored me. The second time however, I had mentally prepared myself for a thought-provoking adventure, so it wasn't so bad. Still, some of the puzzles don't make any sense, and I hate when the screen simply goes black when you die - causing you to wonder what the heck just happened.

The scenery is strictly Genesis quality, and the pathways between areas all look the same after a while, making it easy to get lost. Even the educational aspect is weak. When you consult the Paleontologist about a specific dinosaur, he says one lousy sentence. As for the "sense-boggling" Q-Sound the game box raves about, well, I didn't even notice it. I'll give Sega credit for trying something different, but Jurassic Park for the Sega CD lacks the thrills and excitement of its namesake. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Keio Flying Squadron
Grade: B

screenshotThis has all the ingredients of a good anime shooter: flying pirate ships, raccoons riding dolphins, surfing dogs, adorable baby dragons, flying pigs, and inappropriately dressed girls. The opening cutscene makes absolutely no sense. It starts off with an incredibly dry documentary about anti-government forces and treatises and chief exports and blah blah blah. Then it abruptly shifts focus to a skinny chick in a Playboy bunny costume guarding a sacred key.

This girl "Rami" owns a small pet dragon and her arch-enemy is a 3003-year-old raccoon. It doesn't make much sense, until it dawns on you that this is a Japanese game. Keio Flying Squadron is a high quality side-scrolling shooter with fast action and colorful backdrops depicting scenic landscapes. There are some absolutely huge sprites including flying pirate ships and trains, but the way they crowd the screen can be annoying. Your enemies are a hodgepodge of comical creations, some of which are hard to describe (was that an octopus riding a potato?)

Floating icons let you select (and power-up) both your primary and secondary weapons. I personally prefer the three-way/homing missile combo. The game is fun but not well balanced. The first stage is extremely difficult on the medium level thanks to a ridiculously hard end boss (and mid-boss for that matter).

Switching to the easy level seems reasonable until you realize you can cruise through the entire game. The orchestrated soundtrack is compelling, although a little weird at times. Keio Flying Squadron is appealing because it offers simple, old-fashioned shooting action with plenty of eye candy to boot. It's not as great as some make it out to be, but it's very unique and makes a nice addition to the collection. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 42,000
1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Shinforce, Sega CD Universe, Moby Games