Sega CD Reviews N-Q

NFL Football Trivia Challenge
Grade: D-
Publisher: Capdisc (1993)
Reviewed: 2012/9/24

screenshotThis NFL trivia game should have been enjoyable for a football fan like myself, but it's too damned slow and clunky! You know you're in trouble when the first screen shows a pink Colts helmet. I mean, I know the Sega CD color palette is limited, but c'mon now! Sitting through the tutorial is usually a good idea, but this particular one is worthless. Instead of focusing on the gameplay, it goes on and on about how to navigate the menus and make selections - like we couldn't figure that out! The narrator wraps up the tutorial by saying "I should also mention that teams can't play with themselves" (except in privacy of the locker room of course).

Trivia Challenge turns out to be a bit of a tug-of-war contest as players answer multiple-choice questions to move the ball towards their respective end zones. Only one player is ever actually answering questions at a given time, which is lame. The multiple-choice questions are presented through text, audio, and grainy video clips. The photo occasionally gives away an answer, but sometimes belies the answer. This game was made in 1993, and the questions date back to the 1940's!

My friends Scott and Steve really had their hands full on "rookie" level, despite the fact that they are seasoned football fans. Trivia Challenge is poorly designed, with non-responsive controls and a really dumb user interface. Answering a question faster is supposed to award you with more yardage. After a score you're rewarded with a video clip that looks so bad you'll want to avert your eyes.

There are a set number of questions during each quarter, so there's really no way to mount a big comeback or throw a "bomb". The game has a lot of pauses due to loading, so it never establishes any kind of rhythm. I tried to play against the CPU, but despite what the box claims, this is a two-player game only. Football fans looking for a better option should check out NFL Instant Replay (Philips CD-i, 1994) with its awesome "you make the call" gameplay. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Rookie
2 players 

NHL '94
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2000/9/21

screenshotBoy, this is a tough game to rate. NHL '94 for the Genesis was, in my opinion, the greatest hockey game of all time. This Sega CD version is basically the same game with clearer sound, some grainy video clips, and annoying load times. Don't get me wrong, this game is a blast to play, but I prefer the Genesis version. As far as the sound effects and music being better, yeah, I guess they're a little clearer, but the difference is not dramatic. The back of the box makes a big deal out of the "real organ music". Who cares? And I'll also pass on that low-quality video. The bottom line is that it's still the same game underneath - and that's a very good thing. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

Night Trap
Grade: B+

screenshotIt's hard to believe an innocuous game like Night Trap once caused a national uproar. In 1992 Senators Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) and Herbert Kohl (Wisconsin) lashed out against this full-motion video (FMV) title for "inciting violence against women". Had they actually played the game, they'd know that the object was to save five girls at a slumber party. The "violence" is negligible. Critics enjoy bashing Night Trap for its cheesy acting and low-budget effects, but it's those B-movie qualities that make it such a treat.

Its premise is ingenious. Five bubbly teenage girls (and one younger brother) are invited to spend the night at a house by a lake, and it gradually becomes apparent that the hosts are a family of vampires. Complicating matters are zombie-like "augers" that lurk in unoccupied rooms and attempt to kidnap the guests. One of the girls is actually an informant, played by the late Dana Plato (of Diff'rent Strokes fame). Your job is to monitor eight locations around the house (via security cameras) and trigger traps to dispose of the goons.

It's fun to snoop around, and the game is logically designed so it's possible to follow characters between rooms. When you spot an auger (or two), wait until he's in the proper position (meter turns red) before springing the trap. The creeps are disposed of in a variety of interesting ways, and it's satisfying to watch them fall through trap doors or get catapulted off the roof. Multiple events occur around the house at the same time, so you never have a complete picture of what's going on. This adds replay value, since repeated plays are required to flesh out the story.

One valid knock on the game is its marginal video quality. In addition to being very grainy, the video area consumes less than half of the screen. The game is still fun despite a few design flaws. Periodically the house owners change the "trap code", and if you're not tuned in at the right times you can lose your ability to spring traps.

Night Trap contains multiple endings but even if you don't finish it's a challenge to see how many thugs you can bag. Unfortunately your "commanding officer" tends to pull the plug on your mission too early, bringing the game to an abrupt end. It could have been better, but even after all these years Night Trap remains a fascinating trip. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 26
1 player 

Panic!
Grade: F-
Publisher: Data East (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/1/4

screenshotThis dreadful game makes no sense at all. Panic is supposed to be an offbeat puzzle game with zany cartoon graphics. Each screen puts your cartoon character into a wacky situation, and in order to "restore order" you need to push the correct button on a panel. These panels consist of 7 to 10 buttons with odd symbols on them. If you push the correct button, you go to the next puzzle. Push the wrong button and you'll see some kind of madcap animation. For example, your man might pull a parachute cord and an elephant might appear. That's so funny I forgot to laugh. Most of the puzzles make absolutely no sense, so you're reduced to pressing the buttons at random, and the resulting animations are incredibly stupid. It's difficult to believe that this game is intended for "mature audiences", considering how infantile it is, often sinking to the level of toilet humor. I really can't say enough bad things about this one. It's astonishingly bad. I think I hate it. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Grade: C-
Publisher: Activision (1994)
Reviewed: 2018/7/1

screenshotThis CD edition of Pitfall The Mayan Adventure kicks off with a stylish video clip of some dude running for his life through a shadowy jungle with dangers lurking at every turn. Man, I wish I could play that game. Instead you get the same Mayan Adventure as the Genesis, except with "upgraded" music and sound effects. Plus: load screens! The new guitar-riff laden music adds intensity, but the sound effects? Is louder considered an upgrade? The sounds are more pronounced to the point of being abrasive.

In terms of graphics, I think the developers used the old "crank up the contrast" trick to make the things look slightly different. In case you haven't played other versions of this game, The Mayan Adventure is an underachieving platformer with confusing stages and slippery controls. It's not bad if you stick with it; you're bound to get a little further each time.

The boomerang weapon is helpful, homing in on every little pesky bat or spider. And catapulting yourself from those red schlongs is always a good time. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure is a questionable upgrade from the Genesis, but ranks about the same in terms of fun factor. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 47,832
1 player 

Popful Mail
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2012/2/7
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotSerious collectors view Popful Mail as one of the premiere titles for the Sega CD, and they are right. This "magical fantasy adventure" combines hack-n-slash combat with RPG elements (inventory, status, story, etc). The main character is a red-headed elf chick named Popful Mail, but you'll have the option to play as two other characters over the course of the game. In the animated intro our scantily clad heroine dukes it out with creepy dolls in a forest, and anime fans will love the exaggerated expressions, corny dialogue, and outrageous action sequences.

The game itself is pure platforming joy. The graphics are not spectacular, but the lush, layered scenery is easy on the eyes. Defeated foes drop bags of money which you'll use to stock up on armor, weapons, and food at the local village shops. Typical enemies include furry spiders, praying mantis, wizards, and those weird raccoon creatures that show up in so many anime titles. Most of the dialogue is voiced by actors, and while it slows things down I found it a refreshing change as opposed to reading a wall of text.

The controls are exceptionally crisp and I love how you can jump off (or onto) any ladder. CD-quality music plays throughout the game, and you can save your progress at any time (!) to three slots. My main issue has to do with the unforgiving difficulty. Death-by-touch is all too common, and some bosses absorb an obscene number of hits (like the Wood Golem).

Some stages (like TreeSun) are repetitive in design so it's hard to tell if you're forging ahead or revisiting an old area. Still, Popful Mail is a quality title that will keep you busy for a long time. Its colorful instruction manual is embossed, printed on heavy stock, and contains interesting translation notes. If you're a Sega CD collector, this is one title you'll definitely want in your collection. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Power Factory Featuring C&C Music Factory
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (1992)
Reviewed: 2006/8/15

screenshotI have some fond memories of C&C Music Factory and their brand of catchy dance music. During my college years, I remember hanging out at my friend's house and watching their videos on MTV all the time (that's right kids - they used to play music on that channel). This disk includes the band's three hit songs: "Gonna Make You Sweat", "Things That Make You Go Hmmm", and "Here We Go". Nostalgia aside, I could never get away with giving this thing an average grade. Like similar CD titles of its time, Power Factory barely qualifies as a game.

The idea is to create a music video on the fly using three sets of constantly running video clips while spicing them up with visual effects. Once you're through the editing process, you can sit back and watch your creation. The video selection includes C&C music videos, old movies clips, cartoons, and other random (and often bizarre) footage. Since each video is already synchronized with the music, it's hard not to make a decent video.

But it's the visual effects department where Power Factory really falls apart. While you can slice, dice, color, freeze, blur, and pixilate the video in any number of ways, most just make your video muddy and hard(er) to watch. Worse yet, the slippery controls make it impossible to initiate certain effects when you want to. This is especially problematic in the "Edit Challenge" mode, where you're instructed beforehand to employ certain effects at specific times during the song.

Another problem is the limited number of songs. I recall being fairly sick of these tunes in 1992, and even now, having to listen to any one of these twice in a row (during edit and playback) is tiresome. Finally, the video is always played on a very small screen, making it frustratingly hard to make out the hot babes. If you have fond memories of C&C, you can bump up the score by half a grade, but gamers looking for some substance should keep their distance from Power Factory. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Prince of Persia
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/7/29

screenshotThis Arabian Nights-style platformer challenges you to traverse an underground dungeon in one hour (real time) to save a princess. Prince of Persia's lifelike animation was groundbreaking when first released for the Apple II in 1989, but it's underwhelming on the Sega CD. I did enjoy the opening cut-scene, mainly because I've never heard voice actors read off cue cards before.

The game itself looks like an arcade-style platformer but it demands a slow, deliberate approach. Each screen plays out like its own little puzzle. Traps triggered by loose panels or pressure switches send you falling into spiked pits for a bloody death. Navigating these perilous dungeons requires becoming intimately acquainted with the controls, and that's no small order. Your prince can either tiptoe slowly or run.

When you're not pussyfooting around you tend to lurch off-screen or into a trap. Pulling yourself up ledges is no problem but climbing back down is another story. You know you're in trouble when a move requires you to press A and C at the same time! The animation is fluid but the box's claim of "quick, responsive controls" is a joke! They feel quite laggy, turning the sword fights into crapshoots.

The save option only works at the beginning of each new level, and why is "name entry" the third option when you need to do that before you save? Someone clearly didn't think this through. The exotic musical score is far too loud and I hate how it continues when you pause. Conquering each stage can be a satisfying achievement but requires a lot of restarting since there's no checkpoints. Except for the intro and possibly the music Prince of Persia could have been a normal Genesis game. It may be a classic but the sands of time have been less than kind to this Sega CD edition. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Prize Fighter
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2000/12/1

screenshotWow - a boxing game with full motion video! This game actually puts you into the ring! Talk about realism! Why didn't I hear about this game before? Probably because it's no fun! The production quality isn't bad. The acting is great, and there's even a cheesy background story. The cinematography is expertly done, and it really does put you in the boxing ring. Unfortunately, all of the video is grainy black and white, and the actual game screen is quite small.

Two gloves are superimposed over the screen, letting you perform various jabs, crosses, uppercuts, dodges, and blocks. Unfortunately you can punch away all you want but you'll rarely hit your opponent, no matter how close he is. In one match I threw over 300 punches and connected with 18. If there's a strategy to connecting, I couldn't figure it out, but I think it's mainly luck.

When you do land a blow, there's a video sequence of your opponent getting hit, but it does NOT seamlessly blend into the action. It looks like they taped these clips in an empty room, and it's downright funny to watch. The video sequences of your corner between rounds add realism, but the gameplay just isn't there. It's too bad, because the concept was interesting. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


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