SG-1000 Reviews A-L

Champion Ice Hockey
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1985)
Reviewed: 2016/5/15

screenshotThis is the best terrible hockey game I've ever played, if that makes any sense. From a technical perspective Champion Ice Hockey is just plain wretched. The players flicker, the collision detection stinks, and the speed of the game fluctuates wildly. The player you control is the one nearest to the puck, and it switches automatically. Colliding with any other player (including a teammate) causes you to fall over and lose the puck. But the worst part is the abysmal side-scrolling, and believe me I'm being loose with the language when I call it scrolling. As you push against the edge of the screen the entire rink shifts in huge chunks, and it's unsightly to say the least. The oddly-shaped goals look like half the number 8, and the fact that both goalies are the same color (blue) is confusing. Yet for all of its problems there's something about Champion Ice Hockey that kept me playing. I like how you view the action from overhead, with each player holding his stick at his side. You can easily toggle the stick from side to side which allows you to maneuver through defenders while maintaining control of the puck. I also like how you control your goalie (when he's on the screen) by pressing up and down. Passing is ineffective but you can often take the puck the length of the rink on your own. Once you know the limits of the game and enter the acceptance phase, you might actually enjoy Champion Ice Hockey. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Congo Bongo
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Reviewed: 2016/7/13

screenshotThis wasn't the Congo Bongo I was expecting. In fact, I had to pop in the Colecovision version just to remember what the game is supposed to look like. The original plays like Donkey Kong with simulated 3D platforms, but here you view the action from the side. This makes the scenery look flat, as if you're playing a 2D platformer. I still found the colorful graphics extremely attractive with the green palm trees, running waterfalls, and shimmering blue water. The gorilla at the top of the screen is nicely rendered in several colors, but he could really stand to lose a few pounds. The bongo music does a good job of getting you into a tropical mood. So how does the game play? Well, the stiff SG-1000 controller doesn't do you any favors but the collision detection is forgiving enough, especially when it comes to avoiding bouncing coconuts. The monkeys tend to harmlessly latch onto you for a second or two. On the second screen you traverse square islands by crossing logs. You'll need to avoid black snakes which can be tricky because you don't have much room to maneuver. I later discovered you can take shortcuts by riding lily pads, which is pretty cool. After the second screen it's back to the first, which is disappointing because I was expecting at least three screens. This version of Congo Bongo is still fun though, and the fact that it's so unique adds to its appeal. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 12,570
1 player 

Dragon Wang
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1985)
Reviewed: 2016/2/19

screenshotI knew this was going to be bad going in, but let's face it - a game called Dragon Wang is worth owning for the name alone. This side-scrolling kung fu game is seriously primitive and patently unfair. Your fighter's name is D. Wang. He moves in a stilted manner across generic platforms that all look the same with no background graphics. You defeat approaching henchmen using three attacks: kick, jump-kick, and squat-kick. The jump-kick doesn't seem to have any effect and the collision detection is so bad you might as well flip a coin. Enemies tossing knives have an answer for everything. You jump and they throw high; you duck and they throw low. You're constantly taking mandatory hits. After walking to the right you'll eventually see a hole in the ceiling. Jump under it and you'll magically levitate to the next level as exisiting on-screen enemies disappear in a puff of smoke. The first boss is armed with nunchucks and you just trade blows until he dies. The second boss however is a real bastard. He teleports all over and keeps kicking you in the back. I could never beat him, and dying at his hands sends you back to the very beginning of the game! You'll also have to deal with occasional hazards like trapdoors, floating orbs, and walls to kick through. Dragon Wang is a low budget brawler that's as laughable as its name implies. Its rumored sequel, Dragon Balls, was never released. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 30,700
1 or 2 players 

GP World
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1985)
Reviewed: 2016/2/19

screenshotThis Pole Position clone won't impress you at a glance. It offers a nice city skyline but the road is just a pair of green lines on a gray surface. Most early racers used stripes to convey a sense of speed. In GP World the only way you know you're moving is the glimmer of your tires and small objects passing on the side. The cars themselves look remarkably detailed and shiny once they scale into view. Three skill levels are available, each offering a series of tracks you need to complete by a qualification time. I really like the idea of racing the clock because it limits the races to 2-3 minutes each. Passed cars net you bonus points, but only if you reach the finish line. You'll want to remain in low gear until you reach 100 kph, and then kick it into high gear to top out at 300 kph. Unfortunately it's really easy to accidentally slip back into low gear due to the mushy controls. The sense of speed is decent and you really feel like you're "hanging on" around corners. GP World is forgiving in the collision detection department, so if you hit another car at low speed you just bump it instead of exploding. You see cars approach from a long distance so it's not hard to anticipate their movements. They tend to either stay in their lane or drift from side-to-side. Unfortunately these predictable patterns take much of the challenge out of the game. The tracks are set in Brazil, Spain, and other exotic places but they all look the same. The time of day changes between races however, and I love that red sunset. The game even includes an editor that lets you create your own track! GP World is no classic but it's a solid racer that tries to go the extra mile. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 3
Our high score: 99,300
1 player 

Hang-On II
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1985)
Reviewed: 2016/3/9

screenshotI've played Hang-On games on far more advanced systems, but this bare-bones early version is arguably the most enjoyable. Hang-On II is a motorcycle game with short, timed races. Before you begin you'll want to note that the timer reads 60-seconds, because that's exactly how long you're going to be playing! Hang-On II is tough! There are three gears and you'll need to use them efficiently to cover enough ground to barely qualify for the next stage. The controls feel good. At slow speeds you can easily maneuver but at top gear you can barely hang on (...hey!). Remember to hit your brakes when approaching other motorcycles because they tend to swerve unpredictably. If you find yourself slowing down suddenly, it's probably because you accidentally slipped into low gear (perfectly normal for a man your age). The margin of error is super slim for the first race but after that the game actually becomes easier, if only because subsequent stages give you more time. The motorcycles scale smoothly and racing stripes help convey speed. The graphics are sparse but I like that colosseum structure in the distance in stage one. The skyline in the city stage looks okay but it feels like you're on a never-ending bridge. For the record, I didn't spot any water in the "seaside" stage. Despite the lack of detail Hang-On II is surprisingly fun. It's one game that practically demands you play it over and over again. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 41,700
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, YouTube, Sega Retro