Sega SG-1000 Reviews M-R

N-Sub
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Reviewed: 2018/5/29

screenshotLooking for a nautical game for the summer? N-Sub might do the trick. Its title screen sums up the gameplay quite succinctly: "hit ships to score points". You guide a submarine around the lower half of the screen, firing torpedoes on enemy subs while launching missiles at watercraft above. The ships are layered across the water surface, with those in the distance smaller, slower, and presumably worth more points.

It's cool how you can unleash three shots at a time sideways or upwards. When you unload a volley of shots at a crowded fleet you know you're bound to sink at least one or two of those bastards. It's especially satisfying to hit a "mystery boat" which flashes bonus points. The problem with N-Sub is that your sub moves like a snail, so the controls can be hard on your hands. At first the gameplay feels simple and laborious but in time the pace picks up.

As more ships enter the screen you'll find yourself in dangerous predicaments, dodging mines from above and torpedoes from the side. Sometimes you need to thread the needle and the collision detection is not on your side. The audio is dominated by high-pitched sonar pings which are kind of hard on the ears. N-Sub doesn't have much depth but if you're in a mood for a basic shooter this will give your thumb a serious workout. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 16,250
1 player 

Orguss
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1984)
Reviewed: 2017/8/8

screenshotJapanese people love their robot games and why shouldn't they? Blowing up stuff with giant flying mechs is awesome. In Orguss you pilot one of these across a scrolling landscape, blasting robotic enemies that appear two at a time. They just keep coming with mind-numbing repetition. You can hold in the fire button to unleash consecutive shots, and when running along the ground you can kick missile silos!

I really like the sharp look of this game with its layered mountain scenery and shimmering blue water. The second button transforms your mech into a compact ship, allowing you to fly a little faster. The catch is, you're then forced to tap the button to shoot, which is a lot less fun. So why bother with the ship at all? Well, the first time I played the timer ran out on me and I had no idea why. As it turns out, each stage is timed at two and a half minutes, and unless you're a ship for most of that time, there's no way you're going to make it.

The first stage concludes with an anticlimactic "boss" battle against a tower. Not sure how I won that, but it was over fast. I was looking forward to see what stage two had in store, but it looks exactly like stage one! Orguss is neat in concept but its shallow, undercooked gameplay fails to deliver on its promise. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 36,400
1 player 

Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1985)
Reviewed: 2017/6/20

screenshotPitfall II (Atari 2600, 1983) was an ambitious title for the Atari 2600 and at a glance this SG-1000 version looks just as good. It's got the same rollicking musical score and the scenery is actually more detailed. Pink scorpions, silver electric eels, and flying frogs (?) are smoothly animated with no signs of flicker. The question is, why in the world is Pitfall Harry decked out in a blue suit and bobby hat? He looks like he belongs in Keystone Kapers (Atari 2600, 1983) for crying out loud.

The controls are responsive enough and you get plenty of clearance when leaping over scorpions and rolling logs. Upon releasing from a swinging vine you land with a pronounced thud. Jumping across crocodiles is more effortless than other versions of the game, and for those who think the concept is silly check out the famous crocodile stunt from the 1973 James Bond movie Live and Let Die.

The main problem with this version of Pitfall II is poor design. The rooms have been awkwardly remixed, perhaps as a side-effect of squeezing the game onto a card. Some of the early screens tease you with bags of money that are physically impossible to reach. I don't know if the programmer did this by accident or was just being a douchebag. My friends hated this game. They couldn't score a single point!

In order for Harry to "get paid" he must survive a series of harrowing cave passages with falling stalactites, ice patches, and hard-to-avoid swooping birds. When he gets killed his body simply floats upward. Is he supposed to be a ghost? If so, why doesn't he look any different? Once you reach the underground river the game opens up with multiple paths and doesn't suck nearly as much. This may be a poor-man's version of Pitfall II, but I still played the heck out of it. If nothing else, this gives fans of the game a whole new adventure to embark upon. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 8,000
1 player 

Pop Flamer
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1983)
Reviewed: 2016/5/15

screenshotI don't know what's worse about this game, the fact that it sounds like a derogatory term or the fact it stars a bong-toking mouse. In Pop Flamer you guide a gray mouse around a vertically-scrolling maze while being pursued by cute animals. Your adversaries include a mole, octopus, and bastard frog that really seems to have it out for me. The whimsical characters, colorful scenery, and ice cream truck music are pleasant enough.

Scattered around the maze are balloons you collect for points. Balloons also give you the ability to breath fire (whaaa?) and burn your enemies to a crisp. It's best to keep your distance however, because those guys have the ability to freeze you with their mind-control waves. At the top and bottom of the screen are bongs and I have no idea what you're supposed to use them for (outside the obvious).

Pop Flamer is challenging due to rapidly respawning enemies but mainly due to horrendous controls. In most maze games you navigate invisible lanes but here you'll get hung up on an opening just because you're one pixel off! The controls feel so stiff I felt the need to switch controllers which is never a good sign. The collision detection is downright appalling. Scott was totally incensed after he walked over a balloon several times yet it failed to register.

At the end of the first stage a pumpkin boss appears which you "beat" simply by touching him. The second stage seems better because it's more wide open, yet that just means animals converge on you faster. The games don't last long but you get a little further each time. I like Pop Flamer for its unique qualities, but boy oh boy, these technical issues are just too much. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 13,700
1 or 2 players 


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