Super Nintendo Reviews O-R

PGA Tour Golf
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Reviewed: 2016/7/16

screenshotDespite its graphical edge over the Genesis, sports games had a tendency to falter on the SNES. PGA Tour Golf is a prime example. The set-up screens look sharp with all sorts of nifty options, including the ability to resume a game in progress. I was intrigued with the fly-by hole preview which puts the scaling capabilities of the system on full display. You can examine the hole from all angles as golf legend Fuzzy Zoeller provides advice.

At this point I was feeling pretty good about PGA Tour. Then I got to the tee-off screen. The hole looks like a narrow strip in a vast ocean of dark green muck. Your golfer looks goofy and that swing won't win any awards for animation. The ball comes off the tee all wrong and scaling effects are used to follow the ball in flight. Bad idea.

Not only does the screen move in a herky-jerky manner, but the ground looks like a blurry, pixelated mess! Setting up each shot is pure aggravation as you're constantly prompted to press the start button to wade through an excess of intermediate screens. It's an unpleasant experience to say the least.

The best part of the game may be its bird sound effects which attracted the attention of my cat Claire. Any inclination to give this game the benefit of the doubt was shattered when the game locked up in the middle of my round. That's almost unheard of for a cartridge. I always enjoyed the PGA Tour Golf on the Genesis, and now I appreciate it even more! © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: battery
1 to 4 players 

Paperboy 2
Grade: C
Publisher: Mindscape (1991)
Reviewed: 2007/10/12

screenshotThe original Paperboy arcade game was terrific, but this sequel comes off a bit flat. Controlling a boy or girl on a bike, you travel up the screen while avoiding obstacles and tossing newspapers at mailboxes and other targets. It's humorous to see what kind of chaos you can unleash, whether it's by hitting a guy working on a car (causing it to fall on him), knocking an old man off his rocker, or smacking an armed robber in the back of the head.

Unlike the original game, the side of the street you deliver to alternates, and each street ends with an obstacle course of ramps and targets. Paperboy 2 is undeniably fun but very rough around the edges. Especially for the SNES, the visuals look awfully chunky and the animation is rough. It's hard to judge your position with respect to obstacles and ramps, and it doesn't help that the collision detection is extremely unforgiving.

It's next-to-impossible to execute tight turns, and you'll have to contend with cheap shots from cannons and fireball-spewing gargoyles. In many cases the houses are so far off the street that you can't even see if the newspaper made it to the mailbox, and have to rely on audio cues instead. Paperboy 2 has a likeable, whimsical style that will appeal to arcade gamers, but it's not the blockbuster sequel I was expecting. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: MB 14900
1 or 2 players 

Peacekeepers
Grade: B+
Publisher: Jaleco (1994)
Reviewed: 2011/5/10


screenshotVideo games have taught us all that there's only one effective way to keep the peace, and that's by beating the living [expletive] out of anything that moves! This side-scrolling brawler is the third entry of a trilogy that began with Rival Turf (1992) and continued with Brawl Brothers (1993). Although parts of the game feel uninspired and recycled, there's more to Peacekeepers than meets the eye.

The opening text crawl describes how a company rose to power "through the damage and ignorance of the economic wars of 2011". That's soon followed by my favorite line: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts better than expected." How wise that is! Anyway, the Peacekeepers are four playable characters including a white guy (Flynn), a black dude (Al), a wrestler (Prokop) and a chick (Echo). Echo is probably the best all-around fighter because her quickness allows her to sneak in extra attacks and evade enemy holds. You can switch fighters between stages, and can actually unlock new playable characters along the way.

The first thing you'll notice when playing Peacekeepers is the complete lack of music. All you hear is background noise like the droning of machines in a factory. The game can be uncomfortably quiet at times - especially while creeping through the sewers. The stages lack imagination and some have even been lifted directly from Brawl Brothers. There's a street stage named "Snake Pliskin Ave" which I find hilarious. The control scheme has more depth than your garden-variety fighter.

Besides your normal attack you also get power and dash attacks. You can block and even execute a "reverse" if your timing is right. It's too bad they didn't incorporate a few team-oriented moves. Limited special attacks include wielding lightning (Flynn) or unleashing an ear-splitting scream (Echo).

Digitized photos are used in cut-scenes, and it's funny how they reuse the same Asian guy for multiple evil scientists. What I like best about Peacekeepers is its branching paths which take you to different areas each time you play. This increases the replay value substantially. You get 12 continues, and that turns out to be a very good number for a game like this. Peacekeepers doesn't make the best first impression, but my wife said she would play this again, and that's a ringing endorsement. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 123,800 (with continues)
1 to 4 players 

Phalanx
Grade: C+
Publisher: Kemco (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/9/22


screenshothillbillyThis game is probably best known for its ridiculous box cover featuring an old hillbilly with a banjo. What were the marketing people thinking?! Phalanx is just a side-scrolling shooter that lets you blast alien ships with extreme prejudice. You can equip multiple weapons and switch between them on the fly, so feel free to snag every single power-up! The overarching strategy can be summed up in two words: don't die!

If you can stock up on weapons and survive the opening stage, you're nearly unstoppable. The triple laser weapon offers terrific coverage but the homing weapon is no slouch either. Enemies tend to be nondescript hunks of floating metal. Bosses break apart as you wear them down but can reappear multiple times over the course of a stage.

The scenery looks pretty bland with its gray clouds and desolate post-apocalyptic landscape. The second stage lets you fly through a stream of water in space, making a splash out of the top or bottom. Too bad the graphics look so washed out. The forgiving gameplay provides five ships to start and frequent bonus lives. On top of that, each ship has a three-bar health meter. Phalanx could have used some visual flair but there's something to be said for its straightforward style. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 138,420
1 player 

Pilotwings
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
Reviewed: 2009/12/6


screenshotAs one of the first SNES titles, Pilotwings probably served as much a technical demonstration as it did an actual game. It serves that purpose well, effectively showing off the system's impressive scaling capabilities. When a helicopter lifts your skydiver thousands of feet in the air, the illusion is remarkably convincing! The game offers four single-player challenges in the form of "flight areas". Each area is a flat island with a set of runways and landing pads. Some of the landing pads even move to provide extra challenge.

Graduating to the next area involves completing a set of challenges and earning enough points in the process. Activities include light plane (bi-plane), skydiving, hang gliding, rocket-belt (jet-pack), and helicopter. Each has a unique feel, but they all require making fine-tuned adjustments and properly judging the landing location. At first the challenges are limited to simply flying through three rings and landing, but the more advanced levels are longer and more complex. Good luck getting past the third area!

Practice makes perfect, but the game can be frustrating. I really hate when you come in for a perfect landing with the plane, only to have it bounce off the runway. Likewise in the jet-pack there are times when you are hovering right next to a ring, yet can't seem to fly through it.

Pilotwings features a lot of happy, upbeat music, but some tunes are irritating, like the "blah blah blah" song in the jet-pack stage. A six-digit password is provided between areas. Pilotwings is technically impressive and mildly addictive, but I can't imagine ever wanting to play it again once you beat it. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Pirates of Dark Water, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Sunsoft (1994)
Reviewed: 2016/9/1

screenshotUnlike the Genesis version, the SNES Pirates of Dark Water is a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Final Fight (Capcom, 1991). This game is formulamatic to the max but at least it's well programmed. One or two players select between three characters: a dude, a girl, and some big ugly bastard named Ioz (my favorite). The opening stage is set on colorful cliffs with pterodactyls gliding over the sea. Later stages include an underground river, a dead forest, and a quaint village.

The scenery is highly repetitive and so is the fighting. You're attacked by the same barbarians over and over sporting imaginative names like "big pirate", "tall pirate", and "lady pirate". I like how that tall pirate waves his sword over his head before striking down with it. That "tattoo man" is annoying because he blocks everything. Your variety of attacks is the only thing keeping the action vaguely interesting. You can execute combination punches, jump-kicks, charge moves, and special moves.

Throws play a major role as well. You can grab just about any enemy and slam them into the ground, toss them into others, or fling them into pits. Some stages incorporate traps that enemies walk into, but it's not clear whether they're sustaining damage. In terms of audio Pirates of Dark Water truly kicks ass. The music is edgy and the sound effects pack a wallop. When Ioz strikes down with his sword it's pretty devastating!

Pirates is enjoyable for a while but the easy difficulty, endless stages, and overly-generous extra lives take their toll on the fun factor. Like similar games, you'll spend a lot of time swinging at the margins of the screen, whacking enemies before they can even enter. Even on the "hard" difficulty you'll breeze through this game, and you won't even need the five continues. Pirates of Dark Water had potential, but it doesn't test your skill so much as it does your wrist and attention span. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: hard
Our high score: 995,700
1 or 2 players 

Pit Fighter
Grade: F-
Publisher: Tengen (1991)
Reviewed: 2015/1/1

screenshotIn the early 90's I found myself caught up in the throes of fighting game mania. I was desperate to buy any new fighter I could get my hands on, and Pit-Fighter (Genesis, 1990) was one of those impulse buys. My friends were not very impressed but I enjoyed its easy-to-play arcade style. You select between three fighters (Buzz, Ty, Kato) in some kind of sleazy underground fight club with a bloodthirsty crowd.

Since I liked the Genesis game I decided to give this SNES edition a shot. I figured sharper graphics, clearer audio, and extra buttons might add something to the experience. I was dead wrong. I don't know where to begin with this debacle of a game. I guess I should start with the fact that it has zero options! Not even a sound test for crying out loud! You just hit a button and the character selection screen pops up.

The controls for selecting a character are ass-backwards to say the least. The graphics look sharper than the Genesis, but only serve to emphasize how blocky and poorly-animated the digitized characters are. It's hard to tell what's happening as the fighters cavort with each other, often falling down without even making contact. The controls feel unresponsive and the collision detection is horrific. One time I scored a perfect zero because I couldn't even get off a punch. Instead of health bars there are numbers that count down as fighters take damage.

And where is the lady in the black outfit who tries to stab you in the back with a knife? I miss that crazy woman. After defeating an enemy and progressing to the next level, your life meter doesn't even replenish! How are you supposed to make progress?! The final insult is when your life goes to zero and "game over" appears. That's right - you get a single life and no continues. Wow. The Genesis version of Pit Fighter served its purpose, but as far as I can tell this one has no purpose. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 12700
1 player 

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
Grade: D+
Publisher: Activision (1994)
Reviewed: 2018/7/3

screenshotThe Mayan Adventure was Activision's attempt to resurrect their dormant Pitfall franchise of the early 1980s. Graphically there's not much to complain about, with lavish Indiana Jones-inspired jungles, mesmerizing waterfalls, and trap-laden tombs. The wild animals are fluidly animated, calling to mind Disney's Jungle Book (Genesis, 1994). Crisp sound effects contribute to the exotic atmosphere but the platform-jumping gameplay is less inspired.

Most of your adversaries are tiny, annoying creatures like bats, rats, and monkeys that nip at your ankles. The controls are erratic. I was wondering why I kept slipping off a particular ledge only to discover there's a patch of green moss on the very edge. What kind of douchebag would put that there?! Instead of plunging to my death I found myself in an earlier area, but frankly I'm not sure which is worse.

Mayan Adventure's confusing level design necessitates the use of gold idols scattered throughout the game which literally point you in the right direction. Expect to slam into a lot of invisible walls and fall through unseen holes. The graphics are cleaner and brighter than the Sega versions, but it kind of undermines the sense of mystique. The first boss, a black panther, takes about 20 stones to defeat and has no health bar.

Your own health meter - depicting Harry in the jaws of a crocodile, is too cute and hard to gauge. Still, it's moderately fun to play for score by seeking out every gold bar and diamond ring. Best of all, the original Pitfall (Atari 2600, 1982) is buried somewhere in The Mayan Adventure. Now that is a real treasure. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 63,255
1 player 

Pocky and Rocky
Grade: C+
Publisher: Natsume (1993)
Reviewed: 2009/12/6

screenshotThis shooter/adventure hybrid features anime graphics, rapid-fire shooting, and two-player simultaneous action. Pocky and Rocky sounds like a classic gamer's dream, but boy is this game hard! I'm glad you can set the difficulty to easy, because at least that gives you a fighting chance! The game stars two cute, chubby characters: a karate chick named Pocky and her raccoon friend Rocky. The long, boring intro only displays about two words at a time, so don't feel bad about skipping that.

Pocky and Rocky's overhead perspective is much like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, 1992), and the graphics are pleasing to the eye. Whether you're wandering through a haunted temple or enchanted forest, the colors stand out and the degree of detail in the scenery is commendable. Nicely animated enemies include playful monkeys, bone-tossing skeletons, hopping fish, sea chickens (huh?), and bouncing umbrellas.

Tapping the fire button lets you toss magic cards (or leaves) rapidly. You can use your stick (or tail) for close range attacks, and this move is also useful (critical really) for swiping away projectiles. The game is clearly designed for two players, but that introduces slow-down and higher difficulty, so I prefer playing solo.

As with most anime titles, the tone is always whimsical and sometimes just plain weird. I find it amusing how the first boss greets you with the text "Ha Ha. I am your adversary." The background music has an oriental flair that's appealing. Pocky and Rocky is a little boss-heavy, with several appearing in each stage. It's no walk in the park, but its inviting visuals and non-stop action make this adventure enjoyable enough. . © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 100520
1 or 2 players 

Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
Reviewed: 2013/1/15
Rating: Kids to Adults 6+

screenshotYou may find it hard to get yourself psyched up for a Porky Pig game, but Haunted Holiday is no joke! This whimsical platformer is a heck of a lot of fun and loaded with surprises. Porky begins his journey in a haunted graveyard, and this weird stage somehow manages to incorporate both Halloween and Christmas elements. Subsequent stages put Porky in a Wild West ghost town, the water kingdom of Atlantis, and the snowy Alps. Swimming through Altantis is slow going, but the other stages are ideal in length.

Porky's jump-and-pounce action is satisfying thanks to responsive controls and exaggerated sound effects. Warner Bros cartoon fans will notice familiar sights like the two-headed vulture, a prancing dog, and bats with big eyes. Certain enemies are kind of disturbing, like the mounted moose head that scampers around! Yikes! Leprechauns split in two when you pounce on them, and I was surprised they appeared to be smoking pipes. My friend Scott reassured me however that those are not pipes but guns. God forbid we expose kids to the horrors of smoking!

The stage backgrounds are very artistic, and there are random weather effects and some impressive 3D scaling. Ironically the worst looking thing in the entire game is Porky himself, who appears somewhat pixelated. The music is pretty amazing and the digitized sound effects include Daffy Duck's maniacal laugh. The oversized bosses are memorable including Yosemite Sam and a Ghost in a top hat. Haunted Holiday is definitely on the easy side, but that just makes it all the more appealing. As my friend Chris remarked, "it makes you want to keep going!" " © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 23,600
1 player 

Power Instinct
Grade: C+
Publisher: Atlus (1994)
Reviewed: 2019/10/2
Rating: Teen

screenshotPower Instinct is a cheesy yet highly entertaining Street Fighter II (SNES, 1991) knock off. In this one-on-one fighter you execute combos and perform floaty jumps in a variety of exotic stages. Certain characters are dead ringers for their Street Fighter counterparts. White Buffalo is clearly T. Hawk, Annie is Chun Li, Kieth Wayne is Ken, etc. Speaking of which, could Keith Wayne possibly have a more American-sounding name?

You won't have much trouble matching up certain special attacks to their Street Fighter moves (Dragon punch, Honda slap, etc). The eight fighters do include a few original faces like the fierce ninja Saizo, the hideously muscular Angela, and old granny Otane who can transform into a young lady. The soundtrack isn't particularly good but there are interesting stages including a stormy graveyard, a city street lined with bikers, and a parking garage with a blazing orange sunset.

Power Instinct boasts some fun animations and a wacky sense of humor. My friend Chris incredulously asked "did that old lady just throw her false teeth at me?!" The font used in the menus has a weird "western" motif. As you might guess the gameplay isn't as tight as Street Fighter, with frequent slowdown and various timing issues. Naturally there are crates and other breakable items sitting around the stages to break. Fighting game enthusiasts should feel right at home with Power Instinct, and I'm guessing they'll have a pretty good time playing it. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 306,400
1 or 2 players 

Prehistorik Man
Grade: B

screenshotHad it not been released a full four years after Chuck Rock (Genesis, 1991) Prehistorik Man could have been a bonafide hit. This is a conventional but well-programmed platformer starring a wacky caveman who pounces on cuddly bears, giant spiders, and cute dinosaurs. There are loads of food items to grab for points, including what appears to be a Big Mac with fries. Stone heads float over gaps but collapse if you stand on them for too long.

As derivative as it sounds Prehistorik Man is a heck of a lot of fun. The controls are outstanding. I like how you can swing your club while jumping or dangling from a vine. The ability to yell to scare off enemies is unique, as is throwing spears to create new platforms. The glacier stages offer a twist on the slippery formula, swaying to and fro in the water. Certain stages are more puzzle-oriented, challenging you to locate hidden items or locations.

One element that never really takes off is the ill-advised hang-gliding. Controlling your glider isn't intuitive as all, and it's infuriating to struggle with the controls as you plunge to your death. Otherwise the game has a glossy sheen and an eclectic soundtrack. Some tunes sound like music from a Peanuts cartoon, while others have a mellow groove that lets you get into a zone. Fun audio effects include your caveman exclaiming "Yikes!" when hitting a spike. Prehistorik Man is highly entertaining stuff, with each stage offering a unique platform experience. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 419,900
1 player 

Primal Rage
Grade: D+
Publisher: Time Warner (1995)
Reviewed: 2013/6/19

screenshotWhen I first saw the Primal Rage arcade machine in a local sub shop, I was awestruck. As a fan of Mortal Kombat and Ray Harryhausen movies, the concept of stop-motion, clay-mation dinosaurs fighting really blew my mind. It's a wonderful premise that doesn't play as good as it looks. How could it?

The creatures include two T-Rexes (Sauron, Diablo), two giant apes (Blizzard, Chaos), a horned dinosaur (Armagon), a raptor (Talon), and a cobra-like creature (Vertigo). The one-on-one fighting action doesn't stray far from the Mortal Kombat formula as creatures execute combos, special moves, and fatalities. Combo percentages are displayed on the screen, which was a first for its time.

Primal Rage seems pretty shallow until you get a few special moves under your belt. Diablo breathes fire, Blizzard can freeze an enemy in place, and Armagon can flip his opponent into the air. I love that beating heart at the end of your life bar which bursts into a bloody mess when you lose. In 1995 I opted for this SNES edition (over the Genesis), but felt lukewarm about it.

The characters are smaller than the arcade and the animation is slower. The hits lack impact and the blood looks ridiculous. Diablo was noticeably smaller than Sauron in the arcade, but here they're pretty much the same size. The animation could be smoother and the "iffy" collision detection registers some hits that aren't even close. The SNES controller has the ideal four-button layout for the game, but special moves are still hard to execute. The act of eating a native spectator (to regain life) is so complicated that it's not worth the effort.

The post-apocalyptic backdrops look good but aren't quite as awe-inspiring as the arcade. The music is sparse but there are some memorable audio effects. I'll give this version a little extra credit for its glossy manual which has a lot of fun illustrations (and a hot babe on page 18). Primal Rage may not have been all it was cracked up to be, but I'm still intrigued by the concept. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 150,000
1 or 2 players 

Prince of Persia
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Reviewed: 2021/2/14

screenshotI was not enamored by Prince of Persia (Sega CD, 1992) but readers implored me to try this SNES version. I will admit that this one is substantially better. The environments are darker and more foreboding, decked out with skeletons and flickering torches like any self-respecting dungeon would have. They even a few new cavernous areas tacked on.

The musical score sounds more contemporary yet still retains the proper mystical undertones. Your prince is less awkward to control, and it helps that you have a few more buttons to work with. The game demands a slow, deliberate approach. I find it amusing how messages like "117 minutes left" flash periodically. Hell, I'm lucky to last three.

Each screen offers a new set of challenges with traps, gates, pressure panels, and collapsing platforms. Sometimes you're required to perform heart-stopping leaps and one false move is instant death. The game can be positively heart-wrenching. Once I meticulously worked my way through an entire stage, giving a flawless performance only to be suddenly impaled at the end because I hit the wrong button. My advice to you is never get comfortable playing Prince of Persia.

Sword fights become more frequent as you progress and I hate how they are sometimes obscured by stone columns in the foreground. Being aggressive is usually a good idea, as suffering the first blow is hard to recover from. There are no checkpoints but a seven-character password is provided between levels. A game like Prince of Persia is not for the faint of heart but may be rewarding to those who seek to accomplish a goal. If you always wanted to know what this classic is all about, the SNES version is probably your best bet. . © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Q*bert 3
Grade: C
Publisher: NTV (1992)
Reviewed: 2018/4/10

screenshotThe title of this game begs the question "What the [expletive] happened to Q*bert 2?" Apparently that was Q*bert's Qubes (Atari 2600, 1984), which few people paid any attention to. Q*bert 3 tries to bridge the gap between home and arcade, retaining the classic elements while expanding the number of screens to a whopping 100! Instead of hopping between blocks you'll jump on crates, presents, suitcases, ice cubes, and birthday cakes.

Each stage offers a unique configuration, some with disjointed sections you travel between via spinning discs. Interesting new elements include cannons that fire bouncing balls, enemies that move sideways, and bonus fruit. I like how target markers appear on blocks where enemies are about to drop, preventing a lot of cheap deaths. Since Q*bert only moves diagonally you'll need to rotate the controller 45 degrees, and it takes some getting used to.

A bigger problem is trying to figure out how to jump on discs. Especially with irregular-shaped "blocks", it's not always clear where the jumping-off point is. Likewise, trying to track the sideways-moving enemies is confusing. The graphics are smooth and bright, but the lounge music and psychedelic backdrops are obnoxious. Good thing you can shut them off.

The relatively low difficulty allows you to delve deep into the creative stages, but the gameplay starts to get a little stale after a while. There's a continue option but a password feature would have been better. Q*bert 3 made me realize you can't simply stretch out an arcade classic and maintain the same level of fun throughout. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 63,190
1 or 2 players 

Raiden Trad
Grade: B-
Publisher: Toei (1992)
Reviewed: 2019/1/23

screenshotRaiden Trad offers manic vertical shooting action as you fly up the screen blasting plane formations and tanks situated on crumbling overpasses. By collecting icons of the same color you can gradually amass substantial firepower. The red weapon provides wide coverage but the concentrated blue laser is great for making short work of the big mechanical beasts. Additional power-ups equip you with homing missiles and bombs, although these icons tend to be elusive, dancing away as you try to snag them.

Compared to the Genesis version this Raiden Trad is sharper but the animation is kind of jerky. I expected the music to be much better but it actually comes off a little flat. Still, the action is exhilarating once you max out your weapon, wiping out everything before it can even appear on the screen. When you finally die and have to restart with your peashooter, it really hurts.

This SNES edition also supports two-player co-op, and the game is much easier in this mode despite a drop in framerate. The difficulty could ramp better; the third boss can survive six bombs! Still, when it comes to SNES shooters Raiden Trad has to be somewhere near the top. . © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 199,950
1 or 2 players 

Rap Jam Volume 1
Grade: D-
Publisher: Motown Games (1994)
Reviewed: 2001/11/24


screenshotIt was awfully presumptuous of Motown Games to place "Volume 1" in the title of this, as if they were certain it would be a runaway success. The idea behind Rap Jam Volume 1 is that you could play basketball as your favorite rap stars (circa 1994). There are some big names here, including Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, and Coolio. Unfortunately, the players on the court look nothing like the rappers they're meant to portray. Queen Latifah in particular has never been as tiny or skinny as that mini-skirted babe running around the court!

Rap Jam's gameplay isn't bad because it's modeled after the fast-paced NBA Jam. There are plenty of rim-rattling dunks and a handy shot meter that makes it fun to sink jumpers. Up to four players can complete, and there's a nice selection of outdoor courts. It's the controls that hold this game back.

There's simply no way to rebound the ball, so you'll have to wait for the ball to come down after a missed shot. Lame! The passing controls are confusing, and the "Xtra" button is a poor substitute for turbo. There are no three-pointers in the game, despite having a three-point line. And since when is double dribbling legal? It had a few things going for it, but don't hold your breath for Rap Jam Volume 2. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Return of Double Dragon
Grade: C
Publisher: Retroism (2018)
Reviewed: 2018/9/28

screenshotboxThis "new" release is actually the Japanese version of Super Double Dragon (Tradewest, 1992). I think you'll find Return of Double Dragon to be technically superior and substantially more fun. It offers more moves, bigger stages, extra music, better balance, and a handy option menu.

This is a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991) or Final Fight (SNES, 1991). The background graphics are pleasing to the eye, beginning in a flashy casino and moving to an airport and Chinatown. The characters are small but distinctive, and many are armed with weapons. It looks like one of the bosses is actually talking on his cell phone between beatdowns. That's disrespectful! The pacing is slow and frankly there are times when it feels like the action is moving in slow motion.

The controls however are robust; the basic punch, kick, and jump moves are just the tip of the iceberg. You can block, wall-jump, and deflect knife throws. You can perform Street Fighter-style hurricane kicks and knock punching bags into goons. Somehow I was able to grab a thug's arm, twist it, and hurl him into another enemy. Once you acquire the nun-chucks or bo-staff you'll be smacking around lackies like a 1980's action hero! The collision detection is generous but tends to work in your favor. Return of Double Dragon is slow and repetitive at times, but it's still a tasty slice of 1992. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 785,600
1 or 2 players 

Revolution X
Grade: F-
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
Reviewed: 2016/3/2

screenshotIn 1994 Aerosmith was a hit-making machine that could do no wrong. Then they tried their hand at a video game. Oy! What a reprehensible piece of [expletive] this is. The intro screen features the band playing the song "Rag Doll", giving the player a sense of false hope. The contrived premise behind Revolution X pits you against a totalitarian regime called "the New Order" who has banned Aerosmith among other things.

The gameplay is best described as a light gun shooter with no light gun support. Instead you move a squirrely crosshair around the screen, gunning down an endless parade of shirtless clones. At least they're considerate enough to line up in neat rows so you can continuously fire in one spot, mowing them down by the dozen. The scene in the club with bikini-clad chicks dancing in cages adds a touch of class, but most of the time you're staring at pixelated brick buildings. Bad guys don't just fall from the windows - they hurl themselves through the glass! Holding down the button to spray bullets sounds like fun but the action is repetitive to the max!

In addition to lousy control Revolution X suffers from horrible slowdown and even muffled audio. Did Aerosmith record the soundtrack at the bottom of a well?! This is one game you'll shut off long before you run out of lives. Not only is Revolutionary X mind-numbing but it's broken to boot! In my game the helicopter boss was literally impossible to destroy. Unfortunately it looks like Aerosmith programmed the game too. Maybe this New Order had the right idea after all. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 644,500
1 or 2 players 

Rival Turf
Grade: C+
Publisher: Jaleco (1992)
Reviewed: 2009/10/21

screenshotI'll be the first to admit that my original review of Rival Turf was entirely too harsh. Evidently my bias for Streets of Rage got the best of me. Rival Turf may be a poor man's Streets of Rage, but hey - it's at least as good as the Final Fight games. The unintentionally hilarious box cover shows two young teenagers trying hard to look tough. The game itself is a generic side-scrolling brawler that lets you clash with criminal clones in different colored outfits.

The predictable cast includes martial artists, skinny freaks, and the obligatory fat guys who attack with a belly flop. There's also a muscleman named Arnold who looks a lot like your favorite Terminator. You can choose between two playable characters - the brawny Oozie Nelson and the more agile Jack Flak. I would definitely recommend Jack because Oozie is just too damn slow (his body slams feel like slow-motion!).

There aren't many weapons lying around, but occasionally you'll find a brick or rock to throw. Some enemies toss sticks of dynamite, but their explosions are awfully wimpy. Rival Turf's gameplay is uninspired but still fun thanks to responsive controls that let you easily dish out the whup-ass. Throwing one enemy into others is especially effective, and I like how they all land with an emphatic thud.

Holding a shoulder button is supposed to let you run, but instead it looks like you're walking really fast. Pretty cheesy! Another odd (and annoying) aspect of the game is the pronounced delay between the time you hit an enemy and when the damage is reflected in his life meter. It can be confusing. I enjoyed most of the urban scenery (like the bus ride), but a few areas are boring (like the locker room and parking garage).

You're treated to some slick city skylines, but in later stages the action moves south of the border where the scenery is exceptionally bland. The mediocre audio features repetitive tunes and muffled sound effects. The two-player mode exhibits some slow-down, but the single player action is highly playable. Rival Turf is as derivative as they come, but if you're okay with that, you'll have a good time. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 24
1 or 2 players 

Road Runner's Death Valley Rally
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sunsoft (1992)
Reviewed: 2010/7/17

screenshotIn the early 90's graphic technology had advanced to the point where cartoon characters could be pretty faithfully rendered in a video game. Players were intrigued by the prospect of controlling their favorite Saturday morning personalities, and Death Valley Rally generated a lot of buzz for this reason. Heck, its screenshots looked like a freakin' TV show!

The characters are rendered using large sprites, and Wile E. Coyote can be seen using all of his famous contraptions like his gliding suit, steamroller, and rocket ship. No doubt about it - this is one impressive-looking game. Sunsoft was somewhat less successful when it came to recreating the frenetic action of the cartoon. The idea is to guide the Road Runner to the end of each stage while avoiding the coyote's wacky antics and other obstacles. Flags can be gathered along the way to earn bonus points.

Some stages feature long stretches that allow the Road Runner to zip around, but there's a lot more precision jumping than I expected. Even in the early stages you're often required to carefully hop between narrow platforms. The floaty jumps provide some room for error, but when the screen scrolls upwards it's hard to tell where you're about to land! The coyote enters at random intervals, and he's often hard to avoid due to his size. Locations include desert cliffs, mineshafts, construction sites, and even a space stage with a cameo from Marvin the Martian.

The scenery isn't very interesting, but it's always fun to see what kind of new contraption the coyote has rigged up. Watching him meet his demise is amusing, especially when he goes into that classic free-fall sequence (ending in a puff of dust). The stages are relatively short but the lack of a password feature is glaring. Road Runner's Death Valley Rally has a lot of eye candy. Too bad it looks so much better than it plays! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 14,500
1 player 

Robocop Versus Terminator
Grade: C-
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
Reviewed: 2013/6/19

screenshotThis has to be good; it's packaged in a molded black plastic box for Pete's sake. Oh wait - the back is cardboard. So how does this Robocop Versus Terminator stack up to the Genesis version? It's a major letdown. After a cheesy comic-book style intro featuring some kid with a bowl haircut, the opening stage shows a lot of promise. The red evening city skyline looks magnificent and the thunderstorm is a nice touch.

You control Robocop, whose body is surrounded by a cheesy colored outline. His clanking walk conveys a nice sense of mass but he feels a bit sluggish and doesn't easily latch onto pipes or ladders. Your oversized weapons include plasma guns and rocket launchers, and thankfully you can't run out of ammo! Enemy projectiles move very slowly that you can often outrun them.

Robocop Versus Terminator packs plenty of rapid-fire shooting action, but there are a lot of unnecessary annoyances. One bad guy blasts craters in the streets, and Robocop has a tendency to fall right into them! It's not a pretty sight to see Robocop defeated at the hands of a pothole! Enemies in the first stage tend to be chicks, and it doesn't feel right walking down the street pumping slugs into a bunch of screaming women.

The platform jumping action feels tedious because the ledges are so narrow. And when you stand still a freakin' girder falls on your head! Who's bright idea was that? In advanced stages you contend with crawling bombs and soldiers with shields. Impressive bosses include a terminator "tank" and a pretty amazing hologram face.

Compared to the Genesis game, the violence is tame. When you shoot an enemy he basically goes up in smoke. When you shoot a sniper in the window, black tar is splashed across the curtains. Robocop Versus Terminator isn't bad, but once you play the Genesis version there's no turning back. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: SLN 96800
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Rocky Rodent
Grade: C+
Publisher: Irem (1993)
Reviewed: 2018/1/23

screenshotThis platformer gets off to a rough (rocky?) start, forcing the player to sit through endless dialog bubbles in an opening cutscene featuring a mob boss. Get on with it will ya?! The star of the game is an ugly rat with bulging yellow eyes, scruffy fur, and a wagging tongue.

As Rocky Rodent scampers around the streets of Paris he'll encounter armadillos, gophers, and animated fire hydrants. I hate how moles leap out of the ground with no warning. That might make sense in the grass, but in an apartment? It's tempting to write off this game but things get interesting when you stumble upon a can of hairspray.

Depending on the haircut that materializes Rocky can perform a variety of special moves. Spiky hair lets him scoop and toss enemies, a mohawk acts like a boomerang, and a ponytail can be snapped like a whip. Your hairdo also allows you to latch onto platforms and swing yourself up onto them in an unlikely manner.

The controls could be better. Was it really necessary to combine the attack and run buttons? The graphics are surprisingly sharp, with attractive city skylines offering layers of historic architecture and distinctive landmarks. You'll venture through a haunted apartment, clock tower, factory, and of course the obligatory sewers.

I enjoyed the exploration element of this game. Each location offers multiple paths and hidden surprises, so it pays to take a slow, deliberate approach. A few constant-scrolling stages provide a nice change of pace including a freeway stage where you jump between moving cars. That stage ends with a mafia encounter and there's something surreal about watching poor Rocky being machine-gunned down by a crime boss. Rocky Rodent isn't going to win any awards but its excessive weirdness helps set it apart. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 84,200
1 player 

Roger Clemens' MVP Baseball
Grade: C+
Publisher: LJN (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/6/27

screenshotMost 16-bit baseball games tend to fall into the same generic mold but not Roger Clemens' MVP Baseball. Its intro sequence features "the Rocket" hurling a fastball to the plate and you're along for the ride. Trust me - it's awesome. Upon setting up an exhibition game the possibility dawned on me that MVP Baseball may not have secured an MLB license. Maybe it was seeing teams like the Seattle Pioneers, the Chicago Red Birds, and St. Louis Dragons. The New York Rebels even have a Confederate logo. If this was released today there would be riots in the streets!

The players look generic with vaguely real-sounding names like T. Stemper, A. Huffy, and P. Griffith. The semi-realistic graphics are appealing, with a clean, well-designed pitcher-batter screen. Sometimes you might even notice the batter chewing dip or blowing a bubble. It's easy to hit the ball if you swing early, and once the ball's in play things get very interesting.

Most baseball games maintain a behind-the-plate view, but MVP positions the camera behind the fielder. It absolutely makes you feel "in the game" but it takes practice to figure out where the ball is going to land! Then there's the challenge of throwing to the correct base. The throwing controls remain consistent from any angle (left for first, up for second, etc) but it's still disorienting. That said, when you throw out a runner it's remarkably satisfying.

Also dramatic are the close-ups of runners sliding into a base. Not only does the high angle look cool, but the runner can slide left or right to avoid the tag! If there's one visual disappointment it's the home runs. The fielder angle doesn't even allow you to see the ball going into the stands. The baserunning is complicated; I counted 13 different button combinations in the manual dedicated to controlling runners. Between half innings you're treated to a digitized image of a ballpark, which would be neat if it weren't always the same ballpark.

MVP Baseball has a steep learning curve but wrangling with the controls is part of the fun. The first time I played I gave up ten runs in the first inning but only one in the second. I'd recommend shutting off the annoying music via the options menu, except that leaves you playing in complete silence. Someone forgot the crowd noise! Roger Clemens' MVP Baseball is a strange bird, but that's what I like about it. For all its flaws, I'll take this over a garden-variety baseball title any day. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Rushing Beat Ran (Japan)
Grade: C+
Publisher: Jaleco (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/2/1

screenshotI hate getting an inferior version of a Japanese game just because the guy in charge of localization decided to change more than the language or title. Rushing Beat Ran was released as Brawl Brothers in America, and the name change is understandable. Less excusable was the decision to turn the sewer and gym stages into confusing labyrinths. You need an FAQ just to find your way out, and that's just awful.

Fortunately the Brawl Brothers cartridge contains the complete Japanese version accessible via an obscure code. You hit BAXY continuously during white Jaleco screen, and when garbage appears you press Start, down three times, and Start again to bring up an options screen. Quit out of that and feast your eyes on the Rushing Beat Ran title screen!

There are five playable characters including a green ninja, a blonde female, and a red dude who looks like M. Bison of Street Fighter 2 fame. The characters you don't pick are bosses, but as you defeat them they become selectable between stages. Prior to each stage you're presented with a colorful map, a la Final Fight. One thing I love about 2D brawlers is their layered illustrated scenery, and the early stages here sport a lot of interesting detail.

The controls are crisp and hits are punctuated with emphatic symbols like "Spak!" and "Crash!" You get a lot of mileage out of throwing people. The only thing better than tossing goons into each other is tossing them off of moving lifts. One aspect of the game that sucks is the weapons. A bat with nails sticking out of it might be effective if only I could hit somebody with it!

The bosses are pretty cheap, always grabbing you from out of nowhere. I'd recommend playing on easy just to compensate for that. The upbeat music is great and a score is displayed after each stage. Rushing Beat Run is standard beat-em-up fare, but a big step up from the tainted version we were originally served. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 158
1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix, Moby Games, Games Database, YouTube