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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Nintendo Switch Reviews A

Grade: D-
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Posted: 2017/5/9
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNobody likes this game! My friends just shake their heads whenever I put it in. Chris took one look at the full-motion video and asked if it was a CD-i game. My wife wanted to know if I paid money for this. 1-2-Switch is mainly a showcase for the new Joy-Con controllers. These tiny overpriced controllers ($50 each!) are basically miniature Wiimotes, complete with the "be mindful of your surroundings" warnings. Despite their size the Joy-Cons are jam-packed with functionality, housing a microphone, camera, sophisticated rumble feedback, an accelerometer, and gyroscope for motion tracking.

1-2-Switch bundles up 28 mini-games, some of which are so trivial you'll be amazed they made the cut. All are two-player only, and most instruct you to look your opponent in the eye, which I found awkward. The action is largely driven by sound cues and force feedback. In fact, a blind person could play this! Some games test your reflexes, like the Wild West shootout and a phone-answering contest. Zen challenges you to remain perfectly still, detecting even your slightest movements. Ball Count simulates a number of balls rolling around in the controller and it's pretty neat. Some of the more elaborate motion games like runway model and air guitar are probably more entertaining if the players have been drinking... a lot.

Some of the more offbeat games incorporate shaving, eating, and milking a cow. Signal Flag and Sword Fight are too confusing to be fun, although you could argue that none of these are particularly fun. A few, like Dice Roll and Soda Shake, barely qualify as a game. To its credit, 1-2-Switch boasts slick production values, bright color schemes, and enthusiastic actors. Judging from the tutorial videos alone you'd expect every game to be a complete riot. Most critics have written off 1-2-Switch as a glorified tech demo that should have been shipped with the system. They aren't wrong. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

2 players 

American Hero
Grade: D
Publisher: Ziggurat Interactive (2023)
Posted: 2024/4/5
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood, sexual content, strong language, violence)

screenshotAmerican Hero is a restored version of an unreleased 1995 Jaguar CD game. Being a full-motion video (FMV) title, I was prepared for bad acting and low-budget mayhem. What I did not expect was the strong language, strippers cavorting for the camera, and violent images. This game looks more like a late-night Skinemax movie.

How is this even on a Nintendo console? Well, the game opens with several screens cautioning about depictions of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Much like the Looney Tunes Blu-ray releases, there's that condescending "have always been wrong and are still wrong today" statement. The thing is, the game doesn't even contain any of that stuff!

American Hero stars actor Timothy Bottoms as the badass action hero, and he even provided additional voice-overs for this restored version. He's a dead-ringer for George W. Bush, by the way. Other recognizable actors include Elaine Benes' father as the military boss and James Bond's "Jaws" as one of the henchmen.

Jack's girlfriend Laura is played by Musetta Vander who you may remember as the praying-mantis lady from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Sindel from Mortal Kombat Annihilation. She really knows how to run in a short skirt and high heels! Needless to say, she steals every scene.

American Hero's footage is low definition with occasional static, but that just adds to its VHS charm. The video is presented superimposed on one of those old-fashioned VCR/television combos popular in the 1990s, consuming only about a third of the screen.

The adventure begins with our hero Jack sitting at a strip bar. The dancers aren't naked but they are scantily clad and pretty hot. He's approached by some military guy named Hoover who offers him a mission. Since it involves his old girlfriend, Jack feels obligated to accept.

Most of the game is spent watching video, but periodically two text actions will be alternately flash for you to choose from. The outcomes seem totally random and often nonsensical, making it more of an exercise in trial-and-error than logic. Still, it's kind of interesting to see how the story unfolds. It can branch in a number of ways but always circles back around to the main storyline. When you die, you get to resume at the latest checkpoint.

American Hero hits on all the standard action movie tropes. Hand-to-hand combat against gangs of thugs. Getting chased through industrial facilities. Dressing up like scientists to steal an antidote. Laura sometimes uses her bountiful assets to distract the bad guys. I'd be distracted too!

The game has a few unexpected twists, like Jack punching a stripper. There are hints of humor but most are unintentional. In one scene Hoover is talking to Jack so closely you expect him to nibble on his ear! Sudz noticed the clock on the bomb tends to go both forward and backward due to poor editing.

American Hero is pretty outrageous but if you get a kick out of FMV titles you probably want this in your collection. I don't think I'd want to sit through most scenes more than once or twice, but as a 90's time capsule they are fascinating to watch. American Hero may not be much of a game, but we'll give it a D for T&A. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (2017)
Posted: 2017/8/10
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotArms is Punch-Out!! (NES, 1987) for the 90s! I mean 2000's! Whatever! This high energy, one-on-one slugfest features fighters with long, coily arms. Not only can you throw punches from a distance, but you can guide your fists toward your opponent. The stylish presentation boasts bright visuals and a spirited vocal chorus. It occurred to me that Arms has one element you rarely see in modern video games, and that's a catchy soundtrack! It'll have you cranking up the volume and humming right along.

The colorful cast includes ninja dudes, chicks with taffy hair, a hulking mummy, a robot, and a Gumby-like character. You outfit your fighter with a variety of arms (hands really) equipped with gadgets like shields, missiles, or saws. The arenas range from a laboratory to a dance club to the steps of a Japanese temple. In addition to throwing punches you can dash, jump, and block. Naturally there's a special move that lets you go buck-wild with a crazy barrage.

I found the screen layout confusing. Your opponent's health meter only appears intermittently, often in the distance. The game is surprisingly playable with the Joy-Con motion controls. It's satisfying to land a combo or catch a dodging enemy in the side of the head. Unfortunately, configuring the Joy-Cons as individual controllers is pain, so my friends and I normally just stick to the standard controller configuration. Either way, the game will make you work up a sweat.

In addition to best-of-three matches there are basketball, volleyball, and target-punching mini-games. I guess the main problem with Arms is that it doesn't have legs. Competing against a friend is fun, but there's little incentive to play solo, outside of earning credits to unlock new arms. Still, I have to give Arms credit for its refreshing arcade-style gameplay with originality to burn. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration
Grade: A
Publisher: Atari Interactive (2022)
Posted: 2023/2/23
Rating: Teen

VCTR SECTR I've been skeptical of the latest company calling themselves Atari which seemed to serve no other purpose other than to cash in on its legacy. But this elegant, thoughtfully-crafted 50-year tribute made me think otherwise. I sat down with this one Saturday morning and by the time I was done, it was dark outside!

Atari 50 lets you freely explore several branching historic timelines dating back to 1971. Their four topics are arcade origins, the Atari 2600, the Atari computers, and the 1990s. Each is jam-packed with fun quotes, interviews, commercials, artwork, design notes, and promotional materials. The polished interface with its relaxing music is so effortless to peruse, the hours just melt away.

For the interviews they brought in some big guns from Atari's heyday of the late 70s through early 80s. Legends like Al Alcorn, Gary Kitchen, David Crane, and Tod Frye provide fascinating, passionate insight. Eugene Jarvis is hilarious as usual, and the great Howard Scott Warshaw (of ET fame) strikes me as perhaps the most gracious figure in video game history. The interviews are surprisingly frank with topics like "Did they do drugs at Atari?" and "5200: An Atari Tragedy".

I learned so much while pouring through all of this information. Did you know Atari nearly released a hologram handheld in 1981? Did you know all Atari 2600 games are required to run at 60 frames per second? You may be surprised to learn that many classic Atari games were designed or programmed by women. In the Combat section of the timeline you can view the game's entire source code on one screen, and it's so compact you won't believe it.

The timelines have the added bonus of incorporating the actual games, allowing you to immediately experience what you just read about. This provides much-needed context, giving the player a whole new appreciation. The massive selection includes 25 arcade, 40 Atari 2600, four Atari 5200, seven Atari 7800, six Lynx, five Atari XE, and nine Jaguar games. Many of these are previously available on other collections, but the sheer breadth of content here is staggering.

Never-before-released arcade games include the incomprehensible arcade game Akka Arrh and the uniquely non-violent Quantum where you lasso flying stars. Airworld for the Atari 2600 serves as the long-awaited conclusion to the Earthquest series, and Yars' Revenge Enhanced gives the classic a flashy new "skin" with pulsating music. I especially appreciate how they included Bounty Bob Strikes Back for the Atari 5200 - a rare cartridge few can afford in real life.

Atari 50 also includes several new "reimagined" games that are surprisingly strong. Haunted Houses faithfully resurrects the same vintage gameplay using Minecraft-style graphics, and VCTR SCTR (Vector Sector) feels like every classic Atari vector game rolled up in one! Quadratank is a thrilling four player update to Combat's Tank Pong.

My main complaint is how certain games with analog controls (like Warlords) aren't well adapted to modern controllers. Could they have included more games? Maybe, but you have to remember most Atari 5200 and Jaguar games employed a numeric keypad to some degree. But I don't think you'll be complaining about a lack of content. Atari 50 is electric chicken soup that is sure to nourish your soul. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Atari Flashback Classics
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (2018)
Posted: 2020/5/26
Rating: Everyone

screenshotCombining the three previously-released volumes of Atari Flashback Classics, this massive 150-game compilation would seem to be a tremendous value. You get 32 arcade games, 102 Atari 2600 games, and 16 Atari 5200 titles. The arcade selection includes all-time greats like Centipede, Tempest, Asteroids, and Missile Command. Digging deep into its archive, Atari also unearthed ancient black-and-white arcade titles like Avalanche, Destroyer, Basketball, and Fire Truck. They look sharp but their audio is the true revelation. That bonus beep in Asteroids Deluxe sounds like it's coming from another dimension!

The console selection includes some legitimate classics (Adventure, Warlords, Video Pinball, Yars' Revenge) but there's plenty of filler like Hangman, Stellar Track, and Basic Math. Several homebrews are also included like Yars' Return, Wizard, and Adventure II. M-Network titles like Armor Ambush and Frogs and Flies are great third-party additions, but the lack of Activision and Imagic games is glaring. They produced some of the best titles for the system! And where are Defender, Phoenix, Galaxian, Jungle Hunt, and Pac-Man? Apparently they were only licensed by Atari for their consoles.

It's neat how you can bring up a virtual Atari 2600 dashboard and flip its switches. To determine which variation you want, you can peruse digitized manuals and they even included the comic books for the Swordquest titles. My main issue is regarding the controls. Most of the arcade games and even some of the console titles required special controllers like paddles or trackballs. An analog stick is a marginal substitute. It feels more touchy than precise, even when you dial down the sensitivity. Certain games work fine with the thumbstick (Black Widow and Night Driver) while others don't respond at all (Red Baron and Race).

The Atari 5200 keypad emulation is comically bad. It ruins Realsports Baseball, which also suffers from visual glitches and off-key sound. The Flashback menu interface is poor in general, requiring you to begin a new game before you can return to the main menu. Local high scores are saved for the arcade games but not the console titles. Atari Flashback Classics may contain a treasure trove of classic material, but it feels like a case of quantity over quality. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Axiom Verge
Grade: A
Publisher: Badlands Games (2017)
Posted: 2018/4/7
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI tend to hop from one game to the next but Axiom Verge became an instant obsession. I still can't get over how finely-crafted and inventive this sci-fi platformer is. Though clearly inspired by Metroid, Axiom Verge manages to out-Metroid every Metroid game ever made. Its gorgeously-pixelated 16-bit graphics employ limited color schemes for dramatic effect with stages composed of granular blocks. Its superb 2D gameplay is enhanced by a mind-bending story and pulse-pounding musical score.

The environments feature a lot of familiar elements like steam vents, rolling boulders, and toxic pools, but don't let that fool you. The creativity in this game is off the charts, with monsters, items, and weapons like you've never imagined. Case in point is the "address disruptor" gun which actually allows you to create graphical glitches in the game for your own benefit!

And once you think you have Axiom Verge figured out, you're just getting started. Like a good Zelda adventure once you acquire a new ability you'll want to comb over old locations to make new discoveries. Backtracking has never been so satisfying. A handy map is at your fingertips and the save points are perfectly placed.

The audio is striking, from the crisp tapping of your drone scurrying around to the Defender-like electronic noise when you find a new weapon. Static in the music adds to the atmosphere of isolation, but some people might wonder if there's something wrong with their sound system.

Axiom Verge was developed over five years by a single man. And when you consider Tom Happ even created its otherworldly soundtrack, this is an astounding accomplishment. My one complaint has more to do with the Nintendo Switch controller. A game like this demands a directional pad which you won't find on a Joycon. Double-tapping is so awkward I found myself accidentally changing weapons! Once I switched to a Pro Controller, it was like night and day. Axiom Verge isn't a Metroid clone - it's a Metroid killer! This is one of the best games I've ever played - hands down. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, MobyGames.com, Nintendo Everything, Nintendo Life, Polygon, Nintendo Difference