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

Nintendo Switch Reviews D-F

Deathsmiles I & II
Grade: B
Publisher: Strictly Limited (2022)
Posted: 2022/12/4
Rating: Teen

screenshotI loved the original Deathsmiles (Xbox 360, 2010) with its anime style, manic shooting, and rich Halloween theme. It was such a treat I was totally bummed when its Christmas-themed sequel was only available in digital format. Well, thanks to this great Strictly Limited release, I finally own a physical copy of Deathsmiles II.

In the first Deathsmiles the destruction quotient is off-the-charts as you direct your rapid-fire at flying eyeballs, grim reapers, and rampaging trolls. The first stage takes place in a port where you blow pirate ships into wooden shards. Later stages include a haunted graveyard and a swamp inhabited by a witch. You play as one of four flying, giggling Japanese girls, and yes their voices are annoying.

The controls are first-rate. You can fire in either direction or activate a "target" attack which locks onto a nearby enemy. You also have smart bombs that obliterate everything on the screen. While you're met with substantial resistance, the collision detection works very much in your favor. Though your character is sizable, she only takes damage when hit in her heart.

The opening stage of Deathsmiles II reeks of Christmas as you glide over a snow-covered village all decked out for the holidays. You'll face seasonally-correct adversaries like snowmen and disembodied Santa boots. The villain is "Satan Claws" riding a demonic reindeer boss! The festive music sounds vaguely like Jingle Bells.

Unfortunately subsequent stages lose their holiday spirit. The next three feature generic suburbs, an underwater stage, and haunted ruins that would be more at home in a House of the Dead (Saturn, 1996) game. I do find it interesting how the boss in that level is called "Nice older man". Yeah, a nice older man trying to kill you! These stages reprise enemies from the first game, including pig chefs armed with butcher knives.

Both titles are fully configurable. You can adjust the difficulty, continues, and screen appearance. You can save high scores to online leaderboards, or disable that garbage! Offline scores are also recorded, although not with initials.

The original Deathsmiles is a classic but the sequel feels like a bait-and-switch. It's still fun but the 3D layers make it hard to tell what you can shoot and what's in the background. That said, if you enjoy shooters and have never experienced Deathsmiles, this two-for-one deal is a no-brainer. The games are too intense to play for hours on end, but if you're in the mood for an adrenaline rush, fate smiles upon you. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King
Grade: C+

screenshotThis unexpected title contains the Genesis versions of both Aladdin and The Lion King - two critically acclaimed 16-bit platformers from the mid-90's. The SNES version of The Lion King is also included and it looks surprisingly similar to the Genesis version when both are presented in high definition. The games looked gorgeous on our old CRT TVs but in HD they appear surprisingly pixelated with muffled sound effects. I guess I was expecting the games to look better in high definition? Screen filters are available but they make the visuals look worse.

Both Aladdin and Lion King feature quality platforming with artistic stages that mirror scenes in the films. The controls feel very precise and it's cool how you get to wield a sword in Aladdin. The Lion King is a more cinematic experience but some of its puzzle-style stages border on tedious. The excellent soundtracks reprise all the memorable songs from the films.

One welcome new addition is the ability to save at any time. Back in the day you always had to start from the beginning unless you had some kind of cheat code. Multiple versions of each game are included, like the Japanese version, demo version, and "final cut" editions. The differences are very subtle.

You also have the option to "watch" each game which is kind of like sitting through a YouTube play-through. These run 45 and 50 minutes each which tells you just how long (short?) these games are. Rounding out the package are an extensive set of featurettes detailing the making of every aspect of the games, with plenty of behind-the-scenes interviews. If you enjoyed these gems back in the day, Disney Classic Games will let you relive the magic. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Disney Illusion Island
Grade: B
Publisher: Disney (2023)
Posted: 2024/3/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt's been a long time since I've felt that Disney "magic" but Illusion Island rekindles an inkling at least. This family-friendly platformer invites up to four players to assume the roles of Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy. Together they hop between platforms, bounce off cushions, fetch items, and steer clear of dangerously cute creatures.

The characters are rendered in an interesting style that toes the line between modern and the classic black-and-white look. I love the fine lines, superb animation, and zoom effects. While I was tempted to skip the cut-scenes, the jokes and mannerisms prove quite entertaining. Goofy: "A giant mustard bottle! Almost as big as my one at home!" I can relate.

Illusion Island plays like a light-hearted Hollow Knight (Switch, 2018) as you explore a maze-like underworld to gather items, unlock doors, and acquire abilities to access new areas. First you get a long jump, then wall jump, then floor pound, swing, etc. Enemies include walking cacti, exploding flowers, and rabid tomatoes. Since this is a non-violent game you just avoid them.

The stages aren't particularly distinctive or memorable, partly due to the abstract watercolor scenery. If not for the collectable (and hard to pronounce) "glimts" hanging around, it might be hard to tell if you were backtracking. The stages are reasonable in size but in general the exploration element is lacking.

The controls are outstanding. You can change direction in mid-air and the collision detection is extremely forgiving. When you get into a zone playing this game almost feels like conducting an orchestra. All the characters have the same abilities but each have their own unique animations. I wish it were easy to switch between them.

What really pushes Illusion Island over the top is its sweeping orchestrated score. This aural masterpiece elevates some pretty routine platform gameplay to the level of cinematic greatness. The gentle audio effects are also easy on the ears, like the soft sound of steel drums when you snag a glimt.

Illusion Island isn't terribly original but the game is impeccably designed. You can tell the developers were masters of their craft. I guess its one original feature is couch co-op for up to four players. It can feel a bit tedious having to wait for each of your friends to make a tricky jump, but it's a nice feature for kids. And in 2024 any kind of local multiplayer is to be celebrated. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Double Switch 25th Anniversary Edition
Grade: C-
Publisher: Screaming Villains (2018)
Posted: 2020/12/27
Rating: Teen (mild violence)

screenshotUnlike its predecessor Night Trap (Sega CD, 1992) this full-motion video (FMV) title didn't benefit from controversy-driven publicity. You'll be forgiven if you've never even heard of it. Double Switch takes place in an Egyptian-themed apartment complex where you spy on tenants with security cameras and set traps for roving gangsters.

With its wide open, well-lit rooms, this game lacks the creepy atmosphere of Night Trap. The acting is fun to watch however. Cory Haim is the charismatic young man directing you from the basement. Debbie Harry of Blondie fame plays the role of building manager, and while a bit past her prime she still exudes sex appeal. The drill sergeant from the film Full Metal Jacket plays the handyman. There's some kind of Egyptian punk group performing a song, and after hearing it 100 times I kind of grew on me.

The gameplay is similar to Night Trap but there's a map indicating which rooms are inhabited at a given time. The controls seem overcomplicated, requiring you press a button no less than four times to set and activate a trap. Each room contains multiple traps and it's fun to spring them at just the right time. Unfortunately the changing camera angles make it hard to determine where the bad guy is located and what trap to employ. There are some elaborate trap animations but you can't enjoy them because you're always rushing to the next room.

If you fail to stay on top of things Corey abruptly pulls the plug on your game. The story offers some unexpected twists, but the gameplay is reduced to rote memorization. This 25th Anniversary edition offers clear video and a choice of screen layouts, but it really should have included an easy mode so people could enjoy the story. Bonus materials aren't unlocked unless you finish the game with an A rating, and that's nearly impossible. I thought I was near perfect and got rated an F!

The ending includes an "in memoriam" sequence to honor the actors in the game who have passed away, and it's a long list. Double Switch 25th Anniversary isn't all it could have been, but if you enjoy going back in time you're in for quite a fascinating trip. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 72
1 player 

Dragon's Lair Trilogy
Grade: B

screenshotThe last time I purchased Dragon's Lair (PS3, 2009) it was on Blu Ray so I figured that was the end-all-be-all. But when I recently tried to play that disc on my PS3 the video was skipping, apparently due to some system "update". With that in mind, this Switch edition is looking like a sound investment.

Trilogy contains all three original laserdisc epics: Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp, and Space Ace. Each is fully customizable, allowing you to adjust lives, audio/visual feedback, and difficulty. You can even incorporate the cabinet art around the screen to convey that arcade feel. This version even records your local high scores, which is a pretty big deal considering how most modern titles have adopted online leaderboards.

Special features including arcade intros, deleted scenes, interviews, and the ability to view each game as a movie. The Dragon's Lair interview reveals the possibility of a motion picture adaptation, and I've got my fingers crossed!

For those not around during Dragon's Lair heyday (circa 1983), it's basically an interactive cartoon that requires you to make well-timed moves to avoid hazards. The treacherous obstacles Dirk the Daring must overcome include dark knights, burning ropes, crumbling platforms, and underwater river rapids. One legitimate knock on these games is that it's not always obvious what move you need to perform when, leading to a cycle of trial and error. Thank goodness we no longer need to pay 50 cents per credit!

An optional "move guide" will light up an arrow or sword icon, supplying you with the correct move. You can get through most scenes using these prompts alone, but you still need to be quick on the trigger. At the very least you'll know what you did wrong.

While the interaction may be limited, the rich, rapid-fire animation remains a sight to behold. The original Dragon's Lair is the best of the three. Dragon's Lair II incorporates too many lengthy complicated sequences, rendering it nearly unplayable. Space Ace is a fun sci-fi take on the genre, and I noticed I could make out voices ("close main gate") and subtle animations I had not noticed before. As a historian of gaming I have a deep appreciation for these oldies, but younger gamers might not quite "get it". © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Duck Game
Grade: D-
Publisher: Adult Swim Games (2019)
Posted: 2021/6/11
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotWho can resist a multiplayer deathmatch between a bunch of zany ducks? Not this critic. Duck Game's charmingly-pixelated graphics feature well-armed cartoon birds shooting it out for "duck domination". Actually that would have been a much better name.

I've owned Duck Game for quite a while now but had to wait for Covid to subside before playing with friends. The multiplayer action isn't terrible but it isn't particularly good either. What's the deal with these touchy, non-intuitive controls? You basically just jump and shoot, so why is this game so hard to play??

Each level is unique in design, with random items like grenades and jetpacks scattered throughout. Unfortunately it's not readily apparent what most items are, and experimenting usually results in more harm than good. The chaotic, rapid-fire matches are typically over before any strategy has a chance to unfold.

The solo "arcade mode" is a complete bust. Instead of shootouts with CPU ducks you're subjected to a series of timed obstacle courses. Ugh. The non-intuitive controls make a simple action like putting on a helmet frustratingly difficult. How do I get through these glass doors? Oh, you have to slide through them. Instructions would have been nice.

In multiplayer you may wonder why no scores are displayed. It's because after every ten battles an intermission screen shows the ducks chucking rocks down a football field to reveal the current standings. It's a clever touch but sorry to say it's also the highlight of the game. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Grade: D
Publisher: New Blood Interactive (2021)
Posted: 2023/10/31
Rating: Mature 17+

screenshotAt a glance, Dusk is the ideal first-person Halloween shooter. You begin in a dingy basement armed with a pair of sickles. The dark, spooky atmosphere is punctuated by disturbing imagery and brooding, pulse-pounding music. As you ascend the staircase and explore the house you're assaulted by hooded cult members, charging goats, and chainsaw-wielding maniacs. Pretty alarming stuff!

The polygon graphics in Dusk are very basic. While not unattractive, objects are angular and stamped with rudimentary textures. This looks like the kind of game you might have played on a PC in the mid-to-late 1990's. But there's a catch. Dusk is the fastest first-person shooter you'll ever play. You sprint through hallways, zip up ladders, and run circles around enemies. And the frame rate remains silky-smooth through it all.

At first this game plays like a dream. Who needs detailed graphics when you're forging from room to room, mowing down satanic worshippers standing in your way? Advanced weaponry includes an assault rifle, riveter, crossbow, sword, and of course the obligatory shotgun. I love how enemies go flying across the room when blasted at short range. Health, ammo, and money icons are abundant.

The scenery is very eerie despite the lack of detail. The flat "walls" of the corn maze didn't bother me at all, and I freaked out when those creepy scarecrows started coming to life! Much of the action takes place in close quarters, but there are a few wide-open industrial locations reminiscent of Doom (Playstation, 1995). When being attacked from all sides the circle-strafe is your friend. The frantic action will leave you breathless.

What dampened my enthusiasm was the focus on obtaining colored keys (red, blue, yellow). Some are out in the open, but some are really, really hard to obtain - even when you know their location. As you scour each area for clues, it starts to feel like a wild-goose chase. During these times I could feel sweat forming on my brow as a feeling of nausea slowly crept over me.

Worse yet, certain stages incorporate a lot of long, tight passages you need to crawl or God forbid swim through! It's disorienting, and the controls, while super responsive, feel slippery. I also found the weapon selection "wheel" unintuitive.

I'm on board with the old-school graphics but the game's gradually increasing complexity undermines the raw simplicity that makes it so appealing. In addition to campaign modes there's an "endless mode" which is basically my idea of pure hell. Suffice to say, I like the concept of Dusk better than actually playing it.

A second game called Dusk '82 was included as well, which looks like an Odyssey 2 title with its static, solid-colored characters. While it features many Dusk elements, like shooting monsters and blowing up barrels, the stages feel like little puzzles as you try to work your way to the exit. It's not a bad little bonus. And it didn't even make me sick! © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Final Vendetta
Grade: B
Publisher: Numskull Games (2022)
Posted: 2023/7/8
Rating: Teen

screenshotFinal Vendetta is clearly an homage to classic side-scrolling brawlers like Final Fight (SNES, 1991) and especially Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). The characters are extra large but sport that 16-bit look. Likewise the in-your-face techno soundtrack exudes a 90's sensibility, infused with rap beats, scratches, and samples. The game itself is pure pick-up-and-play goodness with a terrific co-op mode.

There are three playable characters: a big white guy sporting a mullet, a black dude who has a Michael Jackson thing happening, and a white chick who's like Blaze in Streets of Rage. Your enemies are your standard punk-rock types, construction workers, and masked freaks. They sport names like Judd, Zane, Raven, and Carver. Although the girls are dressed in appropriately skimpy attire, they lack sex appeal due to their odd proportions.

The controls incorporate all the basic punches, throws, and jump-kicks, but there are a few extra moves. There's a block which I tend to forget about but comes in handy for bosses. There's a super move you can only use when your super meter is full, which it usually is. My favorite is stomping someone on the ground. It's habit-forming.

Most enemies go down after just a few punches so the game rarely feels dull or repetitive. In fact, the controls are so fast and fluid, you'll find yourself getting into a rhythm. Being able to quickly pivot from one foe to another without missing a beat is great fun. You can dash or roll, but these controls are sensitive to the point of feeling slippery.

The stages are strictly by-the-numbers, consisting of city streets, elevators, docks, and subway stations. Every now and then you'll notice an interesting detail, like a cat grooming itself on a dumpster. I love the girl on the subway casually enjoying her drink before callously tossing it aside to join the fray.

In addition to standard punching you'll find weapons like knives or cricket bats. You won't get much use out of them however since they disappear once you take a hit. Picking up an enemy and tossing him into oncomers an effective strategy. Bashing crates open will reveal health items like grapes, hot dogs, or a side of beef.

I kind of like the fact that there are no continues. Ranking in on the high score screen is fun, although it doesn't distinguish between easy and hard difficulty. I appreciate how this game remained faithful to the classics, but more characters or selectable stages would have really pumped up the replay value. I tend to collect Streets of Rage clones and Final Vendetta may be the most enjoyable of the bunch. I really wouldn't mind a sequel. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
1 or 2 players 

Five Nights At Freddy's: Core Collection
Grade: C-
Publisher: ScottGames (2020)
Posted: 2023/11/26
Rating: Teen (fantasy violence, mild blood)

screenshotIn this unconventional game you're the new night security guard at what appears to be a dark, twisted version of Chuck E. Cheese. Confined to a small security room, you scan the cameras situated around the restaurant. Throughout the night animatronic creatures come to life and roam the halls. If they enter your room, you're a goner.

Five Nights At Freddy's doesn't really give you much to go on besides a brief answering machine message when you begin each night. Beside scanning the cameras, your only controls consist of opening and closing the doors on either side of your room. You can also turn on lights on each side, illuminating the adjoining room.

As long as the doors are closed you're safe. Problem is, you have a limited battery life and using light and keeping the doors shut consumes it faster. This adds tension as you're trying to keep the doors open as long as possible without letting anything in.

The idea of inspecting various cameras reminds me of Night Trap (Sega CD, 1992). I like the concept but the dark, grainy images don't offer much to see. Sometimes you'll see a shadowy figure in a hallway or corner. The creatures resemble large chickens or teddy bears, but they definitely exude a cold, creepy vibe.

I played this game with a group of friends, and while we never fully grasped the gameplay, the suspense was palpable. One of us would be playing while the others watched, trying to help. Every now and then we'd hear a strange sound to heighten our sense of paranoia. And when we heard the pitter-patter of feet running, we were freaking out. After the screen blacked out and a bear popped up we all shrieked in unison.

This "Core Collection" contains five complete Freddy games, so fans are getting a lot. The second game lets you pop on a mask when danger is near, as well as illuminate areas on camera. Once again, it scared the living daylights out of me. In another game you're in a bedroom and have to continuously check your closet and adjoining rooms. This game taps into everyone's primal childhood fear of the dark.

To be honest I haven't got very far and I'm still not even sure what the strategy is. What I can tell you is Five Nights at Freddy's is extremely unnerving and loaded with jump scares. I don't want to play this alone! And when a game can reduce four grown men to a bunch of screaming schoolgirls, that's got to be worth something. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Freedom Planet
Grade: B-
Publisher: Xseed Games (2018)
Posted: 2020/4/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt's hard to imagine a more blatant Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991) ripoff than Freedom Planet, and I happen to like it quite a bit! It originated as a fan-made Sonic game and certainly looks the part. This game contains just about every Sonic-ism I can think of, minus blast processing of course (this isn't running a Genesis, after all). Even the explosion sound effects seem lifted directly from Sonic.

You get two selectable female characters to begin, Carol and Lilac. Each has her own acrobatic moves that are vaguely Sonic-like but just different enough to throw off your timing. Freedom Planet's presentation is pure 16-bit gold, with sparkling pixel-art stages and glorious synth music. The arcade action is moderately difficult as you hop between floating platforms, bounce off bumpers, and rip through loops and corkscrews. You'll bitch-slap giant frogs, flaming crabs, robot dogs, and all sorts of random adversaries.

The action is pretty much non-stop as you sprint across flying dragons, leap between speeding trucks, and ride motorcycles up walls. The controls feel responsive but there are times when I had trouble vaulting off a wall or performing a double jump - probably because I'm used to Sonic controls. The stages tend to be so expansive it's hard to know where to go next, especially after being flung around by various contraptions.

The visual detail is exceptional including some amusing facial expressions. Freedom Planet is a little boss heavy, but these include amazing creations like a king-sized praying mantis worthy of a Godzilla movie. Stages range from a tranquil rainforest to a bustling China stage with arcades, malls, and fireworks. I was less keen on the Trap Hideout which feels like a never-ending series of laser and spike traps.

There's a word I associate with Freedom Planet and that word is joy. This is the type of cheerful game you play on a Saturday morning. Light, airy, and fun, it's pretty much everything Sonic titles have been lacking for much of the last 20 years. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Friday the 13th: The Game
Grade: D-
Publisher: Natsume (2019)
Posted: 2023/10/31
Rating: Mature 17+

screenshotI love the Friday the 13th movies, but the Playstation 4 version of Friday the 13th: The Game (PS4, 2017) left me cold with its unnecessary always-online requirement. I was hoping this "Ultimate Slasher" edition would deliver some offline love but that's not really the case.

The initial load screens convey the appearance of a fuzzy, gritty old VHS tape (need to adjust that tracking!) Creepy and antiquated, it made me wish the entire game looked like that! By comparison, the razor-sharp main menu doesn't look scary at all.

Like the PS4 edition, Friday the 13th is heavily geared towards online play. Offline is limited to three modes: offline bots, challenges, and a virtual cabin. While playing offline experience points earned are not saved.

Offline "bots" lets you systematically hunt down and skewer up to seven camp counselors at your leisure. There are eight campsite locations to choose from and several versions of Jason to unlock. The third-person view isn't bad. I love the dark, stormy atmosphere but the graphics are a step down from the PS4 version. Some of the characters look like they're made of plastic.

If you thought the teenagers were dumb in the Friday the 13th movies, wait until you get a load of this! You'll spot a guy continuously climbing in and out a window. A girl will be running in place, as if stuck on an invisible obstacle. I really wish these kids would try to hide more, because it's a pain in the ass to chase them down.

You also have a set of special abilities to experiment with. One lets you sense victims' locations. Others let you do things like set a bear trap or travel over the ground at supernatural speeds. During close encounters you perform context-sensitive kills like slamming a kid under the hood of a car, or impaling a guy on a pole. These are fun to watch... the first time.

When you're not executing stealth kills the game just plain sucks. Jason is clunky to control and his awkward, delayed attacks often harmlessly clank off a door frame or other nearby obstacle. Victims have a habit of tossing fireworks in Jason's face, leaving him temporarily bewildered. Even when you finally bludgeon one of those brats you'll need a good four or five hits to get the job done. That's hard to do when the camera is all over the place.

The challenge mode places you in specific scenarios that are mildly fun, as you're forced to take a divide-and-conquer approach. Finally, there's a "virtual cabin" that lets you peruse Friday the 13th movie memorabilia while learning trivia about the movies and the making of the game. It's a fun little bonus.

The highlight of the game is the disembodied voice of Jason's mom who cheers him on with lines like "Find them Jason! Make them pay for what they did to us!" It sounds amazing resonating from both speakers. Sadly, this game hasn't evolved much at all from the PS4 edition. I wish I could play as a councilor, but that would probably involve putting my Switch online, which is a fate far more horrible than you could possibly imagine. © Copyright 2023 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