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

Nintendo Switch Reviews T

Team Sonic Racing
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (2019)
Posted: 2019/6/18
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSonic All-Stars Racing has been a great series, delivering arcade-style thrills on various tracks inspired by classic Sega franchises. Team Sonic Racing on the other hand feels like an incoherent mess. Whenever you see a franchise trying to shoehorn in some kind of teamwork element, you know they're running out of ideas.

Even before your first race there are ominous signs. Despite supporting four-player split-screen only three characters are available from the start, so two people have to be the same character. Way to think it through Sega! When browsing the racers there's a palpable lag when trying to select a character. The tracks are poorly designed. I expected the twisting casino tracks to be disorienting, but even the bright summer-themed tracks are cluttered and confusing. One course has you racing on a layer of pink mist and you can't really tell where you're going. A little restraint could have gone a long way. One track is called "Frozen Junkyard" and that pretty much says it all.

The weapons are useful but you'll probably have no problem naming their Mario Kart equivalents. Likewise creatures like the lava monster and desert worms seem awfully familiar. The races are engaging but the physics is suspect, as I noticed CPU cars changing speeds erratically.

The story mode is mildly enjoyable despite the inane dialog you can't skip fast enough. Two players can work together on the same team, unlocking branching tournaments, challenges, and survival modes. The team mechanic lets you pass items or give your teammates a boost via your slipstream. To be honest, it's all very confusing in the heat of battle.

Even Sonic Team Racer's split screen action is technically deficient. If you're used to playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo, 2017) the low framerate in this game is bothersome. Brent actually had the nerve to ask me if there was a way to unlock "smooth mode!" Team Sonic Racing feels like it was designed in a boardroom by executives. It isn't terrible but there's a palpable lack of fun. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
Grade: B-
Publisher: DotEmu (2022)
Posted: 2022/12/4
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotIf you pine for the side-scrolling beat-em-up goodness of the 90's, check out Shredder's Revenge. It begins with the kick-ass musical intro from the original cartoon series. The game's graphics and structure follow closely to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES, 1992). Some might say too closely. Up to six people can play at once, with Splinter and April O'Neil joining our four turtle heroes. That's one crowded couch!

The 16 levels (!) offer interesting New York City locations including a television studio, zoo, mall, and museum. It's funny to see the "foot soldiers" on the set of a cooking show! It's also amusing to see them working at computers with those old-fashioned thick monitors. I like how the pawn shop windows have piles of old-fashioned TVs in the windows, all showing different programs. In general however the stages are only minimally interactive and frankly kind of bland.

What keeps things interesting are the sheer number of moves at your disposal. The "how to play" screen demonstrates 21 moves, and good luck sitting through that! Still, it's fun to experiment. I love the devastating "super dive", and that "rising attack" is handy for flying foes. And of course there's the "fling attack" that lets you chuck foot soldiers at the TV screen. Always a crowd-pleaser!

Shredder's Revenge will immediately appeal to fans pining for the old days but the thrill wears thin. I feel like the game could have been tightened up, with shorter but less-repetitive levels. Working your way through the story mode is exhausting. The default skill level is too easy, so you'll want to crank up the arcade mode difficulty to "gnarly". High scores are not saved unless you're online.

The music has a bouncy 80's aesthetic including a cool rap song and a hair metal tune. The voice samples however ("I've got to focus") can get on your nerves. Shredder's Revenge does what it set out to do, which is resurrect the button-pounding, body-slamming 16-bit multiplayer mayhem. But instead of taking turtle power to the next level, it just feels like more of the same. A lot more! © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 6 players 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection
Grade: B+
Publisher: Konami (2022)
Posted: 2022/11/23
Rating: Teen

screenshotTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection packs over a dozen games spanning the height of Turtle-mania from the mid-80's through the mid-90's. You get perfectly-emulated versions of two wildly-popular arcade games, along with two SNES, two Genesis, four NES, and three Game Boy titles. And there's a slew of bonus materials as the cherry on top.

I love the animated intro and digitized music of the original TMNT arcade game, but the fighting action gets a little repetitive and its sound effects lack punch. That said, there are fun animations like foot soldiers sliding down a wall you've thrown them against it. And you gotta love the old-school bosses that blink red when about to die.

Turtles in Time was a major upgrade, packing more spectacular moves, smoother animation, and improved audio. You can now execute shoulder charges, body slams, or hurl enemies directly at the screen! Interactive environments incorporate explosive barrels and gushing fire hydrants.

The SNES port of Turtles in Time is impressive. Though it only supports two players, you could argue it's more playable. The difficulty seems to have been tweaked and the scoring system is better. Hyperstone Heist is the Genesis version of this game, and it feels slightly scaled-back with a sewer stage replacing the rooftops. That said, it is extremely playable.

The NES titles include the original TMNT trilogy. The first is a basic side-scroller letting you control one turtle hero at a time. The second is a respectable port of the original arcade beat-em-up. The third takes turtle power to new heights with its bright arcade graphics, elaborate animations, and excellent all-around gameplay.

Tournament Fighters is a lame one-on-one fighter that attempted to capitalize on the success of Street Fighter II. The game is more impressive on the SNES than the Genesis, but still nothing to write home about. The NES version isn't going to cut it with those tiny fighters and two-button controls.

Rounding things out are the three black-and-white titles released for the Game Boy. For some, these will rekindle fond memories of long car trips, but the monochrome graphics and rough animation may be hard to stomach today.

The Cowabunga Collection lets you toggle the games between North American and Japanese regions. Some games let you enable nightmare mode, god mode, or select your stage. You can save your progress or even rewind at any time. Digitized boxes, manuals, and other materials are available for viewing. No matter how you feel about the games, you have to admit this is how to make a classic compilation. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

The Mummy Demastered
Grade: B+
Publisher: Wayforward (2017)
Posted: 2021/9/13
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotIf you've seen the film The Mummy (2017) with Tom Cruise, you know what a trainwreck that was. Like the movie, The Mummy Demastered doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Unlike the movie however, it's a lot of fun.

If any game deserves the "Metroidvania" moniker, it's this one. Its 16-bit style is used to maximum effect, conveying remarkable atmosphere with artistically-rendered scenery and eerie lighting. With fluid animation and simple controls, Demastered calls to mind the great Axiom Verge (Badlands Games, 2017).

What initially caught my attention was the game's pulse-pounding musical score. The title screen music was so good I just had to crank up the stereo. The brooding synthesized mix adds a sense of intrigue and is consistently great throughout.

The stages are consistent with the film, including a graveyard, subway, sewer, and underground laboratory. These locations sound typical but are rendered with a cinematic flair. The graveyard stage is a sight to behold with its decrepit gravestones and church looming in the moonlight. When it comes to gothic artistry this game gives Castlevania a run for the money.

The controls are terrific. Armed with a default machine gun, you hold the trigger to plant your feet and fire in eight directions. The jumping is dead-on, and thank goodness because the stages can be perilous. Platforms crumble beneath your feet and bats knock you off your ledge, sometimes into a pool of green acid! Fortunately health is ubiquitous and save points are well-placed.

Enemies tend to regenerate with annoying regularity, and there's nothing worse than accidentally ducking out of a room, only to return and find it repopulated. I could also do without the bone-throwing skeletons. Not only are they a shameless Castlevania rip-off, but these bastards throw with pinpoint precision. The exotic bosses exhibit easy-to-read patterns but take about a million hits to kill. When in human form The Mummy looks a lot like Michael Jackson.

The first time I used a continue in this game I was dismayed to discover my grenades were gone. I later discovered I had to go back and kill my "old self" (now a zombie) to restore my old gear. It adds a new wrinkle but can be aggravating. It seems original except for the fact that Dark Souls (PS3, 2011) has been using this device forever.

Despite some minor gripes The Mummy Demastered is extremely habit-forming. Great production values and sheer playability will hook you from the outset, and a nice sense of progression keeps you coming back. With excellent controls and atmosphere to burn, this modern platformer has the look and feel of an old-school classic. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Tiny Barbarian DX
Grade: C
Publisher: Nicolis (2017)
Posted: 2018/5/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI should have never played Axiom Verge (Badlands Games, 2017) because it set the bar way too high for retro titles like this. Exactly what I was expecting, Tiny Barbarian is an homage to the 8-bit days of pixelated graphics, parallax scrolling, and 2D hack-n-slash platforming. Each stage opens with a scrolling map a la Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Genesis, 1991) which is a nice touch. Your barbarian certainly is tiny, and I like the way he flexes his muscles when left without supervision.

The gameplay is simple as you hop and climb while slaying snakes, birds, and armed guards. The controls feel responsive and my new Pro Controller got a good workout. The directional pad is precise and much like Strider (Genesis, 1989) our hero can perch on the edge of a block and pull himself up. It's possible to execute a long lash or spin attack, but with no instructions I can't tell you how.

Tiny Barbarian is not as satisfying as it could be. Striking anything with your sword makes a lame "thump" sound, as if you're smacking someone with a wet sock. Slain enemies just sort of fall over when defeated. I would never advocate violence, but a little blood and gore never hurt anybody. The stages are colorful but what you see is pretty much what you get.

Frequent annoyances include enemies that repel attacks and skeletal hands that reach up from the ground. But the worst offenders are the birds or snakes that perpetually respawn, forcing you to rush through certain sections while absorbing hits along the way. Can a brother get a health icon?

Old-school references include the gnome from Golden Axe (Genesis, 1989) you can smack around for bonuses, and a God of War (PS2, 2005) inspired maiden scene. The animation has style and subtle humor. The problem is, Tiny Barbarian DX isn't particularly addictive and becomes progressively less enjoyable as you go.

What saves the day is its two-player coop. Trying to beat a stage with a buddy harkens back to the old sleepover days when you'd stay up half the night trying to conquer a hard level. And be sure to check out the Horde mode which challenges you to stay "king of the mountain" for as long as possible (usually under a minute). It won't win any awards but when it comes to old-school throwbacks Tiny Barbarian is legit. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Grade: D
Publisher: HumaNature Studios (2019)
Posted: 2021/3/22
Rating: Everyone 10+ (crude humor, mild cartoon violence)

screenshotThe original Toejam & Earl (Genesis, 1992) had a lot going for it. It was one of the few Genesis titles to support split-screen and probably the first with co-op action. It had a trendy rap theme featuring two aliens decked out in hip-hop attire. Their goal was to collect the missing parts of their spaceship scattering over sprawling flat levels. The game also featured randomly-generated landscapes, providing nearly unlimited replay value.

As you wandered over platforms suspended in space you collected gifts that had random effects while dealing with zany characters like an opera singer, a hula girl, or Santa Claus in a jetpack. Back in the Groove is a faithful, high-definition version of the original. The problem is, all those gee-whiz features seem pretty ho-hum in 2021. The randomized levels all play pretty much the same, although some do feature snow, desert, water, or darkness.

The stereotypical characters and "gifts" tend to be so obnoxious you develop a tendency to avoid them. You just move from one level to the next trying to cover every inch of ground to fill in the maps. Entering an elevator lets you ascend to a higher platform level, but it's pretty clear this psychadelic "elevator ride" is just a glorified loading screen.

I got sick and tired of wandering around in this game. The rap theme feels played out and what game nowadays doesn't have a "weiner meter" or Santa in a jetpack? At least the surround sound is strong, with zany noises and voices coming from all directions. Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove is fine if you just want to sit back and chill, but if you're looking for excitement, this isn't your stop. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Grade: B+
Publisher: Microids (2018)
Posted: 2019/2/5
Rating: Everyone

boxUpdating the graphics of a classic game is easy, but getting the gameplay right is another story. Fortunately I can tell that Toki's designers actually understand what makes retro games fun.

Toki is not a one-for-one remake like Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (PS4, 2018). While certainly inspired by Toki Going Ape Spit (Genesis, 1991), this new Toki stands on its own. It stars a comical monkey that climbs, jumps, and spits projectiles. The rapid-fire spitting gives the action a shooting flavor and I love the ability to spit diagonally.

Toki faces a weird hodgepodge of enemies like bats, warthogs, spiders, ghosts, and... Frankenstein monsters? The hand-illustrated stages are beautiful with orchestrated music so clear it sounds like the musicians are in the same room with you. Toki not only lives up its its source material; it exceeds it! This game is crazy fun. Although the sprites tend to be large they rarely overcrowd the screen and the collision detection is forgiving. The jumps are floaty and you can fall from any distance.

The backgrounds look sharp but certain objects do have a way of blending in. Only fools rush in and Toki is living proof. Ghosts can materialize out of thin air and just because you're climbing down a vine doesn't mean there's a safe landing below. The rapid-fire shooting is very effective, especially on bosses. Sometimes to clear out a crowd of enemies you'll go into a butt-pouncing, rapid-fire frenzy. As with most classic 2D platformers Toki is a linear game. You get nine lives but you can go through them in a hurry. There are plenty of continues and half of the fun is trying to beat your high score.

Toki is a GameStop exclusive and it's good to see that store catering to collectors. The Toki Retrocollector edition comes in a box with all sorts of fun extras including a comic, art, and a little cardboard arcade cabinet to house your Switch. This Toki remake was crafted with love and care, so retro-minded gamers will want to secure a copy immediately. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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