Turbografx-16 Reviews I-K

Impossamole
Grade: D-
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/2/3


screenshotIn the early 90's, some misguided game publishers believed that if you took a small, furry creature and stuck him in a platform game, you'd have the makings of a hit. I've seen reviews in old magazines describe Impossamole as an average platformer, but they give it too much credit. The game stars a mole in a cheesy Superman outfit, and he's neither cute nor cool nor likeable. He battles some really bizarre creations including cameras with legs, guys who hop around in diapers, and evil storm clouds that release deadly raindrops.

Impossamole's gameplay is flawed on a fundamental level. Your kick attack is effective, but too often you'll find yourself overlapping with enemies, subjecting yourself to a string of cheap hits in the process. Kicked enemies turn into boxes you can toss, but the high trajectory of your throws makes it nearly impossible to actually hit anything. Weapons you find include a shotgun, but it's not terribly effective since enemies can withstand multiple shots. One weapon shoots bubbles at enemies and sends them floating to the top of the screen - very unsatisfying!

Most underground areas have low clearance, and you're constantly pelted with falling rocks that can't be avoided. Many enemies are invincible and need to be avoided altogether. The scenery in the first stage is boring as hell (forest, house, cave), but later stages are more interesting. The Amazon stage features a thunderstorm at night and Ice Land has a beautiful holiday theme.

The Bermuda Triangle offers a rich blend of tropical scenery and aliens from space. But the most appealing aspect of the game is the music. Its shrill, bouncy style is weird but very distinctive, and it's got "16-bit" written all over it. Despite a few highlights, Impossamole is a sub-par platformer. It's playable if you can compensate for its flaws, but as a gamer you shouldn't have to do that. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 21,000
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Insanity
Grade: D
Publisher: Aetherbyte (2009)
Reviewed: 2015/2/22

screenshotOne of my favorite classic games is Berzerk (Atari 2600, 1982), so I was excited to see Insanity adopt the same run-and-gun formula. You control a spaceman navigating a series of screens with electrified walls and deadly robots. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a room with ten robots between you and the exit, but don't panic. If you just wait a few seconds half of those dumb robots will walk into walls and fry themselves.

Your character is pudgy so squeezing through narrow passages is part of the challenge. You can fire in eight directions, but don't try to clear the room. If you take too long an invincible "robot master" (round face) will suddenly appear, smashing any robots in his path. Despite what its name would imply Insanity is remarkably slow and mundane. It doesn't get remotely challenging until about the 10-minute mark, and by then a lot of gamers will have lost interest.

The best thing about Insanity is its audio. The electronic music is mesmerizing and robots utter lines like "block all exits", "you will die soon", and "fight like a robot sissy". Wait - did he just call me a p***y?! The words are hard to make out, but in fairness those metallic voices are exactly how you would expect human-killing machines to sound. Less impressive is the game's artwork which looks like something doodled by a third-grader in the margin of his notebook. Insanity is not bad, but the slow-ramping difficulty will require some patience on your part. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 18,570
1 player 

It Came From The Desert (CD)
Grade: C+
Publisher: NEC (1992)
Reviewed: 2001/10/25

screenshotIt Came From The Desert pays homage to the low-budget monster films of the 1950s, and in that respect it hits the nail right on the head. Based on a true story, a small desert town has been invaded by giant mind-controlling ants, which are turning its residents into bloodthirsty "ant zombies". You play the hero trying to stop the chaos, but of course nobody wants to believe your story until it's too late.

The game is mainly a series of full motion video clips containing some rather decent tongue-in-cheek acting. The video is grainy but entertaining enough to draw you into the storyline. It Came From the Desert has a style of its own, making good use of dramatic music and sound effects. Occasionally you're challenged to mini arcade-style games in the form of side scrolling, overhead, or target shooting stages.

These are generally fun, especially the gory stages that require you to save people being eaten alive by ants! The controls in the side-scrolling levels are pretty lousy, but even when the ants prevail, you never actually "die" - you just find yourself back where you started. You can save your game at any time, but after a while the action gets tiresome. Most people probably won't make it to the end, but fans of old monster movies will appreciate the work that went into this unique title. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

JJ & Jeff
Grade: B-
Publisher: Hudsoft Soft (1990)
Reviewed: 2016/11/25

screenshotboxMy friend Scott looked at the cover of JJ & Jeff and remarked "this looks good". What's remarkable is how he managed to keep a straight face. The cover features two dorky white dude (think Beavis and Butthead) assuming wacky poses. If it's not the most unappealing cover ever, it's up there. You only control one of these guys, which always strikes me as odd for "buddy" games.

As you stroll through neighborhoods you can kick fences, lampposts, and water fountains to dislodge coins and bonus fruit. You're attacked by giant flies, groundhogs, and poop-dropping birds. Why in the world is that bird carrying a swirly pile of dog doo?! You can fend off attackers by kicking them with your puny leg, but pouncing on them (Mario style) is more effective. Expect to absorb your share of cheap/mandatory hits, and I hate that irritating buzzing noise when your life is low.

The scenery looks generic and sparse, and you can expect to spend a lot of time in the sewers. The humor in this game falls into the category of "so-bad-it's-good". Once per level you'll enter a restroom where some random dude dispenses advice while recharging your health meter. Elevators transport you to bonus areas in the clouds, and slot machines earn you extra lives.

It may not sound promising, but JJ & Jeff is actually a heck of a good time. It benefits from tight controls, crisp collision detection, and an easy-going style. It's satisfying to see point values appear around the screen and even the lounge music grows on you. JJ & Jeff well surpasses its low expectations. Give it a try. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 59,800
1 player 

Jack Nicklaus' Turbo Golf
Grade: F
Publisher: Accolade (1990)
Reviewed: 2014/5/12

screenshotIn the early 90's console technology limited golf games to perfectly flat courses. Jack Nicklaus' Turbo Golf attempted to buck the trend, incorporating hills, contours, and texture into its courses. In retrospect, the technology was not ready! Each hole is previewed with Jack's digitized face and some words of advice. Had he been perfectly honest, he would have suggested hitting the power button immediately! Instead you're forced to wait upwards of 10 seconds for every shot view to be rendered, block by block, from left to right. Casual players need not apply - you have to be dedicated to play this game!

You'd expect to be rewarded for your patience, but the screen actually looks like a swampy mess! There's so much clutter and rough edges, you can't even tell where the fairway is! Want to take a quick peek at the overhead view? Rookie mistake! Upon leaving and returning to the main screen, you'll have to wait for the screen to be redrawn all over again. To aim your shot you move a tiny white ball across the top of the screen, and it's not the most intuitive thing.

Beware of trees, because they might as well be brick walls! The wind gauge is incomprehensible, and I have no idea how to read the greens. Somehow I managed to get through a round, probably due to the low difficulty. It's easy to stay on the course and the ball is attracted to the hole like a freakin' magnet! Still, most gamers will not stand for so much waiting. The Golden Bear deserved better than this, may God rest his soul. Oh wait he's not dead. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
Grade: B+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/10/16

screenshotY'all know Jackie Chan is my boy! Back in the 90's my buddies and I would regularly go to the movies to see his latest karate flick like "Rumble in the Bronx" and "First Strike". The fight scenes were always a blast and Jackie had an appealing self-deprecating style. Action Kung Fu embodies that style with its whimsical graphics and frenetic action. Granted, the gameplay feels very standard as you jump between moving platforms, fight demented karate masters, and catch power-ups that spring forth when you punch innocent animals in the face.

What sets Action Kung Fu apart is its polish. The graphics look so crisp that even Jackie's hair has an impressive sheen. The controls are outstanding. I can't recall the last time I so effortlessly hopped between collapsing ledges while jump-kicking creatures out of the air. While the stages are vibrant and colorful, they are also repetitive and really could really use some animation.

Besides punches and jump-kicks, special icons provide special moves like a devastating roundhouse. Unlike the lame NES version it's actually fun to collect the orbs. Not only are they far more ubiquitous (they literally pour out of tigers) but you get to keep half of them even after using a continue.

The game offers amazing bosses and imaginative bonus stages. Even the audio shines with its rhythmic, high-energy music and Jackie's digitized spirited yells (Hoo ya!). It's an action-packed journey but sadly there's no password or score, just several continues. Fortunately the game is so playable you probably won't mind starting over. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is very much by the book but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more polished 16-bit platformer. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 75
1 player 

John Madden Duo CD Football
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2010/9/23

screenshotJohn Madden Duo CD Football is what happens when 16-bit football collides with full-motion video (FMV). It's not pretty, but the game's use/misuse of CD technology is undeniably entertaining. The title screen shows a digitized Madden waving his arms wildly like he's doing some kind of dance. You're then treated to a stadium "fly by" that's pretty wild despite its extreme pixelation. The playing field looks almost identical to the Genesis Madden.

The graphics are sharper, but the animation is not quite as smooth or fast. As a result plays take longer to unfold and players tend to bunch up. Still, the core gameplay is classic Madden so you know you're in for some competitive fun. Thanks to a fast clock and quick player substitutions, the pacing is brisk. The control scheme feels a little strange because the "Run" button is used as one of your three action buttons. Running the ball is pretty easy, and even when you're stuffed you'll typically pick up two or three yards. Passing is more difficult because the passes tend to "float" in the air. The kicking game is challenging because the meter is super fast.

But the most distinctive aspect of Madden Duo is its frequent use of cheesy FMV interludes. These grainy clips play in a box on the screen, and since there's a silent pause as each clip is loaded, it's not exactly a seamless process. The opening coin toss looks promising enough, and I liked seeing chain measurements during the course of the game.

Some clips are shown with annoying frequency ("first down!") and others are unintentionally hilarious. The "fans" in the stands are nothing more than a bunch of programmer geeks whooping it up. After each touchdown a skinny white kid in a yellow uniform performs an awkward "celebration", looking more like Napoleon Dynamite than an actual player. A referee fires a gun to signify the end of the game, which is just bizarre.

The back of the box oversells the FMV aspect of Madden Duo big time, claiming that through the "miracle media of CD", "you won't need to watch the pros again". I will give the game credit for showing a "key replay" during its half-time and post-game shows. The fact that this feature is even included is impressive enough, and the fact that it really works is nothing short of amazing. Madden Duo Football won't make me quit watching the NFL, but Madden's unholy marriage of 16-bit graphics and FMV is a sight to behold for classic gaming fans. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
Grade: D-
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/4/4

screenshotConsidering how bad this is, I'm shocked that NEC made Keith Courage the "pack-in" game for the Turbografx-16 system. What a lousy first impression! Keith Courage in Alpha Zones wallows in platform game cliches and poor design. Lacking its own identity, it feels like a bastard child of every mediocre platformer I've ever played. Our hero Keith, who resembles a little kid, begins each stage in the "overworld", a non-threatening area with tiny enemies, easy-to-perform jumps, and God-awful music.

The overworld's main purpose is to let you purchase weapons, restore health, or purchase advice. Once you're ready, a rainbow teleports you to the "underworld", where the real action takes place. In this cavernous alternate universe, Keith dons his powerful "Nova suit". The Underworld is loaded with monotonous platforms and a mish-mash of creatures like spiders, skulls, bouncing faces, and pistol-shaped freaks. Since enemies regenerate constantly, you're better off just avoiding them when you can. Many materialize out of nowhere, making the simplest platform jumps an exercise in frustration.

Beds of red spikes line the caverns, and touching them brings your game to an abrupt conclusion. The collision detection isn't so hot, but this often works to your advantage as you can sometimes whack things with your sword that should be out of reach. The underground areas are so repetitive that I thought I was going in circles when I really wasn't. Keith Courage is awfully generic and seriously lacking in the fun department. The designers tried to piece together a lot of disjoint ideas, resulting in an awkward mess. You get unlimited continues, but it's unlikely you'll want to use them. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Racket Boy, Moby Games, The PC Engine Software Bible