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

Xbox Reviews T

Tecmo Classic Arcade
Grade: C+
Publisher: Tecmo (2005)
Posted: 2005/12/18
Rating: Everyone (mild violence)

screenshotI'm a sucker for arcade compilations, but compared to others I've played recently, Tecmo Classic Arcade feels a little thin. There are only eleven games, and most are unexceptional. Pleiades (1981, C) is a second-rate Phoenix clone. The first stage features aliens flying in formation that occasionally construct walls over your cannon. The industrial scenery looks attractive but tends to clutter up the screen. The second stage is exactly like the regenerating bird stages in Phoenix, except these targets look more like expanding blobs. The third stage has the obligatory mother ship, but it's not nearly as imposing as the Phoenix version.

In the first-person shooter Senjyo (1983, C), you aim crosshairs at approaching enemy vehicles on a mountainous planet surface. Star Force (1984, C+) is a no-frills vertical space shooter with crisp control and better-than-average audio. The double-shot cannons and rapid-fire power-ups make this one worth playing. Bomb Jack (1984, C+) is so simple that you wonder if you're missing something. The back of the box describes it as "the wildly popular" Bomb Jack, but I've never even heard of it. The gameplay involves jumping around platforms while grabbing floating bombs and avoiding enemies. The exotic backgrounds are attractive enough, but they tend to obfuscate your enemies.

Tecmo Cup (1985, C) is an overhead soccer game designed to be played on a flat table with one player on each side. As a result, you'll see upside-down text when your opponent scores. I love the nonstop action and simple controls, but finding a good shooting angle is difficult. Rygar (1986, B) is the arcade version of the side-scroller many gamers fell in love with on the NES. Controlling a warrior with a deadly spiked yo-yo, you jump and bash your way past all sorts of mythical creatures. The scenery looks gorgeous and the bass-heavy soundtrack rocks, but the repetitive sound effects are grating.

Then there's Tecmo Bowl (1987, C), which headlines this compilation. Fans of the NES version are in for a shock. This arcade edition is much slower, featuring huge, cartoonish players. Unlike most other games on this disk, the game stretched fully across my widescreen television. But while it looks great, but the slow-motion gameplay didn't impress me or my friends. Swimmer (1982, F) is my least favorite entry. Guiding a spastic swimmer up a river, you must avoid logs, crabs, and turtles while grabbing fruit for points. The controls are very touchy and inexact, prompting most gamers to yell "next!".

Strato Fighter (1991, C) is a conventional side-scrolling space shooter, but its large sprites and realistic explosions make it stand out as a more modern game. It's similar to Gradius or R-Type, except your ship moves like a snail, making navigation frustrating. You'd think the two-player simultaneous mode would be an improvement, but it just complicates matters. Solomon's Key (1986, D) is an attempt to combine puzzle solving with platform jumping, but it's far too cerebral and tedious for my taste.

Pinball Action (1985, C-) is a serviceable pinball simulation, although its multiple tables are awfully unimaginative. As for the bonus features, you can peruse a bunch of marketing brochures and marquees, but that's about it. Completists will probably want Tecmo Classic Arcade in their library, but casual gamers would be better served with the Taito or Capcom collections. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Grade: F
Publisher: Konami (2003)
Posted: 2004/3/5

screenshotAs a big fan of the old-school Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games (particularly Turtles in Time on the SNES), I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into this modern 3D adaptation. So believe me when I tell you that this game is absolutely awful. Seriously. TMNT's cell-shaded graphics are sharp and clean but woefully uninteresting. Your enemies look terribly generic, and you'll barely notice the plain, uninspired scenery.

The gameplay itself is repetitive and wholly unsatisfying. You face the same groups of thugs over and over again, which appear out of thin air and disappear in a puff of smoke when defeated. You're also constantly hounded by these little metal dogs that yap non-stop. Granted, the older TMNT games were repetitive too, but at least they were fun. The control here is responsive but there are no interesting attacks. In fact, only your "strong" attack is particularly effective.

Each turtle has two loud, annoying voice samples that they shout whenever they attack, and that's the one part of the audio that you can't turn down! Invisible walls block your advancement through a stage until you defeat every last bad guy, and there's always one or two stragglers you have to go back and seek out. I'm telling you - this game is a CHORE to play! You can knock over barrels to create explosions, but you can't control which direction they fly and most of the time you end up blowing up your partner.

I'm not sure if this game has unlimited continues, but it sure seems like it. Just be sure to explicitly save your game from the main menu, because it does not save automatically. If you're a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan, bump up the grade by one letter, but I'd advise the rest of you to get your kicks elsewhere. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Terminator: Dawn of Fate
Grade: D
Publisher: Infogrames (2002)
Posted: 2004/5/12
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotEven though this game received bad publicity/reviews, being a loyal Terminator fan, I purchased this game at a discounted price and hoped it had some redeeming qualities. Well, Dawn of Fate does have its moments, but they are few and far between. The background story is set in the future before the first Terminator was sent back through time.

Having grown weary of the dark, post-apocalyptic scenes from the movies, I was disappointed when I realized this whole game is set in that shadowy, war-torn concrete jungle. The only familiar characters are John Connor and Kyle Reese, but they look nothing like the actors that portrayed them in the films. The graphics are rough for an Xbox game, and even the cut-scenes fail to impress.

Gameplay involves moving from room to room, blasting terminators while completing "objectives". You'll face a variety of "endoskeleton" robots, but some look blocky and resemble the battle droids from Star Wars. The dark rooms all look the same, so it can be hard to tell if you're backtracking (which you'll need to do plenty of, by the way). Occasionally you'll get a glimpse of the misty, moon-lit sky, and the sight of it is almost a relief.

The control is a mess. Both a default third-person angle and a first-person view are available, but neither works particularly well. In the third person view, the camera flips abruptly as you move, causing you to become disoriented and head in the wrong direction. The targeting system is frustrating, and it's easy to get locked onto a terminator in the distance and not be able to shoot the one right in your face. The first-person view provides you a more stable angle and has a zoom, but you can't move while you're in it, making you a sitting duck.

Ammo is often in short supply, but you always have the option to fight hand-to-hand. In the movies, the terminators could withstand any degree of punishment, but in Dawn of Fate they explode after simply being punched a few times! Despite some frustrating and repetitive gameplay, Dawn of Fate has a few bright spots. Checkpoints are evenly spaced out and health packs are automatically used when you need them (how refreshing!). Sometimes you can man a mounted cannon and mow down the evil machines with extreme prejudice. A useful "adrenaline" button gives you a boost of speed and accuracy when you need it.

The audio features the familiar ominous Terminator music, but the battles are marred by ear-splitting guitar noise. Terminator fans will probably find other reasons to like Dawn of Fate, but it has too many flaws to recommend to the casual player. I think Infogrames may have overestimated the appeal of the aging Terminator franchise when they released this one. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Test Drive Off-Road Wide Open
Grade: C-
Publisher: Infogrames (2001)
Posted: 2003/2/17
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis early Xbox title isn't anything special, but it has its moments. Taking a page from Smuggler's Run, Off-Road features 53 "legendary" trucks racing from flag to flag in the open wilderness. Although there's usually a road you can follow, there's no penalty from cutting through the brush or flying over a mountain. Actually, cutting corners is pretty much the order of the day, and finding the shortcuts is the key to winning. Test Drive has "arcade" written all over it, with huge jumps, no damage, and trucks that hardly ever roll.

Although the frame rate remains smooth, the graphics are rather unspectacular and on par with the original Smuggler's Run. You'll race through mountains, jungles, and deserts, but there's just not a whole lot to see. The control scheme is simple, and at times I was wishing for a turbo button. The CPU-controlled opponents are fairly aggressive, often trying to run you off the road or turn you around. Other obstacles include rockslides and oncoming traffic.

The career mode is fun at first because you don't need to finish high to move onto the next race, but I lost interest when the tracks started to repeat. The multiplayer mode features an interesting "King of the Hill" variation that my friend Scott compared to jockeying for a parking spot at work. It's certainly different but it's not for everyone. You'll either love or hate the music, depending on how much you like bands like Metallica. Personally, I turned the sound down. If you're looking for an arcade-style off-road game, this will do, but I wouldn't pay full price for it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

The Thing
Grade: C
Publisher: Konami (2002)
Posted: 2014/1/25
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotThe Thing has everything you'd want in a good survival horror title: intense atmosphere, hideous monsters, and plenty of ammunition. You play a soldier sent to Antarctica with a squad to investigate a destroyed base. The sense of isolation is uncanny as your trek over the snowy frozen wasteland. Having blue light poles guide you between buildings is brilliant, since much of the game takes place at night in blizzard conditions. I loved the sound of the wind whistling through my surround sound speakers.

I also enjoyed the straightforward nature of the game. There are no weapons to construct, no skills to develop, and no outfits to unlock. You'll frequently seek shelter in small buildings (to avoid freezing) while gathering clues, rescuing survivors, and facing progressively difficult waves of monsters. These twitchy, fleshy red creatures begin as infected men but mutate into weird freaks with random appendages.

I wasn't crazy about the whole "squad" concept until I realized how we could create some sweet crossfire to obliterate incoming swarms of face-grabbers. Be careful about friendly fire though, because when you lose your squad, it feels awfully lonely. And when you peer out a frosty window and see a grotesque monster trying to get in, it's downright alarming!

A flamethrower is necessary to completely dispose of larger creatures, but am I even using this thing correctly? It doesn't seem to have any range and I often end up burning myself! One interesting (and surprisingly advanced) original element is the ability to use security cameras to spot and focus in on clues (like written passwords).

There are plenty of save points, but after dying you need to return to the main menu to reload your latest save (huh?). And why does my health meter only appear when I use a medical pack? The user interface for interacting with your squad is terribly convoluted, and manipulating items is so labor intensive, it's almost comical. The Thing shows its age with its clumsy controls, but it's still a fun game to curl up with on a snowy night. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge
Grade: B
Publisher: Buena Vista Interactive (2004)
Posted: 2017/10/30
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotWith freaky characters, twisted scenery, and a ghostly chorus The Nightmare Before Christmas exudes Halloween spirit like few other games. Like the film this is a macabre work of art. Its lavish production values include a motion-picture quality intro complete with narration that sounds like something from Lord of the Rings.

You play the role of a tall, supernatural stick-figure named Jack, exploring desolate towns, laboratories, pumpkin patches, and graveyards. You'll battle skeletons, ghosts, and trolls using your "soul robber" weapon. In addition to whipping enemies, this stretchy green lasso lets you grab creatures and bang them into each other, much like the chains used by Kratos in God of War (PS2, 2005).

With rich storytelling, fluid animation, and lush audio, this occasionally feels more like a movie than a game. My friend Brent couldn't believe this was running on the original Xbox! Force feedback is used to such good effect it's downright startling at times. I've experienced similar graveyard hijinx in Medievil (PS1, 1998) and Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (PS2, 2002) but never with this much style. How many games have boss battles set to Broadway musical showtunes?

The one big issue with this game is its forced perspective. You have zero camera control, making it hard to locate small characters or key passageways. It doesn't help that things rendered in grayscale tend to blend into each other. Markers used to indicate places of interest are always the same size, making it hard to tell if they are indicating a spot close or far.

There's also a minor targeting problem, as your soul robber tends to latch onto any random target in the area. But these problems only hamper the playability slightly. You'll find a heck of a lot of variety in the stages, including a fun multiple choice quiz! Cinematic, charming, and a little weird, Nightmare Before Christmas is everything you want in a Halloween adventure. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

ToeJam and Earl III
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (2002)
Posted: 2004/3/5
Rating: Teen

screenshotSega had to dig pretty deep into their catalog to resurrect this old Genesis cult classic. The original ToeJam and Earl featured two funky aliens engaging in wacky hijinks on a faraway planet, encountering bizarre characters and collecting power-ups in the form of wrapped presents. This third chapter doesn't stray far from the original formula, but of course the scenery is far more lush and interesting now. You still wander around elevated platforms, but the world is hilly instead of flat, and it's broken up into small stages with individual themes.

You can play the role of ToeJam, Earl, or a sassy newcomer named Latisha. Most of the old power-ups have returned, including the high-tops, icarus wings, and spring shoes. Unfortunately, when combined with the frustrating controls these power-ups will often send you flying off a cliff. The first ToeJam and Earl game was known for its catchy beats, and many of the same tunes have been incorporated into this sequel.

Unlike the original game, this one features a slew of voice samples, full motion video intermissions, and even a few complete rap songs. But all this extra audio is not necessarily a good thing, because the repetitive urban slang ("yo yo s'up?", "I gotsa go - later y'all") is really annoying after a while. In addition, there's a women's gospel choir that kicks in on a regular basis. My wife declared that ToeJam and Earl III was best played with the TV on "mute".

For fans of the original game, this is sure to bring back a lot of memories, but new players probably won't appreciate the characters or humor. Despite all of its fancy graphics and sound effects, I still much prefer the original game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Torino 2006
Grade: B+
Publisher: 2K Sports (2006)
Posted: 2010/2/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOddly enough, the new Vancouver 2010 (PS3, 2010) winter olympic game has given me renewed appreciation for Torino 2006. Torino offers a no-nonsense user interface that lets you play the full 15 events, a shorter 9-event competition, or customize your own. The load times are quick and the graphics are first-rate.

The ski and bobsled events convey a nice sensation of speed, giving you that "almost-out-of-control" feeling that's exciting. The camera zooms in at the tightest possible angle, making you feel right on top of the action. The rolling ski slopes look inviting, and while those blinking arrows look gaudy as hell, they clearly indicate where the gates are. The ski events require a lot of finesse but speed skating focuses on timing. The ski jump is exhilarating, and the bobsleds have a real sense of momentum as you careen through the icy bank turns. Best of all, I could easily play all of these without the benefit of reading instructions or sitting through a boring tutorial! The controls are displayed on the screen as you play, and the system works remarkably well.

Only the biathlon event suffers from non-intuitive controls. The target-shooting element is simple enough, but that circular meter that monitors your cross-country stamina is confusing! Best scores are recorded along with your initials, and these are easily viewable from the main menu. Torino lacks the fanfare of opening or closing ceremonies, but its bright white scenery looks great and the lighted night events look especially good. The athletes are realistically animated, but I find it a bit odd how about half of the athletes are black! Up to four players can participate, but having to share the same controller is a pain. All in all, Torino 2006 offers a pretty solid all-around Olympic experience. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Transworld Snowboarding
Grade: A-

screenshotHaving reviewed Transworld Surf (Atari, 2001) I thought I should review its winter counterpart. What I discovered is a game that's high quality and remarkably entertaining. Its video introduction gets you totally amped with amazing footage of famous snowboarders performing stunts to a grunge soundtrack. Transworld's Tour mode is the centerpiece of the game and it's worth the price of admission.

The courses are absolutely gorgeous beginning with a quaint village in Bavaria Germany. Four locations are available off the bat and it's not hard to unlock the others. As you careen down the evergreen-lined slopes there are many rails to grind (perhaps too many) and alternate paths to discover. The detail is amazing. You'll see a rabbit frolicking in the snow, an airplane in the sky, and people partying on the deck of a chalet. The courses maintain a natural beauty in contrast to the artificial amusement parks of SSX (PS2, 2000).

It's easy to perform spin, flips, and grabs off ramps, but racking up the big points takes practice. The grinding may be a little too easy - you're attracted to rails like a magnet! And once you lose your balance the game gracefully exits you off to the side instead of wiping you out. Each course offers a series of objectives, much like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (PS1, 1999). Some goals are pretty straightforward (score 10000 points) while others might have you smashing through glass or grinding a crane. It always feels good to hear that "chime" indicating you completed another objective - often inadvertently!

Should you perform well enough you might even make the cover of "Transworld Magazine". I'm not sure how I feel about that one. Last but not least the game boasts an excellent split-screen mode supporting up to four players. With fun gameplay, gorgeous winter visuals, and a kick-ass soundtrack, Transworld Snowboarding brings home the thrill of the sport. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Transworld Surf
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari/Infogrames (2001)
Posted: 2002/6/7
Rating: Teen

screenshotI should have bought the Playstation 2 version of Transworld Surf instead. Its graphics are better on the Xbox, but its difficulty is insane! Despite spending several hours playing Transworld Surf, I can't seem to make any [expletive] progress! The graphics are adequate, but not as good as you might expect. Yes, the semi-transparent water shimmers nicely, but the waves are too angular to be convincing. Although the scenery includes some exotic locations, you won't see anything but water during the actual game.

Controls are somewhat Tony Hawk-ish, but the learning curve is much higher. Eventually you will learn tricks like barrels, jumps, and floats. You can chain together tricks to multiply your points, but instead of awarding these points immediately, the game waits a few extra seconds to see if you screw up afterwards (which in turn reduces your points to zero). Even harder than completing combos is trying to complete the goals of each level.

The objectives range from mysteriously vague to nearly impossible. The funny part is, Transworld Surf still kept me coming back for more, probably because the stages are short and the action is intense. Even after a wipeout, the helpful "reef girl" (bikini chick on a jet ski - grrrrowl!) will set you up immediately on the next wave of your choice. Perhaps I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I return to this mediocre game again and again. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Turok: Evolution
Grade: C+
Publisher: Acclaim (2002)
Posted: 2008/12/20
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotThe original Turok was a hit on the Nintendo 64, but the franchise wore out its welcome after a series of mediocre sequels. Evolution didn't attract as much attention, but it quietly breathed new life into the series with its massive scale and polished visuals. For those not familiar with Turok, it's a first-person shooter (FPS) starring an Indian warrior on a prehistoric planet. Initially armed with a club and bow, you gradually work your way up to high-tech weapons while fighting dinosaurs and armies of lizard men.

Evolution kicks off with an overwrought cinematic intro with credits that just go on and on. You'd think it was Star Wars or something. The first few training stages can be hard to stomach, but once things begin to open up, Evolution gains traction. You can see pretty far into the distance, especially with the scopes mounted on most high-powered weapons. The jungle scenery is fairly dense, but you quickly learn that the stages are actually very linear, with pixelated walls of leaves serving as boundaries.

The AI with the lizard men leaves much to be desired. When you fire an arrow into one of them, he acts like nothing happened, making it easy to send a second (fatal) shot. His buddy next to him rarely seems to notice either! One element carried over from the previous Turoks is the frequent platform jumping, which is never a pleasant experience in a first-person shooter. There are also some nasty traps that are hard to see coming.

The game also features bonus stages that let you fly a pterodactyl equipped with more firepower than an F-15 fighter jet! These exciting stages provide a nice change of pace, but the objectives aren't always clear. I like how Turok's stages tend to be short, and the game automatically saves your progress after each. When you take into account a four-player split-screen mode, you have a very respectable Xbox shooter on your hands. Evolution didn't thrust Turok back into the limelight, but those disenchanted with the Nintendo 64 sequels will be pleased to see him return to form. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Xbox Addict, Playstation.com, Moby Games, Lutris, LaunchBox Games Database, Video Games Museum