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ETJB

Reviews

King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (NES)

Lost In Translation

The Good
King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (1990) was a fabulous entry into the already groundbreaking point n' click graphic adventuring franchise. Not only did it feature a long and detailed fantasy themed quest, with plenty of new puzzles, personalities and locations, but it also dazzled us with incredible graphics and sound, which had not been seen before on a personal computer.

The NES version of King's Quest V (1992) offer most of the elements that made the computer game successful; i.e. the same fantasy themed locations, items, puzzles, personalities, etc.

It was rare for a graphic adventure computer games to make the jump onto a home console system and it is nice to be able to play a classic adventure game, without having to master DOS or own an upscale (circa 1990) personal computer.

The Bad
The 8-bit NES simply could not recreate the same high quality animation, graphics, music and sound effects created on the personal computer. What was groundbreaking for the computer, was simply not possible for the NES.

For the NES, the game's animation and graphics are all very impressive, although some items are difficult to see and the quality of background and character detail does very greatly. Yet, it is nowhere near the same experience as playing King's Quest V on the computer.

The music and sound effects are a bit of a disappointment; both in comparison to the computer and even the abilities of the 8-bit Nintendo. When they do exist, the music and sound effects are generally best left on mute.

While the later PC CD-ROM edition of King's Quest added voice talents to read the script, such a feature was simply not possible on the Nintendo, which means that you need to be ready to read lots and lots of on-screen text and [to save your progress] write down very long passwords.

Reading the instruction manual will be a requirement because there is no mouse option. You will need to learn how to cycle between the various icon commands and then use the keypad to move the on-screen arrow to the item or person in question.

The Bottom Line
King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (1992) offers a long and, generally, enjoyable fantasy-themed, point n' click, graphic adventure game for the 8-bit NES. The original storyline is intact, along with the original computer game's characters, locations, puzzles and item inventory.

Gamers who played the game on the personal computer when it originally came out or even the re-release on CD-ROM, may be unable to get past the hardware limitations of the 8-bit Nintendo.

However, not many point 'n click, graphic adventure games were made for the 8-bit Nintendo and this is certainly an ambition game. Fans of the adventuring gaming genre, who can look past the hardware limitations, should give this game a try.

By ETJB on January 22, 2023

Myst (Jaguar)

Pretty To Look At, But Maybe Not So Much Fun To Play

The Good
Myst is a revolutionary adventure game, which wowed 1990s, audiences with its amazing graphics, tough puzzles, complicated mystery and a lack of the sort of graphic violence and gore that was popular in the industry. The Atari Jaguar CD edition is pretty much flawless when it comes to recreating the original Myst game.

The Bad
Myst in its original format, is a game that has not aged particularly well. The pretty pictures may not pretty may not wow a 2021 audience and the pretty pictures do not come with much animation or music. Except for a few Full Motion Video clips, you do not really interact with anyone on the island and the puzzles are some of the hardest ever put into a video game. All of these faults are found in the Atari Jaguar CD edition of the game because it is an exact copy of the original Myst game.

The Bottom Line
Myst is a video game that revolutionized the industry when it was first released in 1993. Modern gamers may not be especially impressed with the game's technical achievements and world building. If you have played the original version of the game, then their is nothing new or improved on the Atari Jaguar edition to justify a purchase.

By ETJB on December 18, 2021

Flashback: The Quest for Identity (Jaguar)

A great platformer, but does not help sell the Atari Jaguar system

The Good
Flashback is probably one of the best platformers every released. It offers up a compelling storyline, influenced by several films, and excels in terms of graphics, character animation, music, sound effects and gameplay mechanics.

The Bad
Flashback does not help sell the Atari Jaguar because the game was already published on the "inferior" game systems, such as the 16-bit SNES and Genesis.

The Atari Jaguar version of this game does not help justify the existence of a "Next Level" gaming console.

As a cartridge-based title, it does not feature the cosmetic changes seen in the CD edition of Flashback.

Also I never really get use to the Atari Jaguar game controller, which seemed like a throwback to the 4-bit Atari era.

The Bottom Line
Flashback is a great platformer, but its appearance on the Atari Jaguar does little to demonstrate the Jaguar's hardware potential.

By ETJB on December 18, 2021

Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods (Jaguar)

Thankfully, There Can Only Be One

The Good
Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods (herein after simply referred to as "Highlander") is clearly inspired by Alone In The Dark, with its 3rd person perspective, inventory puzzles to solve alongside enemies that need to be killed with a weapon.

If you are able to find a working Atari Jaguar CD device, then this game offers us some nice graphics, including some animated sequences taken from the cartoon series of the same name.

The Bad
Highlander features very little in the way of music and some sluggish controls, which often seem downright glitchy.

The animated sequences used when your character punches, kicks or opens up chests are goofy and, speaking of goofy, this is a game where the best item to use is a rubber chicken!

Yes, you do locate a sword in the game, but it is difficult to properly hit enemies with it and, even when you do, is not a powerful weapon. It is easier to actually hit enemies with the rubber chicken and it also seems to do more damage.



The Bottom Line
It is unfortunate that Highlander fails in the gameplay department and is a bit too goofy. The game's designers were reportedly fans of the Highlander franchise, but, in this case, fandom did not translate into a good game. About the best thing that can be said about this game is that it is probably one of the only adventure-action titles for the Atari Jaguar CD-ROM device.

By ETJB on December 18, 2021

Disney's Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (NES)

Another Classic Disney-themed Platformer by the folks at Capcom

The Good
Disney's Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is an excellent platformer based on the cartoon series of the same name. The two Disney chipmunks run, jump, dodge and throw projectiles at an assortment of minions, until they are ready for their final battle with their old nemesis; Fat Cat.

Rescue Rangers features great graphics, music, playability and the ease of playing alone or with a friend.

The Bad
Disney's Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers is fairly easy, except near the end of the game where it gets rather difficult.

You pick up items in the game to battle minions and bosses, but you can only pick up one particular item at a time and when you do pick up an item, it can limit how high you can jump.

The Bottom Line
Disney's Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers excels both as a platformer game and as a game based on a licensed franchise.

By ETJB on December 2, 2021

Daryl F. Gates Police Quest: Open Season (Windows 3.x)

Police Quest 4: Putting On The Ritz

The Good
Police Quest: Open Season (PQ4) features realistic looking graphics, detailed police procedures to follow and a frank, if a tad cynical, take on early 1990s, Los Angeles.

Homicide Detective John Carey (new to the Police Quest adventure game series) must track down a serial killer who, as the game begins, has claimed the life of Carey's partner and a young boy.

As a point and click, graphic adventure game, the player uses Sierra's familiar icon interface to travel, pick up items and interact with the diverse citizens.

Failure to follow actual police procedure will result in death. Failure to survive an arcade sequence shootout, will result in death. The sheer level of realism in this game is groundbreaking, if not a bit annoying at times.

The Bad
Being an urban, homicide detective is not all fun and games. Police procedure must be followed in the game or else. If you are hoping to cut corners or ignore department policies, take my advice; play a different game.

Sometimes the game's depiction of people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community is not terribly flattering. It would have been better had the game not relied so much on stereotypes and cliches.

Last, but not least, it is very difficult to get this game to run on a modern operating system. This is a problem that I have experienced far too often with adventure games and it is unfortunate, because PQ4 has plenty of gritty realism.

The Bottom Line
Police Quest: Open Season is big on real-life, police procedure and fans of Sierra adventure games should enjoy it. I really wish that the game did not rely quite so much on stereotype, but if you can get past that, then you are going to enjoy unfolding the mystery.

By ETJB on November 25, 2021

Night Trap (SEGA 32X)

Welcome To The Next Level

The Good
Night Trap was probably the first Full Motion Video game released for a home console, CD-ROM system. As games started to make the transition to the CD format, consumers eagerly looked at what this "Next Level" of gaming would offer.

Slasher film fans will recognize the game's storyline. Sexy college co-eds are vanishing. Local law enforcement is baffled, so a special military unit has been assigned to crack the case by focusing on the one thing that seems to link these disappearances: a Yuppie family and their lakeside cabin.

The special, top-secret military unit has set up hidden cameras throughout the cabin and you, with a little help from an undercover agent, have to switch between the cameras to protect the new batch of college co-eds.

It seems that the seemingly all-American Yuppie family are really vampires who, with an army of goofy-looking minions, have been devouring the nation's all-American, wholesome youth!

The Sega 32X edition of the game features much better Full Motion Video, in comparison to the original Sega CD version. This is because the 32X device can display over 32,000 colors on screen, while the Sega CD can only display 64 colors on screen.

The Bad
Night Trap is a B-minus slasher film earning a PG-13 rating. Despite the controversy that surrounded the video game, complete with Congressional hearings, the player is much more likely going to laugh at the cheesy production values, than find anything in this game comparable to an R-rated slasher film. It seems that the Next Level of gaming was mostly harmless.

As with other Full Motion Video games, the actual level of interactivity is pretty limited to switching between cameras, trapping a villain or overhearing a conversation. Little room for error exists and once you get past the initial awe at playing an interactive movie, Night Trap is not especially fun to play.

Either you fail to protect the kids (and have to re-watch the same video clips over and over again), or you manage to memorize when you need to visit a particular camera (and thus are treated to a fairly tame mystery).

The Bottom Line
Night Trap defined the interactive movie genre, helped pave the way for video game ratings and is so cheesy, you may wonder why this game has never been riffed by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 folks. Students of video game history should give this game a try, but if you want to see R-rated horror and suspense in a video game, I would suggest trying Resident Evil instead.

By ETJB on November 25, 2021

Double Switch (Windows)

Night Trap 2, Sort of

The Good
Double Switch builds upon the Full Motion Video game play mechanics of Night Trap. The player must switch between a series of hidden cameras in order to trap villains, protect people, solve puzzles and, if you are especially skilled, crack a mystery.

The Windows edition of Double Switch features much better Full Motion Video, in comparison to the Sega CD edition, and the B-production values look and feel more ambitious than what was featured in Night Trap.

The Bad
My complaints with Double Switch are similar to the problems with other "interactive movie" games.

Success in Double Switch requires the player to memorize which cameras and which traps are needed at a specific time. There is little room for error. This means re-watching the same Full Motion Video clips again and again, until you are victorious or, as may be the case, too frustrated to continue playing.

While Double Switch clearly had a bigger budget than Night Trap, it is still offers up a steady diet of B- acting, cheesy dialogue and an assortment of standard villains.

The Bottom Line
Double Switch offers fans of the interactive movie genre an enjoyable Full Motion Video experience.

By ETJB on November 25, 2021

The Dig (DOS)

A Sci-Fi Adventure Game suffering from an Identity Crisis

The Good
The Dig is a science fiction, point and click, graphic adventure game, which was made when LucasArts was still in the adventure gaming business.

The basic plot of the game is as follows: In the mid-1990s a group of scientists discover that a large asteroid is going to smash into Earth, unless something cool and scientific can be done about it. A team of smart and easy-on-the-eyes men and women are assembled to blow up the asteroid.

Naturally, as a science fiction-themed story by LucasArts, the plot quickly shifts to an alien world with lots of puzzles, mysteries and strange creatures that might just eat you.

I cannot really find fault with the game's plot, the game play mechanics are easy to pick up (especially, if you have played other LucasArts adventure games) and both the game's graphics and music are quite excellent for a 1990s, graphic adventure game.

The Bad
My major complaint with this game is the simple fact that the overall tone of the game seems to be going through something of an identity crisis.

The Dig seems like it wants to be a dark sci-fi game, but (I suspect that) somewhere along the game's development someone made the decision to tone down the darkness in favor of a more family-friendly adventure.

The result is graphic adventure game that is not really made for young children (characters die in some rather tragic ways), but the game also lacks the blood, gore and other dark sci-fi elements that would appeal to older gamers.

Some of the puzzles in the game are also way too difficult for young children (or older, average gamers).

The Bottom Line
The Dig is a well designed graphic adventure game that fans of the gaming genre ought to try out. Its science fiction-themed story is certainly entertaining, if a bit unsure as to what it's intended audience is.

By ETJB on November 23, 2021

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (DOS)

Why Couldn't This Have Been the Plot for the 4th Indiana Jones film?

The Good
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (CD-ROM edition) is arguably the best video game based on the exploits of Doctor Jones, if not also one of the best point and click, adventure games made by LucasArts. I would go as far as to say that the plot for this video game should have been the plot for the 4th Indiana Jones film (instead of the Kingdom Skull mess we got).

The year is 1939, the world is on the brink of a war. Doctor Indiana Jones goes on another international quest that involves an ex-girlfriend, Nazis and untold secrets lurking within ancient civilizations. It is not based on any of the films, but, as I said, the game's storyline could easily have been made into a great film.

The 1992-era graphics are impressive, the game mechanics are very user-friendly (especially if you have played games such as Monkey Island) and the story really feels like a big screen Indiana Jones movie adventure.

While the game does have some action sequences, much of the game is a point and click adventure game using LucasArts' trademark SCUMM system. The CD-ROM edition is a "talkie" featuring some very nice voice acting.

The Bad
It is hard to find fault with with game. If you do not like point and click adventure games, then this game is probably not for you. Sometimes the action sequences are a bit cumbersome and sometimes you may be tempted to solve a puzzle by cheating.

The Bottom Line
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is an amazing point and click, SCUMM adventure game from the folks at LucasArts. The CD-ROM edition features some great voice acting to read the game's dialogue. Let us hope and pray that more of these LucasArts adventure games are released on the newer game systems.

By ETJB on November 23, 2021

Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh (Windows)

Murder! Bisexuality! Kinky Sex! A Talking Rat! and Office Politics!

The Good
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh is a FMV (Full-Motion Video) adventure game that puts the "graphic" in the graphic adventure game genre.

Much like the first Phantasmagoria game, this game is set in the same universe but is not a direct sequel, the player bears witness to a mid-1990s environment awash in a digital sea of mature content.

The player takes control of a 30-something office nerd, who works for the same shadowy corporation as his late father, as his average workday becomes tainted with graphic violence, blood & gore, multiple murders, mental illness, romance, bisexuality, kinky S&M sex and even a bit of gender identity confusion tossed in for good measure. Suffice it to say, this game earns its "Mature" (17+) classification rating.

Progress in the game requires the player to travel to various locations, interact with various people and collect numerous items needed to solve an assortment of point and click, puzzles.

Fans of say, the Kings Quest franchise (a much more family friendly adventure game series by Roberta Williams) will quickly pick up the game play mechanics and the quality of the FMV was quite impressive for a video game at that time.

The story smoothly combines science fiction and horror elements that fans of of the genre will be familiar with. If you watched the X-Files and read Stephen King novels in the 1990s, then this game's story should hit many familiar notes.

The Bad
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle Of The Flesh can take awhile to get going, storywise. Much of the initial game play involves you doing office work and chatting with coworkers (in person and on the phone). Gamers without patience may have a hard time getting to the more adult sci-fi/horror elements in the game.

The quality of the game's puzzles is also very uneven. Either the puzzles you encounter are too easy, or (near the game's end) so incredibly difficult that you will probably have to read a playthrough to get past.

Last, but not least, the technology used to create the FMV and 3D inventory images has not aged well. It looks better then the first Phantasmagoria game, and again, was quite ambitious for the mid-1990s, but some of the impact of the game may be lost to gamers used to the next generation gaming hardware capabilities.

The Bottom Line
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh is an ambitious point and click, graphic adventure game from the fine folks of Sierra On-Line. Think King's Quest, if the quest involved used FMV and featured a serial killer and an actual S&M nightclub. Does the ambition pay off? Well, mostly.

If you can accept that the game's storyline starts off slow, the game's puzzles have no middle ground when it comes to difficulty and yes, the FMV and 3D graphics are a product of their time, then Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle Of The Flesh will be worth your time.

If nothing else, playthrough the game just to enjoy the B-minus acting, the gory details, the frank sexuality, the water cooler conversations and a talking pet rat name, "Blob".

By ETJB on July 17, 2021

Spider-Man (SEGA Master System)

The Above-Average Spider-Man

The Good
The game does feature some nice, 8-bit animation, graphics, music and sound effects. It is not just a carbon copy of the initial Sega Genesis edition.

Here the game's intermission cut sequences have been drastically redesigned from the original Sega Genesis edition, including a nice little cameo from Doctor Strange.

Clearly, someone designing the game is familiar with the comic book characters, and was trying to give their some 8bit respect.

It was nice to see some creative easter eggs in the game (including the ability to put on the black Spider-Man costume from the Secret Wars comic book mini series).

The Bad
The Sega Master System controller itself was not well designed, which is a reason why the system was not terribly successful in the United States.

In this game, the method to switch between (for example) your camera or to journey back to your apartment gets cumbersome when you are also trying to quickly execute an offensive move.

Again, I realize that part of the problem is the controller itself, but be prepared for some level of frustration when your planned attack or web swing is mistaken by the game as a desire to make your inventory screen pop up.

The game -- even on the normal setting -- becomes very difficult early on. Some of this is due to the game play mechanics, but the game itself can be quite unforgiving.

For example, If you are not careful you can get stuck (fairly early on in Electro's level) by a series of flying lightning bolts which prevent Spider-Man from moving.

I realize that being a superhero is not supposed to be easy, but the Sega Genesis and Sega CD versions of Spider-Man were a bit more balanced in their levels of difficulty.

The Bottom Line
The game deserves above-average notice for its 8-bit audio and visual effects. The easter eggs and little changes to the story line also demonstrate a respect for gamers and comic book nerds in general.

If you can get past the dodgy game play mechanics, cheap hits and high level of difficulty, 'Spider-Man' can be an enjoyable platformer for the Sega Master System.

By ETJB on January 14, 2020

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (Genesis)

You've Been Touched By A Smooth Criminal!

The Good
Michael Jackson certainly earned the title, “King Of Pop”. Generations of post-war Americans grew up with Jackson's music and, yes, his music videos.

Two of his 1980s music videos – Thriller and Moonwalker – provide much of the audio and visual inspiration for the Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (“Moonwalker”) video game, which was released for the Sega Genesis (Mega Drive for PAL gamers) in 1990.

Moonwalker allows the player to take control of Michael Jackson through five different, side-scrolling, beat'em levels. The King Of Pop is on a quest to rescue kidnapped children – hidden throughout each level – and bring down a vicious, underworld gangster known as Mr. Big.

Since the game was released in 1990, it was probably developed in the late 1980s. Considering when this video cartridge was developed – within the life span of the Genesis home console system – the Moonwalker game features some truly awesome graphics, animation, music and even some digitized images of the pop star.

Each of the levels – and stages within each level – are well designed, with nice influences from the music videos. The basic game play mechanics in Moonwalker are, generally, responsive and easy to learn.

The first level – each level has about three stages to it – is set in the world of nightclubs, or a sanitized version of how nightclubs were depicted in Hollywood films and music videos during the 1980s.

One of the first things that Michael Jackson automatically does, when the level begins, is toss a coin into a juke box, thereby starting the familiar music. Many other nice little touches such as this pop up throughout the video game.

For example, each state has a certain number of hidden children for your to save (touching them makes them scream, “Michael!” before disappearing on-screen).

Once you have saved all of the children, clearly the arcade game “Shinobi” influenced the designers of this game, Jackson's pet chimpanzee jumps on the singer's shoulders in order to point where you need to go, in order to face the boss.

The player is able to make Michael Jackson “moonwalk”, hit bad guys in the crotch and make some other familiar gestures and sounds. Clearly, the developers of this game were familiar with Michael Jackson's performance mannerisms and style.

The second level takes place outside the nightclubs in the city streets, sewers and parking lots. If you manage to survive to the third level, you will be treated to some amazing woods, filled with beautiful greenery, waterfalls and, yes, lots and lots and lots of flesh-eating zombies.

Here is where the “Thriller” (1984) influences can be seen in the Moonwalker video game. Prior to Resident Evil (a.k.a. Biohazard) the zombies in this game are some of the scariest zombies you will see in a video game.

The fourth level involves a series of underground caverns that need to be explored. Along with zombies and heavily armed guards, you get to face off with some mutated spiders and other mutated minions of Mr. Big.

The last levels in the Moonwalker video cartridge take place at Mr. Big's headquarters. The gangster's lair could easily pass for as one of the hi-tech lairs of a James Bond villian. Yeah, it looks that cool.

If you are good enough, perhaps even a bit lucky, you will be given the privilege of a final, outer space battle with Mr. Big himself.

While Moonwalker may seem like a short game, at only five levels, it is probably one of the more difficult games for the Sega Genesis.

The level of difficulty in the game is, at time, its greatest fault.

The Bad
Michael Jackson main offensive moves are limited to punching and kicking his enemies. Players will often find themselves using these two basic moves often, because these movies do not use up your precious hit point.

If Michael Jackson has enough hit points left, his punches and kicks come with a short-range spray of magical dust, which can hurt enemies, as well as looking incredibly silly.

When I first played the game, back in 1990, I thought that perhaps the developers of Moonwalker were suggesting that Michael Jackson had kidnapped Disney's Tinker Bell, and somehow modified the fairy dust into a weapon.

Younger gamers might believe that Michael Jackson somehow kidnapped one of the sparkly vampires from the Twilight films,and ground up the vampire's skin into power.

The original arcade game gave Michael Jackson decent looking lighting bolts. Sadly, the Sega Genesis edition of Moonwalker had sparkly dust. The usage of "angel dust" or "fairy dust" or what-have-you just looks really silly.

If Michael Jackson is low on hit points, then he loses the magical dust, leaving him with just his regular fists. How do you lose hit points in the game?

Yes, you lose hit points anytime you get hit by a bad guy, zombie, animal, bullet or laser beam. That makes sense, although hit detection can get a bit annoying wen lots of fast-moving, enemies are on-screen.

However, you also sacrifice precious hit points anytime you use one of the cooler, more effective, attacks at your character's disposal; i.e. throwing your hat as a dangerous boomberang-missile projectiles or causing on-screen, enemies to dance.

This fault could have, largely, been fixed had your hit points and "special attack" points been two distinct horizontal bars.

As it stands now, you really can only afford to use these special attacks for the bosses, which means that if you do not have enough hit points to take on a boss, you are, as they say, totally and unforgivably S.O.L.

Most of the bosses in the are really just a bunch of the same enemies you have been fighting in the level, only stronger, faster and generally more annoying.

Yes, it is cool to be able to make your enemies -- including animals -- dance, but it is something that you can only use rarely, if you plan on beating the game.

Likewise, using your hat as a projectile is an awesome idea -- straight out of an old James Bond film --, but, again, you cannot "toss the hat" too often in this game.

Yes, you can transform into a cool-looking robot. However, unlike the original arcade game your transformation in the Sega Genesis game is short and largely a gimmick.

Michael will only transform into the robot for a short period if time. The robot's weapons can also cost you hit points, and while you can fly around a level, you cannot save any of the children.

Finally, something must be said about the final battle with the evil Mr. Big.

When you are ready for the final battle, you automatically transform into the giant robot. The final battle in the game is then handled as a confusing and fast-paced, first-person perspective space shooter.

The player looking out of a space ship's viewing screen in order to blast various space ships. It is not a terribly well-designed shooting scenario.

Mr Big's space ship appears on the viewing screen as a small dot in the background. You have, some, control of your space ship's laser guns, and have to try and hit Mr. Big before he kills you.

Big's space ship is not only a small on-screen sprite -- often in the background. He is much faster and strong then the space ship owned by the King Of Pop.

Frankly, I am not entirely sure why Michael Jackson is using a clunky space ship, when you could have easily just used the giant, mega powerful, anime-style robot.

Anyways, if you manage to defeat Mr. Big, the game rewards you with a pretty lackluster ending; Michael Jackson and a young boy (his inner child, perhaps?) perform some dance moves while the credits role.

The Bottom Line
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker shines in terms of its animation, graphics, music and sound effects. This may be the sort of Michael Jackson fans prefer to remember; just prior to the pop star being caught up in a deep web of tabloid speculation, nasty accusations and courtroom drama.

By ETJB on June 7, 2014

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES)

Castlevania III: Action-Packed! Non-Linear! Dracula's Son!

The Good
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (Dracula's Curse) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is the third and final Castlevania game to be released for the original NES system. In addition to some totally incredible, 8-bit animation, graphics, music and sound effects, Dracula's Curse does retain once nice feature from its predecessor; non-linear game play.

It should be noted that this game is a return to the basic game play mechanics seen in the original Castlevania game. It departures from most of the changes seen in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, which is probably a good thing for the franchise, although I do not agree with much of the negativity that surrounds Simon's Quest.

Gone are the adventure role-playing game elements found in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Instead, Dracula's Curse is entirely a side-scrolling, arcade-action platform game, in the tradition of the first Castlevania game.

Dracula's Curse stars not Simon, but one of his ancestors, by a few centuries. Setting the game before the events in the first Castlevania game is an interesting story choice which could have fallen apart in less skilled hands.

Trevor C. Belmont is just as skilled as Simon in using his whip and other violent weapons to make sure that the undead stay dead. In the “olden days” it would seem that the Belmont had some pretty cool magical powers at their disposal.

In addition to Belmont, the player is able to gain control of three additional characters – each with their own special abilities. The new playable characters breath life in to the series and also help to make the game less linear then the first Castlevania game.

Sypha Belnades is a sorceress who has strong magical spells, but weak physical attack capabilities.

Later on you can control a private named Grant Danasty (who can climb walls and change direction in mid-jump). If you are really good at this game, the you can unlock Dracula's son!

Yeah! That's right! Alcuard, is a dhampir with the special talent of shooting fireballs and transforming himself into a bat. This is probably one of the first (perhaps only) NES games that allow you to take control of a vampire, let alone the son of the game's main villian.

The game play – most notably the ending – will change depending on which character you use or bring along with you on a level. Each of the three allies are helpful in different parts of the game and the ability to switch characters (and backtrack through previous levels) are great, non-linear elements.

Certain points in the game allow you to pick the path that you will take, which also will impact the game play. The game takes place inside a huge Gothic Castle – I count fifteen stages in total – and it is nice to be able to choice an upper or a lower route to your final destination (which is the main hall in the Castle)

The Castle in Dracula's Curse looks amazing, especially the attention to detail paid to the game's backgrounds. The music and sound effects are also impressive. It is about as scary as the Big N would allow a Nintendo game be—outside of Japan.

Combined the incredible visual and audio effects in the game are probably the closest to the survival horror genre. If you want to see a game that pushes the NES hardware to the max, then check out

The Bad
Critics had attacked Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for being too easy as well as for its adventure role-playing game structure. Again, while I do not agree with the critics, the developers of Dracula's Curse clearly listened to what the people disliked about Simon's Quest.

Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse is is not an adventure role-playing game. It is also harder then the previous two games in the original Castlevania game trilogy.

Dracula's Curse does have a password feature, to help stem the tide of total frustration.

Oddly enough, some of the biggest complaints with Dracula's Curse is that failed to fix some of the pesky, game play problems seen in the first Castlevania game.

Whenever your character is hit, he (or she) has the nasty habit of actually moving backwards a bit. This was a trait seen in (too) many NES games.

When dealing with a large enemy or projectile, I can appreciate the rationale behind the "impact" backwards movement.

However, it is just frustratingly silly when every single enemy or projectile in the game has the ability to knock you off a platform, just by touching you.

"Silly" because it does not make much sense, and "frustrating" because, yeah, it can make some of the aspects in the game seem so difficult you shout just about every single profane and bad word you know. You might even invent a few.

Likewise, the control mechanics for climbing up and down stairs can cause some needless frustration. You send quite a bit of time going up and down stairs, it would be nice if didn't feel quite so defenseless while climbing.

The Bottom Line
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse for the Nintendo Entertainment System features awesome graphics, animation, music and sound effects. It is top-notch, side-scrolling, arcade-action game with some new playable characters and non-lineal elements. Victory against Dracula's Curse will only come to those gamers able and willing to survive the many tricky platforms and vicious supernatural monsters that await you in the Castle's many rooms.

By ETJB on June 6, 2014

Time Gal (SEGA CD)

In The 1990s, Sega said, "Welcome To The Next Level" by taking us back to the 1980s..

The Good
In the early 1990s, the CD-ROM revolution was hitting both world of computer and video games. The final days of floppy disks and cartridges was coming upon consumers.

Just as the music industry had to say "goodbye" to records and cassette taps, the game industry was going to have to say "goodbye" to its old technology and, yes, "hello" to the huge storage capacity of CD discs.

Sega, which certainly had some amazing advertising campaigns in the 1990s, stepped its corporate toe into the CD-ROM pool with the tagline "Welcome To The Next Level".

Actually, Sega of Japan did the stepping, apparently without much feedback from their American branch, and the Sega CD (or Mega CD for PAL gamers) ending up frustrating gamers, especially Sega fans, more so then anything else.

Remember that a computer disc or a video cartridge could not store too much memory. It was probably memory for gamers in the 1970s - 1980s, but the limitations meant that games the size a of a game -- including size of the game's world -- faces practical limitations.

Yes, a video cartridge can -- technically -- hold a very large game memory; 500 megabytes (the standard for a CD at the time). However, only one company tried to do this commercially? Why

Well, the only way to make a profit with a video cartridge of that size, was to price the game at over a hundred dollars. Not too many consumers are going to spend three hundred dollars on a single video game. Not many consumers could afford to, especially in the era of Reagan Economics.

The most part a video cartridge had anywhere between 1 - 25 megabytes of memory stored in it. Most computer discs had less storage capacity, which meant that games often required more then one disc to install or even play.

OK, so the limited storage capacity of a video cartridge or a computer disk, made it impractical produce the type of sand box or open world concepts games that we see today.

The limited storage capacity also meant that games could not have full motion, extensive dialogue read by actors or other digital audio and video effects that been limited to some coin-op arcade games and a few laser disc games.

The Sega CD -- for all its many faults -- could potentially do much large, interactive game worlds and, yes, offer consumers the type of features normally seen in coin-op arcade games, especially laser disc arcade games.

Bigger means better, right? What could possible, possible go wrong with the Next Level?

Time Gal for the Sega CD was one of the first games released for the CD-ROM game system. In fact most of the early games released for the Sega CD were games that featured extensive animation or full motion video.

Initially, Time Gal did look and sound simply revolutionary on the Sega CD. Remember that it was designed and marketed for consumers who grown up with games having to fit on computer discs or video cartridges.

The Sega CD was probably the first CD-ROM game system that lots of kids -- at least in America -- heard about and played. NEC was first, but not too important.

Far fewer American consumers were familiar with the NEC CD-ROM system. It was pretty much the third party in the American video game market. It had a distant third place in terms of national support and visibility, not unlike, say, a third party candidate in American politics, like Ralph Nader.

While PC and Mac computers were also moving on into the CD-ROM format, the price of a decent CD-ROM computer was still bigger then most consumers wallets.

To make a long story short (too late?) if you were an American consumer in the early 1990s - mid 1990s, the Sega CD was more affordable then a good CD-ROM computer.

For the first time, American consumers -- on a fairly large scale -- got to play a video game like Time Gal in the comfort of their own living room or even bedroom. They didn't need to find a laser disc arcade machine, and they didn't need to pay a thousand dollars (or so) to get a decent CD-ROM computer.

It may not seem like much today, but seeing Time Gal on the Sega CD was amazing. Never before had most gamers of my generation actually played a game that looked, sounded and moved like a cartoon.

The Bad
Once the initial awe and excitement was over, two things became rather clear in the minds of consumers who had eagerly bought into the Sega CD hype.

First off all, Time Gal was an adaption of an older game (something about a 1990s "Next Level" ad campaign does not scream "Lets All Go Back To The 1980s"). Heck, it was not even a perfect adaption of an older arcade game.

The Sega CD graphic's hardware was limited to displaying 64 colors on-screen, out of 512 total colors. Many of the early games to use full motion video tended to only use 32 colors on-screen.

Laser disc games and indeed popular game systems of the time did not operate under such limitations.

The nice-looking Japanese animation in Time Gal had to be edited to fit the hardware limitations of the Sega CD. It could not be full-screen, full motion video and the video quality itself could equal seeing a animated film on TV.

Second off all, the level of interactivity in Time Gal and similar cases was pretty low.

Laser disc games could look and sound pretty, but game play was limited to figuring out which button to press at the precise time in order keep the animation going.

Full motion video games using live actions, could also look and sound pretty, but game play was often limited to switching between a few 'cameras' -- at the precise moment - in order to keep the cheesy, B-movie going.

The Bottom Line
Time Gal for the Sega CD does look and sound pretty. It is one of the first games released for the CD-ROM system and shows off the increased storage capacity of the then-new media. It suffers from not being a perfect adaption of an older game. The entire genre of full motion video games suffers from not offering the sort of interactivity that gamers wanted, but had to wait until games like Grand Theft Auto, Fable and the Elders Scroll were released.

By ETJB on May 28, 2014

Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)

Simon's Quest: Non-Linear! RPG-Puzzles! Engrish!

The Good
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (Simon's Quest) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is one of those great NES games that could break up friendships.

In designing this sequel, the developers opted for an adventure or role playing game-style, which people tended to love or hate with a deep passion

Nintendo did a similar thing with Zelda II, a game that is not as polarizng among Zelda fans as Simon's Quest is among Castlevania fans.

For better or for the worse, the “haters” of Simon's Quest won the day, because subsequent Castlevania games returned to the original, action-packed, blistered thumbs game-play style.

However, I am one of these people (perhaps in a minority) who actually enjoyed the changes seen in Simon's Quest.

This is not to say that I “hated' the arcade style of Castlevania or its sequels. However, as someone who does enjoy role playing and adventure games, it was refreshing to see these elements used in a home console game.

Most of the really great role playing games were only accessible – especially without censorship – through the original computer edition or Japanese imports.

Likewise while some great adventure games were designed for the PC and Mac, few of them ever made the jump to the home console sytems.

I am not saying that hack and slash, arcade action isn't fun, but it was only a small slice of what the gaming industry was doing throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Maybe this is not a complaint widely shared, but it is my opinion and I am sticking to it. Now that I have dealt with the love-hate relationship attached to this game. Let us get back to Simon's Quest game itself.

Simon's Quest combines side-scrolling arcade game with some traditional role-playing or adventure gaming elements.

Instead of linear stages, the game presents a large world to explore, with both night time and daytime elements. The player has to explore the world, interact with different characters (especially in towns), locate items to solve puzzles as well as upgrades to your weapons.

Simon needs to improve his strength, obtain money and stronger weapons if he is going to succeed in this quest. If you enjoy basic role playing or adventure game elements, then you will enjoy what this game has to offer.

Did I mention the night and day sequences? Well, they are worth mentioned again! Not only does the game actually switch between night time and daytime, but things tend to get creepier at night.

Nighttime means that town shops are closed, as towns are invaded by zombies and, yeah, generally everything gets creepier at night in this game. Frankly, this is probably as close to a horror film as a game for a Nintendo system could get – outside of Japan.

Simon's Quest features improved animation and graphics and players should have little complaints with the hit detection, inventory menu or other such basic game play mechanics.

Simon's Quest does not skimp on the arcade action. Several creepy-looking buildings in the game return the player to side-scrolling action.

Even when you are explore the rustic charm of Translyvania, their are plenty of supernatural creatures – large and small – will have to be killed if Simon is to break the curse.

Ah, the curse! Simon is forced to locate the missing body parts of Dracula, so that he can burn them in the fire – of Mount Doom? No, but someplace special.

Apparently, when Simon killed Dracula the first time, he forget to burn the body, or maybe Simon just didn't know any better.

Granted, one would have thought that a skilled vampire hunter would have known to do this beforehand. It does make you wonder whether or not Simon has the education background needed to fight evil supernatural creatures, without, you know, causing widespread destruction or spreading dangerous curses.

OK, maybe Simon does not need a "license to kill", but I refuse to believe that I am the only Castlevania fan who has wondered if Simon (or his ancestors) is “winging it” a bit more then he should be.

The Bad
Simon's Quest emphasis on adventure role-playing game elements did not sit well with all fans of the Castlevania franchise.

Zelda II pursued a similar format, with much less much criticism, but the first Zelda game had mixed blistered thumbs action with adventure role-playing game elements. The change in style between Castlevania and Simon's Quest is much more significant.

Castlevania is entirely a side-scrolling, arcade action-type game. While Simon's Quest did not totally abandon the side-scrolling elements of its predecessor, it clearly sought to bring fans of adventure role-playing games into the Castlevania franchise.

It was successful in doing so, but many Castlevania fans simply did not want have the franchise turned into an adventure role-playing game (RPG).

These Castlevania fans simply did not want to see the franchise take its cues from Ultima, Zelda or The Secret of Monkey Island. Instead they wanted an arcade side-scrolling game that was heavy on supernatural action and violence.

Fans of RPG or Adventure Games, especially of the non-linear sort, may still have some complaints about the game. Some of the puzzles in the game do not seem to have any clues or have close that got lost in the translation. This bring us to the issue of "Engrish"

Part of the problem is with the English localization or adaption. Translating Japanese text -- often a major feature of pre-CD-ROM adventure RPG games -- into English that is not only legible, but also captures some of the mystery or nuance of the text is difficult.

Language (especially the informal language that most people use in their daily lives or an epic quest) is oftentimes influenced by a nation's culture as much as it is the background and beliefs of the author.

A direct-literal translation of Japanese text to English text is not always appropriate because of the nation's culture and history (and even geopolitics) behind the language.

I seen worse English localization in a NES video game, but not all of the text in Simon's Quest is as translated as well and as smoothly as it could be.

The Bottom Line
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest for the Nintendo Entertainment System seeks to bring fans of adventure role-playing games into the Castlevania franchise, at the risk of alienating fans who expected the sequel to follow the arcade action format of the first game. It is a great game within the non-linear, adventure role-playing genre, but its ability to appeal to gamers looking for side-scrolling action is limited.

By ETJB on May 28, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES)

Go Ninja, go Ninja go!

The Good
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is the first in a series of NES games based on the popular TMNT franchise. As the first entry in the game series it will inevitable be compared, unfavorably, to the later TMNT video games. I think that some of this criticism is indeed unfair.

Where as most subsequent TMNT games opted for a straight-forward, hack n' slash, beat-em up along the lines of Double Dragon or Golden Axe, this first TMNT video game gets a bit more creative in terms of gameplay.

TMNT combines a healthy dosage of blistered thumbs action, rudimentary sand box concepts and cerebral adventure game puzzles. To be successsful in this TMNT game you have to be the sort of well-balanced, ninja who can do more then just kill.

An early underwater level forces you to carefully swim around deadly seeweed, while disarming a series of bombs. If you simply treat this as a standard hack n' slash, beat-em up game, you will not be able to survive this level or most other levels.

Later levels in TMNT encourage you to explore – on foot or by vehicle – fairly urban locations. The early sand box concept is quite nice for a NES game and forces the player to do more then just kill everything in sight.

Yes, this game has no shortage of arcade action. The side-scrolling, arcade action format is utilized whenever you enter a building, in the sand box world, the sewers or, in the game's climax, when you go inside the dreaded Technodrome.

TMNT allows you to switch between the Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael during the game's action. In the NES each of the turtles has some different advantages and disadvantages, which adds a layer of adventure game strategy to the arcade action.

For example, Donatello's weapon has the longest reach, but other turtles may start out with more hit points or have weapons that are better at close range fighting.

When one of the heroes dies, he really only gets “captured”. Maybe this was a necessary concession to get the game approved by Nintendo's censorship board.

The “Big N” (as gamers use to refer to Nintendo) wanted to make sure that any game designed for a Nintendo system, even if it was designed by a third party developer, had a “family friendly” level of video game violence. If such a thing actually exists.

However, it does add more strategy to the game because you can locate and rescue a turtle. The sand box overhead levels have the main missions that you need to complete to beat the level, but they also have some side or optional quests – like saving a fallen turtle.

TMNT features some nice graphics and animation for a NES game that was probably designed in the late 1980s. Likewise, the game features some nice music and sound effects for an early NES game.

The basic storyline involves you trying to rescue April O'Neil and, after she is rescued, Master Splinter from Shredder.

It is not terrible too complicated, but it serves its purpose for an early video game.

While the TMNT game's artwork reflects its original comic book days, the original graphic TMNT graphic novels were probably too gritty and mature for the Nintendo censors.

The sanitized, "family friendly" TMNT T.V. cartoon series that was airing at the time (probably in its first or second season when the game was being developed) didn't give the game's developers too many more workable story ideas.

The Bad
TMNT for the NES is not without its faults and these are the sort of faults that are probably tolerated much less by younger generations of gamers.

For starters, TMNT is too difficult for most younger gamers who were introduced to the franchise through the cartoon series (and its toy line). The level of difficulty is not just high, but sometimes annoyingly so.

For example, the controls for the underwater level seem to have been borrowed from the first Super Mario Brothers NES game. This is simply absurd way to design the level.

I do not want to insult anyone because of their age, size or ability. I also realize that it is just a video game and not reality.

However, one would think that a highly trained, young ninja turtle would swim better then a middle-aged, well-fed, plumber. At any rate, TMNT makes it very, very, very difficult to make careful and precise movements underwater.

Now in Super Mario Brothers this difficult is not as much of a problem because your character has an offensive weapon while underwater and is not trapped in fairly claustrophobic conditions.

In contrast, the TMNT underwater level requires you to carefully swim around in a very small and tight environment.

The TMNT underwater level is loaded with sea weed and bombs. The sea weed rapidly takes away hit points if you touch it, which, given the poor underwater control design, tends to happen more often then not.

The bombs will explode, unless you can quickly disarm them all. Yet, finding the bombs requires you to carefully swim through tight, underwater paths admist an orgy of deadly sea weed and without the use of any weapons.

Logically, the TMNT – even the sanitized cartoon Turtles – would have enough training to not only swim better, but cut up sea weed into little piceas. Heck, the Turtles live in a large, urban sewer!

Beyond just this particular level, the main faults with the game tend to involve seemingly minor game play problems, which rapidly increase the game's frustration level.

Most of the side-scrolling levels take place indoors, and oftentimes your hero will come into contact with a roof, which creates more tight, platforming levels.

Hence, while each playable character can easily jump and the animation used is quite good, oftentimes you do not have room to jump. This can be frustrating when you have to make very, very precise jumps or else your character will fall down a few of the building's levels and have to retrace his steps.

The icons scattered throughout the game are helpful – i.e. pizza can restore some hit points, rope can help you cross certain rooftops.

I have to say that I do wish that later TMNT video games featured the cool boomerangs, shuriken and magical fireballs. These projectile weapons are necessary to complete the game and allow the player to do more then just hack and slash.

However, very little pizza can be found in the game itself, and you oftentimes have to risk losing more hit points just to grab the pizza icon. Similiarly, the rope is necessary to complete one puzzle in the game, and again, there is not a lot of extra rope icons in the game.

While the projectile weapons are nice, only the bare minimum of these icons are scattered throughout the levels.

This tends to undermine the exploratory and experimental elements necessary for a successful adventure game or sand box .

Simply put, if you “waste” any of the weapons or pizza found in the game, will not be able get anywhere in the later levels. This is especially noticeable in the final level inside the Technodrome.

All of the TMNT enemies constantly reswpan and often require several direct hits to kill. This means that having to retrace your steps, because you missed a platform, is all the more frustrating.

It also means that your precious hit points tend to go pretty fast fighting what should be rather minor evil minions.

This makes it even harder to have the strength needed to take on the bosses. much less the final battle inside the Technodrome.

Unless you have a certain number of very healthy Turtles, and unless you have certain number of projectiles, especially the magical fireballs, you will likely be unable to make it very far in the final level, much less defeat Shredder.

Once all of your turtles die (or get “captured”), it is Game Over. Period. The first TMNT NES, unlike its sequels, does not have hidden Easter Eggs that give the player extra lives or a level select option.

Even if they did, it is pretty much impossible to beat the final level unless you collected lots of the powerful projective weapons in previous levels and (while doing that) have managed to keep all of your heroes healthy and strong.

The Bottom Line
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo Entertainment System features some nice, 8-bit graphics, animation, music and sound effects, especially when you consider that this was designed in the early days of the NES system. It adds in some basic sand box and strategy adventure gaming elements to keep the arcade action from growing stale. This is probably one of the most difficult games designed for the NES and sometimes the level of difficulty is more frustrating then fun. Highly skilled players, willing to tolerate the game's rough spots, will enjoy the game.

By ETJB on May 28, 2014

Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (NES)

Wow! Capcom and Disney do guarantee a great NES game

The Good
Most of the Disney tie-in games for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) were designed by Capcom. I am not sure how this happened, but it was probably one of the best decisions that the two companies made.

Even back in the 8-bit era, Capcom had a well-deserved reputation for making some great games. NES games such as "Duck Tales", "Rescue Rangers" and "Darkwing Duck" became classic, side-scrolling "platforming" games for their superior graphics, music, sound effects and well-design game play mechanics.

Disney Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (herein after referred to as the "Magic Kingdom") is slightly different then the other Disney tie-in games.

The player does not take control of any familiar Disney characters. Instead, you take control of a generic (read: white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant), wholesome-looking, kid with a friendly smile and a cowboy hat.

Our young hero has to locate the keys needed to open the Magic Kingdom's castle. The theme park's castle has the one key used unlock the theme park's gates. Hmm.

Each key is located in a theme park ride, which requires the player to successfully complete a series of mini-games in order to obtain the required key.

Capcom wanted to try something different with the "Magic Kingdom", and, well, this game is certainly "different". It is just not really not that good for a Capcom game.

One of the people behind this game was Tokuro Fujiwara and it does show up. The game's features some nice music and sound effects.

The Bad
The storyline in the game is weak to the point of parody.

Basically, Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters have decided that it would be fun to get a young boy to perform certain, highly destructive and dangerous activities, simply to ensure that Disney makes more money.

Does the Magic Kingdom exists in a world without spare keys or child labor laws? How magical can a Magical Kingdom really be, if it cannot get past theme park locks? Are these magic locks, more magically then the keys needed to open them? The Mystery Science Theater 3000-inspired jokes about the storyline game could go on forever.

Anyways, you start the game wandering around the Disney Theme Park in a poorly designed overhead perspective. Some people may confuse this for being an early video game "open world" or sand box concept, It is not.

Walking around the Theme Park serves no real purpose, other then walking to one of the game's levels (of which they are too few). The theme park does not have much to offer an explorer.

Only one puzzle in the game requires you walk around the Disney Theme Park looking for someone to ask you a Disney Trivia question. If you answer enough of these questions correctly, you are given a key.

How do you get the answers to these trivia questions? Well, hopefully you already know the answers or just keep guessing into you get the right answer.

Even with the hardware limitations of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Capcom still could have developed a much better "sand box" for the Disney Theme Park. As it stands, being able to walk around the park, is just average-looking, window dressing.

Once you walk to a particular theme park ride, a mini-game begins. Compared to other Capcom games based on Disney characters, the levels in the Magic Kingdom are a disappointment.

The game's two side-scrolling levels are the best of the bunch, in terms of graphics, music and playability. Yet, even these two platforming levels are let down.

The Haunted Mansion level starts you out with a limited supply of candle projectiles and has a boss waiting for you at the end of the level.

The Pirates Of The Carribean level does not give you any offensive weapon -- unless you locate it late in the level . After you save the hostages, all you have to do is light a fire (Remember Kids, Don't Play With Matches, Except When Disney Tells You To).

Both of these side-scrolling levels feature the best graphics and music in the game. However, they are far too unpolished to be enjoyable.

The Autopia level is a simple, and uninspiring, racing game with an overhead perspective.

The Big Thunder Mountain level is better designed, then the Autopia level,

The Space Mountain ride is done from an odd first-person perspective. On-screen icons appear telling you what button to press, and you must quickly do so.

For a Capcom game, the Magic Kingdom's graphics are strictly average and the game play is unpolished and uninspiring.

The Bottom Line
Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (1990) takes a different path then other Disney games designed by Capcom. The game lacks much of magic and inspiration that Capcom was able to other Disney tie-in video games. Younger gamers may find the levels too difficult too complete, while other, more seasoned, gamers may find the game too unpolished and uninspiring to complete.

By ETJB on May 22, 2014

Dick Tracy (NES)

A decent movie tie-in game, with a few "dick" moves.

The Good
Dick Tracy started out as a comic strip series in the 1930s. While some men in yellow hats adopted wild animals, Tracy preferred to tame the members of the criminal underworld.

The comic strip became a regular comic book series, along with lots of Dick Tracy merchandise. The Dick Tracy T.V. cartoon series will always have a place in my childhood memories.

In 1990, new life was pumped into the franchise with the release of an ambitious, colorful and campy Dick Tracy film. Alas, the "pump" did not have much fuel.

The film's interpretation of the Dick Tracy comic book series, much like the video game, felt it best to put the detective in a PG, film noir-art deco setting.

While this decision does harkens back to the "classic" Dick Tracy, it did ignore much of what happened in the Tracy comic book series after the Second World War.

Dick Tracy for the Nintendo Entertainment System combines side-scrolling action with some adventure gaming puzzles and even some early "sand box" elements.

Dick Tracy wants to arrest Big Boy, but lacks sufficient evidence. Mr. Tracy has to crack four cases, before he can go after his arch-nemesis in the final, fifth case.

Each case requires the player to collect enough evidence in order to make an arrest. Evidence or clue icons are located in certain side-scrolling levels.

This requires the play to do a bit of adventure game sleuthing, although it is rarely to difficult to figure out where to go based on the clues. Once you figure where you need to go, typically a building or waterfront-themed location, the game switches over to a more standard action game.

In the side-scrolling locations, Dick Tracy can punch, jump, and fire an assortment of cool, 1930s era firearms. The detective will need all his weapons, because each location has a large number of heavily armed thugs with orders to kill.

At the end of a location, instead of a boss, the game may have a familiar character from the film. The character may give out a valuable clue or, if you have enough evidence, you can arrest the crook.

The combination of action and adventure gaming elements works well in the game, with success requiring a good mind and blistered thumbs. It is not without its faults, more on that later, but credit must be given for the developers of this game.

Dick Tracy could have just be a mindless, side-scrolling game. While action is certainly a part of the franchise, Mr. Tracy is also a top-notch detective who can crack the toughest cases.

This game recognizes and respects the Dick Tracy franchise for both its cerebral and blistered thumbs elements.

Lastly, it should be noted that this game features an early, 8-bit version of the "sand box" feature. The player is encouraged to explore the entire city - by car or on foot - and while it's not Grand Theft Auto, it is pretty darn good.

The Bad
Dick Tracy has some very nice graphics in terms of the intermission and interrogation sequences. The actual game's graphics are just slightly above average for an early, 1990s Nintendo Entertainment System game.

The sides-scrolling locations are numerous, but lack much in the way of variation. You are fighting you way through a series of similar looking indoor buildings or similar looking waterfront.

Apparently, only one interior decorator offers his services in the city. Background tends to suffer the most.

The game's graphics are good enough to determine what something is supposed to be, the recycled-looking city locations, with lots similar plants, artwork and office designs can get old quickly.

I cannot say for certain how much of the interior design recycling is a product of design or the hardware limitations of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Either way, I can understand why the sand box concept didn't really become popular until relatively recently. The sand box or "open world" concept requires both superior hardware capabilities as well as a tremendous amount of work and creativity on the part of the developers.

The level of difficulty in Dick Tracy tends to be rather "dickish". Several cheap and mean aspects of the game hurt keep it from being as good as the game has the potential to be.

Dick Tracy is something of a video game wimp. He can only take a few direct hits before he dies, and their are no extra lives or continues.

Yes, a password feature, allows you to start at the beginning of a case. It is cute how the case passwords function as the combination to the safe, but having to restart a case from the beginning becomes tedious.

Killing civilians in the game cost you precious hit points, and the only sure way to know the difference between a criminal versus a civilian is to wait until the criminal opens fire. This is especially a problem because you start the game with very weak firepower.

Later on in the game, you can collect some cool weapons. However, they do tend to run out of ammo quickly. They also tend to be a bit of a pain-in-the-you-know-what to access in the side-scrolling levels.

This is because you are forced to explore you inventory while everyone is trying to kill you. This puts your character into a rather nasty Catch-22 situation.

You will lose hit points, if you shoot an "innocent" citizen.

However, if the citizen does pull out a gun, making them fair game, it is difficult to switch from your fists to your gun, without getting hit.

Yes, the hit points look cute as detective stars, and, yes, their are a few ways to restore some of you hit points, but their is no good rationale for forcing the player to explore his inventory while bullets and bombs are flying every where.

One particularly "dickish" aspect of game, is its habit of making platforms look an awful lot like the background.

This can be a real pain in the waterfront locations where you have to carefully jump into a series of platforms, which look like the background.

If you fall into the water, you get to start the level all over again. Apparently, swim lessons were not part of the detective training process.

But what about the sand box? Well, when you are exploring the city, you are constantly being shot at by nasty snipers who always respawn.

I can accept their spawning after you completed a case, but being resurrected every time you leave the screen, makes the sand box rules seem petty and tedious.

Your police car seems to be able to block the snipers bullets, but otherwise seems to be made out of aluminum. Your car has to slow down, if not fully stop, to turn corners and no one in the city seems to practice basic rules of the road.

Seriously, respect for law and order seems to be on the sharp decline in this city. It seems that respectable citizens think nothing of associating with heavily armed criminals, or, when you are driving, ramming into police cars. It almost makes you reconsider your pledge to protect and serve!

None of the city's residents seem interested in helping out. Just about all of the characters you meet are trying to kill you, trying to get in your way or just seen to take delight in making you do lots of tedious legwork.

The Bottom Line
Dick Tracy for the Nintendo Entertainment System combines action-adventure gameplay elements with a rudimentary sand box. Clearly, a lot of creativity went into the look and design of the game, but the game suffers from both the hardware limitations of the system and some cheap moves by the developers. Think of the game as one with some pretty sharp, rough edges, but also some real creativity.

By ETJB on May 22, 2014

Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller (3DO)

Dystopian Damnation, Sort Of

The Good
The mere fact that this game was developed for a home console system is quite impressive.

As a rule, few point and click, graphic adventure games ever saw the light of day beyond their original computer land. For one reason or another, it was felt that home console games needed to be made for blistered thumbs. Period.

Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller is not the greatest adventure game around, and it's faults cannot be glossed over. However, it is a port of solid adventure game, with a few nice touches unique to the 3DO.

The 3DO port retains the original games dystopian setting. In the future, a fascist-Christian fundamentalist elite, rule with an iron fist. All religious or political dissent is treated as the work of terrorists.

Likewise, anyone caught dealing in victimless vices or being associated with any type of sexuality outside a government approved marriage, is treated as a dangerous, enemy of the state

The social commentary behind this dystopian tale may be lost on younger gamers, but they should resonate well with folks familiar with the real life "culture wars" in America.

It was during the 1970s - 1990s that the "religious right" faction came into existence as a major player in politics.

I not questioning anyone's First Amendment rights. I am also not going to claim that the religious right sought to create the type of fascist-theocracy seen in the video game.

However, it was during the 1970s - 1990s, that the push for the government to oppose religious pluralism, to oppose "immorality" in the media, to oppose sex education, to oppose feminism, to oppose gay rights, etc. took on a rather unkind sectarian-political tone.

Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller - released in the 1990s - is suggesting what could happen if a group such as the religious right were in a position to run the nation and eliminate political or religious dissent as well as anything they deemed to be heresy, sin or vice. Think of it as a hi-tech, Spanish Inquisition.

If the "religious right" is not you cup of tea, then the game's story and themes will be quite enjoyable. The game's graphics, music and sound effects all do a nice job of adventure game story telling

The puzzles are the same, and the game's point and click user interface is responsive and easy to pick up.

The 3DO edition of the game features improved graphics, especially in the full-motion-video sequences, which are now full-screen.

Not only is this edition of Hell, easier to play, since the PC version only ran in DOS, but the developers of the 3DO edition wisely choose to take advantage of the home console systems hardware.

The Bad
Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller takes awhile to really find its adventure game legs.

For example, initially, you spend quite a bit of time talking to people with little room to explore. I can appreciate the need to introduce the characters and the plot, but it does still take awhile.

Once the adventure gaming truely begins, the result is generally, just OK. Yes, the game features - for a video game - big name Hollywood stars and a nicely designed dystopian universe.

However, you only get to explore a, fairly, small part of the huge city and not many of its inhabitants are anything more then nice looking decorations.

Much of the character dialogue in Hell, is unintentionally funny. Yes, the actors and actresses doing the voice work is quite impressive for a video game released in the 1990s.

However, the game's dystopian setting and social commentary are not helped by average, if not silly, dialogue.

Yes, It is difficult to create the sort of dialogue and story arch necessary for a video game to have the same sort of emotional impact as a film. However, it is not impossible, even in the 1990s when adventure games were beginning to utilize the next-generation hardware.

The Longest Journey (1999) is an example of an adventure game designed by people who had a sense of how to write video game characters and develop video game storylines so as to draw the player into the fictitious world.

You come to care about the heroine in the Longest Journey, which also deals with social commentary and dystopian themes. Sadly, you never become invested in the fate of the heroes in Hell.

The Bottom Line
Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller makes use of the 3DO hardware in order to improve upon the game's full-motion-video quality and size. Few other differences can be found in this version of the game. If you enjoy dystopian fiction, and some jabs at religious fundamentalists, then you should give this game a try.

By ETJB on May 15, 2014

Dick Tracy (Genesis)

Guns Don't Kill People, Dick Tracy Kills People!

The Good
Dick Tracy for the Sega Genesis (or the PAL Mega Drive) successfully recreates the sights and sounds of the 1930s, as imagined in the Dick Tracy comics as well as the Dick Tracy movie that had been theatrically released a year earlier in 1990.

The player takes control of famous, trench coat-wearing, plainclothes detective with one basic goal in mind; find and bring down the nefarious criminal kingpin known as, Big Boy.

Forget about cerebral, sleuthing or Constitutional due process! This detective has been given a license to commit widespread vandalism and mass murder in order to uphold law and order.

To accomplish this goal, Dick Tracy has to shoot and punch his way through several, colorful, urban levels, each with an army of number of heavily armed, criminal thugs.

Sprinkled throughout the game are some familiar comic book criminals acting as end-of-the-level bosses; Itchy, The Brow, Lips Manlis, Pruneface and Flattop. After bringing these big name criminals down, you find the location of the Big Boy himself.

Naturally, the city's police would never dream of sending their top notch detective on such a dangerous mission without the proper weapons.

Dick Tracy can take out bad guys with his trusty fists and a nice little pistol. For enemies and property in the background, Mr. Tracy has access to a Tommy gun.

In addition to high body count, Dick Tracy also has the ability to vandalize property, i.e. windows, fire hydrants and street lights.

If you avoid hitting any of the property, you can earn some bonus points, which, along with a shooting gallery bonus round help to break up the side-scrolling action.

Most of the time Dick Tracy is slowly walking from the start to the finish of a level. Luckily, a few levels switch up the action by having you take control of the detective during a high-speed police chase.

The game play mechanics are responsive and easy to pick up.

Hit detection in the game seems reasonable and, yes, there is certainly something undeniable fun about waging a one- man war against crime, albeit colorful comic book crime.

The Bad
Dick Tracy – the video game – much like the 1990 feature film of the same name choose to set everything in the colorful, Hollywoodized 1930s.

To some extent this makes sense, and I can see the rationale behind it, but it does mean that the video game and feature film have little to do with the Dick Tracy comic book franchise as it had developed in the 1960s – 1980s.

Dick Tracy befriended, hi-tech extraterrestrials in the 1960s, got a hippie sidekick in the 1970s, and worked with a top-notch, black, female police officer in the 1980s.

Tracy and his diverse group of friends had marriages, dealt with triumph and tragedy in their own lives and were much more developed characters – by 1990 – then was seen in the video game or the film feature.

Don't get me wrong. Dick Tracy is a fun, action-packed game to play on the Sega Genesis. However, much like the Dick Tracy movie, it is presents a narrow, somewhat dated, window into the popular franchise.

The game has nice intermissions sequences to help move the story along, but their just isn't much in the way of story to use, much less move around.

The bosses in the game are, generally, well designed. Although, one end-of-the-level bosses was incredible wimpy and went down with one punch.

Last, but not least, Dick Tracy is one of the slowest moving video game character around. If their was every a game that needed the ability to walk and run, this is it.



The Bottom Line
Dick Tracy recreates the colorful, comic book sights and sounds of the franchise, albeit in its early days.

It is set in the 1930s, much like the feature film. Although the game borrows little from the film's plot, except the final battle with Big Boy, and is a pretty straight-forward, side-scrolling, arcade game.

Dick Tracy is fun to play, which is probably the most important thing in any video game. It is easy to pick up the game's controls and, did I mention that you got a kick-ass, Tommy gun at your disposal? Heck, where else can you play a detective armed with a Tommy gun and a license to destroy property and kill anything that moves?

By ETJB on May 12, 2014

Resident Evil 2 (PlayStation)

Bigger! Longer! Scarier! Uncut!

The Good
Resident Evil 2 (a.k.a. Biohazard for PAL gamers) is one of those rare times when the video game sequel is actually better then the original game.

Something stinks in Raccoon City, and I don't just mean the undead's reluctance to practice good personal hygiene.

The surviving members of the STARS team cannot convince anyone in Raccoon City that Umbrella Corporation was responsible for creating the flesh-eating, zombies and other malicious abominations as part of its unethical, if not illegal, biological weapons program.

Frustrated, the STARS team members decide to go their separate ways, hoping the evidence to bring down the Umbrella Corporation exists somewhere. Not too longer after their departure, the beautiful city becomes less “Leave It To Beaver” and more “Night Of The Living Dead” meets “Mad Max".

When Resident Evil 2 begins we meet two new heroes who have just arrived in the city; Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. Leon is a rookie cop on his first day on the job, and Claire is searching for her brother (who is member of the STARS team).

Resident Evil 2 features much better graphics, music and sound effects then the first Resident Evil game. This is not sot suggest the first game was inferior.

The first Resident Evil game excelled in all of these areas as well, which makes it all the more amazing that the developers were able to make the sequel look and sound even that much better.

It is as if with each new Resident Evil video game the developers found new ways to push the Sony PlayStation 1 hardware capabilities to new heights.

Resident Evil 2 also features much better, more responsive controls, with cool new weapons and some new abilities – such as the ability to push a biting zombie away.

Again, Resident Evil 1 offered some great control, and it is simply amazing that the developers found ways to add to and improve upon the control mechanics when making Resident Evil 2.

One of the great features of this game is that to fully appreciate all that the game has to offer, you must first beat the game as one character and then beat the game as the other character.

Depending on how many times you beat the game (and how long it takes you to beat the game) additional secrets and weapons become available to you.

The game is on two discs, so if you beat the game with Leon, then you must beat the game as Claire or vice verse. This greatly adds to the replay value of the game, because who you beat the game with the first or second time and other little details will impact the story and how many deep, dark secrets you be able to uncover. And there are plenty of those to uncover.

Leon meets up with a "femme fatale" wandering the police station. Claire meets up with a lost, little girl. Both characters will interact with a cynical reporter, a corrupt police chief and, a few other human and not-so-human characters, which make the zombies flesh-eating habits seem tame in comparison.

Heck, the developers even found new and creative ways to make Resident Evil 2 even scarier then the first game. The more you learn about the police chief, Umbrella corporation and just how the virus spread throughout the entire city, the more you will want to play your video games with the lights on.

The Bad
Resident Evil 2 is uncut. Where as bits and pieces of the first game were censored, everything in this survival horror game is seen (or implied) for all to see.

This is not a video game designed for young children or easily scared adults. Survival horror is not a video game genre for everyone and it is worth noting some of the "mature" content in this video game.

Resident Evil 2 features a high level of graphic violence, blood and gore. If you blush at R-rated horror films, or are too young to watch them, then you might not want to be exposed to some of the content in this video game.

The zombies and other mutated monsters you must kill in the Resident Evil 2 are creepy and grotesque abominations who have a deep-seated lust for the sweet taste of human flesh.

You must put aside your feelings of sympathy -- as these zombies and monsters used to be human beings -- in order to not just survive but help other people survive as well.

The only "treatment" for these creatures is death and death by an assortment of cool, hi-powered weapons that bring a whole, new meaning to the phrase, "the right of the people to keep and bare arms shall not be infringed."

This is also a video game with some rather mature -- even downright perverted -- ideas about sexuality. The Chief Of Police in Resident Evil 2 is not only corrupt, but sexual sadist of the misogynistic sort.

This sordid little secret is gleamed by reading some diary entries, looking at the Chief's artwork he has setup around the police station and, yes, the tools located in his secret workshop.

Again, it is not as sexually explicit as say, the infamous "Hot Coffee Mood" mini game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and the game itself is not endorsing misogyny. However, the content in Resident Evil 2 -- even the subject -- is not something suitable for all ages or interests.

The Bottom Line
Resident Evil 2 greatly improves upon all that was great, scary and downright "Night Of The Living Dead"-esque in the first Resident Evil game. Everything about Resident Evil 2 demonstrates not just the creativity of the developers, but also the amazing hardware capability of the Sony Playstation 1. If you enjoy survival horror, then you must play this game.

By ETJB on April 17, 2014

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PlayStation)

Something New, Something Old, Something Borrowed....

The Good
Resident Evil 3 (Biohazard for PAL gamers) was the last Resident Evil game in the series to be released for the original Sony PlayStation system.

The first game probably helped sell quite a few of the original Sony systems, so it was nice to see that the classic survival horror game got one more chance to shine on the system, which would seen be eclipsed by the then-Next Generation video game console systems.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has some of the best animation and graphics you are likely to see on the first PlayStation home console system.

All of the game's characters and locations look great. The CGI story sequences are incredible and everything just looks and moves incredibly well and, yes, supernatural terror is everywhere in this game.

The game's got plenty of great-looking zombies and other malevolent monsters to do battle with as well. Fans of the first Resident Evil game will notice some familiar faces and, yes, no review of Resident Evil 3 would be complete without mentioning the Nemesis character.

The Nemesis is -- essentially -- a better designed and tougher version of Mr X. When you try to beat Resident Evil 2 the second time, the mysterious and massive Mr. X character would sometimes appear and attempt to end your game.

Beyond having a better name, Nemesis is not only much faster then Jill Valentine, but also has the ability to open doors. This means going into a different room is not (necessarily) going to keep you safe from the Nemesis.

It is not just the Nemesis character; while the zombies and mutated monsters cannot open doors, they are all much scarier and more aggressive in Resident Evil 3. Thankfully, the improvements found in the third game do not end their.

Resident Evil 3 also features better, tighter, game play mechanics. Jill Valentine can mix ammo, in addition to herbs, to create new weapons. Her ability to quickly turn around and push zombies off of her has been improved upon.

I thought that Resident Evil 2 had the best controls in the series, when I first played it, but I have to say that Resident Evil 3 managed to improve upon greatness in the game play department.

So, everything about Resident Evil 3 seems to be great, wonderful and cool, right? Well, sadly this title in the franchise does have a few grave (no pun intended) problems.

The Bad
If the better animation, graphics, game play are the "something new" in Resident Evil 3, the problems with the game tend to fall under the "something borrowed" and "something old" headlines.

Resident Evil 3 borrows some ideas seen in Dino Crisis, in an effort to extend the replay value of the game. Someone at Capcom probably knew that going from the massive, two disc Resident Evil 2 game to a one disc sequel was not going to sit well with fans.

To help bump up the replay value, Resident Evil 3 features randomized locations for items -- i.e. ammo, herbs and objects needed to solve puzzles -- and sets up specific "live" opportunities in the game where you must quickly choose from a set of on-screen options.

Where as moving the location of objects in Resident Evil 2 was part of the expanded storyline -- found in attempting to beat the game twice, with a different character -- Resident Evil 3's storyline does not really offer anything new.

While Raccoon City looks great, certain streets and pathways in the game are blocked. This means that you have to take the “long way” to get to and from important locations in Raccoon City.

Initially, this requirement to find 'alternative routes' does make sense and encourages you to explore Raccoon City. After all, the once idyllic Raccoon City has taken a nosedive into glorious, B-movie, anarchy.

Local citizens are no longer burden by “big governments” taxes, rules, regulations or other laws. If gun control ever existed in Raccoon City, it is a safe bet that owning (at least one) gun has become mandatory, unless you are feeling suicidal. Heck, maybe all the Tea Party supporters need to do is find their own Raccoon City. But, I digress.

While the blockades and the like, all make sense, given the recent events, it can make Resident Evil 3 unnecessarily tedious.

Why? Their are actually not too many puzzles in the Raccoon City portion of the game, and it is pretty obvious what sort of object you need to solve the puzzles.

However, too many of the puzzles require you to go back and forth, covering large sections of the city, in order to solve them. So, when you are one side of the city and realize that you need an object located on the other side city, having to take several “long routes” (simply to get from Point 'A', to Point 'B' and back again) is really, really, really tedious. It is also totally unnecessary.

Resident Evil 3 could have easily had a feature built into it where, you could have Jill Valentine open certain manhole covers in order to take some direct, “short cuts” throughout the city.

Some people may actually enjoy the long walks back and forth through Raccoon City (especially if you are on the hunt for herbs or ammo), but most people would probably like the direct route option. This option seems all the more reasonable, when you consider the fact that there is not too much to do in Raccoon City beyond the specific, linear puzzles.

Raccoon City looks great and clearly a significant amount of time went into the city's design, layout and overall look.

The game offers the early signs of the “Open World” and “Sandbox” concepts would be later become quite popular in video games. However, it is more of a whiff then anything else.

Once you scratch the surface, Resident Evil 3 is not really too exploratory or interactive. Maybe Capcom finally reached the hardware limitations of the Sony PlayStation 1 or maybe not enough time was allotted for development.

Whatever the reason, Jill Valentine cannot enter most of the homes, commercial and other buildings you walk (or run) past. For the most part, access to buildings is limited to the ones needed to accomplish very specific goals.

So, while you are free to explore large chunks of Raccoon City, the player cannot really do much in the city outside the standard Resident Evil format of killing monsters, grabbing herbs and ammo and picking up items needed to solve puzzles.

In fact, much of the challenge in Raccoon City is not really figuring out how to solve the puzzles. Much of the challenges involves figuring out how to survive the army of undead and mutated monsters, while taking a series 'scenic routs' back and forth to certain locations.

Once you leave Raccoon City two things will stand out. First, the early whiff of open world and sandbox quickly concepts fade away (leaving a much linear, survival horror game) and the game is almost over.

Jill Valentine is pretty much on her own in Resident Evil 3. While she is a tough soldier (and one of my favorite STARS members), this is a noticeable shift from the number of important (and playable) characters in Resident Evil 2.

Granted, Resident Evil 2 was a massive, two-disc game, but it is hard to avoid the fact the not only is the story shorter in Resident Evil 3, it fails to really keep the player engaged.

Jill frequently battles the “Nemesis” – a huge monster that is faster then Jill and able to open doors – in Resident Evil 3, but he does not really add much to the story.

Yes, he is a tough and scary “mini-boss” (for lack of a better term) who keeps popping up in the game, but he does not really offer any sort of tangible story development.

In contrast. Resident Evil 2 had two, huge, min-bosses in the game. One of which had an interesting back story that was a major part of the Resident Evil 2's story.

Yet in Resident Evil 3, the Nemesis min-boss is basically an advanced, better looking version of the silent Mr. X character who appeared when you tried to beat Resident Evil a second time with a different character.

Yes, in Resident Evil 3, Jill Valentine does meet members of an elite military unit in Resident Evil 3, who have been hired by the Umbrella Corporation to locate survivors.

Most of the these soldiers are so obviously“red shirts” (to borrow an old-school, Star Trek term), I was actually surprised that none of the “dead men walking” wore red shirts.

I can accept, even appreciate, the B-dialogue in Resident Evil games, as something of am homage to classic horror and science fiction film.

However, because most of members of this special unit are not really that interesting, important or helpful in the game, an opportunity to add some, much-needed, depth to the Resident Evil 3 storyline is lost.

Instead, when we close the door on Raccoon City, it stays closed, and Jill is joined by only one other member of this – allegedly – topnotch search and rescue squad. When you crash into the last half of the game, the whiff of an open world concept is quickly dashed.

The few remaining locations to explore in the game all look incredible, the hospital in Resident Evil 3 is one of the scariest locations depicted in the entire franchise, but you are kept on a fairly tight, linear track, with only as few, simple, puzzles to accomplish.

By “simple” I mean that – like virtually all of the puzzles in the game – it is obvious what object you need to solve the puzzle. This late in the game, it is not too difficult to find the required object, as you are able to access fewer locations.

Instead, the challenge becomes one of battling the waves of monsters and making the – possible tedious – walk (or run) back and forth to the two points in the game.

Resident Evil 3 does an uneven job of properly balancing the arcade and adventure gaming elements. The game is driven much more by arcade action, then any good adventure gaming puzzles, and the puzzles often get hurt by the requirement to backtrack.

For example, when Jill becomes injured you – as the solider – have to get to the city's hospital (Point 'B'), solve a few puzzles, battle lots and lots of monsters and then backtrack your way to Jill (Point A).

It is slightly less tedious because, this late in the game, you don’t have (as much) space to back track as you did in Raccoon City, but the puzzles in Resident Evil 3 just never seem as fun as they did in Resident Evil 2. In Resident Evil 3, heavily armed, brawns seem to be much, much more important then brains.

Frankly, much of the tedious backtracking seen in Resident Evil 3 and empahsis on the arcade action is similar to what was seen in Resident Evil 1.

The only time a puzzle in Resident Evil 3 is likely to require some serious brains, is the music box puzzle. The musical solution is randomized and it is not easy to try and notice the slight variations that you have to perfectly repeat.

Beyond having a random solution, one of the reasons that the puzzle is tough (insanely so, given most of the puzzles in the game), is because of merely adeqaute quality of the music and sound effects in Resident Evil 3.

Within the Resident Evil franchise, gamers have come to exepct much, much better music and sound effects then what is offered up in Resident Evil 3. It would be a mistake to think that game's music and and sound effects are horrible.

Resident Evil 3 has – mostly – “adequate” music and sound effects. They are no where near as great as they should – be within the Resident Evil video game franchise – and sometimes, such as with the music box puzzle, they end up making things even more tedious.

The Bottom Line
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is the final Resident Evil game to be released for the original Sony PlayStation home system. It offers amazing animation, graphics and game play mechanics. The game is certainly scary, although it does a better job with the arcade action elements of survival horror, then the adventure gaming puzzles. With a few additions and modifications this game could be re-leased as one of the greatest entries in the Resident Evil series.

By ETJB on April 17, 2014

Taz-Mania (SNES)

Sort of Like "Wacky Races", you know, minus the fun...

The Good
The Wacky Races was a fun, Hanna-Barbera cartoon film and TV series featuring a whole bunch of familiar characters attempting to win a race.

This is relevant to this review, because one of my first thoughts about Taz-Mania was that it was trying to channel the Wacky Races (even through characters from Hanna-Barbera and the WB did not often date)

The Super Nintendo is capable of some nice colorful graphics, and in this case the video game Taz certainly looks like his classic, cartoon counterpart.

The Bad
The developers of this game decided to allow the player to control Taz from a from a third-person perspective, not unlike a driving video game.

However, instead of driving around in a car, Taz gets to speed walk on the open road, avoiding (just about) everything in sight, while trying to grab enough Kiwi's before the timer runs out.

Just about everything you see in the game wants to hurt you, kill you or drag you back to the beginning of the level. How anyone could have thought that this would be a fun idea for a video game based on a popular cartoon character is beyond me.

So, we got the "instant-death" female stalker, the prehistoric bird that drops you back at the start of the level, and the idiot who makes large hands appear on-screen.

Anything else? Well, you also get to avoid being hit by telephone polls, cars, trucks, water, oil spills, etc. I half expected to see some deadly blades of grass.

But surely, the cartoon devil has a few, cool tricks up his sleeves, right? Well, not so much in this game.

Using Taz's tornado spin will cause his health meter to drop, basically bringing your close to death. That is pretty much his only form of defense and it does not always seem to work.

Yes, you can collect special kind of shoes on your walking, road trip. These items can help you go faster, although that is not always useful.

Remember that you are basically stuck, speed walking on a race track. Just about everything on-screen hurts your, kills you or ruins any chance of beating the level.

Yes, one of the cartoon characters on the road trip will sometimes toss you something you can eat, which restores your health. However, this helpful character is just as likely to toss you some T.N.T, which is not very helpful or healthy for a cartoon animal.

If you do stick around for the game's 19 speed-walking levels, you are given a cheap ending.

The Bottom Line
Taz-Mania for the Super Nintendo looks nice and colorful, with plenty of nice animation for Taz and the various enemies and obstacles in the game. It is not a particularly fun game to play, unless you really like the type of racing games that involve you speed-walking on the track.

By ETJB on April 11, 2014

Golden Axe II (Genesis)

More Silver Than Golden

The Good
The first Golden Axe game found well-deserved success both as a coin-op, arcade game and as a Genesis (or Mega Drive) home console port.

One successful video game was probably going to get a sequel -- especially in the early 1990s when Nintendo and Sega were in fierce competition -- and I can certainly appreciate much of the thought process that went into developing Golden Axe II.

Golden Axe II keeps the fantasy setting and basic game play mechanics of the first game. Each of the three characters from the first Golden Axe return in the sequel to do battle, again, and they many of the same sort of offensive and defense moves found in the first game.

During the game's action, you can -- like the first Golden Axe game -- collect icons to restore your health and perform certain, magical attacks.

Sometimes -- like the first Golden Axe game -- you can ride on a strange creature. OK, did they actually change anything in Golden Axe II? Yes, they did.

The "back attack" move in the first Golden Axe was revised into an attack that hits enemies from all sides.

The sequel allows you to throw enemies in either direction (which makes it easier to hit other enemies or toss them off a cliff) and a very good change was made to the magic attacks.

The first game automatically used up all of the magic your character had in one shot. The sequel allowed you to choose how much magic you wanted to use up.

Golden Axe II also introduced two types of games ones. One is the standard, side-scrolling, 1 or 2-player game. The other puts the player in an arena whereby you have to battle various enemies.

Beyond that, Golden Axe II gives the characters slight changes in their wardrobe and their does seem to be some, variation in the how long the character's weapon is.

The Bad
The control modifications in Golden Axe II are quite good, but they are the only thing that developers really improved upon from Golden Axe I.

The visual and audio effects in Golden Axe II are something of a mixed bag. The sequel does use some nice FX (mostly later on in the game) and yes, the music is quite catchy.

However, the sound effects in Golden Axe II are laughably bad and detract from the good music. Seriously, I cannot imagine how no one in Sega didn't write a memo about the need to fix the game's sound effects.

Overall the graphics do not really seem to be a significant improvement from the first Golden Axe game and, with few exemptions, the visuals in the sequel seem a tad rushed and overwhelming.

Maybe it is just me, but the characters (and backgrounds) actually seem a bit smaller and less detailed in Golden Axe II.

The Bottom Line
Golden Axe II has better and smoother control then its predecessor, which makes it more fun to play. The game's musical score is also quite nice, but most of the game's sound effects and graphics are, at best, underwhelming. It is fun to play, but it's less golden and more of a silver axe.

By ETJB on April 11, 2014

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