Breakout

BreakoutBuy this gameThe Game: There exists, somewhere on a tropical isle, a species of paddle-esque life forms (not unlike the inhabitants of Pong), and their idyllic existence is shattered by the arrival of evil dictator Batnix. Batnix kidnaps fair Daisy and the rest of your friends, sequestering them in perilous dungeons around the world. As Bouncer the Paddle, you must break out of your own prison by smashing through the walls with steel balls, and then travel to various locales to free all of your friends. As you release your comrades, you can also play as them in certain rounds to make use of their special abilities in your quest to free Daisy and defeat Batnix once and for all. As always, keep an eye on your balls, for they are your greatest weapons. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 2000)

Memories: This game is proof positive that I can milk any video ping-pong game for an endless array of lowbrow “balls” jokes. It’s also proof positive that updated versions really do work sometimes. Continue reading

Builder’s Block

Builder's BlockBuy this gameThe Game: Eat my dust, SimCity. Builder’s Block doesn’t ask you to build a city that conforms to any notions of political or environmental correctness. It just asks you to build it fast – damn fast. Match up color-coded blocks to expand the size of your buildings, use other special blocks to eliminate blocks whose colors won’t allow them to integrate them into buildings, and use the “clear level” block to collect your bonus and move to the next level before more blocks pile up than you can do anything with. It’s sort of like Tetris meets SimTower. The game includes puzzle, battle and arcade modes; the latter is the most graphically dazzling, betraying the game’s roots in the mid-1990s Taito arcade game Landmaker. (Taito, 2000)

Memories: Originally released a few years ago, Builder’s Block is now reappearing in bargain game bins once again, so it seemed like a good time to revisit it. I’d never heard of this game before, and it’s surprisingly addictive with a strong old-school puzzle game vibe. If you dig Tetris, you’ll like this one. Continue reading

Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge

Frogger 2: Swampy's RevengeBuy this gameThe Game: What a crock! Swampy the crocodile has grown tired of Frogger’s fame and fortune. (The fact that Frogger now has a cute girlfriend named Lillie Frog probably doesn’t help matters much in the jealousy department either.) Swampy kidnaps Lillie’s baby siblings and scatters them in a variety of settings. Now it’s up to Frogger and Lillie to tracks down the tadpoles and show Swampy who’s in charge. (Hasbro Interactive, 2000)

Memories: This game almost needs to be titled Frogger 2: The Apology. As happy as everyone was to see Hasbro’s new version of Frogger a year or two ago, the game suffered from control problems, the common “swooping camera” malaise, and very few connections to the original arcade game. Frogger 2 rectifies many of those problems. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launched – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. (Hasbro Interactive, 2000)

Memories: Oof. As good as Galaga: Destination Earth turned out for the Playstation (and yes, I do realize that not everyone will agree with me on that point), the Game Boy Color port is honestly one of the weakest games I’ve seen for the portable platform. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launch – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. Now, however, you wage war on the bugs from one of three perspectives: Alpha configuration (an exceedingly difficult first-person vantage point), Gamma configuration (a side-scrolling shooter, a la Defender), and Delta configuration (an upward shooter like the original Galaga). You can also capture the aliens’ tractor beam device and use it against them, capturing their own ships and commandeering them. (Hasbro Interactive [under license from Namco], 2000)

Memories: This game has been much pooh-poohed by the modern gaming press, as well as by several classic gaming outlets. I’m here to break ranks with the masses – who are all too ready to declare that a new title sucks anyway – and let you know that Galaga: Destination Earth isn’t that bad. Continue reading

Lego Rock Raiders

Lego Rock RaidersOrder this gameThe Game: The Rock Raiders are zipping through space, looking for another planet to explore, when a gigantic wormhole opens up and whisks them into the next galaxy. Before you can say “Mister Paris, engage!,” Chief and his crew are already scouting out new worlds to mine. One planet seems like a particularly promising candidate, but sensors detect other life forms there. Your job is to help various members of the Rock Raiders crew perform mining, exploration and rescue tasks on the surface of this strange new world as safely as possible. (Lego Media, 2000)

Memories: This may be just about the coolest game I’ve seen on the Playstation since MTV Music Generator. Now, you’re probably already laughing it up, wondering why in the world someone who’s pushing 30 is playing a game where the protagonists are well-rendered little Lego men (yep, just like the ones that come with the toys). But believe it or not, despite the exceedingly simple early tutorial missions that kick things off, this is actually quite the crafty little real-time strategy game. Continue reading

Marble Madness

Marble MadnessThe Game: You control the speed and direction of a marble which is racing other marbles to reach the finish line. Obstacles along the way include marble-eating creatures, treacherous cliffs and drawbridges, and the game’s own unreliable controls! (Midway, 2000)

Memories: Color me impressed. Atari‘s Marble Madness coin-op, based on the company’s System 1 architecture, was an eye-opener when it hit the arcades in 1984. And it’s still an eye-opener with Digital Eclipse’s stunning port of the game for the Game Boy Color. Marble Madness sports some of the most impressive color graphics yet seen on a Game Boy – but the same maddening and frustrating game play as its inspiration. Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness

Ms. Pac-Man Maze MadnessBuy this gameThe Game: The evil witch Mesmerelda kidnaps Professor Pac-Man into her alternate dimension before Ms. Pac-Man’s very eyes. To rescue Professor Pac, Ms. Pac must retrieve the four crystals of virtue (what, is she gonna run into Lord British along the way or somethin’?) and defeat the countless evil minions of Mesmerelda, ranging from the usual pesky ghosts to fast-moving, whirling-dervish-type critters, fire-breathing dragons, a special guest appearance by Centipede, and more. Power pellets, of course, provide the universal solution to all of these problems: if it gets in your way, eat it! But the challenge becomes how to find that all-important next power pellet? (Namco, 2000)

Memories: I really liked the “maze mode” of last year’s Pacs-travaganza, Pac-Man World, and I can safely say this: those of us who enjoyed that aspect of Pac-Man World will get a big kick out of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness. Unlike her hubby’s retro revival game, which imbued Pac-Man with numerous new powers such as the rev-roll, the butt-bounce, and so forth, Ms. Pac just has herself. She can’t butt-bounce, rev-roll, or any of that strange stuff. She can only jump with the help of strategically-placed springy things, she can push movable blocks and crates of TNT around, and she can fly with the aid of magic carpets. No super-powers for Ms. Pac-Man – just her own resourcefulness…and, of course, yours. Continue reading

Pipe Dreams 3D

Pipe Dreams 3DBuy this gameThe Game: Let’s get one thing straight – flooze is bad. Flooze is green, smelly and toxic, and you don’t want to spill any of it. You’re in charge of building a maze of pipes around various obstacles to carry the flooze from its point of origin to a drain that appears at a predetermined time, or when certain objectives have been met (such as running the flooze under a series of floating stars, or getting it to cross a bridge). As with other great puzzle games like Tetris, you can’t just build a great drainage system for the flooze – you’re stuck with whatever pieces are next in the random rotation. You do get a look at the next four pieces in the pipeline – literally – so you can plan ahead strategically. If you fail to keep a continuous run of pipe going, the flooze spills out, costing you points and eventually a life. (Empire Interactive, 2000 – for Playstation)

Memories: Essentially a bit of a rethink of Loco Motion, Pipe Dreams for the NES dispensed with the sliding-tile-puzzle basis of the game and substituted a very Tetris-esque random assortment in its place. The game was still maddeningly fun, and for its revival on the Playstation, not much was changed – just a somewhat gratuitous 3D view of the playing field. Continue reading

South Park Rally

South Park RallyOrder this gameThe Game: As any one of a large number of residents of that blissful burg known as South Park, Colorado, you compete against the rest of the town in a no-holds-barred race through the snowy streets. Helpful power-ups and hapless cattle are sprinkled liberally through the town like so many Cheesy Poofs. (Acclaim, 2000)

Memories: This hilarious third entry in Acclaim’s series of South Park video games takes a classic arcade staple – the first-person racing game – and adds some sound bytes, characters, and scatological humor to create what may be the best South Park title available. Continue reading

Space Battleship Yamato

Space Battleship YamatoThe Game: In the year 2199, Earth is beseiged by radioactive planet bombs launched by the Gamilons. When two junior officers happen upon alien wreckage on Mars, including a message intended for Earth with details of new propulsion and weapon systems, and the promise of a device which could restore Earth to its former beauty, the wheel is set in motion for mankind’s final desperate gambit for survival. The WWII battleship Yamato is repaired and made spaceworthy with the new technology, and Captain Okita hand-picks a dedicated young crew to fly the ship to the planet Iscandar – the source of the message – and back. That’s where you step in for Okita – using a rotating ring of character heads, you can give characters such as Susumu Kodai, Yuki Mori and Daisuke Shima their orders, get their advice, and engage in combat with the Gamilons in space and on the surfaces of various planets. (Bandai, 2000)

Memories: Oh, how I wanted to love this game. An epic adventure game based on Space Battleship Yamato? Count me in.

Sadly, this isn’t an epic adventure game. It’s two-thirds CGI movie, and one-third plodding turn-based combat game. Continue reading

Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles

Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power BattlesOrder this gameThe Game: As one of five Jedi Knights (or two, if you have a second player for cooperative mode), you take on the entire Trade Federation battle droid army in an attempt to reach Naboo, save Jar Jar and the Queen (and yes, you do have to save Jar Jar), and safeguard these two and a certain young potential Jedi from battle droids, Darth Maul and other menaces. And these aren’t your wimpy battle droids who short circuit if you tell ’em you’re taking the queen to Coruscant, either – these are kick-ass droids with slick martial arts moves who can inflict some serious damage. But then again…so can you. (LucasArts, 2000)

Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power BattlesMemories: The second entry in LucasArts’ effort to mine Star Wars: Episode I for new Playstation games is a vast improvement over the previous, generically titled Phantom Menace game. And, at long last, Jedi Power Battles offers something that has been missing from the Star Wars video gaming genre for a long time: a chance to fight some battles with the lightsaber as your chief weapon. Continue reading

Star Wars: Demolition

Star Wars: DemolitionOrder this gameThe Game: Jabba the Hutt has convened a host of hotshot pilots and a fleet of modern (i.e. original trilogy) and outdated (i.e. prequel-era) vehicles to engage in winner-take-all vehicular warfare. Contestants and opponents include Boba Fett, super-armed Snowspeeders, Trade Federation tanks, bounty hunter Aurra Sing on her swoop bike, Battle Droids astride their STAPS, and others. Obstacles include slow-moving Jawa sandcrawlers, unpredictable Banthas, and a little thing we call the Sarlacc – and that’s just on the Tattooine track. Other tracks include Cloud City, Hoth, Naboo, and – how did Jabba get permission to race there? – the Death Star. (LucasArts [developed by Activision], 2000)

Memories: Star Wars: Demolition is right up there with the upcoming PS2 game Super Bombad Racing. Demolition is a decent game, but for the fans who demand something that cleaves tightly to the continuity of the Star Wars universe, you’d best look elsewhere. If you have any doubt, check the bullet point on the game’s packaging: Interactive environment – blow it all up! ‘Nuff said. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite ForceOrder this gameThe Game: As Ensign Alexander (or Alexandria) Munro of the elite Hazard Team of the U.S.S. Voyager, you take the missions that no one else wants. You have a phaser rifle in your hand, your teammates at your side, and Captain Janeway counting on you to get the job done. Now go forth and show that alien scum exactly what Hazard Team’s Prime Directive is! (Activision, 2000)

Memories: Here’s a game that I’m sure all true Star Trek fans have been waiting for with bated breath: a first-person shooter in the grand traditions of Doom and Quake set in the Star Trek universe. Elite Force fulfills that desire quite admirably. Continue reading

Star Trek: Invasion

Star Trek: InvasionOrder this gameThe Game: Starfleet’s long-range probes detect a massive Borg invasion fleet headed for Sector 001 – an incursion that couldn’t happen at a worse time, since Starfleet is still licking its wounds after the costly Dominion War. Worf, now Klingon Ambassador to the Federation, dons his Starfleet uniform once more to head up the training and deployment of the Academy’s ace Red Squad pilots in a new class of solo fighter vessel, the Valkyries. In the course of training, unwelcome surprises come from all corners – the Romulans, the last remnants of the Cardassian Empire, a Starfleet Captain who inexplicably goes renegade, and a new threat as well… (Activision, 2000)

Memories: This long-awaited Star Trek game for the Playstation demonstrates that Sony’s nearly-ubiquitous little grey console still has a few tricks up its sleeve before the PS2 grabs the spotlight. Continue reading

Tatsunoko Fight

Tatsunoko FightThe Game: If there can be a collective of Super Friends, why not a cabal of supervillains? The forces of evil from the various anime series created by Tatsunoko Studios have merged their powers, so the heroes of those same universes must join forces to save us all. This saving takes the form of a lot of unarmed combat – you can probably figure out what to do from here. You must do battle with the great villains of those various shows – or even other heroes, in Vs. mode. Series whoses characters are included are Gatchaman (better known as Battle Of The Planets in the U.S.), Tekkaman, Casshan, and Polymer The Ha-Ri-Ken Fighter. A new character in the classic Tatsunoko Studios mold, Volter The Lightning, is introduced here for the first time. (Takara Toys, 2000)

Memories: When you think of Tatsunoko Productions, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? For me, it’s visions of armor-and-spandex-clad superheroes wearing helmets with transparent visors! No, seriously – virtually every Tatsunoko superhero has a helmet with a transparent visor. Check the screen shots below, see if I’m lying to you. I swear, they all do. Continue reading

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?Order this gameThe Game: You know the routine! You and one other player (in this age of the Playstation multi-tap, why not a bunch of players?) compete to see who can give Regis the fastest finger (he’s a New Yorker, I’m sure he’s well accustomed to it by now). Whoever comes out on top earns the right to blast through sixteen increasingly frustrating trivia questions, aided only by two helpful lifelines and one marginally useless one. As the game progresses, gravity begins to fail with alarming regularity in the studio, as demonstrated by your repeatedly flying out of your own chair into the floor, ceiling, and all points in between. (Sony Computer Entertainment, 2000)

Memories: I admit, my summary of the long-awaited Playstation version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? may be a little sarcastic, but I actually expected more – and less – from this game. Continue reading

Crazy Climber 2000

Crazy Climber 2000The Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of the Nichubutsu building, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large stork with (apparently flaming) droppings and a large gorilla can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below, and even minor things such as annoyed building tenants dropping potted plants at you from above can have the same disastrous effect. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Nichibutsu, 2000)

Memories: Go for it in 3-D, baby! It’s a crime that this excessively cool update of Crazy Climber has never been released in the U.S., for it is possibly the best update of a classic game ever. Crazy Climber 2000 is Nichibutsu’s second swipe at dragging Crazy Climber into the modern age of video games, and it is by far the more successful. Continue reading

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