Videogame Reviews

Note: Ratings are based on present day personal enjoyment or lack thereof not the euphoria I had or would have had with these works of art in the 80’s and 90’s.

1942 (NES, 1986) This vertically scrolling shooter from CAPCOM is a port of the arcade game by the same name in which you fly a WWII fighter plane through waves of enemy planes. It’s a top down view 2D game though some 3D movements are simulated. This NES port has levels similar to the original but the port has a slower game speed, thus its levels are more survivable. 1942 always feels consistently structured, even when new enemy plane types are introduced. Before long you will smoothly dodge and effortlessly destroy your enemies. However, the game flow is not infallible. Shots fired at you and some enemy planes are difficult to see when flying over land. There are not many types of power-ups, but they hold enough interest and value to risk a plane/life going after them. The ability to “continue” gameplay after death is unlimited in this NES version. This feature allows you to get further in the game without having to start again from the first level. Complete the game because you enjoy it, not to view the ending screen. Or you will be disappointed. Smooth, often seamless, arcade shooter. Rating: 7.8/10

John Madden Football (Genesis, 1990) feels like football. You play to your strengths, exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and good things happen. There are things to grumble about like the lack of NFL player/team names and the absence of compiled individual stats. Even so, the game is enjoyable because its controls and menus are simple enough not to get in the way of the action and the offensive and defensive plays are deep enough to keep strategy at the forefront. The biggest flaw is the lack of in-game features, like difficulty levels, to keep the game challenging as you get better. It’s solid enough to spend a few afternoons playing but after that, there’s not much return value. Rating: 5.2/10

Midnight Magic (Atari 2600, 1986) In this pinball videogame from Atari you have 5 plays/balls and 4 flippers. Moving the joystick to the side operates the flippers on each corresponding side and pulling the joystick back uses all 4 flippers simultaneously. This is a sharp looking table with plenty of features to interact with. And the 4 flippers keep you busy. Once you knock out all the color tiles at the top of the board, the table turns blue and gives you a x2 multiplier. This was my favorite effect and gave me something to shoot for in subsequent plays. Surprisingly addictive classy pinball action. Rating: 6.8/10

Oink! (Atari 2600, 1983) In this game from Activision, you take control of each of three pigs in order to defend your homes against the powerful breath of the wolf. The wolf will blow away pieces of the house until he has a clear shot, then will attempt to use his breath to suck you in to him. You spend your time frantically rebuilding the house to block the wolf from sucking you in. There is no way to win, per se. You are delaying your doom long enough to rack up a high score. The characters in this drama are big and chunky which makes them pretty darn cute. The action is solid and there is a bit of strategy involved but the game gets repetitive, even tiring before long. Thankfully the game pauses on its own after the destruction of the straw (yellow) and wood (brown) houses, giving you a brief respite. Adorable frantic action that gets old fast. Rating: 4.6/10

River Raid (Atari 2600, 1982) Vertically scrolling shooter from Activision. You control a jet shooting down or avoiding enemies. Oddly, you can’t fly over land, so you will crash if you hit the river bank. This game has some interesting features like the ability to accelerate/decelerate, the regular need for fuel and opposing jets flashing across the screen. Without these features the game would be dull but with them it’s difficult to gain any momentum. Prepare to be blown to bits often. Rating: 5.5/10

Vulgus (Arcade, 1984) In this vertically scrolling shooter from CAPCOM, you are being chased relentlessly. Even though some enemies will begin with a predictable pattern, their next moves will be determined by your own. This means you are never really comfortable and although the controls are velvety you may find yourself moving frenetically to avoid enemies. You will operate a twin shooter with unlimited fire that also has missiles that can cut through multiple ships. There are power-ups but don’t try too hard to grab them. Ships/lives are very important since there are no “continues.” You can easily be surprised by enemy ships coming on screen from the top and sides. So you may want to stay towards the bottom center when able. The graphics are attractive with a nice variety of landscapes and enemy types, but nothing too ambitious. Clean arcade twin shooter in which you are the prey. Rating: 6.5/10 [Reviewed using Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1 (PS2)]