Retro Game Reviews

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Matej

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I decided to share some of my reviews I have on several games I have played before. If you like retro games and would like to pick something up on sale, check out the links below. Hopefully they will inspire you to return to golden age of gaming and play something you like.

Feel free to write your own reviews and I'll add them to the OP. There are so many good old games many of us don't know about that shouldn't be missed.


Reviews:

Driving

Power Drive (1994, SNES)
GT Racing (1996, SNES)
Gran Turismo (1997, PS1) --- written by @JASON_ROCKS1998
Super Drift Out: World Rally Championships (1995, SNES)
Test Drive 6 (1999, PS1, GBC, DC, PC) --- written by @FilipinoGTUser1
Hyper Battle Game: Zen Nihon GT Senshukenen (1995, SNES)
Kat's Run: Zennihon K Car Senshuken (1995, SNES)
TOCA Touring Car Championship (1997, PS1, GBC, PC) --- written by @JASON_ROCKS1998
Test Drive Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed (2002, PC, PS2, XBOX) --- written by @FilipinoGTUser1
Sports Car GT - DEMO (1999, PC)
Le Mans 24 Hours (2002, PS2) --- written by @JASON_ROCKS1998
Crash 'n Burn (2004, PS2, Xbox) --- written by @FilipinoGTUser1
GTR2 - FIA GT Racing Game (2006, PC) --- written by @JASON_ROCKS1998
Top Gear GT Championship (2001, GBA)
Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (2001, PS2) --- written by @JASON_ROCKS1998
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights (2007, Various) --- written by @Stephan
Ford Racing - Demo (2001, PC)
Ford Racing 2 - Demo (2003, PC)
Ford Racing 3 - Demo (2004, PC)
Gran Turismo 4 (2005, PS2) --- written by @JASON_ROCKS1998
Richard Burns Rally - Demo (2004, PC)
Genki Duel: Kaido Battle 2 Chain Reaction (2004) VS Tokyo Xtreme Racer Drift 2 (2007)
Tokyo Xtreme Racing Zero (2001, PS2)
Tokyo Xtreme Racing Drift 2 (2007, PS2)
SNES' Finest - Classic Driving Games
Tokyo Xtreme Racing 3 (2003, PS2)
Test Drive 6 (1999, PS1)

Shooting

Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992, SNES)
The Hunt for Red October (1993, SNES)

Action

The Fireman (1994, SNES)
Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle 3 (1999, GBC)
The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout (1990, NES)
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (1990, NES)
VIDEO REVIEW - Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (2001, PS2)
Urban Chaos (2000, PS1)

Fighting

WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain (2003, PS2) --- written by @Stephan

Strategy


WarCraft II: The Dark Saga (1997, PS1)

Adventure

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001, PS1)

Sports

UEFA Euro 2000 (2000, PS1)
 
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Matej

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Power Drive (1994, SNES)

Power Drive is a top-down perspective rally driving game released on Super Nintendo Entertainment System (and some other platforms) in 1994. Your objective is to travel from one country to another and clear all rally events held in each country. Sounds simple, no?


POSITIVE

Variety of racing events is very good; you'll be taking part in point-to-point time trial events, rally-cross stages on closed circuits against one opponent, and auto-cross events. It is important to remember that no matter what you race, you have to finish each race on time so that you can qualify for the next one. After each race you get money, which is used for paying entrance fees for next races and repairing your car.

Yes, your car can take damage. Running off the road or colliding with objects will deteriorate condition of your car, making it harder to drive. There are five components you have to keep in function, damaging each affects you car differently. Severely damaged car is also going to be very expensive to repair.

Speaking of expensive things, it is always important you never run out of your credits. Not only you have to keep on paying entrance fees, but you also have to own enough money to buy a new car when the time comes. If you don't get the car dealership screen by the time you meet new (faster) opponents, your chances of making any progress in future races will shrink rapidly.

There are total of six cars in the game. You start off by choosing either Mini cooper or Fiat Cinquecento. The other four machines become available for purchase later on. Cars you won't find in other racing games that easily are Astra GSi and - get this - Clio Williams. Cool.


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This one or that one?

Along each race you will find certain collectibles you can pick up: nitro, extra money, and stopwatch (it freezes your lap counter for a few seconds). All these items are helpful.

Top-down (and isometric) driving games usually have good graphics, and that is exactly the case with Power Drive. The overall presentation is quite charming and helps create unique atmosphere in the game. Colour intensity is just right, and weather effects couldn't be better. Cars are also decently modelled, it shouldn't be a problem to recognize them without reading their nameplates.

The soundtrack is excellent. While it isn't necessarily an adequate driving game soundtrack, it still matches mood of the game perfectly, and that can work just as well.

The way cars behave on track was programmed nicely. Body rotations are not rough and you can actually feel cars have some weight, making it possible to perform sharper cornering by shifting weight from left to right before a corner and other things. Just remember not to slow down with a brake button, because the car will be brought to a full stop, affecting your time drastically. Lifting off the throttle is more than enough.

I should also point out that opponents are prone to making mistakes. If you're fast enough to keep up with them, you can take advantage of that.

If you have plenty of friends willing to play Power Drive, you're going to love this one - the game supports a multiplayer mode for 2 to 8 drivers. Even though drivers participate one at a time, it is very addictive once you try it. The only difference in gameplay is the addition of points each player receives after a stage.


NEGATIVE

Speaking of bad things, driving itself from a top-down perspective is definitely one of them. While you do have guide arrows that alert you to upcoming corners, you'll be often moving way too fast to react on time. Memorizing each course would do the trick, but because you can't practice these tracks in separate game mode, nor you get a map before each race, you're basically shooting blind on every new stage.

Good solution is obviously to lift off the throttle and slow down a bit. This will give you enough space to tackle a corner conveniently. However, being cautious in this game is not always good. You certainly won't be able to win bonus cash prizes for beating a stage record or your opponent if you're too slow. And since money is very important in the game, sometimes you just have to risk everything and rely on your reflexes and adapting skills. Sometimes you will exceed your own expectations, and sometimes you will wish to throw the game into fire, but that is the beauty of this game.


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An example of things you'll have to do in auto-cross events.

Passing your opponents on rally-cross stages is probably more annoying than anything else. Because tracks are narrow and sense of speed very good, manoeuvring with your car precisely just for the sole purpose of overtaking is often mission impossible. Only lucky drivers will be able to squeeze by without damaging their precious car heavily. Sometimes I wish they had ruled out rally-cross stages completely, it would have made the game much less frustrating.

Oh, and those traffic cones. Every time you hit one, you current time increases, like a penalty. The problem is, as long as you stay in contact with the cone, your time will continue to increase. Probably just an oversight, but it is an oversight that can easily disqualify you from the race instantly if a cone gets stuck in front of your car. Each auto-cross event has one spiral path made of cones you have to clear, so go figure.

One more thing that isn't very important, but needs to be mentioned - you don't get guide arrows before every single corner. It happens rarely, but when it does, it catches you by surprise.


CONCLUSION

Power Drive is a very good driving game that should be part of your SNES driving collection. It does suffer from usual top-down driving problems, but at the same time it successfully reduces possible frustrations with good car handling and appealing presentation. I would say that's Power Drive's biggest strength. You will want to keep coming back for another round of fun, especially if you have friends willing to compete in the championship together with you.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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GT Racing (1996, SNES)


Greetings, human personalities. Today I'm reporting on another old-school driving game for Japanese Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super Famicom), GT Racing from 1996.

An average Joe would expect a lot from this game judging the box cover only. But what we have deep inside is a misfire that completely fails to meet expectations people are going to have on this game after they check out the cover, and all possible gameplay images on the internet.


POSITIVE


Before you start driving, everything looks really promising. Let's see: The game is packed with several officially licensed vehicles, good selection of well-known tracks, different weather conditions and very nice environments.

You also have separate practice mode for training, 2-player mode, and good car upgrading and adjusting system.

Engine heating? Over 14th drivers on the grid? Qualifying and practice prior each race? Plenty of car colours? Yes to all, this game is really filled with content. So where is the problem then?


NEGATIVE

Obviously in domain that can't be valued just by looking and going through menus - driving. I have to be honest, driving in this game is horrible. And what makes it horrible is the steering. It is so sensitive that you find almost impossible to keep the car in control. Not that the cars tend to wander around, nothing like that. It is the intensity of their turning abilities upon steering either left or right that makes them hard to drive.


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All looks good in photo, right?

The draw distance is very modest, and sense of speed great. Bad combination. You often won't be able to react quickly enough before approaching a corner, even with all the help from map and guide arrows, which you both have. Add twitchy controls to equation, and collisions become a common thing. This would be a good time to mention how any colliding in this game gets heavily punished by slowing you down to almost dead stop. Whether you make a contact with your opponents or wall, it doesn't matter - it always slows you down big time.

I tried to make the steering a bit slower and less responsive by tweaking the car, but that barely improved my chances of finishing the race properly. And it is a bit funny that stock Nissan Primera is just as fast as stock Toyota Supra, for instance. What was the point in getting all the expensive rights on car brands and names when cars don't really differ one from each other?


CONCLUSION

This could have been a great driving game. Unfortunately, bad steering and sense of speed not matched to draw distance completely ruined driving experience and all other good (great) things this game had. Shame.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Gran Turismo (1997, PSX)
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The first in the critically acclaimed Gran Turismo series, GT1 was perhaps one of the most innovative racing games of it's time, with an extensive car list, challenging "Simulation Mode" and extremely fun driving physics. Gran Turismo is well known for being the first game to give players virtual currency from winning races to build up their garage with cars to use in races, a trend that would be followed by a large number of racing games.


POSITIVE

Simulation Mode is one of GT's biggest selling points, giving the player credits from winning races to buy and tune cars to use in later events. This mode is filled with a number of different events, all of which require the player to use specific vehicles. As well as giving the player credits, winning every race in an event also gives the player a new car that will be useful in a later event.

Earning licences in order to compete in higher level racing events really adds to the realism, meaning that you need more than just a fast car in order to progress.

Arcade Mode is a great place for players to get used to Gran Turismo's realistic driving physics, with a selection of the game's tracks and cars being able to be used in either time attacks or races against the AI and even includes a split screen mode for racing against friends.

The car list is one of the best out of any game released on the PS1. As well as flagship models from the games 6 manufacturers, it also features a huge variety of everyday vehicles.

All of the tracks in Gran Turismo are incredible, all of which being original designs that are huge fun to race around no matter what car you're driving.

The soundtrack is another staple of the GT series, and GT1 has an incredible soundtrack with great tracks for both menu music (including individual tracks for every car showroom) and racing music, composed by the brilliant Isamu Ohira and Masahiro Andoh, and a great selection of licensed music.

NEGATIVE

There is a distinct lack of race cars in Gran Turismo 1, with the game being limited to just a few GT racers and race tuned versions of every road car.

The game also seems to focus too much on Japanese cars, as there's a severe lack of European (6) and American (9) cars in the game.

CONCLUSION

An incredible racing game, with a varied car list, even if it's a little Japan centric, addictive career mode and incredibly fun driving physics that make for one of the best and most innovative racing games ever made.

Score: 9/10

 

Matej

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Super Drift Out: World Rally Championships (1995, SNES)


Super Drift Out: World Rally Championships
was the only instalment in the Drift Out series of rally games that was brought on platforms other than Arcade or Neo. It arrived as a Japan-only release on Super Famicom in 1995.

If you're looking for a simulation style of driving, look elsewhere. The Drift Out series involves nothing but pure arcade driving where fun and record hunting gets the highest priority. Quite what you would expect considering the platform the series originated on. Driving itself in SDO has very little in relation with realism, but for rally supporters on the lookout for straightforward fun, that won't matter.

The game simulates a World Rally Championship season, which means you'll be able to compete for the title using one of five fully licensed rally cars from early 90's across the full schedule. Races never last more than one minute, and your goal is obviously to finish each stage as fast as possible. You always have to qualify within first six places, or else the game is over and you have to restart the last stage.


POSITIVE

Sounds demanding? Then you should know the game comes with three difficulty levels. The easiest one can be challenging as well, but at least it is quite generous when it comes to letting you qualify. On my first run on Easy level I finished the championship 3rd or 4th, and that after making lots of mistakes. Therefore, if you're just starting out, use Easy. It will help you accommodate to the game.


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Is this GTA, SDO or some other acronym?

Also, you can practice each course in the game in separate time trial mode. When you get fed up with the championship mode, this is a good place to keep practising and improving your stage times. If only Power Drive had something like that.

The game also features nice track editor, you can build and save up to three tracks. While these custom tracks may be a bit generic in terms of environment, the fact that you have a working track editor is always a good thing. I have to point out that you're limited to building closed (lap) stages only, and that you can't use any other car aside from Subaru Vivio, which exclusively appears only in this mode. There are three available body colours, each represents different level of power.

Last but not least, SDO has in-built save feature. No need to deal with passwords.


NEGATIVE

This is a classic top-down perspective game, meaning you drive your car from a bird view. Typical problem you get when you combine driving with such perspective is present here; the sense of speed is simply not adjusted to limited field of vision you get. Even with first-class reactions, it's hard to steer on time and avoid collisions. It sounds funny, but your eyes will be constantly monitoring that one single space on the screen where guide arrows appear and disappear. You do get a map of each stage during loading screen, but it doesn't last there for long.

And because the camera follows rotation of the car precisely, you become disoriented very quickly (especially since all cars steer like crazy), so don't bother yourself trying to remember images of the maps. It simply can't help you.


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Simple and usable.

The environments look okay, though a bit bland and cheap in comparison with Power Drive, for instance. I already mentioned you can't use rally cars from the championship mode on custom tracks. It may not be a big deal, but I don't see a reason why not include all the cars just for the sake of variety.

The soundtrack could have been better. There are some good tunes playing on the main menus, but that is pretty much all that stands out somehow.


CONCLUSION

In my opinion, it is easier to keep car under control in SDO than in Power Drive, but harder to react on time. Driving in SDO could also make you feel dizzy after a while. All that affects overall score because driving is obviously a very important element in a driving game.

Nevertheless, it does have some smart features from modern gaming world of driving that make playing the game worthwhile, especially if you like rallying.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Stephan

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Here's my review of Test Drive 6:

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Test Drive 6 (1999, Infogrames; Pitbull)

Test Drive 6
is the sixth installment to the Test Drive series. It came out for the Playstation (October 31, 1999), PC (November 17, 1999), Game Boy Color (November 16, 1999), and Dreamcast (November 30, 1999).

Ah yes TD6. Most PS1 gamers remember TD6 for one thing.....Cars by Fear Factor and Gary Numan.
As per usual PS1 TD game, the game has a career mode but what is new to TD6 is the ability to buy cars, betting system, new locations, and new cars. And already I'm saying this but TD6 has the best car list ever. It's on par with any of the TDU games. Also you can tune the performance of your car. Unlike TD5 where you need to complete all championships in a specific class, here if you can earn enough money (money grinding is easy and not as tedious.), you can skip a car class and instead go to the next class. Also this game has the best soundtrack of any TD game (on the level of TD Overdrive which I'll save it for the next review.)
Positives:
It's an complete improvement over TD5 (from graphics to car models) plus it made it easier for players to complete Career Mode. I also love the simple UI (really reminds me of GT3's fast menu system). Fast and simple. The difficulty is easy compared to TD5 but still could be worse. The car list is one thing I really gotta give Pitbull credit for. I mean you don't see a street racing game featuring a Le Mans line up for Class 4 cars. You have the Dodge Viper GTS-R (you can't have a TD game without a Dodge Viper. It's like the Viper is the mascot/cover car for TD.), Ford GT40, Lotus Elise GT1, TVR Speed 12, Aston Martin Project Vantage, Nissan R390 GT1, Jaguar XJ220, Jaguar XJR-15, and Toyota GT-One (the most expensive yet overrated car for TD6 alongside the R390.).

The soundtrack once again I gotta give credit for. If it wasn't for TD6, we would have never heard Fear Factory's rendition of Cars, Cirrus' Time's Running Out (well except for those who played Twisted Metal), and more.

Negatives:
The AIs are the first thing that comes to mind. They are completely bonkers plus the rubberbanding is too obvious (like NFS Underground but even worse). The collision system is another thing that bugs me. Getting hit with a traffic car is one thing to prevent in TD6 (especially when racing with Class 4 cars) because it takes roughly 7-13 seconds to recover. Lastly the physics is another thing I comment on. Though it is tolerable but not for the Class 4 cars. It's a case I like to call The "NFS2015" case where slower cars have no problem in physics but faster cars, we a problem.

Conclusion:
It is a good racing game no doubt (recommended to pick it up alongside some of the NFS titles and GT1 and GT2 for a PS1 racing pack) but the AIs and physics is what slowly bugs this game. As for which platform I suggest you pick it up for, well to be honest the PS1 version does look blurry (try upscaling it on the PSP and PS3) but it doesn't bug me at all while the Dreamcast and PC version beats the PS1 version in terms of graphics but gameplay wise, it's the same.

Grade: 3.5/5.
 
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Matej

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Hyper Battle Game: Zen Nihon GT Senshukenen (1995, SNES)


If you happen to be a former fan of JGTC series, you should embrace and love the game I have prepared for you today - Hyper Battle Game: Zen Nihon GT Senshukenen from 1995 on Super Famicom. Okay, I may be magnifying things a little bit, but when a game brings entire season of the 1994 All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship on one cartridge - and that means access to all exciting cars from that period - it should deserve place on the spotlight...

... At least until we see how the driving works. Because, you know... this is another top-down perspective driving game. And these games have less room for mistakes.

Once you're done decrypting bunch of Japanese menus, you'll realize this game is everything but cryptic. You have a time trial mode where you can practice on one of four available Japanese circuits, and the championship mode that lasts for five rounds. Nothing more, nothing less.


POSITIVE

Before you start fighting for the title, you'll need to choose a team you're going to race for. Some teams are "locked" until you finish the championship or score some podiums first. Those that are interested in your low-budget offer will want you to complete a lap around a circuit within a time limit to prove you're worthy their attention. Teams with better cars usually have higher demands regarding how quickly you should lap the circuit, so make sure to check all of them.

Once you gave found your home, it is time for the real deal! Prior each main event you can run two practice rounds and one qualifying round. Length of the main events can be adjusted (from 3 to 20 laps), but that has to be done in the main option menu.

You also have extensive setup options to prepare your ride for each race. Make sure to spend some time learning how each setting affects you car, as poorly prepared car won't be competitive. This game puts high emphasis on tuning.

Graphics are excellent. Cars are well modelled, and all colours are pleasing to eyes. This could be one of the best looking SNES games I have seen in a while. Sound effects are also great. Cars do not sound like bumble-bees like in most games from that time, you get very loud and clear sounds for each car separately. Exhaust backfire is also there, increasing the adrenaline.


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"Sorry, we need no pencil-pushers like you."

As I mentioned earlier, the selection of cars is awesome. In past, JGTC had more than just three manufacturers on the grid, and the game is a reminiscent of that period. You can drive models from Porsche, Ferrari, and even Lamborghini (to name the most desirable ones).

There is one cool feature the game has - opponent lock-on. Basically, it is an automatic drafting. You drive behind your opponent for a short time. As soon as you car starts flashing, steer either left or right, and your car will overtake the opponent without sweating. Cool system.

Opponents also make mistakes and crash.


NEGATIVE

Time to focus on bad things, which we have plenty of. For starters, body rotation when going around corners is intermittent. This has more to do with how graphics were programmed than actual physics, but it still isn't nice to see. The bigger problem is how all cars suffer from body roll while cornering or switching lanes, and have issues tackling corners at low speeds. All in all, very stiff feeling. It could have been much better.

For some reason, identically prepared car will perform better in qualification and practice than at the main event. I can't explain why exactly, but it's quite annoying.

The opponents are real tricksters. They don't have issues with cornering at slower corners as you have, and always like to magically switch positions when they temporarily leave your screen. No matter how you tune you car for speed on straights, your opponents can easily adjust their pace accordingly. I probably don't have to mention that difficulty is insane. I once managed to qualify first and even beat the course record, only to witness dropping down to last place after two laps of driving on the main event that followed.

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Supra running on the last place.

Pit stop system is also troublesome. Your rivals never pit in (or at least I haven't seen them doing so) which is why you always have to make sure that your car has adequate tires on in case rain starts falling. And how to know whether it will rain or not? From what I can tell, there is no clear way to know. Maybe the answer lies hidden somewhere along all those lines of Japanese text you get prior the race itself, but as long as language barrier is present, you won't be able to know.

The game slows down when there are more than two cars on the screen, but I guess that can only be a good thing since the game moves really fast. Or not.

And is there a reason why I don't get a speedometer when running in qualifying mode or main event, but it is there when practising? Strange.


CONCLUSION

Frankly, unless you really want to try out all the great cars from the 1994 JGTC season, there are no real reasons why should you consider buying this game. It really shines in graphics and sound department, but beats itself with unfair opponents and that random rain problem.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992, SNES)


Contra III: The Alien Wars
is the fourth and seemingly the most popular instalment of the Contra series. It is a traditional 2D shooting platformer that distinguish itself with constant action, high level of difficulty, and quality production. The plot involves fighting against invading aliens, couldn't be simpler than it is. The classic story serves mostly as an excuse for spraying the bullets all over the place, but also for making one of the most scariest and creative bosses I have seen on the console.


POSITIVE

During first minutes of gameplay you can sense a lot of effort went into making this game. Graphics are impressive, and used colour palette gratifying. Controls are fluid and easy to learn. Contra is known for revolutionizing the way you control your character in the environment. Your soldier can shoot in eight directions while moving or standing, thanks to "lock" button function. You can even descend to lower platform whenever you want, no need to "go around" the platform you're standing on! Two weapons can be used simultaneously when conducting a special move.

The game offers several types of weapons you collect from special flying boxes that fly over you every once in a while. I noticed the basic machine gun is sometimes the most reliable weapon due its continuous and fast rate of fire, but I can't deny usefulness of other weapons either. Some have better range, some more power, some can spread their particles covering large field.

Bosses appear both in the middle and at the end of each level, so you won't miss big challenges for sure. Each has different attacks so different strategies must be employed to take them out.

I want to praise change in perspective on some levels, 2nd and 5th in particular. On this levels you control your spldier from a bird angle, much like in early GTA games. This adds diversity into the game itself.

The multiplayer mode is obviously supported. Try to find a friend willing to play the sidekick role, these games are so fun when experience is mutually shared with someone.


NEGATIVE

The game has two negative aspects, one of which can drive back casual players easily - high level of difficulty. Although you can choose between three difficulty levels and how many lives you want to "carry", even under most convenient conditions you'll keep deceasing a lot until you remember dangers on each stage. Two players are more effective together, but your partner has to be equally skilled if both of you want to make any progress. This game requires all your senses to be at the ready. There is no save option or continues via passwords, you have to clear the game in one go.

The second problem is short gameplay. Some players can complete the game within 20 minutes when they know what they're doing. Luckily, each level brings new challenges from your opponents, so it's worth playing the game three times to see if you're up to the task.


CONCLUSION

If you can digest really high level of difficulty, definitely try it out. It's an old-school shooter with excellent controls and presentation, very few games have those.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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The Fireman (1994, SNES)


Not many video games let you put yourself in fireman's shoes and experience this honourable profession from a virtual angle. The Fireman on SNES is a very good game that walks a fine line between fun-packed action game and firefighting simulator. Give it a try, you'll be surprised.

The game has a plot. Basically, it is a Christmas day and a big chemical building has caught on fire. Local unit has been dispatched and now it is all up to Pete and Daniel to save the day. Nothing special, the story is here only to explain what the two will be doing in the building to prevent the fire from reaching large supply of some MDL chemicals.


POSITIVE

Your objective is to move from one room/floor to another as fast as possible and extinguish the fire wherever you see it burning. There are three ways to spray water on fire (long-range stream, short-range downward spray and water pellets). Combining all three is necessary to progress further as you'll face different kinds of fire hazards along the way. After each stage you fight a "boss", which is basically a monster taking a shape of fire.

While clearing rooms, keep an eye on injured survivors hidden around. Saving survivors replenishes your energy bar and affects total score at the end of the game. After you collect enough number of water pellets, you'll be given nice boost in water hose (stronger and thicker spray), but you must not receive a hit if you want to keep it.

Daniel is your AI sidekick. He helps you put out big flames of fire, and open doors. He is actually very helpful during normal stages, but not so much when facing bosses. I guess the youngster doesn't want to take any chances against sci-fi creatures, so he leaves these "treats" to Pete, the old guy (laugh).

Controls are excellent. Hit detection (very important) was nicely solved, no issues here. The lock button is very helpful, you can move in every direction while spraying water in only one.

The replay value is good because you'll want to return and clear the game with maximum score and grade. Trust me, it is hard to get above 50%, let alone top score. Good luck!


NEGATIVE

The angle from which you monitor action on the screen sometimes makes difficult to differ obstacles from space where movements are indeed possible.

The game doesn't support a coop 2 player mode! Why? Since your partner Daniel is always fighting alongside you, why couldn't they allow other player to take control over him? It's a major mistake I can't apprehend, but luckily, the second instalment on PS1 does have a coop mode.

Conversation bars do not move fast enough. Luckily, there is a button to speed up the process, but continuous clicking is not convenient when there a several bars of text lined up. The pre-game introduction is also very long, too much talk and you can't speed it up.

Once you have around 2 minutes left on the timer, your life bar drops down to minimum, meaning only one hit separates you from a game over. The game probably tried to simulate health deterioration when a fireman is exposed to heat for too long, but why not let the life bar decrease gradually? Instead it shrinks down so abruptly and radically that many players playing the game for their first time will find this very annoying. And even when the timer runs out, you can still keep playing the stage without consequences, which makes the system a bit pointless.

The game has to be completed in one sitting, no save option, no password continues. Beginners will need from 90 to 120 minutes to do so, whereas experienced players can finish it in circa 60 minutes. That's all good if you have enough time on your hand.


CONCLUSION

I definitely recommend The Fireman. It misses some features that could have made it top-notch, but even so it is a great way to spend a weekend if you're looking for a different type of a video game.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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WarCraft II: The Dark Saga (1997, PS1)


Real-time strategies have never really aspired to run on old consoles due to hardware limitations, lack of mouse compatibility and overall lack of buttons. In spite of this, certain games that receive a port succeeded in delivering almost equal gaming experience from their PC counterparts. WarCraft II: The Dark Saga for PS1 is one of those games.

The story is actually quite thoroughly built, so it's worth paying attention to it if you have played other games in the series or want some background preceding each mission. Basically, the game focuses on a fictional combat between orcs and humans set somewhere during medieval period.

Your general task is to collect up to three resources and construct buildings which are then used to produce units and upgrade their armour and attack ratings. Destroying the enemy is not always your primary objective, though this does prevail in terms of general mission variety. Sometimes you also get heroes that are very powerful and need to be guarded with your life.


POSITIVE

First of all, the game arrives on a CD that just needs to be put into your console and played. No need to deal with PC stuff like compatibility, patches, and all other technical issues that commonly appear when playing an old game on a modern computer. It may not seem like a big deal, but it sure is.

The PS1 version is actually a compilation of two games from PC, so you get total of four big campaigns to play on a single CD. More than enough materials to keep you busy.

You can also save progress at any time during the play, which is just great! The often controversial "fog of war" feature can be turned off in the game options. That's a nice solution I would like to see in other strategy games as well.

The PS1 version also introduces "Auto-Build" and "Auto-Upgrade" features that significantly speed up and ease training or upgrading of your units.

The soundtrack is awesome. I have listened to it for years and still haven't found one track that wouldn't be good.


NEGATIVE

You'll have to deal with a certain slow-down when playing, I remember it can happen on three occasions: if a map is filled with too much units, if some AI units get stuck behind trees or rocks or if your camera is focused on one of four map borders.

The pop-up menu (from which you choose spells or additional commands) is not the friendliest system to use when you need to react quickly.

Though the game brings tons of skirmish maps from PC, many of them are actually designed to work for multiplayer scenarios involving human players, not AI. There is not a preview image when choosing a map, so you have to shot blindly and hope AI won't get stuck somewhere.

Forming a group or assigning shortcuts to a particular spot on a map requires reading a manual that comes with the game.

But that is pretty much it. As far as the actual gameplay is concerned, I don't have anything to criticize.


CONCLUSION

I think PS1 fans of real-time strategy games won't be deprived of the joy PC players will have with WC2. The game is fully optimized to run on the console without technical bugs, and has enough materials to keep you occupied for long time. It still is one of the greatest RTS games from that period, regardless on which console it runs.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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Kat's Run: Zennihon K Car Senshuken (1995, SNES)


I haven't played the game too much, so I'm going to provide only brief information about what you can expect in case the video footage linked below draws your purchase interest.

So, Kat's Run: Zennihon K Car Senshuken is a kart-style driving game made exclusively for Japanese market in 1995. It was seemingly inspired by Super Mario Kart, famous title that came on the market much earlier. Though the Mario title is obviously deeper and more playable, this obscure gem could be endorsed by kei car supporters as these little cars play the main (and only) role of transportation in this game.

But before we elaborate this a bit more, I just want to mention that Kat's Run includes some sort of story. All drivers seem to be wanted for something, though we don't get to find out why (or at least I'm not capable transcribing the Japanese text). During the race, if you fall back too much, you can hear police sirens shouting. The police car is actually behind you, and will attempt to arrest you if you drive too slowly.


ws7m8o.png

Yeah, tell us!


POSITIVE

The game features 10 fully licensed Japanese kei cars, each with different values and abilities. Only in Kat's Run kei cars can take the entire stage for themselves because there are no other cars to steal the show! Quite nice for a change.

You can't pick a track like usual. After you cross a finish line on the first track, the game automatically teleports you to next one, so you basically never stop the car or see any menus. This turns the game into an endurance racing.

There are three difficulty levels, each adds tougher opponents and more tracks on schedule (I could be wrong about the latter).

In 2 player mode players can race against two more AI opponents, and collect items that can help each gain advantage on track (this is also available in single player mode). If you dislike that option, it can be turned off.

Controls are good, no complaints here.

2j1sdug.png

Some cars handle better on dirt than on tarmac.


NEGATIVE

I found three problems. First, you can't compare cars in the car selection screen, you have to wait on the main menu screen for a demo to appear, which will then list all the cars and their data. For people who are not familiar with kei cars, this programming solution wastes time and complicates things more than necessary.

Second, there is no separate practice mode where you can drive freely against your opponents on a track of your choice. Either you play a series of races, or nothing at all. Not good.

Third, there are some unnecessary elements on the screen while racing. You get a small distracting image showing your driver's facial expressions and plain text reminding you who exactly drives what car. Was all that really necessary?


CONCLUSION

Kat's Run is a good one-night racer for all drivers who love kei cars. The single player mode is very short, but luckily, 2 player mode is here to entertain for a while.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001, PS1)


I remember the period when people in my school were intensely talking about first Harry Potter movie just about on every corner of the school. Though all the craze for the famous Wizard Who Lived still couldn't compare to superfluous obsession with Pokemon series, it still affected our childhood significantly.

Video games based on the first Harry Potter had to appear eventually, considering the huge success of the book. Many different games were released on various platforms in different time periods, but the one most of us played was launched on PS1 in 2001. Therefore, I'm going to focus on that one exclusively.

The Philosopher Stone on PS1 was an adventure game with elements of action and platform. Though majority of the game is focused on climbing, jumping and running, there are other factors that brake this pattern, such as flying on a broomstick, pressing-the-right-button sequences (learning spells, mixing potions) or first-person shooting from your wand, for instance. All in all, it has decent variety of gameplay elements.


1zn95ib.png

Harry casting Incendio spell.

The game has two objectives. The primary one is to follow the story and complete the game. The secondary one is optional and involves collecting all Wizard Cards and items hidden within four main house portraits. The game is completely linear, though you can revisit some parts of the castle and check for hidden passages. Be careful though, some areas cannot be revisited after you have completed them, so make sure to always be alert for any secrets.

The game is suited for casual players. There are some challenging parts (like driving the mine cart in the Gringotts Bank) that could surprise even skilful players, but from my experience these add just enough challenge to make the play more rewarding. Young kids could have problems jumping on platforms later in the game, but this can be avoided by mastering the camera rotation earlier. Jumping itself couldn't be more automatic, you just keep running and Harry does the rest once he reaches the edge.

Controls are fluid and responsive. Inertia doesn't affect Harry too much, and that was a good call.


347a261.png

Harry confronting Malfoy's gang. Lock-on opponent feature greatly simplifies
aiming and orientation in 3D environment.

When it comes to graphics, it is a traditional PS1 quality maxed out. The castle and in-game characters look very good, though when standing still, you can notice some environment visuals tend to "skip" from time to time. While roaming around, you can notice spiders, ghosts, and bats.

Audio department is where the game particularly shines. Jeremy Soule composed such outstanding soundtrack, it raises the atmosphere of the game to a whole new level.


CONCLUSION

The game's presentation and audio domain helped creating an unique and enchanting world of spells and wizards. Though the gameplay could have been less straightforward by allowing the player deeper interaction with the world, overall it still is a specific gaming experience you will remember for days after you finish the game.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle 3 (1999, GBC)


Bugs Bunny: Crazy Castle 3
is a 2D platform puzzle game released on Game Boy Color in 1999. Bugs has stumbled across some ancient book that speaks of a hidden treasure resting in the Old Castle. Your task is to fight your way through total of 60 levels and collect that precious treasure.


POSITIVE

The rules on each level are simple: collect eight keys to unlock the door that leads to next level, and do not make contact with any other Looney Tunes character you encounter along the way. On each level you can collect certain items that will help you achieve your goal, such as hammer to break through certain obstacles, fast run or various weapons to take care of your enemies.

On many occasions you have to think how to reach certain places, which is why the game plays a role of a light brain teaser.

After each level you get a short password that lets you continue your game next time you play. Since you'll rarely need more than 2-5 minutes to complete a level, you can do a quick run every time you wait for a bus or school bell to ring again. Nice!

I think difficulty was perfectly set. Some levels are quite easy, while others require more caution and thinking. Most importantly, it never becomes too hard, and increase in difficulty is sporadic. As we mentioned, the game is loaded with 60 levels, so it takes quite a lot of time to finish the game.

Tunes that play during levels are quite catchy.


NEGATIVE

Keys are generally hidden within small rooms, so entering a room is an activity you'll be doing for countless times, which can become annoying and repetitive for some players. After several levels you have seen pretty much everything the game has to offer, it just continues to expand variety of levels from there.

This is a 2D game, so certain objects (mainly travelling pipes) sometimes prevents you from clearly deducing whether you can move in front of them or not.

Sadly, there is no scoring system that would force you to play the game again and aim for the highest score.


CONCLUSION

This is a very good pocket platform game for stop and go gaming. Just make sure to check all other Crazy Castle games and pick the one you think is best as I doubt you'll be returning to the series for more once you have cleared one.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout (1990, NES)


Japanese developer Kemco commemorated the creation of the Bugs Bunny character by launching a dedicated game on its 50th anniversary. Not coincidentally dubbed as The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, the game would remain as a virtual reminiscent of the occasion.

The plot is simple - Bugs receives an invitation to a birthday party held in his honour. He is willing to appear, but doesn't know his Looney Tunes friends are jealous of him receiving all the attention. So jealous they are going to do whatever it takes to prevent him from reaching the destination.

Lovely. With such "friends", who really needs enemies?

Anyway, that's how we begin this action-platform game. Complete total of 24 levels and reach the party. After each level you get to play a bonus game where you can win more lives (one game is based on luck, the other on your speed). Occasionally you have to beat the crap of your "friends" to proceed to next level and... that's about it! Traditional platform game that doesn't introduce anything new to the genre, but works well enough to please LT fans.


Bugs-Sam.png
Sam is shooting at Bugs with his gun while Bugs is trying to smash his skull with the hammer. This friendship has some serious issues...


POSITIVE

Enemies you are going to face are really unusual. Little hammerhead guys, self-destructing clocks, walking detergents... lots of charming objects that suit the mood of the game. You have a hammer you can use to knock them out, but since enemies tend to respawn at times, it is generally better to avoid direct conflict.

The carrots are your only collectibles. It is not necessary to collect them, but the more you have, the more rounds of the bonus games you can play, increasing your chances to win more lives.

Hiding behind bushes on very first levels saves you from any kind of damage. It is a nice example of smartly using possibilities of 2D space.

There is no time limit, so you can relax and clear level as slow or fast as you want, no pressure.


NEGATIVE

Difficulty varies from level to level, but there is one particular boss after few levels that will cause headache to casual players and drive them away. Don't give up!

Every time you get hit, you become temporarily invincible. That's normal, but you stay that way for too long. Many players will quickly figure out you can avoid a set of traps or enemies by simply running through them while the invincibility lasts. And you can't attack while you're being invincible. While that may be fair from rational point of view, it kinda messes with traditional platform standards and your natural instincts (to quickly get rid of the threat that hit you).

The game has to be completed in one sitting, no passwords. It will take about 2 hours for amateurs.

I'm going to conceal this one, because it reveals the ending:

Once you arrive at the party, you notice that all the "friends" you have been fighting against are now at your party, celebrating with you. We don't get any explanation for their recent behaviour nor why all of a sudden they're on your side. Was it a birthday joke? Were they under some sort of spell? Nothing.


CONCLUSION

Good platform game Bugs Bunny fans shouldn't miss.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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TOCA Touring Car Championship (1997, PSX/GBC/PC)
6012-toca-touring-cars-championship-pc.jpg


Even before the TOCA series would have the "Race Driver" moniker (which focused on all sorts of racing disciplines), there would be a series of games focusing solely on touring cars simply called "TOCA Touring Cars". The first of these was TOCA Touring Car Championship, released on the PS1 and PC in 1997, and on the Game Boy Colour in 2000 (although this review will be focused mainly toward PS1 & PC versions). Despite releasing the same year as Gran Turismo, and being on a much smaller scale, TTCC still sold incredibly well, prompting numerous sequels and evolving into one of the best racing game franchises of all time.

Even though there was only 8 cars and 9 tracks TTCC still became a huge hit, with it's fun yet realistic handling and incredible graphics.

POSITIVE

All cars are very highly detailed, with the liveries and sponsors being identical to the real cars, while also having very realistic handling, with cars that handle exactly how 300HP FWD touring cars should.

One of the biggest grids ever seen in a PS1 racing game, with 16 cars on track each with human-like AI that perform just like the drivers would in real life.

9 highly detailed race tracks complete with pit lanes and weather options.

Full race weekends, allowing you to qualify for each race giving you a small advantage for the race.

The ability to run the full 1997 BTCC Season complete with a realistic points system.

Realistic race commentary by former F1 driver, Tiff Needell.

One of the first racing games to feature a proper cockpit view.

Incredible damage model and driving physics, with realistic grip reduction when off road.

NEGATIVE

Handling does take a while to get used to, with all cars being very easy to spin out despite being FWD.

Limited replayability due to the lack of car and track variety

CONCLUSION

An excellent racing game, providing an excellent simulation of arguably the best BTCC season in recent years, including huge grids of cars, fun yet realistic driving physics and incredibly realistic AI drivers, only let down by the lacking variety of cars and tracks.

Score: 9.5/10

 
1,477
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Toca was my first proper racing game on the Ps1. Loved it and played it 'till my eyes bled. Croft was such a great track as was Oulton Park.

The wheater was also very nice with fog, lighting or even snow!

And of course in those days there were cheats which allowed you to race on a lava-circuit and shoot fireballs at your opponents.
 

Stephan

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As promised from my previous review, I'll be reviewing Test Drive Overdrive or known as Test Drive (for US gamers).

Test Drive (US)/TD Overdrive: The Brotherhood of Speed (2002; PC, PS2, and Xbox)
23827-test-drive-playstation-2-front-cover.jpg

test_drive_overdrive_ps2_Disk1.jpg

Picture 1 shows the US cover of Test Drive 2002 and Picture 2 shows the EU cover of TD Overdrive. (I would pick the EU cover than the US cover due to being more Test Drive-ish style of cover than the US cover.

Test Drive/TD Overdrive is the seventh installment to the Test Drive series and it was released for the Playstation 2, PC, and Xbox back in 2002. For this installment, it's basically an upscaled Test Drive 6 except lesser cars, better graphics, and a story mode. I would like to quote @Tornado because he made a good point about TD Overdrive.
Overdrive was weird. It played, controlled and even sounded a lot like they just made a PS2 version of Test Drive 5 or 6, which wasn't terribly out of the ordinary for an early PS2 game (that's essentially what GT3 was as well) and makes sense since Pitbull made it as well; but those two games had already had their teeth pretty thoroughly kicked in by NFS III and High Stakes; nevermind Hot Pursuit II. Really just the wrong game at the wrong time. Off Road Wide Open was a much bigger jump versus the Off Road games on the PSX.
Considering that GT3 and TD Overdrive were released a year part, they are still considered to be the upscaled versions of their predecessors. But still he has a great point about TD Overdrive though. Kudos to him.

Now back to the game, I mentioned earlier that unlike its predecessors, TD Overdrive has a story mode and to this day, Overdrive is the only TD game that has story mode (not counting TDU2 since there's not much story unlike Overdrive.). Anyways for those who are curious to know the story, here's the summary from Wikipedia. Note the story mode is called Underground mode.
The 'Underground' story mode begins in San Francisco, California, where Dennis Black, an American illegal drag racer, speaks with an English man named Donald Clarke, who informs Black that he needs a substitute driver while he recovers from an injury caused by crashing into a tree during a race. Dennis agrees to race for Clarke while he recovers. Dennis then races a time-trial race to prove to Clarke that he is a capable driver. The following night Black has his first race against opponents, Reese Weston (American older man), Kurt Jackson (Irish hippie), Marie Ling (American middle-aged woman) and Nells von Stadt (German playboy). After being successful in the first race, Dennis Black meets Lisa Lux. After a couple more races, Clarke lets Black drive his Shelby Cobra. After earning the Cobra, Dennis participates in a new race mode which is a drag race. Nearing the end of the San Francisco races, Black unlocks a first generation Ford Mustang. By this point in the game, Kurt and Marie are becoming increasingly frustrated by Black's success. Reese, who up till this point had been a good friend, challenges Dennis for his Mustang which he apparently really wants. After defeating Reese in a sprint race Dennis unlocks his customized Chevrolet Camaro and Reese begins driving a Shelby Series 1. After one more race, Black unlocks four cars as a reward for completing the San Francisco races. Dennis receives a Chevrolet Corvette L-88, Jaguar XK-R, Lotus Esprit and Lotus Elise.

The underground races then move across the Pacific Ocean to Tokyo, Japan. In Japan, Black meets some new competition, Morlock Aday (American gambler), Rei Ozawa (Japanese woman) and Hamada Tojo (Japanese gambler). After a couple of races, Morlock announces that he has defeated Hamada and taken his Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec. Hamada claimed that his friend had loaned him his vehicle. Through conversations with other competitors, it becomes evident that not many people like Clarke. In desperation, Hamada challenges Dennis Black one-on-one for his vehicle. However, after Hamada loses, Black refuses to take his car. After completing the races in Tokyo, Black unlocks four more cars; Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec, Dodge Charger, Subaru Imprezza and Shelby Series 1.

The races then move to London, England for the third leg of the journey. Lisa Lux makes her return to the circuit after not participating in the Tokyo races. After a couple more victories in London, Clarke informs Black that he must leave the city for a couple of weeks. While Clarke is away, the rest of the racers try to get rid of Dennis by having him race one versus one against a new opponent named Skeeter Grimshaw. After that, Black defeats Skeeter and takes his Chevrolet Chevelle. Lisa Lux is in deep financial trouble and must win the next race to stay in the competition. After she loses the next race, Black wins her Dodge Viper. Clarke gives Lisa's Viper to Dennis as a gift. The Viper had originally been Clarke's before Lisa conned it off him. Black learns of a man named Vasily, whom Clarke was unable to defeat. Kurt and Nells warn Black of Clarke's possible motives of supporting him. Clarke informs Dennis that there will be tougher competition in the next venue, most notably, a Russian man named Vasily Raskolnikov. Upon completion of the London races, Dennis Black unlocks two more cars; the Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 and the Pontiac GTO.

The final location for the races is in Monte Carlo. There are many new characters in Monte Carlo. Black meets five of them in his first race; Hail Knoxville (former car thief), Big T (African-American rap artist), Francois Lafayette (Frenchman), Nina Fettigrew (American red-haired woman), and Miguel de la Cruz (Latin European). After only a couple of races, Black meets Vasily. Big T and Francois explain how Clarke's crash and injury are a result of Vasily intentionally taking him out. Since Vasily is the leader of the whole underworld racing league, he decides that Black and Hail will play for second in ladder while the loser is exiled permanently. Hail is subsequently defeated and has to give up his Jaguar XJ220 to Black and Clarke. In the final four races, Black must beat Vasily in every race, regardless of placing in the top 3. After defeating Vasily in four consecutive matches, Black has earned his chance to play Vasily one-on-one. This concludes the Monte Carlo circuit, with so Dennis Black unlocks four more cars; Aston Martin DB7 Vanquish, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, TVR Cerbera Speed 12 and the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra.

Clarke informs Black that he will face Vasily one-on-one in 4 races in each of the four international cities previously. Vasily races using his prized red Dodge Concept Viper GTS-R. After defeating Vasily in San Francisco, Tokyo, London, and Monte Carlo, Vasily gives up his Concept Viper GTS-R, and Black unlocks the Ford GT40. Clarke immediately possesses the Viper from Black and informs Black that he has been healthy since they arrived in Monte Carlo. Infuriated, Black demands a one on one with Clarke for the Concept Viper. Clarke agrees on the terms that they race in all four location like with Vasily, but only this time, they agreed to do it in the opposite directions and order of cities, and that if Black loses, he must give everything back to Clarke and leave forever. Dennis Black has to race the final four races with the Ford GT40 against Clarke's new Dodge Concept Viper GTS-R. After Black defeats Clarke on all four races, the game cuts to a cinematic which shows Clarke rolling down the Vipers window and tossing the Viper's keys to Black.

After the credits, Clarke calls Hail to steal back the Viper, which ends the game on a cliffhanger.
So yeah that's the story.

So the "Underground Mode" is divided into 4 cities; San Francisco, Tokyo, London, and Monte Carlo. And it has 22 cars (29 including the bonus and police cars). A big letdown from TD6 but still like GT3, it's due to the graphics.

Oh and one more thing, for the PS2 version, while loading for the race, you'll get a Pong mini game. Well its Atari so it makes sense.

Positives

Just like GT3, a big improvement over TD6 is the graphics especially when played on the PC and Xbox versions. Also the car selection may be small but they did chose wisely the cars that will carried over from TD6 to Overdrive. The only new cars that were added to Overdrive is the Dodge Viper GTSR Concept (as a replacement for the GTSR race version), Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Toyota Supra, Chevrolet Chevelle 454, Pontiac GTO (old gen), and Chevy Corvette L-88.

The story mode is also one thing I gotta give Pitbull Syndicate credit for because of how the story is written. It may be simple but there's always a way to make it real interesting like the end parts of Underground mode. Also Dennis Black has one good voice actor. Kinda sounds like Batman though.

The locations used were also chosen well by Pitbull Syndicate especially the addition of Monte Carlo. In one of the races for Underground mode, you'll be using the Monaco GP layout which is great.

Once again like TD6, great soundtrack. From Saliva, Moby, Bubba Sparxx, etc. you got one good list of songs that you'll like to hear while playing Overdrive.

Negatives

As also mentioned earlier, the physics were kinda bad. The physics felt stiff when taking corners and that's a letdown from TD6 because TD6 felt easier to drive despite the collision system. Oh and remember the collision system from TD6? Well it's back and it's even worse than before.

The car list is also another nuisance to the game. If you played TD6 and you get to drive the Toyota GT-One, Nissan R390 GT1, Lotus Elise GT1, Dodge Viper GTSR, and AM Project Vantage, well those cars didn't return to Overdrive (except maybe for the Viper but then again its the concept/Competition version of the GTSR) and kinda sucks considering those were a blast to drive.

And I guess those are the only complaints I have for the game.

Conclusion

Decent game and a good entry to the TD series and the last TD type of game to feature high speed super car racing genre before TD Unlimited came and also Eve of Destruction. Is it worth playing? That depends on how will you cope with the physics. I didn't mind the physics at all. Also it depends whether you are used to the series or if you happen to play TDU, then maybe Overdrive should give you a little lesson on how TD was before but then again you also have TD5 and TD6 so still, it's up to you.

Score: 3/5.
161.jpg

It's all about the Viper........
 
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Stephan

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220px-Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout.jpg

The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout (1990, NES)


Japanese developer Kemco commemorated the creation of the Bugs Bunny character by launching a dedicated game on its 50th anniversary. Not coincidentally dubbed as The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, the game would remain as a virtual reminiscent of the occasion.

The plot is simple - Bugs receives an invitation to a birthday party held in his honour. He is willing to appear, but doesn't know his Looney Tunes friends are jealous of him receiving all the attention. So jealous they are going to do whatever it takes to prevent him from reaching the destination.

Lovely. With such "friends", who really needs enemies?

Anyway, that's how we begin this action-platform game. Complete total of 24 levels and reach the party. After each level you get to play a bonus game where you can win more lives (one game is based on luck, the other on your speed). Occasionally you have to beat the crap of your "friends" to proceed to next level and... that's about it! Traditional platform game that doesn't introduce anything new to the genre, but works well enough to please LT fans.


POSITIVE

Enemies you are going to face are really unusual. Little hammerhead guys, self-destructing clocks, walking detergents... lots of charming objects that suit the mood of the game. You have a hammer you can use to knock them out, but since enemies tend to respawn at times, it is generally better to avoid direct conflict.

The carrots are your only collectibles. It is not necessary to collect them, but the more you have, the more rounds of the bonus games you can play, increasing your chances to win more lives.

Hiding behind bushes on very first levels saves you from any kind of damage. It is a nice example of smartly using possibilities of 2D.

There is no time limit, so you can relax and clear level as slow or fast as you want, no pressure.


NEGATIVE

Difficulty varies from level to level, but there is one particular boss after few levels that will cause headache to casual players and drive them away. Don't give up!

Every time you get hit, you become temporarily invincible. That's normal, but you stay that way for too long. Many players will quickly figure out you can avoid a set of traps or enemies by simply running through them while the invincibility lasts. And you can't attack while you're being invincible. While that may be fair from rational point of view, it kinda messes with traditional platform standards and your natural instincts (to quickly get rid of the threat).

The game has to be completed in one sitting, no passwords. It will take about 2 hours for amateurs.

I'm going to conceal this one, because it reveals the ending:

Once you arrive at the party, you notice that all the "friends" you have been fighting against are now at your party, celebrating with you. We don't get any explanation for their recent behaviour. Was it a birthday joke? Were they under some spell? My, my...


CONCLUSION

Good platform game Bugs Bunny fans shouldn't miss.

Gameplay video example here.
You should've added AVGN's review. It would have been funny to feature his review especially the beatdown he did to Bugs Bunny.

Oh and sorry for double post. I wanted to seperate my review from replying to @Matej.
 
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Guys, which games count as "retro"? Is there any release date requirement or something like that?
I'd say any game that was first released over 15 years ago could be counted as retro
 

Matej

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Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (1990, NES)


Ninja Gaiden
series gained strong recognition for its intense gameplay and use of cinematic cutscenes in-between levels. The second instalment continues to expand the plot of the first game. The story itself is not really inspiring, but it does have some decent twists. Still, I found more appealing to watch the artwork during cutscenes.


POSITIVE

If there is one thing this game delivers in plenty, it's pure action. I mean, Ryu is a ninja - isn't that telling you everything? He can climb walls, throw shurikens and slash with his sword. Whatever he does is backed with great sound effects and animations that makes you want to be part of this. Each level has some nice additions in the environment that makes jumping on platforms more challenging, but surprisingly, stages are not difficult to master. Unlike in The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout or Super Mario World, it is unlikely you'll die because platforms are hard to reach or require 100% jumping and timing accuracy from you.

The soundtrack is memorable, much like in the previous game. You also have a sufficient life bar and unlimited continuous (you'll need both, trust me).


NEGATIVE

The game is atrociously difficult. If you think you have mastered the platform genre, but haven't played any Ninja Gaiden title, you haven't mastered jack s***! This is a true old-school platform game that thrusts deep inside hard-core zone and stays there. If you're not up to the challenge, look for another game, because this one doesn't back off.

The enemies respawn every time you move the screen away from their spawn points or even when Ryu is standing at specific spot or facing certain direction. Attacks are fast and can come from various angles. The worst enemy in the game is flying hawks. These bastards approach rapidly, and you only have a brief moment to calculate from which angle they're coming at you. If you're fast, you can kill it or jump over, both which proves to be difficult since often more enemies come at you simultaneously.

And it really doesn't help you bounce back every time you get hit. Perhaps that life bar could prove useful if I didn't have to watch Ryu being bounced into nearby pit all the time (which results in instant death).


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The red ghost following Ryu can copy all of his moves and help you take out more enemies.


You have to clear the game in one sitting. Unlimited continuous you may have, but considering how difficult it is to complete a level, it is likely you'll spend hours and hours repeating it without making any progress. We're talking about one of those games that require lots of practice and patience until you learn how to avoid or tackle every enemy on each level. Don't rule out the possibility for your console to run 24 hours a day because - trust me - you don't want to do all the stages you've completed once more. Funny, but bosses you have to face periodically are only moderately difficult. The real problem is how to reach them.

There are two more things I have to mention (both being trivial considering the difficulty): the HUD on the top of the screen is clogged with information, and red floating balls from which you get helpful items are sometimes hard to shoot down.


CONCLUSION

Ninja Gaiden II is a great action game that keeps provoking one's lust for more kills, more stunts, more action. Bear in mind though, that only limited group of really determined players will be able to enjoy it.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Matej

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Sports Car GT - DEMO (1999, PC)

It is time to put aside your beloved Assetto Corsa, Project CARS or whatever freaking state-of-the-art simulator you have been playing recently, as we're about to travel back to 1999 and deal with some proper simulators. Okay, I know I'm overacting again and no, I'm not alluding to Grand Prix Legends. Right now I couldn't give a damn about some rustic open-wheelers 'cause my brother, GT cars is where my mind has been recently on.

Sports Car GT is a pleasing driving simulator that successfully proves how one doesn't have to own the latest hardware to enjoy realistic driving experience.

Now, here is the fun part - I haven't played the game. I only played a demo of the game, so I can't share experience of the full game. Nevertheless, all the great time I spent with the demo has given me enough materials to help you imagine what you could really expect if you buy the full game.


POSITIVE

As far as I can tell, Sports Car GT simulates an IMSA GT Championship season, hence all the nice American tracks and the Vector M12 machine (among all other cars) you get in the full game. The demo features only three cars and one track, but that's more than enough to find out what the game is all about, and how exactly it plays.

The physics engine is really good. Though it obviously can't be compared to ones on the latest platforms, it does have all the ingredients a proper driving sim should have. Catching oversteer is possible, but it is recommendable you do not try to pull any impudent exhibitions as pushing just a bit too hard will send your car out of control. Once it happens, you'll probably recall unavoidable spin-outs from early TOCA games on PS1, but in this game spinning out it is much milder, and can be avoided by tweaking the car settings.


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BMW M3 is one of the three cars available on the demo. Tempted?


Tire wear, fuel consumption, damage, weather and night driving? Yes to all! You can even take a break and let AI drive your car before the next pit stop, which will prove very useful during long endurance events. This game was really advanced when it came out, and it shows.

You have more than enough settings to tweak your car, the most important ones being weight distribution and tire pressure. Will GT Sport have tire pressure? Yeah... we better not start with that. Separate practice and qualifying rounds prior each race are also available. I especially like how you can adjust race length in both lap times or minutes/hours.

Keyboard driving is definitely doable (after few laps I became surprisingly consistent), and so is controller driving, but one thing that amazes me is the steering wheel support. I found a comment on the internet stating the game perfectly supports Logitech G25 steering wheel. Considering how there aren't many options to adjust all the typical feedback and realism details, I have to assume you won't have much problems driving with a modern wheel, nor you'll have to spend so much time calibrating your device as in PCARS or AC. Marvellous!

The game is highly modifiable, many good tracks and cars can be found on very few websites that have remained.


NEGATIVE

Exhaust sounds could have been better. I have to praise old-school rumbling sound when engine is idling, though.

My entire PC freezes every time I try to assign controls differently. Of course, this may not be a problem on your device, PC games are very inconsistent regarding bugs and compatibility.


CONCLUSION

If you like driving simulators, but don't have access to latest hardware or related games, this could be the game for you. My advice is - check the demo. It costs nothing, and could really surprise you.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Le Mans 24 Hours (2002, PS2)
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A port of the old PS1 game "Test Drive Le Mans", Le Mans 24 Hours features an even bigger car list than the PS1 version, with 80 cars to choose from, new tracks and fully animated pit crews. This new game also features a full day night cycle and dynamic weather.

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Cars aren't limited to those from the 2002 race, with cars ranging as far back as the Group C era being drivable including the McLaren F1 GTR, Toyota GT-ONE, Sauber Mercedes C9 and Nissan R390 GT1. You also get the more modern offerings such as the Audi R8, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R and Cadillac Northstar LMP.

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POSITIVE

Huge car list featuring the most notable competitors from every Le Mans race from 1997 to 2002, all recreated in stunning detail

Incredibly detailed tracks including lesser known offering such as Road Atlanta from the American Le Mans Series

Intelligent AI that react to your presence

Incredibly fun yet realistic driving physics

Dynamic time and weather that make a huge difference to how your car handles

Realistic fuel depletion and tyre wear

Good variety of race tracks including Road Atlanta, Circuit De Catalunya, Donington Park and, of course, Circuit De La Sarthe

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NEGATIVE

Graphically, it looks way worse than most other racing games of the time, with flickering objects and alaising issues as well as the game looking a few years older than it actually is

No damage model whatsoever

Poor menu music selection

Terrible car sounds

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CONCLUSION

Le Mans 24 Hours is a great racing game, that is one of the best simulations of the world's greatest endurance event, but it's out-dated visuals and poor sound effects drag it down slightly.

7.5/10

 

Matej

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Hunt.jpg
The Hunt for Red October (1993, SNES)


If you still haven't watched The Hunt for Red October movie, congratulations - we have something in common! No need to panic though, this kind of ignorance won't affect your gameplay experience as the game only loosely follows the plot.

The game has caught my attention as I don't often see a side-scrolling games with submarines (or naval vessels in general). It sure isn't a common concept - much like The Fireman's I reviewed previously - which makes spending some time with the game recommendable.

Your task is to navigate the submarine across 9 missions and complete the main objectives. I have to praise the variety of the objectives you have to deal with - escorting a ship, destroying a giant squid, sinking a perilous destroyer, and more. On each level you have a bonus first-person view stage on which you have to shoot down as many enemy vessels and aircrafts as possible. Your accuracy will determine how much of your life bar gets restored, so make sure to train your marksmanship.


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A first-person bonus stage. For some reason the helicopters are faster than the aeroplanes.

The game can be completed within 50 minutes or so, though good players will be able to do it in less than 30 minutes. Don't raise your hopes too much, after 5 missions the game becomes increasingly challenging, so I hardly believe amateurs will be able to finish it on their first try. The submarine must not be destroyed even once, otherwise you'll have to restart the entire game. Plus, the submarine's energy bar carries over from level to level, so it is mandatory you try to avoid enemy projectiles as much as possible.

Controlling the submarine works well, it doesn't travel too fast or too slow, and the strength of inertia affecting the sub will suit both casual and sim-oriented players. I love how each button on the controller has a different purpose.

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Different weapons shoot from different angles, the position of your plays a big role in aiming.


When it comes to negative aspects, I don't like how enemy submarines sometimes tend to dash directly towards you, causing severe damage on the point of impact. I doubt that sub commanders in real life would ever permit suicide attacking. The soundtrack is pretty good, but low technical quality (it isn't on par with SNES capabilities) reduces the pleasure of listening.


CONCLUSION

Another interesting game for lonely weekend nights. In case you're not interested in Steel Diver (modern variant of this game), try The Hunt for Red October for SNES.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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Stephan

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Time for another review.

Crash 'n Burn (2004, PS2 and Xbox)
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Crash 'N' Burn is a racing video game developed by Climax Group and published by Eidos Interactive in 2004. The game bears no relation to the 3DO title of the same name and the Android title.

Nothing was much known to this game other than its publisher Eidos who was known for publishing titles such as Deus Ex, Hitman, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy VII, the first Just Cause, Resident Evil Code Veronica and 3, many more.

As for its developer Climax Studios, they were also known for doing a collaboration with Konami for the Silent Hill series back in 2006.

So this game's credentials are good so far. You got a publisher that publishes triple A titles while the developer has a decent track record on games.

Anyways back to the game, when I first got this game, I had a feeling that this would have been Test Drive Eve of Destruction's successor if Atari gave Eve of Destruction its own sequel and guess what? It did felt like Eve of Destruction's successor but with added customization and basic livery editor.

The game has 9 game modes (6 without counting the team versions of some game modes) and those are:
Race - Player chooses a location and track, and races opponents to cross the finish line after a set number of laps.
Team Race - Red and Blue teams are organized at random. Same as a regular race, but whichever team places higher overall collectively wins.
Kamikaze - Same as a regular race, except that half of the cars go in one direction around the track, and the other half goes the opposite direction.
Team Kamikaze - Same as Kamikaze race, with the scoring of a regular team race.
Running Man - Points are gained by being the "running man." Whoever is the running man must evade opponents for as long as possible. If a player tags the running man, they begin to gain points, and must evade opponents themselves.
Last Man Standing - All players must attempt to stay alive while wrecking as many opponents as possible. Points are gained through wrecking opponents, and a large bonus is awarded to the last player alive. The player with the most points wins.
Team Last Man Standing - Red and blue teams fight each other in the same fashion. The surviving team collectively wins.
Bomb Tag - A player is randomly selected to carry the bomb, which is continuously counting down. This player must tag an opponent and be rid of the bomb before the timer hits 0. When an opponent is carrying the bomb when it hits 0, they are instantly destroyed. The last player alive wins.
Assassination - A player is selected at random to be highlighted for a short period of time. While highlighted, opponents gain points for attacking them and a large bonus for wrecking them. The last player alive gains a large bonus, but the player with the most points overall wins.

You have a choice of four cars: Compact, Pickup, Muscle, and Sports. Basic but you have a lot of parts that you can modify and make them look different. Also each car's performance varies by car IMO (Compact is more agile on corners, Pickup is more durable and recommended for Kamikaze events, Muscle has a great acceleration and top speed but has a likelihood of oversteer, and Sports is great at everything.).

The tracks for this game are fictional recreations of real life US locations. For every track it has two variants, two X versions (it has ramps and dirt added), two reverse variants, and two reverse X versions.

Positives:
I like how everything in this game is basic. No need for adding complex game modes.
Soundtrack is decent. In fact all of the artists that were featured in the game were not big time artists.
Car selection is once again ok. Customization is what makes the cars in the game different.
The game is 900MB. 900MB.
Graphics are decent for an 900MB game. However not recommended for playing it in a PS3. Screen flickers in menu screen.
Championship progression is decent.
AI is well balanced. You can make them calm or crazy depending on your preference.

Negatives:
Sometimes the rubberbanding is obvious when close to an opponent.
No rewards for getting a 100% completion.
Cash rewards not enough when playing in Arcade Mode.

Conclusion:
Once again, 900MB sounds low but Climax was able to make the most of it and make a decent or if not a good spiritual successor to Eve Of Destruction. And for this Crash n Burn is the one of the most underrated PS2 racing games. Very recommended for those who wanted to play an Eve Of Destruction-esque game.

Score: 3.5/5 or 4/5.
 
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GTR2 - FIA GT Racing Game (2006, PC)
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GTR2 is a simulation racing game created by Simbin (Now known as Sector3) and 10Tacle (Now known as Slightly Mad Studios) that was released for PC in 2006, and is highly regarded as being part of the golden age of sim racing (alongside rFactor & NR2003). It is based on the 2004 Season of the FIA GT Championship, with a fully playable championship and over 30 cars and 150 teams.

The game consists of both the 2003 and 2004 FIA GT Championship, and features every single car and team as well as all the tracks, including big name circuits such as Hockenheim, Monza and Spa-Francorchamps.

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POSITIVE

Over 30 cars including the Maserati MC12 GT1, Ferrari 550 GTS, Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Porsche 911 GT3-RSR and BMW M3 GTR, and even lesser known cars such as the Gillet Vertigo, Morgan Aero 8 and Seat Toledo GT, all with full damage models and unique handling

Up to 100 cars can be raced on track at once (Limited by grid spots, up to 62 cars can be raced on Spa, while only 28 can race on Anderstorp).

Over 15 circuits including Hockenheim, Monza, Spa, Barcelona and Donington Park, all with dynamic weather and day/night cycles

Multiclass racing with GT1 and GT2 cars

Full 24 hour endurance racing with pit stops and full championships with proper points systems and weight penalties.

Life like AI with realistic pace and behavior that perfectly mimics the drivers the game is simulating, allowing for incredibly fun and tense races and championships

Massive modding ability, with the possibility to add any car and track mod to the game incredibly easily.

Driving School that lets new drivers learn the basics of GT racing

The perfect handling physics that is easy for newcomers to learn but hard to master, that means it is very possible for literally anyone to jump in and play.

Huge number of options from gameplay to graphics and controls.

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NEGATIVE


Base game is very limited (only 2 FIA GT seasons), although this can be easily fixed with mods

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CONCLUSION


GTR2 is an excellent racing sim that is perfect for both newcomers and experts alike which is both fun and realistic at the same time, while also being incredibly easy to mod to greatly increase replayability. The vanilla game is quite limited but it is very fixable with mods.

9.5/10

 
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Matej

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Top Gear GT Championship (2001, GBA)


The Game Boy portable consoles are not exactly the most adequate platforms on the planet for driving titles, but they can deliver some decent results when properly utilized. Top Gear GT Championship is one of those "results". While it isn't as deep or playable as the games coming from direction of MTO's famous GT Advance series, it's capable of providing few hours of solid driving experience.

Before we proceed, I need to stress that Top Gear GT Championship is a new, spiritual instalment of the famous Top Gear series. Exactly, the familiar nomenclature ain't just a coincidence, and Kemco (the developer and publisher) was involved in development or publishing of the first three game. Since the new game "borrows" one good and one bad thing from the past, why not find out what the links are?


POSITIVE

For starters, the game is packed with impressive array of cars from both GT300 and GT500 classes, all of which can be tweaked to some degree. The driving itself is surprisingly easy, owing to good steering set to output mild turning angle and a dose of unresponsiveness. On mobile platforms like Game Boy where you control cars with arrows this is a good solution, one that made the original Top Gear so playable. Bingo, that's the good thing.

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Driving on a custom-made track in the rain.

Several prominent circuits where Super GT events are usually held all have properly altered lengths. If you want more tracks, you can build up to two circuits in basic map editor, and then use them in either time trial or single race mode. I couldn't verify this, but I presume you can also use them when playing against your friend in multiplayer link mode.

Lastly, no need to write down any passwords, the game supports a saving system.


NEGATIVE

There are several reasons why the game couldn't rise above mediocrity. Possibly the most important on to me is the lack of challenge. Though you can degrade you car to make racing more challenging (in Gran Turismo style), that's not was I was hoping for. Running off to grass slows you down so excessively. It was like a last resort to make the game difficult, I really don't like such tricks.

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Ingredients all serious racers should have: qualifying and test run.

In addition, all races last three laps. No matter where you race or what you drive, three laps is all you get. No endurance racing, if that's what you were expecting.

Oh, yeah, no pit stops or any kind of damage to car's body or tires either. Casual players aware of hardware potential will understand this, but I wouldn't bet on everyone else! And what's the point of rain tires when soft tires are always the best option, regardless of weather conditions?

However, there is one more minus. One thing I never loved about the original Top Gear (which I've played) was auto-alignment that slightly steers your car every time the road ahead curves or straightens. That messes with your perception of how much steering is needed in order to properly clear a corner or overtake opponents. I'm not an expert, but it appears that exactly the same engine was used to power original Top Gear. It takes time to "get in the groove" and clear corners without messing up.

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A typical 3-lap race.


CONCLUSION

Top Gear GT Championship could have been a superb Super GT game, but very few gaming details it didn't adopt have their own weight. Before you pick it up, check one of GT Advance titles or younger Toca World Touring Cars for the same platform.

Gameplay video example here.
 
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14,662
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Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (2001, PS2)
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The 3rd entry in the critically acclaimed Gran Turismo series, Gran Turismo 3 is highly considered by many to be the best entry in the series with it's memorable career mode, fun driving physics and challenging AI, even though the car and track count is much lower than it's successor, Gran Turismo 4. GT3 features over 150 cars, ranging from the Mini Cooper and Suzuki Alto Works to the Mazda 787B and F1 cars.

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POSITIVE

Over 150 cars including the Pagani Zonda, Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra, Ford GT40 and Mazda 787B.

Over 40 tracks, both real and fantasy, including Laguna Seca and Cote D' Azure.

Amazing career mode featuring over 80 unique race events.

Endurance racing with dynamic tyre wear.

Challenging AI that provide tense racing, even in the earlier events.

Incredible handling physics that allow an incredibly fun driving experience without feeling too arcade-y

Licence tests that lets new drivers learn the basics of motor racing, which also give access to better race events.

In depth Arcade Mode with the ability to unlock a huge number of new cars and tracks

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NEGATIVE


Much smaller car list compared to Gran Turismo 2

PAL version appears to be the worst version of the 3, lacking the JGTC Diablo and 80's F1 cars.

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CONCLUSION


Gran Turismo 3 is quite possibly the best game in the GT series, with an incredible GT Mode, fun driving physics, challenging AI and a great arcade mode setup, only let down by it's small car list and the clear differences between regions.

9.5/10

 
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