Video Game Review: Donkey Kong (NES)

It’s kind of hard to review a classic game of this stature that has left such a mark on everything else that’s come after it.

Donkey Kong put Nintendo on the map, introduced the world to Mario and helped solidify platform games as the biggest trend in the ’80s.

It’s elegant and perfect in its simplicity and that’s why Donkey Kong is still played, today. It’s also one of the games that people are still trying to get world records on and that’s not just because of the King of Kong documentary.

I like this game a lot and I play through a couple rounds of it at least every few months. Granted, I prefer Donkey Kong Jr. but I’ll review that one in the near future and break down why.

Donkey Kong isn’t my favorite old school platformer but it is definitely in the upper echelon. I now it’s really old and almost primitive but it was so colorful and well designed for its time. Additionally, I love the sounds in the game and that’s an area where Nintendo just seemed like they were a step ahead of everyone else, except maybe Namco, who had stupendous sound effects in their earliest games like Pac-Man.

This is just a fun and honestly, timeless game. It doesn’t take much to learn it and play it but it’s also really difficult, as you continue on in the game and play through more and more rounds. Because of that, even with its simplicity, it’s a hard game to master.

It’s hard to imagine a gaming world where Donkey Kong didn’t exist. It changed the landscape and deservedly so.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: its sequels Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3, as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.

Video Game Review: Splatterhouse 2 (Sega Genesis)

I dug the hell out of the Splatterhouse games way back in the day. However, other than recently playing and reviewing the first one, I hadn’t played them since the early ’90s.

This one wasn’t released on the TurboGrafx-16 like its predecessor. Instead, it was released on the 16-bit Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive for international readers).

Unfortunately, this chapter is just more of the same and doesn’t do much to improve upon the first one. In fact, I think it is slightly worse in just how repetitive it is, as well as how shitty the controls and mechanics are.

Plus, it doesn’t take much for you to die, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’re a Jason Voorhees looking character with a more ripped physique and a myriad of badass weapons to use.

Additionally, the baddies in the game are all just kind of generic looking and uninspiring.

This is a game that’s fun for about ten minutes until you say to yourself, “Okay… I get it.” and then move on with your day.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other releases in this series.

Video Game Review: Captain Silver (Sega Master System)

I had no idea what this game was because I don’t have a lot of playing experience with the original Sega console, the Master System.

However, I now have access to tons of these games thanks to my RetroPie, a supremely worthwhile investment for anyone into retrogaming.

This is a simple side-scrolling action game where you play a heroic swashbuckler fighting real threats and fantastical ones like lion men wearing fancy clothes.

I went into this blindly so I wasn’t sure what the objective was but you pretty much have to collect letters dropped by defeated enemies and spell out “Captain Silver”. You can do this multiple times per level by walking back and forth but you are also timed and need to reach the end of the stage before the time runs out.

It was fairly fun but the one-hit death kind of sucks and makes the game more challenging than it should be. I didn’t play it to the point of beating it but I got a few stages in.

I tried to beat it on several attempts but after 45 minutes to an hour, I thought I had a good grasp of everything.

The mechanics are decent but the platforming was a bit rough, especially when having to jump from moving object to moving object. Plus, a water fountain killing a swashbuckling hero seems really lame.

Overall, this isn’t a bad game but it’s not great. I thought it looked good and it was amusing for awhile but I’m not sure if it’s anything I’ll play with any sort of regularity.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side-scrolling action games of the 8-bit era.

Video Game Review: Avengers (Arcade)

I saw a game titled Avengers on the MAME part of my RetroPie but I soon found out that it didn’t have anything to do with Marvel’s Avengers or the 1960s British television show.

This is basically an arcade beat’em up game like Double Dragon but it isn’t a side scroller, it is instead a vertical scroller like some of the classic shooters in the vein of Commando or Ikari Warriors.

The game is smooth and it has controls that are okay but take a few minutes to get used to. However, it has a pretty killer soundtrack and decent graphics for the time.

It’s nothing special, however, other than it’s a beat’em that goes vertical as opposed to the more traditional horizontal.

It’s easy to play but the difficulty is a bit of a problem. Mainly, because when you die, you respawn from a checkpoint and not on the screen where you died like a typical beat’em up game. So later in the game, you have to be a lot less reckless and not rush into battle like a coked up kangaroo with a bulletproof face.

Overall, this was fun but not great.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other beat’em up arcade games.

Video Game Review: S.T.U.N. Runner (Arcade)

S.T.U.N. Runner was a game I used to play a lot in video arcades back in the ’80s. It was a hell of a lot of fun but I hadn’t played it since.

I was actually surprised that the controls worked so well when playing this through MAME on my RetroPie.

The game is basically a racing game but you’re racing against time, as opposed to other vehicles. It also has a combat element, as you earn a blaster that allows you to blow up obstacles and enemies, as you fly through the levels.

Each level is a different track and you go through outdoor areas and tubes. You also have ramps, speed pads you can use to boost, as well as stars you need to collect to get bonuses and better tech for your vehicle.

The game is also made from 3D polygons and for the time, it was an incredible looking game. I’m actually surprised at how fluid it is, as it was one of the earliest games of its type.

Playing this again was a lot of fun. Honestly, this is a game on my RetroPie that I’ll probably play quite a bit.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other racing combat-type games of the ’80s and ’90s.

Video Game Review: RoboCop 2 (Arcade)

I reviewed the first RoboCop arcade game awhile back and intended to review the sequels, as well, but that task fell down the memory poop chute.

Anyway, while playing my RetroPie, I came across this and was then reminded of the task I failed at. So I immediately fired this one up and then realized, I had never actually played it, even way back in the day.

The action and mechanics are pretty close to the first arcade game, except you are able to move up and down the ground area and it’s not like your stuck walking on a rail.

The graphics and sound quality are about the same and the game is actually fairly quick if you’re pretty good at it. But the learning curb isn’t steep and playing this through MAME, you never run out of quarters.

My only real gripe is that the jumping and shooting combo you need to use on the harder bosses is kind of wonky and annoying. Also, the bonus stages are kind of cool but pointless and somewhat tedious. If you can get anything close to a perfect score, you are the greatest gamer that ever lived.

Overall, not a bad followup to the first RoboCop arcade game but I still like its predecessor a bit more.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters and beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Rolling Thunder (Arcade)

I used to play Rolling Thunder a lot back in the ’80s when I’d blow all of my allowance at the arcade. I honestly forgot about it though until I heard it mentioned on a podcast discussing arcade games from the greatest generation of video arcades.

I was glad to find this on my RetroPie, so I fired it up to re-familiarize myself with its pure, unadulterated awesomeness.

Well, I was glad to discover that it has held up tremendously well. It was fun as hell to play, the gameplay mechanics were damn solid and I loved the sound, level design and the general action elements.

My only real complaint is that continues send you back to a checkpoint instead of respawning you where you died. It adds an extra level of challenge to the game but since you can’t take very much damage, as is, I found myself stuck in a really difficult area.

Despite that, I played this for well over an hour, which is a long time for arcade games from this one’s era.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side-scrolling action shooters of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.

Video Game Review: Kung Fu (NES)

Kung Fu was one of the first Nintendo games that I owned. My cousin had the system about six months before I did but when I got mine later that year at Christmas, this was one of the games that “Santa” dropped off with it.

loved this fucking game and used to play it for hours, even though you can actually beat it in like ten minutes. I didn’t care about how repetitive it was and how basic as fuck the level design was, it was just a badass game with a badass dude throwing lightning fast kicks and unimpressive punches. Just use the kicks, man!

I also noticed, as a kid, that this was a lot like the plot to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death, where the hero has to fight through five levels of a pagoda, facing a tough boss on each level. I’m pretty sure this took its inspiration from that film’s general premise but it also adds in lots of baddies and unique bosses that weren’t trying to emulate the character from the Lee film.

For the time, the mechanics of this game were superb. While you can get overwhelmed by enemies if you aren’t precise, most mistakes are due to human error and not the game being a piece of shit.

There’s not a lot of strategy to this game. Just kick and don’t get hit. When you fight the bosses, sweeping the leg works for most of them. Just unload lightning fast leg sweeps and be done with them.

While this is one of the best side scrolling beat’em ups from the earliest days of the original Nintendo, it did get overshadowed by games like Double Dragon. 

Still, this is one smooth game that packs a punch and is still fun to blast through every now and again.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em action games for the original Nintendo.

Video Game Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Arcade)

You may be saying to yourself, “Wait! Didn’t you already review that video game?!” Well, yes… except I reviewed the port for the original Nintendo, which was a fairly crappy version.

This original arcade version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is far superior in every regard but one.

The arcade version has better graphics, much better sound, better gameplay, better replayability and much smoother controls.

In fact, the only thing that the NES port did better was how it was redesigned to be longer, overall. It had lots of levels, different play modes and was much more challenging in how you have to work your way through the game. This is, honestly, why I like playing the NES version even though I now have access to the original arcade version.

Focusing back on this version, I love how it includes Mola Ram as a threat and dangerous obstacle throughout the game. Also, I love how they designed the room with the Sankara Stones and lava pit.

While the NES game is more of a challenge and a lengthier experience, the original arcade game is cooler and more impressive in every other way. And frankly, it’s fun to revisit every once in awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Indiana Jones video games of the ’80s and ’90s.

Video Game Review: Altered Beast (Arcade)

While I’ve played the Sega Genesis port of this game countless times, it’s been a really long time since I’ve fired up the original arcade version.

I was surprised to discover that there wasn’t much difference between the two.

Although, I feel like the rom that I played may have been an earlier version of the game, as I could only transform into the werewolf on each level and I wasn’t able to turn into the other were-creatures. After watching the arcade playthrough video below, I saw that the other animals did indeed exist in the arcade version. So why mine only had the werewolf is a mystery, I guess.

If you’ve got insight on this, leave a comment.

That being said, this was still fun to play, even if werewolf mode made it damn hard to beat some of the bosses that were tailored more for the special attacks of other hero monsters.

This is a very simple beat’em up game with minor platformer elements. It’s side scrolling and moves at it’s own pace. The only real objective is to beat stuff up, collect power-up orbs and turn into a badass were-creature to fight each level’s boss. The game has five levels.

Altered Beast was never great or even all that engaging. It was just a really cool game that was fun to play, had neat graphics and sound for the time and also allowed you to transform into pretty generic but powerful monsters.

As a kid, I used to wish it was longer because I’d usually beat it in fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, it didn’t get a sequel until years later. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups from the 16-bit era.