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: 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.

Video Game Review: Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone (Arcade)

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone is the only Double Dragon game that I didn’t play in the arcade and I only had the original Nintendo version to recount from memory.

This differs from the Nintendo version, which had an alternate start to the game and also felt like a wonky rebuild of the two games that came before it. It was also hard as fuck when compared to the other two games and it wasn’t fun to play.

At least with the arcade version, you can just pop in more quarters and keep playing without having to start over. Playing this now on a RetroPie, you have all the quarters you want and don’t have to worry about forking over all your allowance and weekly lunch money.

Like its predecessors, this is a side scrolling beat’em up action game. In this chapter of the series, however, you travel the world hunting for MacGuffins.

Apart from that, the game is really just a rehash of the ones before it. Where the second game altered its mechanics in a fairly shitty way, this game at least tried to make them more like the original. Still, they don’t seem to work quite as well but I think that’s due to this game’s reworking of its weapons system.

As opposed to beating someone’s ass and taking their weapon, you now accrue a sort of currency that allows you to purchase items (and I believe upgrades). The in-game system was a bit of a clusterfuck, so I just ignored it and just kept kicking baddies in the chin.

This isn’t great but it is better than the second game. In the end, though, nothing from the franchise tops the first, original Double Dragon arcade game.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Double Dragon games, as well as other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: Star Wars (Arcade)

I don’t know if this was the first arcade game I played as a kid but it is the first one I remember falling in love with.

I don’t know if my love of it was because of the great gameplay, the cool wireframe graphics or simply because it was Star Wars and Star Wars was the biggest thing in my life at the time.

Recently, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, a place I go to every year or two, and I found an original sit-down Star Wars arcade machine in the Pinball Museum there. It was the first time I had played this in over two decades and I found out that when it comes to mastery of this game, I’ve still f’n got it!

Bragging aside, playing through this and beating it again was a hell of an awesome experience and it made me appreciate just how good of a game this was for its time.

There are only three levels but to truly beat it, you need to start on the easiest and then work your way through them all.

The game is pretty simple in that it is a rail shooter that keeps you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter. Initially, you fight TIE Fighters in space and then you reach the Death Star, where you have to hit the exhaust port and blow it up.

Each level is the same sort of thing but there are different TIE Fighter formations in the space battles, as well as different parts of the Death Star to explore.

Star Wars is still one of my favorite games of all-time. It’s simple, fun, challenging and it’s aged remarkably well for something as simple as it is.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Star Wars vehicle shooters, primarily those early ’90s ones on PC.