Take the word 'review' with a grain of salt.
I recently got myself a CRT. When it comes to playing old games, many gamers stand by their old tube TVs (and not without good reason). CRTs have less inherent input lag than LCD TVs and also do a better job of interpreting the console's native output resolution. LCDs, by contrast, are very uncomfortable with low or otherwise unusual output resolutions and do a poor job of scaling the image. This means that many old games will actually look better on a CRT. Of course, there's also just the aesthetic feel of playing a game on the hardware it was designed for.
I don't really collect games, exactly. I'm all for emulating games and am not against buying them digitally. I also disavow the PVM meme. Still, I was willing to spend the money for the chance to re-experience some of my old favorites.
Klonoa is a fantastic game, but I'll stick to emulation, thank you.
I won't lie, it's gratifying to own some of my favorite games. For some of these games it's the optimal way to play them. I also happen to own a bunch of crap. I've noticed a funny trend with the games I own: All my favorite games are games I bought relatively recently, i.e. post-being a dumb child that didn't take care of his discs. This dumb child let all of his favorite games get scratched and bruised and battered, but was at least discerning enough to only destroy the games he really liked. He had a bunch of shovelware and licensed games that he only touched once and never again, leaving them in relatively pristine condition. This once dumb child is now a dumb adult that still has his original copies of The Bible Game (yes, seriously) and Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots.
And guess what? He's going to play them!
Well, sort of. Some of these games I have played in full, and some I've never even played. I'll give each game at least 15 minutes to hold my attention. Should go without saying, don't expect anything really detailed. Some of these games should feel honored to get even a paragraph, while others really need their own articles to be properly analyzed.
Table of Contents
Use the links below to jump to specific games you're interested in, or to continue reading from where you left off.
- Ratchet & Clank
- Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando
- Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
- Ratchet: Deadlocked
- Rayman Arena
- Rayman 2: Revolution
- Rocket Power: Beach Bandits
- RPG Maker II
- Shadow the Hedgehog
- Sonic Heroes
- Sonic Mega Collection Plus
- Sonic Riders
- Spongebob Squarepants: Atlantis Squarepantis
- Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
- Spongebob Squarepants: Creature from the Krusty Krab
- Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, PANTS!
- The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
- Spongebob Squarepants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman
- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2006)
This game was developed by THQ Studio Australia, who somehow did a better job ruining one of my favorite TV shows than The Legend of Korra did (that was hyperbole).
Since this game came out in 2006, I presume it was in development at the same time as the second season of the TV show, but all of its environments and iconography seem to be based on the first season. You start out as Aang, but unlock the ability to play as Katara, Sokka, and Haru (Toph had not yet been introduced and they needed a fourth player). According to Wikipedia, the game (unsurprisingly) did poor critically but actually did quite well commercially.
As I understand the game features a completely original story. The game seems to be a beat-em-up with light RPG elements. I couldn't really tell you that though because I only spent around 20 minutes on it. All I did was beat up wolves for some reason and do mundane tasks in some random water tribe village. The game hadn't even really started yet, and I couldn't get it to. I asked Katara what I should do, and she told me to just bum around the village and do more random tasks. I told her I was bored, and she didn't respond to me because, as much as it saddens me to say, she isn't real.
I think this mirrors my prior experience with the game. I looked ahead at some of the later levels on YouTube and didn't recognize anything. I can imagine my young self not knowing where to go and quickly getting bored, hence the game's 'Like New' condition. I'm keeping it in the hopes that one day it will randomly have a resurgence in popularity, and I will be the last man who still has an original copy. Also I don't feel like throwing it out.
Last thing I'll mention is that the game opens on an FMV of the show's opening credits sequence. CRTs do a really good job of hiding the compression artifacts in FMVs and as a result it looked very nice. The CRT could only save the experience so much, sadly.
Looks like we're off to a good start!
The opening FMV for this game uses a song called Let It Ride by Spy. This song was used in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. It plays when Francis takes the last shot in the hockey game (if you've seen the show, you know what I'm talking about). I bring this up because I feel like I'm the only person that noticed this as a child, and it has been slowly eating away at me for years. I feel so relieved that I was able to finally tell someone.
This game is one of the more well-known licensed games I own that isn't related to Spongebob. I remember this game much better than I do the movie it was based on. I haven't seen Barnyard since it came out, but I think it's safe to say that it isn't as good as I remember. This game, by contrast, was actually a pleasant surprise. I actually have fond memories of this game and in playing it again it's not hard to see why. You can make fun of me for saying this, but I actually like this game quite a bit. It's nothing spectacular; I only played it for around 90 minutes or so, but I had fun.
This game was developed by Blue Tongue Entertainment who also developed the Nicktoons games. I haven't revisited those games yet, but I think this game shows some promise for the studio. Their approach with this game is really unique and is why I enjoyed this game all these years later.
This game doesn't really follow the plot of the movie. It instead uses the concepts from the movie as a jumping-off point for its own ideas. Most licensed games from this era were crappy platformers that tried to fit the square peg of level design into the round hole of a movie plot, or they were just crappy beat-em-ups developed by Australians. You don't play as Otis in the Barnyard game. There's no big final boss to build your way up to, and there are no awkward in-engine recreations of movie scenes. You actually create your own character and just have fun running around the barnyard completing various quests and mini-games for characters from the movie. The game actually has a day-night cycle. During the day you'll be doing quests to earn money which you spend at night to try and spruce up the barn. That's it. It's a really low-stakes, laid-back game that lets you take things at your own pace. Think an edgier version of Animal Crossing with Mario Party-esque mini-games.
The mini-games aren't nearly as bad as one would expect them to be. Again, they're nothing spectacular, but they're harmless fun. The mud-jumping game was just as fun as I remember. Probably won't be sinking the same amount of hours into it, though. The world is also surprisingly big and fun to explore for a game of this scope. I enjoyed my time with this one and will likely come back to it later. Keep in mind, this is the perspective of someone who remembers this game fondly from his childhood. I can't really say I'd recommend this game unless you're really looking to kill time.
Oh, yeah, it actually gives you a choice of inversion on the camera, so that's neat.
The Bible Game (2005)
Long-time fans of mine might remember this one. I did a let's play of it with my friend John years ago, and I definitely don't want to revisit that video. I can only imagine how much cringe Reddit atheism is on display.
This game was actually developed by Mass Media Inc., the same company that developed the Jak and Daxter Collection on PS3. I can't tell if I think their work with this game is more impressive, but as we'll soon discuss, that isn't saying much.
Played about 20 minutes of this (a short game) with my brother, and we were both smote by God. I don't know if He is mad at me for making fun of His glorious creation, or if He's telling me to play something else. Either way, don't plan on playing it again any time soon. There's a lingering part of me that finds all Christian children's media (that isn't VeggieTales) to be insufferably cringe. The Bible Game is a game show with biblical trivia and Mario Party-esque mini-games. This game wasn't really designed for me. I remember having some fun with it as a child, so I don't want to be too hard on it. I'll gladly complain about the horrendous licensed music, though.
A racing simulator based on a brand of cars I had never even heard of until I saw this game on my shelf. I'll have more to say about the concept of the racing simulator when I discuss Gran Turismo 4. This is essentially just a knockoff Gran Turismo with funky menu music. I don't really have anything to say about this one, I think my dad bought it for himself. I've never heard of the publisher or developer. The graphics are sub-par for 2004, and it controls like crap. The performance is pretty good, at least, but the loading times are a bit longer than I would like. Speaking of which...
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (2001)
So I've covered this game multiple times, most recently in 2020 in a video called 'THE CRASH BANDICOOT TIER LIST'. I cringe at my excessive cursing but otherwise pretty much agree with everything I said in that video, at least as far as The Wrath of Cortex is concerned, so go watch that for a more detailed review.
I like this game. I like it for no other reason than it being a big game from my childhood. The dorky, awkwardly paced cutscenes still put a smile on my face. I could only really recommend this game to die-hard Crash fans, for reasons stated in that video. TL;DR: The game just generally reeks of a lack of polish that was present in the original Crash trilogy, due mostly to a troubled development cycle. This issue is pervasive in every aspect of the game apart from its based AF soundtrack. Crash's controls are floatier than Kingdom Hearts III's, the game doubles down on the kind of gameplay variety present in Crash Bandicoot: Warped, and nothing ever quite looks the way it should.
By the way, if you've run off to watch that video, I apologize for the terrible capture quality. Don't trust my capture; The Wrath of Cortex actually holds a relatively consistent 60 frames, at least in the few levels that I played. That's something that I really liked about the PS2 era: 60 frames per second was on its way to becoming an industry standard before the PS3 set us back a decade.
If you happen to be interested in this game, for whatever reason, the XBOX version is generally preferred for its shorter load times and more consistent performance. The PS2 is considered the worst option due to the load times, likely caused by the game being printed on a CD-ROM and not a DVD. CD-ROM PS2 games are typically identifiable by their blue back. The Bible Game was also running on a CD-ROM, now that I think about it.
Crash Nitro Kart (2003)
An otherwise great game rendered completely unplayable by one glaring issue: awful controls.
Polish was an incredibly scarce resource in the early 2000s Crash games, and Crash Nitro Kart spent all of its share on its lavish track designs and fancy FMV cutscenes. Crash Team Racing set a pretty high bar on this front. CTR had a really satisfying sense of weight and momentum to everything you did; after a jump your kart landed with the weight of a brick and immediately took off with a huge boost. The game's drifting mechanic gave you boosts that were incredibly satisfying. You were further rewarded for chaining boosts via the hidden 'reserves' system, which would take me too long to explain. All of this is absent in Crash Nitro Kart. Boosts are really unsatisfying; the player constantly needs to be drifting to maintain top speed. Jumping kills all of your speed and feels absolutely terrible, almost like you're jumping through thick mud. Performance issues on PS2 also don't do the game any favors.
Most of CNK was repurposed for a remake of CTR called Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled. That game features all of the tracks from Crash Nitro Kart and features much better controls. Nearly all of the tracks look better in the remake as well, with the developers opting to add in really nice little details that make the worlds feel more alive... All except for one: Hyper Spaceway. Playing the original Hyper Spaceway again was pretty nice. In Nitro-Fueled the track is considerably shorter and made more of a prison than a coliseum. I think the coliseum is a better fit for Velo's self-obsessed personality. Unfortunately, Nitro-Fueled itself has a glaring issue that prevents me from recommending it: micro-transactions. I really don't feel comfortable promoting terrible business practices like that, and the only way these companies will learn to treat gamers with respect is through financial starvation. Nitro-Fueled has a few other issues as well, but that's the big one.
As was the case with The Wrath of Cortex and many games of this era, if you happen to be interested in this game, you'll want to seek out the XBOX or GameCube versions instead for their better performance and load times.
Oh yeah, I have two copies of this game for some reason. No clue why.
Crash of the Titans (2007)
This game was also covered in my Crash tier list video. You can check out that review here. I agree with almost everything except the excessive cursing and the idea that comparisons to Death Grips are ever a good thing.
TL;DR: This game is a weird departure from the old games, and it doesn't really stand that well on its own. The game has an impressive scale and can be quite fun at points but is brought down by the signature Post-NaughtyDog Lack of Polish™.
This was such a weird era in gaming. Lots of classic PS1-era series got bizarre redesigns and reboots. Looking at how insanely successful their remakes have been (often despite their quality) it seems so... Unsafe to make such drastic changes to the formula. Spyro did it twice! For as much as I really don't care for the modern Crash games, I don't particularly miss this era. I still enjoy this game for the childhood memories, but I wouldn't recommend it.
My childhood copy is long gone; I got my current copy on Ebay. This copy comes from a library which seems to have come up with its own rating system (ESRB be damned!) They gave this game a 'YA' rating for Young Adult. Their stickers cover the PlayStation 2 label so a separate sticker specifies that this is a 'VIDEOGAME' and not a DVD or something.
I now refer to this game exclusively as 'YA VIDEOGAME CRASH'.
You know what the best part is? YA VIDEOGAME CRASH doesn't even work; it frequently freezes during loading screens. For as much as I may pine for this era of gaming, scratched discs and faulty consoles will not be missed.
If you happen to be interested in playing this game, you will want to avoid the XBOX 360 version at all costs. The developers decided to add motion blur and other nauseating effects that result in a consistent sub-30fps and even visible screen tearing. The PS2 version is capped at 30fps but is at least more consistent. Interestingly enough the Wii version of YA VIDEOGAME CRASH is the only one of Radical Entertainment's Crash games that runs at 60fps. Unfortunately, it also necessitates the use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and the motion controls aren't optional. Your mileage may vary, but I find that control scheme to be extremely uncomfortable, enough that I'd be willing to cope with the poorer performance of the PlayStation 2 version. If your computer is powerful enough, you can emulate the Wii version and use a custom control scheme. Of course, all of this is assuming that you even want to play YA VIDEOGAME CRASH in the first place.
Crash Twinsanity (2004)
And once again, this game was covered in my Crash tier list video. You can check out that review here. And again, I agree with many of the points I made but not with the way I made them.
I've wanted to write an article asking the question "Was I Too Hard on
Crash Twinsanity?" for a while but just never felt up to writing it.
This article is as good an opportunity as any to ask that question. There are
many things I dislike about Crash Twinsanity still, but I can't really
say I hate the game or that I even really dislike it all that much.
One statement from my video that I find very cringe-worthy is that
Twinsanity] made me upset. These are the words of an 'Internet person',
i.e. someone that spends all of their free time on Discord. In other
words, me during the creation of that video.
The pseudo-anonymity of a computer screen can bring out the worst in people, and it's very foolish to think you're immune to its effects. I thought I was, and I've got plenty of cringe statements and burned bridges to show for it. When you spend all of your time in a fake environment (such as any kind of online forum) it can seem a lot more real and important than it really is. I used to find myself getting genuinely frustrated by other people's opinions on completely trivial matters and later wondering what the hell I was doing, stupidly not ever thinking that it had something to do with my online habits. When I closed my Discord 'server' (and then later stopped using Discord entirely) I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my mood.
All this is to say that the general fan perception of Crash Twinsanity was much more important to my 2020 self. Nowadays I can admire certain aspects of Twinsanity and can just laugh at the parts I don't like. Whether you love or hate this game is all fine by me.
In case you don't already know about Crash Twinsanity, it is highly regarded by fans for its unique concepts and gameplay but is also heavily criticized for its (to the surprise of no one) lack of polish. I've definitely come around to those that defend Twinsanity for its potential. Seeing as all of the Crash games beyond the original trilogy have had trouble pushing the franchise forward, Twinsanity's approach is worth acknowledgment. Wrath of Cortex plays it way too safe and YA VIDEOGAME CRASH is off somewhere else doing something totally unrelated. I admire the way Twinsanity tried to alter the formula, I just don't completely agree with the execution. I appreciate the emphasis on exploration and seamless, inter-connected worlds but not so much the bizarre physics puzzles or awkward, extra gameplay styles.
I'm not going to lie... I kind of like this game. Kind of. I have very fond memories of this game as a kid and I could see myself coming back to it every once and a while just for the chance to relive some of those memories. If I were being honest with myself in 2020, I wouldn't have been so hard on this game. Hell, it's heavenly compared to some of the other games I'm playing for this article. Of course, I would enjoy it a lot more if not for the game's staggering lack of polish. Twinsanity commits the heinous sin of having unskippable cutscenes that you need to re-watch if you die before they're triggered. You can also just walk into unskippable cutscenes that you have already watched which will never cease to amaze me. The game is also loaded with glitches and other quirks that constantly get in the way. I stumbled across two bugs accidentally without intending to during my short play session I did for this article, one of which cost me a life. That's the main reason why I don't come back to this game very often, don't really find myself recommending it to people, and have found it so frustrating in the past.
Oh, and as for the soundtrack, I still don't like it, but at this point I just think it's funny.
The performance on the PS2 version is quite poor. The XBOX version has much smoother performance at the cost of less pronounced colors and missing visual effects. Twinsanity has quite a few backwards compatibility issues on the XBOX 360 so you should avoid playing it via that method, lest you encounter some game-breaking glitches that are, for once, not Twinsanity's fault.
Gran Turismo 4 (2004/2005)
I can't really talk about Gran Turismo 4. It is one of the greatest racing simulators of all time, apparently. The series's tag line is 'The Real Driving Simulator'. That's all well and good for racing sim fans, of which I am most definitely not one.
Gran Turismo 4 is the antithesis of a pick-up-and-play game. This game really expects you to sit down and carefully learn the driving mechanics over many hours. There is an insane amount of content in this game as well; there's about 50 race tracks and 700 cars if I remember correctly, all authentic recreations of real-life cars with stats and everything else. The game is also a very impressive technical showcase for the PS2. The game goes for realism but still has a really nice style to it that I appreciated, especially noticeable in the menus. The game also maintains a very consistent 60fps.
Gran Turismo is a huge sandbox for car fans which is awesome for car fans. I don't give a crap about cars. We have a dilemma. As I said, you really need to learn this game. If you play the game for 15 minutes and come at it like it's an arcade racer, you're not gonna have a good time. That's kinda what I did. I played on three different tracks and it felt absolutely awful. I could not make a single turn without spinning out, unless I drove at a pitifully low speed. I'm not blaming Gran Turismo 4 at all, since it isn't meant to be played like this. The game literally starts you out with a bunch of crappy vehicles that you need to cope with until you can purchase better cars. I personally just do not have any patience for racing simulators. My dad bought this game for himself back in the day and that's the only reason I even have it. I don't recall playing this more than once as a child, which would explain why it's in such good condition.
Interestingly, Gran Turismo 4 supports a few extra video modes: 480p and 1080i... Which isn't really 1080i but is a valiant effort.
I much prefer kart racers to racing simulators. I prefer their simplistic controls and exaggerative visuals. I don't consider them to be superior or inferior to racing simulators, I just prefer that kind of game. Polyphony Digital, the developers of Gran Turismo, actually made a kart racer on PS1 called Motor Toon Grand Prix that I really enjoy and would recommend.
If you're a fan of this game, I would recommend this video by John Linneman of Digital Foundry.
By the way, if you're curious why I have two years listed, it's because the release date differs between the initial Japanese version (December 2004) and my North American version (February 2005).
Guitar Hero (2005)
Ever play a game from your childhood and realize that it isn't nearly as good as you remember?
There are plenty of games I played as a child that I would lose interest in as I got older. I haven't played Nicktoons Unite! in many years but I can just tell that it won't be quite as fun as I remember. My experience with Guitar Hero is a different story; I really loved the first Guitar Hero when I was little. I remember beating the game on the expert difficulty and bragging to all my elementary school friends about it. I remember struggling for weeks to beat Bark at the Moon and feeling incredibly satisfied when I did. I remember getting so comfortable with the game that I could put the controller behind my head and still be able to pass some of the easier songs on expert. To this day I still get Vietnam flashbacks when hearing the guitar solo in No One Knows.
I picked up this game and the sequel a few years ago knowing that it wouldn't be the masterpiece I remember playing but thinking that it might be fun to kill an afternoon with. I was shocked by just how awful the first Guitar Hero felt. Hammer-ons and pull-offs just didn't work no matter how hard I tried. At the time I was playing on an LCD and thought that perhaps that had something to do with it, but I just got done playing on a CRT and can confirm it just doesn't work.
See how some notes are missing the little black outline in the middle? You're not intended to strum those. You're supposed to strum the first note and then tap all the other ones in the sequence. This just does not work properly in the first Guitar Hero.
The controller is a ticking time bomb of arthritis and is loud as hell. All the first Guitar Hero game is really good for is annoying the people you live with.
The game doesn't just struggle mechanically; Guitar Hero is a poor showing visually for the time and for the hardware. All of the songs are covers and really bad ones at that. I'm genuinely surprised that I enjoyed the game as much as I did and that the game was as well received as it was back in 2005, because I just found the game to be unbearable to play. I also find its whole vibe and aesthetic to just be... Cringe, for lack of a better term.
Honestly, the game still has a special place in my heart for all the childhood memories I have, but if someone's trash-talking this game I won't jump to its defense. This game literally physically hurts to play. I also have two copies of this one: One is a copy I bought a few years ago, and the other is a childhood copy I didn't know I had, which has been completely destroyed by over-use.
Guitar Hero II (2006)
Many of the first game's criticisms still apply so, as you could imagine, I'm not terribly fond of this game either. Guitar Hero II does feature some quality of life improvements over the original, such as one of the game's major mechanics actually functioning properly. As a result this game doesn't feel nearly as awful as the first. The game supports progressive scan and has an option to calibrate lag, in case you're playing on an HDTV from the future.
The soundtrack is still mainly comprised of covers but does actually feature a few original versions, such as Stop by Jane's Addiction and John the Fisherman by Primus. The Message in a Bottle cover isn't half bad, but Heart Shaped Box was butchered in the most hilarious way possible.
New to Guitar Hero II is a cool feature where your saves randomly get corrupted and you lose hours of progress. This happened to me multiple times back when I played the game a few years ago, around the time I did that live stream. Didn't bother to play much of it for this article.
Hot Wheels: Velocity X (2002)
I could have sworn that this game ran on a CD-ROM, but it's actually on a DVD. This is another game from my childhood, although I'm not sure if this is my childhood copy. I remember wanting to revisit the game around 4 or 5 years ago, and I don't remember if I needed to buy a copy of it or not.
This game was surprisingly decent. It's nothing outstanding, but for its budget and scope it was fun. Granted, it looks kinda ugly, even for 2002. I played some of the challenges and messed around in the joyride mode since that's mostly how I enjoyed the game as a kid. This game has an adventure mode with cutscenes, dialogue, and all that fun stuff. I have very few memories of ever playing it as a kid; I was probably bored by the cutscenes or found the missions too difficult.
Riding around in the joyride mode was a huge trip down memory lane. I was very intrinsically motivated back then... This is a concept I elaborated on in a video about Humongous Entertainment's games that I would still recommend you check out. The short version is that an intrinsically motivated player, in contrast to an extrinsically motivated player, is one who finds the performance of the task to be its own reward. Running around an open world, goofing off instead of pursuing the main objective, messing around with cheats, etc. — These are the things that appeal to that kind of player. Children tend to be more intrinsically motivated than adults.
One of the most consistently surprising things when returning to cheap childhood games is the performance. So many of my childhood favorites are handicapped by poor performance. I guess I just wasn't really that cognisant of it as a kid. Velocity X's frame rate is so inconsistent it would make Crash 4 blush. It seldom hits its target frame rate of 60 and could have really used a 30fps cap. This game was also ported to GameCube and PC, so I imagine fans of this game could seek better performance on those platforms. Despite all that, I still enjoyed this one. Might revisit it later.
Something I noticed about the PS2 generation is that we were getting closer to more truly multi-platform games around this time. PS1 games couldn't be ported to Sega Saturn or Nintendo 64 without making serious concessions to accommodate the hardware, since each console excelled in some areas and struggled in others. The PS2 generation, by contrast, saw more accurate conversions to and from GameCube and XBOX. You could expect some minor differences in visuals and performance, but it's not like you were getting a considerably different game; the console's 'personality' was much less evident now. While I do admire the look of the old consoles, I'm glad the play field was evened out. Consumers had an easier time coping with just one console.
Hot Wheels: World Race (2003)
According to Wikipedia, this game is apparently based on a TV show of the same name that aired on Cartoon Network. I have never heard of this show before in my life. I think I had just assumed it was some kind of sequel to Velocity X.
Also, as it turns out, this game is on a CD-ROM. Must have gotten the wires crossed.
I have to say that this was an extremely nostalgic experience. The opening FMV plays a song by Smash Mouth (or at least it sounds like Smash Mouth) which was quite a surprise, since I don't remember that at all. Was wondering just how much I would even remember about this game... But then I got to the main menu.
It's crazy how some things stick with you. I find that music is very effective in this regard. When I heard the main menu music I time traveled. I know it's a stupid thing to get sentimental over but, as we'll see, it's not like the game is so amazing it made me get really emotional (spoiler alert: It's no masterpiece). It's just that hearing the dorky menu music sent me back to when days were longer and stress-free. It really made my day to hear that music again.
Visually this game doesn't look half bad, again considering its budget and scope. There are some impressive visual effects, yet the tracks look pretty barren. I can easily forgive shortcomings in the visuals for one reason: This game never misses its target of 60fps. Yes, seriously. If it ever did, I didn't notice.
The driving mechanics of this game are pretty simple. When you get to the main menu and get done reminiscing about the music, the first option you'll see is 'Challenge'. I assumed this was some kind of mission mode, but it's actually just a very short tutorial. This ends up highlighting a big problem with this game. My ideal racing game is one with a low skill floor and a high skill ceiling (easy to play; difficult to master). Gran Turismo 4 and racing simulators like it could be said to suffer from a high skill floor. World Race suffers from a low skill ceiling, which is perhaps more damning than the former. After the tutorial and about 15 minutes of practice, you will have completely explored the racing mechanics. For this reason, the game isn't particularly re-playable; you will blow through any challenge the game gives you with minimal effort.
Bearing all this in mind, I still had some fun with this game. This game got some very poor reviews on its release, which surprised me. The game isn't a masterpiece but the mechanics didn't seem much more shallow to me than something like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (sorry MK fans). Well, all my questions were answered by the league mode.
After you've completed the tutorial you can play the league mode which is basically the equivalent of a kart racing cup. There are three leagues, the first of which has six tracks. Then the second league has ten tracks, but the first six of them are just the tracks from the previous league. The last league has fifteen tracks, which are all the tracks in the game. Again, the first ten are just repeated from the first and second league. This highlights the biggest problem with World Race and likely the reason it was panned by critics: a shocking lack of content.
There are only fifteen tracks and many of them look similar to each other. You can either race against AI or do time trials. Racing against AI isn't fun due to some pretty intense rubber-banding. You can never get a comfortable lead on your opponents. There are times where I was convinced I was playing perfectly and then multiple computer players cut ahead of me. One failed stunt will put you in last place. This rubber-banding ends up going both ways, so even after multiple bad crashes in a row it won't take you too long to catch up to the rest of the pack. So long as you're not near the end of the third lap you can probably reclaim first place with minimal effort... Only to randomly lose it again for no reason. The developers must have realized this was a problem, so the completion requirements for the leagues were made very generous. You basically have to be trying to fail them to lose. The time trials aren't anything exciting either. You race against one time and then unlock a generic looking car with negligible differences in stats from the cars you already have access to. To the game's credit, as a kid that collected the Hot Wheels toys, I used to find this process pretty satisfying. Seeing a toy I owned recreated in glorious 480i was impressive to me. That still doesn't excuse the lack of any additional content.
Last generation's Crash Team Racing and even the inferior Crash Nitro Kart both had more ways to play the tracks. An adventure mode, relic races, CTR challenges, and time trials against increasingly more challenging ghosts. World Race doesn't even live up to fellow Hot Wheels game Velocity X, which had an adventure mode and various missions to tackle. Even as a kid I didn't play this game for very long, which explains why my childhood copy still works.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (2001)
Alright, now we're talking. I love this game.
Jak and Daxter is easily one of the greatest collectathons ever made. I really love the way Jak controls; movement itself is just really fun in Jak and Daxter, thanks in no small part to some superb animations.
Jak runs at a flawless 60fps. I've played this game many times over and never noticed a dip in performance. This game also completely lacks loading screens. It does almost all of its loading behind the scenes. The game does break its interconnected world rule for the tutorial level, and some of the animations that play upon entering levels could be called cleverly disguised loading screens. Still, you can walk from Samos's hut all the way to the final boss without a loading screen or break in the action. This contributes to the game's level design and aesthetic, which I think is absolutely fantastic.
I actually played this game recently, so I only messed around in the tutorial area and Sandover Village for this article. I definitely plan on coming back to this game later.
I only have a couple gripes with this game: I think the combat is very strange. Enemies in Jak are really weak; nearly every enemy dies in one hit. The game mostly just sprinkles enemies around levels so you have something to do while you're walking from point A to B. At their absolute worst they never amount to much more than a minor nuisance. It comes across as a huge oversight.
Most of my other complaints with this game are really minor, so I don't really think they're worth going into. If there's one thing I have a tough time forgiving Jak and Daxter for, it's the unskippable cutscenes. I'm surprised that the game even has this issue, seeing as the original Crash trilogy let you skip cutscenes. The game at least doesn't make you re-watch any cutscenes, unlike Twinsanity or another game we'll speak about soon. I know that there have been times I wanted to play Jak and Daxter and just wasn't in the mood to watch that opening cutscene again. I later learned that starting a new game, resetting the PS2, and loading the save is actually faster than watching the cutscene, so if you're in the mood to play this game again, give that a shot. This reminds me...
The best way to play Jak and Daxter officially is on the PS2. Jak received a PS3 remaster that... Isn't bad, but not ideal in my opinion. One good thing is that it gives you a choice of inversion on the camera, which is really a common-sense change. I don't see why a game shouldn't give you the option. Many PS2 games have the camera inverted with no way to change it, which I find annoying. It usually doesn't take me more than an hour or two to adjust, but it just feels uncomfortable to play with. Even after getting used to an inverted camera I will always switch back to a normal camera when given the option, just because it feels wrong to move the stick left and make the camera turn right. I shouldn't think a choice of camera inversion is even praise-worthy but, well, you'll see.
Jak and Daxter plays mostly fine in the PS3 port. There are some small issues, and awkward visuals are more evident at the higher resolution, but it doesn't ruin the game at all. The sequels are included in the remaster and are supposedly much worse, worse than they normally are (lol). If you're interested in the sequels you should avoid the PS3 version. One thing pertaining to Jak 1's PS3 port that I really don't like is that it uses the game's widescreen mode. Many games from this era had a widescreen mode that simply squished the image into a 4:3 area that would then appear 'normal' when stretched to fit a 16:9 area. I later learned that this was called 'anamorphic widescreen'. This can look awkward, especially at a low resolution, but it does give you the benefit of seeing more of the sides of the screen. Take this example from Pac-Man World:
I believe Crash Twinsanity's widescreen mode works like Pac-Man World's. Jak and Daxter's, on the other hand, gives the image the ol' Funimation treatment (it crops the top and bottom out). The game is still more than playable like this, but there's some lost detail.
Those screenshots were taken from the PS4 version, which actually does let you choose the 4:3 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, this version is absolute garbage. For some godforsaken reason it's running via emulation even though the game was already ported. Maddeningly, this means it doesn't even give you a choice of camera inversion. You would think that these quality-of-life changes would be a given, especially since they already appeared in the previous release. But even still, I could forgive it. What I cannot forgive is the inferior performance. Yes, you heard that right. Jak on PS4 often dips below 60fps and even exhibits obvious hitching, which is absolutely unacceptable for a port of a PS2 game which itself ran perfectly fine at 60. It's pathetic that this costs money.
It's insulting how little some of these companies care about game preservation. Thankfully, fans have picked up the slack. The PS2 may be the best official way to play Jak and Daxter, but if you've got the hardware for it, there's an unofficial fan port to Linux and Windows called OpenGOAL. It is a reverse-engineered recreation of the programming language Andy Gavin created for Jak that is still being developed as I write this article. It seems fantastic!
...too bad it doesn't work on my PC. This machine is just way too old, and since I don't have a spare house to mortgage I don't really wanna spend the money on a new one just yet. I'd like to try it out eventually, at which point I'll probably write an article on it. You can check out the project yourself here.
Jak X: Combat Racing (2005)
And now we skip ahead to everyone's favorite NaughtyDog game. NaughtyDog themselves are really big fans of this one.
I don't own the sequels because I don't like them. I've played very little of Jak II and 3 before, and the little that I played didn't impress me. I actually got Jak 3 as a Christmas gift back when it came out and didn't get very far in it. I've never owned Jak II. Also what's up with the second game using Roman numerals and the third game using Arabic numerals? Furthermore, where's IV through IX!?
The sequels' change in tone and setting is bizarre, but it doesn't bother me all that much. I'm much more bothered by the move away from collecting and platforming in favor of really boring and unsatisfying gun play. These games just come off as worse Ratchet & Clanks.
Jak X is obviously a different story. This game sits somewhere in between a racing simulator and a kart racer with a heavy focus on the strategic use of items. You can pick up red items which fire behind you and yellow items which fire in front of you. You and your enemies have health bars. Half the game is devoted to racing and the other half is devoted to vehicular combat. The game's tag line, Combat Racing, is really the best way to describe it. It's really unique.
I'm surprised by the genuine amount of effort on display. For starters, the fact that it's actually developed by NaughtyDog. The game's opening movie is really fun and well-animated. It uses two songs from Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age, which is a pretty great album (it's in my music collection). The cutscenes in this game are pre-rendered, but I could hardly tell on my CRT. All of the cutscenes are actually animated pretty well, now that I think about it, and there's a lot of them. Again, it's surprising for a spin-off. NaughtyDog genuinely cared a lot about this game, so it's a shame they would publicly disown this game later.
This is the first game made by NaughtyDog after Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin's (the founders') departure from the company and is probably the best among these later games. Granted, I haven't played The Last of Us, which people really seem to like. I'm of the very unpopular opinion that Uncharted is quite possibly the single most overrated game franchise of all time, but that's a discussion for another day.
Is the gameplay of Jak X any good? Well, for the brief amount of time I played it... Yes! I had fun. I would have liked to play more, but unfortunately ran into a pretty major glitch. An auto-save glitch prevented me from progressing through certain menus, and eventually the game just stopped recognizing my memory card altogether. I watched some YouTube videos about Jak X and, as it turns out, wasn't the only one who encountered these problems. Jak X is one of the few PS2 games that is affected by hardware revisions. I'm sure you're familiar with the 'fat' and 'slim' PS2 models, but the differences go deeper than that. Check the back of your console and you'll see SCPH- followed by some numbers. The PS2 initially shipped with a chip, the R3000, that handled backwards compatibility of PS1 games. All models up to and including the 7000X, the first slim model, come with this chip. This chip was removed from later PS2 models; PS1 games are actually being emulated on these later systems. Thankfully, very few PS1 games have major issues. You might experience a performance hit, which I've found is especially detrimental to Crash Team Racing. Why is this relevant? Well, some PS2 games used the R3000 as well. Very few PS2 games have compatibility issues with the later slim PS2s but, unfortunately, Jak X is one of them. I have the SCPH-90001, so unless I want to play the entirety of Jak X in one sitting, I'm out of luck. I don't feel like buying another PS2 just to play one game, especially since I already have a PS1 I can use to avoid the PS2's emulation. This game was later released on PS4, presumably via the same emulation as Jak and Daxter, so I wouldn't get your hopes up. If you do happen to own a PS2, the game might be worth a look. It supports progressive scan so it will look nice on modern displays.
Okay, I've mentioned 'progressive scan' multiple times so I should probably explain what that is, since it wasn't even all that clear to me. Most of the PS2's library runs at 480i, with the 'i' standing for interlaced. If you've ever seen resolutions like 480p or 1080p, the 'p' stands for progressive. The number refers to the line count. Interlacing works by only drawing half of the lines on any given frame; on odd frames it will draw one set of alternating lines, and on even frames it will draw the other. Since these frames, which are also called fields, are alternating rapidly at 60 frames (or fields) per second, this creates the illusion of a smooth image. This illusion was designed for and works effectively on CRTs; you're not really going to notice the interlacing due to some of the technical processes of a CRT. This illusion would be broken by an LCD, which is why LCDs perform a de-interlacing process to simulate how a CRT displays that type of video, but this produces visual artifacts and adds input lag. A progressive scan, by contrast, simply draws all of the lines at once. If you're playing a game on an LCD and see the option for progressive scan, it's always ideal. On PS2 progressive scan requires component cables to work. When compared to the Dreamcast, GameCube, and XBOX, the PS2 generally had fewer 480p games.
If you want a more detailed explanation of this with visual examples, check out this video by My Life in Gaming.
...and if you're a fan of Jak X, I would recommend these reviews by Novacanoo and TheGamingBrit.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002)
My therapist warned me about this game.
This game sucks. I remember, all the way back to the days of TheStimpyland, calling this game out as a Sonic 06-tier bad game that YouTube reviewers were sleeping on. Well, they've woken up. I don't really have much to add.
I played this game as a kid, but have been exposed to it just often enough that it didn't really hold any sentimental value for me to revisit. As a kid I did enjoy the game, but only ever played the first level. I remember finding the game vaguely creepy, which is perhaps why I haven't bothered to revisit it. I still find it a little creepy, truth be told, so let's just move on.
Kingdom Hearts (2002)
I actually just happened to be in the middle of a play through of this game when I came up with the idea for this article. I had wanted to buy a CRT for a while and decided that, after some much needed nostalgia from Crash Bandicoot: Warped and Spyro the Dragon, Kingdom Hearts would be the first game I played on it.
This is one of my favorite games of all time; this is the kind of game that really deserves its own article. I feel like this article is already long enough, and I don't think we're even halfway through.
EDIT: We're not.
So, instead, I'll talk about my experiences with this version in particular. Kingdom Hearts has had multiple revisions and releases. After the initial release in Japan, the first release in North America added some additional super-bosses. Japan later received an exclusive 'deluxe edition' of the game called Final Mix. This version adds extra content as well as many balance changes. The most significant differences are introduced in this version. This was Japan-exclusive for years until it was finally remastered on PS3 as part of the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMiX collection. The game was then released alongside the II.5 collection on PS4, XBOX One, and PC (we don't talk about the Switch version). This version sees a bump to 60fps and 4K resolution.
The Final Mix changes, frame rate boost, and some quality-of-life changes make the PS4 version the ideal version. Truth be told, however, there are certain things I prefer about the non-Final Mix version.
For starters, Final Mix made the bizarre choice to give new color palettes to almost all of the heartless. I prefer almost all of the original palettes, and I find some of the Final Mix palettes to be hideous. The Trickmaster is probably the greatest victim:
Guard Armor was also slandered:
The HD versions are absolutely the ideal way to play the game, so I'm a little saddened to see these canon color palettes be forgotten. Hopefully fans can mod these into the PC version.
One thing I vastly prefer in the original Kingdom Hearts is item synthesis. Final Mix adds special heartless to each world, all of which have special conditions for being killed. Each one of these heartless drops a unique synthesis item. If you want to craft the best weapon, fittingly called the Ultima Weapon, you'll need to kill all of them multiple times. I really dislike the design of some of these special heartless, especially the Sniperwild and Pink Agaricus. In the original game, these simply don't exist, thus making the Ultima Weapon grind significantly easier and quicker.
Final Mix also adds additional cutscenes but, to be honest, I would kind of prefer they not be there. One of the early examples shows where Riku went after Destiny Islands was destroyed. I think his surprise reveal later in the game is much more effective without this cutscene.
I have a really soft spot for the original PS2 version, since it's the one I grew up with. I also dislike a fair amount of the stylistic changes made in FM (I didn't even talk about its vastly inferior title screen). Unfortunately, the PS2 version is rendered completely obsolete due to one major flaw: unskippable cutscenes. And yes, if you die before the cutscene, you have to re-watch it. Kingdom Hearts puts a very long cutscene before a very difficult boss. If you die to the boss, you are punished with a 3+ minute cutscene. This one cutscene+boss fight combo is the reason that many people didn't finish Kingdom Hearts. The boss fight isn't even that difficult, but sticking a 3-minute wait in between attempts makes the fight way more stressful than it's supposed to be. The HD versions let you skip cutscenes whenever you want, negating this issue.
Another one of the big changes introduced in the HD version is the change to the camera. On the PS2 versions, the camera is controlled via the R2 and L2 buttons. In the HD versions, this was changed to the right analog stick, although I'm not completely satisfied with the way it was changed. In the original Kingdom Hearts the right analog stick could be used to navigate the command menu. This was incredibly useful while in battle; you could dodge enemies with the left stick and select your commands with the right. In the HD version, you need to use the d-pad to control the menu. This is really awkward in battle; you can't move your character and navigate the menu at the same time anymore. Kingdom Hearts II actually offered a solution to this: The right analog stick moves the camera, but holding down L2 will make the right analog stick control the menu. I don't understand why this wasn't implemented in 1.5. Even so, I think the trade is in 1.5's favor. People often complain about Kingdom Hearts's camera, and now, after playing the PS2 version again, I understand why. The lack of vertical camera control makes some sections of the game significantly harder, most notably the mini-games in Hundred-Acre Wood.
I still thoroughly enjoyed playing the game the way I remembered it. I got Ultima Weapon and beat most of the super-bosses. My save file clocked in at around 31 hours. Granted, a lot of that was the game being paused in the background while I did other things, and plenty of it was also synthesis grinding. I dislike spending more than 20 hours on a game. In fact, that's why I really don't care for RPGs that much. I just get sick of looking at the same game for so long. I was willing to put in extra effort for Kingdom Hearts because I really like this game. Even so, I stopped playing before I attempted to fight Sephiroth just because I was getting tired of the game. And quite frankly, I think spending more than 40 hours on a single player game is just ridiculous.
Looks like I ended up having more to say about this game anyway. I find little trivia like version differences to be pretty interesting. I don't know why.
Kingdom Hearts II (2005/2006)
I've actually played Kingdom Hearts II fairly recently on the PS4 remaster.
As with Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II received a Final Mix upgrade that was Japan-exclusive for years, until eventually being included as part of the HD remasters. Kingdom Hearts II received a much more substantial upgrade with Final Mix, to the point where the original PS2 version feels incomplete — New abilities, a new drive form, a whole new level, new heartless, a ton of new bosses, and a lot of really important balance changes.
Kingdom Hearts II has an incredibly fun and intricate battle system, but the game is typically way too easy. Bosses really don't discourage you from just mashing the X button like a madman. Players are naturally going to take the path of least resistance and end up neglecting a huge part of what makes the game so enjoyable. KH2FM added critical mode, a difficulty setting that makes the game significantly more challenging, in exchange for some extra abilities. Critical mode does the bare minimum of actually requiring you to think about the buttons you're pressing and forcing you to venture outside of your comfort zone. When you start experimenting with drive forms and magic, you can have a lot of fun with this game. The extra Cavern of Remembrance level also gives you a ton of stuff to do after you've completed the main story.
Critical mode and the Cavern of Remembrance aren't in the original KH2, and the game feels naked without them. My brother actually played through this version of the game before we got the CRT. For this article I just played a bit of the prologue and then toyed around on his completed save.
I enjoy Kingdom Hearts II, but definitely find myself siding with the original game. I appreciate the way combat was expanded (especially in Final Mix), but I really dislike the world design. Kingdom Hearts II hardly features any platforming or meaningful exploration at all. Final Mix actually attempts to remedy this in multiple ways, but it's too little, too late in my opinion. If you want more details about how Final Mix expanded the original game, check out this video.
Also, this game has one of the greatest opening cutscenes of all time. It's an FMV that then transitions into in-engine graphics. Again, the effect ends up looking quite nice on a CRT.
The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning (2006)
So this one is a childhood copy, not even sure if it works that well. 'Childhood copy?' I don't hear you asking. As I explained in my Spyro trilogy review, I didn't actually grow up with the Spyro trilogy. My first experience with Spyro 1 was via the PlayStation Classics on PS3. The first Spyro game I ever got was Spyro 2: Season of Flame on the Game Boy Advance. The next Spyro game I played was this one. Yes, really. I played The Legend of Spyro before playing the original trilogy.
Needless to say, I'm not a fan of the game's aesthetic. I don't think the aesthetic is bad exactly, in fact I think this game looks quite nice for the platform. My problem is that it isn't a good look for Spyro. Something I really dislike about these reboots is the way they ignore already established iconography, lore, game design, and everything that made their series great. I complained about this in my Crash tier list video when reviewing YA VIDEOGAME CRASH: I don't like the way Radical Entertainment neglected so many characters and veered away from platforming. The Legend of Spyro is even more offensive in this regard.
This feels like a completely different game. I'm convinced that Spyro's name and face were added to some generic beat-em-up to help sell units. I know that, that didn't literally happen, but it really feels that way. And yeah, The Legend of Spyro is a beat-em-up, just like YA VIDEOGAME CRASH. The game's combat has you doing a combination of physical attacks and different kinds of elemental special moves. Since you're Spyro, you start with fire breath. Later you unlock other kinds of breath until you become the Avatar. I actually remember having a fair bit of fun unlocking the different breath types and upgrading them, but I didn't play this long enough to give it another try. This game does something that I absolutely detest: It spams enemies like crazy. Even some of the best beat-em-up/hack-and-slash games are guilty of this.
This game has an incredibly cinematic angle to it. The game pretentiously
calls itself 'a Krome Studios Production' and opens on credits for its
star-studded cast, which includes Elijah Wood, David Spade, Gary Oldman, and no
one else. It's a generic 'chosen one' story with lots of musings about
prophecies and ancients that my brain does not have room for.
you cannot skip cutscenes in this game, which will seriously prohibit me from
playing it more. is what I initially wrote. Apparently you skip cutscenes
with L1 which is just cursed (the game doesn't tell you this).
This game's performance is rather poor and the FMV compression is aggressive and incredibly noticeable. I was genuinely taken aback by it. The game has anamorphic widescreen but no higher resolution modes, which is surprising for 2006. The game was also released for GameCube and XBOX, so better performance can likely be sought out there.
The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (2007)
Okay, I need to stop the article right now. This game does this really bizarre thing where it inverts the left/right camera by default and calls that mode the normal one. The other Legend of Spyro game, Kingdom Hearts II, and Ratchet & Clank do it as well. What gives?
This game also pretentiously calls itself 'a Krome Studios Production' but at least features more than 3 people in the opening credits. David Spade has been replaced by Billy West, and the credits also feature Kevin Michael Richardson and Mae Whitman, i.e. actual voice actors (and not David Spade). It picks up from the ending of the first game that I didn't play.
It's weird, I remember really enjoying A New Beginning when I was young but I don't think I ever beat it. Furthermore, I don't think I've ever played this game. None of this game looks familiar to me at all. Having played the game now I can at least take comfort in that I wasn't missing much.
Okay, chide time: A major problem with A New Beginning is that basically every enemy in the game dies to a combo where you hold circle to buck them in the air, jump, and then mash circle. In my testing, this wasn't fixed. Doing this combo triggers a cheesy slow-motion effect, which A New Beginning very generously lets you disable. The Eternal Night doesn't. Gee, that's certainly one way to nerf a move. That is, just make it really tedious to perform. Good job, Krome. The slow-mo also brings the game's input buffering into question; the input window is way too large. Unless you carefully time all the individual button presses, you'll always do at least one more move than you intended to. This was a problem in the first game as well, but the slow-mo makes it more cumbersome. As if the game wasn't slow and cumbersome enough. Oh, right, about that:
This game's performance is pretty poor. It's capped at 30 but frequently dips below that, with some pretty serious hitches occurring when particle effects fill the screen. This game was ported to Wii and 360, so I would imagine those platforms offer better performance. I hope for this game's sake that the 360 port isn't another YA VIDEOGAME CRASH situation. Wouldn't make a difference to me either way because this game sucked! Yet another crappy beat-em-up developed by Australians.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (2001/2002)
Maximo was developed by Capcom and is part of the Ghosts 'n Goblins universe. In fact, this game is kind of a 3D take on Ghosts 'n Goblins. I've never played Ghosts 'n Goblins.
I actually picked this game up a few years ago because I found it for cheap, and I remembered it from when I was little. I think my dad might have rented it from Blockbuster. I remember lots of little details about this game, like how walking on certain parts of the ground will make skeletons rise up and grab you, or how Maximo loses his clothes when he gets hit.
Thing is, I don't think I ever made it further than the first level, because this game is tough as nails. I played it briefly a few years ago and stopped playing after I beat the first boss. This game has lives, which makes it needlessly frustrating and stressful, and you also have to buy saves with in-game currency. I don't even think my dad could beat it at the time. I don't think we ever owned this game before, or that I even played it more than once or twice. I guess that first level just happened to make a strong impression.
This game is a platformer/hack-and-slash hybrid; the best way to describe it would be Medievil with a greater emphasis on platforming. In fact, I would say Maximo has a lot in common aesthetically and mechanically with that game. I think Medievil has much stronger art direction, but Maximo's combat is considerably less... Retarded, for lack of a better term, than Medievil's.
Visually, Maximo is quite impressive for 2001, especially for a game running on a CD-ROM. It targets 60fps and never misses, at least in my testing. Something very strange is that the game completely lacks camera controls. You have a pseudo-first person look around button with R1, but nothing to actually move the camera. Despite this, the camera actually does a pretty good job of showing you what you're doing. There were still instances where the camera was a hindrance, but it could have been a lot worse. Still, 2001 is a little late to be lacking basic camera controls in 3D; plenty of PS1 games let you control the camera, usually with the triggers (and some even with the right analog stick).
Because of its difficulty, I'm not sure how eager I'll be to revisit this game, but I can at least say I enjoyed it a lot more than The Legend of Spyro.
MX Superfly (2002)
For some reason I had loads of cheap motocross games for PS2 and PSP and they're all a blur to me. This is the only one left.
As with most of the games I've played up to this point, the very first thing I did was go into the options menu and disable vibration. I'll save my vibration rant for later. While in the options menu, I saw a preview video for a then unnamed Hot Wheels game that would later become Velocity X. Small world! I wish I was playing that instead.
And that's more interesting than the game itself. The racing is unsatisfying, and the tracks look pretty ugly. I don't really remember playing this game at all. The game has a track builder that I remember enjoying but didn't get a chance to play for this article. The licensed music is really awful. And now I've run out of things to say.
Nicktoons Unite! (2005)
So even though Attack of the Toybots comes first alphabetically, I felt that I needed to discuss this game first. This is the first game in the Nicktoons series (called Spongebob & Friends in PAL regions) and was my introduction to the series.
I have some really fond memories of this game. I'll never forget staying up until 3 in the morning playing this game with my dad. You might call that irresponsible, I might call that based. We played nearly the entire game in one long sitting, starting from the Ghost Prison and making it all the way to the beginning of Retroville. I don't recall us continuing from that save or ever beating the game.
Now I just knew this game wouldn't be the masterpiece I remembered playing, but I was still quite surprised by how bad this game is. Since I had such fond memories of the game's co-op, I decided to play it a bit with my brother. The first thing we noticed immediately was the awful performance. The game targets 60fps but frequently drops to 20 or below. This game tip toes on the line of what I'd consider to be a playable frame rate (which is a different standard from what I'd call an acceptable frame rate). The game was also ported to GameCube, so I'd imagine the game performs better there.
Even then, I'm not sure how much fun I would have. This is an incredibly generic beat-em-up with some light platforming elements. There's just something about this game's combat that feels incredibly unsatisfying. Whether that be the clunky animations or unclear hit boxes, I'm not sure. In our very brief play session we encountered a bug where, after entering a cutscene, Jimmy Neutron couldn't jump and didn't regain the ability to jump until getting hit. You can unlock upgrades by collecting in-game currency, but it does this odious thing where you and your teammate don't share coins, leading to many childhood fights over who's turn it was to collect coins.
My brother was clearly getting impatient near the end of our play session, and I can't say I really blame him all that much. This game was pretty bad. I'm only a little surprised, since I thought Blue Tongue Entertainment did a good job with the Barnyard game.
Oh, that reminds me: One thing that's kind of cool about some of Nickelodeon's games was this feature called cross-save. Basically, if you had save data from other Nickelodeon games on your memory card, you could unlock cheats and other little goodies. And you know what's funny? I just realized I own the whole set — This game, Barnyard, Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, PANTS!, and Tak: The Great Juju Challenge. I definitely knew about the cross-save feature but don't think I ever went out of my way to collect all the games; I think I just happened to have them. Small world! I wish I was playing one of those games instead. Déjà vu!
Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots (2007)
This is the third Nicktoons game. I definitely owned and played the second game, Battle for Volcano Island, before but either lost or damaged it. I also have fond memories of these latter two games. I don't recall playing the co-op of these games and definitely wasn't staying up until 3AM with them.
While this game is a considerable leap in quality over Nicktoons Unite!, I still wasn't terribly impressed. For 2007, this game looks and feels really cheap, even for the PS2. It does this weird thing where all the music cuts out any time a character is talking. It's really awkward how everything just stops abruptly so you can listen to an unfunny one-liner you've probably already heard 20 times. The game does at least target and maintain a pretty consistent 60fps, which isn't really all that impressive with just how cheap this game looks. Still, it makes the game much less irritating to look at, and seeing as this comes from the same studio that did Nicktoons Unite!, I guess I should be grateful.
This game features more characters than Nicktoons Unite! as part of its main story, as well as some extra that you can play as just for fun. I remember unlocking XJ9 from My Life as a Teenage Robot and playing her exclusively. While playing the first Nicktoons game, my brother remarked that if that game had come out one or two years later, Aang might have appeared as a playable character. This game actually did come out two years later and still doesn't feature him. I wonder why.
By the way, can I just say how utterly absurd it is that the so-called Nickelodeon fighting game, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, still doesn't include Jimmy Neutron, Timmy Turner, or Tak? It also only just recently got voice acting. God bless Nickelodeon for the amount of love they put into updating this game! In case you couldn't tell, that was sarcasm. You know, earlier I remarked that Attack of the Toybots looked cheap, but at least it didn't look that cheap. And no, that wasn't sarcasm.
By the way, here's a hideous 3D model of Timmy Turner:
Pac-Man World 2 (2002)
Now this one is interesting, since I actually picked this up while writing this article. I was in the middle of writing about Rayman 2 before I came back to discuss this one.
There's a really nice game store near where I live. Well, it used to be nice. I remember seeing the shelves adorned with all my childhood favorites, all for no more than $5 a piece. Then came the collectors. Now all that's left is a sea of crappy sports titles or 'rare' games behind glass cases that fetch for $40+. Sadly, the YouTuber tax has hit this place pretty hard. I still go there from time to time in the hopes I'll find something nice and cheap, and I got this game, the first Little Big Planet, and 2 PS3 controllers for $15.
...aaaaaaand it doesn't work. It yields a disc read error every time. I took a look at the back of the disc and realized why it was thrown in with the other junk. It looks like someone's cat got to it. Obviously it's their fault for selling some crap that clearly doesn't work, but I still feel kinda stupid for not thinking to look at the back of the disc first. It obviously wasn't going to work. I'm going to attempt to get a refund.
EDIT: I got a refund.
I tried USB loading this game on my Wii, but to no avail. It would boot up just fine, but the game would consistently freeze when it asked me to create a save file. This game is just cursed. I decided to just emulate the game on Dolphin, the GameCube/Wii emulator, and I'm really glad that I did. When a game forces inverted camera, you can just go into the emulator's control settings and un-invert it. CONSOLECUCKS BTFO.
The game ran at an ultra-smooth 60fps with really beautiful graphics. I'm not sure how much of that is thanks to the GameCube version or the emulator's 1080p facelift. Either way, I really enjoyed the little of the game that I played.
I have a soft spot for the first Pac-Man World game, since it's a game from my childhood. I remember not being able to read the little text above the logo and referring to the game as 'Zoth Anniversary' which is really funny now that I think about it. I have to admit, however, that the game isn't really that good. It recently got a remake, which unfortunately has got its own issues that aren't the focus of this article. I bring all this up because this game felt like a huge improvement over the original. Levels feel more open-ended but never too big or empty. Seeing as that's something other games in this collection struggle with, I think it's worth praising.
This was an arduous little journey, but I'm actually glad this all transpired. I probably never would have bothered to play the game otherwise, and now I've got something to play when I finish this article.
Parappa the Rapper 2 (2001/2002)
At last we have a moment's reprieve from the trenches of crappy, licensed games and can now bask in the glory of Parappa the Rapper 2. This is one of my favorite games of all time and one of the games I was most looking forward to playing again. And damn, it didn't disappoint.
Most people are only familiar with the first game. Fans of the series tend to hype up Um Jammer Lammy, and not without good reason, but my affections lie with Parappa 2. To adequately explain why would really take its own article. I hadn't previously thought of making a Parappa series analysis, but now the idea sounds interesting. Let me know if it's something you'd like to see!
I definitely like the Parappa games on PS1, but was never the biggest fan of their FMV cutscenes. My first experience with Parappa was via the port on PSP, around the same time I first played Spyro the Dragon. Even at the small resolution of a PSP screen, the game's age was very apparent to me. If I had played the game on a CRT when I was younger, perhaps the illusion would have worked better for me. I still enjoyed the game a lot, and I still appreciate the game's cutscenes, but they show their age in a much less glamorous way than games like Crash and Spyro do.
I absolutely love Parappa 2's cutscenes. They're all rendered in-engine at a silky smooth 60fps. The game treats them like a reward for a good reason. This is also my favorite story in the whole series. It's just so silly; I think it's physically impossible to not smile while playing this game.
Parappa 2 also makes the genius decision to show you your inputs. This eliminates a big problem in the first two games where you're totally convinced you hit the notes at the right time and yet the game still penalizes you. It's also a good way to gauge the lag of your display.
Last I checked, this is one of the more expensive games I own. This game can
range anywhere from $40 to $90 used on Ebay. My copy has been totally defiled
by those reprehensible GameStop stickers labeled 'USED $9.99'. And yeah, that's
how much I got my copy for. The most expensive game we own is Paper Mario:
The Thousand Year Door, which has
been price gouged by greedy sellers
on Ebay capitalizing on the hype generated by obnoxious collectors on
YouTube become quite rare in recent years. I'm really glad my copy of
this game still works; it would need to go into the Klonoa price range
(or beyond) for me to ever sell it.
Ratchet & Clank (2002)
This game is tied with Kingdom Hearts and Parappa the Rapper 2 as my favorite game for the system.
What can even be said about Ratchet & Clank that hasn't already been said? It's an absolute classic; all of the PS2 Ratchet games (developed by Insomniac) are great. I don't know if I would consider the Ratchet trilogy to be quite on-par with the Spyro trilogy, but this first game is a masterpiece.
This game runs at a very consistent 60fps; I don't think I've ever seen this game drop frames. The loading times are short and masked by an animation of your ship flying through space. It's a very minor detail, but I think it helps add to the immersion and makes the load times feel shorter. This game and Jak and Daxter are games I often cite as effectively utilizing the hardware and helping push the industry forward.
One thing I admire about the first Ratchet & Clank game in particular is it's focus on exploration and non-linearity. Plenty of levels have completely optional side paths that contain a new weapon or a gold bolt. The game gives you lots of freedom in the order you choose to play levels. Nearly every Ratchet & Clank game starting with Going Commando features far less additional side-paths and optional content. I don't think a Ratchet game needs to have these features. In fact, I have a lot of positive things to say about Deadlocked despite it not having any exploration to speak of. It's just something that makes the first game really unique, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it in the sequels.
Ratchet & Clank received an HD port to the PS3 alongside Going Commando and Up Your Arsenal (Deadlocked is strangely absent), but I wouldn't recommend it. All of the games play well enough, but have incredibly distracting visual glitches that really diminish the experience for me, especially in Up Your Arsenal's case. It makes the games feel way cheaper than they actually are. It isn't a terrible option, but one that should be avoided if it's not too inconvenient. Any PS2 version you can get your hands on is fine. There's a minor bug in the first NTSC-U release, the one I own, that causes the final boss theme to not play. The PS3 port is based on this bugged version, for some reason, even though this was fixed in a later NTSC-U version.
The first game received a full remake on PS4 that should definitely be avoided at all costs. It has been analyzed to death, so I won't waste precious article space on it. It's embarrassing.
For the longest time I thought the cutscenes for Ratchet & Clank were unskippable, but you actually can skip them by pressing all four shoulder buttons and start, which is just ridiculous. And here I thought The Legend of Spyro was weird...
Oh, also, this game has the sickest soundtrack of all time. Here is a really great video analyzing the music.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (2003)
This is a complicated one. I think this is a great game, but it's easily my least favorite of the Ratchet & Clank games I'm taking a look at for this article. I think the preponderance of the game is really good, but there are annoying little blemishes that make me less enthusiastic to revisit it, at least when compared to other games in the series.
In my review of Spyro: Year of the Dragon I said that game had high peaks and deep valleys. I think this is doubly true for Going Commando. Unlike Year of the Dragon, much of Going Commando's 'problematic' content isn't optional. I'm mainly referring to the unnecessarily difficult space flight missions and the absolutely awful giant Clank sections. This game does add some nice improvements over the original, but in my opinion they weren't quite finished yet. Let me explain:
This game adds strafing, which alleviates an annoyance in the controls of the first game. By holding down L2 the player can make Ratchet move to the right or left while still facing forward. Circle is still the fire button, however, so you can't comfortably fire and move the camera at the same time. Up Your Arsenal adds the lock-strafe mode; this mode basically holds the L2 button down for you at all times and remaps the fire button to R1. Going Commando now pauses the game when going into the quick select menu, but you're still limited to only 8 weapons/gadgets. Seeing as this game gives you a lot of extra gadgets, you'll frequently have to pause the game to pick out weapons. Up Your Arsenal gives you an additional 8 quick select slots, which is incredibly helpful. Lastly, there's the weapon upgrade system... I really don't like the way it was implemented in this game, and I also just don't really like the weapon selection in this game in general; your weapons only upgrade once and quickly become obsolete. And yeah, you guessed it, Up Your Arsenal did it way better.
There are more minor complaints I have, as well as a lot of things I really, really like about this game that are really deserving of their own article. A Ratchet & Clank series analysis would probably make for another good article. Perhaps whenever I write that I can properly convey that I don't hate this game and, in fact, really like it.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004)
Despite that long paragraph where I stated all the things Up Your Arsenal did better than Going Commando, I actually consider the two games to be about equal, only giving slight preference to Up Your Arsenal.
Up Your Arsenal suffers from a lack of direction and polish(!!!). Two of the game's developers, Mike Stout and Tony Garcia, have done a let's play of the game and told many stories of its troubled development cycle. I think it's really impressive that the final game turned out as good as it did, but I do often get the impression that the game is barely holding itself together. Something about this game just feels very janky.
This game really pulls focus away from platforming and exploration in favor of very rigid mission design. The game gets you all excited to revisit a level from the first game, such as Blackwater City, only for it to look nothing like it did in the original game and just be a backdrop for some generic shooter missions. A general lack of diversity in enemy types and environments makes an already repetitive game feel even more so. Despite this, I still think the game is quite fun, and there are still a few levels that look really nice, such as the Obani moons.
Here's a funny story, the first Ratchet & Clank game I played was actually Tools of Destruction on the PS3. I liked the game at the time, and in fact I still do, but the second Ratchet game I ever played was this one, and I distinctly remember vastly preferring the aesthetic and tone of this game. I remember especially taking note of the music and just how much better it was than the horribly bland soundtracks of the PS3 Ratchets.
Ratchet: Deadlocked (2005)
On my theoretical Ratchet & Clank tier list, this game is a close second to the first game.
It might sound weird for me to be so enthusiastic about this game after criticizing Up Your Arsenal for its mission-based story structure, but I just think it works so incredibly well in Deadlocked. Perhaps this ties back to that old expression 'take a crap or get off the toilet', i.e. don't just stand in the middle of the road between platforming and shooting. If you'd rather be making a shooter, just make a shooter. It's strange then that Insomniac, in a manner not dissimilar to NaughtyDog with Jak X, would later treat their own game like a joke. It's especially strange since it was clearly iterating on the direction Up Your Arsenal was going in. It's also pretty embarrassing when this game is so much better than the games they would release later. I don't expect everybody to appreciate this game, but I really love it.
This game also features co-op, which I've only played a little bit of; I would like to play through the whole game in co-op at some point.
Like the other games, Deadlocked still targets and hits 60fps, but can experience slow-down when a lot of enemies are on the screen. This really only happens a few times. There's one mission that actually gets so hectic that it even causes slowdown on the PS3 remaster.
Oh yeah, Deadlocked was excluded from the Ratchet & Clank trilogy remaster but later got its own remaster sold digitally on the PlayStation store, and it sucks. Don't buy it. I don't even think you can... Didn't they shut down the PlayStation store? I don't know, and I don't care.
Rayman Arena (2001/2002)
So this is a weird one. This game was originally released in PAL regions as Rayman M with the M standing for multiplayer, which is probably the best way to describe this game. It's half a racing game, half a third-person shooter, with elements of platforming. Like Sonic R it's a racing game where the racers are on foot, but Rayman Arena goes the extra step and actually controls more like a platformer, i.e. the analog stick is mapped to absolute directions rather than steering your character left or right. I never touched the battle mode, for reasons I'll get to later. I'm not a huge fan of this game, but I admire it for being so unique; there really aren't many games quite like Rayman Arena.
Earlier I remarked how the PS2 era saw a move towards
more truly cross-platform games. Well, this is one of the exceptions. Granted,
this isn't really a case of hardware limitations so much as it is the
developers taking a look at their game a year later and saying
we can do
better. The GameCube and XBOX versions were released about a year later and
feature pretty significant changes and improvements — The ugly menus were
overhauled, the introductory FMV is completely different, there are new levels
and game modes, and the graphics and performance are better because of course
And if you think that's weird, then get ready for this: This game actually received a last-gen de-make on the PS1 called Rayman Rush. Yes, this version came out after Rayman Arena. This version only features the racing mode and is the version I grew up playing, hence my lack of battle mode experience. Believe it or not, this game was my introduction to the Rayman series. I swear, this is like the fifth time I've remarked on being introduced to a series in a weird way.
Yet another thing that makes Rayman Arena unique. I've seen instances where a game is 'ported' to another platform and ends up just being a completely different game made by entirely different people (I remember this happening with some of the Spongebob games) but never a last-gen de-make (if I have, they aren't coming to mind). I've definitely never seen a conversion from PS2 to PS1.
I remember having lots of fun with Rayman Rush as a kid. As an adult, I still find Rayman Arena pretty enjoyable. I find the mechanics to be a little unintuitive and there's no tutorial to speak of, but when you get the hang of it, it can be fun. Of course all that's assuming that mashing the crap out of the triangle button doesn't cause you to develop arthritis. I really, really like the game's music. Each character has a theme and it plays the theme of whoever is in first. The theme also varies depending on the stage. The theme for Henchman 800 is even sicker than I remember it being. All in all, this game is just okay. I might be more enthusiastic about it if I had access to the GameCube or XBOX version. I recently got USB Loader GX working again on my Wii, so I might try it out.
Rayman 2: Revolution (2000/2001)
I picked this up a few years ago, never bothering to play it until as recently as 2022. Try as I might I just couldn't really get into the game. I absolutely loved the aesthetic and atmosphere, but I was bothered by the game's poor performance and didn't like the strange hub world. As it turns out, these are problems specific to my version.
Rayman 2: The Great Escape was originally released on the N64 but was later ported to Dreamcast. The Dreamcast version is a pretty significant upgrade. It sees a bump to 60fps, higher quality music, plenty of visual enhancements, and the opportunity to not use the worst controller of all time. The game was also ported to PS1, but that version is generally considered inferior; the PS1 version introduces voice acting but had a fairly substantial amount of content cut, presumably to fit on the limited leftover space of the PS1 disc. The N64 and Dreamcast versions just use Klonoa-style gibberish with subtitles. The PS2 version gives you the option to choose the gibberish or spoken dialogue.
The PS2 is generally considered to be more powerful than the Dreamcast, so it theoretically should have had better performance. Instead, we have another YA VIDEOGAME CRASH situation. This game is just very poorly optimized for this platform. I can forgive them a bit, seeing as the PS2 was brand new and supposedly difficult to develop for. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, this is the oldest game in my collection. The performance just makes the game feel crappy. I still enjoy games with poorer performance than Rayman 2: Revolution, so I'm not sure if my aversion to this game is just a placebo spurred on by my knowledge of a better version existing. When I eventually do play Rayman 2 it will probably be via the Dreamcast version.
The original Rayman 2 had its levels on a Crash Bandicoot-style map, but Revolution introduces a hub world. This hub is a little too big and empty for my liking, and I feel like all it really does is add space between levels. I am not sure if it's possible to play levels out of order.
The only real gameplay flaw I can say I have with Rayman 2 is its combat; it feels really clunky. I imagine if I spent more time with the game I'd get used to it.
Rocket Power: Beach Bandits (2002)
This is a childhood game but not a childhood copy. Quite a few years ago, during the days of TheStimpyland, I actually purchased this game. I remembered the game from my childhood and wanted to revisit it, so for some reason I actually purchased it like a complete psychopath. At this time I already had a Wii with homebrew and USB loader installed and just never thought to play the game that way.
That would have been a good idea, since immediately upon starting the game I noticed its awful performance. The game targets 60fps and fluctuates everywhere in between that and the lower teens. There are times where the game just feels so horribly jittery that I wonder how I was ever able to tolerate this game, especially since my last play through wasn't that long ago. I must have been in my late teens and yet somehow wasn't cognisant of the horrendous frame rate. I knew the frame rates for Nicktoons Unite! and the PS2 Sonic games were bad, but I was honestly caught off guard by this one.
As with many Nickelodeon games from this era, Rocket Power: Beach Bandits is an eclectic blend of gameplay styles. The bulk of the game's content is a mostly linear platformer with combat very similar to Rayman 2's, intermittently interrupted by Tony Hawk-style skating sections (similar to Spyro 3's). The remainder of the game is comprised of generic mini-games that were all too common in platformers of this era.
Now, as a kid, I didn't really play the story mode. I distinctly remember an area where I frequently got stuck; the game tasks you with finding 15 small silver coins in a really big, open area, and I just didn't have the patience for exploration. For this article, I played for about an hour and almost gave up in the same exact spot, just because the performance made exploration so nauseating. This game includes a kind of free play mode called The 'Zine. After you complete a level in the story, you can come back to the 'Zine and play it as many times as you want. Of course, you could also use cheats.
This game has what is quite possibly the single most bizarre cheat system I have ever seen. The game asks you to answer Rocket Power-themed trivia questions, and if you answer all of them correctly, you unlock the entire game. Now here's the thing, and we'll get to this later, I never actually watched Rocket Power. This doesn't really matter since, in the event that you fail the quiz, nothing is stopping you from just retrying it. Even at a young age I figured out I could unlock the entire game through trial and error. But it gets even better: These trivia questions are so pitifully easy that even if you know absolutely nothing about Rocket Power, so long as you played the game for an hour and paid even a little bit of attention to the cutscenes like I did for this review, you could get all of them right on your first try like I did for this review.
When I was older, I remember getting into calls with my friends and laughing at the game, and eventually growing to appreciate it (and then learning to depreciate it while writing this article). We did this on Skype, which should tell you how long ago this was. By the way, if you use Discord, you're just as bad (if not worse) than people that still use Skype. Sorry it was me that had to tell you.
This game actually teases the release of Tak. He
appears hidden in certain stages and runs away like he's from some kind of
creepypasta if you get too close to him. This led to a running joke amongst my
friends where we called Tak the
G-man of the Rocket Power
It was also during these calls that I discovered that the game's soundtrack goes unnecessarily hard. It's great.
One of my friends was more familiar with Rocket Power than I was and pointed out to me just how bizarre this game's story is. A sleazy looking rich businessman comes to the little shore town and steals all of its sand, which he uses to create microchips for his army of robots. All you need to know is that this eventually leads to you defeating a HAL-9000-esque robot with your sick skateboard tricks. If that isn't the most bad ass thing you've ever heard of, there's something wrong with you. Now like I said, I never watched Rocket Power growing up. I was never the biggest fan of the Klasky Csupo art style and if I'm being honest I still find it rather ugly. As far as I know, Rocket Power didn't really feature any super-natural elements, so this story is exceptionally strange.
I've only ever seen two episodes of the show, and I know that specifically because this game actually includes two episodes of the show as FMV extras. I haven't seen any other licensed games do this; I think it's a pretty cool treat for fans of the show. The extras menu also has trailers for some Rugrats game I've never played and Revenge of the Flying Dutchman, which was how I first learned of that game. That trailer was probably the most nostalgic thing in this whole package. The manual also advertises the contemptible Jimmy Neutron game I barely wrote about earlier.
I find it interesting that Nickelodeon was so heavily invested in video games back then, and that my parents bought me so many of their games. Gaming is arguably bigger now than it ever was, and now Nickelodeon treats it like a big joke (at least that's what their Smash clone leads me to believe).
RPG Maker II (2002/2003)
I take back what I said about Gran Turismo 4. This is the antithesis of a pick up and play game.
This is actually a gift from PatStrikesBack during the days of TheStimpyland. It was a little gag gift that I don't think he ever expected me to play. Well, I did, and I probably won't ever play it again.
I'm only just now remembering that the package also came with an Inspector Gadget game on PS1. It was only the disc, which I keep along with all my other loose discs in a CD wallet (or disc binder or whatever you wanna call it). I totally forgot that I owned it until just now; my eyes always skip right over it. Maybe I'll eventually play that game as well. There were other games in the package but I forget what they are. I reached out to Pat, and it seems that he doesn't remember either.
RPG Maker II sports the iconic blue back, which means it's a CD-ROM. Like all CD-ROM games, it makes the PS2 loud as hell for some reason.
I followed a tutorial on how to make an NPC with dialogue and I created this:
Shadow the Hedgehog (2005)
This is the absolute worst game in this collection. I think I would literally rather play anything else I own. There is one other game that gives it a run for its money, but I think Shadow still prevails.
I felt a sense of relief when it appeared that the game had frozen on the loading screen for the first level, but unfortunately it finished loading after taking way too long. Long load times are the least of this game's problems.
The PS2 version of this game is rather infamous. I understand the PS2 is less powerful than the GameCube or XBOX, but this performance is completely inexcusable. I'm not going to pretend that I'm a technical expert on the PS2, but I feel like it is more than capable of handling Shadow the Hedgehog. There was absolutely no attempt to optimize this game for the platform. In the event that I'm wrong and that it would have been impossible to make the game run at an acceptable frame rate, it shouldn't have been ported in the first place. It's not just that the game isn't enjoyable like this, it is borderline unplayable. Watch this video if you'd like to see it for yourself. As soon as more than one enemy is on the screen, the game tanks to a sub 20 frame rate and uncomfortably sits there. The game then fans the flames by vomiting ugly particle effects on the screen for fun. Even as a kid I remember being aware of how awful it felt.
By the way, Sonic Heroes, which released before Shadow the Hedgehog and is clearly using the same game engine, was ported to PS2 and doesn't exhibit the same horrendous performance. It's capped at 30fps, a definite downgrade from the rock-solid 60fps of the GameCube version, but is perfectly playable; it maintains its target frame rate rather well. A consistent 30 frames is much better than an unstable 40. Hmm... I don't know why but I think I'll kick Toys for Bob's butt tomorrow.
Of course, assuming you have access to one of the 'superior' versions, you still have to contend with the game's horrendous controls, visuals, and game design. I don't think there exists a game less visually appealing than Shadow the Hedgehog. This game is nauseatingly edgy. If I were only allowed one word to describe the visuals of Shadow, that word would be 'cringe-worthy'.
I got this game as a kid. I remember seeing it at a friend's house and asking my dad to get it for me at GameStop. For as much as I dislike this game, I do owe it some thanks. Fun fact: Shadow the Hedgehog taught me at a fairly young age that games could be bad. Obviously I would have learned that lesson eventually, but I distinctly remember being disappointed by my experience with this game and realizing that it was the game's fault.
In case you weren't aware, Shadow the Hedgehog has a bunch of branching story paths. Each level has a good and a bad mission, and most have a 'neutral' mission that just asks you to reach the end of the level. There are five possible final levels, which then each branch off into two different endings. As a kid, I enjoyed(?) my first play through in which I ran to the end of every level, you know, like a Sonic game. Then I attempted to explore even one alternate story path and realized that the game is actually a collectathon????? For some reason?????? In the first level, the good and bad missions task you with killing all of a specific enemy type. By the way, enemies have a tendency to just not spawn in when they're supposed to. Discovering this opened my eyes to the fact that games could be bad.
If you want to beat the game, you need to see all 10 endings. That means you have to play the first level 10 times and each of the last levels on the map 2 times. Why they thought this was a good idea after the criticism Sonic Heroes received for its repetitive nature is something I will never understand. Also, the game ends 10 times with Shadow collecting all of the Chaos Emeralds, which makes absolutely no sense if you think about it for more than 2 seconds. Getting all of the endings unlocks the final level. What story path does the final level follow? Your guess is as good as mine.
I knew this game was terrible and was still surprised. Actually thinking and writing about the game made me realize just how much of a train wreck it is. Thankfully, this means that we can only go up from here.
Sonic Heroes (2003/2004)
This game, while being considerably less terrible than Shadow the Hedgehog, still isn't that great. None of the 3D Sonics are, at least the ones that I've played. I've never played Sonic Adventure 2, Unleashed, Colors, or Generations, all of which people seem to like; the little I know of Sonic Adventure 2's aesthetic is enough to guarantee I probably won't be playing it any time soon, if ever. This game is tied with the first Sonic Adventure for being the best of the worst.
The FMVs look like absolute crap, but otherwise Sonic Heroes actually looks quite nice. Visually I think this game is the most faithful to the classic games. There's a clear turn away from the grittier, more 'realistic' style of Sonic Adventure 2. Sonic existing on the same screen as (pseudo-)realistic-looking humans is easily my least favorite visual trend in the series. I don't know where the idea came from, and I don't know why it won't go away. Needless to say, I approve of this game's lack of humans. Levels are also impressively large with really nice art direction. The first level does a good job of hearkening back to the style of the classic games without feeling derivative.
Mechanically speaking this game is crap. Sonic moves exactly way too fast and careens way off screen at the slightest tilt of the analog stick. Text can't do it justice, and even video wouldn't be much help; you really need to play it to understand how bad it feels. The game at least slows down a little bit when you switch to one of the other characters, and it also doesn't expect lots of precision platforming from you, unlike Shadow.
If you know even a little bit about this game, you know about its infamous padding. There are four teams, three of which have nearly identical gameplay.
Team Sonic is the default route. Team Dark and Rose are respectively slightly more and less difficult versions of Team Sonic. Team Chaotix is the only one with unique gameplay, and it's a teaser of the awful collectathon gameplay that would be iterated on in Shadow. To reach the final boss, you need to complete all four routes. All four teams play the same levels in the same order and fight the same bosses, which doesn't make sense if you think about it.
That also reminds me of this game's very bizarre focus on combat. It's terrible. If you thought The Legend of Spyro was bad, you're not ready for Sonic Heroes.
This is fairly common knowledge at this point, but the symbols on the PlayStation controller buttons were meant to represent certain options. Circle was meant as a confirm button, and X was meant as a deny button. The Japanese tend to use this scheme, but in western regions the functions were flipped, so that X meant confirm, and circle meant deny (although many games from this era instead used triangle as a back button). For whatever reason, Sonic Heroes uses the Japanese configuration regardless of region. I remember getting stuck on the menus as a kid, since I had never encountered a game where circle meant confirm. Actually, that isn't true, since I'm now remembering that Crash Team Racing, Ape Escape, and Sonic Mega Collection Plus all do this bizarre thing where both X and circle mean confirm, and square and triangle mean deny. Also I'm calling it X and not cross, because that's just ridiculous.
Something weird about this game and Shadow is that they actually feature a language select. In my experience, NTSC games from this era generally didn't do this. Weirder still they let you select the spoken and written languages separately, so one could play with Japanese dialogue and English subtitles if they were so inclined. I considered doing that, but decided that these games weren't really worth taking seriously. In Shadow's case, the English dialogue was so bad that it at least gave me something to laugh at.
Sonic Mega Collection Plus (2004)
The back of this disc looked worse than Pac-Man World 2. I was ready to throw this one away, but somehow it actually works. Any sane person would look at the back of this disc, throw it away, and be completely justified in doing so. I guess you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (or a disc by its back).
I have lots of memories of this game. Alongside many other kids from my generation, this was my introduction to the original Sonic games. I distinctly remember pretending I was sick so I could stay home from school and play Sonic & Knuckles and later getting caught (it was totally worth it).
In many ways, this collection holds up very well. The presentation is really sleek and modern. I honestly had a nice time just looking through the menus when playing the game for this article. The music for these menus is also great.
This collection features an impressive amount of games. Obviously there's Sonic 1 through Knuckles, but there's also some more obscure games such as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, Sonic Spinball, and Sonic 3D Blast. There are even some Game Gear titles in the collection. There are even more unlockable games, some of which aren't even Sonic-related. Upon starting the game up I unlocked two games after Mega Collection Plus detected my save data for Sonic Heroes.
Now by 2022 standards, this collection isn't perfect. You've got all the classic Sonic games sans CD (which isn't that good anyway). You're getting pure ROMs of the game running via emulation, which run more or less how you would expect them to on actual hardware i.e. without any enhancements — Limited screen space, annoying control quirks, lives, and poor performance are present, just as they were when these games were originally released.
Of course, by 2004 standards this is seriously impressive. You've got a decent amount of extra games and even some modern features such as save states. Save states have become a de facto standard in all current retro game collections, so it's interesting to see them being implemented all the way back in 2004.
I'm really glad that I still own this game... And am surprised that it still works. Seeing as Sonic Origins wasn't quite the masterpiece we were expecting, I could still see myself recommending this to people who weren't willing to emulate or use fan ports (for whatever asinine reason). For Sonic 3 & Knuckles, there's a great fan port called Sonic 3 A.I.R. which is worth checking out.
Sonic Riders (2006)
Bombshell alert: I actually think this game is really good. If you've played this game, your reaction is either 'Hell yeah!' or 'How on Earth could you possibly say that?'. Well, allow me to explain.
Sonic Riders is very good but very flawed. Earlier, while discussing
Gran Turismo 4, I spoke of skill floors and ceilings.
Sonic Riders aims to be a game like Crash Team Racing — Low
skill floor, high skill ceiling; easy to play, difficult to master. In
practice, Sonic Riders is more like Gran Turismo; there's an
incredible amount of potential hidden behind a barrier of knowledge and skill.
You must be this tall to ride says the game.
Even then, someone that likes cars may enjoy the learning process of a
racing simulator. It's a steep hill, but one that is realistically climbable
through knowledge and experimentation. Sonic Riders's learning curve is
more of a brick wall. Its rules can often seem arbitrary and counter-intuitive,
because they often are. This game directly refers to itself as a
new type of
racing game yet makes no attempt to teach the player its mechanics. Hidden
away in the extras menu is a tutorial video that really doesn't do an adequate
job of explaining the game's mechanics. Besides, even if it did properly
explain them, watching tutorial videos isn't most people's idea of fun. A
playable tutorial would have really benefited this game and would have likely
staved off a lot of the harsh criticism it received. The story mode would have
been a perfect opportunity to teach the player, but it doesn't. This is
something Jak X was smart enough to do.
That brick wall analogy comes from a video by Liam Triforce (which is a terrible name, sorry fam) that further elaborates on the game's unintuitive nature. If you've written this game off in the past, I think his video is worth a watch.
After learning and practicing the game, it can be a lot of fun. I would honestly say that Sonic Riders is some of the most fun I've ever had with a racing game. Of course, this then leads to the game's second major flaw: its lack of content. There are only 15 tracks, a couple of which come off as re-skins of other tracks. The game is also pretty light on extra modes, even falling behind Crash Nitro Kart in this regard. The multiplayer can be fun, but good luck convincing any of your friends to give the game a shot. I think if there's a game that would benefit more than any other from a Nitro-Fueled-esque remake, it would be Sonic Riders. Additional tracks, modes, and online multiplayer would greatly rehabilitate the game's image.
I like the game's story for what it is. It's stupid, but it doesn't take itself seriously. I'd imagine this was a breath of fresh air when it came out, since all of the Sonic games coming out around this time were insufferably angsty. There were times where it honestly put a smile on my face.
For this article, I briefly played some of the PS2 version. Unlike the other PS2 Sonic games, the PS2's performance is on par with the other versions, at least in my testing. Still, I opted to play the GameCube version for this article, and it's all because of one very strange, irritating glitch in the PS2 version. Like most PS2 games, this game has a vibration function that you can disable in the options menu. For reasons I can never hope to understand, the story mode ignores your configuration, so that it will remain on regardless of your settings. If you play any other game mode it will work as expected. The GameCube version doesn't have this issue.
I absolutely hate vibration. I think it is the single most stupid, irritating, useless feature in all of gaming. The first thing I do upon starting any game is rummaging through the options to disable it, and if I can't disable it then I don't play. I've always disliked the feature, even as a kid. I felt relieved when the PS3 was ready to do away with the feature, and I'm really glad the PS4 lets you disable vibration completely in its system settings. This is probably sounding a lot angrier than I intend for it to; I don't mind the existence of the vibration feature so long as I get to disable it, and I personally wouldn't miss the feature at all if it were gone. I completely fail to see how it makes games immersive in any way, since all it's ever done is remind me that there's a controller trying to leap from my hands, and that I need to enter an immersion-breaking options screen to fix the problem.
For years I just refused to play the story mode of Sonic Riders due to this bug. I eventually got my hands on a PlayStation Dual Analog controller, which should not be confused with the later DualShock. There are subtle differences between this controller and the DualShock, such as the Dual Analog having concave thumbsticks and longer grips, which are features that would return with the DualShock 4. This controller lacks vibration support, so I used it to play the story mode of Sonic Riders. Yes, I found it that annoying. I eventually learned that this glitch was exclusive to the PS2 version and got the GameCube version running on USB Loader GX for the Wii.
There are plenty of things I could say about other controller gimmicks Nintendo popularized, but that's a rant for another day...
Spongebob Squarepants: Atlantis Squarepantis (2007)
So as you have no doubt noticed by this point, I was a pretty big Spongebob fan. Eight of the 48 games in this collection feature the character. Of all the Spongebob games I own, this is the one that I am perhaps the least familiar with. I definitely remember this game, but it is the one I've played and thought about the least.
And in playing it briefly for this article, it wasn't hard to see why. This game is an incredibly bland mini-game collection. It was released for the PS2 and Wii, and I can only imagine all of the awful waggling motion controls the PS2 is sparing me. It's so bland that it isn't even really worth talking about. It's based on a forgettable TV special that no one likes. The only noteworthy thing about this game is how absolutely horrendous the FMVs look. See them for yourself, and remember that this came out in 2007.
This was developed by Blitz Games, the same studio that developed Creature from the Krusty Krab.
Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom (2003)
This is one of the most well known licensed games ever made. To my knowledge, it's the only licensed game to ever receive a remake. The reason it's so well known is because it's fantastic. I played it earlier this year and had an absolute blast.
When reviewing Spyro 3 I spoke about mission design, how to do it right, and how to do it wrong. Battle for Bikini Bottom (almost) gets everything right. Very rarely does the game ever pry you away from the core challenges of platforming and collecting. There are no annoying vehicles to control, and the game is very light on the sort of mini-game design I complained about in Spyro 2. It feels like a complete package. Heavy Iron Studios, the developers, really squeezed the most they could out of simple platforming controls. It is honestly a shining example of how to do gameplay variety right in a platformer.
The game isn't without its faults. Something I noticed on my most recent play through is how big levels are. Levels are filled with meaningful content, but the content isn't quite as condensed as I would like it to be. Maybe if Spongebob moved a little faster, or had some interesting movement techniques to speed things up like Jak's roll jumps, this wouldn't be as big of an issue. The few instances where the game focuses on combat are really awkward, with the most obvious and frustrating example being the robot fight in the Krusty Krab.
My only major problem with the game is an irritating bit of padding. Throughout the game you collect shiny objects, which are similar to the bolts from Ratchet & Clank in that they're potentially unlimited (upon death objects re-spawn, but you still keep the ones you collected before dying). In order to get 100% you have to buy eight golden spatulas, which are the equivalent of eggs in Spyro 3 or shine sprites in Super Mario Sunshine. The game asks you for way too many shiny objects. Even if you go out of your way to collect every single shiny object you can see every time you enter a map, you will still be thousands of objects short. You need to grind for shiny objects. This is pretty easily exploitable:
Reach a checkpoint on one of the slides in Sand Mountain (I think it's on Guppy Mound?) and leave the game idle for a few hours. You'll collect a few shiny objects before Spongebob automatically slides to his death, and since there's no penalty for dying you can do this ad nauseam. It's annoying that this exploit is required to beat the game 100%. It's a huge zit on an otherwise perfectly smooth, symmetrical face of a game.
This game received a remake for modern consoles, but I wouldn't recommend it. I'm not a fan of remakes in general, and I think that Battle for Bikini Bottom really didn't need a remake. The one major gripe I had with the game wasn't even fixed in the remake, and in my eyes that makes it completely pointless. The game holds a steady 60fps even on PS2, but sees an improvement in visuals and a reduction in load times on GameCube and XBOX. This is a genuinely great game that is worth the effort to hunt down and play.
Like many platformers from this era, the left/right camera is inverted and
the game doesn't let you choose... Or so I thought. For whatever reason,
left/right camera inversion is actually locked behind a cheat code. To invert
the horizontal camera pause the game, hold down all four shoulder
buttons and quickly press
Square, Circle(6), Square.
You should hear a voice clip if you did it correctly. For vertical camera
inversion, do the same but enter
Square(2), Circle(4), Square(2).
Curiously, this cheat code doesn't return in The
Spongebob Squarepants Movie game.
Spongebob Squarepants: Creature from the Krusty Krab (2006)
So unlike Battle for Bikini Bottom, this game gives you a choice of camera inversion in the menu, and I learned that this is yet another game that calls normal camera controls 'inverted.' Why does this keep happening to me?
For most of the games I played for this article, I decided to start a new save and play through the first level for a minimum of 15 minutes. I actually started a play through of this game about a year ago that I never finished, so I decided to load that up and play a bit. I enjoyed the little that I played, although I can see why I never bothered to finish it. For the record, I have finished the game in the past, just not recently. In fact, this is one of the first games I remember beating.
I remember my friend Liam complaining to me about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker; every time you would pull a level or press a button the game would pause to show you an unskippable cutscene of what your button press just did, so he says. I've never played Wind Waker, so I can't affirm or refute what he said, but what I can say for certain is that he clearly does not remember Creature from the Krusty Krab very well.
A huge chunk of your playtime will be spent watching short, unskippable cutscenes that really aren't necessary. You enter a room, an unskippable cutscene shows you enemies spawn in, you kill the enemies, another unskippable cutscene shows you more enemies spawning, you do this three times each in multiple rooms in multiple levels. Even when I was a kid I remember getting impatient with this game.
There are little moments where the game looks nice, but most of the time it looks lackluster. The level I played for this article had some pretty excessive bloom lighting that the PS2 didn't appreciate. For the most part the frame rate was consistent, but there were a few instances of pretty severe drops. Interestingly, this game was ported to both the GameCube and Wii. I imagine both versions offer superior performance, although I'd stay away from the Wii version for fear of it having awful motion controls.
This game is pretty bland, but I never thought it was terrible. This is definitely one of the better Spongebob games, but that grading curve has been harshly skewed because of Battle for Bikini Bottom. I can at least say this was much better than Atlantis Squarepantis. Blitz Games were clearly much more passionate about this game, and I think it shows in certain aspects of the presentation. The cutscenes are harmless fun, and the music is pretty great. I wish the same could be said about the gameplay.
Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, PANTS! (2005)
This game was developed by our old friend, THQ Studio Australia, who developed that awful Avatar game. Thankfully, this game is much better.
I actually had a lot of fun with this game. That may be in large part to my memories of the game. I was absolutely obsessed with this game as a kid and have always wanted to revisit it, but for one reason or another I never got around to it.
I have owned at least three copies of this game in my life, and each one has been prone to random freezing on the loading screens. I asked a friend who also played the PS2 version as a kid and he reported experiencing the same issue. I think this is just a thing that the PS2 version does. For this article I decided to boot up the GameCube version instead, and I never experienced any problems. This wasn't the first time a PS2 Spongebob game was prone to random crashes.
At first glance, this game seems like a generic Mario Party clone, but Lights, Camera, PANTS! actually has some unique ideas up its sleeve. Like Crash Bash, this game has a story mode, but unlike Bash it's not terrible.
For the record, I don't hate Bash; it's a lot of fun with friends, but the adventure mode is awful, and everybody knows it.
A famous director arrives in Bikini Bottom and is casting the newest episode of Mermaid Man & Barnacle Boy. There are multiple roles that need to be filled, and mini-games serve as auditions for those roles. Perform well enough in enough mini-games and you're rewarded with a role in the episode. The story mode can be played with up to four players, and I think that highlights what makes this mode so unique. You don't need to get in first place in every mini-game, like you would in Crash Bash. You can potentially lose every game, and so long as someone collectively scored enough points to qualify for the role, the game can continue. I've found that this makes the game far less frustrating or stressful.
Of course, that's assuming you play on the 'bronze' route. After beating the bronze route, you unlock silver and then gold. As far as I can tell, all this does is increase the score requirements to progress. My brother and I played on the silver route for a bit and pretty quickly found ourselves falling short of the requirement. If you don't meet the requirement you have to replay a mini-game, which neither of us wanted to do. If you play on the bronze route, you will almost never encounter this, so don't bother with the silver or gold routes.
As for the mini-games themselves, I've found that they vary in quality, but most are at least decent. All of the mini-games in Jellyfish Fields are absolute crap, but the ones in the Krusty Krab are pretty great. The patty flipping mini-game in particular makes an excellent first impression.
The game lasts three minutes and after each minute the game speeds up, and the music is synced up so that the song concludes just as each 'round' ends. It's genuinely great stuff.
There are little moments here and there that are genuinely very impressive for any game. Other aspects of the game are less impressive, but still decent by licensed game standards. Character animation in cutscenes is much more detailed than in previous (and some future) Spongebob games. The game also features some less common Spongebob characters like Bubble Bass and Kevin the sea cucumber (whom the game calls 'Kevin C. Cucumber' for some reason).
Unfortunately, that doesn't really save these cutscenes from just being kind of mediocre. As a kid, these cutscenes were a cool reward, but as an adult, they're rather boring. I still admire the concept a lot.
If there's one thing I really don't like about the presentation of this game, well... This game is the pinnacle of 'bing bing wahoo', i.e. nobody ever shuts the hell up. It's not like it ruins the game or anything, but it's pretty annoying. If you don't have a high tolerance for that sort of thing, you might want to play the game on mute.
This game isn't perfect, but it's better than it has any right to be. The GameCube version is obviously preferred for it not having a bunch of random crashes. I also think the GameCube was much better suited to four player party games than the PS2. PS2 owners needed to use the multi-tap dongle if they wanted to play four player games, which made them look like aspiring Macbook users.
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)
This game was developed by the Chads at Heavy Iron Studios, and it ain't half bad. It's obviously not as good as Battle for Bikini Bottom, but it's a masterpiece as far as your standard movie tie-in games go.
Heavy Iron basically recycled assets and game design from their own game (Battle for Bikini Bottom) for this movie tie-in. It was a clever way to lessen the workload while still coming up with something enjoyable and different enough. I find it interesting that Blitz Games would later do the same thing — Starting out with an original project (Creature from the Krusty Krab) and then recycling parts of it for a TV special tie-in (Atlantis Squarepantis).
Levels this time around are a lot more linear than they were in BfBB. On one hand, levels are a lot more condensed than they were before, which was something I complained about. On the other hand, levels are much less fun to explore. This game actually feels very similar to Crash Twinsanity, where the 'exploration' is limited to small side areas of otherwise extremely linear levels. This game also sees a greater focus on combat, again like Twinsanity. I will never understand the focus on combat in a game where the only thing you can do is spin.
This game even contains purchasable upgrades. You purchase upgrades with 'manliness points', which are this game's equivalent of the shiny objects from BfBB. Points are at least a little more evenly distributed this time. I played this game this year but didn't get around to beating it, so while I can say that I never felt like I was crunched for points, I can't comment on whether or not grinding is required to get everything like it was in BfBB. This game also features some vehicle segments that I really didn't care for. I would have preferred these not be in the game at all, but I can understand how some might find the game too repetitive (or derivative of BfBB) without them.
This game's presentation is a pretty mixed bag. Some areas of the game look quite nice, but this is often at the expense of performance on the PS2 version. While the PS2 version of BfBB held a pretty consistent 60fps, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie can experience occasional drops to 30 or even lower. Other areas just look like crap regardless.
This game also has some really, really terrible cutscenes. One might naïvely assume that the game would just contain FMVs of scenes from the movie, but they would be wrong. Most of the cutscenes are terrible looking slideshows of stills from the movie that are awkwardly paced and really confusing. I never actually got to see The Spongebob Squarepants Movie in theaters, and I never really forgave my parents for that, but the point is that I actually played this game before watching the movie. I had thought that I could see scenes and glean other plot details from the movie by playing the game, but instead I got some slideshows and had absolutely no idea what was happening.
I still like this game, but don't find myself coming back to it very often. I can at least say it's a lot better than the next game...
Spongebob Squarepants: Revenge of the Flying Dutchman (2002)
This game was developed by Big Sky Interactive, the same developers as that awful Jimmy Neutron game. This game is similarly awful.
I played it for about 15 minutes. I intended to play more, but upon entering the Krusty Krab I randomly started falling through the floor and got stuck. I wish I was joking.
I've spoken about how I cringe at my old videos. There were so many bad jokes, awkward line deliveries, stupid criticisms, petty drama, and other cringe-worthy things. Possibly the most embarrassing video I've made is my review of this game, where I pretend that the game is not that bad. I say that I grew up with the game, which is blatantly untrue. And it's strange because I was aware of Big Sky's Jimmy Neutron at the time and was (justifiably) calling it terrible. It's not like this game is much better.
The performance in this game is wildly inconsistent. While never unplayable, it fluctuates so much that it's almost nauseating. The PS2 version is also prone to random freezing during the loading screens. It's not a problem with your copy, it just does that sometimes. Some have asserted that this glitch is exclusive to older, fat models of the PS2, but I can confirm it happens on the SCPH-90001. Oh, did I mention that the game randomly corrupts save files as well? The GameCube version doesn't have these issues.
Everything is broken and nothing looks the way it should. The animations are all over place and the french narrator is completely wrong (why didn't they just use Tom Kenny? Did they not know it was him?). The game's visuals are seriously jank. Big Sky occasionally come through with some nice use of color, but most of the time Revenge of the Flying Dutchman is just a gaudy, blurry mess. It is possibly the most PS1 looking game on the PS2 (and not in a good way).
This is one of those games that really makes you scratch your head wondering how it turned out so horribly. Well, I saw an interesting YouTube video about the game, and what I learned was both very surprising and not at all surprising.
Revenge of the Flying Dutchman and Jimmy Neutron both suffered from a very tumultuous development cycle. Nearly everything that could possibly go wrong did — Tight deadlines, a toxic relationship with their publisher, faulty game engine code, having trouble contacting a partner company in France that the team relied upon, and a pitifully low budget were all things that poor Big Sky had to cope with. And for their efforts, they were actually blacklisted from the gaming industry by some sociopathic THQ executive that held a grudge over them not accepting a buyout. I can't really blame Big Sky for the game turning out as awful as it did. I doubt any one of them wanted the game to be released in the state that it was. That knowledge is comforting, but it doesn't make the finished product any less unpleasant to play.
There are little things I do admire about the game. The main theme is pretty annoying, but the music is otherwise quite nice. This is also a piece of Spongebob history, and it was being developed during the show's most wholesome period. Something about this game really evokes a season one vibe. This game also kind of feels like a precursor to Battle for Bikini Bottom, and it's interesting to see how Big Sky and Heavy Iron came up with different solutions to similar problems.
If, like me, you're a fan of classic Spongebob (especially season one) the game is worth some acknowledgment and... Not much else. It's bad.
Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly (2002)
...But it ain't this bad. This game is tied with Shadow the Hedgehog for being the worst game I own.
I'm inclined to say that Enter the Dragonfly is the lesser of the two evils. Enter the Dragonfly is derivative, but it isn't a conceptually flawed game. This game's disastrous state is due to a combination of developer inexperience and publisher mismanagement, which was unfortunately all too common back then. There's potentially a good game somewhere in this package, but it would have taken a more experienced team with lax deadlines to see it through. In layman's terms: If this game weren't rushed to hell and back, it might have been good. I don't think the same could be said of Shadow.
Although I don't think I've seen a game be this broken since Sonic '06. I just got done talking about Revenge of the Flying Dutchman, and Enter the Dragonfly makes that game look like an expertly built machine by comparison.
The performance is incredibly jittery even on GameCube, so one could only imagine how it plays on PS2. It is borderline unplayable, often making frequent dips to 15fps or lower by my estimation. The loading times are also horrendously long on PS2. It beggars belief that a game could be released like this.
The controls are similarly horrendous. There's something about it that just feels wrong on so many levels. And don't even get me started on the glitches...
When looking at my collection I asked myself
why do I even own this?
Now you remember earlier while reviewing The Legend of
Spyro where I said that Season of Flame was my first
Spyro game? Well, that was an unintentional lie, because I completely
forgot about this game. I don't really remember playing this game that much,
and I've never seen beyond the first level of this game outside of YouTube
videos. Can't say I was all that surprised at my young self for losing
This was just dreadful. I really don't have anything else to add, so let's just move on.
Tak and the Power of Juju (2003)
Here we have another game I got as a child and hardly played: Tak Flew Over the Juju's Nest. Yes, that's what I'm going to be call it. You can tell me how funny I am at email@example.com or @monstro1:matrix.org.
As I mentioned earlier while reviewing Rocket Power: Beach Bandits, I find it really interesting that Nickelodeon was so heavily invested in video games back in the day, and Tak was a really bold move for them. Tak was a completely original property. There was a Tak cartoon that nobody watched, but that didn't come until later (2007).
So it's a shame then that the game is just kind of bland. This game is of a very similar caliber as Creature from the Krusty Krab; it's fun for about 20 minutes, but then it quickly starts to get tedious. I remember playing this game as a kid, but nothing beyond the first level looked familiar to me at all. It's possible that I simply didn't know where I was going and gave up on the game. I had a really short attention span and frequently got lost in video games.
Tak's world isn't quite visually interesting enough to make getting lost in it much fun. I wouldn't be surprised if, as a child, I had gotten sick of the visuals. It's not that the game looks bad, it's just that the environments all kind of look the same. Even for my brief play session, I got sick of the jungle aesthetic pretty quickly and wanted to see the game shake things up, but it didn't. If it did, it took too long, since I had long since stopped playing by that point.
And the actual game itself isn't that much fun either. It's a generic platformer with beat-em-up elements, and the levels are way too big. There are some interesting puzzle elements sprinkled in, but the game generally feels very empty. Content is too thinly spread across the giant levels.
I didn't hate the game, and a part of me wishes that I had given the game more time as a kid. It seems like the kind of game that would have been fun to grow up with. That being said, there are many games on the 'would have been nice to grow up with' list that outrank Tak.
Aside from the FMVs, which have pretty detailed animation, nothing about this game really stands out as being of higher quality than other Nickelodeon games. This game was pretty heavily outshone by Battle for Bikini Bottom. Perhaps if Heavy Iron had been tasked with developing the game it would have turned out better. Who knows?
Tak: The Great Juju Challenge (2005)
This is the third game in the Tak franchise. People generally consider the second game to be the best, so of course it's the one I don't own. I'm not sure if I have ever owned or played that one.
Anyway, The Great Juju
Question Challenge is much better
than Tak Flew Over the Juju's Nest. That being said,
it's no masterpiece.
Alongside Barnyard, Nicktoons Unite!, and Spongebob Squarepants: Lights, Camera, PANTS!, this game completes the Nickelodeon cross-save set. Despite all four games also being available for GameCube, the cross-save feature is exclusive to the PS2. What did I get for having the complete set? Well, two of the bonuses are tied to aspects of the game I didn't get the chance to interact with, since I only played the game for a little less than an hour. For the third bonus, the game scatters extra time bonuses throughout the levels, which is rather significant. I'll explain what those do later.
Apparently having the complete set lets you use cheat codes in Nicktoons Unite! I can't wait to not play that game and not figure out what those do.
The cross-save goodies are nice (at least that last one is) but it definitely isn't worth the performance hit. Performance wasn't all that great in the original Tak, but in this game it is seriously uncomfortable. The original Tak was capped at 30fps and was mostly consistent. This game is also capped at 30 but still tends to dip, especially when lots of enemies or particle effects are on the screen. If you're going to play this game, stick to the GameCube or XBOX versions.
Tak 3 is a cooperative puzzle platformer with beat-em-up elements. The game has split-screen co-op that I didn't play because I didn't know it existed until five minutes ago. Thankfully, in my testing, the AI did a pretty good job of following me around. You can command the AI to follow you or stay in place, and you can switch between the two characters at any time. Both of the characters you play as, Tak and Lok, have different abilities. The puzzle platforming aspect of the game is rather simple, but it's fun. Finding out which character is needed in any given situation is satisfying.
The combat, on the other hand, sucks. It is yet another generic beat-em-up where your options are to either mash the crap out of the square button, or do an easy-to-execute combo that works on almost everything in the game. The most I ever had to actually think about combat was using a ranged attack on a distant enemy that would teleport away if I got too close to it. Combat-oriented sections of the game are the ones that tend to exhibit the most performance issues, which has conditioned me to hate them even more than I already do. I haven't found this game to be as guilty of enemy spam as some other games (The Legend of Spyro) but combat still has a tendency to disrupt the flow of gameplay. This is especially annoying in a game like The Great Juju Challenge, which places emphasis on speed and completing levels quickly.
Now that I think about it, Sonic Heroes also had this speed/combat mismatch. Very strange.
After finishing the tutorial and entering the first level, the game calls your attention to a clock at the top of the screen set at 300 seconds. This gives the false impression that levels will be short, densely-packed bursts of content. Unfortunately, this game's levels are pretty long and padded out by empty space and repetitive combat. The game hands out plenty of time bonuses, which can add anywhere from 10 to 200 seconds to the clock. Basically, so long as you aren't goofing off or deliberately avoiding the path forward, you can easily complete levels under the time limit. I beat the first level with around 1100 seconds (about 18 minutes) to spare. I'm not sure exactly how much of that time was gained from the extra cross-save bonuses, but I know from testing with and without a memory card inserted that it isn't a negligible amount.
Level themes are much more varied this time around compared to the first game, but because the levels are long it doesn't feel that much less repetitive. As with the first game, I enjoyed this one as a kid but never made it very far. If I had known about the co-op I probably would have invested more time into the game.
Lok plays a larger role than he did in previous games, and I actually find him pretty funny. That is mostly due to him being voiced by Patrick Warburton, who just has a naturally funny voice. I did feel that the writing and cutscene animation was decent (meaning it was high by Nickelodeon standards) even though the FMV compression was really, really bad.
This was one of the most 'okay' games in this collection. I may revisit it later, and if I do I'll give the co-op a try.
VeggieTales: LarryBoy and the Bad Apple (2006)
This is the only game in the collection that doesn't have its own Wikipedia page. Which should tell you how highly regarded it is by the gaming industry. Couldn't think of a better game to close out the article with!
This might sound silly, but I'm actually a big fan of the early VeggieTales videos. I really loved the series as a kid and actually revisited it earlier this year. I'm glad to report that it holds up very well. I was also interested in seeing some primitive, pre-Toy Story animation. For some reason, I like the aesthetic a lot. Knowing how insanely detailed modern CG movies are, it's cool to see where it all began.
As the series went on, the animation got more and more detailed. After the twelfth episode, the crew upgraded to new software that allowed them to make more detailed textures and shading. I prefer the older, simpler looking episodes. When revisiting the series I stopped at the thirteenth episode. When I was a kid I loved the whole series, but even back then I remember preferring the older episodes, just because they looked different. They also had much better music, but that's a discussion for another day. I admire the show for imparting wholesome values upon children. I shudder to think of the kind of degenerate garbage that is being broadcast on children's television nowadays.
This game is based on one of the later films that I don't give a crap about and uses scenes from said film as unskippable FMV cutscenes. Add one very long and tedious tutorial and you have the recipe for a game I only played 20 minutes of.
There's something about this game's controls that makes them horribly unsatisfying. It might have to do with Larry's lethargic hopping animation. The game takes forever to get started and doesn't get any less boring once it actually starts.
The in-engine cutscenes are pretty well animated, but otherwise the game looks very plain. It's obviously a poor showing for the hardware but isn't all that bad when you consider the game's budget and scope. The only remotely noteworthy thing about this game is that it actually gives you a choice of inversion on the camera (and correctly identifies the non-inverted version), which wasn't common during this console generation.
I am not this game's target audience. For its target audience, this game is fine enough. Case in point: I liked it when I was a kid. That in mind, as far as child-friendly PS2 platformers go, you can do better.
And at last, we have run out of crappy licensed games to talk about.
Writing this article has made me realize that I own a lot of junk. Like I said, I'm not really a game collector. All my childhood favorites were either lost or destroyed long ago, and I haven't replaced all of them. Some omissions even surprised me; I could have sworn that I owned Crash Tag Team Racing. I used my PS2 copy for my old review of the game, and I don't remember breaking or losing it.
I was also surprised by just how many of these games were marred by
performance issues. I had never owned a GameCube or XBOX growing up, but now I
wish that I did. The GameCube was like a super-PS2. I honestly started to get
sick of typing permutations of
the GameCube version has better
I really feel like the PS3 era set us back so far in this regard. I'm annoyed by the gaming industry's current obsession with frame rates. It's not that I don't appreciate it, it's just that I wish we could have felt this enthusiasm sooner. Why did it take us so long to re-learn the lessons taught to us by games like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet & Clank?
I hope you learned something from this article. I find little minutia like version differences and technical information about games to be pretty interesting, and I enjoy learning about it. I used to try and make videos that would appeal to a wide audience, but recently I've been much more focused on writing things that interest me. I'm being truer to the things I actually care about, and I think it reflects in my writing.
I'm glad I was able to get this out in September, even though it was at the last minute. I've been writing this article since late August! I had hoped to get it out sooner, but I was a little busy, and I didn't want to rush it. I'm satisfied with the final result, and I hope you are too! Let me know if you enjoyed this article and if you'd like to read similar articles.
Thanks as always for taking the time to read and have a great day!