Tuesday, August 22, 2017

DOUBLE REVIEW: 'Atomic Blonde' / 'Chuck'

One's about a chick in a white wig who kicks everybody's ass and the other's about a dude who knocks down Muhammad Ali and does a lot of cocaine - and both are probably better than you'd expect them to be.

By: Jimbo X

Alright kids, I need your help settling a dispute me and an acquaintance got into recently: is it morally OK for white people to use the word "nigger" while being robbed by people who just so happen to be black

Now, I've written about the complexities of the dreaded "n-word" plenty of times for this wonderful little site of ours, and the general contemporary U.S. societal consensus is that white people can't say "nigger" or its myriad permutations for any reason other than to reflect on how terrible a word it is and how everybody who uses it ought to feel plumb ashamed of themselves.

But what if a white person has to use the word "nigger" as a survival mechanism - is it still verboten for the slur to pass through a Caucasian person's lips, even if their very lives may hinge on the utterance? 

Here's the scenario me and a buddy cooked up. Let's say you're a white person, and one day you're walking through a parking lot at night and some black fellow decides he wants to carjack you or wallet-jack you or just plain jack you up as atonement for years of perceived racial oppression. In the moment of aggression, would it be socially and ethically permissible for the white victim to use the term "nigger" as a non-physical form of linguistic self-defense

We've all read The Gift of Fear and recognize how important "posturing" is as a form of circumventing violent conflict. Furthermore, we've all read The 48 Laws of Power and recognize how important appearing unfazed and emotionless are in gaining the upper-hand in physical confrontations. So wouldn't it at least seem somewhat practical for a white victim of black aggression to attempt to protect himself from further harm by using the term "nigger" as a form of defensive posturing?

Imagine this, dear reader. The scene - the dark, nearly empty parking lot of Walgreens, 3:45 a.m. 34-year-old Chad Robinson, experiencing torrential bouts of diarrhea in the middle of the night, decides to pick up an emergency bucket of Imodium and an extra large bag of pumpkin-shaped Reese's peanut butter cups, because fuck it, they were right there next to the cash register. After making his purchase, he ambles back to his car when - out of the stillness of the night - he's immediately assailed by one 23-year-old Jethro Abraham Washington, a local low-level Oxycontin pusher high on Purple Drank who needs $100 right then and there so he can upgrade his T-Mobile plan. 

"Gimme yo wallet, yo may-naze-skinned mudda-fuggah!" Jethro screams, waving what appears to be a box cutter (or maybe a really big screwdriver, it's kinda hard to tell sometimes.) At this point, Mr. Robinson has four options; he can fork over the wallet (not that it would prevent the robber from still hurting him with the weapon, or even killing him), he can attempt to flee the scene (not smart, especially when you don't know if the other guy has a gun on him), he can attempt to physically attack the robber (definitely not smart, since he might have AIDS-tainted needles underneath his Washington Wizards baseball cap or his second-cousin once removed LeAndrew waiting in the wings with homemade shiv) or he can try to linguistically diffuse the situation

Power dynamics aren't difficult to understand. People tend to attack people they perceive as weaker than them, especially those who refrain from defending themselves. Since Chad would be risking life and limb by literally fighting his attacker, perchance there's a way he can stop the robber dead in his tracks without throwing one punch, firing one bullet or swinging one tactical army knife - that's right, he can employ nigger fu

Yep, that's right, nigger fu - from the Latin, "fu" meaning "to attack with" and the Roman "nigger," meaning "wait 'til Jesse Jackson hears about this." My thesis is simple. By using the word "nigger" against his attacker, Chad can exemplify a sense of fearlessness and dyadic superiority, which in turn would perhaps scare off the would-be robber (or, at the very least, make him second guess whether or not his target might be a Klansman or a neo-Confederate with a concealed Luger duck-taped to his butthole.) So with that in mind, let's revisit that scenario I put in your head earlier, and see what happens when Chad breaks out his fifth-degree black belt nigger fu skills:

Jethro: "Gimme yo wallet, yo may-naze-skinned mudda-fuggah!"

Chad: "Buzz off, nigger, I've got to get home and do white people things, like listen to Paul Simon's 'You Can Call Me Al.'" 

Jethro: "...whut? How dare yo, honky! Yo know yo ain't spozed to be sayin' dat! If I had my phone on me I'd take yo picture and put it on Instagram and make yo lose yo job!"

Chad: "You heard me, nigger. Part like the Red Sea and let me go back to my birthright, listening to 'The Boy in the Bubble," then skipping straight over 'Graceland' and 'I Know What I Know' so I can thumb dance to 'Gumboots.'" 

Jethro: "Well I never! You can keep yo personal belongings, I wuddn't want noze money from a RAY-CYST no how!"

And ... scene. By simply defensively using two syllables, not only did Chad avert an armed robbery, potential bodily harm and even his own demise, he was able to nonviolently disable his attacker and go on his merry way, preventing any further physical harm to himself or his attacker. Now, I think such a strategy is perfectly reasonable and justified, but don't try telling that to my mixed race amigo DeKeith (I met him at a local slam dance open mic performance, where his 37-line poem "Black Eyes, White Eyes, I's Eyes" positively tore the house down") who told me he thought the idea was both ineffective and problematic.

"Jimbo, saying 'nigger' is never, ever OK, for a white person, even if he is getting robbed," he tried to tell me. "Besides, what if hearing the word 'nigger' just makes the robber even angrier, and more likely to use physical violence to get what he wants?" 

Well, he had me there, I must admit. If there's one thing I don't want happening, it's offending the feelings of someone committing an armed robbery against an innocent victim. After all, we here in the States are A-OK with people getting the shit beat out of them and gunned down in the street like sewer rats for $20 dollars ... but don't you even think about tainting the experience with racial prejudice and bigotry.

I'm sorry, but if they're going to charge me $15 damn dollars for a movie ticket, it's my god-given consumer right to jack off right then and there in the theater.

Speaking of things that are whiter than a Ku Klux Klan snowball fight, our first flick of the week, Atomic Blonde, might just be the only major studio Hollywood movie you'll see this year that's devoid of a single person of color. Granted, you do have that one half-Algerian broad with the quasi-cleft lip from The Mummy showing up to make lesbianic advances towards Scarlett Jo, but beyond that? We're working with a virtually all-Caucasian cast here, something that in this day and age is rarer than finding a Dairy Queen staff that can speak English above a first-grade level.

This is one of those movies that's all style and no substance, which is precisely what you want out of a dumb, late summer action flick. Unfortunately, it's also one of those "visionary" neo-action movies like The Watchmen and John Wick where the filmmakers try to make it seem more artistic and culturally cognizant than it really is, so we wind up getting these long sequences where the director keeps poking the audience going "see, look at this reference to the work of Tarkovsky I put right here! Golly gee, ain't I smart?"

Subtlety is not this movie's forte. There's this one part where Scarlett Johansson walks into a contact's apartment and the camera literally zooms in on a paperback copy of The Prince on his bookcase to let us know he's not to be trusted. Then there's the part where ScarJo gets chased through a movie house by Russian goons, and what movie is playing? Why, what are the odds, it's Stalker ... you know, because SHE is getting stalked, too? And don't think these people are limiting their on-the-nose allusions to arthouse cinema and Machiavellian literature. Just wait until you get to the part where that aforementioned half-Algerian lesbo whispers a damning secret in ScarJo's ear, and fucking "Voices Carry" starts playing over the soundtrack.

As for the formal plot? Well, it's 1989 in Berlin, but it's an alternate reality where the wall never came down and the Ruskies and the Brits still hate each others' guts and ScarJo plays this one U.K. secret spy who wears half her body weight in eyeliner trying to find this one guy who literally memorized 40 years worth of classified Cold War intel so she has to keep making and breaking deals with the KGB, the CIA, the MI6, the BND, the DGSE and I'm pretty sure even AOL and KFC to find him and smuggle him across the English Channel. But the whole thing is told in flashback as John Goodman and Toby Jones grill her on why the mission was all fucked up, and you literally have no idea who's supposed to be the good guys or the bad guys because every 10 minutes some new plot twist is introduced that reveals character X is actually working for character Y, but you really don't notice it because there's also another chop socky knife fight happening every 9 minutes. And to be fair, the kung fu in this one is pretty good, even if it's yet another movie that demands we suspend our disbelief and just roll with the idea that some 110 pound skirt can fight off 13 armed Russian soldiers in a pair of stiletto heels using only an extension cord and a Hello Kitty key ring.

Granted, the final act kinda' falls apart, but at least it keeps the identity politicking to a minimum and it does a pretty good job of following the number one rule of ALL action movies halfway worth a shit - at any juncture in the film, you're never more than five minutes removed from somebody getting shot, stabbed, immolated, garroted, defenestrated or pummeled to death while "Der Kommisar" ironically plays in the background

We've got 24 dead bodies. Six breasts. Two exposed female buttocks. Two motor vehicle chases. Six totaled cars, with one underwater submersion. Spike to the eyeball. Knife to the throat. Multiple people getting shot in the head at point blank range. Gratuitous vodka sipping. Gratuitous ice cube baths. Gratuitous Til' Tuesday. Gratuitous "99 Luftballoons." Kung fu. Strangulation fu. Skateboard fu. And the thing more or less responsible for this movie existing in the first place ... Cold War nostalgia fu.

Starring ScarJo as the eponymous quadruple-agent who somehow musters the cardio to regularly judo toss 300 pound assassins around like potato sacks even though she lights up a Marlboro every five minutes; James McAvoy as the guy we think is Russian who has a nasty habit of beating teenagers to death to Eurotrash pop music; Eddie Marsan as the walking Encyclopedia whose life must be protected at all costs (so you KNOW he's going to get offed sooner or later); Sofia Boutello as the French agent provocateur who spends the whole movie trying to dig into ScarJo's fish taco; Toby Jones as the huge-foreheaded CIA interrogator who almost creams his jeans when ScarJo starts recounting her Sapphic exploits in Deutschland; and John Goodman as the CIA operative with the best line in the whole movie - "the Brits got us in a royal goat fuck."

Directed by stuntman turned action movie auteur David Leitch (whose next movie is the Deadpool sequel) and written by Kurt Johnstad, who adapted the screenplay from the comic book The Coldest City, which - like every other acclaimed graphic novel - was written by some bald English fruit. 

I give it two and a half stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, especially if you prefer your senseless, stylized movie violence without any caramel-colored people in it.

Liev Schreiber, seen here when he isn't forcing his kids to wear nail polish and kiss each other on the mouth for retweets.

But if you do like senseless, stylized movie violence with caramel-colored people in it, boy, do I have a great second bill feature for you. It only took about seven months, but they finally started showing Chuck in my neck of the woods and I've got to say this is a really, really good movie, even if it does star Liev Schreiber - you know, that washed up guy from Scream who started dressing his son up like Harley Quinn and telling him to suck on bicycle handles whenever the paparazzi sprouted up.

It's a biopic focusing on the life and times of one Chuck Wepner, the New Jersey boxer who got called up as a tomato can opponent for Muhammad Ali and shocked the shit out of everybody by not only knocking the loud and proud segregationist and Ku Klux Klan guest speaker down, but making it all the way to the last 19 seconds of the 15th and final round before the refs waved it off. 

This is one of those high-speed biopic movies that cuts right to the chase. By the half-hour mark we've already got the Ali fight and it's over and done with in six minutes. Now, in most boxing movies that would be a huge problem, but there's so much interesting shit happening before and after Chuck gets famous that you don't even really feel short-changed. 

We start off with the movie recapping Wepner's clash with Terry "The Stormin' Mormon" Hinkey and how as a kid, Chuck would just let the bullies pound on his skull Homer Simpson style until they got tired and then he'd turn their lights out. Then he tries to fuck his mailman wife, goes to a bar and hands out those novelty ink pens where the woman flashes her tits when you turn it upside down and quotes Requiem for a Heavyweight a lot. After Muhammad Ali beats George Foreman (strangely enough, though, the movie never acknowledges Chuck's third round TKO loss to George six years earlier), Wepner gets a call from his trainer (played by Hellboy, who somehow looks more intimidating without 20 pounds of latex on his face) who tells him Don King wants him a whitey for Ali's next opponent, and since Chuck's the only honky ranked in the top ten, guess who's next in line for a heavyweight title shot?

Then we've got a lot of press conference scenes, even though the guy they got to play Ali looks nothing like him, and this one reporter asks Chuck if his strategy is to "bleed into his mouth until he drowns." So he goes to the Catskills and trains harder than he's ever trained in his life and watches himself on Mike Douglas and starts having second thoughts about taking the fight. By now everybody knows how the fight turned out, so I won't tell you what you already know, but rest assured the in-ring action is surprisingly decent and realistic-looking.

From there the flick centers on Chuck dealing with his 15 minutes of fame. He goes to see Rocky and starts living up the gimmick, just ambling into discos wearing fur coats and pimp hats and doing line after line of the Bolivian booger sugar in the bathroom while "Gonna' Fly Now" plays in the background. But he starts hitting the Colombian nose candy a little too hard and starts running into money problems so he finagles Sylvester Stallone's agent into a meeting so he can try and get a few bucks from him and when he finally does run into him at a cafe the guy playing Rocky sounds just like him but has a body type closer to Paul Reiser than Rambo. While Stallone doesn't give him any pity dollars, he does give him a role in Rocky 2, but - of course - Wepner gets liquored up and dives into a pool stark-raving naked the night before his big screen test and bombs the audition like it was Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After he shows up at his daughter's parent-teacher conference coked out of his mind, you just know the next 30 minutes are going to be brutal, as Chuck spends the rest of the flick crying in bars and trying to get random skanks in the sack, only to wind up in the slammer for possession with intent to sale for 26 months, where, naturally, he gets a standing ovation from the other inmates as soon as he enters his jail cell. But there is something of a happy ending - after turning down a cameo in Stallone's prison epic Lock Up, Chuck gets paroled for good behavior and marries this one broad who dresses just like Peg Bundy and they walk around taking pictures of crappy Rocky statues at Planet Hollywood and the postscript tells us they're still happily wed to this very day.

Sure, it's a movie that borrows heavily from stuff like American Hustle and Goodfellas in terms of editing, aesthetics and overall atmosphere, but all in all it's a pretty damn solid character dramedy with a great cast, some punchy dialogue and a pace that isn't too slow or too fast. A better movie could've been made about Wepner's life, but for what it's worth, this is still one of the better sports biopics to come down the pipe in quite a while. Raging Bull, it most definitely ain't, but it's still better than a good 75 percent of stuff that's showed up at cineplexes this year - and yes, I did enjoy it more than Creed, in case you were wonderin'. 

We've got no dead bodies. No breasts. Two exposed male buttocks. One dead career (Wepner's.) Three boxing matches (including one against a bear). One wrestling match (against Andre the Giant.) Gratuitous bar crawling. Gratuitous disco. Gratuitous cocaine snorting. And the thing more or less responsible for the movie existing in the first place ... some serious fall from grace fu

Starring Liev Schreiber as the eponymous character who tells the press "the sweet science ain't so sweet when you've got a piledriver in your nuts"; Elizabeth Moss as Wepner's second wife, who keeps warning waitresses about how her husband "just falls in love with the freckles on your ass"; Ron Perlman as Chuck's trainer Al Braverman, who keeps calling him a "Polack" and refers to Muhammad Ali as "Muck Luck"; Pooch Hall as the former Cassius Clay, who asks if "they're going to lay feminine napkins in his corner" during a press conference with Chuck; and Morgan Spector as Sly Stallone, who has the absolute perfect voice for the role even though he looks more like Adam Driver than the dude from Cobra.

Written by Jeff Feuerzeig (who also directed The Devil and Daniel Johnston) and former heroin addict/ALF scribe Jerry Stahl and directed by Philippe Falardeau, some Canuck-Froth who did that one movie about Reese Witherspoon helping Sudanese war refugees get bagger jobs at Safeway.

I give it three stars out of four. Jimbo says check it out, despite it putting more money in Liev Schreiber's bank account.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Amiga Review: 'Suburban Commando' (1993)

I mean, it only took them two years to make it after the movie left theaters ... surely, that means it will be polished to perfection, right?

By: Jimbo X

One of these days, I'm going to hold the first ever Hulk Hogan Film Festival. Of course, we'd open with No Holds Barred and close with Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, but the really good stuff would be in the middle. We're talking Mr. Nanny, we're talking Assault on Devil's Island, we're talking The Ultimate Weapon, and you better goddamn believe we're talking Suburban Commando, the movie that - more so than body slamming Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 screaming fans at the Pontiac Silverdome - made Hulk Hogan a household name.

As great a movie Suburban Commando may have been - have you seen the Nostalgia Critic's glowing praise of it? - I always wondered why nobody gave it the old vidya game treatment. I mean, it has all the elements that a great 16-bit action game make: huge musclebound retards, death laser shootouts in shopping malls, freeze guns, Christopher Lloyd trying to fuck Shelly Duvall - I mean, that's a perfect recipe for a Genesis top down shooter if I've ever heard one. 

Alas, somebody out there DID make a Suburban Commando video game, but it wasn't on any of the home consoles or portables normal people back in the 1990s actually owned. Instead, it was released on DOS, the Amiga and - for whatever reason - the Commodore goddamn-motherfuckin 64, even though it was 1993. Clearly, the C64 version looks and presumably plays like a load of ass, and the DOS version looks the best and presumptively plays the best, which makes the oft-forgotten Amiga our middle ground candidate for a play-through. Untainted by the allure of pristine visuals or soured by aesthetics that look like a chihuahua ate a six pack of Crayolas and shit all over an Etch-a-Sketch, this Amiga iteration ought to allow us to focus exclusively on the pros and cons of Suburban Commando's core gameplay, and by golly, nothing less than the most nuanced, objective video game journalism out there is acceptable for my readersSo how about we boot this sucker up and start walloping asses, why don't we? Yeah - I didn't think you'd have much to protest about there.

Before the game begins proper, you are asked if you would like to tweak the settings, including the option to increase or decrease the difficulty level (and chuckles a plenty at "Macho" being one of your choices.) After you are done fiddle-faddling around with that shit, we hop straight into the first stage, which is clearly a re-skinned version of some kind of SHMUP the developers were previously working on (or maybe even got to retail) before getting the much coveted Suburban Commando license.

First off, the control set-up here is super-weird. To shoot, all you have to do is hit the space bar, but to move up and down, instead of using the up and down arrows on your keypad you have to use the Q and A buttons, and if you want to move left or right, you have to hit O and P. I honestly have no idea why any programmer would do something that retarded, but I guess you can circumvent the hardships by plugging in a joystick. And since we're ROM-ing this bitch like there's no tomorrow, you can always hot key that fucker to play like something that isn't a pure chunk of shit, so what's the point in complaining? Still, I can only imagine how confused this must've made the people who bought this game when it was first released - all eight of those poor assholes must've been furious

So there isn't a whole lot to say about the first part of the game. It's no M.U.S.H.A. or Batsugan, but it's nonetheless a fairly competent little Gradius clone, but after that shit's over and done with, it's time for Suck City, population: this game. The chibi-style graphics and pastel backgrounds aren't really a turn-off, but fuck almighty are the controls a bigger pain in the ass than getting sodomized by Giant Gonzalez. You still have to use Q to jump and A to duck, which makes platforming pretty much goddamn impossible. While you do have a "block" defensive maneuver, at this point in the game your only offensive attack is this shitty little punching animation and a jump kick that doesn't do Jack Shit. Even better, the hit detection doesn't even register half the time, and you often spend up to ten seconds totally invisible (but not invincible) after every enemy touch.

Whatchu gonna' do when Hulkamania throws your ass up against a wall over and over again, bruther?

Gameplay-wise, it conceptually feels similar to Metroid and Mega Man, except with 2,000 percent more you screaming "fuck this shit" every time you have to jump on a moving platform. The idea is to collect all these bombs and then plant them at strategic points on a spaceship. Oh, and there's no map system whatsoever, so you just have to run around all over the place until you a.) find all the explosives and b.) figure out all the places you're supposed to blow up. Along the way you'll get shot in the face by robots and cartoon guys in space helmets, periodically hopping on bed springs so you can collect hot dog power-ups. Eventually, you'll enter a chamber and go toe-to-toe with a really fat version of The Flash for the game's first boss battle, and holy shit, is it next to impossible. Pretty much the only tactic that works is to crouch, kick him in the shin once, then run all the way to the other side of the room, hop over him and repeat until he's dead. Apparently there's some kind of body slam move you can do if you get close enough to him, but the odds of that working are about 1 percent compared to you getting punched upside the head 15 times in a row, so it's probably best to not tempt fate. 

The third stage takes place in a pretty big cityscape, and it's pretty funny because you get to run around kicking random black people in the ass for no discernible reason whatsoever, just like the REAL Hulk Hogan probably wants to do in real life. Anyway, it's another Metroid maze here, and even shittier, you have to find secret passages in about a million different walls to locate the keys you need to complete the level. Granted, it won't take you too long to figure out what's what and where's where, but still, that kind of game design is just unforgivably lazy. I guess now is a good time to let you know there's also about 437 different objects you can collect while running around like a constipated goose, including stars, empty jars and bananas. Even now, I have no idea WHAT any of these items do, except maybe raise your high score, even though nobody has given a fuck about achieving the highest score in anything except mass shooting fatalities since at least 1987. 

After dicking around long enough you'll find the other side of daylight again and try to climb up a roller coaster (please, do note if you fall down, this unstoppable tumbleweed animation will roll you backwards half a stage, so, uh try not to do that, I guess.) Interestingly, you'll soon be assailed by numerous alien bounty hunters while you are dodging roller coaster carts (which is sans passengers, because like fuck the designers were going to put that much effort into it), and sure enough, they all look like super-deformed version of The Undertaker. There's also this one enemy type that's a bald dude carrying a baseball bat, but methinks that wasn't an homage to one "Stone Cold" pro 'rasslin character ... or was it?

Fuck, this stage is long. Eventually you'll find yourself underground again, and now we have these god awful moving platform sections where you have to keep jumping up and down to float across the screen. Invariably, this will result in your character moving forward but not the platform, which means environmental damage (in the form of a jolly spike up the keister) is practically unavoidable. This culminates with yet another boss fist-fight, this time against an Undertaker doppelganger whose bright orange britches and slightly Cro-Magnon features make him a dead ringer for Chris Benoit back when he had that bushy ass mullet o' his. He jumps around like a motherfucker, so the best strategy here is to get in close and keep mashing the space bar until you're able to pick him up and throw him. Whatever you do, don't try that lame-ass jump kick, because not only will it not connect, it's guaranteed to leave you open to one from the boss that will. And no, before you ask, there aren't any in-game voice samples of the Taker sounding like Meatwad from Aqua Teen, so tough tits, hombre. 

Level four is another platforming maze, this time inside an "incomplete skyscraper," which is somehow still equipped with giant springs, alien relics impossibly suspended in mid-air and about 100 pulsating, traffic-cone shaped spikes that are constantly trying to wiggle their way inside your anal orifices (note: bottoms will love this part.) I hate to be so nondescript, but it's basically just more of the same. The same enemies, the same invisible wall passageways, the same chunks of cheese and ice cream cones enigmatically positioned 100 feet in the air. But now there are sentient cement mixers that spit concrete globs at you, so don't you DARE say the developers were phoning it in. Also: you gotta love those broken drain pipes ... such a subtle nod to the Super Mario Bros. franchise, no? The stage (and by proxy, the entire game) concludes with one more round of end-boss fisticuffs, this time against General Suitor, who - much to the jubilation of everybody who's seen Suburban Commando - does indeed turn into a Swamp Thing ripoff during our virtual dual to the death. There's no real strategy here; you'll just have to bounce around the enclosure getting whatever shots you can in while avoiding Suitor's long range swiping attacks. Perhaps now is a good time to let our readers know that you CAN jump on enemies' heads, SMB style, so maybe that approach will lead you to the Amiga glory land? Not that your reward for taking down that Predator wannabe motherfucker is in any way, shape or form worth it - after beating him, all you get is a purple screen of text saying Ramsey is headed back to outer space, while Hulk Hogan leans against the words looking like he either did a fat bump of the Colombian booger sugar or Koko B. Ware just yanked out his ding dong - or hell, maybe both at the same time.

The motherfucker wouldn't job to Kamala or King Kong Bundy, so what makes you think he'll just roll over for the Creature from the Black Lagoon?

I know I don't say this often, but this game sucks a large, muscular, extra-veiny penis. Granted, it ain't as bad as that one DOS game starring the fucking Domino's Pizza Noid, but it's still one of the worst licensed games I've ever played in my life ... and remember, I once played a Doug game on the GBC and The Evil Dead on the Commodore motherfucking 64, so I definitely know what I'm talkin' 'bout here. 

Sure, maybe the Suburban Commando license wouldn't have lent itself to a superlative, Gunstar Heroes or Super Metroid-type experience, but it certainly could have been as good as stuff like True Lies or Demolition Man on the Genesis. Then again, that this game was released more than two years after the movie it was based on left theaters probably should've been our first clue that it was utter rot. Strangely enough, the British firm that made the game - Alternative Software - is still in business, releasing retail rugby games on the PS4 and what appears to be Disney-licensed applications on mobile platforms (that is, if there website splash page is to be believed, anyway.) If the name Alternative Software sounds somewhat familiar (and honestly, it shouldn't), it might be because they were the geniuses behind Postman Pat, a game that was probably really popular with British autists back in the day. On a somewhat historical note, this was apparently one of the few pieces of software published under the video game arm of New Line Cinema, which - unless somebody out there has more details than I do - included a grand total of this game (although Fangoria did say a Jason Goes to Hell game was in development for the Sega CD, so that could've also been one of their pet projects, I assume.)

Needless to say, a movie with as much easily-translatable video game potential as Suburban Commando deserved a much better treatment than this half-assed platformer. I have played the DOS version, but despite its improved visuals, I assure you the core gameplay isn't that much better, and is just as big a wasted opportunity as this iteration. I mean, it's Hulk Hogan running around shooting the alien mafia with ice cube lasers, how do you fuck that up without purposefully trying to? Even as a guy who gets off on unearthing, playing and deconstructing old, obscure media for a sometimes paying audience, I couldn't find any legitimate reason for anyone to sink an afternoon of their life in this game like I did. The controls are terrible, the gameplay is basic as fuck and it does absolutely nothing unique or noteworthy with the license - hell, they could've shaved off the mullet of the player's avatar and marketed it as totally original I.P. and I don't think anyone would've been the wiser. Yes, the novelty of the title might pique your curiosity, but take it from somebody who literally does this to supplement his weekend deep dish pizza addiction for a living ... there's absolutely nothing here worth going out of your way for, and you'd be much better off doing practically anything else with your precious free-time. You know - like rewatching Suburban Commando, or if you're truly hardcore, Santa with Muscles or Thunder in Paradise, parts one, two and three.


The Thunder in Paradise Super Nintendo game that ALMOST happened!

Speaking of Thunder in Paradise, that straight-to-video B-action series turned straight to Saturday-at-noon syndicated cheese-fest inspired a video game of its own, a quasi-FMV title on the CD-i, which at last estimate, was owned by four people in all of human history. That game was eventually ported over to DOS, and believe it or not people have not only played it, but posted entire playthroughs on the YouTubes, for you to watch whenever you feel like not doing Jack Shit at work for awhile. 

As it turns out, however, that wasn't the ONLY Thunder in Paradise video game out there. At one point, there WAS a game based on the franchise slated for the SNES, and we have the old ass Electronic Gaming Monthly scans to prove it! 

As the screens above indicate, the game would've been a multi-perspective, genre-fluid action title a'la Ultimate Stuntman and The Adventures of Bayou Billy. Judging from the screencaps, among other activities you would've been jetting around in the eponymous Thunder in Paradise speedboat and shooting the shit out of things, running right to left shooting the shit out of things and shooting the shit out of things from a helicopter's eye view. Now, I can't confirm or disconfirm it, but as evident by the dual life bars, it looks like the game would've had a co-op mode, with the second player presumably playing Hulk's on-screen best bud Bru. Depending on how faithful it was to the license, we can only hope the prototype also included a stage where you have to fight shape-shifting voodoo zombies and a climactic boss fight against a genetically engineered super soldier version of Sting (the WCW 'rassler, obviously, not the singer from The Police.) Man, how come nobody remembers a show that was THAT fuckin' dope, let alone talk about in the same reverent tones as lesser fare like Baywatch and Knight Rider

Anyhoo, for those of you wondering why this little piggy never made it to market, I'd venture to guess it's because the developer, Software Toolworks (the masterminds behind Mario's Time Machine and that one college football game on the SNES that sucked) were acquired by Mindscape in 1994, and I'm pretty sure by then Thunder in Paradise had already been cancelled and the company reckoned there was no point in pursuing the title no more. There's an offchance the game could've been reskinned, but judging from the looks of Mindscape's post-'94 offerings, methinks they just let what remained of TIP go to waste. Granted, the game probably wouldn't have turned out as awesome as something like Mercs, but it's not like the Super Nintendo would've been hurt by a completed-and-zipped-to-retail cartridge based upon the exploits of Randolph J. "Hurricane" Spencer and pals. I mean, fuck, we already got shitty games based on Eek! The Cat and Home Improvement, and how much worse could a brainless kill-fest starring the Hulkster have been in 16-bit form?

Alas, not even a halfway playable .ROM exists of Thunder in Paradise. What a pity - that thing would've made for, well, probably just a weekend rental, but still ...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

VHS Review: 'KnoWhutImean? Hey Vern! It's My Family Album' (1984)

Revisiting one of the more obscure straight-to-tape Ernest outings of the 1980s. Sure, it ain't no The Ernest Film Festival, but it has its moments (and by moments, I mean like, two, possibly three of 'em.)

By: Jimbo X

As a kid, I loved the Ernest movies, even the ones that were straight up dogshit like Slam Dunk Ernest and Ernest Goes to Africa. As terrible as some of films may have been, though, there's no denying Jim Varney brought his A-game to every single one of them. People talk about "irreplaceable" performances all the time, but there's NO WAY any other actor could have made Ernest P. Worrell work. The same way no other wrestler - despite being more talented - could have portrayed Hulk Hogan as well as Terry "If we're gonna' fuck with niggers, let's get a rich one" Bollea, I'm convinced Sir Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando couldn't have played the Ernest role as well as Senor Varney. Factor in all the charity work he did in his lifetime (especially for children's hospitals), and you have the makings of what appears to be one of the more decent human beings to have ever made a career out of the film industry - and, trust me, that's a rarity

By now, we all know the Ernest backstory. He started off as an advertising pitchman in the Appalachia market, pitching just about every kind of product and service you can imagine, from Mello Yello to reruns of Hogan's Heroes. After he got a roaring ovation from the audience at the 1986 Indy 500, Michael Eisner immediately knew he had a Tyler Perry/Larry the Cable Guy-esque middle America money printer on his hands and quickly signed Varney up for a multi-picture deal. The end results were the first wave of Ernest flicks - Ernest Goes to Camp, Ernest Saves Christmas, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Scared Stupid, etc., plus the short-lived Hey Vern, It's Ernest! kids' show, which we're all going to pretend we haven't binge watched online despite being 30 and probably high at the time. Before all that fame and fortune, however, Varney also starred in a couple of straight-to-video Ernest specials, the most notable, perhaps, being 1984's KnoWhutImean? Hey Vern, It's My Family Album

While most of the straight-to-video Ernest tapes of the 1980s were basically just glorified commercial comps (yep, even the one that promised you $10,000 if you watched it and counted up all the times the name "Vern" was uttered), KnoWhutImean actually attempts to expand the Ernest mythos and features something that somewhat partially resembles an actual story. Granted, it's still just a bunch of random sketches thrown together, but it does give Varney an opportunity to show off his acting chops and give us slightly more versatile comedy than we're used to from an Ernest flick. Not everything works - well, if we're being honest, it's more like 80 percent of the thing doesn't work - but it certainly has a few moments that'll have you laughing despite yourself. Hmm - maybe "laughing" is too strong a word; let's say "have you kinda' somewhat amused despite yourself" instead. Yeah, that's way more appropriate, for sure. 

The video begins with Ernest rummaging through his attic, playing with string cans and pretending like he's being bombarded by Viet Cong fire. Then he gets stuck in a spider web and starts speaking in a British accent, for no discernible reason whatsoever. Throughout all this tomfoolery he stumbles upon the Worrell family photo album, which he immediately takes to Vern's house (oh, and for you people who have no preexisting knowledge of the Ernest mythos, "Vern" is a never-seen, never-heard character that effectively represents the camera, i.e., the viewer him or herself.) Naturally, Vern slams the window shut on Ernest's hands, but like a bad case of gonorrhea, Ernie pops right back up and tries to show him his family album while he's tinkering with his TV antenna atop his roof. The first photo Ernest shows is a picture of a Mr. Potato Head doll, which he claims to be an Irish immigrant (huh ... isn't that kind of racially insensitive? I mean, didn't more than a million innocent women and children starve to death during the Great Potato Famine? Hell, if that's just fine and dandy, he might as well make a couple of jokes about slavery and the Holocaust while he's at it.) Then Ernest starts talking about one of his "Indian fighter" progenitors and that's the cue for our first familial flashback.

If you don't think this is funny ... well, for once, I think you're actually right about something. 

This entails Ernest (now in a Davy Crockett hat) running from a bunch of Injuns (who are presented via Evil Dead cam) and taking refuge in a military fort. Eventually, Chief Running Vern of the Beige Foot tribe shows up and Ernest's great-great-great-great-great-great-grandpa pretends like he's commanding a huge (although, in reality, nonexistent) cavalry. The Indian offers him a free gift, and Ernest does an imitation of about half a dozen European-dialects to make it sound like there are other people at the base camp with him. Naturally, Ernest starts doing crude imitations of John Wayne and stereotypical black slave cooks, too, because back then nobody really gave a shit like they do nowadays. This eventually leads to Ernest putting on different costumes and running around the camp talking to himself, which is pretty much the same shtick we saw in every full-length Ernest movie, only this shit goes on for ten straight minutes

Next up we've got a vignette about the exploits of hot shot fighter pilot Ace Worrell, who tells a buncha new recruits about a mission to shoot down a giant monkey off the Empire State Building ... you know, just like in that one movie, Schindler's List. He even has a giant visual aide (marked, well, "visual aide"), which is a sock monkey tied to a cardboard cutout with little windows drawn on it in Magic Marker. Boy, and if you think this is awful as fuck, just wait until he pretends a banana is a war plane! After that's over, Vern gets sick of Ernest's shit and throws him off his ladder, only instead of being arrested for attempted murder, Mr. Worrell apparently refused to press charges if it meant he could lecture him about his great uncle Lloyd. 

Naturally, that's a segue to yet another vignette, in which Ernest plays a mean sumbitch who lives in a dilapidated old house and kicks the shit out of helpless pooches for fun. Anyhoo, the hook here is that and his brood are so poor they have to pretend to eat supper every night, but inexplicably his son (who is literally named Mistake) is a lumbering lardass because he imagines eating a bucket of "sketti" every evening, complete with Varney shoveling imaginary chunks of Parmesan cheese on his plate. Then Ernest (I mean, Lloyd) reads his overweight, 30-year-old son a bedtime story out of a giant phone book, which basically prophesies he's going to get mumps and measles and mash his fingers a lot before he turns 12. Yeah, it sounds stupid as your read it, but Varney's delivery is just so good you can't help but laugh your ass off. I don't know where he learned to do funny facial expressions, but whichever school he attended is probably worth the tuition costs.

Remember kids: acting is 10 percent talent and 90 percent goofy shit you can do with your face.

The next vignette is about Boogie Woogie Worrell, who works at a fairgrounds and dresses like a homosexual (seriously, he looks so much like Razor Ramon Hard Gay, it's kinda' spooky.) Anyhoo, the entire segment is basically Varney doing a proto-rap song over quick cuts of various amusement park rides, complete with him gyrating his junk in front of high school girls and elderly couples with heart conditions. Canonically, I'm not sure if he kills everybody on the Scrambler, but it can certainly be read that way; not that you'll really notice all that much, since you'll probably spend the entire segment trying to read all the "Easter egg" buttons on Ernest's costume (the "Stop ABM" one is definitely my favorite, and if you're wondering - the shirt says "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida, The Long Version.") It's not as funny as the last segment, but that song is preposterously catchy, and who doesn't enjoy watching Ernest making weird lip puckering gestures while fat people try to hold in their barf in the background? An aside, but if so, you'd probably really like Fast Food, that one movie Varney starred in alongside Traci freakin Lords and the chick who played Angela in the second and third Sleepaway Camp movies.

Up next, there's a brief scene where Ernest is electrocuted while working on Vern's TV set (hmm, foreshadowing, perhaps?) and a sequence where the two play Chess (which Ernest, naturally, considers one boring ass pastime.) That's our cue to revisit the life and times of Ernest's great granddaddy Rhetch Worrell, a cigar smoking card player extraordinaire (the whole thing is a pastiche of Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind, in case you couldn't figger it out.) In sharp contrast to the Ernest we all know and love, this guy seems to have his wits about him, with a cool, calm, gentlemanly delivery that's about as far removed from Varney's trademark character as you can get without putting him in blackface. Anyhoo, he wins some fat dude's wife in a poker game, and then his adversary demands they do one more hand with the fat dude's saloon and all his whores on the line. Granted, they don't actually say the word "whores," but that's technically what he's talking about, and boy, is that something I don't think any of us expected heading into an Ernest movie. Alas, Rhetch gets a shitty hand and loses his small fortune, and afterwards bemoans not being able to remember if a royal flush beat four of a kind. So yeah - it looks like this Worrell ancestor was kind of a retard, too, after allHe also keeps poking his "bride" Verna (get it?) in the face with his cigar, which considering Varney died from smoking, is more than just a wee bit uncomfortable in hindsight.

The final vignette features a young Ernest beseeching his grandpa (played by Varney) to go fishing. Unfortunately, the elder Worrell is hard of hearing and apparently suffers from some form of dementia and just keeps yammering on and on about Laverne and Shirley and those little paddles with a ball on a string on 'em. Don't ask me how, but some black dude who lives in a junkyard, looks like Isaac Hayes and wears post-apocalyptic Road Warrior regalia gets dragged into the mix and the whole thing ends with young Ernest getting a hook in his thumb and grandpa Worrell getting dragged into the water (offscreen, because fuck spending too much money finding a stream) by an errant harpoon chuck. Man, that was about as funny as ... well, something that isn't very funny, I guess. 

And the whole thing ends with Ernest taking a picture of Vern with a Polaroid camera, with some facial feature of the subject apparently being so funny to Ernest that he has to run out the front door and ask "Edna" to come and look at the picture. And no, we never learn what it is that Ernest thought was so funny, thus making it an eternal mystery of comedy on par with the identity of the guy who screamed "shut up, bitch!" during that one Eddie Murphy stand-up special. As the credits roll, Grandpa Worrell goes off on a tangent about how he got a strange disease from the First Bank of Montana, which he somehow took to London in exchange for a '36 Chrysler, and that's all she wrote, kiddos.

An IIIA Exclusive: Rare footage from the long-running series' incomplete final installment, Ernest Starts Acting Supremely Gay

Alright, so the tape is certainly more miss than hit. Actually, it's probably more genuine to say the tape is more shit than hit, too, but dabnabbit, I just can't force myself to criticize Jim Varney that much. I mean, his iconic character was such a central part of my childhood that saying something he starred in was horse shit feels like spitting on Old Glory, or taking a whiz on my grandfather's grave - my good grandfather, the one who always had a buncha' free candy laying around and still resented the Tojos for Pearl Harbor, even during the Clinton Administration. 

It's been years since I saw this one, and of course, it doesn't hold up too well. My local mom and pop video store had a TON of old Ernest VHS cassettes, and even as youngster this one was far from my favorite. Hell, I would prolly put The Misadventures of Bubba ahead of this 'un, and that's not even a canonical Ernest movie. Still, the segment about the fat kid pretending to eat invisible spaghetti is pretty funny, and fuck, is that one disco song astonishingly catchy. Everything outside of that, though, ranges from totally mediocre to head-shakingly awful, so keep in mind you're definitely taking your chances if you plan on watching the full VHS offering.

Oh, and as for the rest of the cast and crew? Eh, it's a buncha' nobodies, save perhaps writer/director John R. Cherry III, who directed ALL EIGHT FEATURE-LENGTH Ernest flicks, plus Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Moonbeam, plus a couple of hundred or so Ernest TV commercials. But now he's stuck doing Denton Rose mini-movies and probably hating his own existence, so the less said about his contemporary exploits, the better

So, at the end of the day, is KnoWhutImean worth the 40-minute investment? Eh, unless you are a HARDCORE Ernest aficionado, I'd have to say no. It's fun to watch Varney play different characters and a few of the jokes come off as gloriously incompatible with today's P.C. speech zeitgeist, but there's just not enough decent material to make it worth going out of your way to experience. All but two or three of the scenes fall totally flat, and what good stuff is here you can already find isolated on the YouTubes (don't worry about missing out on any context, neither - the segments are perfectly digestible as a'la carte clips.) 

It's momentarily fun to take the trip back in time, but the complete package here isn't anything to write home about. If you've got a hankerin' for Mr. Worrell, there are far, Far, FAR, FAR better ways of getting your Ernest fix - that is, unless you really want to see Jim Varney doing his best Mandingo impression. In that case, yeah, I guess this is something potentially going out of your way to pick up ... maybe.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Every Atari Lynx Game RANKED! (Part Two: #050 to #026)

Part two of a special three-part series revisiting, reviewing and ranking every single game released on the pioneering handheld.

By: Jimbo X

HEY! Looking for part one of the countdown? You can check it out at this link right here.

The Atari Lynx is unquestionably one of the most innovative systems of all-time. The full-color portable was an absolute technological miracle, delivering gamers on-the-go polygonal graphics gaming 15 years before the Nintendo DS and PSP were capable of the same feat. Alas, the adoption rate remained far below that of the original Game Boy and even the Game Gear, meaning very few gamers ever owned the unit - that is, if they ever got their hands on the handheld at all. 

To mark the 28th anniversary of the pioneering portable, we here at The Internet Is In America are counting down EVERY single game in the pantheon of Lynx titles in a special three-part series examining the breadth of the unit's software library. Join us as we embark upon an epic quest to rank, review and rate all 75 official games released for the system, beginning with the suckiest of the suckiest and concluding with the absolute best the handheld had to offer (and trust me, there were some GREAT games on the platform - I mean really great.) 

Before we hop into the first installment, a few ground rules:

- Only officially licensed Lynx games qualify. That means unlicensed games, games that never got a commercial release in the States or aftermarket homebrews are ineligible for consideration.

- All games were rated on a scale from o to 10 and ranked accordingly. Factors taken into consideration included, but were not limited to, gameplay, controls, graphics, audio, level design, multiplayer integration, originality and replayability. 

- Of course I had to play the games using emulated .ROMS. You honestly think I'm going to spend all that money on physical copies of games that mostly suck dick anyway? 

- And lastly, your mileage may vary on the rankings and ratings. I tried to be as genre-neutral as I could, but some of my personal biases might sneak in every now and then. If you don't agree with the placements, feel free to make your own list and send me a link, so I can promptly never read it, you smug, self-centered prick.

And with those pleasantries out of the way, who's ready to get this portable Conga line shaking? Make sure those AA batteries are in there snug, folks ... it's time to party like it's 1989!

Hydra (1992)
Developer: NuFx
Publisher: Atari

No, Hydra doesn't have anything to do with Marvel's gang of Nazi sympathizers (are they still canonically Nazis at all these days, anyway?) Rather, it's a pretty mediocre racing game that has you traveling down a river collecting balloons(!) and blasting random robots, all the while keeping a keen eye out for any precious jugs of fuel just floating around. The visuals really can't compare to the arcade version, but at least the controls are (and please, pardon the pun) rather fluid. At the end of the day, Hydra isn't a bad game - indeed, it's quite playable and accessible to just about anybody who knows how to hold the damn portable correctly - but it's not really anything special either. It'll keep you occupied for an hour or two, but don't expect getting much - if any - replay value out of this one.

My Score: 5 out of 10

Viking Child (1991)
Developer: Imagitec Design
Publisher: Atari

Now here's an interesting one. Viking Child basically plays like a combination of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Bonk's Adventure AND the old Iron Sword games. Alright, that certainly piques your curiosity, right? Well, no matter how promising the concept sounds, rest assured Viking Child is bound to disappoint you. For starters, the graphics are pretty underwhelming and the animations are especially lackluster (indeed, you don't have a stabbing animation as much as you do your avatar just kind of flickering in place to kill enemies.) But what REALLY kills the game is the pace. Your character takes forever to move and buying items at shops takes minutes when it should only take a couple of seconds. On the plus side, though, it is one of the longer action-platformers on the system, taking a good two to three hours complete. Then again, that's not because it has two to three hours of content - it's because it has a half hour of gameplay that stretches OUT to two to three hours because EVERYTHING in the game moves at the speed 80-year-olds fuck. It may be worth a try for hardcore genre loyalists, but I think it's safe to say the rest of us can probably skip out on this 'un.

My Score: 5 out of 10

Zarlor Mercenary (1990)
Developer: Epyx
Publisher: Atari 

There's definitely a dearth of SHMUPs on the Atari Lynx, but unfortunately, Zarlor Mercenary isn't exactly the sort of shoot 'em up experience we were looking for. While the game, for the most part, is a fairly solid shooter, it's also marred by a lot of bad design decisions. First and foremost, there is practically no wiggle room in the game, since your huge assed ship takes about so much pixel space and the game's levels are longer than they are wide. And since all of the stages are insanely cramped, and with a million jillion enemies coming at you at all times, that means death will be your constant companion. Making things worse is that the enemies are often the same color as the backdrops, so you honestly can't see half the things shooting at you until you bump your nose into their asses. Still, it's a game probably worth playing at least once if you are a genre fan - if absolutely nothing else, to experience the title's ambitious (read: absolute clusterfuck of a) four-player mode.

My Score: 5 out of 10

Pac-Land (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of Pac-Land, but you have to give the game a little bit of credit for its foresight. I mean, the game kinda' did foreshadow the emergence of endless runners a good 20 years before the iPhone existed, didn't it? Alas, you know what to expect here. You play Pac-Man, now with appendages and a hat, for some reason, as you run really fast across rocky mountains and spooky ghost houses and forests where all of the trees are blue to get back to Ms. Pac-Man and Baby Pac. The only problem is, you have to this 20 fucking times in a row, with only the mildest of variations between levels. I guess you could say it's kinda sorta like Adventure Island, except nowhere - I mean absolutely nowhere - close to being as fun. Still, the controls are mostly decent and with a good two hours worth of content, it will keep you occupied on a long car ride, I suppose. Y'know - just as long as you aren't the person driving the car, anyway.

My Score: 5 out of 10

Paperboy (1990)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Tengen

The muddy visuals and warbled audio aside, this isn't a half bad port of the beloved arcade title. The controls are spot-on and the level design should be familiar to anyone who played the NES game. Pretty much all of the shit that made the coin-op so memorable - the old hag chasing after you with a rolling pin, especially - makes its way into this iteration in some manifestation, and all in all, I really can't complain too much about the overall package. The only thing that makes this an inferior port are the end-of-level obstacle courses, which are so shittily animated that it literally looks like you're doing BMX tricks on a giant turd loaf. And hey, where's the two-player mode, you fuckin' shmucks?

My Score: 5 out of 10

Tournament Cyberball (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

I never could figure out what the appeal of all these "robo-sports" games are supposed to be. It's especially befuddling in the case of Tournament Cyberball, a title with an ALMOST decent football engine that probably could've been finessed into a far better pigskin simulator. The graphics are pretty blocky and the sound effects are below average, but the controls (although they do take forever to get accustom to) are fairly decent. The multiplayer component definitely gives the game more replayability, but the lack of customization options - in tandem with a relatively paltry playbook - hurts it in the long haul. Fun in short spurts, Cyberball doesn't offer much beyond instant gratification arcade action - which, depending on your perspective, is either the loftiest praise you could give it or the most acerbic condemnation. 

My Score: 5 out of 10

Dracula: The Undead (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

This is easily the creepiest game on the Lynx, and there's no denying it's got some surprisingly effective atmosphere. The music is spooky without being too cartoony and the deliberately stilted gameplay pace definitely ratchets up the dread and tension. Alas, as great as the general ambiance may be, Dracula has some notable problems, beginning with the piss-colored graphics. Surely, the Lynx is capable of more defined sprites and a broader color pallet, so I have no clue what the hell is going on with the visuals in this one. Maybe they were trying to replicate night time and just made everything the same color as nougat? Eh, even if you can look beyond the subpar graphics, the gameplay itself is a bit too basic. Action junkies, do take note this is no Castlevania clone, it's a molasses slow adventure game that basically revolves around you opening drawers and chests for 30 minutes until the game just up and tells you "OK, you can kill Dracula now." That said, hearing Dracula's chip tune death screams might be reason enough to play it through to the very end, but take heed - once you beat it one time, there is virtually zero reason to give it another playthrough.

My Score: 5 out of 10 

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Overall, I'd say Atari pretty much bungled the license here. The sprites are pretty good, the music is passable and the level design really isn't that bad. The problem, of course, is the gameplay. For starters, the hit detection is pretty crummy and you'll constantly find yourself backed into a corner with a bajillion enemies coming right at 'ya - and naturally, you're totally defenseless throughout the whole ordeal. Alas, what really sinks the game is just how frequently the same StarTropics-esque "appearing-disappearing-reappearing" block puzzle is (over)used throughout the game - hell, that probably takes up half of your playing time, and I'm not being hyperbolic for once. Still, it's one of the longer games on the system, and as far as top-down action-adventure games on the platform go, it's probably one of the less sucky. And as ho-hum as it may be, it's nonetheless better than the Bill and Ted game we got on the NES ... and by a considerable margin, at that. 

My Score: 5 out of 10

Batman Returns (1992)
Developer:  Atari
Publisher: Atari

First, the good. The graphics in this one are great, complete with some huge and impressively detailed sprites. Secondly, the audio is really solid, with some of the best music to ever grace the short-lived handheld. Now, as for the bad? Well, that's pretty much everything else, ranging from the unresponsive controls, the monotonous gameplay, the absolutely pathetic hit detection (seriously, it's *yay* close to being totally broken) and oh yeah, the fact you can beat the whole thing in less than 20 minutes. Considering how popular the Batman license was back in the day, it's certainly understandable why Atari, at one point, included this title as the Lynx's pack-in game. Then again, if that was most consumers' introductory experience with the hardware, is it really any surprise the system wound up tanking worse than Oswald Cobblepot's mayoral bid? 

My Score: 5 out of 10

Pinball Jam (1992)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

With Pinball Jam, you get not one BUT two video pinball tables to fiddle faddle around with, both of which are adaptations of two of the most beloved physical boards of the late 1980s: Elvira and the Party Monsters AND Police Force! The only problem is, a LOT is lost in the translation from the arcade to the Lynx, beginning with the muddy (if not indecipherable) graphics. So basically, the entire game is like trying to play pinball over a crappy MS Paint portrait made by a dyslexic fourth grader - a lot of times, you can't even tell where the ball is supposed to be, or whether an object onscreen is part of the playing field (like a bumper or rail) or just a part of the backboard artwork. Still, if you don't mind squinting really, really hard, you'll probably be able to squeeze out at least an hour or so of entertainment. And if nothing else, it's probably worth checking out just to hear the awesome chiptune music, especially on the Elvira table.

My Score: 5 out of 10

Dinolympics (1992)
Developer: Imagitec Design
Publisher: Atari

Judging from the cover artwork - not to mention the fucking title Dinolympics - you might be inclined to think the game is just a ripoff of Caveman Games. As it turns out, the game is really more of a puzzler-platformer hybrid, basically what you would get if you merged Lemmings with all of those damn Dizzy games from the U.K (it would later get ported to the SNES and Genesis under the title The Humans, if the core concept of the game seems strangely familiar to you.) The gameplay itself isn't too challenging, and once you've figured out the lay of the land and how the quasi-clunky controls work, there's not much of a learning curve at all. All in all, you get a pretty hefty amount of content, but once you've already beaten the game there isn't much of an incentive for replaying it. Another pretty big bummer? The lack of any multiplayer modes whatsoever. All that said, it's still a perfectly fine game that'll keep you occupied for short spurts - just don't expect anything more than something that'll keep you entertained on a car trip and this one will likely service you just dandy.

My Score: 6 out of 10

Desert Strike (1993)
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Telegames

I was never the biggest fan of EA's Strike series, but this is nonetheless a solid, shrunken down port of its 16-bit big brother. The controls are pretty good and the top-down strafin'-slinkin'-and-shootin' action is most certainly serviceable. Of course, the sound design is ho-hum (there's no in-game music, for one) and the graphics are usually pretty blocky and undefined. Furthermore, there isn't a whole lot of aesthetic variance from stage to stage, with most of the levels recycled, albeit with different colored sand. Still, it gives you plenty of content (three to five hours, depending on how quickly you nail down the control scheme) and the core gameplay - time to blow up Saddam's Iraq again! - is inherently satisfying and addictive. That said, is it worth the $300-plus asking price it demands on the collector's market nowadays? Eh - unless you've got Scrooge McDuck or Richie Rich money, I'd err on the side of nope.

My Score: 6 out of 10

Gordo 106: The Mutated Lab Monkey (1993)
Developer: Tenth Planet
Publisher: Atari

There were a ton of side-scrollers on the Lynx, and while hardly any of them got anywhere close to Mario or Sonic in terms of quality, that's not to say that at least a few titles didn't put in a surprisingly decent showing. Enter Gordo 106, a shockingly competent platformer in which you play a simian crusader who prowls across multiple laboratories on a quest to free his test animal kindred. The graphics are bright and vibrant, the audio is pretty good, the sprites are impressively detailed and the controls are smooth and comfortable. The level layout isn't too bad either, although towards the end of the game it looks like the designers got lazy and started repeating patterns. It's a bit too short and easy to warrant much of a recommendation (even novice players will probably beat it in less than half an hour), but for what it is, it isn't too shabby. That, and it's probably as close as we'll ever get to a Dunston Checks In video game, so soak it up, kids...

My Score: 6 out of 10

Raiden (1997)
Developer: Seibu Kaihatsu
Publisher: Telegames

Wait a minute, didn't I say I wasn't going to review any unlicensed games? Well, quit your bitchin', I've got an explanation for this one. You see, this port of the arcade SHMUP staple was originally developed by Atari and was scheduled for an official release on the Lynx, but shortly before the game was to hit the market Atari suspended support of the platform. That means the game was fundamentally finished as a complete retail product in 1995, but it didn't get a retail release until two years later when the Lynx was deader than Elvis (and even then, it was in obscure Asian markets, where for whatever reason, the handheld remained en vogue until damn near 9/11.) So it would've been an official Lynx release during its initial hardware run, therefore it qualifies for the countdown, dab-nabbit (also, the fact I couldn't find a playable ROM of Baseball Heroes would've made this a Top 74 countdown, and really, who's going to take that shit seriously?) Anyhoo, it's an alright port, I suppose, even if the enemy projectiles look like cheese balls and you have to turn your machine upside down and play it all retarded-style. It doesn't hold a candle to the best genre offerings on the Game Gear (or even the Game Boy, for that matter), but it's still the best classic SHMUP on the system. Hell, for that matter, I think it might just be the only classic SHMUP, now that I think about it a little...

My Score: 6 out of 10

Rampage (1990)
Developer: Bally Manufacturing Corp.
Publisher: Atari

To me, the Rampage games have always been vastly overrated, and I suppose this handheld port is no different. Of course, that's not to say it's a bad game, per se, just extremely repetitive. That said, it does a pretty good job doing all the stuff it does over and over again, and in terms of presentation, everything is quite nice. The graphics are great, the sprites and animations are very good, the sound design is fantastic and a good goddamn, not only does it allow up to three players to wreak havoc all over America, it even includes an all new fourth character to the Rampage cosmos, a giant rat named Larry! OK, so maybe none of that sounds particularly life-changing, but it's nonetheless one of the better ports of the original arcade game out there - and Lord knows, it's vastly superior to the NES game, and it ain't even close, Bud.

My Score: 6 out of 10

Turbo Sub (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Now here's a novel little shooter - one that allows you to do battle in the air a'la After Burner AND blast the shit out of underwater baddies a'la In The Hunt! Naturally, Turbo Sub isn't as good as either of those comparison points, but it's still a pretty enjoyable game with good graphics, decent sound design and largely spot-on controls. The problem - and while it's not a deal breaker, it's nonetheless something that hurts Turbo Sub a great deal - is that it's just too damn easy and way too damn short. You'd be lucky to wring 30 minutes of total gameplay time out of the experience, and of course, there are no hidden secrets or unlockables included to incentivize you to churn your way through the game a second time. On top of that, the two-player mode is a big disappointment, too. Tis a pity, 'cause with about half an hour of more content (and a little bit more challenge) this really could've been one of the better action titles to come out on the system.

My Score: 6 out of 10

Checkered Flag (1991)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

Checkered Flag is basically just a souped up version of Pole Position, but it's not like that's necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this is a very solid arcade racer with great graphics and some outstanding audio (it's an autistic thing to notice, but trust me, this game has far and away the best transmission sounds of any racer on the Lynx.) The backgrounds are diverse and well-animated, and the courses themselves are pretty well designed, too. That said, the multiplayer mode is lacking and there just aren't enough customization options to keep any serious virtual gear-head invested in the game for maybe one or two playthroughs. Quibbles over the lack of content aside, for what it's worth Checkered Flag is still a fun and competent arcade racer, and probably worth checking out if you're a hardcore enough genre fan - even if the constant hairpin turn crashes are liable to make you toss your portable through the nearest window...

My Score: 6 out of 10

California Games (1989)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Epyx

If you ever played California Games on the Master System, NES or Genesis you already know what to expect here. All in all it's a pretty bang-up port that sacrifices very, very little in the translation to the small screen. And, in a weird way, that's the game's biggest problem - it doesn't remedy any of the major issues that plagued its home console forerunners. Simply put, the controls on the half-pipe and surfing mini-games are *yay* close to being totally broken, and the set-up here might be even worse than it is on the Master System and NES. That said, it still leaves two ridiculously fun mini-games, the BMX challenge (which, for its time, boasted some pretty impressive in-game physics) and the infamous hackey sack time-waster, which in addition to being one of the most preposterously addictive sub-games ever, apparently inspired the freestyle, trick-based game mechanics later employed by extreme sports titans like Tony Hawk. Throw in the four-person multiplayer and you have all the makings of a surprisingly enjoyable party game - pending, of course, you steer very, very clear of half the title's mini-games.

My Score: 6 out of 10

NFL Football (1990)
Developer: BlueSky Software
Publisher: Atari

Would you believe this is the oldest living ancestor of NFL 2K? That's right, this was the first football game released by BlueSky Software, the developer that would go on to to make the Joe Montana series of pigskin titles on the Genesis. With that in mind, the gameplay does feel very similar to what we got on the Genny (right down to the camera zooming in on the players while running the ball!), albeit with considerably fewer playbook options. The engine definitely takes a while to get accustom to, but if you've ever played a game or two of Electronic Football you should have no problem getting the fundamentals down ... eventually. You get the full NFL license, but no real-world NFL players made the cut. Those of you anticipating Tecmo Super Bowl-caliber gameplay options are going to be sorely disappointed, as you have only a handful of game modes to tinker around with and there's no stat-tracking whatsoever. It's not quite the Madden-eqsue experience we were hoping for, but if you're a fan of very slow-paced arcade football action, you can probably make do with it; alas, if you're not a hardcore pro football enthusiast, don't expect this game to convert you ...

My Score: 6 out of 10

Lemmings (1993)
Developer: DMA Design 
Publisher: Psygnosis Limited

Next to Tetris, Lemmings HAS to be the most ported game of all-time. Practically every console you can think of wound up getting some kind of iteration of the game, and the version for the Lynx is - beyond the obvious graphical downgrade - a fairly respectable representation of the Amiga-spawned puzzler. It's your job to resourcefully use a small cache of tools and weapons to lead your green-haired, coveralls-clad wanderers to the promised land, and you're going to need all the grey matter you can muster to keep these brain-dead dodos from ambling off cliffs and splattering all over the rocky terrain below. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn't add anything new in terms of extra levels or content, but it does give you an absolute TON of stages - enough to easily fill up six or seven hours. The lack of a multiplayer component hurts it, but as long as you have a penchant for fairly repetitive, slow-paced puzzling action, you'll probably dig the ever-loving hell out of it. That, and man, is it fun watching those little fucks explode - no wonder the guys who designed this one would later give birth to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, no?

My Score: 6

Super Asteroids & Missile Command (1995)
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

It's a two for one old-school arcade special with this cartridge, and if you're a hardcore fan of Golden Age gaming you won't have much to complain about here. These slightly upgraded iterations of the pioneering quarter-munchers are every bit as addictive and entertaining as they were in the early 1980s, but why oh why is there no multiplayer mode? I guess you don't need me to tell you the games are extremely basic in theory and execution and fairly repetitive, so if that kind of thing kills your portable boner, you're probably not going to get much out of this 'un. Old-timers, though, will certainly get more out of the experience than the whipper-snappers, so don't be surprised if you find yourself blasting away all those Ruskie missiles and space rocks for far longer than you anticipated. And if absolutely nothing else, it's certainly a historic game, being the last official title released for the Lynx and all ... 

My Score: 6 out of 10

Ninja Gaiden (1991)
Developer: Tecmo, Ltd.
Publisher: Atari

Don't let the title fool you - even though this has the same name as the NES action classic we all know and love (and was indeed developed by the same people), this is not the same title. Rather, this is actually more of a Double Dragon clone than anything else, with all of the swordplay and shuriken-throwing replaced by close-range karate kicks and fancy backflips. While the graphics are great and the levels are gorgeous to behold, there are definitely some major gameplay problems, beginning with some very wonky hit detection issues. Secondly, the bad guys have a tendency to bum rush you and it is goddamn impossible to shake them off. And thirdly? The game is over and done with in about 20 minutes. Still, it's probably worth playing at least once to experience the very uneasy Shinobi-meets-Bad Dudes gameplay yourself, and let's not discount all of those unauthorized cameos, neither: name one other game on the Lynx where you get to battle an armada of Road Warriors cosplayers?

My Score: 6 out of 10

Qix (1991)
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Telegames

Yeah, I strongly prefer Volfied, too, but its earlier arcade predecessor ain't too shabby either. Insanely rudimentary visuals aside, this portable port of Qix does a pretty serviceable job of replicating the coin-op experience, with extremely fluid controls and strangely addictive gameplay (you wouldn't think avoiding killer tiddlywinks while drawing random-ass geometric shapes would be such an engrossing experience, but it looks like the mad geniuses at Taito know better than all of us.) It has a two-player mode, but unfortunately it's about as bare-bones a multiplayer experience as they could've made it, and while the single player mode is fun, it just doesn't have enough variety or longevity to warrant too many pick ups. Still, despite its shortcomings, it's an instantly, immediately accessible genre-unto-itself offering that will give you maybe a couple of hours of instant gratification amusement. And hot Christ, does it beat the ever-loving dogshit out of that abortion of a port Game Boy owners got...

My Score: 6 out of 10

Ms. Pac-Man (1990)
Developer: General Computer Corp.
Publisher: Atari

You know exactly what you're going to get with any Ms. Pac-Man port, and in a way, that's both the strongest and weakest aspect of the Lynx iteration. On the pro side, the game has very good controls, and the visuals - while obviously downgraded - are still bright, colorful and generally well-defined. I'm not quite sure how many levels are included, but in my playthrough I made it all the way up to the 12th or so stage, and even that constitutes a pretty hefty amount of gameplay time (a good 40 minutes, at the least.) On the other hand (you know, the bad one), the game's audio is pretty weak and there are no bells or whistles to speak of when it comes to bonus content or presentation. On the whole it's a rather decent port of the all-time arcade classic, but it nonetheless leaves you wanting more bang for your buck. And while we're riding this game's ass, what in the hell is up with those cutscenes featuring Ms. Pac-Man driving those little ghost motherfuckers around in a school bus? That's like, not even close to being canon and shit, I think.

My Score: 6 out of 10

Battle Wheels (1993)
Developer: Beyond Games
Publisher: Atari

Years before Twisted Metal (well, actually, just two of them), this little handheld wonder brought hot and heavy vehicular combat to all five people who were still buying Lynx software in the year of our Lord 1993. Graphically, this is a downright stellar game, with impressive animations, sprites and projectile effects. Furthermore, the shooting-and-driving action is really well-done, with smooth controls, an excellent targeting system and extremely satisfying (albeit simplistic) demolition derby gameplay. The audio design, however, is a bit subpar and while the multiplayer mode is fun (up to six players can duke it out in death matches!), the solo affair is very repetitive, with virtually indistinguishable levels, dumb-as-dirt enemies that'll just let you shoot the shit out of them while they sit there stuck in first gear and a "story mode" that offers you only nominal options to soup up your ride. With a bit more polish and a one-player mode campaign that wasn't a glorified exhibition mode, this could have been one of the best titles on the handheld - alas, as is, it still isn't that bad, and is probably worth checking out if, by some great accident of the universe, you actually own multiple Lynxes, the corresponding cable connectors and know people in the current year whose idea of a good time is playing early 1990s handheld games competitively.

My Score: 6 out of 10

And that's all we've got for this installment of the countdown, kids. Hang in there and revisit the site in just a couple of days for the final installment in this epic, ultra-comprehensive look back on the Lynx ... trust me, we're about to get knee-deep into some truly outstanding stuff

HEY! In the mood for more extensive, system-specific countdown spectaculars? Check out some of our previous "best-of" features below!