And with the final review of Turok (2008) on Xbox 360, The Year of Acclaim comes to an end. Over the past twelve months I’ve looked at fifteen games through multiple console, handhelds and console generations. While some of the games I’ve looked at have confirmed that certain games are bonafided classics or huge surprises, others are best left in the past where they belong. To close this year long feature, I’m going to run down through each of the fifteen games I’ve played and stamp them as either worth looking into, or worth passing on. With each game I’ll also share a link to the review of the title, making this a combination of a coles notes and omnibus of The Year of Acclaim feature.
TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER (N64): PLAY (FULL REVIEW)
Despite having a control scheme that’s very much of its time as well as fog thicker than the haunted town of Silent Hill, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter has aged pretty well, offering a good mix of action, exploration and over-the-top weaponry. The plat-forming brings the whole experience down a little and it’s easy to get lost, but even with those faults, this early N64 game is well worth your time. If you don’t have your N64 lying around anymore and couldn’t be bothered to pick one up, there’s an enhanced port coming to PC in the future thanks to Night Dive Studios.
TUROK 2: SEEDS OF EVIL (N64): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
In many ways, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil is an example of a sequel done right: The graphics are sharper thanks to the N64 expansion pack; The enemies are smarter; The levels are larger and the weapons are even deadlier and more gruesome. Even with all those upgrades though, Turok 2 is just not as much fun a the first game in the series, and it feels way more archaic. More so than Turok: Dinosaur Hunter the levels are way too easy to get lost in, and save points are spaced so far apart that you have to set hours of your life aside just to get through some of the massive stages. With all of the added objectives, collectibles, keys and backtracking required, there’s too much content packed into this cart and it makes the game overwhelming as opposed to fun. This game also has an announced modern port from Night Dive Studios and hopefully that version will be more reasonable with a more modern save system, but in its iteration on the N64, Turok 2 is not as good as you remember. With the exception of the cerebral bore, that still rules.
TUROK: RAGE WARS (N64): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
No one can deny the N64’s importance in bringing FPS death match action to consoles thanks to games like GoldenEye 007 and Turok 2, however this spin-off is best left in the past. While it may have occupied a lot of hours during a lot of sleepovers back in the late 90’s, there’s just far too many better multi-player shooters, many of which are on a console you probably have hooked up right now. An interesting relic, but Rage Wars is just that, a relic.
TUROK 3: SHADOW OF OBLIVION (N64): PLAY (FULL REVIEW)
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was a little too ambitious for its own good and Turok: Rage Wars was an arena shooter that didn’t really feel like a Turok game. After those two missteps, Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion returned the series to a “must play” place, and was an excellent send off for the twilight years of the N64. This game started the series on a path of more linear design, a trend that would continue with Turok: Evolution and even 2008 with a different publisher/developer, but after Seeds of Evil’s gargantuan time sucking stages, this game is a breath of fresh air. Plus the ability to save whenever you want was a huge plus over the save points found in the original and part two.
TUROK: EVOLUTION (GAMECUBE [ALSO AVAILABLE ON PS2/XBOX): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
Acclaim had a lot riding on this reboot of a series that once saved it from extinction in the past, but in a post Halo world, Turok: Evolution was already dead on arrival before it was released. That’s not to say that Evolution doesn’t have its good qualities. It has a lengthy campaign, the return to more fantastical jungle environments are very welcome and the weapons feel great, but as a complete package, it’s not worth recommending. The story is a laughable mess, the flying levels are frustratingly difficult and starting over very long levels after dying make this feel more primitive than the games released on the N64. Those who have a fond place for the N64 Turok games should skip this forgettable reboot.
ARMORINES: PROJECT S.W.A.R.M (N64 [ALSO AVAILABLE ON PSONE]): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
Acclaim tried to create two new franchises in 1999. with Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M and the original Shadow Man. One is a game that’s worth playing, and the other is Armorines. On paper, this game sounds like a sure thing: Combine Acclaim’s engine for Turok 2 with a concept similar to Starship Troopers and mix until ready, but somewhere along the way things went astray. The stages are too dark, making it impossible to see; Objectives are vague and the enemies are simply not that fun to fight. Maybe this is a game that would work today on a much more powerful console, but for its time, Armorines was perhaps a bit too ambitious.
ARMORINES: PROJECT S.W.A.R.M (GBC): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
Much like the N64 game of which this portable spin-off is based on, Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M on the Game Boy Color is not worth tracking down. Unlike the Turok portable series which was mostly a series of side-scrolling action games, Armorines played as an overhead action game which was ill-suited to the franchise. The console game was all about shooting waves of deadly alien bugs, yet the GBC version had you fumbling through boring, colour saturated levels completing obtuse objectives. The enemies themselves didn’t even look like killer aliens, just like actual bugs, which aren’t very threatening. Unlike both Turok and Shadow Man, Armorines only saw one entry and no sequel. Between the N64 and the GBC game, I can see why.
TUROK: BATTLE OF THE BIONOSAURS (GAME BOY): PLAY (FULL REVIEW)
In total, there were five portable Turok games released, and even after the release of 2002’s Turok: Evolution, Battle of the Bionosaurs is still easily the best of the bunch. A 2-D 8-bit side-scrolling port of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter should have been a concept that shouldn’t have worked, but somehow, this game does. Despite losing a full dimension in the translation, this game offered the same mix of action and exploration that made the N64 original a classic in the late 90’s. Anyone looking for a great action side-scroller on the go should check this late Game Boy minor classic.
TUROK 2: SEEDS OF EVIL (GAME BOY COLOR): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
The first portable Turok sequel was one of the first Game Boy titles to launch along side the first ever colour Game Boy, but even with more colours than black and white, this game is nowhere near as good as the first handheld Turok outing. While it’s much better than the next two games that would come to market, it’s much easier and less engaging with an increased use on boring gimmicks than exploration, a trend that would unfortunately continue. It’s not the worst Turok Game Boy game and frankly not that bad, it’s just pretty average.
TUROK: RAGE WARS (GAME BOY COLOR): PASS (FULL REVIEW)
As disappointed as I was with the second portable Turok game, it’s a ten out of ten compared to this bizarre experiment. Scrapping the side-scrolling action stages for overhead, beat-em-up esque gameplay isn’t exactly a bad idea as it’s in-line with the console game, but this game is just no fun to play. Featuring cheap deaths courtesy of poor jumping controls and off-screen unavoidable bullets as well as slow moving self-scrolling stages, there’s nothing recommendable about the third chapter in Turok’s portable series.
TUROK 3: SHADOW OF OBLIVION (GAME BOY COLOR: PASS (FULL REVIEW)
Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion is a much better game than Rage Wars before it, but as it shares much of the same DNA, it too is not a game worth investigating into. Overall it’s much fairer game as it loses a lot of the self-scrolling stages, but it’s just the same boring game done better. The inclusion of vehicles is an interesting mechanic, however it feels like they were added to extend the life of this very short game. Shadow of Oblivion was a respectable return to form on the N64, a sentiment that didn’t trickle down to the Game Boy Color game.
SHADOW MAN (DREAMCAST [ALSO ON DC/PSONE/PC): PLAY (FULL REVIEW)
When Shadow Man was brand new, I rented it out once and enjoyed the brief time I put into it, but until this year, I never gave it a second look. After playing it this year, I’m very glad that I did, as this game is a minor lost classic. Cribbing a lot of notes from the Metroid play book, Shadow Man throws you into a creepy, open-world filled with monsters and demons and tasks you with figuring everything out. It can be cryptic sometimes and it’s very easy to get lost and stuck, but with a little persevearance and maybe a FAQ, you’ll discover a game that deserved much better. The best thing about this game is that you didn’t even need a retro console to enjoy it, thanks to Night Dive Studios who remastered it for modern machines two years ago. If you’re into horror or Metroid games, do yourself a favour and play Shadow Man.
SHADOW MAN: 2ECOND COMING (PS2): PLAY (FULL REVIEW)
Though not as ambitious as the first game, Shadow Man: 2econd Coming is a terrific sequel that easily trumps Turok 2, Turok 3 or Evolution as the best produced sequel from Acclaim. Taking the cryptic level design criticism a bit too much to heart with a game that is in many ways a little too linear, there’s still a lot of exploration and discovery for those who like to venture off the beaten path without being too frustrating. The story is not that engaging, though the original game’s wasn’t that compelling either, and the Mike/Shadow Man transformation ability was a wasted opportunity, but the complete package is very much a game that like part one, didn’t get its due.
TUROK: EVOLUTION (GAME BOY ADVANCE: PLAY (FULL REVIEW)
Turok: Evolution on the Game Boy Advance is not a perfect, nor is that great, really. However it’s still an incredibly fun game that does a good job of paying homage to the games it’s clearly influenced by, namely Contra and Metal Slug. It doesn’t reach the incredibly high bar of quality set by those franchises, but Evolution is still a respectable attempt by an obscure developer that has no right to be as good as it is. After Battle of the Bionosaurs, this is easily the second best handheld Turok and a remarkable improvement over the three Game Boy games that came before it. Don’t let the association with the console game fool you, Turok: Evolution is a good game that has been overshadowed by the poor reception of its older sibling.
TUROK (2008: PASS (FULL REVIEW)
Starting with the name of the main character being Joseph Turok, there’s not a lot to like about this failed Turok franchise reboot from 2008. The aiming doesn’t ever feel comfortable, the weapons are of the run-of-the-mill variety that you would find in any other shooter, and despite taking place in some nice to look at jungles, there’s nothing in this package that makes it feel like a Turok game. There are other games with Turok in the title that are much older, control worse and look uglier than this game that are infinitely more recommendable.