Cammy's PS1 Recommendations

The PS1 was very much my childhood console. I'm in the process of acquiring another, but even armed with a simple emulator, I've been enjoying both old favorites and trying out new ones. I miss little text reviews on these kinds of games, so here's a page for such.

Games are recommended on a four-point scale like those "strongly agree/disagree" questions you get on surveys. This scale goes "Strongly", "If you like this kinda game", "Watch it online", and "Avoid at all costs" from best to worst, indicating how likely I am to play the game again. I'm not in the business of objectivity, just what's fun to me. No reason to play a game if you're not having fun, yeah?

A brief note on how I denote "emulated"

As said, I only have access to an emulator at the moment (Bizhawk's Mednafen core). I only mention where I play these games in case an emulator glitch gets in the way of the gameplay. Games I've only played on emulator are likely to get rewritten reviews when I've played them on a real PS1, so to save me some time, the games I know play the same on both have just gotten a "no" in that category. Just to save everyone some confusion...


The Adventures of Lomax (Psygnosis, 1996)

Lemmings is one of those legacy franchises that's hung on for a long, long time, leaving forgotten little spinoffs in its wake, including Lomax. Lomax is a squeaky lemming knight out to rescue other lemmings who've been transformed into an army of ugly, ghoulish creeps. Lomax is a platformer, and the classic Lemmings gameplay is the twist on it: Lomax can pick up icons that enable his lemming powers, from building bridges to digging through walls.

The first thing about Lomax you'll notice is that it's gorgeous; you hacks making NESathons need to learn how to do pixel art, because Lomax has you beat. The backgrounds and animation are intricate, cloud cover drifts throughout the stages, enemies and platforming elements are inventive, and 3D is worked in as foreground-background stuff. It's even nicer in motion. The second thing you'll notice is the difficulty. Lomax can only take two hits. Worse yet, he can't swim, and platforms tend not to have collision around the edges. It never feels unfair, really, just exacting.

My recommendation for Lomax comes on the basis that you enjoy platformers and are fine with some trial and error to figure out the controls and how to progress. Double-tapping X lets Lomax do a spin attack, Circle is a hat attack (provided you have it), Select lets you pick abilities, and Square uses your ability. This is very much not well explained in the game itself. You only get so many lives and continues, so make sure you're keeping track of your passwords and be prepared to restart the whole game if need be. It's a very pretty game with a lot to like about it; it's just sad that it depends on your tastes for classic platformer difficulty. That said, if you can handle it, you'll find Lomax plenty satisfying.

Emulated Yes
Supports analog controls No
Has chipmunk voices Yes
Recommended? If you like this kinda game
Direct link to review

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (EA Games, 2001)

Pottermania had to make its stops into gaming, of course, and its splashes on the PS1 (this and the sequel in Chamber of Secrets) are often the subject of much derision these days. For all their rather oatmealish character models, the Ocarina clone controls, or their speedy pacing, I think it's a bit undeserved. I grew up with these games (and these are very much kids games), and every few years, I end up with a bizarre compulsion to return to them.

Sorcerer's Stone is a fairly linear 3D adventure roughly recounting the plot of the first movie. You'll run along to classes (Charms, Potions, and Defense Against the Dark Arts are all featured with Simon-like minigames for learning each's spell), be the school's favorite Quidditch seeker, and wander about under an Invisibility Cloak in some clunky stealth stages. There's something to be said about the atmosphere of the castle, even if you can't quite explore as much as you might want. The flickering flames, floating junk, and secret passages into some fun minigames all serve their purpose quite well.

For all the memories, I can't really recommend this one though. For one thing, the control is not great. Harry feels imprecise, on foot and on broom. There's no jump button, only an Ocarina-like "push against the gap" maneuver, and it does not feel good ever. When the game wants you to navigate paths of floating tables or ceiling beams, you'll be reaching for the D-pad in frustration. Add to that an insanely cheap and unsatisfying final boss battle, and while you can beat this in a day, you likely won't return for seconds. I'd say watch someone else play this one. It's an atmospheric little romp that has its moments, but can't quite make the magic happen.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls Yes
Teaches you black magic Yes
Recommended? Watch it online
Direct link to review

Monsters, Inc. Scream Team (Disney-Pixar, 2001)

While hardly the hot title the youths of today are turgid over, Monsters, Inc. Scream Team is probably the one Disney PS1 game I remember the most fondly. (Funnily enough, I don't think I've actually seen the movie—not that I don't know how it ends.) It's a platformer to tie into the Pixar-y misadventures of our favorite fluffy blue bear (not much of a monster, is it?) and a spindly walking green eyeball (that's more like it), complete with fairly decent quality clips from the movie. If you grew up with it, or you like the movie, it's not aged terribly! But it's also as you'd expect, mostly.

The premise is simple: Sulley and Mike (you can choose to play as either in any level) are tasked to traverse twelve training courses full of deadly, homicidal toys in search of eight "nerves" to practice their scare abilities on. Nerves are robot child substitutes who bounce around, skip rope, build snowmen, and do other various childish tasks, and your goal, naturally, is to reduce them to shivering wrecks (and subsequently piles of metallic rubble!). The courses are divided into urban, desert, and arctic-themed stages you gain access to as you scare the requisite numbers of nerves.

This game is actually really lovely looking for a PS1 title. Colorful, even imaginative locales with clean, noise-free texturework abound. The arctic stages even have motion blur on the falling snow (as you can see in that screenshot up there). The gameplay isn't much special, but it gets the job done. You got collectables, button puzzles, trampolines, speed boost arrows, and slide segments (ugh). The platforming's decent, though Mike sucks to control, so play as Sulley if you like enjoying yourself. Frankly, probably the best part of it is the funky, jazzy OST—look that up if you like your trumpets. Beyond that, only for Disney fans—and I'm not encouraging them.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls Yes
Rewards child abuse Yes
Recommended? Watch it online
Direct link to review

Namcomuseum Vol. 1 (Namco, 1995)

Namcomuseum was where the arcade compilation train really rolled out of the station. It made sense! Pac-Man, Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug—these were all huge hits that previous home consoles could only imitate. The PS1 was more than up to the task, and with a new generation of home players who might not've even remembered them in the arcade, Namco saw fit to roll up several onto one disc and provide a "museum" component, a free-roam 3D environment to link the games together. It certainly worked, and Namco has yet to stop repacking these games for every new system that comes out.

This first volume consists of Pac-Man, Rally-X, Pole Position, Bosconian, Galaga, and Toy Pop. Bosconian and Toy Pop are the most obscure in the compilation, one a clunky eight-way overhead shooter with some gnarly voice synthesis and the other a bizarre, cutesy maze game featuring killer wind-up toys. Neither are more than curiosities, but the four other games are a lot of fun. The museum is overall nicely detailed and fairly clean looking for such an early PS1 title.

These games actually aren't emulated, they're recreated, and if you're a hardcore fan of any one of these games, you'll notice some differences. In particular, Galaga's sounds are rather muffled and its "breather waves", where the enemies reset in number and aggression, are on different levels, and ghosts can easily outrun Pac-Man even when he's not eating. Frankly, if those are my only issues, then these are damn good recreations—and that's because they are. My only other gripe comes in the fact that you can't save your high scores unless you "register" with the front desk of the museum first (as I discovered after that game of Pac-Man...). It's an annoying oversight, but mostly, Namcomuseum is worth a look.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls No
Features cocktail cabinets Yes
Recommended? If you like this kinda game
Direct link to review

Robotron X (Midway, 1996)

I'm a huge Robotron fan. You can't fuck it up: screen full of robots, two eight-way joysticks, one to move, one to fire. Shoot robots, collect humans for big points. It frazzles your nerves, it looks and sounds like nothing else, and games rarely last more than five minutes. It might very well be my favorite golden age arcade game; it's just unfortunate that it resulted in Robotron X. Of course, the 90s were ripe with 3D remakes of old chestnut arcade titles, and while Midway was behind some genuine classics of the era, the pieces just didn't fall into place here.

The core of the gameplay is the same, but it suffers from two major issues that make it a gigantic headache to play, those being framerate and pacing. X has a horrible framerate that regularly drops when the screen gets busy, making the action hard to follow and frequently resulting in unfair deaths. This game interrupts each wave with an unskippable several-seconds-long intermission screen of your unsightly protagonist flipping through space. Even worse, the later waves are filled with respawning robots, so the feeling of progress is nonexistent. It's just such a slog.

There's an ugly, eerie feeling to this game, with the all-black backdrops, the freakish, texture-mapped faces and gigantic brains on various characters, but that's what makes it a bizarrely curious failure to me. The one genuine highlight I can cite is the soundtrack from the unsung hero of them, Aubrey Hodges (you might know Doom 64?) It's pretty heavy hardcore and gabber stuff, and it makes you glad this is a mixed mode CD (buy it on Bandcamp, it's good). Aside from that—at least Robotron 64 fixed most of this one's problems. Sometimes it just takes another draft.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls No
Gives you a headache Yes
Recommended? Avoid at all costs
Direct link to review

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (Activision, 1999)

The Pro Skater series has always been a powerhouse franchise. Everyone loves this game. Even chicks love this game, and playing the first one leaves no doubt as to why. If you don't know the basic gist, you play a skater given two minutes to accomplish a set of tasks in a part of a city or a building, usually involving scoring a certain amount of points, smashing scenery, or grabbing letters or items. Points are awarded for ridiculous flippy grabby grindy combos, which you execute with ease by pressing a face button and a direction in the air or around scenery. If you don't land the trick, you'll bail miserably and get no points for your combo.

Some people defer to the Dreamcast version of this game for its smoothness and draw distance, but the PS1 holds its own very nicely. Graphically, there's a lot of detail, the air you get is nuts, and there's lots of hidden areas and gaps to find. You'll be taken from a dingy, leaky warehouse through schools, malls, Arizona dams, and top-secret government labs on your quest to collect five tapes from each, or a medal in the case of the competitions. The flavor of the game is excellent, from the absurd trick names to the videos of each skater you unlock, and if Dead Kennedys, Primus, Suicidal Tendencies, and Unsane float your boat, great songs from each play during your runs.

This game can be a little wonky to return to after playing the later ones. Combos and lines are less extravagant, spins feel stiffer, no manuals, harder to tell when you're switch, and nollies and fakie ollies aren't mapped to a button for easy execution. The core of the game was always here though, and that's what counts.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls Yes
Menace to society Yes
Recommended? Strongly
Direct link to review

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 (Activision, 2000)

If the intro video, with its crazy rooftop jumps and daunting verts set to "Guerrilla Radio", didn't clue you in, you're not paying enough attention. My personal favorite of the series, certainly the pinnacle of this series on PS1, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is that perfect sequel that keeps all the good stuff and polishes everything else to a sheen. This time around, the scores and the jumps get higher, and manuals (where you press up or down and then the opposite and try to balance) help you glue it together. It gets downright absurd at times—and I love it.

The first Pro Skater suffered from some stiffness, and I wouldn't pick most of its levels as personal favorites, but 2 gets everything right. The levels hit the same sorta beats as the first game's, but the levels are much more intricate, more fun to explore, and visually, I think they're more inviting. It's hard to forget the summer heat of Venice Beach, the creepy, seedy subways of New York, or the, er, Bullring (featuring a loop! Must be a Tony Hawk game). Being able to toggle switch and nollie from a button each and being able to remap tricks and specials are both welcome additions. I even think the soundtrack is better—less ska and more Fu Manchu and Styles of Beyond, yes please.

There's tons to unlock in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, from cheats to secret characters to entirely new secret stages, and believe me, you'll wanna play to unlock them all. Add in a create-a-skater mode and a fucking park editor, and you simply will not get bored. You can play through ten times and find new things every time. Sublime.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls Yes
Features bull-skating Yes
Recommended? Strongly
Direct link to review

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (Activision, 2001)

In the early days of the PS2, big companies often released games for both it and its big brother console, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 comes of that trend. If you've ever played the third one proper, you'll know how huge and alive it all feels, with all the pedestrians and goals that are more environmental and humorous than simply about the skating. The PS1 port is an interesting beast in that it has none of that, the levels are an ill fit for the 2 engine, and the goals are more traditional and less interesting—yet it doesn't suck. Not completely, anyway.

The levels aren't exact ports and their layouts have changed fairly drastically in places, yet they're still huge and the draw distance still doesn't do them any favors. Suburbia, which used to be the perfect Halloween skate, is nothing more than an empty mess here, and Los Angeles, formerly the last stage, is now the second level and downright apocalyptic to boot. The goals, which used to involve people and funny cutscenes, are often the more traditional boxes and valves goals from the first two games. Much of the content, like the cheat unlocks and the park editor, is reused wholesale from 2. 3's revert feature is thankfully preserved, though it makes the score goals (also reused from 2) downright trivial.

All that said, because it's the 2 engine with a new coat of paint, if you're more fond of the earlier games and your ability to blow through them, the PS1 version of 3 holds some value for that reason. As said, it's still the same solid engine, so the skating physics are still solid yet weirdly stilted as compared to the wobbly give of the PS2 version, and it still runs fine and is fun enough. This is absolutely not the ideal way to experience 3, for the first time or ever, but if you did like the PS1 Tony Hawk games, you'll still find something to like about it.

Emulated Yes
Supports analog controls Yes
Skates the electric rail Yes
Recommended? If you like this kinda game
Direct link to review

Xevious 3D/G+ (Namco, 1997)

Xevious was a pioneering vertical scrolling shooter arcade game with several innovations—namely, air targets to blast and ground targets to bomb, tons of secrets, and a game difficulty that adapts to how well you're doing. This disc is primarily a port of Xevious 3D/G, a 3D remake from the mid-90s when such things were fashionable. Thankfully, 3D/G makes damn good use of the extra dimension, with crazy camera moves and huge end bosses. There's three upgradable weapons to choose from, a green laser and a red tendril cannon that locks onto enemies, but I still prefer the zapper you spawn with. It sounds short with only five levels, but they're five ridiculously difficult levels, so you'll be at it for a while.

The plus sign in the title refers to the arcade-perfect versions of Xevious, Super Xevious, and Xevious Arrangement included as extras. Super ostensibly rearranges some of the stages, though I couldn't tell a difference, and Arrangement is another remake that features weapon powerups. Given how different these feel from each other and from 3D/G, you can easily blow a bunch of time in each one. The controls are completely customizable (and all four games share the same control scheme), and there's even a built-in rapid fire function, which your hands will thank you for.

The menus are a bit funky (Circle is OK, like on the Japanese PS1), and you have to manually save your high scores, but no little quirks detract from the experience. This disc is a dream to Xevious fans.

Emulated No
Supports analog controls No
Features robot spiders Yes
Recommended? Strongly
Direct link to review

Here's a hint, peek at the page source if you want to know what's coming here soon. I just have to...play more games first...

This page last updated March 22, 2021.

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