Electronic adventures: video and computer game reviews

Monday, October 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Even better the second time around

Maker: Neversoft
Rating: ****
System: Sony PlayStation
Suggested price: $40
Number of players: Up to 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 builds upon last year's addictive game play with more tricks, bigger courses and an expanded career mode. It's a must-have whether you own the original or not.

If 13 real-life skaters aren't enough, you can create your own character. If 10 worldwide courses aren't enough, make your own with the intuitive three-dimensional editor.

Despite a few skips in frame rate, Tony Hawk 2 looks detailed and fluid, pushing the ancient PlayStation hardware to its limits. To say that this game looks better than the original Tony Hawk speaks volumes.

Hard rock and hip-hop songs split the bouncing soundtrack.

Most of the songs hit the spot, but the option to skip undesired tracks is a great touch. And Neversoft must have hooked a microphone directly to a skateboard to get sound effects this crisp.

Put simply, there's no feeling greater in a video game than grinding from one rail to another, hitting a nose manual through a half-pipe and pulling off a 360 madonna into an indy nosebone. You'll understand all that when you buy this game – so buy it.

Suitable for ages 13 and up due to crashes without protective headgear. Don't try this at home, kids.

- Sam Machkovech

Portable perfection

Maker: Nintendo of America
System: Nintendo Game Boy Color
Suggested price: $30
Number of players: 1
Wario Land 3 is pure video game magic. Mario fans owe it to themselves to grab this gem.

Lost on an island, Wario must go on a scavenger hunt through 25 levels to find a way home. As he finds more of the game's 100 treasures, he earns new abilities and uses those to discover secrets in previous levels.

You'll be busy for hours uncovering the huge, clever levels. Quirky puzzles, creative bosses and golf mini-games also add charm.

Levels are colorful and detailed, each looking decidedly different from the next. Music is pleasant and unobtrusive, while sound effects are the usual cute, Nintendo fare.

I'd say more, but that would just keep me from playing more Wario.

Suitable for all ages.

- Sam Machkovech

Caution: Hungry creatures on the prowl

Maker: Capcom
Rating: ****
System: Sony PlayStation
Suggested price: $39.95
Number of players: 1

In Dino Crisis 2, you take on the alternate roles of Regina, a survivor of last year's mission to capture Dr. Kirk, and Dylon Morton of the Tactical Reconnoitering and Acquisition Team.

Your mission is to sneak into Edward City, which has been mysteriously sent back to the Cretaceous period, rescue all survivors and secure Third Energy research data. It sounds simple enough – but as you are hoofing it through jungle paths and decrepit bases, you will encounter hordes of prehistoric creatures all looking for a snack.

The clever folks at Capcom broke away from suspense and intrigue (the Resident Evil series) to give us a real action-shooter-adventure game with innovations in play, an intriguing plot and worthwhile characters. There are also the basic puzzles, blood and gore, heavy artillery and an abundance of save/heal/purchase stations.

Innovations include a point award system for each kill that can be used as cash, a secondary weapon that can be used at any time, medical packs that heal but won't stop the bleeding unless you apply a hemostat and extra points for combo kills or counterattacking the enemy.

The excellent sound effects of dinosaur cries, wails, and footsteps complement the graphics perfectly and voice acting is first rate. Success requires quick reflexes and nimble fingers on the controller. Dino Crisis 2 avoids the stereotypes of the genre and delivers one of the most refreshing takes on the third-person action shooter to date. What you wished you could do in the original release is doable in the sequel.

Appropriately rated mature for blood and gore.

- Harold E. Scull Jr. is a free-lance writer.

Not the same old story

Maker: Squaresoft
Rating: ***
System: Sony PlayStation
Suggested price: $39.95
Number of players: 1

Vagrant Story is a third-person adventure with great graphics and a dark, mystic atmosphere. You play as Ashley Riot, a medieval peace officer who carries the burden of being responsible for the slaughter of his family. You must vanquish the denizens of this grim place by using a mix of timing and tactical ingenuity.

It is an incredible story with sophisticated game play. But you must overlook the dialogue presented in comic book word-balloons because it distracts from the seriousness of the game.

This is not just another role-playing/strategy game because it is full of special features, such as a weapon creation system and "weapon affinities" that let you customize arms for certain monsters. Of course, there are the basic four varieties of magic: attack, healing, support and weapon enchantment.

I found it unique that you could choose to attack different hit locations on your enemies, getting different damage ratings and increasing your success rate. Example: If you can't hit the enemy's head, you can cripple his ability to fight back by striking his limbs before delivering the fatal blows.

Ashley's tale is enthralling, politically intricate, deeply mystical and exceptionally well-told by the director and designer, Yasumi Matsuno.

Vagrant Story is a fabulous game that is suitable for older teens. But consider renting before buying because the grim content won't appeal to everyone.

- Harold E. Scull Jr. is a free-lance writer.

This one's a winner

System: PlayStation
Maker: Acclaim
Rating: ***
Suggested price: $40
Number of players: Up to 2

Another racing game from Acclaim featuring remote-controlled toy cars could bring back bad memories of the problematic game Re-Volt. Luckily, RC Revenge is far more playable and enjoyable than its predecessor.

Everything is better this time around. Graphics are superb and anything blocky is kept to a minimum.

The tracks look good and vary according to themes such as Horror World and Planet Adventure.

The control is right on. You can even configure the dual-shock controller's two analog sticks to mimic a remote-control car.

The plot is similar to other conventional racing games: You race, you win, you gain access to new tracks and hidden vehicles. Game play can be frustrating at times because of hard-to-follow tracks and aggressive, computer-controlled vehicles. However, what makes this game addictive is the large selection of toy cars, trucks and even boats, along with an assortment of zany weapons.

There is even a track editor that lets creative players build custom tracks and save them to the memory card.

RC Revenge is fun and challenging. Racing fans should definitely take it for a spin.

Suitable for everyone.

- By Jim Buu, software engineer

Appearances are everything

Maker: Mattel Interactive
System: Nintendo Game Boy Color
Suggested price: $30
Number of players: 1

This Barbie Game Boy selection doesn't come with the action that other games have. Even other Barbie games by Mattel come with things Barbie can do. The Barbie snowboarding game was tons of fun and full of adventure. But Fashion Pack favors outward appearances. Barbie cares way too much about how she looks.

She needs you to help her get ready. You play mini-games to earn Barbie's lipstick, skirts and shirts, jewelry, shoes and more. After completing at least one level in every game – if you can call them games – Barbie finally appears in public on that tiny screen. Wow!

The graphics were extremely small and strained my eyes just to see them. That made it difficult to go through the different levels. Some of the games are confusing to follow. The Perfume factory maze game requires too many button shifts between the top of the spout and the bottom of the bottle, and it's hard to see where the maze lines are filling in. This is one example of how the game might frustrate younger girls, to whom the product is aimed.

Little Barbie fans should know that dressing Barbie in the small-screen Game Boy world just does not work. That kind of play should stay in the three-dimensional world.

Rated for all ages.