John Walker's Electronic House

TB 126

They’re Back 126

Come back
I said baby, come back
Oh won’t you please come back
[continue to fade]

Tomb Raider: Chronicles
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PCG 90

“What? Again?!” you cry, sat upon your precipice, high above the world. “Tomb Raider reviewed again?! You popular culture lacky.”

But the truth is, if we are to be truly in touch with our world, the features that will shape it, and the directions that will be taken, we need to get a grip of the mass-populist media. Even if that grip is firmly around the throat followed by frenzied squeezing.

This one is the post-death Tomb Raider, and the most recent, despite being nearly two years old. Upon its release, Eidos went to great pains that no one was to call this ‘Tomb Raider V’. It was ‘Chronicles’, and it was a whole new era for Lara, a fresh start, a new framework for the series, blah blah blah… Does this sound familiar?

As the up-n-maybe-coming Angel of Darkness has been promising so much, and nay-saying rumours fly as to how much it will actually deliver, the same curse befell the fifth incarnation. After the hype machine sent cogs spinning in all directions, what eventually arrived on the shelves was “just another Tomb Raider game”.

Whether this is a bad thing or not is of course entirely dependant upon how much you enjoyed “just the other four Tomb Raider games”. It’s very easy to condemn them for being the same, but if you enjoyed one, then there’s a fair chance you enjoyed the others. And none shall be allowed to deny that they are the best platform games you can buy for a PC. It would be silly to try and claim otherwise, unless you were all clever and tried to argue for the Tony Hawk’s Series. You’d still be wrong mind, but at least you’d have had a good go.

The reality is, while II and III may have merely been glorified mission packs for the first, both IV and Chronicles made interesting and significant tweaks to the engine. Lara has gained increasing abilities throughout the series, the graphics have improved in leaps and bounds, and Lara has gained increasing ability to leap and bound. DYSWIDT?

So this being the most recent means that it’s also the most agile, finely tuned, and well balanced. Lessons from previous editions have been learned – less shooting random wild animals, and far less pushing blocks and finding keys – and the post-funeral atmosphere makes for an interesting mood. Still, it’s 78%, because by part five, it could have been so much more.


Memories – like experiences, but from the past. Lara has quite a few, and these are only four.

Soul Reaver 2
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PCG 105

In case you haven’t been following the series carefully, here is a quick rundown of the titles: It began with Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, which was followed by Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Then came the rather dully titled Soul Reaver 2, which thankfully was succeeded by Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2… Hang on, which way around are they supposed to go? Can we look forward to Blood Reaver: Kain Legacy? Reaver Omen 2: Blood of Kain’s Soul 3? Let’s hope so.

Last month Sold Out announced Blood Omen 2, and this month they oddly go one step backwards and promise to release Soul Reaver 2. Confused? Good, then it won’t matter if I review the wrong one.

Since this was originally released by Eidos, it followed the Law that All Games Must Be A Bit Like Tomb Raider, involving a lot of third-person charging around, pushing blocks in all manner of directions, and other world-changingly original concepts. And much like every other game in the series, combat is a massive disappointment, with enemies taking a ticket, forming neat, orderly queues, and waiting for their number to flash up before beginning to fight you. And even then, it’s not particularly satisfying to fight, since death is no issue for your character, being already a bit dead as it is.

All takes place in Nosgoth – a place which seems to inspire everyone to notice anagrams. So to get them all out the way: ‘Hot Snog’ – R Millington. ‘No Goths’ – Richard Cobbett. ‘No Ghost’ – John Walker. Mine’s rubbish. If you can think of any others, write them on a postcard, and send them to Eidos.

It’s a not-great Playstation game, hastily ported to PC, and not improving any along the way. There are some neat puzzles, but mostly it’s Hog Snot.


Superbike World Championship
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PCG 68

You don’t have right of way. Sorry to bring this one slamming down onto your bi-wheeled lifestyle, but being more narrow than a car doesn’t give you some god-of-the-road-given right to weave your way to the front of every traffic jam. Which leads me to wonder how motorbike racing can ever begin.

Lining up on the starting grid, every bike must just assume it’s allowed to be right at the very front, immediately beneath the starting lights. Given position number 7, surely the rider looks ahead, sees all the bikes in front of him, and pulls out without indicating, swerving in and out of the others until he’s half over the starting line. How does any motorbike race not begin with every entrant over-revving in an ever-encroaching straight line at the start?

Motorbike sims tend towards the more OTT arcady way of things, which makes Superbike World Championship a refreshing change. It focuses on offering realism, meaning that racing in the rain on a barely balanced, overblown bicycle, is actually something of a challenge. There are two modes of play, as is traditional in racing simulators, allowing you to play ‘Action’, for instant thrills, or ‘Simulation’ for more realistic racing. Simulation is certainly more difficult than Action, but both are perhaps a little too simple to master. This is something that is easily combated when you play online against your friends – unless your friends are rubbish at motorbike sims, I suppose.

Superbike WC (snigger) has a fast learning curve, which means seemingly impossible corners in Simulation mode are soon learned and conquered. You’re still very vulnerable – clipping a barrier could put you entirely out of a race – meaning that there’s a good level of tension that any good racing sim should possess. You’re vulnerable – remember that.


NHL 2000
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PCG 76

It must be very difficult to be a new NHL game, knowing that no matter how realistic you are, no matter how accurately you recreate the bladed violence, you will never, ever, ever come close to the cult status of the preceeding Megadrive games.

There was something exceptional about them – no, they weren’t 3D, no they didn’t offer photo-realistic graphics. In fact, perhaps it was their very cartoony detachment from reality that leant them the x-factor that made them so endlessly playable. So fabulous were they that they were immortalised in both Swingers (during the brilliant blood-mode cheat scene) and in Kevin Smith’s most grown up film, Chasing Amy, both of which were classic sequences.

It’s hard to imagine a group of twenty-somethings gathered around a PC, frantically hammering at their Gravis gamepads with such glee, when playing NHL 2000.

However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t a good game – it is. It’s just gone too far down the road of Looking Good to have maintained its bizarre charm. It’s the exact same fate that will befall anyone’s inevitable attempt to update Speedball 2, you mark my words.

Hockey, like all decent sports, involves near-lethal levels of unnecessary violence, and NHL 2000 does not let anyone down in this respect. Rucks are common, and easily started, although of course punished with time in the bin of sin. Imagine how many other sports would benefit from this. Football with swords – come on, who’s with me?

Since the original release of NHL 2000, perhaps unsurprisingly there’s been an NHL 2001, 2002, and 2003, so there are certainly more up-to-date and realistic hockey sims out there. However, if you fancy a bit of extreme figure skating for a rather cheap price, there’s not much wrong with this.


Dungeon Keeper 2
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PCG 73

I’ve run out of ways to review. I’m looking at the title, I’m looking at the two previous occasions I’ve reviewed it in TB. My imagination is sapped, no stupid-ass angle is springing to mind. No concept review speaks to me (somewhere a Mark Donald sings praises), no meaningless and unrelated tales of office furniture stand out. Not even a poem occurs.

Haiku? I’ve never done one of those:

Under the warm ground
A world where leather clad girls
Fight horny devils


Lair of the undead
Gnarled beasts stalk down dripping halls

I suppose I’ll just tell you what it is (It only took him three years to fathom this concept – three year’s of Eds). In the Bullfrog style, over a series of levels, it is your task to build up an underground lair into which all manner of sub-terrainian beasties would wish to live. There are specific rooms necessary to attract specific creatures, plus the ever-necessary nests, training rooms, and hatcheries for food. As you build your dungeon up, your menagerie will increase, including amongst others, imps, dark elves, warlocks, and the leather-wearing mistresses in their torture chambers.

Each level has a mission, which often involves killing the nearby opposing dungeon masters, or reaching a certain level of power, but unlike Populous 3, you can carry on developing your dungeon after the tasks are complete.

No one will ever finish Dungeon Keeper 2, because it’s only fun for the first half of its levels. It’s not that it gets bad, just that its lifespan is shorter than the game itself.


And The Rest

As you may have noticed, it’s a second month in a row of Sold Out uniqueness. And as has been said before, if only it /were/ because of some under-the-table financial offering that the column seems to be exclusively discussing their releases. Alas, it is because Take Two have yet to have a three month overdue meeting, Atari haven’t phoned me back, and Xplosiv haven’t updated their website since April.

So I shall continue with the Exclusive Sold Out Specials until someone else releases something. Sold Out are great. They’re the best. I love them. Anyone who doesn’t buy Sold Out games is an idiot. I don’t know how I’d survive without the life-giving joy of everything Sold Out have ever released. Wow, they’re brill.

This month the lovely people at the best budget company of all are releasing Eidos’ Project Eden. When Eidos released it eight months ago on their budget label, it was alright I suppose, but now Sold Out are releasing it, it’s just so great. You play as all four characters, big-robot (.com), mechanic, boss guy, and computer whizz girlie, using their unique skills to solve puzzles. It starts off well, and then sort of peters out a bit, in all honesty. £5 and 75%, but I’d say it was worth getting for the Sold Out logo on the box alone.

They’re Back – yours for the price of ACTUALLY RELEASING SOMETHING.