John Walker's Electronic House

TB 136

They’re Back 136

They say the past will always catch up with you. But that’s because you’re out of shape and frankly, lazy.

Total Immersion Racing
PCG 118

I’m a reasonably passive person, normally only animated when ranting on about social injustice, or why dinnerladies is the least funny thing ever created by the hand of humankind. But ever since moving to the South West of England a year and a half ago, I have become somewhat familiar with this condition they call “road-rage”. I prefer, “road-righteous-indignation”. People in the South West drive up to 30mph below the speed limit. The ten minute drive from my house to the Gamer office can sometimes take up to twenty-five minutes, thanks to the decrepit crawling of some demonic evil possessing the moron in the car in front. And because this backwards, undeveloped wasteground of a region has barely upgraded from cart tracks, there is absolutely zero option of ever overtaking anyone, anywhere.

There has to be a way to let people know. My previous theory was a sort of car-to-car communication device into which you could type the number plate of the offending vehicle, and send them a message along the lines of “BLOODY HURRY UP, YOU CRETIN”. But Total Immersion Racing has a much better idea – emotion indicators.

In this very competent, very solid, very well implemented racing game, for a reason that developers Razorworks alone can understand, triangular icons appear above the roofs of opposing cars, letting you know quite how narked off they are with you. The redder, the ragier. The notion is, if you bump them they’ll not be pleased, and become more inclined to bump you back. It’s a really nice idea, but sadly one with which that they don’t do enough for it to achieve the coveted “gimmick” status. In execution, the crossest they’ll ever get is that initial bump-you-back frame of mind, stopping far too short of deliberate and vindictive attempts to run you from the road.

The odd thing is, TIR is far better appreciated when you ignore the emotion indicators altogether. The exceedingly well balanced cars are all individual to handle, and can all be tweaked in great depth, creating a strong incentive for unlocking the hidden bits and pieces. This ensures that both the career and challenge modes are gripping, deeply detailed, and immensely rewarding. It doesn’t quite pip the best of its genre, still bettered the more recent Need For Speed: Underground, or the legendary Grand Prix series, but can still stand proud amongst such company.


Dice Multimedia
PCG 115

The truth is, I wanted to give Hellboy lead review this month, but unfortunately its current existence is a bit too vague. Sometimes a game can become a great deal more than the sum of its parts. In the case of Hellboy, the sum of its parts is about 3, and yet it’s achieved something of a cult status in Gamer Towers.

Officially, Hellboy was never released in the UK. In fact, it barely seems to have been released anywhere at all. It was only thanks to heroic reader Andrew Dobson’s finding it in a charity shop that we even had a copy to review. It was a fitting tribute, perhaps eulogy, to the deceased bane of our lives, Cryo: an astonishingly abysmal game, a horrific tangle of broken graphics and uncontrollable action, creating the gaming equivalent of a permanent vegetative state. Enemies could be evaded by running around corners, the jump button didn’t work, and it looked like it had been designed for the Commodore 64.

Of course, this reappearance is all a reaction to the soon-arriving (and quite impressive looking) film of the same name. And the idea that someone might buy it, believing it to be some sort of cinematic tie-in, is too terrible to consider.

But the curse of Hellboy appears to still hold strong. Try finding out about its release online… not a thing. Dark Horse Entertainment, the original developers, have removed all evidence of its existence from their website. And even new distributors Dice Multimedia, at the time of writing, have a website that displays “The Dice website is momentarily being renewed. The site will be up and running again as soon as possible.”

If the movie is as good as it looks like it might be, there’s a real danger someone you know might try to buy this game. It’s your responsibility to stop them.


Big Mutha Truckers
PCG 125

Poor people are so funny, aren’t they? I mean, they must be – look at the popularity of shows from Jerry Springer to Judge Judy, Trisha to Jenny Jones. See how those robbed of a decent education fight in the studio-shaped cages! See how the victims of an imbalanced welfare state perform their crazy dances for us!

And there’s none more funny than those so poor they cannot afford homes, instead having to live in trailer parks, their benefits going towards funding the drug habits life never gave them a chance to avoid. Ha, ha, ha, my aching sides. Thank goodness for them, or how else would Big Mutha Truckers have been able to mine such comedy gold?

In this literally laborious driving… thing, your task is to pick a member of a deprived family, under the matriarchy of Ma Jackson, and transport goods from town to town in your 18 wheeled rig. With a hill-billy accent!!!

Driving is, of course, a combination of racing and avoiding opposition. Bash a biker, and you’ll have his or her gang pursuing you. Prang a police car and the force will give you chase. But these present no real challenge – evasion is merely the act of driving without hitting stuff for a bit, and nothing more. There’s some sort of trading element that you engage in when you reach your destinations, all with the intention of building up a sixty day scenario, making up the game’s complete mission. However, to get beyond twenty of these days is a sign of either monolithic patience, or a broken, broken mind.

The truck simulation is surprisingly well designed, the weight and force of the vehicle very apparent as you lumber from place to place. The problem is, this classist rubbish offers no incentive to do so.


Divine Divinity
PCG 114

“Over 200 hours of gameplay” boasts the box, as if it’s some sort of badge to wear with honour. TWO HUNDRED HOURS?! Blimey, yes, I was a bit disappointed when the brilliance of Prince of Persia was over in eleven hours, or when completing Max Payne 2 after seventeen and a half seconds. But TWO HUNDRED HOURS! I’ve got things to do.

Throw your mind around a bit, and try and think of a single-narrative game that you would have wanted to last 200 hours. Planescape Torment had a gripping and engrossing story, but only needed a quarter of that time to see itself run through in truly epic style. The GBA’s beautiful Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga manages an extraordinary 40 hours, perfectly balancing that feeling of wishing there was a little bit more, but leaving you thoroughly satiated. But TWO HUNDRED HOURS?!

Were they two hundred hours of solid, unbridled, RPG heaven, then perhaps we’d be onto something where it would be worth dedicating the better part of your existence to playing. But sadly the appallingly named Divine Divinity manages none of this. Instead, it’s really just a Diablo rip-off, with a few bits of Bioware-learned wisdom thrown in here and there to ensure differentiation. But as our friend the mule is so quick to point out, crossbreeding two functional creatures is not the recipe for a successful new species. And what an infertile beast DD is. Using a stripped down class system (Warrior, Wizard or Survivor), this is just a case of trawling through the quests until you grow so bored you just die.

This scale isn’t achieved by an enormous amount of stuff to do, but instead spacing everything so frustratingly far apart. And when you do eventually get there, it isn’t /bad/, just horribly mediocre.


Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? 2nd Edition
Sold Out
PCG 104

It’s a second edition of the pointless PC version of the ITV quiz game, offering neither the financial risk of the pub game, nor the tension of the television programme. That’s done then.

Coming soon to a PC near you: The Top 100 Movies of All Time – The Game. Compile together your own spurious Top 100 Movies list, from a pool of over 100 movies, selecting your choice of vacuous F-list celebrities to ramble inanely about how they remember having seeing them once, and then sit back and watch your creation for over fourteen hours.

The National Lottery Live. Pick your imaginary six numbers, and then watch an hour of unmitigated drivel before learning if you’ve won an imaginary ten pounds.

Newsnight Review: Home Edition. When four randomly chosen psuedo-specialist art interests are selected, you must control your four player characters in dismissing the majority as populist rubbish, before ludicrously celebrating the most mediocre pop-work as unfiltered genius, all the time avoiding the smug glare of Mark Lawson’s crazy bug-eyes.

Kilroy – Gold Pack. To commemorate the devastating demise of the BBC’s flagship stalk-n-talk chat show, this classic is being re-released with its latest add-on, /Now Who’s Talking!/. Playing as either Robert Kilroy-Silk or Nicky Campbell, you have 45 minutes to force as many guests as you can into ratings-winning tears. Also includes a limited edition “I HATE ARABS” badge and mouse mat.

My Family. Taking its inspiration from The Sims, this isometric strategy puts you in control of every aspect of your favourite sitcom family’s lives. Whosoever happens to be in the same room at the same time, your challenge is to ensure that absolutely nothing funny happens at any point whatsoever, any time of day or night.

All yours on the Disasterchronic label for £4.99.


And The Rest

Sold Out have been trawling once more, with a slightly less impressive collection than in recent months. Supreme Snowboarding makes a second budget appearance, this time even cheaper at £5. It’s a fine game, though despite the huge success of the SSX games on the consoles, this still manages to present itself as an extremely niche title. A bit craggy at the edges now, it still scores an impressive 80%.

From much further back in history Sold Out have excavated Civilisation II. Now, some still argue that this is still the best version of the long-running series, despite numerous sequels over the many years. Well, my dad does. And he’s a dentist, so you don’t want to mess with him. However, it does strike that if you haven’t bought it yet, there’s a fairly good chance you aren’t going to be interested enough to buy it now. Of course, if you are, it’s still one of the most important strategy games in all of our brief existence, and only £5. 88%.

EA have also snuck out last year’s crop of sporting sims, without telling a soul, and making no mention of them on either their public website, or super-secret, journalist-only, inside-a-volcano extranet. Hockey sim NHL 2003 gets 80%, but is still embarrassingly trounced by the glory of NHL 95 on my Megadrive. NBA Live 2003 saw a big pick-up for a series that had lost its way in the last few years, and gets a very respectable 85%. FIFA 2003 however shows something of a dip for the long-brilliant football games, and now receives 83%. And last, and also least, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 – ever increasingly mediocre, poor old motion-captured Tiger only gets 70%. They’re all £10 each, and of course have more recent version upon the shelves for significantly more. All better than real exercise, of course.