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VIDEO GAMES REVIEW / AARON CURTISS : Drawn Into the Action : Players fight their way through the panels of a comic book to thwart a world takeover.

August 18, 1995|AARON CURTISS

SEGA GENESIS

Comix Zone

Billed as the first "truly interactive comic book," Comix Zone for Sega Genesis fully lives up to the potential of its novel idea. In short, players must fight and think their way through the panels and pages of a comic book to prevent a world takeover by a renegade army of mutants.

It's the execution of Comix Zone that makes it a standout among skull crackers. Players assume the role of Sketch Turner, a New York City comic-book artist who gets sucked into the imaginary world he creates on the page.

This time, though, the story is drawn by Mortus, an evil mutant leader who looks like a wacked-out Rough Rider. Mortus, of course, wants to rule the world but must get Sketch out of the way so he can break the surly bonds of newsprint and become a living, breathing creep.

From the opening logo screen, Comix Zone is a trip. As Sketch moves through the panels of his comics, the story unfolds just as it would in a real book. The screens themselves are amazing reproductions of comic-book pages--right down to the dialogue bubbles. As new enemies approach, the hand of Mortus appears on the screen to draw them in.

Given that new genres are hard to come by, Comix Zone does a fantastic job of repackaging a jump-hit-kick action game into an experience that feels revolutionary. This is proof that 16-bit games have some life left.

PLATFORM: Sega Genesis, Sega CD

RATING: Insane

NINTENDO GAME BOY

Asteroids/Missile Command

Frightening thought: I am becoming my dad. My old man likes to wax rhapsodic about the good old days, when, sure, he was poor, but he got by on the simple things. As I played the first of Nintendo's Arcade Classics series for Game Boy, I found myself saying the same things.

In my day, we didn't have 32-bit RISC processors or 64 million colors. We had Asteroids and Missile Command. And we were happy.

Playing these two games again made me realize how simple and elegant they are. Sure, the graphics suck and the sound is lousy, but these games are just plain fun. Asteroids and Missile Command are bundled together on a single game pack and offer all the elements of the original arcade versions. Options allow players to beef up the graphics a little, but everything else is more or less as it was in those pioneer days.

If for no other reason, older players might want to check out the series to relive their youth. Younger players--most of whom consider the eight-bit days ancient history--should play them as a sort of history lesson on the evolution of video games. They won't be disappointed.

PLATFORM: Nintendo Game Boy

RATING: Cool

PC CD-ROM

B.C. Racers

Racing games are a dime a dozen. In addition to standard Formula One and stock car races, games offer Hovercraft races, boat races, spaceship races, ski races and motorcycle races. Now comes a race for prehistoric man.

B.C. Racers is a wonderful game in which characters that look as if they came straight out of Bedrock compete on Stone Age motorcycles for the Ultimate Boulderdash Bike in a contest sponsored by "millionaire playboy caveman Millstone Rockafella."

Kids and parents should dig this truly insane game. Players can choose to ride as a variety of characters, including Sid Viscous and Granite Jackson. Each bike is equipped with a sidecar, and passengers can punch and club passing opponents.

It's like Road Rash 30,000 years ago.

Controls are smoothest using either a joypad or the keyboard. I also tried it with the mouse and a joystick but the bikes were almost impossible to control.

The graphics are smooth and beautiful. Each race offers new, more challenging terrain that gets more lavish as the game progresses.

Characters are cartoonish, but the backgrounds can be stunning.

In the first level, for instance, a deep, red sunset graces the sky. And in the second level, the night is broken by lightning flashes and the illumination of headlights.

One problem I had with the second level, though, was that the cemeteries were full of crosses. Maybe I'm being picky, but if B.C. Racers truly takes place B.C., why would graves be marked with crosses?

PLATFORMS: PC CD-ROM, Sega 32X

RATING: Insane

Ratings: Insane, the very best; cool, are, of course, cool; mediocre, games better borrowed than bought; suck, games at the bottom of the barrel.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games. If you would like to comment on a column or suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Or send e-mail messages to curtiss@news.latimes.com.

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