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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

3DO a Winner of All but Popularity Contest

The rig is too often overlooked by buyers, who stand to lose if the machine disappears. Its Captain Quazar and Battlesport are a blast.

August 01, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Too bad no one considers the 3DO much of a player these days. Although never very popular with the consumer, the old maid of 32-bit rigs is still hosting games that blow away its younger competitors.

I've said it before, but it can't be emphasized enough: If you're looking for some great games--and lots of them--the 3DO might be the system for you. The risk is whether the machine will be around much longer and whether third-party developers will continue to write very many games for it.

For instance, two of the three games I played on a recent weekend were out of 3DO's in-house development unit, Studio 3DO, and the other was published by GoldStar, one of the rig's two licensed manufacturers. Even so, all three were fantastic and varied enough to keep my attention even when the sunshine and waves beckoned.

Captain Quazar got the day off to a great start with a well-armed stroll through the territory of the Forces of Evil. This cartoonish shooter is perhaps the best I've played in a long time. Think Loaded with a sense of humor and without all the gore and you've got a pretty good idea what Captain Quazar is like.

I like games with a sense of humor, and Quazar has it in abundance. Consider that the game begins with an announcer counting down from five. Once he finishes, a message flashes to tell players that after they do that five more times the game will start.

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Most disc-based games hide their load times or try to dress them up. But Quazar makes fun of them. Nice touch. And Quazar himself is a caricature of all heroes with big teeth and grossly exaggerated musculature. Even his overbearing boss is a hoot.

But none of that detracts from superior game play. The shooting action is fast and furious, with a third-person, three-quarter view. Quazar has full mobility within environments and can blow away walls and doors and even entire buildings with a giant arsenal of weapons.

The enemies seem never to end, and blasting them does not produce the usual graphic display of splashing innards. Instead bad guys just fall over and turn to tombstones. Why revel in violent death? Captain Quazar focuses on the lighter side of intergalactic warfare.

As hard as it was to tear myself away from Captain Quazar, I finally quit and popped in Battlesport, a cross between electronic football and a first-person tank shooter.

Players pilot well-armed hovering crafts in futuristic arenas as they hunt for the ever elusive ball. Once found, players try to carry the ball to the goal and shoot for points. Sounds easy, but it isn't--particularly when your opponent is blasting your ship, trying to make you fumble.

This was an unexpected surprise. Battlesport is addictive, and although I played against the computer, I imagine two-player action gets pretty hairy. The only element of Battlesport that needs improvement is the control. Getting ships to respond fast enough takes considerable practice.

But with almost no practice, I mastered BC Racers, a GoldStar title that first appeared on the PC. BC Racers is a simple and friendly little game of prehistoric motocross racing.

I liked it on the PC, but found it even better on 3DO. Everything seems a little sharper, a little faster. The joypad, as always, gave me some problems, but that's just what happens when you try to race with a directional pad.

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So 3DO may be having a tough time in these hyper-competitive days, but I would sure hate to see it disappear. Good games are hard to come by, and it seems that 3DO designers know their system better than most. Let's hope they can hang on at least until the long-promised 64-bit upgrade starts to show up.

Then things will really get interesting.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Thursday. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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