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Whiling Away the 53 Days Till Nintendo 64

Player pines for the Sept. 30 launch of the much-heralded rig. Until then, two fun, simple titles satisfy.


I rarely look forward to the end of summer, but this year is an exception because the sooner fall arrives, the sooner I can get my hands on Nintendo's new 64-bit rig. I played the little hummer at the entertainment expo in May and have coveted it ever since.

Nintendo 64--as it's now called--is scheduled to hit shelves Sept. 30. Although launch has been delayed again and again, Nintendo reps promise that this time they really mean Sept. 30.

Until then, I'm more than happy to kill time with a couple of new titles that prove my theory that good games don't need a ton of techno-muscle behind them. Kirby's Block Ball for Game Boy and Tetris Attack for Super Nintendo are simple games that deliver on what counts: They're just plain fun.

Sure, both are derivative of other games. And neither has the stellar graphics or gut-thumping sound that makes next-gen titles so cool. Still, I'd rather spend a sweltering afternoon with these two than most of the current crop of disc-based games.


Block Ball takes the old Atari 2600 classic Breakout and puts some great new spins on it. The idea is still to clear all the blocks from the screen by knocking a ball around with a paddle that slides from side to side.

As some may have guessed by the title, the ball is actually Kirby--that roly-poly ball of bubble-gum-colored mush that shows up in way too many Nintendo games. Someone must think this guy is cool, but I fail to see his appeal.

That said, I didn't mind knocking Kirby around the screen so much. I only wish I could have knocked him cold.

Another big difference between Breakout and Block Ball is the way screens are set up. Breakout, as older players will recall, featured the same layout of blocks screen after screen after screen. It got old after awhile. But Block Ball's screens change with each level, adding new types of blocks, as well as targets and extra paddles.


Advancing through the levels requires considerable skill and concentration on the screen. So much so that I found myself getting lost in Game Boy's liquid crystal screen. My perpetual rant about Game Boy is the screen's inability to capture fast-paced action with any refinement. Luckily, I popped the cart into my Super Game Boy and killed the rest of the afternoon.

Just as fun and just as derivative is Tetris Attack. Although I have hated just about every Tetris knockoff to date, this one is pretty fun. It's hard to explain. Not even the instruction manual does a very good job. But it only takes about 20 seconds of actual play to get the basics down.

Like Tetris, players must clear bricks to prevent them from stacking to the top of the screen. This time, though, the stack grows from the bottom and bricks are eliminated by arranging rows of three similar blocks. I could explain further, but it would just get more confusing.

Trust me on this one: It's deceptively simple and painfully addictive. In other words, a great game.

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

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