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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

A Hoot to Shoot, Owl Has Outgunned Cop

PlayStation's new blaster borrowed from Sega's classic title and came out the winner.

November 28, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

I thought for a long time that Sony PlayStation needed a shooter a la Saturn's Virtua Cop to round out its game lineup. Project Horned Owl fits the bill nicely enough and--technology being what it is these days--even makes Virtua Cop look downright primitive.

I compare Project Horned Owl to Virtua Cop because it borrows heavily from Sega's classic blast-fest in everything from pacing to ambience. It just does a much better job than Virtua Cop ever did.

From the opening sequence, which feature a brilliant montage of tack-sharp Japanese animation, to the ongoing dialogue between characters in the game, Horned Owl serves up a technically superior game that's both tough to beat and tough to quit.

As in Virtua Cop, players are guided through environments packed with bad guys. This time, though, the enemy is an army of mechanized terrorists. Players suit up in mechanized units of their own to blast baddies at every turn.

And every turn is more beautiful than the last. From city streets to factory interiors, players move through environments that flow smoothly and feature backgrounds that are completely interactive. For instance, I blasted departure signs and windows at an airport and and then blew up a few abandoned trucks on the runway just for kicks.

Horned Owl is optimized for use with the Konami Enforcer Gun. Alas, I didn't have the gun so I had to rely on the joypad, which caused some delays and no doubt accounted for my weak performance. It's also set up to work with the PlayStation mouse.

So even though PlayStation went almost a year without a decent shooter, it finally got one it deserves in Project Horned Owl.

*

JUMPING FLASH 2: The first question I had about the sequel to the absolutely silly Jumping Flash was: Why? I was no fan of the first installment chronicling the adventures of a robotic rabbit trying to stop the gentrification of the universe. Too hard to control, too noisy and just too plain weird, Jumping Flash was a game I could well live without.

So while I'm still not a convert to the army of Robbit fanatics, I have to admit that the sequel is not half bad. Although more of the same silliness and noise, the new version at least seems to allow more refined control, which makes play less frustrating.

This time out, Robbit is still trying to save the galaxy's real estate from plunder. But now, the old villain Baron Aloha is the one asking to be saved--from the giant Captain Kabuki, who looks like a planet-sized cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy and one of the Flying Wallendas.

As one can probably deduce, none of the strangeness from the original Jumping Flash has been carried over into the sequel. (That's sarcasm, folks.) Although endearing initially, the levels and their bizarre inhabitants wear out their welcome fairly quickly.

Devotees of the original Jumping Flash will find the sequel everything they hoped for and more--a family heirloom to cherish for generations. For the rest of us, though, renting it at the video store will do just fine.

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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