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The Second Time Around Isn't Necessarily More Fun

March 20, 1997|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The year may be new, but most of the video games flickering across my screen aren't.

As studios do in the movie business, video game makers latch on to successful titles like pit bulls and churn out sequel after sequel, not always for the best. Destruction Derby 2. Twisted Metal 2. Re-Loaded. Tempest X3. Technically slick, none of these beefed-up remakes has the zip of the original.

The first Destruction Derby was one of the first for PlayStation and helped give Psygnosis an early lead as the developer to beat on Sony's 32-bit machine. Play was simple: Drive like a madman and smash anyone who gets in the way. It was, quite simply, the fantasy game for anyone who's ever spent an hour staring at brake lights on the San Diego Freeway.

Destruction Derby 2 delivers all that and a little more. Crashes are louder and more glorious than ever. Control is as smooth as before. The new tracks roll along smoothly.

Everything fits, but a certain spark is missing. The original had a certain rawness that made it fun. The sequel is pretty standard video game fare with all the edges cleaned up along with a lot of the kick. Newcomers might dig Destruction Derby 2, but I'll stick with the original.

Twisted Metal 2, however, is a better game by far than the first. As in the Destruction Derby series, the goal of the Twisted Metal games is simple: Smash everything. New battlegrounds range from the streets of Los Angeles and the rooftops of New York to the ice fields of Antarctica and the tulip patches of Holland.

Playing against a friend is the only way to enjoy Twisted Metal 2 to the fullest. Chasing a human opponent is as challenging and as fun as it gets. Watch out, though, for the pesky pedestrians, including Wall Street types and a mime. "Don't worry if you hit him," the manual reads. "No one will hear him scream."

Bloody? Yes. Derivative? Yes. Fun? Yes.

And still disturbing is Re-Loaded, the violent sequel to a game that invited players to decorate walls with opponents' innards. Hardly the sort of game one wants to wake up to on a lazy Saturday morning.

As in Loaded, Re-Loaded players are asked to delight in blasting others to smithereens. There is nothing cute or cuddly about this game. It's grim and unrelenting. Older players might get a kick out of the oddball story line, but younger kids should steer clear of a game in which the only clear goal is to slaughter as many bad guys in as many creative ways as possible.

Finally, Tempest X3 takes a great classic game and lards it up with a bunch of goofy effects and a soundtrack that sounds like it ought to play in some third-rate London underground club. Originally designed for Atari's Jaguar as Tempest 2000, this rehashed version has too much going on to match the arcade original's grace and speed.

On a game like Tempest, vector graphics are fine. Sometimes, too much is just too much.

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