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GAMERS' CORNER

Caution: May Be Habit-Forming

Two new games, Twinsen's Odyssey and MDK, offer plenty of action, puzzles and challenges.

July 24, 1997|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a kid, I doodled away most of math class filling my notebook with drawings of aliens, mutants and an overweight superhero named Captain Incredible. Three decades later, my notebook packs 48 megs of RAM and an active-matrix screen, and it's still an all-too handy way to tune out.

So during a recent discussion of statistical process controls, I sat with furrowed brow at the back of the room--puzzling not over the difference between performance and conformance standards, but over how best to heal an injured Dino-Fly.

That's how Twinsen's Odyssey, the sequel to Relentless, begins: A stormy night, a pregnant wife and an injured friend. From there, hero Twinsen takes off on a journey that simply must be played to be believed. Even then, it's hard to believe how beautiful, creative, elegant, frustrating and addictive Twinsen's Odyssey can consistently be.

Activision and Adeline Software have produced a game that highlights how PC adventures, long the tedious province of die-hards, can be both smart and accessible. Relentless fans will feel right at home from the first frame, but novices won't take long to feel comfortable with the story and control.

Most of the action occurs with an isometric view a la Tomb Raider as players guide Twinsen through a rich story that traipses across graphic worlds straight out of a dream. Packed with puzzles, the game's challenges should keep even experienced players enjoyably wrapped up for days.

Plus, Twinsen's Odyssey seems the perfect game to bridge the gap between younger and older players, the kind of thing parents and kids might actually enjoy playing together. But after the whole family togetherness thing grows old, MDK from Playmates Interactive and Shiny Entertainment provides a violent and solitary antidote.

Beautiful graphics, lightning-fast play and plenty of stereophonic explosions make MDK the kind of shooter that makes all the others look pretty pathetic. Story is basic: Future Earth has gone to pot yet again, and humanity is in danger of extinction at the hands of rapacious alien strip miners.

Enemies are smart and persistent and the arsenal is as diverse as they come: grenades, mortars, built-in sniper helmet. Unlike most corridor shooters, MDK demands a variety of skills beyond the standard run, duck and shoot. For players who like to think as they shoot, MDK is the game.

Both Twinsen's Odyssey and MDK require 16 MB of RAM and a Pentium machine. Advanced features like 3-D graphics require stronger systems. Even on machines at the bottom of the heap, though, both games delivered more than enough play with almost no slowdowns or lockups.

With games like these, it's a wonder I get any work done.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every other 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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