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Unlike Movies, Sequels to CD-ROM Games a Sure Bet to Top the Originals

September 04, 1997|MARK GLASER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With movies, sequels usually are less engaging than the original. But with CD-ROMs, sequels can often best the originals, because technology improves over time and gamers provide useful feedback. Doom II, Red Alert and Rebel Assault II all were improvements on a successful formula. The fall slate of titles has even more outstanding sequels to tide you over till the holidays.

The most anticipated follow-up is Riven (Cyan/Red Orb), the sequel to 1993's best-selling Myst. Cyan's Robyn and Rand Miller have assembled top animators, artists and game designers to create an even more breathtaking game than the original immersive world. Red Orb has an intriguing Web site (www.riven.com) to keep you updated on the latest developments, with pictures, background story and the exclusive Riven Journals. There are a few Web-only puzzles to whet your appetite for the full game, which will play on PC or Mac.

Another game with a tough act to follow is Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (LucasArts). Dark Forces set a standard for classy first-person shooting games without blood. The sequel looks amazing, letting you play as Jedi wannabe Kyle Katarn, who wields a light saber and must master the Force. The movement is much improved, and you can play from a first- or third-person perspective. Plus, the characters have depth, meaning you'll feel as if you're inside a "Star Wars" movie more than ever.

One new feature for Jedi Knight is its multi-player Internet aspect, letting you battle all comers at the Zone (www.zone.com). This fall, there will be plenty of online gaming options. Aries and Fox Interactive are teaming up for Aliens Online, an action game based on the "Aliens" movie series and timed to come out with "Alien Resurrection." Plus, heavy-hitting sequels like Hexen II and Quake 2 (both id/Activision) will have integrated online components so you can blast faraway opponents. Even Chessmaster 5500 (Mindscape) is sporting a nice free online component (www.chessmaster.com).

Flight sim enthusiasts will be in an uproar over WarBirds 2.0 (Interactive Magic), an online-only flight battle game that improves on the original with better scenery and a point-and-click cockpit for beginners. New planes include Spitfires and Hurricanes. Another notable 2.0 is EF2000 (DID/Ocean of America), a flight sim CD-ROM based on the EuroFighter. Fight campaigns introduce a more strategic aspect to the sim, which is based on a Russian invasion of Norway. If underwater battle is your thing, you'll want 688 (I) Hunter/Killer (Jane's/EA), a nuclear submarine simulation developed by real Navy sim builders.

Simulation lovers will have a new entry in the SimCity (Maxis/EA) franchise. SimCity 3000 lets you walk around the streets of cities, talking to citizens and micro-managing more than ever. In the battle sim arena, 7th Legion (Microprose) is an easier version of Command & Conquer, with simpler gameplay--though it's hard to believe we need another version of C&C.

Those who'd rather be killed by laughter will like You Don't Know Jack Vol. 3, and the Television add-on disc (Berkeley). The game show with an attitude adds more goofy animations, hilarious fake commercials and quirky categories ("To Boldly Go Where Nobody Cares" or "The Pope Got a Ring in His Cracker Jack"). The popular online adjunct, www.bezerk.com, will add an online-only brain teaser called Acrophobia, where groups of people think up clever acronyms for random letters. They then vote on the funniest one.

And every workplace computer needs Dilbert's Desktop Games (Dreamworks). Ratbert will do a jig as you load one of seven mini-games. Play the CEO Simulator to hire, discipline by cattle prod or motivate workers with caps and T-shirts. A corporate sim with plenty of cheap laughs.

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Mark Glaser is a San Francisco-based writer and critic. You can reach him at McGlaze@aol.com

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