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GAMERS' CORNER

Porsche Challenge Steers Clear of Any Unknown Territory

September 18, 1997|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Given the choice, most video game players would rather drive a real Porsche than pretend to drive one on a video monitor, no matter how cool the graphics or smooth the control.

But the financial realities of owning a Porsche relegate most of us to the latter situation--navigating rendered courses on a joy pad as we snidely suggest that Porsche owners merely use their cars to compensate for some personal deficiency.

So it goes with Porsche Challenge for Sony PlayStation, a tight little racer centered around the legendary Boxster. Nice courses. Fluid control. Sharp graphics. But after a few hours of play, it's just another video racer that boasts a realism it cannot deliver.

Developed in Europe, the game includes touches that immediately set it off as an import, including the standard Euro-noise soundtrack and drivers dripping with Old World attitude and stereotypical jobs off the track. For instance, the American driver is a kick-boxer, the Japanese driver is a computer hacker, the Swede is a model and the Italian is a mechanic.

Of course, none of this much affects game play, which is smooth and clean. In fact, it's a little too clean--maybe even sterile. Porsche Challenge lacks that intangible something that separates a title as a classic in which players discover new tricks with every game.

But playing Porsche Challenge once is like playing it a hundred times. Even in the interactive mode, which promises random track changes, the play feels too carefully studied and focused. In the end, Porsche Challenge scores as a competent racer, but suffers from a decided lack of charisma and spontaneity.

For players yearning for the real thing, the instruction booklet devotes five full pages to a state-by-state listing of Porsche dealers. So, if you've got an extra $50,000 lying around. . . .

*

Imagine ancient Greece as a lot like Southern California "with better architecture and no traffic." That's the kind of irreverence that marks Herc's Adventures, a delightfully comic adventure from LucasArts for PlayStation and Sega Saturn.

Herc mixes all the best elements of PC and console game play to create an experience that's tough to beat. Players assume the role of either the strongman Hercules, the archer Atlanta or the would-be hero Jason and set out to rescue Persephone, the goddess of spring, from the clutches of Hades, the god of the underworld.

Action unfolds in a cartoonish environment loaded with all sorts of hilariously anachronistic friends and enemies. For instance, gyro salesman dot courses teeming with pistol-packing wood nymphs. Play itself is fairly standard jump-run-kick-punch stuff, but the depth of environments, the variety of weapons and the quality of the story make Herc's Adventures a real kick.

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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