Those of us who live in L.A. either know someone or know someone who knows someone who really aspires to produce, write or direct. And there is always that uncomfortable moment--or hour--when they corner us at a party and try to explain their grand concept in terms we non-artists can understand.
"It's 'Frosty the Snowman' meets 'The Exorcist.' " Or, "Imagine crossing 'Saving Private Ryan' with 'Robocop'--the first one, not either of the sequels."
It's much the same in the world of video games, where both of the previous pitches would probably lead to million-copy sellers. I would have loved to have heard the pitch for Hasbro Interactive's "Glover," an odd little game for Nintendo 64.
"OK, imagine Thing from 'The Addams Family' waking up in 'Super Mario 64' with the uncontrollable urge to play basketball and fight hopping bad guys." Yeah, I was skeptical too. But after just a few minutes playing "Glover," I was hooked.
The hero is indeed a disembodied glove with four fingers. See, this magician wore magic gloves the day he blew up himself and his Crystal Castle. One of the gloves fell into a vat of pure evil, but the other one was thrown clear--along with the seven crystals that provide the life force for the Crystal Kingdom. Fearing the crystals would shatter when they hit the ground, the surviving glove transformed them into durable rubber balls, which promptly bounced off to different parts of the kingdom. Glover's task is to recover the balls and return to the castle.
Despite the cutesy story and the big, bright graphics, "Glover" is a challenging test of refined control. It's not enough to just scoot the ball along. Players have to figure out how to get the ball over walls or across gaps by bouncing or throwing it.
It's tougher than it seems--and a lot more fun. Glover is easy to control and the screen angles provide clear views of all the action.
'Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus'
"It's 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial' meets 'Eating Raoul.' "
As the follow-up to one of the best games of the last year, GT Interactive's "Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus" delivers all the fun of "Oddworld: Abe's Oddyssey" with a few new tricks.
More than just a traditional side-scroller, Abe's adventures permit players to become part of the story. In the first installment, players help Abe and his Mudokon friends escape from the Rupture Farms meatpacking plant after discovering that he's the next entree.
This time, players try to destroy the SoulStorm Brewery, where the bones of dead Mudokon are harvested for a super-addictive brew. Slipping alone through the world doesn't cut it in Abe's universe, so players have to convince other Mudokon to join the fight.
A smart interface allows Abe to speak to other Mudokon. Watch what's said, though. A few wrong words can get Abe smacked. Witty, fun and full of action, "Abe's Exoddus" is a great game to usher in the new year.
"It's 'Tommy' meets 'Sominex.' "
Microsoft's "Pinball Arcade" for the PC has a promising premise: A pinball table from each decade since the 1930s designed by D. Gottlieb & Co. The nostalgia value alone makes this an easy sell.
But it doesn't measure up.
The tables are nicely done and the controls work just fine. It's pinball, after all; how tricky can control be? But the ball physics don't seem right. Making a digital ball behave like a real ball is the trick of virtual pinball and it has been the downfall of many otherwise fine games. Rather than move smoothly across the tables, the ball sometimes sped up or slowed down for no apparent reason.
And while these tables may have been fun in their day, I have a hard time shelling out $30 so I can play games such as "Baffle Ball," which requires little more than the ability to hit a single key 10 times in a row.
Besides, there's just something about a real pinball table that no computer or console can match. There's that feeling of standing astride the table, giving it just the right amount of nudge. It's just not the same staring at a screen tapping "paddles" with a joypad.
"Pinball Arcade" requires a Pentium 90 with 16 megabytes of RAM and at least 15 megabytes of hard disk space.
"It's '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' meets 'Tomb Raider,' " but the film breaks in the first reel.
"ODT" by Psygnosis offers third-person shooting and adventure action in creepy environments as players search for the material necessary to get the Nautiflyus balloon back in the air. As part of a shipwrecked crew, players assume one of four personalities: the rowdy corporal Ike, the tough-but-beautiful cartographer Julia, the arrogant engineer Maxx or the mysterious archbishop Solaar.
Perspectives seem like they're right out of "Tomb Raider," with the same sort of queasy effects and difficult control.