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THE CUTTING EDGE: Focus on Personal Technology | GAMER'S
CORNER / AARON CURTISS

New Titles Offer Different Strokes for Tiger Woods Fans

March 09, 2000|AARON CURTISS | Curtiss is participating in a management training program, where he serves as assistant to the senior vice president of advertising. He has no financial dealings with the companies he covers

Thousands of American kids--not to mention their dads--want to be like Tiger Woods. Thanks to the wonders of computer technology, they can at least approximate the experience.

Two recent Sony PlayStation titles--"Cyber Tiger" and "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000"--allow players to pretend they are the young master of the links, but each has a decidedly different bent and clearly aims for different audiences. "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000" is a traditional golf game targeting a traditional golf crowd. "Cyber Tiger," simply put, aims for that crowd's kids.

Despite their differences, the two games share quite a bit.

Each permits up to four players to hit the course. Or, solo players can match wits against computerized opponents for true tournament play.

Each offers a practice mode where players can master the quirks of individual holes or just knock out a few on the driving range. And both use the same simple interface for driving and putting.

Those mechanical aspects aside, the two games have very different flavors.

In "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000" players can naturally choose to play as Tiger Woods. But some may be just as jazzed to play as any of the other five PGA pros who lent their likenesses to the game. Confession: I'm not a fan of televised golf, so their names meant nothing to me.

I played as Woods. Motion-capture technology allows for realistic movement, although some swings and putts were a little jerky. Woods offers in-game commentary, but it's limited and not very exciting.

In terms of play, "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000" is pretty easy. I'm suspicious of any digital golf game in which I birdie my first hole. I'm simply not that good. But I birdied the first hole at Poppy Hills and then proceeded at par for the rest of the first nine holes.

That lack of difficulty was not a problem in "Cyber Tiger," which could just as easily be renamed "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000 Jr." Players can play as Little Tiger, Teen Tiger or Cyber Tiger--each representing a different age.

The courses are full of fantastic obstacles. Alligators, for instance. And players can collect balls with special powers. A superball bounces as though it's hitting concrete, and the ghost ball goes through any obstacle on the course. A few adult duffers wouldn't mind having a few of those in their arsenal, no doubt.

The idea is to create as realistic a golf game as possible without losing the attention of kids for whom traditional golf may hold no more allure than watching the grass on which it's played grow.

"Crazy Taxi"

"Crazy Taxi" is the best game so far on Sega Dreamcast--period. End of story. Enough said.

Well, not quite. The game puts players behind the wheel of some tricked-out cabs with the goal of collecting as many tips as possible ferrying passengers all over town. The cardinal rule: Get the fare to his or her destination quickly. All else is secondary.

And so--in the name of punctual, courteous service--I found myself taking shortcuts across parks and public squares, speeding the wrong way down one-way streets and jumping the span of a half-closed drawbridge.

Anyone who has ever admired the adrenaline grace with which a good New York City cabby navigates midtown traffic will appreciate the kinetic feeling of "Crazy Taxi." Everything moves all the time. Traffic flows--and doesn't--with frustrating realism. Pedestrians wander in the way without thinking.

The streets of "Crazy Taxi" make the game, which is a port of the coin-op arcade machine. Players can choose between the original arcade cityscape or a new scheme designed specifically for the home version.

Both sprawl in every direction, and even the best players can find themselves lost on a side street with a screaming passenger in the back seat.

Dreamcast's 128-bit processor handles the complicated graphics without so much as a hiccup. The scenery is as realistic as anything seen on any set-top console--and beats most PC games with hardware acceleration. Smooth control makes darting between big rigs on the freeway a snap.

Adding to the realism--and the commercialism--of the game is the inclusion of recognizable brand names. When a fare says "Take me to Tower Records," he means to the music store with the red and yellow sign out front. The same goes for Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Fila store, both of which have establishments built into the cityscape.

It's an interesting extension of the sort of product placement seen in games such as the "Cool Boarders" series--and yet another indication that video games are part of the mainstream culture.

"Mario Party 2"

Multi-player games are all the rage. But most involve dispatching chums with a gun--not the sort of thing some parents want their kids playing during a slumber party. "Mario Party 2" provides a sanitized multi-player experience that's not half bad.

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