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'Fantavision': This Launch Doesn't Fly

November 09, 2000|AARON CURTISS | aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

If we lived in a just world--a world where every child is loved and Adam Sandler wins Oscars--games like "Fantavision" would be free. But we live in a world where the really good cable channels are scrambled, the beautiful women fall for jerks and even truly terrible games like "Fantavision" cost $50.

So be smart and look out for yourself. Don't let the shimmer of PlayStation 2 or the fact that "Fantavision" is the only launch title actually from Sony Computer Entertainment fool you. It is a loser, a dog, a very bad game. You're better off lighting $50 on fire than spending it on the cheesy pyrotechnics of "Fantavision."

Now, had Sony done the honorable thing and packed "Fantavision" in with every PlayStation 2, maybe things would be different. In the good old days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, folks who plopped down a few hundred bones for a video-game system usually got a game packed in with it. Sega Genesis came with Sonic and Super Nintendo had Mario. Even the old Atari 2600 had "Combat."

"Fantavision" would have been the perfect title to pack into every PlayStation 2 because it offers a very minor challenge and shows off a little of what Sony's new 128-bit machine can do visually. And free would be about the right price for it.

The goal of "Fantavision" is to manage a fireworks display in cities all over the world. The game sends up flares automatically and players must "catch" them with the cursor on screen. It's sort of like intercepting the ICBMs on "Missile Command," except this time the flares are heading up.

After catching three flares of the same color, players can detonate them to create a nice burst of color. Sounds simple. And it is. The only real challenge in "Fantavision" lies in linking together more and more flares to ignite bigger and bigger displays.

If you're 6, this might be fun for more than a few levels. But the puzzle elements of "Fantavision" are nowhere near as addictive or clever as those in "Tetris" for Game Boy Color or even the cloying "Pokemon Puzzle Challenge" for Nintendo 64.

Visually, the game hints at what PlayStation 2 can pump out. But even when the screen is bursting with color, one can't help but think the machine has yet to break a sweat.

"Deep Fighter"

The story behind "Deep Fighter" for Sega Dreamcast is simple and shopworn: An underdog civilization battles for its survival against natural dangers and aggressive enemies. The twist, though, is that instead of living in space, this particular underdog civilization--which looks and sounds distinctly British--lives in an underwater city threatened by an unstable volcano.

Players pilot different submarines around a decently rendered seascape performing tasks as diverse as collecting radioactive rocks, herding fish and blasting bad guys out of the water. It's interesting most of the time, but I would have preferred a little more shooting and a little less playing aqua-farmer.

The submarines move swiftly through the water and offer plenty of maneuverability. Some of the motion seems a little unrealistic, though, because the subs stop and turn much faster than they could in an aquatic environment.

"Crimson Skies"

It's gratifying to know, at least, that not even Microsoft games run very well on the company's new operating system. Windows ME, which I think stands for Most Enraging, chokes on most of the games I play on it.

Although "Crimson Skies" combat flight sim works OK on the system, it hardly shines. Even on a Pentium III 933, the game hiccups and stutters, which I attribute to Windows ME because the game flowed smoothly enough on my Pentium II 333 running Windows 98 Second Edition.

And it's not a bad game.

"Crimson Skies" is a combat flight sim with a fantastic twist: All of the combat takes place above the skies of a fractured United States during the 1930s. Texas, California and a few other states that matter seceded from the country and various states skirmish with each other. Into this chaos fly a band of air pirates bent on plundering freight zeppelins that transport cargo.

Less technical than a hard-core flight sim, "Crimson Skies" nonetheless gives wannabe sky jockeys the opportunity to soar over and through some great terrain and fight some nasty adversaries. Little touches like fog patches in the mountains give "Crimson Skies" a little more juice than the average air-combat game.

*

Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Crimson Skies'

* Genre: Combat flight simulator

* Price: $45

* Platform: PC

* Publisher: Microsoft

* ESRB** rating: Everyone

* The good: Nice terrain

* The bad: Jumpy play

* Bottom line: Better concept than execution

'Deep Fighter'

* Genre: Submarine adventure

* Price: $50

* Platform: Sega Dreamcast

* Publisher: Ubi Soft

* ESRB rating: Teen

* The good: Diverse missions

* The bad: Too many dull missions

* Bottom line: Worth a spin

'Fantavision'

* Genre: Puzzle

* Price: $50

* Platform: Sony PlayStation 2

* Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

* ESRB rating: Everyone

* The good: Colorful and simple

* The bad: Too simple to last

* Bottom line: Would have been a great pack-in game

*

(**Entertainment Software Ratings Board)

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