"Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2" for Sony PlayStation begins with hip-hop music and rapid-cut video of skateboarders performing their art on all manner of public property--just the sort of tableau that gives parents the cold cringies and kids the warm fuzzies.
But there is a lot to get warm and fuzzy over in "Pro Skater 2," the sequel to the skateboarding hit that sparked a legion of copycats. For skaters whose aspirations exceed their abilities, "Pro Skater 2" demands just the right mix of reflex and coordination to allow a player's digital alter-ego to skate like the pros.
Although the game is named for the godfather of skateboarding, Tony Hawk, players can choose from a pre-programmed library of 13 professional skaters or create their own. The goal of the game is simple, and in these days of greed, realistic: get money, buy cool stuff.
Getting money means earning points in skateboard arenas from Marseilles, France, to Venice, Calif. As in the original "Pro Skater," players perform tricks. Don't ask me the names. Even after several hours of playing, I couldn't tell an "Ollie North" from a "Pop Shove It." I did know how to do them, though--at least on the PlayStation control pad.
In fact, one of the nicest things about "Pro Skater 2" is that it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out how to play. A little hand-eye coordination helps, of course, but the tricks are easy to perform by pressing various combinations on the PlayStation joy pad. The skill lies in performing them well under the pressure of time.
In career mode, all events are timed and players are expected to perform a litany of tricks before the clock runs out. Each trick either earns points or has a cash value attached. Collect cash to buy new skateboards, to learn new tricks and to advance to other arenas.
The arenas all sparkle with crisp graphics and tight motion. Since this is a skateboarding game, players spend a lot of time sending their characters flying into the air or skidding along the lip of a ledge. The game engine keeps things moving smoothly even in the most hectic situations.
But the hands-down coolest part of "Pro Skater 2" is the level editor that allows players to design and save their own skate parks. The editor includes enough walls, quarter pipes, benches, stairs and rails to keep even the most devious designer happy. Saving to a memory card allows designers to try their parks out on friends--making "Pro Skater 2" infinitely expandable.
It's the kind of valuable feature more game developers ought to consider putting into their games, because it keeps a particular title fresher longer. The only way to tire of "Pro Skater 2" is to tire of the genre itself.
Although "Sega GT" for Sega Dreamcast offers more than the average racer, it has nowhere near the flexibility of "Pro Skater 2." Nonetheless, racing fans should enjoy the ability to build cars from scratch and post high scores to the Internet through Dreamcast's built-in modem.
Missing from the game, though, is the true realization of the modem's potential: multiplayer online races. Right now, players race against computer-controlled cars in stand-alone mode and then upload their times to be entered in what Sega calls the Network Cup. It's cool, but not as cool as it could be--or even as cool as the online component of Sega's "NFL 2K1" already is.
Enough crabbing about what "Sega GT" can't do. There's quite a bit it can do--and do well. For instance, the game boasts 22 tracks--in truth, though, many are re-routings of the same courses--that look great and move with fluid perfection. Dreamcast does a great job pumping out high-speed graphics.
Control is dead-on.
And players can customize their cars or choose from stock versions of more than 130 production cars--from Toyotas to Fords. Digital gear heads can tinker with the engine, drive train and suspension as well as tires, wheels and brakes.
All of this modification has a price. As in "Pro Skater 2," players have to win races in "Sega GT" to get money to buy cars or parts. In that sense, it's a lot like the "Gran Turismo" series on PlayStation. "Gran Turismo" is still a better game overall, but "Sega GT" isn't bad.
"Heavy Metal FAKK2"
Call me a juvenile idiot or a chauvinistic cretin, but the first elements of "Heavy Metal FAKK2" to catch my eye were the heroine's buns. This digital dish keeps her glutei smack in the center of the screen, regardless of the angle from which players are watching.
That said, "Heavy Metal" turns out to be an interesting action-adventure for the PC. Given that the heroine, Julie, is impossibly proportioned and that "Heavy Metal" unfolds in a third-person perspective, some might compare it to the "Tomb Raider" series.