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'Kirby' Goes Full Tilt; 'Might' Makes Right

April 19, 2001|AARON CURTISS | aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

Those who can stand the tooth-aching sweetness of Nintendo's pink puffball Kirby are in for a treat with a new Game Boy Color title that has more in common with old-fashioned toys than modern video games.

"Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble" uses the same technology found in automobile air-bag circuitry to enable players to control on-screen action by tilting and shaking their Game Boys. Like the wooden toys in which the object is to navigate a marble through a maze, "Tilt 'n' Tumble" depends on level, steady hands.

There is a story to "Tilt 'n' Tumble," but all players need to know is that Kirby's home of Dreamland is threatened and he--or she or it, who knows?--has to save it. This is done by rolling through a series of nasty levels and fighting off the attacks of Blockbots, Bronto Burts and Blinkbats.

Yes, it's all pretty sugary, but beneath the goo lies an engaging game. Initially, players roll the rotund Kirby through some easy levels by gently tilting the Game Boy side to side and to and fro. Kirby responds perfectly with no noticeable lag.

Quickly, though, the game evolves from a simple test of one's ability to tilt smoothly to a more challenging mix that involves flipping Kirby from place to place. This is done by snapping the front of the Game Boy like it's being used to flip a pancake. The motion sends Kirby somersaulting through the air.

Players who enjoy platform-based jumpers will appreciate the novel twist they've been given here. Essentially, all Kirby does is run and jump from place to place while attempting to avoid the bad guys. But the control method is so novel that it all stays interesting.

Plus, a handful of mini-games spice things up between levels.

The only big glitch in "Tilt 'n' Tumble" is that it's often tough to see what's going on. It's also awkward to play for long periods. Both problems stem from the fact that players must hold the Game Boy level most of the time. Anyone who plays with a hand-held game unit knows this is just not how most people hold them.

Because Game Boy's screen is not backlighted, it demands a fair amount of reflected light for players to see anything. The best way to play a Game Boy with the least amount of eyestrain is to position a light over or just behind the head and then tilt the unit so the screen is parallel to the eyes.

(Of course, snap-on lights illuminate the screen nicely, but they add weight and often are clumsy.)

I found that keeping the Game Boy completely flat made it difficult to see the screen--unless I craned my neck out and looked straight down at it. Fair enough, but that causes its own set of ergonomic issues. Plus, my wrists got fatigued trying to keep the Game Boy just so.

Some people might think playing video games ad infinitum would be a great way to catch a crippling case of repetitive strain injury. Not me.

To be fair, I have also played "Tilt 'n' Tumble" on Nintendo's upcoming Game Boy Advance, which has a much better screen. It was easy to see. My advice: Wait until June to pick up

"Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble" when you can play it on Game Boy Advance.

'Warriors of Might & Magic'

The "Might & Magic" series is one of the great franchises in video gaming. Designers have been able to take a strong series of role-playing games and spin off more action-oriented fare for players with less patience.

"Warriors of Might & Magic" for Sony PlayStation 2 falls squarely into that category--delivering lots of real-time fighting and exploring without many of the more tedious aspects of role-playing games.

The main character is Alleron, a man condemned for the crime of necromancy--the "darkest of the dark arts." But Alleron is innocent of the charges against him, and players must fight their way through some sprawling three-dimensional worlds to find out why.

Action unfolds from a third-person perspective, and players will instantly appreciate the refined movement offered by PS2's analog controllers. By using both thumbsticks together, players can easily master all sorts of fancy footwork--critical as an enemy bears down.

Some of the hand-to-hand combat is relatively simple because only two buttons are defined for fighting. But using them in quick succession and in the right sequence can turn on some pretty cool combination moves.

The trick really is to spend as little time in close quarters as possible. By building up attributes such as intelligence and speed, players can cast powerful spells based on the elements, then dash in to finish off a weakened opponent with some steel.

Well rendered Levels teem with wicked enemies, and the game never slows down. "Warriors of Might & Magic" is simple and repetitive, but it's also kind of fun.

*

Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Skinny

"Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble"

Genre: Real-time strategy

Price: $35

Platform: Game Boy Color

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB* rating: Everyone

The good: Inventive

The bad: Tough to see

Bottom line: A great title for Game Boy Advance

*

"Warriors of Might & Magic"

Genre: Third-person dungeon crawler

Price: $50

Platform: Sony PlayStation 2

Publisher: 3DO

ESRB rating: Teen

The good: Fast action, tight control

The bad: Annoying camera work

Bottom line: Rent it for a weekend

*

*Entertainment Software Ratings Board

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