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Party Animals: Don't Drink and Dance

July 12, 2001|AARON CURTISS | aaron.curtiss@latimes.com

Arthur Murray I ain't, so a session with "Dance Dance Revolution" for Sony PlayStation was somewhere between hilarious and tragic, bringing back painful memories of junior high dances. Only it was also a heck of a lot more fun.

Originally designed for the arcades, "Dance Dance Revolution" is the perfect title for the home and perhaps one of the best party games ever written. Like "Samba de Amigo" and "Parappa the Rapper" before it, "Dance Dance Revolution" requires players to dance to the music and match the moves of on-screen characters who really know how to cut a virtual rug.

Although the game can be played with the standard PlayStation controller, the only way to get the full effect of "Dance Dance Revolution" is to shell out an additional $30 for the dance pad. It's a giant plastic throw rug with arrows imprinted to the left, right, front and back.

Players stand in the middle and when it's time to step to the left, players literally step to the left. Sensors in the pad connect through the PlayStation controller port so the game knows whether players are moving to the beat.

The result: a completely physical experience that demands more than simply shuffling from side to side.

Without the pad, "Dance Dance Revolution" is pretty similar to "Parappa the Rapper." Arrows glide up the screen and players have to hit the right button on the control pad just as the arrow hits a certain spot, generally in time to the music. Interesting, but not for long.

With the pad, "Dance Dance Revolution" vies with Sega Dreamcast's "Samba de Amigo" as one of the best video games to liven up a party. Watching someone else play video games is usually like watching someone else eat a steak--not a lot of fun. But watching someone play "Dance Dance Revolution" is almost as enjoyable as playing it, especially if the person is rhythmically challenged.

In addition to the standard epilepsy warning that comes with all video games, "Dance Dance Revolution" includes an odd list of lawyerly cautions for players using the dance pad. A sample: "Persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs that could impair a person's sense of balance should not use the DDR controller."

Uh, OK. It's not like it's a forklift or anything.

Visually, the game is nothing special. But that's not really the point. The dancers look fine and the background imagery doesn't get in the way of the all-important arrows. Because the soundtrack has several tracks, it takes a long time to get good at "Dance Dance Revolution."

In the meantime, it's a real gas--both to play and to watch.

*

'World's Scariest Police Chases'

Players who like their trash white and their TV full of things that go boom are the target audience for "World's Scariest Police Chases," a Sony PlayStation title based on the television show featuring stupid people doing destructive things as they flee the cops.

When a game begins with the somber warning "Due to the graphic nature of this game, player discretion is advised," expectations run high. Remember, most games featuring all manner of mayhem don't feature such warnings.

But what a complete letdown. Despite some interesting moments and some sprawling game environments, "World's Scariest Police Chases" is about as unsatisfying as they come.

Players can either play through a series of missions or go on patrol and apprehend as many baddies as possible. As the name implies, the game focuses on chases. Bad guys flee. Players chase them. The goal is to catch the high-speed hooligans without doing too much damage to the surrounding cityscape.

Sounds exciting. But like the show, which features about 20 minutes of mind-numbing chase for every 20 seconds of crash, "World's Scariest Police Chases" has more dull moments than exciting ones.

And the game is not that smart. That may sound obvious, but even stupid games should have some decent artificial intelligence. Cars always seemed to follow the same driving pattern.

For instance, a car may turn right at the same intersection every time, which makes it possible to anticipate maneuvers and get ahead of the bad guys. As stupid as criminals may be, most are smart enough not to follow the police cruiser chasing them.

All that said, "World's Scariest Police Chases" displays some great scenery and a nicely laid-out city that players can explore. Too bad there's not too much more to the game. For a really sweet chase game, play "Driver 2."

*

Aaron Curtiss is editor of Tech Times.

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The Skinny

*

"Dance Dance Revolution"

Genre: Dancing

Price: $30

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Publisher: Konami

ESRB* rating: Everyone

The good: Fun group game

The bad: Heart patients should not play

Bottom line: Great, great fun

*

"World's Scariest Police Chases"

Genre: Racing

Price: $40

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Publisher: Activision

ESRB rating: Teen

The good: Nice city plan

The bad: Where to start?

Bottom line: Waste of time

*

* Entertainment Software Ratings Board

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