Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bram Stoker's Dracula - Sega Genesis

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Sega Genesis
Publisher: Sony Imagesoft
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Side-Scrolling Platform, 1 player.
Based on   artfully directed 1992 film,  for the Genesis casts you in the role of Jonathan Harker, the world's first vampire slayer. The Prince of Darkness has cast a hypnotic spell on your mistress, the lovely Mina Murray, and you intend to rescue her.

Armed with a sword, you must hack and slash your way through seven levels (each of them divided into day and night) of creature feature mayhem. Among other monsters, you'll do battle with bats, wolves, witches, hatchet men and laser-spitting skulls. To help you exterminate these hideous fiends, you can find a gun, some dynamite and several other weapons. Eventually, you'll face Dracula himself. Drive a stake through the world's most famous bloodsucker and you've won the game.
The action in Bram Stoker's Dracula takes place in and around Castle Dracula. You'll walk, jump, crouch and slash your way through a rat-infested inn, mossy fields of jagged rocks, a haunted library, a monstrous barn and a petrified-forest. The levels include moving platforms, secret passages, puzzles, fiery pits, floating tables, hovering walkways, a giant moat and much more.

Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman and Keanu Reaves, wasn't a masterpiece in terms of storytelling, but it was a lavishly produced film with terrific visuals and some unique camera angles. Bram Stoker's Dracula for the Genesis is also very nice to look at, but if offers nothing new (relative to 1993) in terms of gameplay. The basic platform action is very standard stuff.

There's nothing inherently wrong with a game that brings little or nothing new to the table. After all, every game can't be groundbreaking and revolutionary, but a game should offer some entertainment and a few surprises. Bram Stoker's Dracula offers both of these, but in small doses.
The sword you wield is extremely fast. You can whip that sucker out in a split second and swing it again and again at speeds faster than the eye can see. This would be really cool if it served a purpose other than being able to defeat many of the bosses in a decidedly mindless manner. Some of the bosses require a little strategy to defeat (you must use your special weapons), but others you can just walk up to and kill by hitting them with the sword over and over.

A better use for the sword would be to ward off hordes of rats, bats, skeletons and spiders, but these creatures usually approach you one or two at a time and are easy to kill off. It would be great if at some point in the game you were to get trapped in a graveyard and had to hack and slash your way through hundreds (or at least tens) of skeletons that suddenly began rising from their graves. Rats could even get in on the action.

But, alas, nothing this interesting ever happens in the game. Usually, you just walk and jump along, killing things one at a time, just like in so many other scrolling platform games. At one point some invulnerable witches chase you, and that mixes up the action a little, but with such a fast and powerful sword at your beck and call, it's frustrating not to be able to put it to really good use.

Bram Stoker's Dracula provides a sufficient challenge, but the game is not overly fun. The bosses can be challenging, but you will probably lose most of your health energy by getting snagged on some incredibly annoying spears that pop up at many points throughout the game. There are hidden passages throughout that are marginally enjoyable to explore, and like I said earlier, the graphics are very nice. The music is also very cool. Unfortunately, the game comes up short in terms of pure gameplay.



Friday, January 30, 2015

ColecoVisions Podcast #13 -- Carnival and Antarctic Adventure

Check out the new ColecoVisions podcast, episode 13, where I was a guest. Listen to the whole thing, or tune in at the 1:37:50 mark to hear us talk about Carnival and Antarctic Adventure. Click HERE to listen.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mouse Trap -- Atari 2600

Mouse Trap
Atari 2600
Publisher: Coleco
Developer: Coleco
Genre: Maze

Based on the 1981 Exidy coin-op game and the ColecoVision hit, Mouse Trap for the Atari 2600 is a maze game featuring one of the oldest rivalries known to man. You are a mouse, and your enemies are cats. Your job is to maneuver around the maze, eating all of the cheese. When all of the cheese is gone, you move on to the next maze, which is the same in design.

As you gobble up cheese, cats will chase after you and try to bite you. Luckily, if you have any bones in your stockpile, you can temporarily turn the tables on your enemies by morphing into a dog. In each maze you will find four bones that you can add to your arsenal.

Situated on the walls of the maze are eight doors. With a push of the button you can open or close all of the doors simultaneously, allowing you to gain access to certain areas of the maze and close off other areas to trap the cats.
Unlike the ColecoVision and the arcade versions of the game, there are no color-coded doors, no prizes to pick up, no hawks to disrupt your pathways and no IN box to escape into. One thing this game does have that is lacking in the aforementioned versions is an option that allows you to play the game with invisible mazes.


It was surprising to see Coleco bring Mouse Trap from their ColecoVision to the Atari 2600. The most unusual aspect of Mouse Trap, whether you are playing it on the ColecoVision or at the arcade, is its system of opening and closing color-coded doors. With the Atari 2600's one-button joystick, this feat is impossible, so what we are left with is a strangely colorless version of Mouse Trap with doors that open or close in unison with the push of a single button. Even with this liability, Coleco did a nice job in bringing Mouse Trap to their strongest competitor's console.
 The action may lack the color-coded door system, but it turns out that Mouse Trap is a good little maze game. It's not as exciting or as colorful as the Atari 2600 versions of Jr. Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man, Mouse Trap's controls and graphics are superior.

Other than the game's faded colors, the graphics are very good. The cats, mouse and dog look surprising similar to those in the ColecoVision version of the game. The music is nothing to get excited about, but the dog barking actually sounds kind of like a dog, well, barking.

One area where to fault Coleco on is the omission of the IN box. In the other versions of Mouse Trap you could enter a little rectangle in the center of the screen and instantly transport to one of the four corners of the maze. Wizard of Wor for the Atari 2600 has a similar feature that works just fine.

So, Mouse Trap is a stripped-to-the-essentials game with several features missing, but it is still fun to play.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fantastic Four Teaser Trailer

I'm a little tired of super-hero origin stories, but I enjoyed the other Fantastic Four movies, so I'll probably go see this one at the theater. It debuts on my birthday, and that would be a great birthday present for my family to go see it with me. Or maybe I'll wait a week or two, so the lines won't be as long. Either way, this teaser trailer looks pretty cool:

The late, great Roger Ebert, whom I usually agree with, gave the 2005 Fantastic Four film a brutal (and undeserved, in my opinion) one-star rating. Here's that review:

So you get in a spaceship, and you venture into orbit to research a mysterious star storm hurtling toward Earth. There's a theory it may involve properties of use to man. The spaceship is equipped with a shield to protect its passengers from harmful effects, but the storm arrives ahead of schedule and saturates everybody on board with unexplained but powerful energy that creates radical molecular changes in their bodies.

They return safety to Earth, only to discover that Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), the leader of the group, has a body that can take any form or stretch to unimaginable lengths. Call him Mr. Fantastic. Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis) develops superhuman powers in a vast and bulky body that seems made of stone. Call him the Thing. Sue Storm (Jessica Alba) can become invisible at will and generate force fields that can contain propane explosions, in case you have a propane explosion that needs containing but want the option of being invisible. Call her Invisible Woman. And her brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) has a body that can burn at supernova temperatures. Call him the Human Torch.

I almost forgot the villain, Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), who becomes Dr. Doom and wants to use the properties of the star storm and the powers of the Fantastic Four for his own purposes. He eventually becomes metallic.

By this point in the review, are you growing a little restless? What am I gonna do, list names and actors and superpowers and nicknames forever? That's how the movie feels.

It's all setup and demonstration, and naming and discussing and demonstrating, and it never digests the complications of the Fantastic Four and gets on to telling a compelling story. Sure, there's a nice sequence where the Thing keeps a fire truck from falling off a bridge, but you see one fire truck saved from falling off a bridge, you've seen them all.

The Fantastic Four are, in short, underwhelming. The edges kind of blur between them and other superhero teams. That's understandable. How many people could pass a test right now on who the X-Men are and what their powers are? Or would want to? I wasn't watching "Fantastic Four" to study it, but to be entertained by it, but how could I be amazed by a movie that makes its own characters so indifferent about themselves?

The Human Torch, to repeat, can burn at supernova temperatures! He can become so hot, indeed, that he could threaten the very existence of the Earth itself! This is absolutely stupendously amazing, wouldn't you agree? If you could burn at supernova temperatures, would you be able to stop talking about it? I know people who won't shut up about winning 50 bucks in the lottery.

But after Johnny Storm finds out he has become the Human Torch, he takes it pretty much in stride, showing off a little by setting his thumb on fire. Later he saves the Earth, while Invisible Woman simultaneously contains his supernova so he doesn't destroy it. That means Invisible Woman could maybe create a force field to contain the sun, which would be a big deal, but she's too distracted to explore the possibilities; she gets uptight because she will have to be naked to be invisible, because otherwise people could see her empty clothes; it is no consolation to her that invisible nudity is more of a metaphysical concept than a condition.

Are these people complete idiots? The entire nature of their existence has radically changed, and they're about as excited as if they got a makeover on "Oprah." The exception is Ben Grimm, as the Thing, who gets depressed when he looks in the mirror. Unlike the others, who look normal except when actually exhibiting superpowers, he looks like - well, he looks like his suits would fit The Hulk, just as the Human Torch looks like The Flash, and the Invisible Woman reminds me of Storm in "X-Men."

Is this the road company? Thing clomps around on his Size 18 boulders and feels like an outcast until he meets a blind woman named Alicia (Kerry Washington) who loves him, in part because she can't see him. But the Thing looks like Don Rickles crossed with Mt. Rushmore; he has a body that feels like a driveway and a face with crevices you could hide a toothbrush in. Alicia tenderly feels his face with her fingers, like blind people often do while falling in love in the movies, and I guess she likes what she feels. Maybe she's extrapolating.

The story involves Dr. Doom's plot to ... but perhaps we need not concern ourselves with the plot of the movie, since it is undermined at every moment by the unwieldy need to involve a screenful of characters, who, despite the most astonishing powers, have not been made exciting or even interesting. The X-Men are major league compared to them.

And the really good superhero movies, like "Superman," "SpiderMan 2" and "Batman Begins," leave "Fantastic Four" so far behind that the movie should almost be ashamed to show itself in the same theaters.

Paperboy -- Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64
Publisher: Midway Games
Developer: High Voltage Software
Genre: Mission-Based Racing
Oct. 31, 1999
An updated remake of the 1985 arcade hit, Paperboy for the Nintendo 64 puts you in the role of a Paperboy or Papergirl. Your job is to get on your bike and deliver newspapers to your subscribers within a specific amount of time.

While peddling along in the various 3D neighborhoods, you must avoid cars, cats, dogs, rolling tires, bad kids, kids on tricycles, workers and other dangerous obstacles (over 100 in all). Houses line both sides of the street and you must throw the papers in mailboxes and on porches. The farther you are from a mailbox when you throw a paper, the more time you will earn.

To help you with your delivery route, the following power-ups are available: Paper Spray enables you to scatter papers in all directions at the same time; Super Jump sends you high into the air; Monster Potion makes your character stronger (not to mention uglier) and able to throw papers harder; and Rocket Boost makes you fast and invincible. You score points for every paper you deliver and for jumping ramps and performing bicycle tricks like Handstands and Tailwhips. You also get points for breaking windows of non-subscriber's houses and for throwing papers at various obstacles.
There are more than 45 delivery routes in Paperboy. Each has a Bonus Course that can be accessed by collecting the three Bonus Coins hidden within each level. The game takes place in many different neighborhood environments, such as the desert, the beach, a spooky monster town and a park, where you must deliver papers to campers. Throughout the game you'll encounter a number of boss characters that you must confront, with the first being a monster running loose in Dr. Tesla's Castle.

With its original concept, addictive challenges and sarcastic wit, the original Paperboy by Atari Games was an arcade smash. To do well in the game, players had to think of many things at once: aiming, steering, going fast or slow, restocking and conserving ammo, and avoiding or throwing papers at a wild assortment of obstacles.

It was a challenge to ride by the homes of subscribers and non-subscribers, as different strategies were required for each. Non-subscribers' homes were basically shooting galleries while subscribers' homes required a single, accurate toss of a newspaper. To get really good at Paperboy, many quarters were required.

Paperboy for the Nintendo 64 has many of the same objectives and goals as the original game. It all boils down to delivering papers to subscribers while abusing non-subscribers. In addition, the game is loaded down with the typical features one might expect from a late 1990s update of a mid-1980s Arcade classic.
You'll find tons of new obstacles, the ability to do bicycle tricks, a variety of power-ups, a diverse array of delivery routes and, of course, 3D graphics. The question is this: do the enhancements actually improve upon the original game or at least make the Paperboy concept fresh and exciting for a modern audience? The answer is a resounding no.

The original Paperboy was a linear experience. Once you passed by a subscriber's home, you could not go back, so you lost a customer if you didn't manage to land a newspaper on their porch or in their mailbox. In the remake, you can wander all over the place and go back to homes you may have missed and get them each a paper.
This aspect of the gameplay takes away some of the immediacy of delivering papers and removes the necessity of aiming correctly the first time around. In fact, aiming isn't much of a factor in the new game. Since the playfield is 3D, all you have to do is ride your bicycle right up to a mailbox or porch and simply drop a paper off. In the original Paperboy, throwing a newspaper in a mailbox was both challenging and risky.

Nonlinear gameplay and 3D graphics simply don't mesh well with the Paperboy concept. While the original game required full concentration and genuine skill on the part of the gamer, the Nintendo 64 version is challenging only because of poor, loose controls. Also, performing bicycle tricks and hunting for coins is boring and seems like a wasted effort since each level is timed.

The graphics in this game are weird and ugly. Slanted houses, odd angles and triangular characters add up to an unpleasant visual experience. The music and sound effects could've easily been achieved on the 16-bit Super NES, a far less powerful system.

Paperboy for the Nintendo 64 is a contrived and convoluted mess. It proves that 3D graphics and nonlinear gameplay don't necessarily make for a better game. If you also own a PlayStation, do yourself a favor and pick up Arcade's Greatest Hits/The Atari Collection 2. It includes Paperboy as well as five other arcade classics, all in their original forms.


Monday, January 26, 2015

A Letter from a Reader

Unless you write best-sellers, like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, writers don't get much feel-good feedback, other than at autographings and, increasingly, on social media. Even most editors don't say much beyond what they want you to write and when it is due. But every once in a while a reader will take the extra step to reach out to you personally and let you know how much they enjoy your work. One such letter I received was back in 2006, when I wrote reviews for the Comics Buyer's Guide. Needless to say, it made my day. Yeah, he wanted me to review his magazine for CBG, but it was still a nice letter to receive.

Here's that letter, written on some nifty Superfriends stationary. Click on the images for a closer look.

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Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 - Sega 32X

Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000
Sega 32X
Publisher: Sega
Developer: CSK Research Institute Corp.
A highly disappointing modernization of Sega's superior arcade game from 1982 (which was simply titled Zaxxon), Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 is similar to the original in that players fly their ship from an isometric perspective, and the object is to avoid obstacles and gunfire while shooting enemy ships, gun turrets, and other obstacles. However, the controls are sluggish, the 3-D polygonal graphics are blocky, there's tons of slowdown, and the bosses fill up an inordinate, frustration-inducing portion of the screen. Worst of all, your ship can't climb or descend, making the game all but unplayable. A two-player shoot-out mode and the ability to dock on special couriers in order to gain armor and additional weaponry can't save this game from its mother lode of faults.
The original Zaxxon was a visually arresting and highly challenging Arcade game, and it translated nicely to both the ColecoVision and the Atari 5200 systems. As a huge fan of Zaxxon 3-D for the Master System, my expectations were naturally high for this 32-bit rendering of the Arcade semi-classic. Unfortunately, Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 didn't come close to meeting a single criterion for what can be considered to be a quality gaming experience.
First of all, the controls for the game are incredibly limited. You can only move in four directions! This is astounding considering the fact that in all previous versions of the game you could fly your ship in eight directions. In this game, you can only fly left, right, forward and back.

Eliminating climbing and descending from the standard Zaxxon control scheme was an inexcusable act on part of the designers. It destroys a big part of what made the original game so very cool, that of flying above and below obstacles and enemy fire.

In addition to limited directional movement, the sluggish controls don't help much either. Most of the ships are clumsy, and tremendous slowdown occurs throughout the game, especially in the midst of a battle with a giant boss. Many times you'll feel as though the game is taking place underwater instead of in outer space.
While not bad in theory, battles with the giant, robot-like bosses present a boring and frustrating experience. The bosses are so big that, when combined with various large obstacles, they often take up an inordinate amount of screen space, giving the game a claustrophobic and uncomfortable feel.

The ability to jump from your standard ship into a courier ship adds little enjoyment to the game, and you won't find any of the weapons systems as very interesting or memorable. Equally, the two-player mode pathetically tries to add some pizzazz and originality to the game. Poor controls, horrendous slowdown and dull gameplay plague this portion of the cartridge as well.

Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 never gets any less frustrating or dull. Diehard Zaxxon fans and newbies alike will despise this game. It's unfortunate that Sega didn't ditch this title early in production to create an arcade-perfect version of the original Zaxxon for its 32-bit system. Now that would have been something to see!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- Game Boy Color

Into each generation, a Slayer is born. One girl, in all the world, a Chosen One. Or so the legend goes on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the now-classic horror series created by Joss Whedon. The show follows the exploits of Buffy Summers, gorgeous high school student by day and vampire hunter by night.

Using her super strength, heightened agility, lethal weapons (primarily sharp stakes) and wicked one-liners, she patrols the town of Sunnydale, which sits on the threshold of the Hellmouth, a vulnerable spot where forces of darkness are frequently unleashed upon the Earth.

Joining Buffy in her fight against the undead are members of the so-called Scooby Gang. The Scoobies include Willow, a computer hacking witch; Xander, a wisecracking wiseacre; and Anya, an ex-demon with a propensity for social faux pas. Watching over the group (and Buffy in particular) is ex-librarian Giles, an erudite British gentleman with a fondness for arcane, mystical reference tomes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color finds Buffy in a world of trouble. Mesmerized by vampire Ethan Rayne's reading of the Book of Ancients, a coven of vampires from different countries has descended upon Sunnydale by way of the Hellmouth.
 There are six standard types of vampires in this coven: Tux Vampires, Punk Vampires, Disfigured Vampires, Tribesman Vampires, Euro Vampires and Guardian Vampires. Master vampires (bosses) include Ninja Vampires, Viking Vampires and Beast Vampires.

These creatures of the night are raising hell in various spots around town, including the old mansion, the graveyard, the zoo, the cemetery, the sewer and the city streets. They've even crashed The Bronze, which is the local hangout, and The Initiative, which is a covert military facility that captures and/or kills vampires and demons.
As the Scooby Gang's key member, Buffy Summers, you'll run, jump and slay your way through eight levels of vampire-infested action. To vanquish a vampire, you must hit it and/or kick it until it falls beneath your slayer might. Once a vampire is down, you must stake it and watch it turn to dust. You can also throw the undead, block hits, roll on the ground and perform super leaps.
If you get knocked down, a vampire will jump on you and drink your blood. No matter which level you are playing, you will face only one vampire at a time. Arrows point your way to each successive bloodsucker. Throughout the game you can find soda cans that will enable you to do super punches and kicks. Paint cans and other items are scattered about for use in throwing at enemies.

In between each level you can watch a series of cut-scenes featuring dialogue between the characters. One scene even refers to Angel, the Buffy spin-off featuring her ex-boyfriend, a vampire with a soul. Angel's secretary Cordelia phones to warn Buffy of a dream that Angel has had in which Buffy is in danger.

A game of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends when Buffy's life bar has fully depleted. After each level, a password appears, giving you a save point for after you shut down your game system.

As expected, Buffy makes her way around various locations throughout Sunnydale and kills vampires. What wasn't expected was just how mundane this could be. No matter how far you progress in the game, Buffy only goes up against one vampire at a time. Apparently, being undead makes the creatures of the night brain dead and they never think to pair up or form a pack. Buffy is supposedly going up against a coven of vampires, but they never act very coven-like.

Until you reach the Hellmouth (the seventh level), the game is ridiculously easy. To defeat most of the vampires, all you have to do is punch them a couple of times, then do a lower kick to knock them down, then stab them with your trusty stake. For the average gamer, it is entirely possible to beat the game in one sitting. The bosses are about as easy to kill as the standard enemies.

The levels in Buffy have no obstacles (such as electrified fences) and no traps (such as fiery pits). On some of the levels, you do have to jump up to reach platforms, but your life is never in danger while you are jumping. Even worse, there are no non-vampire enemies to fight. Where are the werewolves or the demons? There's not even a lousy rat to trip over. You can see the eyes of the hyenas at the zoo, but they are merely background eye candy.

And what of hidden items, alternative weapons and secret passages? None to be found. Sure, occasionally you can pick up a can or something to throw at the vampires, but this feature is all but useless. It's easier and more expedient to simply engage the vampires in hand-to-hand combat. When a vampire isn't onscreen, you can't even pick up the items.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color is a disappointment. Watch the show, skip the game.



Friday, January 23, 2015

Q*bert - PlayStation - Review

Q*bert - PlayStation
Publisher: Atari Interactive, Inc.
Developer: Artech Studios Ltd.
Also for: Dreamcast, Macintosh, Windows


Hasbro Interactive continues their series of classic Arcade game remakes with Q*bert for the PlayStation. In this disc you'll find the original game, a new Adventure mode and a special Head-To-Head contest. Those of you who misspent your youths in the Arcades will recall that the original Q*bert stars a little round orange guy with bulging eyes, a round snout for a nose, short legs and no arms or torso. Your job is to hop Q*bert around a pyramid of cubes and change the colors of the cubes to a target color. In later rounds, you will need to change the colors of the cubes more than once in order to achieve your goal. Once the entire pyramid has been changed to the target color, you advance to a new pyramid.
 While you are hopping Q*bert up and down the cubes of each pyramid, enemies, most of which are deadly to the touch, will try and stop your progress. Another way to die is to hop off of the pyramid without landing on one of the three discs that are placed above and beside the pyramid. These discs are useful when enemies, such as Coily the snake (Q*bert's archenemy), are in hot pursuit. Green enemies and objects can (and should be) be touched, and some of them cause trouble. For example, Slick and Sam wreak havoc by hopping on cubes and changing their color.

In the Adventure Game, Q*bert's home world and friends, including Q*dina (a female version of Q*bert), have been kidnapped by Coily the snake. You must brave four unique dimensions with six levels each in order to find four pieces of the Magic Disc. Once again, you must hop on cubes to change them to a target color (or colors), but this time the playfield varies in shape from level to level and there are lots of new enemies and features. You'll discover bonus rounds, secret levels and special cubes that score you bonus points or transport you to new locations. Also, power-ups, such as keys, smart bombs, speed boosters, torches and other useful items, will help you defeat enemies and complete levels.
In the Head-To-Head competition, one player controls Q*bert and the other assumes the role of Q*dirk. Yes, once again, cube-hopping is the name of the game. Q*bert's cubes are orange, Q*dirk's are blue, and green cubes are shared. Players must complete their own color cubes while trying to grab as many green cubes as possible.

Many of the Head-To-Head cubes can be used to foil the other player. For example: A Coily Spawn Cube will produce a snake in your opponent's playing field; a Camera cube reduces the visibility of the opposite player's cubes; and a Trigger cube sets off an explosion for tagged cubes in your opponent's playing field.


Q*bert for the PlayStation is exactly what an updated-for-the-'90s remake of a classic Arcade game should be. It includes a fantastic replica of the original game, a graphically enhanced version of the original game, an utterly mesmerizing Adventure mode and a highly competitive, endlessly enjoyable Head-to-Head mode. Q*bert has made a very smooth transition from all-time classic to PlayStation stalwart. Anyone doubting the validity of Hasbro Interactive's efforts in preserving and expanding upon videogame history should look no further than this disc.

Most anyone who haunted the Arcades in the early 1980s remembers Q*bert. It was a quirky game with unique controls, addictive gameplay, crisp graphics, bright colors and a humorous mascot ("%&@!&!!?#!"). It was a game boys and girls and men and women could enjoy. It was cute and easy to learn, yet challenging once you got past the first few screens. Q*bert for the PlayStation stays faithful to the original game, even in the Adventure and Head-to-Head modes of play. The basic goal of hopping on cubes is left firmly intact while new worlds, cool power-ups and strange camera angles add interesting elements of challenge to the familiar formula.

The variety of worlds in the Adventure mode is excellent. You'll travel through atmospheric lands both near and far that evoke a variety of moods and locations. You'll hop on gothic castles, towering skyscrapers, foreign villas and other cool structures and environments. Whimsical, art deco-style levels will dazzle your eyes with blinding color. There are all kinds of crazy designs and wacky cube arrangements;  fans tired of hopping on the same old pyramid will welcome the variety and constant change of pace.

The Head-to-Head mode adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay; sending Coily or another enemy to your opponent's side of the screen or thwarting your opponent by screwing with the camera angles is a lot of fun. Also, there are strategies involved. Should you try to be the first one to finish a level, or should you go strictly for points? How much should you concentrate on foiling your opponent's game plan? What about the bonus cubes?

There are only two complaints I have with Q*bert, but they are minor. The controls are solid, but they are not perfect. Occasionally, you will die and you will swear that it is the gamepad's fault and not your own. Also, in the Head-to-Head mode, the penalty for dying is not strong enough. You are given infinite lives and you get to return to the action immediately after you hop off of the playfield or get squashed by an enemy. I don't mind the infinite lives within the context of this particular game, but a few seconds should elapse before you are permitted to continue play.

With Q*bert for the PlayStation, generations of gamers can gather around the family television set and have a blast. If you have yet to jump on the retro-gaming bandwagon, now is the time.