Originally created 08/30/98

Video games: 'Spice World'

Forgive my cultural ignorance, but I would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a Spice Girl and a spice rack -- although I suspect staring at an inanimate spice rack would be more enjoyable than spending time with these lycra-wrapped evangelists of Girl Power.

Based on what I gather from the cynical "Spice World" video game, Girl Power boils down to this: Dressing up in skanky clothes and big shoes, singing bad songs and prancing around either on television, in movies or in front of thousands of screaming fans. If there's something deeper to it than that, you'd never know from playing this waste of time.

By design, video games are a waste of time. Their value lies not in their ability to educate but in their ability to distract, amuse or just channel the release of unbridled rage. But "Spice World" for Sony PlayStation fails on almost every level with its derivative play, repetitive graphics and insipid dialogue.

Then there's the music. Oh, the music -- samples repeated over and over and over, burrowing into the subconscious like some sort of digital tick.

Granted, I'm not a little girl. I reside well outside the Spice Girls' core demographic of Bubblicious-snapping pre-pubescent girls and -- sigh! -- boys. For them, I can see the appeal the Spice Girls hold. They're outrageous without being threatening, and they get away with behavior that would land most kids in the parental clink.

Even for kids, though, "Spice World" offers a pretty limited experience. Essentially, the game centers on the production of a dance routine for a television show.

Players choose a Spice and re-mix one of the group's hits by linking together samples. After the mix is made, players take their designated Spice to the dance studio to learn a few moves.

Then all the Spice Girls convene for practice, and players can program custom dance routines to accompany their personal music mix. After that, it's off to the TV studio, where players film the Spice Girls doing their routine.

That -- and a 25-minute video of the Spices answering pre-approved probing questions -- is what players get for their $45.

"Spice World" held potential. Girls get forgotten by the boys and men who design video games for boys and men. Boys and girls play similar games when young -- "Super Mario 64," "Banjo-Kazooie" and "Sonic the Hedgehog," for instance -- but start to part about the same time girls stop playing with toys like Lego.

Attempts to capture part of that market have largely failed. Why? Because too often the games come off like "Spice World." Girl Power is a compelling concept, but there's more to it than sassy talk and saucy makeup.

EMERGENCY: FIGHTERS FOR LIFE: What a concept: a real-time strategy game that focuses on the preservation -- rather than the brutal extermination -- of life. "Emergency: Fighters for Life" puts players in control of their own emergency response teams to handle everything from minor traffic accidents to terrorist attacks.

Great idea, but the execution lacks.

WizardWorks is the arm of game giant GT Interactive and releases lower-priced games. Some, like "Deer Hunter," have become hits. But "Emergency" could have used a little more time in development to hammer out problems like poor control and an interface that is too often too simple for the task at hand.

Even if that extra time costs a few extra bucks at the retail level, "Emergency" is the kind of game for which I would shell out good money. But not in its current form.

WAIALAE COUNTRY CLUB: To all the dads who picked up a Nintendo 64 for the kids, it's OK. Really. I know you're just trying to show Junior how to play "Goldeneye 007," and as soon as he gets the hang of it, you'll turn over the controller.

It's doubtful the tykes will clamor quite as much for the stick if you've got "Waialae Country Club" stuck in the rig. Everything about this game screams for kiddies to steer clear.

First and foremost, it's golf.

As golf games go, this one's not bad. The commentary is minimal and the graphics are great. Play is as technical as golf fanatics expect, and changing weather conditions keep the course fresh from game to game.

E-mail the writer: Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com


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