Originally created 02/15/99

Willis is a star among not-so-new offerings



The worst part about reviewing video games is that there are so many of them. It's impossible to keep up. The holidays are the worst, as all the publicists in America -- or so it seems -- clamor to get their games reviewed before Christmas. Of course, that's also when store shelves are flooded with new titles for every platform.

It can literally take months to play through the stack in my office, which is fine because the flow of new titles slows to a trickle in January, February and March before ramping back up in anticipation of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in the spring.

So most of this week's games are old, having hit stores before Christmas. At least three are worth a look. And since there's not a lot of new stuff worth buying right now, players searching for something to feed their Sony PlayStations may be interested in all four.

It depends how desperate they are.

  • "Apocalypse"
  • Activision's "Apocalypse" makes no apologies for what it is: a linear shooter that borrows a little something from "Robotron," "Loaded" and every Bruce Willis movie ever made.

    See, the actor with perhaps the highest kill rate in Hollywood lends his voice and likeness to the game.

    You know you are a true multimedia celebrity when you have your own video game. It's an honor usually reserved for sports stars and personalities such as Kobe Bryant and John Madden. But it's rare to see an action star featured in a game that's not based on a movie.

    Players assume the role of Trey Kincaid, a scientist whose research in sub-molecular machinery is hijacked by a nut job named the Reverend who uses it to create his own Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sounds high concept, right? Don't worry -- the game requires only quick reflexes and a willingness to leave no one standing.

    As in Willis' movies, things move swiftly in "Apocalypse." And there is a lot of shooting. Players bust Kincaid out of jail and then guide him through level after bloody level to the Reverend. Like the controls in "Robotron," players can fire in four directions. So it's possible to be running one way and firing over Kincaid's shoulder.

    Mastering this sometimes confusing control is critical because enemies swarm the screen. Players who rely too heavily on frontal attacks will find themselves staring at the "Game Over" screen.

    Action is third-person. Kincaid moves quite smoothly through the corridors and tunnels that twist through the game. Sometimes, though, the perspectives get a little screwy. For instance, the view in some levels switches to a top-down perspective and zooms up and away from the action. Kincaid and the bad guys look like blips on the screen. It's particularly problematic in darker levels.

    But overall, "Apocalypse" is perfectly sweet mind candy. Willis' witty remarks -- Kincaid says things such as, "They could use a little more lead in their diet" as he blasts enemies -- get repetitive after a few levels. Otherwise, it's the game for people who like Bruce Willis movies.

  • "MediEvil"
  • "MediEvil" is the game for people who have a sense of humor, but don't let it get in the way of killing zombies. This 3-D, third-person game follows the exploits of the former Sir Daniel Fortesque, a long-dead war hero. Although the land of Gallowmere revered Dan as a hero, he was slaughtered in the first seconds of a battle with the forces of Zarok the evil magician.

    A century after his death, Dan is resurrected to once again thwart Zarok's evil plans for Gallowmere. Dan looks a little worse for wear -- he's a one-eyed, buck-toothed skeleton. But this game looks and plays great. It's an adventure game for players who don't like the tedium that sometimes comes with adventure games.

    Players guide Dan through beautifully drawn levels and mow down zombie enemies who make up for in numbers what they lack in intelligence. None of the enemies appears particularly smart, but that seems like a good thing when they're swarming Dan.

    PlayStation designers have finally mastered the art of three-dimensional play. With Sony's analog controller, moving Dan through space was a breeze, and the camera angles keep pace nicely without blocking critical action.

  • "Uprising X"
  • The PlayStation version of PC fave "Uprising X" delivers, but just barely. Players join the rebellion against the oppressive Emperor Caston and try to stop him from using his "planet-killing" weapon.

    Most of the game's action takes place behind the controls of a futuristic tank called a Wraith. Players cruise through alien environments blasting enemy tanks and soldiers. There is a minimal amount of strategizing required as players build simple bases to stay supplied.

    Everything works in "Uprising X," but by now any player who's been around the block has seen it done better in other games. It's a watered-down version of a PC game such as "Urban Assault," which allows players to combine action with strategy.

  • "Wild 9"
  • The guys at Shiny Entertainment do wonderful work. Their "Earthworm Jim" franchise was one of the best platform games for 16-bit machines. "Wild 9" is the next generation of platform games for newer systems.

    Like games such as the Oddworld adventures, "Wild 9" revels in the details of its environment. Nothing is taken seriously -- except game play, which is tight and furious from the initial level.

    Players guide Wex Major through creepy locales as he uses his Rig weapon system to capture and smash bad guys. Controls can be a little tricky at first, but once mastered, this bizarre tale unfolds quite smoothly.

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