Originally created 09/13/99

Dreamcast adventure game should be a hit

The action-adventure game Blue Stinger is an excellent introduction to Sega's Dreamcast console, an engrossing production that will keep you busy and entertained for many hours.

Blue Stinger drew mixed reviews in Japan, mainly because of the bizarre camera angles.

Did Activision fix that problem before sending the game out to do battle with Nintendo and Sony? Let's see, how to put this delicately?

Too bad, because Blue Stinger is an otherwise excellent game with wonderful graphics, good enemies and a solid story line that quickly pulls you in.

The game starts with the introduction of one of the two playable characters, Eliot Ballade. He's a member of an elite squad, Emergency Sea Evacuation and Rescue, vacationing on a boat near Dinosaur Island.

When a small meteor hits, putting the island under a mysterious energy dome and sending bizarre birds crashing into his boat, he flips overboard and washes up at a seemingly deserted research center.

Dinosaur Island, which rose from the sea after a powerful earthquake struck, has been inhabited for some 17 years by scientists for a company called Kimra. What they were doing there is anybody's guess -- but you know it's not good.

A few moves into the game you meet the second playable character, a sea captain named Dogs Bower. Each has his own strengths -- Eliot can swim and is faster afoot; Dogs has better defensive skills -- but both are fun to play.

You also meet Janine King, who works for Kimra and knows the island's computer system cold. And then there's Nephilim, a mysterious wraith who floats into the game from time to time to watch Eliot. What does she do? Play and find out.

As with other games of this type, you explore vast areas as you get deeper into the island, collecting keys to get you through locked gates, weapons and ammo for the battles that come frequently, and food items to restore your strength.

When you kill some monsters, the remains spew coins. Collect them; they can be used at vending machines to buy weapons, food and other important items. If you need cash, kill an enemy, collect the coins, walk around a corner, wait a minute and then go back. The creatures return to what passes for a life and can be killed again, providing a sort of monster ATM.

You'll also find save points at regular intervals. Make sure you have a memory pack inserted; this is one game you don't want to have to repeat every time you shut it off.

The game leads you through area after area as you descend into the heart of the island. There are maps, thoughtfully colored to show where you've been. But the map doesn't show you where you are, which makes it less valuable than it could be.

The camera's positioning is really the game's only serious flaw. Using the left shoulder button allows you to control the camera manually, but you often find yourself in a position where you can't see anything but your shoes, and by the time you react you've been hit. There's really no excuse for this defect, especially in a top-line game on a brand-new system.

The graphics are excellent, with great detail, beautiful shading and coloring. The characters move smoothly and are easy to control with either the analog joystick or the d-pad. Sound is good and voices are clear, although there's a strange delay between speakers. Blue Stinger is rated M, for ages 17 and older.


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