The Game Room: If at First You Succeed, Try, Try Again
By Christopher Breen
Recently, I engaged in an online chat where the subject of computer gaming cropped up. “Kee-ripes,” a participant named Mugwump offered, “what is it with games nowadays? Every new computer game seems to have ‘2,’ ‘III,’ or ‘Gold’ appended to its title. Where’s the originality in game design!?” Others agreed, but I thought, “What’s wrong with these people? I love sequels!”
True, I have a high tolerance for repetition. After all, I’ve read 84 Perry Mason novels, eaten Post Raisin Bran (Premium) every morning of my adult life, and dated a set of sisters. But in this case, repetition has nothing to do with it. To begin with, sequels give game designers the opportunity to add all the little goodies they would have flung into the original game, had technology allowed. Also, designers can squash the really nasty bugs and produceone would hopea more stable game.
It’s a good thing that I
so fond of sequels, because this month I examined three games whose roots are well connected to games of the pastAspyr’s Tomb Raider Gold (
); Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now, from Interplay (
); and Blizzard’s StarCraft (
Tomb Raider Gold
Improbable as it may be, I expect that one or two of you are unfamiliar with the Tomb Raider series. This series, published by Aspyr Media for the Mac, stars Lara Crofta heroic action figure whose proportions are clearly the product of young men with a skewed notion of weight distribution as it relates to physics. Aspyr first released Tomb Raider IIthe current-at-that-time Lara Croft gamein order to capitalize on the buzz generated by the PC version. With the success of Tomb Raider II, Aspyr released the Mac rendition of Tomb Raider Gold, a game composed of the original Tomb Raider and an abbreviated add-on called Unfinished Business.
It’s no surprise that Tomb Raider Gold is very much like Tomb Raider II: you propel Lara off cliffs and over chasms in search of an archeological treasure.
Tomb Raider Gold features fewer human enemies than Tomb Raider IIin this game, Lara adds significantly to the endangered-species list by blasting away at toothier members of the animal kingdom. The game also doesn’t boast as many areas where split-second timing is required. For this reason, Tomb Raider II veterans will find Tomb Raider Gold a much easier game to finishalthough the Unfinished Business add-on can be quite tricky.
Even though Tomb Raider Gold supports the same RAVE and 3Dfx Glide 3-D hardware-acceleration standards found in Tomb Raider II, the graphics are more jagged. Sure, Tomb Raider Gold is more of the same, but I thought Tomb Raider II was a hoot and I don’t mind a second helping.
Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now
In the wake of recent tragedies involving undersupervised minors and overly powerful weaponry, politicians and parents have taken aim at video games and computer games that glorify violence. Although id software’s long-in-the-tooth game Doom seems to be taking the brunt of this criticism, these individuals would consider Doom small spuds indeed, were they to catch a glimpse of Carmageddon and its sequel, Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now. Unlike Doom, where your arguably noble objective is to hunt down the spawn of Satan, the Carmageddons ask that you participate in a series of automobile races with the express goal of careening into your opponents and mowing down as many innocent pedestrians as possible.
If you find this kind of gratuitous bloodshed despicable, please feel free to avoid these games. Although I’m not terribly offended by this sort of cartoon violenceI have a fairly firm grasp on what’s real and what isn’tI
bothered by a game that is so repetitive that even the cheap tricks of fast action and violence can’t keep me engaged. And that, ultimately, is the problem with Carmageddon 2. It’s just the same old thing over and over againstart the race, try to keep your barely controllable car on the road, slaughter innocents, pick up bonuses, and bash your opponents into submission.
Carmageddon 2 isn’t without charm, however. There’s a degree of grisly good fun in the proceedings. For example, I couldn’t help but be amused by the Drunken Pedestrian bonus, which causes your foot-bound victims to stagger and weave; the Groovin’ Pedestrians bonus, which results in passersby who perform a version of the hully-gully; and the Peds With Stupid Heads bonus, which operates as advertised. Such bonuses aboundeach goofier than the next. Also, Carmageddon 2 was built in 3-D from the ground upsupporting both 3Dfx Glide and RAVEand although it still looks cartoonish, its graphics are far superior to the original’s.
If you’re offended by the game’s conceptor just want a game that offers more than the opportunity to repeatedly biff pedestrians and automobilesskip Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now. If you have the 40 bucks to spare, possess a compatible sense of humor, and don’t mind the repetition, give the game a shot.
Terming StarCraft a mere sequel does a disservice to the game. Yes, at its most rudimentary, StarCraft is similar to its predecessor, WarCraft II. Both games feature an overhead view of a map and ask that you mine resources in order to produce structures that churn out more-advanced weaponry and personnel. And ultimately, both games ask that you triumph over an opposing race. But StarCraft is far more than an interstellar skin slipped over WarCraft’s medieval chewy center of gaming satisfaction.
StarCraft tells its story from the perspective of three different racesthe humanoid Terrans; the Zerg, a buglike race; and the Protoss, an advanced, mystical race that employs mechanized forcesrather than WarCraft’s two. During the course of the single-player game, you have the opportunity to command each of the races in a series of three ten-mission episodes.
Unlike in WarCraft, where the Human and Orc races conduct war along similar lines, each race in StarCraft has differing strengths and weaknesseswhich you must exploit to triumph over your enemies. Having such disparate capabilities across races nicely balances the game and ensures that you stay involved from start to finish.
StarCraft includes a powerful campaign editor and several custom maps. The game is networkable and can be played by up to eight people on a LAN or against the rest of the world on Blizzard’s own Battle.net. It runs well on an iMac and looks and sounds great. Blizzard’s done it againStarCraft is awesome!
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Three sequelstwo of which are surefire winnersand Mugwump would contend that there’s not a truly original idea among them. Maybe not, but a repeated experience is not necessarily a worthless one. After all, as ancient Ecclesiastes teaches us: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”