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Game reviews: 'Pariah,' 'Resident Evil Outbreak File #2,' 'Donkey Konga 2'

May 29, 2005

"PARIAH"

**

Groove Games for Xbox (also for Windows), $49.99. Rating: M (Mature).

Finally, some familiar ground to battle on. The towering spires of earth sprouting from the ground to the north inspire some hide-and-seek thrills. A small watery inlet surrounded by hills and trees for cover offers gorgeous scenery for action. And a small passage hides a canyon behind the mountains to the south where I can find two vehicles and all the ammo I need.

Yes, in this first-person shooter deathmatch I definitely have an advantage. That's because this rugged level -- dubbed "Teeth to Spare" for its horde of gigantic spikes -- was meticulously crafted by me.

The mapmaking feature is the coolest shtick this sci-fi shooter has to offer. While it's not the first game to offer this feature, this one seems the easiest to use. You can even share your creations with other players and battle on them via Xbox Live. (If you want to try out "Teeth to Spare" -- it's my first attempt at mapmaking, so don't laugh -- send me a friend request and you can download it; my gamertag is Huschka.)

Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn't nearly as polished; "ordinary" is probably the best word to describe it.

The graphics are fairly detailed, although the frame rate occasionally stutters. The physics are a little sketchy in spots.

The controls are easy to pick up (they're almost identical to "Halo"), yet targeting and vehicle control often gave me fits.

The story -- a tale of Dr. Jack Mason's attempt to transfer a prisoner infected with a mysterious virus across the planet's wastelands, which are filled with scavengers armed to the teeth -- is more likely to keep you playing than shooting the often dumb-as-rocks thugs.

All told, this game is no pariah. But even with its map maker, co-op mode and upgradeable weapons, "Pariah" is too flawed to seriously compete with the Xbox's big-name shooters.

By Ryan Huschka, Detroit Free Press

"RESIDENT EVIL OUTBREAK:

FILE #2"

**

Capcom for PlayStation 2, $29.99. Rating: M (Mature).

If the gaming populace was clamoring for an online version of the classic "Resident Evil" horror series, this is not the answer. This attempt at team play is rather like the zombies you kill: relentlessly lumbering and numb.

"File #2" brings together eight Raccoon City residents from previous "Resident Evil" games. They must work together to survive the release of a biological weapon that has turned the citizens into a zombified army. Each character has his or her own special abilities: Kevin, the cop, can do great damage with a gunshot; George, the doctor, can mix up herbs into medicines.

In single-player mode, you pick a main character, whom you control, and a couple of sidekicks, controlled by the computer. You pick from several scenarios to progress to the final objective. Online, you and up to three other players team up.

Each mode shares a significant problem: team communication, the very reason for this game's existence. Going solo, you'll have to put up with the unresponsive computer AI. Online, you don't have the benefit of voice chat. Instead, you have to use your controller to issue canned one-line commands -- very frustrating, given the complexity of some scenarios.

Further complicating things is the convoluted control scheme. Just to attack, you have to hold down the R1 or R2 button to get into an attack stance, then press X -- not good if you need a hair-trigger reaction to survive a monster horde.

I can't fault the presentation: cinematic camera work, creepy backgrounds, spooky music, labored breathing -- signature "Resident Evil" touches, all good. The sights and sounds are almost worth the tedious game-play.

Hard-core "Resident Evil" fans might consider renting "File #2." But for online thrills, I'd rather do "Halo," and for a real thrill, "Resident Evil 4" is much more worthwhile.

By Omari Gardner, Detroit Free Press

"DONKEY KONGA 2"

**

Nintendo for GameCube, $49.99. Rating: T (Teen).

And now for something completely different: The "Donkey Konga" games are so unusual, compared to the typical role-playing games, shooters, races and sports simulations lining most gamers' shelves, that it may be worth picking up a copy just for its oddball appeal.

The challenge here is to clap our hands and beat on plastic bongo drums along with pop music and colorful cartoon graphics that pour out of the TV set. In our couple of weeks of playing it, "Donkey Konga 2" proved to be the first game in quite a while that we were able to convince non-gamers to try. There's something so silly about it that it prompts almost anyone to laugh as they play with other people.

This second volume of "Donkey Konga" is essentially the same as the first, except that it has an entirely new musical score and some new mini-games. The songs come from many genres, and there's sure to be at least one that you've heard (though most of the game's 32 songs likely won't be your personal favorites). But ultimately the game is not about the music itself. Whether you like the songs becomes a moot point once you start going head-to-head in multiplayer mode. The intensity of the action focuses all your mental energy on properly timing the beat.

The game seems ideal for gatherings of friends, because it allows for multiple modes of competition. Your friends don't care for one style of play? Well, try another.

We found the single-player mode fun for a while. The main mode here let us earn coins that we later spent to purchase access to mini-games within the larger musical challenge. Occasionally, we could use our coins to pick up new electronic sounds for our bongos, but often these new sounds were more annoying than anything else.

Perhaps that explains why, though the drums did have their allure, we found that we could take them only in small doses.

By David Crumm and Benjamin Crumm, 16, for the Detroit Free Press


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