Fast forward: Games - Christmas round-up

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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you have trouble navigating your way through the games labyrinth, here is a tour of must-have titles for the festive season. Tops is Zelda Ocarina of Time, the latest in a series of role-playing games that have proved challenging and unbeatably popular. This is the flagship game for the Nintendo 64, and a safe bet to buy for just about everyone. On the same platform, there's Turok 2, another sequel, which has guaranteed 3-D dinosaur excitement. And F-Zero X, a fast-moving, futuristic racing game, or 1080 Snowboarding, a smooth, speedy and addictive sports simulation. All of these retail for pounds 39.99.

On the PC, the most eagerly awaited games include Half-Life (pounds 29.99), a first-person adventure with loads of scary creatures waiting round every corner. LucasArts, long the masters of the adventure genre, have another winner in Grim Fandango (pounds 34.99), set in the Land of the Dead. It's beautifully animated with the LucasArts trademarks: a bizarre sense of humour, deft storytelling and engrossing gameplay. The strategy and action cross, Wargasm (pounds 34.99) has a title that may make toy shop owners wary of stocking it, but it's an intriguing war sim, good-looking and instantly playable.

It's sequel city for PlayStation owners, starting with the latest installment of the Lara Croft franchise: Tomb Raider III (pounds 44.99). Gaudy visuals, new moves (hey, you can monkey-swing now!) and gameplay with unforgivingly precise timing will make this as popular as ever, although the sparsity of new elements may tempt users to christen this one Croft Unoriginal. Players wanting less mainstream action should turn to another sequel: Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus (pounds 39.99), pictured, a puzzle-solving extravaganza hosted by Abe, a flatulent Mudokon (don't ask). It's a game with wit and rare emotional depth.

Younger gamers will want to check out Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (pounds 39.99), which will keep them happy for hours of platform-jumping fun. Plus, a new kind of game arrives with Music (pounds 34.99), hotly tipped as the surprise hit of 1998, and offering a chance to sample and record music on the PSX. It's great fun.

Finally, look out for the newest games system in town: the Game Boy Color (pounds 69.99) has updated the most popular hand-held by giving it a colour screen with games to match - although the truth is that almost everybody will be playing an old favourite in new clothes: New Color Tetris. David Phelan

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