Games

When you run out of ideas of your own, steal ones which are out of copyright. Writers have stolen from their own for centuries, and now the video game industry is in on the act, lifting material from operas. From Amadeus to the Warner Bros cartoons What's Opera Doc? and (even better) The Rabbit of Seville, the opera has been a good source for stories, characters and a sense of grand guignol.

Heck, it's a tough world, and you need a gimmick to survive. So, in good time for the Christmas sales hoo-ha, Cryo Interactive has released a game which will have parents who are desperate for a game that isn't just violent, mindless trigger- flicking reaching for their credit cards. After all, the advertising promises a score conducted by Georg Solti, and the voice of Charlotte Rampling. It's called Ring and the incidental music is by Richard Wagner.

Well, the pedigree is unmistakable, but does it bark? Install the first of six (count 'em) CD-Roms on your PC, and you see a lush introduction backed by that powerful operatic score. The graphics are just as striking when the game proper begins (though be prepared to keep changing those CDs) and you find yourself in a beautifully rendered world, an asteroid spaceship hurtling through space, where you must choose which path to take through the game. But whether you want to play as Alberich, Brunnhilde or Siegmund, you will quickly find yourself treated to a series of lengthy, deftly realised cut scenes, which you'll soon tire of as you notice that it's been five minutes since you clicked your mouse. Looks ravishing, but there's precious little gameplay. When there is a chance for interactivity (that's why we're here, remember, Cryo?) more often than not it's based on simple puzzles demanding limited logic, or unlimited patience.

Some may find the scantily clad Brunnhilde and the numerous busty nudes artfully decorating the game reason enough to buy, and there are moments when the narration reaches a higher literary and philosophical level than we have any right to expect from a game. Plus, at pounds 40, it's a deal cheaper than buying the Ring cycle, and there's undeniably something very exciting about a game which has "The Ride of the Valkyries" as part of its score. But there's not much here for parents wanting to buy their children a rewarding, uplifting game. Cryo should be applauded for trying to do something different, but ultimately this is badly executed. David Phelan

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