There is a lot of gratuitous violence on our screens these days, be it on the TV, cinema, or now, more than ever, on the monitor.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the manual for Duke Nukem 3D from US Gold. Sure, the plot is mind-numbingly monotonous, with everything that moves being a potential target. But there is a parental control option that cuts out some of the adult content. I would not feel particularly enthusiastic to let my three-year-old godson play the game - although that is more to do with the fact that he would be bored within 10 minutes.

Duke Nukem has little in the way of innovative gameplay. Once you have frozen the mutant morons with your freeze thrower (and proceeded to kick the frozen subject to bits), there is little to look forward to. The game can be networked so several players can compete with one another - one of the few saving graces. Of course, there is the odd thrilling moment when you run into a corner and discover you have found a secret area, but other than that, Duke proved little more than an upgrade to the ubiquitous Doom.

Duke Nukem, pounds 35-pounds 40, depending on where you buy. Distributed by US Gold, 0121 625 3366.

If you want to be scared out of your pants, try Abuse from Origin.

Your name is Nick Vrenna and you have been wrongly incarcerated in a particularly nasty hospital where a doctor has found the gene that makes people aggressive and psychotic. Something goes wrong, and everyone in the hospital turns into an Alien-type creature desperately trying to hug your face.

Escape is the goal in this game - but you must also stop the world's water supply becoming contaminated by the Abuse gene.

OK, so the plot needs work, but the atmosphere of this fairly standard platform is excellent. If you have a decent set of speakers or headphones, turn up the sound and get drawn into a spooky world that will thrill Ridley Scott fans.

Once the mutants give chase, they make a sickening scream that sounds like one of Scott's Aliens. Just to make you feel bad there is even a pounding heart that throbs in the background when you are feeling low.

Abuse makes good use of simple graphics and tends to leave a lot to the imagination - in other words it is set in the dark with a lot of noises goading you just that bit further until you come face to face with the enemy.

Like Nukem, Abuse can be networked to play with many players.

Abuse, pounds 39.99. Distributed by Electronic Arts, 01753 549442.

Unfortunately, neither atmosphere nor ease of use come top of the list in Friendware's Speed Haste. From the box, as in Duke Nukem, you expect to be riveted to a stunning feast in gameplay.

What you get is a dodgy car, poor sound and a configuration routine from hell.

The game is set around either a Formula 1 championship or a stock car race, with a choice of either manual or automatic cars. The graphics are good, and to start off with things look promising. It is only when you begin to drive the car that problems start.

Control of the cars is terrible. No sooner have you gained speed and lead the pack than a corner comes up and the machine just cannot decelerate fast enough. Steering, either with a joystick or a keypad, is awkward and unresponsive, and the appalling sound adds misery to an already disappointing game.

Speed Haste is based on the race games that are very popular in arcades. Grown men race against one another in static boxes while throwing victorious grins at their embarrassed girlfriends.

Speed Haste mimics that same sad scenario by allowing two players to race simultaneously, but only via a split screen, which makes the game almost impossible to play.

Speed Haste, pounds 44.99. Distributed by Electronic Arts, 01753 549442.

For those who enjoy a chuckle, TNN's Bass Tournament will keep you amused for months.

This gem of a game sets you up as a world-class bass fishing champion under the watchful eye of your host and adviser, Mr Fish Fishbourne, who offers advice and tips through full motion video on how best to locate and catch the bass.

This is the first fishing game I have seen and it had me in hysterics as Mr Fishbourne does his best to keep a straight face while instructing you on the best lures to use.

To cast, you hold down the right mouse button and let go when you have achieved the desired power to reach your spot.

Once the lure hits the target, you get an overhead view of it swimming through the water.

Now I have never seen a fish swimming after one of my minnows, but in Bass Tournament, not only do you see the minnow but you see the take as well!

Lure in mouth, the battle begins with the fish struggling to stay out of your virtual net.

If you pull too hard, the line will snap and you will have to set up your tackle again. The trick, as every fisherman knows, is to keep the drag just enough to wear the fish down, but not enough to damage your line.

There is real skill in this game!

Bass Tournament 96, pounds 44.99. Distributed by Electronic Arts, 01753 549442.

Comments