PlayStation *** This is yet another undead, zombie-filled caper where you play the part of hero from beyond the grave. This time, however, there's a slight difference; the game has a sense of humour.
In the original MediEvil, the skeletal hero of the piece, Sir Daniel Fortesque, was woken from a distinctly chilly grave after 500 years of death in order to defeat an evil lord and destroy a dastardly spellbook. Now fast-forward 500 years to 19th-century London. It would appear that not all the pages of said dastardly tome were destroyed and so the skeleton is called upon from the grave (again) to defeat another fiendish lord who is after the lost pages to satisfy his own evil ends.
It's down to Dan to recover those pages by travelling round a filthy, festering, squalid London eviscerating zombies and razing baddies. He does this in some impressively imaginative ways with some very silly guns, but from the start, they're tricky to fell.
The game and the characters look great in a Tim Burton, grotesque fashion. And you can only wonder at the goulishness of the warped imaginations which lie behind the puzzles, assignments and baddies. The game is camp, dark, compelling even: welcome respite from zombie-fests which sometimes take themselves a little too seriously.
Dreamcast **** Forget puzzles and intellectual gymnastics. If you're after some high-speed, gung-ho blasting action, look no further than this Dreamcast offering which can't decide whether it's a shoot-'em-up, a strategy or a racing game.
Aliens have landed on earth and aren't behaving, so a combat vehicle, the eponymous "Red Dog", has been drafted in to shoot some sense into them. You are the driver of the Banana Split buggy which, equipped with some awfully big guns, ploughs its way through 15 missions. The missions actually involve precious little more than careering around some rather nicely rendered caverns, bases and cities, shooting anything that so much as twitches.
Tired of the overlong levels and bosses that refuse to be defeated? Switch to the enjoyable chaos of four-person multiplayer and crush each other. It's pacey, it's loud, the driving is effortless and the mindless destruction is disturbingly satisfying.
Wario Land 3
Gameboy titles can often prove disappointing. They might be too fiddly, badly designed or just implausibly difficult; they range from the teeth-grittingly frustrating to the mind-numbingly boring. This game is none of the above.
Bad boy Wario is back - again - and has been imprisoned inside a miniature music box. To escape his tuneful prison our man has to collect the requisite number of keys and music boxes from a variety of 2D locations.
The game isn't just a matter of avoiding the bad guys in order to collect a key at the end of a level, though. In Wario Land 3 all your enemies have different powers and and can transform Mr W, accordingly, into Ball o String Wario or the enormous Who ate all the Pies Wario or the bloodsucking Vampire Wario.
The game isn't overly fiddly, nor has Nintendo tried to do anything too complicated with the graphics, so the game is well suited to the Gameboy's somewhat limited capabilities. If you can't leave your gaming at home, buy it.
Soldier of Fortune
PC ** This nasty first-person shoot-'em-up takes authenticity a little too far. You play John Mullins, consultant mercenary who takes on particularly messy jobs for the US government. Your general objective is to locate and track four stolen warheads across five continents and 26 levels of play. There is little puzzle-solving involved: this is really a blaster game which requires effective strategic planning in order to avoid tracking helicopters and sniper fire to take out the villains. It's in blasting these characters that the ultra-realism kicks in: shoot them in the belly and entrails will tumble into a slimy, steaming heap on the floor; as for the crotch shots, give me sanitised Nintendo violence and denial any day Happily, you can toggle the gore on and off. With this done, the game becomes reminiscent of all those double-barrelled action movies, and it's that cinematic feel to Soldier of Fortune which keeps the tension taut and the gameplay compelling.