Game Reviews

Has Lara Croft finally met her match?
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The Independent Online

Urban ChaosPlayStation****STAND ASIDE, Ms Croft. The infinitely feistier and more exotically named D'arci Stern has arrived on the PlayStation. She may wear more clothes than dear Lara, but this cheeky cop is a meaner fighter and can even hang- glide.

Urban ChaosPlayStation****STAND ASIDE, Ms Croft. The infinitely feistier and more exotically named D'arci Stern has arrived on the PlayStation. She may wear more clothes than dear Lara, but this cheeky cop is a meaner fighter and can even hang- glide.

D'arci Stern is the star of this impressive Mucky Foot production which combines the hand-to-hand combat of a beat-'em-up with the action of a third-person platform game. It is her mission to return order to a town relinquishing itself to gang-rule and cult lore.

To do this, Stern has to complete assignments around the city. No assignment, however, is as clearly defined as it seems. Distractions loom as you explore dark corners of the city. The level of freedom in the gameplay means that you're perfectly able to ignore orders and interact with the denizens of this gloomy world.

Although the controls are unwieldy at first, before too long you'll have Stern interviewing prostitutes, hotwiring motorbikes and wrestling with bad guys. Black humour abounds as this irreverent cop and, later, a mysterious sidekick, patrol the bleak city. So I recommend you ditch posh Lara in favour of the more cynical D'arci.

( Eidos Interactive, £39.99, out now)

Jimmy White's 2: CueballPlayStation****IF YOU enjoy watching snooker on the telly, this complicated game developed by Awesome will appeal as its action is about as pacy - although the atmosphere less smoky. The concept is straightforward: choose to play a game of either snooker or pool against a second player or against one of the computer's skilled opponent.

Playing a game, however, is not just a question of putting down your pint and picking up the cue. It takes some time to master the complicated angles, trajectory and spin required to pot your first blasted ball. It's not what you'd call a pick-up and play game. However, if you have the dedication to stick with it and learn to juggle a multitude of buttons needed to line up and take the shot, this game has a similar appeal to a traditional golfing one.

The graphics tend to be sketchy and the jukebox, darts and one-arm bandits are examples of superfluous gimmickry. But wielding the cue for long enough will lead to quite an addictive combination of frustration and satisfaction.

(Virgin Interactive, £29.99, from 31 March)

Pokemon PinballGameboy Color****POKeMON, AS if you didn't already know, are those fiendish mini-monsters from Japan slowly insinuating their way into our lives via the Gameboy and playground. Not content with a game of their own, they are now using more traditional games to strengthen their grip. Cleverly, it is the pinball aspect of this game, patently aimed at the avid Pokeman fan, that gives it an appeal which reaches beyond just those who want to catch 'em all.

The basic premise, as with the original Pokemon game, is to catch and evolve all 150 of the little monsters to fill your pokedex. The fact that to do this you need to be something of a pinball wizard is what will initially attract the Pokemon virgin. That and the fact that the game comes with its own mini-rumblepak, which judders pleasingly as you use the flippers. Gameplay is effortless; you'll be hard-pushed to put it down again.

(Nintendo, available as import from www.cex.co.uk)

Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6N64****TOM CLANCY, writer of those detail-ridden, intricately tooled thriller novels which fill certain shelves and most cinemas, has turned his attention to the smaller screen with this N64 game. In Clancy's virtual world the player must assume the role and flack-jacket of a counter-terrorist commando and liberate political prisoners from fiendish militias.

This is not an easy task. The temptation is, of course, to run in guns blazing, but this is not your average a shoot-'em-up; action takes second place to precision planning. So instead you must plan your offensive, equip your men, and synchronise watches before you can approach the target - with caution - and spill some claret.

Serious tactical deliberation is vital to success with this game. But the fanatical level of detail involved in the planning means that only the truly committed strategy or Clancy fan will appreciate the depths of this tricky game.

( Take2 Interactive, £44.99, out now)

s.chatterton@independent.co.uk

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