Games: Surfing H30; Spawn; Ms Pac Man's Maze Madness

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The Independent Online

'Unfortunately, it fails to deliver on every single level'

Surfing H30 PlayStation 2 * A stream of exceedingly average PS2 games has been released since the console launched in a blaze of bad publicity last year. This one in no way helps to staunch the flow of stinkers.

It's a surfing game - hardly the easiest sport in the world to replicate in a video game, as is evidenced by the quality of gameplay. You are a surf dude - oh yes, you are - and the game puts your finger-surfing skills to the test over six levels.

Each course requires you to accumulate a certain number of points before you can progress to the next. Points are obtained by catching tubes, performing tricks and collecting markers. It all sounds rather straight-forward. The immediate problem, though, is with control. It is all but impossible to steer your surfer. Catastrophic wipeout after wipeout left me wanting to put my board and console away. I found out later that you can buy a plastic surfboard to fit over the top of the controller that helps with wave-riding, but by then it was a little too late.

Even when you get your surfer to his feet, the action fails to kick off - your dude doesn't accelerate and catching a Tube is as dull as it is in London. Rubbish gameplay is backed up by pitiful graphics - the Dreamcast does better - and disturbing attempts at surf speak.

Expectations were high for this game in the wake of SSX and the hugely successful Tony Hawks series. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver on every single level. Don't buy it. (Take2games, £39.99)

Spawn Dreamcast ** There was a sad inevitability to Sega's announcement that it intends to drop the Dreamcast in March. Once plans for the new-generation consoles were announced, the countdown to shrug-off started. But imaginative, fun and off-beat games were still produced for the plucky console during the run-up to PS2 launch.

This latest offering from Eidos, however, is none of the above. It's a licensed beat-'em-up of the type continually turning up for the PSX: unimaginative, repetitive and familiar - think Blade, X-Men, The Mummy. Following on from the film, the arcade and PSX game, Todd McFarlane's comic book series has now spawned a Dreamcast version which does little to emulate the originality of its paper ancestor. Instead, it attempts to emulate the originality of Capcom's last brilliant beat-'em-up. Spawn is a poor-man's version of Powerstone - which was, in turn, a colourful, madcap fighting game brimming with energy and new ideas.

Spawn may look quite good, but scratch the surface of the game and you find a limp, joyless and shallow charge through the hell pit. Resist this lifeless spawn of something that was once rather good. (Eidos, £39.99)

Ms Pac Man's Maze Madness PlayStation **** Before Lara Croft came the unlikely - and more rotund - figure of Ms Pac Man blazing a trail for female characters in computer games.

Unlike Ms Croft, Ms Pac Man was only distinguishable from her male counterpart by the addition of a very fetching pink ribbon. Nevertheless, she arguably played a key role in the pixillation of ladies for computer games.

Apart from the ribbon, the original Ms Pac Man was no different from the original dot-eater. She chased around a variety of mazes, eating dots and escaping from monsters. Things have changed in the 20 or so years since Mr and Ms Pac Man were around. It takes the classic 2D gameplay - eat the dots, escape the monsters - and jazzes it up with 3D visuals and a variety of puzzles located around the mazes.

The original Pac Man was inexplicably addictive, and this latest version is even more so. Often you can't improve on a classic formula, but Pac Lady has certainly benefited from this updating.

The graphics are sharp and the puzzles are grippingly tricky - both elements help alleviate the occasional monotony of the original game.

This is definitely worth a play. And not just because it is now just so cool to be retro. (Namco, £34.99)

s.chatterton@independent.co.uk

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