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Sega Bass Fishing

Sega Bass Fishing

Dreamcast **** Think of fishing and doubtless you'll conjure a mental picture of figures in wet-weather gear hunched over on river banks like clusters of outsized mushrooms. Think again. Sega Bass Fishing removes this solitary pursuit from the dank banks and relocates it in the sitting-room - complete with virtual fishing rod.

Yes, I know that it does sound completely ludicrous - next thing to be developed will probably be virtual watching paint dry. But let me disabuse you of this notion: Sega Bass Fishing offers the instant gratification not available when you're attempting to land a real fish, and indeed has actually managed to inject a little excitement into a pastime that is not traditionally associated with adrenaline.

True, there are no intellectual gymnastics involved: instead of wondering - as the hours pass slowly - whether you'll ever get a nibble, you have to reel in as many of these slippery rascals as you can in about 10 minutes. But the visceral appeal of reeling in a hefty bass as it thrashes around on the end of your virtual line should not be underestimated.

The graphics, as we have come to expect from Dreamcast, are staggeringly impressive, even if it is a little disturbing watching the death throes of the fish as they are hauled to their peril. Equally, the jerks and rumbles of the fishing rod as you lure your fish and then reel it in make for a piscatorial extravaganza. (Sega, £39.99)




**** There is something immensely appealing about boat-racing games - I think it's probably the innate 007 factor. This game certainly works on the Bond level, with its intricately detailed courses which will zip you through Venice, a flooded New York and around a spiralling viaduct in Greece. This game particularly distinguishes itself by the impressive detail and imaginative graphics that define each race-track.

As you master each level, more difficult and exotic courses are opened up. It's relatively easy to be victorious on the first few courses but the harder courses lie in wait to surprise you. As you progress through the levels you will come across denizens of the waterways: police patrol boats, and steam-liners, depending on where in the world you are. These, of course, can be blown out of your path if necessary.

Hydrothunder is a fast and furious racer that doesn't take itself terribly seriously, which is always a pleasant surprise.

(Midway Games, £39.99)


Midnight in Vegas

PlayStation ** This casino simulation game lays claim to being the definitive Las Vegas experience and a true-to-life casino simulation. It's an ambitious claim and one that it fails to fulfil. The greater part of the enjoyment to be found in visiting a casino is the louche and smoky or glamorous and ritzy atmosphere in which you lose your money. Unfortunately, this game is bereft of any atmosphere whatsoever. At least the money you're losing isn't your own.

This particular casino experience allows the potential gambler a spin on the roulette wheel and a turn on the slotties. You can play a few hands of baccarat or blackjack and maybe venture a glance at the baffling range of different poker games. The whole experience is reminiscent of the solitaire and minesweep games to be found on Windows with the same mesmeric, simplistic appeal, but it's an embarrassing waste of the PlayStation's 32-bit capabilities. It's really a very flat and empty gaming experience.

(3DO, £29.99)


Ridge Racer 64

N64 *** The Nintendo owner who is after one of those serious "high-octane" racers - one without the novelty of Hydrothunder or the fun of the cartoon racers - has long been disappointed. Yet sigh no more, for Nintendo has just released its own version of that PSX classic Ridge Racer. It's the same idea: race against the computer-generated cars for trophies or yet more cars. And it's not bad.

Admittedly, if it's realism you're after, this won't necessarily satisfy as the graphics are verging on the cartoonish and the car manoeuvrability is exaggerated. But it is extremely fast, and, as a bonus, RR64 has a four-player game with options to race individually or as a team which wasn't available on the PlayStation version.

It's a shame that there aren't more courses to the game: effectively there are only three, which means that the expert will have exhausted all the game has to offer before too long. But for fast-paced racing this will satisfy even the hardest-hearted critic for a while.

(Nintendo, £44.99)