Games: Computer games

Sex, violence and a good deal of fun. William Hartston reviews computer games

Around 30 years ago, a plastic box with some electronics inside appeared in the shops. You could plug it into your television set to produce an image of a white dot blipping from side to side on the screen. A controlling knob enabled you to slide a white line to and fro and try to get it to meet the dot before it rushed past. This was tennis for couch potatoes, and we loved it. Then came Space Invaders, when crudely shaped aliens twitched their way inexorably down the screen as we tried to shoot them down. We loved that too, but this was only the start of a new era in the history of games.

As computers became faster, the games became ever more complex. The advent of CD-Rom drives and multimedia systems has let them take the last giant step for gamekind - to a land of sex, violence and creative ingenuity now available at a budget price in the new "Premier Collection" range from Eidos, which has disastrously interfered with my sleeping and working schedule in the past week..

On the boxes of such games, it has become conventional to rate the games according to their suitability for different age groups, whether they are one-player or two-player, DOS or Windows, and joystick or mouse. What they need as well is a rating for sex, violence and anorak thickness.

Championship Manager 2 is a no-sex, low violence, high-anorak game for football fanatics. If your idea of a nice evening at home is to spend your time picking football teams ("including season 96/97 updates, English, Scottish and Italian Leagues"), buy and sell players, and conduct fantasy matches, then this is the game for you. I did not get as far as a game of football, because I found the business of team selection and transfers so tedious. To judge, however, from the number of people who were stomping through Highbury last Saturday chanting "Ar-se-nor-orl, two ni-il", there are people who might enjoy this sort of thing.

I suppose much the same applies to Links LS the computer golf game (Alt- S for a straight swing, Alt-D to hook the ball slightly to the left, and Alt-F to slice the ball to the right are among the options). Unfortunately this required more RAM than my feeble machine could offer. That's a good thing to check before buying anything of this type.

For real computer gamers, who don't want just to pretend they are playing golf or football, there is a wide choice. Try Under a Killing Moon (sex and violence moderate, anorak small) if you fancy your skills as a private detective. You can talk to the characters, offer bribes to them, and get killed by them if you're unlucky. I found it difficult to get the hang of the instructions. Over-complexity is always a potential problem in such games.

Duke Nukem (alien sex high, violence very high, blood and gore terrifying) is the adults-only version of other shoot-'em-up games. You control the good guy in a post-apocalyptic alien invasion scenario; and if you can work out where your spare ammo and health packs are lurking, then survive the attacks on you by any number of disgusting-looking aliens, it's a lot of fun for anyone with latent psychopathic tendencies. I enjoyed it, anyway.

Finally, there is Tomb Raider (original game plus four extra levels of "Unfinished Business"). For anyone who has not sampled the delights of the heroine Lara Croft, or heard her delicious grunts as she climbs obstacles or gets bitten by wolves, this will come as a revelation. Utterly addictive and beautifully designed, with problems to be solved at every stage that are just difficult enough to challenge without being too frustrating, Tomb Raider (high sex, high violence, anorak optional) is quite simply the best game there has ever been in the entire world - until the next one comes along.

All games mentioned in the Eidos Premier Collection pounds 12.99 each, except Tomb Raider pounds 14.99.

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