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FEATURE Up for a game?

FEATURE Up for a game?

Games, games everywhere but which one should you stock? The lucrative games market is as fickle as the pimply games geeks that command it. Aside from Quake and Tomb Raider II, no game is a surefire bet for good sales. So resellers, which games should you choose? To help make the task a little easier ARN invited some of Australia's leading games vendors and distributors to submit their biggest and best selling games, as well as their latest releases. The list below should put you on the right track in your pursuit to win the business (not to mention the respect) of the gangly games geeks. By Fiona Carroll and Michael BadhamName: Army MenCategory: Action/strategyPlatform: Windows 95Price: $79.95Publisher: Studio 3DODistributor: Directsoft AustraliaAvailable: Late MayDo you remember the full-length CGI movie Toy Story where all the toys come alive and plastic soldiers run around in military fashion? This game is like that - except your CGI plastic soldiers fight in full-combat conditions.

Players control a character named "Sarge" (yup - as in sergeant) and a troop of six army men through over 30 scenarios, in which spies must be captured, air strikes are called in and sieges on enemy towns are to be carried out.

Special features include animation reflecting what you'd imagine to happen in a plastic war: bazookas that shatter army vehicles and machinery, and tanks that flatten what's left of them, realistic drop shadows and exciting 3D terrain.

Name: Battlezone

Category: War action/strategy

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $89.95

Publisher: Activision

Distributor: Activision

Available: Now

Back in 1980, Battlezone was the first 3D game to be released into the games market. This year Activision has released a next-generation Battlezone, a game it says is "the first truly immersive, first-person, action-strategy game where you control your troops from the battlefield".

Battlezone puts players in the hot seat as troop commanders responsible for over 30 army units. This calls for control of infantry, tanks and mobile assault turrets.

Players can select from as many as 25 weapons, including mines and mortars, and change vehicles on the battlefield on the fly.

Battlezone uses a speedy software-rendering engine and supports both D3D and 3Dfx.

Name: Beast Wars

category: Arcade-style "shoot-em-up"

Platform: Windows 95; Sony PlayStation

Price: $79.95 (Windows 95), $89.95 (Sony PlayStation)Publisher: HasbroDistributor: Wolf InteractiveAvailable: NowRemember the Transformer action figures you played with as a kid? You know the ones - cars and dinosaurs that, if unfolded correctly, became humanoid robots. Trust me, it was trés cool when I was 10. Beast Wars re-creates these figures from your youth, and brings them to life. Players can choose to play the evil Predacons whose aim is to control the universe, or the Maximals who strive for intergalactic peace.

Beast Wars offers real-time gameplay, and "cutting-edge artificial intelligence". Players have as many as 24 missions and 10 different characters to choose between.

LAN and modem-to-modem gaming is supported.

Name: Black Dahlia: An Occult Murder MysteryCategory: MysteryPlatform: Windows 95Price: $89.95 RRPPublisher: Take 2 Interactive SoftwareDistributor: Directsoft AustraliaAvailable: NowJames Ellroy and Kenneth Anger both wrote about her. Countless movies and documentaries have been made about her. And now she's been immortalised on CD-ROM.

Black Dahlia is based on the real-life, unsolved murder of US actress Elizabeth Short. Short was nicknamed the "Black Dahlia" after her death. Players are taken back to the year 1941 to play the role of Jim Pearson, a young government agent who is investigating the murder of the Black Dahlia by a serial killer nicknamed the "torso slayer". Pearson tracks the killer through a world of deceit and death, spanning 60 locations including pre-war Cleveland, war-torn Europe and Los Angeles. Seventy-five interactive puzzles and a star-studded cast that includes Dennis "I put the bomb on the bus" Hopper and Teri Garr, have been woven into this game of murder and intrigue.

Black Dahlia publisher Take 2 Interactive Software has created a Web site specifically for the game at www.bdahlia.com. Here gamers will find Black Dahlia-related contests and prizes along with live chat rooms and product information.

Name: Command and Conquer: Red Alert

Category: Real-time strategy

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $89.95 RRP

Publisher: Virgin Interactive

Distributor: Digital Leisure

Available: Now

Virgin Interactive has announced that its best-selling game of 1997, Red Alert, now comes bundled with a Soviet or Allied PC mouse free of cost.

Red Alert has so far sold over two million copies worldwide.

In this real-time game of strategy, the gamer is a general in a war between the Allied Forces and the Soviet Army. From the hot seat, players must decide when and how to attack and deploy forces.

Name: CoolBoarders 2

Category: Sport

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Price: $69.95 RRP

Publisher: UEP Systems

Distributor: Sony Computer EntertainmentAvailable: NowPrepare your snowboarding customers to cut some fresh tracks in the snow because Sony Computer Entertainment has announced the release of Cool-Boarders 2, a sequel to last year's popular snowboarding title.

According to Sony Computer Entertain-ment, CoolBoarders 2 features all the stunts from the original game, plus 40 new moves including backside ally oops, caberrial tweak and a 720 nosebone. Gamers can choose their boarder from 10 characters, race down 16 new tracks and customise their own boards. A two-player split screen is also an option, and gamers can choose between season mode, slalom or half pipe.

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia managing director Michael Ephraim says UEP Systems has "researched the sport with professional boarders and hardcore fans of the first game" to come up with an incredibly "playable and fun" game.

Name: Bushido Blade

category: Fighting

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Price: $69.95 RRP

Publisher: Square Company

Distributor: Sony Computer EntertainmentAvailable: NowFrom the developer of the successful Final Fantasy comes Bushido Blade, a new-style fighting game created exclusively for the PlayStation.

Bushido Blade is set in Meikkyokan and incorporates the secret teachings of "Narukagami Shinto" fighting. What's that, I hear you ask? Well, if I told you it wouldn't be secret.

When the character assigned to the player escapes from Kage, an assassin group, he becomes marked for death. From here the player man- oeuvres himself away from the assassins using a blend of physical strength and mental agility.

Gamers select a character from a choice of six, each with varying degrees of strength, weight, speed and lactose intolerance (that last characteristic may be a lie). Eight weapons are available for selection including rapiers, katanas, and short, long and broad swords.

Players can select one of six battle modes: vs or two-player mode, story mode, training mode, POV mode and slash mode.

Name: Dark Reign Expansion: Rise of the Shadowlandcategory: WarPlatform: Windows 95Price: $29.95 RRPPublisher: ActivisionDistributor: ActivisionAvailable: NowOwners of Dark Reign: The Future of War will rejoice with the release of Dark Reign Expansion: Rise of the Shadowland. This "expansion" (that requires a fully-registered version of Dark Reign) brings new features to the game that include 20 new missions, over a dozen new units, and dynamic terrain which allows players to build roads and marshes to slow down the enemy.

Gamers can pit their Dark Reign Expansion: Rise of the Shadowland skills against fellow players across a LAN, modem or via the ActivLink global gaming network.

Name: Entrepreneur

category: Business/corporate warfare

Platform: Windows 95; Windows NT 4.0; OS/2 WarpPrice: $79Ð$89 ESPPublisher: Stardock StrategyDistributor: Frankson Information ManagementAvailable: Now"The most ruthless strategy game ever!"

From multi-platform distributor Frankson Information Management comes Entrepreneur. This isn't a business simulation game, it's a game of corporate strategy where players are thrown into a realistic cutthroat business world and forced (as CEO of their own corporations) to build their companies in a battle for the ultimate goal: to dominate the world!

CEO gamers get to hire and fire people at their leisure, explore and plunder new territory, build within enemy camps, turn government against enemies, and manipulate the minds of consumers into thinking the company's products are the best. All is fair in the battle to make the company number one. Players win the game when their company has achieved a monopolistic status.

Name: Extreme Tactics

category: War

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $49.95 ESP

Publisher: Media Station

Distributor: GT Interactive Software

Available: Now

Extreme Tactics' motto is "Devise, Design, Destroy", and that pretty much sums up this new-release game.

Players are members of a clan that is fighting another clan for possession of the planet's remaining energy source. Both clans hold deadly war machines. It is the task of the gamer to select vehicle design and intelligence, and create a strategy to defeat the opposing clan.

GT Interactive says gamers are offered unlimited "replayability" due to the large number of customisable vehicles available. Other features include the ability to teleport vehicles across the map, recycle ruined war vehicles and use stealth technology to catch enemies unaware.

Extra technology and weaponry may be downloaded from the Extreme Tactics Web site at www. extremetactics.comName: FIFA: Road To World Cup 98category: SportPlatform: Nintendo Game BoyPrice: $49.95 ESPPublisher: THQ Distributor: GT Interactive SoftwareAvailable: NowThis Super Game Boy-compatible World Cup soccer title features improved graphics and team stats together with an improved pitch.

The game incorporates some of the world's leading international soccer teams into an authentic World Cup layout. GT Interactive Software says offensive-play features have been enhanced to provide better ball handling.

Name: Gex 3D - Enter The Gecko

category: Action/adventure

Platform: Windows 95; Sony PlayStation

Price: $49.95 ESP (Windows 95), $79.95 ESP (Sony PlayStation)Publisher: Crystal DynamicsDistributor: GT Interactive SoftwareAvailable: NowGex is a wily super-slick, tv-addicted gecko who has been recruited by secret government agents to prevent the evil Rez from taking over the country's tv broadcasts.

The setting for the drama is the dimensions of the media - each level has been designed as a parody of both cable channels and popular movies.

In all the very tongue-in-cheek Gex 3D features nine settings, each with a different theme, including a horror room, Jurassic Park, Space War, Toon Town and more.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of Gex 3D's gameplay is the 360 degree free-roaming movement that Gex is capable of: he can walk up walls using his suction-cup paws and explode 3D environments with his whip-cracking tail.

UK comedian Leslie Phillips of Carry On fame provides the voice of the wise-cracking Gex, contributing as many as 500 one-liners and celebrity impressions.

Game speed is maintained at 30fps.

Nintendo 64 and Windows 95 CD-ROM versions of Gex 3D - Enter The Gecko will be available later in the year.

Name: Gran Turismo

category: Racing

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Price: $79.95 RRP

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Distributor: Sony Computer EntertainmentAvailable: NowAn enhanced version of the ultra-successful racing game released in Japan last year, Gran Turismo debuted in Australia earlier this month with a 25 per cent speed increase, new viewing perspective and additional racing cars.

In all, Gran Turismo offers racers more than 250 customisable cars to choose from (including the Aston Martin DBE, a Chrysler Viper and a Chevrolet Corvette).

Sony Computer Entertainment says the game incorporates "groundbreaking 3D graphics", a high-res/high-frames per second mode, and two playing modes: the simulation-based Gran Turismo mode and the Quick Arcade Mode.

Name: Jurassic Park: The Lost World

category: Adventure

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy

Price: $49.95

Publisher: THQ

Distributor: GT Interactive Software

Available: Now

From GT Interactive comes Jurassic Park: The Lost World, a new Game Boy title that features three missions set at 14 levels of difficulty.

Players can select from four human characters and eight different weapons to fight 13 dinosaurs that include Raptor and T-Rex.

GT Interactive says Jurassic Park: The Lost World boasts digitised cut screens from the movie, which enhances gameplay.

Name: Kneedeep in Swamp Stuff

category: Children's entertainment

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $39.95 RRP

Publisher: David Ellsworth Organisation

Distributor: Manaccom

Available: Now

This latest release is an exciting new children's multimedia activity/games package based on the colourful cartoon characters that inhabit Gary Clark's Swamp comic strip, Kneedeep in Swamp Stuff.

This innovative games CD-ROM includes all the Swamp favourites, with Ding Duck offering his own zany version of snakes and ladders.

Name: Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

category: A.L.I.V.E./real-time action

Platform: Windows 95; Sony PlayStation

Price: $89.95 RRP (Windows 95); $99.95 RRP (Sony PlayStation)Publisher: GT Interactive SoftwareDistributor: GT Interactive SoftwareAvailable: NowReleased last year, the quirky Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee continues to be a dominating force in games sales.

From within a very new game genre, A.L.I.V.E. (Aware Life Forms In Virtual Entertainment), comes Abe, a virtual oddity and slave labourer born and raised in the RuptureFarms meat processing factory. It's Abe's misfortune to not only reside at the factory, but to be a member of the species the processing plant likes to mince. Now Abe is no ordinary character. Not only does he have a range of emotions he is capable of displaying, he also boasts the very unique ability to possess his "farts" and use them to wreak havoc.

Charming.

As Abe, gamers must fight the employees of RuptureFarms to escape death, which is no easy feat!

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee boasts two quite revolutionary features: "GameSpeak", which enables the creatures of Oddworld to communicate with each other in real time; and "Qarma", a response monitor that reacts to the ethics of all decisions made by players during a game.

Other features include an infinite lives option, non-linear gameplay and living weaponry.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is online at www.oddworld.comName: Resident Evil 2category: HorrorPlatform: Sony PlayStationPrice: $99.95 RRPPublisher: Virgin InteractiveDistributor: Digital LeisureAvailable: NowThe setting for Resident Evil 2 is the once peaceful US community of Raccoon City, where tranquillity has been turned into devastation by a biological warfare research company, The Umbrella Corporation. From the corporation's experiments was born a deadly virus called the G-Virus, which has turned the city into a land of flesh-eating zombies and mutant beasts.

Two disks are bundled with Resident Evil 2: one that places players in the role of Claire Redfield and the other as Leon Walker. Both are police officers fighting to destroy the deadly virus and restore peace to the city (both make for particularly tasty Zombie treats). The combination of mystery and action with blood-curdling sound effects and brilliantly realistic graphics makes this a must-have PlayStation game.

Virgin Interactive's marketing manager, Karen-lee Goody, says: "There's blood, guts, gore, suspense, and it's a simply terrifying experience playing the game. It is not for the faint-hearted."

Resident Evil sold over 4 million copies worldwide and Resident Evil 2, according to Virgin Interactive, looks set to give it a run for its money.

Name: The L.E.D. WARS

category: Real-time strategy

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $39.95 RRP

Publisher: Larian Studios

Distributor: Manaccom

Available: Now

The L.E.D. WARS is a no-nonsense DirectX 3 SVGA game developed by Larian Studios. A game created by strategy addicts for strategy addicts, it distinguishes itself by a focus on pure and raw gameplay.

Set in 2018, the L.E.D. WARS tells the story of a world dominated by mighty multinationals who each have their own private army. The player is the commander of such an army and is given a very simple task by his CEO: eliminate the enemy, plunder the conquered territory, and above all, make sure the company makes a profit.

Name: Theme Hospital

category: Strategy

Platform: Sony PlayStation, Windows 95

Price: $79.95 RRP

Publisher: Bullfrog Productions

Distributor: Electronic Arts

Available: Now

The sequel to Bullfrog Productions' Theme Park, Theme Hospital is a great new game that puts players in the role of hospital manager. Deal with potential staff walk-outs, new diseases (including the Bloaty Head syndrome and Slack Tongue) and beware of the Grim Reaper.

Name: Spice World

category: Entertainment

Platform: Sony PlayStation

Price: $39.95 RRP

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Distributor: Sony Computer EntertainmentAvailable: JuneSo now that you own the CDs, the dolls, the movie and the 16-piece dinner setting, what other Spice Girls paraphernalia could you possibly stumble across? How about a PlayStation game? That's right folks, Sony has released a new interactive game that you can bop and dance to, right alongside the famous five.

The interactive game features Spice Girls' hits including Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life, together with never-seen-before footage and interviews. Spice fanatics can also assemble their own Spice Girls tracks from music samples.

And no one could be happier about the release than the spicy girls themselves (wonder why?).

A spokesperson for the gang said: "The girls are very excited about this project. They are big fans of PlayStation, especially Tomb Raider whose heroine, Lara Croft, represents total girl power."

Name: Starcraft

category: Strategy

Platform: Windows 95 and Macintosh

Price: $89.95 RRP

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Distributor: Wolf Interactive

Available: Now

Starcraft is a new real-time game of strategy set in outer space. Gamers have the option of choosing one of three unique alien species - Terran, Protoss or Zerg - to lead a battle for intergalactic domination. Starcraft offers the ability to customise both speech and sound, and build missions and campaigns. Additionally, Gamers can take advantage of free access to fellow Starcraft players across the Net.

Name: The X Files: Unrestricted Access

category: Science fiction

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $49.95 RRP

Publisher: Fox Interactive

Distributor: Electronic Arts Australia

Available: Now

This new CD-ROM is a must for X Files fans. It puts players in pursuit of the truth as they "hack into the top secret X Files' universe". From the extensive files featured, users can investigate the actions of Mulder, Scully, Cancer Man and others, analyse fingerprints and voice patterns, and check new information against older evidence.

The CD-ROM also contains screen savers and background pictures for the true X-phile.

Both audio and video surveillance may be carried out through the use of QuickTime VR, which offers over 200 camera angles providing 360 degree views into Mulder and Scully's offices and apartments. It is included on the CD-ROM.

Name: Total Racing 3 Pack

category: Racing

Platform: Windows 95

Price: $89.95 RRP

Publisher: Europress

Distributor: Q.V. Software Distribution

Available: Now

This is the ultimate game pack for racing freaks. Total Racing 3 Pack from Europress bundles three hit games - International Rally Championship (Europress), Screamer 2 (Virgin Interactive 2) and Need For Speed II (Electronic Arts) - into one low-price gaming kit.

Distributor contacts

Activision

Tel (02) 9869 0955 Fax (02) 9869 0977

Digital Leisure

Tel (02) 9380 4500 Fax (02) 9380 4449

Directsoft

Tel (02) 9482 3455 Fax (02) 9482 3650

Electronic Arts Australia

Tel (02) 9955 7744 Fax (02) 9955 6868

Europress

Tel (02) 9748 4847 Fax (02) 9748 2990

Frankson

Tel (02) 9402 5066 Fax (02) 9402 5007

GT Interactive Software

Tel (02) 9902 3000 Fax (02) 9902 3030

Manaccom

Tel (07) 3870 4900 Fax (07) 3870 9440

Q.V. Software Distribution

Tel (02) 9748 2163 Fax (02) 9748 2990

Sony Computer Entertainment

Tel (02) 9324 9500 Fax (02) 9324 9558

Wolf Interactive

Tel (02) 9417 9600 Fax (02) 9417 9676

Thanks to Apple Computer, which kindly lent ARN a Power Macintosh G3 to test the games submitted for the feature.

Windows 95 games were tested using connectix Virtual PC 2, provided by Firmware Design.

Once a month ARN features a dedicated games section charged with bringing you the very latest developments from the world of cybercool.

Next month we kick off the first in a series of games distributor profiles, where we'll discuss the dos and don'ts of selling games. First up is Manaccom.

To be part of ARN's special distributor series contact Fiona Carroll by phone on (02) 9902 2773, or by e-mail at fiona_carroll@idg.com.au


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