Game Zone: Lifeline, Jet Li, Pitfall

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
March 5, 2004

JET LI: RISE TO HONOR (Sony Computer Entertainment, T for violence, PlayStation 2)

The graphics are great and the fighting can be thrilling. But overall, this game doesn’t realize its potential and is too repetitive to be a truly fun game. There are times when you would just like to fight the dude who’s attacking, but you really can’t effectively battle until you do what you’re supposed to do first. For instance, I had no idea I was supposed to throw the guy over the wall, rather than into it. Also, you know how films are full of fight scenes where a gang surrounds the hero, but only fights him one at a time, which gives him plenty of time to whoop all their butts? It’d be nice to get the opportunity to fight them together and see who the real master is. (Rated T for violence) — Jae-Ha Kim

PITFALL: THE LOST EXPEDITION (Activision; E for mild suggestive themes and violence, PlayStation 2; $39.99) The original “Pitfall” for the Atari 2600 was a classic game. In terms of the bastardization of fond childhood memories goes, Activision’s attempt to bring its Pitfall Harry character into the 21st Century falls somewhere between “The Grinch” and “Scooby Doo.” It’s a decent platform game with solid controls and kid-friendly graphics, but like “Grinch” and “Scooby,” the heart and look of the original source material seems garishly blown-up. — Misha Davenport 

LIFELINE (Konami, Rated M for blood and violence, PS2)

Set 25 years from now, “Lifeline” begins with the opening reception for the first space station hotel. Before dignitaries and the press can raise a glass in toast, the Christmas Eve celebration quickly turns into a bloodbath as alien creatures forego the buffet line and cash bar to make dinner of the invited guests. Separated from your girlfriend Naomi, you wake up to find yourself locked in a control room and the monitors are focused on a locked holding cell where Rio — a blonde cocktail waitress from the party calls out on her headset to you — her lifeline. In addition to your controller, “Lifeline” utilizes the USB microphone headset (I played the game with both the “SOCOM” headset and the “Karaoke Revolution” one — either works). Incorporating the headset into the game could have easily come off as a mere gimmick, but thanks to the superb plot, it’s intricate to the storyline and makes sense. Voiced by Kristin MIller ( D.D Cummings on the syndicated show “She Spies”), Rio is clearly more than just a cocktail waitress and her true identity is revealed throughout the game. For reasons that are explained later, Rio needs your help to find a reporter and you need Rio to find Naomi and spring you from the locked control room. On your part, you’ll utilize the headset to feed Rio commands. She recognizes over 5,000 words and 100,000 phrases, but you’ll probably find yourself using “run,” “shoot” and dodge” the most as you guide her through this science fiction/horror survival game. Of course, your success is tied heavily into your ability to enunciate clearly at all times. Not exactly easy when four or five creatures have cornered poor Rio and you get caught up in the moment and shout unintelligible commands. It’s also a bit frustrating getting her to investigate something when you can’t tell what the object is (“Thing? What thing? What are you talking about?”). Still, it’s a particularly satisfying experience overall. You actually do start caring about Rio as a character and oddly enough, though it’s a one player game, by the game’s end, it feels like you’ve played as part of a team. — Misha Davenport

What’s your game…Richard Marx?

“You’ll laugh because it’s an older game on an older platform, but one of my favorite games is F-Zero X for Nintendo 64. I am the reigning household champ at that game. My oldest son has pointed out that I’m the reigning champ because I won’t play him again, which is true. How would I be able to stay the champ otherwise? My kids are very good. They can beat me at Tekken 4 for PlayStation 2, but I really love that game anyhow. Another really great one for PS2 is NBA Street where you get to pick teams and play pickup games in all these cool settings. I’m pretty good at it, which is about the only way I can win at basketball.” –Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Richard Marx

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