Game Zone: Mario Pinball Land, Law & Order: Justice is Served, X_Men Legends

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
October 15, 2004

MARIO PINBALL LAND (Nintendo; E for comic mischief; Game Boy Advance)

Mario the plumber has been everything from kart racer to champion golfer. As a pinball, I wouldn’t recommend he quit his day job. The plot is standard Mario fare. The princess is kidnapped. Mario has to collect coins, stars and keys to free her –only this time as a pinball. Would it kill Nintendo to add just a hint of authentic pinball action in their pinball games? “Mario Pinball Land” not only suffers from the inability to tilt, as seen in last year’s “Pokemon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire,” it’s missing the ability to bump the table entirely. Don’t even get me started on the absence of ramps or rails. Without these pinball standards, the game falls flat. –Misha Davenport

LAW & ORDER: JUSTICE IS SERVED (Legacy Interactive; T for Teen; PC)

Doing Dong! Unless you haven’t watched TV in the last few years, you’re probably familiar with the foreboding two-note intro that starts every episode of “Law & Order” and its spin-offs. The latest in the “Law & Order” PC game franchise takes you into the world of an Anna Kournikova-ish tennis star who is found dead the day before she’s supposed to play at a big tournament. Was she killed by an ex-lover? An angry coach? One of her fans? Just as on the TV show, you’ll be thrown a few curves. The game features the voices of the actors who portray the characters on the TV series. Some of them are even better in the game than on TV. While Elisabeth Rohm comes across as one-dimensional on the show as attorney Serena Southerlyn, her stiffness works surprisingly well in a video game. –Jae-Ha Kim 

X-MEN LEGENDS (Activision; T for blood and violence; XBox)

Marvel’s X-Men comic books, from titles like Uncanny X-Men and Ultimate X-Men that chronicle the team of superhero mutants’ adventures, to books like Wolverine and Emma Frost, detailing individual characters’ heroics, are one heck of a popular and profitable publishing franchise. The first two films based on the characters were also box office success stories. Things haven’t been as rosy in the video game world for Team X, however. With a few exceptions, “X-Men” games have been ho-hum (“Wolverine’s Revenge”) or just plain horrible (“Children of Atom”). But this X-Men game is X-traordinary. Activision has crafted a game that fans of both film and comics will love. The game’s biggest asset is its plot, written by a quartet of writers called Man of Action (Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey and Steven T. Seagle), who have all worked on various X-Men comic books over the years. Bad-mutant Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants are seeking to either enslave or destroy the non-mutant world, and it’s up to the X-Men to stop them. Man of Action’s familiarity with characters and previous story lines means fans will chuckle as they discover bits of history sprinkled through the game. This role-playing game is also accessible for those unfamiliar with the world of the X-Men, too. Playing alone or with up to three of your friends, you control a team of four superheroes from a roster of fan favorites including Wolverine, Rogue and Storm. Because skills vary, deciding which characters to use requires strategy if you’re going to defeat bad guys like Toad and Mystique. It also helps that your team gains experience points with every foe you defeat.  Of course, one of the most welcome additions to multiplayer is the ability to join or leave a game at any time. Playing with a buddy and have to take a bathroom break? No problem. Just activate the AI to control things while you’re gone. It means that you won’t have to break up the action until everyone’s ready to call it quits. Also available for GameCube and PlayStation 2. –Misha Davenport

 

 

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