Brainsucking Power

Today, during my morning ritual of sipping coffee and paging through the University of South Alabama Vanguard, I came across an editorial headlined "Even the Brainsucking Power of Video Games Could Not Stop War." In the article, Megan Cary recaps random dude Mikel Reparaz's "Buy Bush a PlayStation 2" campaign from last November. The snarky Reparaz, hoping to provide an alternative to war, raised money to send a PS2 (with controllers for both Bush and Cheney) and a copy of Conflict: Desert Storm to the White House. One need only reread Cary's headline to find out what happened next. As Ibtissam Al-Bassam points out in his Arab News story, "It's Time US Realized Wars Are Not Video Games." Agreed. Hopefully the long-awaited PS3 will bridge the gap!


THE KING OF ROUTE 66
For PS2
Developer AM2
Publisher Sega
Rating 4 (out of 10)

Armed and dangerous: Tao Feng's Jade Dragon flips out.
image: Microsoft Game Studios
Armed and dangerous: Tao Feng's Jade Dragon flips out.

This arcade-inspired smash-'em-up racer starts off slow: Our good-ol'-boy narrator's introductory shtick about "smooth black skin" and the "promise of the American dream" refers not to Miss Illinois—who you get to glimpse, fully clothed, after skillfully piloting your nitro-boosted big rig in the Land of Lincoln—but to the (hee hee) titular Route 66. Romanticizing the trucking lifestyle, where intimacy means five-dollar blowjobs from runaway boys at rest stops, ain't easy. Thank heavens for cowboy clichés. And other banalities: Besides the all-purpose Texas Hawk, the drivers at your disposal include the Afro-sporting, smooth-black-skinned Soul Man, hulking American Indian Iron Bull, kittenish Highway Cat, and solemn Asian Ichiban. Someday, game designers will come up with more original stereotypes.

Not that it matters, once you're rolling on 18. Each character's rig excels in one of three categories; Highway Cat's truck, for instance, weighs less and so goes faster—just as a woman's should. But we're all pink on the inside, and seeing red behind the wheel. Somehow oversimplifying road rage, "Challenge" mode offers such self-explanatory mini-games as "Long Haul Slam" and "Destroy the Cars" (hint: Follow the road to the parking lot). In three beers' time—give the average 10-year-old one can of Mountain Dew—I completed story-mode "The King of Route 66." Here you must defeat evil trucking company Tornado by beating drivers, like the "amigo"-spouting Mexican named Cactus, to drop-off spots by finding shortcuts, jumps, and crashing through buildings and other vehicles. Meanwhile, Texas "Chicken" Hawk doesn't even get to visit any rest stops.


TAO FENG: FIST OF THE LOTUS
For Xbox
Developer Studio Gigante
Publisher Microsoft
Rating 8

These days it seems every game needs unlockable babe pics or lead female characters with big polygons. (Whatever happened to funneling unfulfilled sexual urges into indiscriminate virtual violence?) Martial-arts fighter Tao Feng is no exception—almost half its lineup pees sitting down. But what better way to show off the extravagantly idealized female form than with high kicks and kung fu-style stretches? Watching them pee sitting down would just interrupt the action, which is tremendous: After memorizing combo button sequences (mashing will get you nothing but a sore thumb), you can bust out dozens of moves, launching yourself off walls or swinging from poles, and bashing glass museum cases, wooden beams, and stone floors with your opponents' bloodied, broken-limbed bodies. Maybe they just pee in their pants.

Perhaps appropriately, considering the remarkably fluid rendering of these ladies—clad, by the way, in the style of a high-society street prostitute—Master Sage reminds the guys in pre-fight voice-overs that sexual attraction is a form of "sorcery." This feeds back into the plot. Divine Fist, a police detective in New China, belongs to the Pale Lotus sect, which intends to keep the evil Black Mantis gang from getting this immortality . . . thingy. Anyhoo, wifey Divinity left him and joined Black Mantis when he wouldn't quit the force. Long story short, you get to see them duke it out, reducing each other's ability with "limb damage" and breaking out their devastating "chi attacks" (chi can also be used to heal one's own wounds). Bon Jovi said it: Love is war.


Buy Hussein a PlayStation 2 BusinessWeek.com reports that patients "playing action games showed reduced sensitivity to pain, according to a new study—suggesting shoot-'em ups could help when it's time for a shot."

 
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