Macho Men

And now for a look at this week's vid-gaming headlines. Penny Pinchers: Columbia House just began selling games to their CD and DVD club members, although the penny-apiece promotion does not yet apply to the new media, the AP reports. Just Bring Back Dukes of Hazzard!: Spike TV, the new, even manlier version of TNN, plans on airing the world's first Video Game Awards, according to The Boston Globe. Squashed by the Fat-Ass Lobby: An assemblyman's proposition that New York State impose a 1 percent "fat tax" on games, television commercials, and junk food elicited strong opposition, sez the AP. You heard it here first (or possibly second).


Speed Kings
ForGameCube (review copy), PS2, Xbox
DeveloperClimax
PublisherAcclaim
Rating6 (out of 10)

Having just written my review of Ultimate Muscle (see below), I've got homoeroticism on the brain. So I'm struck by certain aspects of Speed Kings—starting with the men's-club title. The sleek, speedy bikes you race—as opposed to the cars featured in Acclaim's similar, but better Burnout 2—are commonly known as crotch rockets. So it's unsurprising that the manual twice refers to male genitalia when challenging the player: "Join the elite riders and see if you have the stones to own the road" and "How do you earn respect? By meeting various Respect Challenges (54 total) that require great riding skill and metaphoric testes that would shame a bull." (As it's rated "E for everyone"—as in, the average 12-year-old game fan—the player's testes pretty much have to be metaphorical.)

The guide's ultimate question: "Do you have the talent to turn it on until you get so far off the straight and narrow that there's no return?" Yes. Yes I do. Pick from 30 rockets—all clearly modeled on real-world bikes, with top-speed-acceleration-handling breakdowns—a brand-name helmet and leathers, then hit the public highways and byways. You build up your nitro boost by riding like a maniac, nicking cars, knocking down other bikers, poppin' wheelies, and power-sliding under 18-wheelers crossing through intersections. While the overall quality is middling, Speed Kings feels frighteningly fast, even when you're not experiencing the psychedelic-tinged boost. Just like in the locker room, you may well find yourself getting into uneasy—yet thrilling—situations.


Ultimate Muscle: Legends Vs. New Generation
ForGameCube
DeveloperAki Corporation
PublisherBandai
Rating8

This is the most homoerotic game ever. Sure, all masculine activities thrum with repressed desire. But even the male-stripper stereotypes of the WWE can't compare to Ultimate Muscle's anime-rendered Village People lineup. Take blond-mulleted prep Terry Kenyon. Nearly bursting out of his suspenders, he's a "Texas bronco with a hot temper and a tender heart." Handsome German Brocken Jr. sports a military uniform, cap pulled low over his eyes, and coy smile; his "student," Jeager, wears brass buttons and a bicycle helmet. The "hairy and unrefined" Wally Tusket literally embodies both the bear and furry fetishes, with a walrus head and bare barrel-chest peeking from his coat. And appropriately, Kevin Mask draws on his "latent power." The names of main protagonists Kid and King Muscle speak for themselves, as does Dik Dik Van Dik, and the fan-suggested Dazz Ling and Mr. French.

Based on Fox's Saturday-morning anime cartoon of the same name (itself based on '80s action figures!), Ultimate Muscle's plot revolves around the "Muscle League," who once "saved the people of earth by defeating evil villains," and their young, brash allies, the "New Generation." The trainer of both groups, Meat (cough, cough), pits one against the other to see who will come out on top. The storied wrestling developer Aki last produced the overexposed licensing coup Def Jam Vendetta. Their much fresher approach here makes the most of the 'toon's whimsical weirdness. The fanciful settings, story mode full of bitchy trash-talking (voiced by the American television actors), customizable everything, and series of attacks that culminate in nutty cut scenes bring life to a sometimes plodding genre. Finally, vibrant cel-shaded graphics perfectly complement the Fruity Pebbles sugar-buzz action, which relies on quick combos and acrobatics rather than the WWE's folding chairs and ladders. Every man wants to be a macho, macho man—hey!


When you have no friends to invite anyhow

Members of the massive multiplayer game Phantasy Star Online may e-lope in a lobby redesigned as a chapel between June 27 and July 1, PSO World announces.

 
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