Advertising—it pays my rent. (Keep buying those futons, kids!) So let’s give gaming’s latest propaganda its props. Nintendo will co-sponsor, with Clear Channel and others, Evanescence’s summer tour. The band will play Christian goth-rock; their audience, GameCube and Game Boy titles available on-site. Meanwhile, this month Sega feeds kids Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball by distributing simple handheld games with McDonald’s Happy Meals. (Monkey Burgers and Hedgehog Nuggets await FDA clearance.) Finally, discussing the 20 homing pigeons currently circling Wimbledon with Virtua Tennis 2‘s logo painted on their wings, The Seattle Times‘ Dwight Perry notes that “Wimby-goers are hereby advised to forget their usual obsession for 140-mph serves and backhand smashes—and simply keep an eye peeled for drop shots.”
BIG MUTHA TRUCKERS
For PS2 (review copy), Xbox
Developer Eutechnyx, Ltd.
Rating 7 (out of 10)
Like every other 18-wheeler game (yes, they constitute a subgenre unto themselves), Big Mutha Truckers combines fast-paced smash-’em-up driving, simple supply-and-demand objectives, and down-South/out-West stereotypes for a journey into America’s heart of darkness. F1 Career Challenge simulates celebrity racing and Midnight Club II imagines hepcats blasting through traffic and running over pedestrians in the witching hour, but only trucking titles satisfy kids’ need for speed and curiosity about the big-scary blue-collar country that lies down the highway.
Of course, the game’s makers code blue collar as white trash. The titular Mutha, Ma Jackson, plans on retiring from the biz. Her four children, apparently fathered by different men (one’s black!), must race out of “Hick State County” and compete to become the company’s next boss. There’s the “pretty as a pig in a pitcher” Bobbie-Sue, whose personal pair of headlights outshine those of her truck; beer-guzzling Earl, who wears a mesh cap canted to the side, even though that’s so played out; toothless Cletus (we’re apparently meant to remember The Simpsons‘ less menacing, actually funny “slack-jawed yokel”); and ladies’ man Rawkus (he’s black!). As opposed to King of Route 66, another $20 title that simply relies on such stereotypes, Big Mutha Truckers imports impromptu race challenges, various hauls, market-monitoring bartenders, biker pirates, loan sharks, and a ruthless extended family into classic arcade play. The game’s got heart, shrouded though it may be.
Sonic the Hedgehog, headed straight for Richard Gere’s ass
Developer Sonic Team
This is not your Happy Meal freebie. Nor is it Sonic the Hedgehog, GameCubed. The title debuted on Sega Dreamcast in the late ’90s, and you can tell from the sloppy cinemas and collision detection (I read that somewhere). This “Director’s Cut” corrects only minor graphical glitches (the frame rate has been doubled, to 60 per second), includes a somewhat useful manual camera, and, most importantly, adds goodies intended for fans: a new “Mission” mode offering hidden diversions on each existing level, and—canon builders, take note—all of Sonic’s Game Gear library, tidily emulated. If only it came with delicious french fries.
Sega isn’t just casting for nostalgic Dreamers—Sonic sits on high with Zelda (even if you think Halo runs rings around both), and his action epic Adventure DX should rate as a classic in anyone’s good book. Distinctly Japanese—frenetic, cheerful, cartoonish, obliquely humorous, and featuring a cutesy hair metal-esque soundtrack—the game pits Sonic and oddly talented friends (his mallet-wielding stalker Amy Rose, the balloon-fisted Knuckles the Echidna, etc.) against silly villain Dr. Robotnik. Starting at Station Square, you—unlocking each character in turn—dip into the sewer, play pinball at the casino, encounter chatty pedestrians on the street, and hop on trains to exotic locations, in search of everything from Chaos Emeralds to eggs for hatching into Tamagotchi-style virtual pets. Thrilling and refreshingly buoyant, Sonic Adventure DX—Director’s Cut actually justifies ’90s nostalgia.
Attack your enemies where the sun does shine
Boktai: The Sun Is in Your Hand, a Game Boy Advance title due in September, comes with a solar-sensing cartridge—the more sunlight it absorbs, the more effectively main character Django kills vampires.