THE BIBLE GAME, Crave Entertainment/Mass Media
Amid the Mature-rated, best-selling hits crowding store shelves this season -- such as Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories -- parents and churchgoers will find the first console game with God in mind. The Bible Game is the first Christian game to grace Xbox and PlayStation 2.
Having had moderate success in the PC space with an assortment of religious-themed games, Christian game developers have gone mass market. Value-priced at $20, The Bible Game delivers a family-friendly diversion for up to four players.
While the graphics and production level is squarely in the budget-range, the target audience for this title will find wholesome entertainment served up in two unique forms. The bulk of the game is an Old Testament trivia challenge called "Do Unto Others" set in a virtual game show format, complete with host Justin Warren. This portion of the game plays out like a typical board game, except the questions all center on Old Testament knowledge. These games span 20 to 45 minutes in length.
Thanks to a number of in-game challenges, such as the Blessing Game (a short single-player game for points) and Wrath of God (which triggers one of the plagues, like locusts, on a player), every player is still around and in the hunt by the final round, which is dubbed The Grace of God. While the questions do become repetitive with multiple plays, this mode makes for decent multiplayer gaming -- on par with that of a real board game.
The second half of The Bible Game consists of a dozen mini-game challenges based on Old Testament stories such as Noah's Ark, Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath, and Jacob's Ladder and the Tower of Babel. These four-player games offer short arcade-twitch action and are best played with multiple players.
Fans of the Mario Party multiplayer games won't find much replay value here, but families will find safe haven from violence with these games. Rounding out the experience is six licensed songs from Christian Rock bands like Newsboys, Kutless and FM Static -- while the songs blend nicely with the subject matter, they're repeated too often. As a first effort on consoles, this Christian game offers just enough interactive entertainment to convert new players to the gaming space.
-- John Gaudiosi
PlayStation2, Xbox $20
TONY HAWK'S AMERICAN WASTELAND, Activision
Now before you roll your eyes at yet another Tony Hawk game, this one even surprised us.
Where previous Tony Hawk games focused mainly on creating havoc and mayhem with your buddies, American Wasteland goes back to its roots and concentrates on what made the series so fun -- skateboarding.
The story line is simple. You play the "new guy" -- recently transplanted from the Midwest to Los Angeles and now trying to build your street credibility among the other skaters. You befriend a girl named Mindy who shows you the ropes and aids you on your adventure of self discovery. Along the way, you'll meet up with other skaters, build your own skate park and earn a plethora of hidden items.
What impressed us most about American Wasteland were the load times. There aren't any. Players will be able to skate from one side of L.A. to the other without seeing any type of load screen. A technical achievement indeed, it allows for seamless environments and the ability to chain combination tricks together indefinitely -- that is, if you're good enough to do so.
And speaking of combinations and tricks, American Wasteland has an incredibly robust control system. Using the original Tony Hawk groundwork, players will learn basic moves such as manuals, reverts and transfers and then work their way up to rails, flips and grabs. Sure it may not be as difficult as previous Tony Hawk games, but for a lot of players, that's a good thing.
In addition to skateboarding, American Wasteland includes BMX bike riding. Although it's only for a short portion of the game, it works and is a blast to play. Executing tricks is as easy as a couple of button pushes and the challenges you have to complete round out the game quite nicely.
Online, American Wasteland doesn't disappoint. Nothing beats squaring off against human opponents on skating runs. Not only are you ranked on your performance, the game even has buddy lists and voice chat so you can trash-talk to your heart's content.
Visually, the game looks on par with previous Tony Hawk games -- nice-looking environments, colorful characters and buildings. Although the game looks great on all systems, it looks best on the Xbox. Microsoft's machine showcased richer textures and smoother frame rates.
A big part of all Tony Hawk games is the soundtrack and American Wasteland continues this tradition. Classic bands such as the Dead Kennedys, Iggy Pop and Public Enemy share the soundstage with Green Day, My Chemical Romance and The Bravery.
-- Tom Ham
PlayStation2, Xbox and GameCube, $50