RING, Red Orb/Cryo/Arxel Tribe

What: Myst-esque "interactive movie" with a Wagnerian theme. Details: What could go wrong in a product with lavish graphics and animation, music written by one of the most famous Western composers and a plot based on an ancient Norse legend? Everything, if the designers forget to build in a game. Ring's four CDs are an unsatisfying experience for both the gamer and the music connoisseur. (For those unfamiliar with Wagner's Ring Cycle, this massive opera, usually performed over four days, tells the story of the Ring of the Nibelungen, which can give the man wearing it fabulous wealth and power -- at the price of his renouncing love.) Ring takes the player, who wanders around freely in a Myst-type interface, through the four parts of the opera in quests that may be played in any order. But the plot is not presented clearly for those unfamiliar with King Alberich and his ilk, and these quests leave the player few choices and few chances to solve puzzles with cleverness rather than simple trial and error. The music, from the Sir George Solti recording of the opera, is excellent, but it's been altered to loop endlessly as background material. Worse yet, all dialogue here is straight talk, not singing. Bottom line: Save your money for the libretto. -- Nelson Hernandez

Win 95-98, $40

LANDER, Psygnosis

What: 3-D update of the classic Lunar Lander game. Details: Pysgnosis' first foray into DVD-ROM doesn't do much to make the DVD drives on most new computers any more useful; all that extra storage space gets you is sharper visuals in the video sequences (but these clips are lame in the first place) and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (how many people have six speakers plugged into their computers?). Fortunately, the game includes a CD-ROM version in the box as well. Unfortunately, it requires a 3-D graphics accelerator card, which makes little sense given that this game doesn't appear to be particularly graphics-intensive. At least gameplay itself is generally solid: Unlike the simple, 2-D original, Lander -- no longer confined to the moon -- challenges players to complete such tasks as navigating amid enemy fire while using a tractor beam to retrieve a downed satellite, with additional complicating factors such as varying atmospheric conditions and gravity on different planets to keep things even more interesting. The game is keyboard friendly, but using a gamepad controller yielded better results; it also offers multiplayer options for up to eight competitors. However, while the game is certainly not a crash landing, the final product (which has suffered months of delays) just doesn't justify the DVD or 3-D accelerator requirements. Bottom line: It's a good thing Pysgnosis isn't charging much for this. -- John Gaudiosi

Win 95-98, $30