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FOX HUNT

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THE NEW YEAR is not two weeks old as I write this, but somehow I doubt 1996 will offer a bigger multimedia kick than picking off an army of yipping, free-falling Rob Lowe clones before they drop their anvils. That demented segment is the literal high point of FOX HUNT (Capcom, CD-ROM for PC and Mac, $54.99), a sardonic adventure game that features surreal supporting roles by not only Lowe but The Last Picture Show’s Timothy Bottoms and onetime-Bond George Lazenby.

Fox Hunt comes intriguingly close to being an interactive movie — while illustrating that bastard neo-genre’s pitfalls. The first thing you notice is that there’s no fancy-pants graphic interface: This puppy is all full-motion video. The second thing you notice is that plot and dialogue are actually funny, thanks to a script by Matt Pyken, whose 1994 National Lampoon’s Blind Date CD-ROM was the only NatLamp product in years to contain a shimmer of wit. The game’s hero is Jack Fremont (Andrew Bowen), a likable Jim Carrey sort who’s drafted by the CIA to stop a renegade KGB agent named The Fox from nuking L.A. Sounds like every other adventure CD-ROM, right? Get this alternative-world plotline: The Fox was originally sent to Hollywood in the ’70s to undermine American pop culture, but the TV shows he created — daft garbage like Fantasy Isthmus and Fung U, clips of which are shown — became massive U.S. hits and so entranced the Russian populace that they inadvertently caused the fall of communism. Now The Fox is steamed: He wants his residuals.

And that’s just the back story. As the game plays out, Jack gets sent from L.A. to Aspen to Vegas, slowly mutating from a slacker goofball to a suave international spook. Fox Hunt alternates large chunks of slickly shot location footage with interactive segments during which you use a mouse to help Jack hunt clues, outshoot the bad guys, or escape from a hospital in a rocket-powered wheelchair.

The catch: The movie and the game make an awkward fit. The filmed scenes are surprisingly engaging, considering that full-motion video on your computer still looks like bad reception on your TV, but the game set pieces stop the story dead. Gameheads, on the other hand, will probably wish they could cut directly to the chase. If they did, however, they’d miss Bottoms as a hammy, mitten-wearing professional killer, Lazenby in an Elvis suit, and — delightfully — Lowe as Edison Pettibone, a psychotic king of infomercials with surgically altered minions and an alarming resemblance to Ted Turner. Appearing on a CD-ROM may not bode well for these actors’ careers, but it certainly does for Fox Hunt. B-