May 14, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Beetle Adventure Racing
America’s cutest car — the curvy new Volkswagen Beetle — stars in a racing game that’s more Indiana Jones than Indy 500. Crossing the finish line takes a backseat to exploring exotic terrain, and the journey is full of satirical nods to some of the best summer-movie cliches: Flying saucers, T. rexes, and fire-breathing dragons all make cameos. The game takes over-the-top one step too far, though, in its “Beetle Battle” mode, which gives opponents the chance to kick the fahrvergnugen out of each other using Beetles rigged with rockets and land mines. Now, that’s high octane. A-

All-Star Baseball 2000
The boys of summer are back — and so are plenty of simulations that give Major League wannabes the chance to hit one out of the ballpark. ASB2K is the clear winner, setting high-water marks for crisp graphics and obsessive-compulsive stat tracking. In fact, only incorrigible diamond freaks — myself, for example — will be able to find fault: Hitters may get thrown out at first on singles to the outfield, for instance. Still, it’s the closest thing yet to a perfect baseball sim. ASB2K for baseball geeks: B- Everyone else: A-

Fox Arcade: Sci-Fi Pinball
You don’t have to be a pinball wizard to see through this shameless synergy. Sci-Fi Pinball features different machines based on shows and movies like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Aliens. The VR versions behave like real quarter munchers down to the turn-ending tilts, but their only distinguishing characteristics — murky video clips featuring the various stars — provide a tease at best. Otherwise, every single one has the same dark, gritty look. If Fox had chosen less predictable franchises from its stable — say, Ally McBeal and There’s Something About Mary — it might have had something worth flipping over. C

RollerCoaster Tycoon
Walt Disney never had this kind of power: As the architect of your own amusement park in this remarkable simulation, your job is to take a hunk of land and turn it into a profitable magic kingdom. Ferris wheels, go-carts, haunted houses, and yes, roller coasters are all at your disposal. Don’t just kick back and count the gate receipts, though: To succeed, you’ll need to monitor such minutiae as souvenir prices. (My New York City-inspired scam: Jack up the umbrella prices when it rains. Heh-heh.) Quite literally, the thrill ride of the summer. A

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