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What to Play - Videogames and CD-ROMS

Find out what we thought about ”Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Gungan Frontier,” ”Ape Escape,” ”Aliens vs. Predator,” and ”Tarzan”

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Star Wars: Episode I — The Gungan Frontier
The Gungans — that pidgin-speaking race of Jar Jar Binkses — have overrun their city on planet Naboo. Yousa mission, to paraphrase Boss Nass, is to nurture new colonies on a nearby moon by populating them with plants and animals. In a Tatooine minute, these ecosystems grow and become far more elaborate than you would expect. Complex food chains develop, for instance: Carnivorous kreetles eat ollopoms, which in turn munch on bubble spores. Three cheers for the “Jar Jar Asleep” mode, which puts the kibosh on the oft-maligned (and justifiably so) mascot’s frequent commentary. Any chance we can retrofit this feature onto the movie? A-

Ape Escape
Think Planet of the Apes as envisioned by Moe, Larry, and Curly: Smart-aleck monkeys — lots of ’em — have escaped from a zoo, and it’s up to you to capture them. Easier said than done, since your wily prey never sits still, and tosses banana peels in your path to avoid your nets. A time machine factors somewhere into the needlessly puffy plot, and the gameplay — the first to use both of the PlayStation controller’s thumb-operated joysticks — requires a frustrating level of dexterity. Dr. Zaius, your game is waiting. B+

Aliens vs. Predator
In this first- person shooter, Sigourney Weaver’s old sparring partners battle Arnold Schwarzenegger’s extraterrestrial nemeses, with the marines from Aliens caught in the middle. A creature-feature dream team? That depends on which species you opt to play. As a Predator or marine, the game becomes an underwhelming exercise in who shoots who first. But as an alien, it’s a unique and creepy experience to slither around and ambush targets the old-fashioned way: using your claws, tail, and that infamous acid blood. B-

Disney’s Action Game, Tarzan
Just as Disney’s animated films get more and more visually sophisticated, so too its games. In the CD-ROM version of the studio’s latest animated hit, you navigate the shaggy-haired hero (plus, from time to time, Terk or Minnie Driver’s Jane) through 16 levels of obstacles and ultimately a confrontation with Jungle Enemy No. 1, Clayton the hunter. Despite lush graphics, the game mechanics are virtually identical to games based on Aladdin, Hercules, and other Disney neoclassics. He Tarzan, he plain. B-