For once, it was Regis Philbin who needed the lifeline: The combination of 85 decibels of kabooming videogame noise, strobing colored lights, and a nonworking computer on the mini-Millionaire set at the Electronic Entertainment Exposition finally proved too much for TV’s most cheerful host. ”That doesn’t work,” Philbin said about the PC while demonstrating the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Second Edition CD-ROM. ”I don’t know why it’s there. It just bothers everybody.”
If Philbin had trouble overcoming the din that reigned May 11 to 13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, imagine how hard it was for the more than 2,400 titles vying for attention on the show floor — and for a share of the $6.1 billion video- and computer-game market. It’s a slump year for game sales, what with joystick riders awaiting the October release of Sony’s $299 PlayStation 2. ”When new hardware systems are launched, there tends to be a falling off of software sales for existing systems,” says Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association.
Still, E3’s mind-tickling collection of titles for the Sega Dreamcast served as a reminder that the best games for a new console often don’t come out until the year after it’s been released. And that definitely put the fantastic behind-closed-doors display of lifelike butterflies and self-composing music in Microsoft’s Xbox into perspective, since it’s more than a year from completion. But forget all that business: Here are highlights from the biggest videogame fest of the year.
Sega’s fortified bazaar opened with a fog-filled decontamination chamber and screens filled with Matrix-like streams of computer-dygook. Half the day could easily have been wasted inside the immense booth, where six space-age go-go dancers boogied from verandas overlooking the crowd, in-line skating acrobats flipped across the stage, and graffiti artists tagged away with spray cans.
Best TV-Show Spin-Off
World’s Scariest Police Chases, complete with narration by John Bunnell. Ride as the criminal, or as the cop intent on driving him off the road. Use the news-copter camera view to track your prey, and, if those angel-dusted crooks just won’t slow down, command your partner to hang out the window and shoot a rifle. Next up: World’s Cheesiest Game Concepts.
Best Movie Spin-Off
The Blair Witch Project Games, a three-game prequel to the movie that both plays off and adds to the folkloric horror story. Volume one, which pivots on the Rustin Parr murders, includes an incredibly faithful — and playable — replica of the movie’s harrowing final scene.
Best Booty-Shaking Game
Ulala, the synthetic, miniskirted, platform-heeled television correspondent in Space Channel 5, has to keep her ratings high by outdancing hip-hop aliens — down, up, down, up, shoot-shoot-shoot. The beats get more complex and so do the retro-futuristic settings.