By Erik Wolpaw
March 07, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

It may be a first for videogames: In place of an ”attack” command, a strange new entry lets players take the ”cower in fear” route. But such less-than-heroic actions are the key to Disaster Report, an action simulation in which you find yourself in the immediate aftermath of an urban earthquake.

The game is unlike any other title we’ve played — sort of a ”Resident Evil” with the zombies replaced by intense seismic activity. And in addition to the action, there are plenty of puzzles, most of which can be solved by a logical examination of the environment rather than wasting time on the frustratingly arbitrary solutions that plague so many bad adventure games.

The whole lotta shakin’ (your controller’s vibration mechanism is in for a real workout) is tied together by some striking visuals. The cityscape is huge, detailed, and anything but static — at any moment, the ground beneath your feet can erupt.

Long on innovation, the game is unfortunately quite short in playing time. We made it through in less than five hours, though there are multiple paths that lead to seven different endings. But even with such abbreviated action, ”Disaster Report” is something of a welcome anomaly — a tense, gripping game whose goal is to avoid the shedding of blood. If more titles were to follow this trend, that would be earth-shattering indeed.