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Armed and Ready to Vaccinate

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Fast forward to the 24th Century and chicken pox has become fatal--or has it? In U.S. Gold’s arcade game “Vaxine” no one has caught the disease in the past 100 years, but terrorists have pumped the 143-year-old President with the virus. It’s up to you to save the chief executive--and the country.

The game is mostly a 1990s update of the special-effects sequences of “Fantastic Voyage.” You are shrunk to fit into a blood vessel, given a load of “vaxine” and injected into the president’s body. Your mission: Find the virus cells and eradicate them.

Sounds easy enough. But it’s not.

The inside of the body looks a lot like a checkerboard with a vanishing horizon. Cells float above and around you as you search out the bad virus cells and kill them.

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You must make sure to use the correct vaccine for the correct cell. They’re color coded, but they also look exactly alike. And those buggers can multiply faster than mosquitoes in July. Then they attach themselves together and bounce. And bounce. And grow. Then they will attach themselves to innocent cells, suck their blood and make more bad cells. The higher the difficulty level, the faster they bounce and breed.

“Vaxine” is an average shoot-and-kill arcade-style game, a notch or two above a standard video game but not exactly a mind taxer. The “Fantastic Voyage” concept is a bit more appealing than most (after all, you’re shooting chicken-pox cells, not other people or Martians). All in all, this game could become an itch that just has to be scratched.

On a final note: The folks at U.S. Gold have got to do something about their off-disc copy protection. This one uses one of those decoder disc contraptions that, like other games from the same company, features virtually indecipherable black-on-black printing. Frustration city. Get a clue, people.

VAXINE Rating: ***

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IBM & compatibles, Tandy; 640K VGA, 512K others. List: $39.95.

Computer games are rated on a five-star system, from one star for poor to five for excellent.


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