VALLEY WEEKEND : Star Wars' Latest Has the Force and Then Some

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If only I knew how to spell that noise Homer Simpson makes when he's in ecstasy. You know? That passionate gargle, accompanied by half-closed eyes and hanging tongue, inspired by a box of doughnuts or a stick of butter.

That noise more or less sums up how I feel about Rebel Assault II, the latest Star Wars game from LucasArts for the PC and Mac. More than just a sequel to Rebel Assault, the game takes computer entertainment to new levels.

Essentially, there's not much new here in terms of content: Fly various spaceships through hostile territory, blasting and ducking all the way.

What's new is the engine designed by programmer Vince Lee. It delivers seamless play and environments that rock. Flying a stolen TIE Fighter through a foggy canyon is by itself worth the price of the game.

But there is so much more. Zipping a B-Wing through hostile Imperial turf. Running through a secret base that makes even the Death Star look wimpy.

This is computer gaming at its technical best. In addition to the great game play are some pretty cool intermission movies--the first live-action scenes shot since the original "Star Wars" trilogy ended back in 1983. The video is crisp and sharp, even at full screen.

In other words, Rebel Assault II is about as good as they come.

AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH!

Psygnosis: Last week, I raved about Wipeout, a futuristic racer from the British developer Psygnosis. The company recently was bought out by Sony and brought into the electronic giant's fold to develop for PlayStation.

It's not hard to see why.

Wipeout, as I mentioned, is fantastic. But the other games are just as good. Expect great things when you see the Psygnosis label. The games are stylish and beautiful and designers take every stage of production one step beyond the standard.

Destruction Derby, for instance, is just what it sounds like: a metal-crunching romp in which the rather simple objectives include smashing your opponents into tin hulks. The action is nonstop and the images never bore.

Same goes for Novastorm, another fairly simple space shooter featuring lavish backgrounds and stunning sound effects. The play sometimes gets repetitive but is so fast that there's precious little time to get distracted.

Rounding out the lineup is DiscWorld, a game that appeared first on PC earlier this year. Featuring the voice of Monty Python's Eric Idle as a wizard in training, DiscWorld is a hilarious adventure.

Round Two: As the second wave of games begins to hit Sega Saturn, it's nice to see designers finally getting it right. For instance, Virtua Fighter II wins hands down when stacked against any other fighting game on the market.

I put it through the moves next to PlayStation's Tekken from Namco and was amazed at how much smoother the characters moved and fought.

Word to Sega: Keep it up.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games regularly. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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