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Hexen II and Lego Island Have Little in Common, Except Greatness

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In one, players fight off ungodly soldiers of “Hell-spawned legions.” In the other, players toss doughnuts to cops to help them catch the troublesome Brickster.

In one, players wander through gloomy passageways beneath sulfurous skies in search of the origin of all earthly evil. In the other, players assemble a jet ski and scoot across waves beneath a sky of cloudless blue for no other reason than, gee, it’s a lot of fun.

Two games, two genres, two target audiences, one thing in common: Near perfection. Both Hexen II from Raven, id and Activision and Lego Island from Mindscape deliver computer game play that’s miles ahead of the crowd--despite being miles apart from each other.

Hexen II screams across the PC as the eagerly anticipated sequel to the first-person shooter and adventure game that took Doom-style play to medievally cool levels. This time, however, the familiarly depressing Hexen environments got a big boost from id’s elegant Quake engine.

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Temples and pastures and water and just about anything else a sick and twisted mind can imagine move like silk as players whirl and twist and crane their necks to see what lurks beyond the next wall, the next rise or, worse, in the skies above. Even on a fairly modest Pentium, Hexen works without a hitch.

This is one thick game. Starting with the first level, Hexen II makes it clear that the faint of heart don’t belong on the same screen with its warriors, wizards and spiders. Even the first weapon takes a while to find, requiring players to dispense with the niceties of killing from a distance and duke it out with bad guys at close range.

And for those who survive, the game allows players to try again as either a Paladin, Crusader, Necromancer or an Assassin. Each has different skills, different weaknesses and play is distinctly different with each. Once that’s mastered, players can venture out on the Internet or over their company’s local area network to play others in either cooperative or death match mode.

Of course, employees should always get their system administrator’s permission before launching a LAN game of Hexen II at work. And parents should get their kids’ permission before hogging all the fun of Lego Island--a game that’s designed for kids, but a kick for adults, too.

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As the first video game approved by the hyper-protective Lego Group, Mindscape’s Lego Island does a great job of translating the fun of the famous plastic building blocks to the computer screen. Although building with digital Lego blocks takes up a fair amount of game time, Lego Island never attempts to imitate too closely the experience of actually building with real blocks.

Designers say the intent, rather, is to enhance regular Lego play with a world where Lego characters come to life. Most of the fun comes from just wandering around and clicking on the citizens of Lego Island, who react in hilariously surprising ways.

There’s also a traditional game in Lego Island, sort of a silly adventure for kids. But players should stumble onto it through exploration so as not to miss a bit of this rich place called Lego Island.

The only problem with the game is that it’s an absolute resource hog, pushing most home desktops to the limit--even in low-resolution mode.

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


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