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It’s Tough Getting to the Payoff of These Video Casino Games

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perhaps my aversion to gambling relates to my reputation as a notorious cheapskate. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, for instance, my brother and I earned the nickname “The Nickel Brothers” because we spent all of our short time gambling at the cheapest slot machines we could find--and then self-righteously demanded our complimentary beverages.

Needless to say, I was less than enthused to peruse two recent gambling titles for Sony PlayStation: Virgin Interactive’s Golden Nugget and Interplay’s Caesars Palace. But after a few wins at the blackjack table, I found myself getting into the video casino scene. The biggest turn-on: the absolute lack of financial risk.

Of course, that’s only true once the right game is bought. And for my money, that’s Caesars Palace for most players. Both games offer the basic games of chance like blackjack, craps, slots and roulette, but Caesars reproduces casino play better. Interplay’s slogan “By Gamers for Gamers” actually means something.

With intuitive interfaces and clean play, Caesars makes losing money fun. Rather than focus on a bunch of hokey cinematics and clunky graphics, designers concentrated on making the game as easy and understandable as possible. But don’t be fooled. Like the casino it’s named for, Caesars is anything but simple.

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The same can be said for Golden Nugget, except this time it’s no compliment. The game hogs two CD-ROMs and is loaded down with video of “Batman” star Adam West leading players through a goofy mystery.

Casino video games have been around at least since the Atari 2600, but Caesars does the best job on consoles so far of making the games as simple as they are in life. Adults will appreciate the skill involved in watching the cards and walking away a winner--a perfect way to practice until the next weekend in Vegas.

PaRappa the Rapper: Once players get over the name and the fact that the main characters are a dog, a bear, a cat, a flower and a wise old onion, PaRappa the Rapper from Sony Computer Entertainment becomes one of those rare games that can’t be put down.

PaRappa is nothing more than a game of Simon Says on the PlayStation. Players try to duplicate the moves of a master by tapping corresponding keys on the PlayStation control pad.

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In addition to matching the moves, players must try to demonstrate some sort of rhythm. This is, after all, a game set to a rap soundtrack. That’s where the real challenge comes in.

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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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