Monday, April 1, 2002

Fun and games: Austin Powers and Serious Sam

PRODUCT REVIEW

By Claire Pieterek

If you're looking for action and adventure for your Palm handheld, Global Star Software (at http://www.globalstarsoftware.com) has it. Their Palm OS games run the gamut from sports to strategy, killing aliens to killing time. I received two Global Star products that fit the bill quite nicely: Serious Sam: The First Encounter, and Austin Powers Pinball. From these titles, you know you're in for a ton of fun.

Both products support both grayscale and color devices, which is nice. The packaging is professional and quite eye-catching, as you can see in Figure A.

FIGURE A

Serious Sam's packaging is attention-getting.

Serious Sam: The First Encounter

Serious Sam: The First Encounter is based on the eponymous PC game developed by Croteam. It was named GameSpot's 2001 PC Game of the Year. Indeed, GameSpot called it "an unpretentious, no-nonsense arcade-style shooter." And that is just what it is-much like Duke Nukem, or Robotron--the more enemies you can manage to knock off, while keeping yourself out of trouble, the better off you'll be. It's pictured in Figure B.

FIGURE B

Serious Sam is your standard first-person shooter game.

There is a bit of a plot, but it really doesn't matter if you read it. As with most games, it doesn't tell you much, and it doesn't really help. What you really need to know is this: the Up button moves you forward, the Down button moves you back, the ToDo list button shoots, and the Memo Pad button is the strafe lock. Tapping in the Graffiti area is supposed to change weapons, but I guess you don't get anything other than the six-shooter in the Tourist area.

I've really lost a lot of my skills at this style of game since I left the network administration business. Quite a few of us used to use Doom and Quake to do network load testing. Some of us were even able to justify putting in Ethernet switches that way!

Serious Sam offers three levels of play: Tourist, Normal, and Serious. I died early every time in the numerous games I tried in the Tourist level, so I'd rate this as good for people who are more serious about their arcade-style gaming. Also, I found it somewhat difficult to pick up some of the smaller items, since there is no way to move diagonally.

Criticisms

However, I have a couple of bones to pick with the people at Global Star who wrote and edited the box copy. The system requirements don't match up in the two paragraphs devoted to the subject. There's a generic system requirements paragraph that lists just about every Palm OS device under the sun, and a more specific system requirements paragraph that is exclusive to Serious Sam. The first paragraph says "any device that supports Palm OS (3.0 or higher)." The second paragraph says "Serious Sam: Requires a minimum of OS 3.5 or above to run." Make it one or the other, please. It turns out that the second paragraph is correct.