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Codemasters hit another easy six.

BRIAN LARA CRICKET 98

Those darlings of the computer game industry, Richard and David of Codemasters, have come up with another winner in Brian Lara Cricket 98.

After the soaring sales success of its Toca Touring Car games, the whizzkid brothers (perhaps not so kiddish anymore having both turned 30) have come up with an amazing game for the cricket fanatic.

Brian Lara holds a world record for 501 runs not out for Warwickshire in 1994 and has been honoured with captaincy of club and country. He returns to sensational form for PC and Playstation after its predecessor's success on Mega Drive.

It's interesting to note at this point that Codemasters have also signed up Prince Naseem for a game due to be released next year which suggests that a host of other sporting celebrities may be waiting in line for similar game contracts in the future.

The firm published 13 new titles last year and is aiming for 25 next year. The brothers are estimated to be worth around pounds 47 million - not bad for a couple of kids who started their business while still at school in 1982 by advertising their games in magazines.

Neither brother took computer studies and left school with just five O-Levels apiece.

With stunning 3D environments and motion captured players, real statistics for 240 international players, 46 accurately-modelled grounds from around the world, you'll need your copy of Wisden to help you through this latest offering.

With commentary from Geoff Boycott and Jonathan Agnew, backed by local crowd scenarios, the reality is enhanced.

You can play with up to four players using the multi tap on the Playstation, or test your skills against the computer in anything from a short 10 overs to a full five-day series.

Before you head off into a Friendly, World cup, World series, Knockout, Test series, Test season or a Classic match you have the opportunity to practice your skills with a spell in the nets to either brush up your batting prowess or fine-tune your bowlin g.

After choosing the competition you're going to play you select your team line-up - giving due consideration to the condition of the pitch and weather conditions.

A win of the toss means you have the choice of batting or bowling first - again considering pitch conditions and your team.

But the amazing gameplay and animation is so close to reality it makes you wonder how much further computer games will be able to go in the future - I suspect the computer darlings may already be working on that.

PC-CD ROM pounds 34.99

Playstation pounds 44.99

Adam Bird

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH

This "spellbinding" (someone working overtime in the cliche factory) CD-Rom is aimed at the programme's core audience, eight to 12 year-olds. But don't worry, there's no intention to find recruits for the dark arts.

Like Sabrina, voiced by the show's star Melissa Joan Hart, players are given a witch learner's permit and the challenge of upgrading it to an honorary witch's licence.

Armed with spells, ingredients and magic tools, would-be spell-casters have to negotiate seven adventures to attain the goal.

A major plus for any game is ease of use and this passes the test admirably, no lengthy instructions to start or play. A ten-year-old computer-literate offspring handed the challenge of navigating the set-up could do it blindfolded.

From the floral-adorned spell book - the starting point and guide - to the Wheel of Misfortune, all the icons were simple and easily identifiable. Familiarisation with the tasks quickly achieved.

But like any game - especially where the main challenge requires patience and persistence - there have to be options.

Tired of navigating your way around Sabrina's home and school to find a quota of spells, you can take the short-cut by misusing a magic tool - much more fun - or simply by going through a door into the Other Realm.

There, you can take the Midnight Flight, Make a Date, concoct some Witch's Brew or have a look at the Magic Mirror (the latter is a unique hangman game - get a guess wrong and Sabrina puts on an item of clothing).

While Sabrina keeps youngsters entertained, there are disappointments. For all its child-appealing features like the pretty icons (heart-shaped cursor was a small but nice touch), the graphics are a letdown.

And for a game that requires a whopping 32MB to play, you would expect rather more than bland two-dimensional cartoon-characters. Then again adults are not the main target.

Mind you, if the confession of a former colleague that he watches the show is anything to go by. . .

WINDOWS 98/95, PENTIUM 133 MHz OR FASTER

Or POWER MAC 7.5.1 OR HIGHER;

32 MB RAM, 640x480/256 colour VGA or better.

Price pounds 19.99

Mohammed Ilyas

SPELLCROSS

Billed as the first fantasy role playing strategy game to come out of Eastern Europe, Spellcross is perhaps not surprisingly a bit bizarre. Developed by Bratislavan-based Cauldron, the game pits your modern soldiers against hordes of orcs, wizards and un dead - a fairly unique idea in itself.

The graphics are pleasantly smooth and sophisticated and the overall feel of the game is professional and well-finished off. Nothing shoddy about this production.

But (and how many times has this been said on these pages?) we are once again looking at a game which uses an engine approaching its tenth birthday.

Yes the graphics are good and the gameplay smooth. But at the end of the day this offers little more than any other past turn-based combat game.

Your troops are allocated action points and can move and shoot accordingly, different terrain taking up more points while giving your more cover. Sounds familiar?

Change aliens for fantasy monsters and you have got a new, modernised version of UFO with go-faster stripes and a large dollop of off-beat Eastern Bloc style.

Of course there are individual quirks like in developing your troops and the new weird and wonderful battle settings.

Fantasy fans will probably be left drooling at the mouth at the prospect of modern troops meeting dungeon dwellers.

All in all not a bad effort from the Eastern Bloc boys. But like a Trabant with its outdated engine sporting flash new metallic paint, alloy wheels and spoilers it is in all honesty a bid sad.

Ten out of ten for effort and presentation, nil points for originality. Hence a dull, but respectable, 5/10.

PC CD-ROM pounds 24.99

Boris Worrall
COPYRIGHT 1998 Birmingham Post & Mail Ltd
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 22, 1998
Words:1075
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