Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone



Asteroids (Activision Remake) 

Fans of the classic game will be thrilled by this outstanding remake. Asteroids remains true to the 2D gameplay of the original while updating the graphics to today’s standards. The gameplay is addictive and simple as ever with the added twist of power-ups and gravity fields. The best part of the new features is that they enhance the game instead of feeling tacked on. The graphics are really good with plenty of special effects and bright colors making the game a visual joy.  Its music mimics the original’s ominous minimalist soundtrack and expands on it. Asteroids is one of the best retro remakes to date, it brings the game into the 90s without sacrificing what made it a classic in the first place.

Tempest X3

Imagine this: You go back into time. It’s 1981. You find yourself inside an arcade. You walk up to a familiar machine. There’s nothing out of the ordinary. The machine has the same cabinet artwork, the same controller. You take out a quarter and begin playing the game. The familiar blue vectors appear on the screen and you start blasting away at the red  Snappers.  Suddenly, the old familiar game explodes into psychedelic color and you hear relentless futuristic music pumping the game with a new sense of urgency.  At the same time, underneath the striking visuals and furious techno beats, familiar rhythm of the game has quickened. The addition of strange new elements makes your heart quicken. It’s just like the past, only better. As the game tightens it’s grip on you and you become addicted to its’ hyper play mechanics, you tell yourself that you must be crazy, this must be some kind of strange dream.  This isn’t a dream. It’s “Tempest X3.”

In the early 1980’s, a seminal game called  Tempest  appeared. Tempest’s main attraction was its beautiful full-color Quadrascan vector graphics and a timeless play mechanic. The game quickly became a cult classic. No home version existed until 1994, when Atari resurrected the game brilliantly on its’ doomed Jaguar system with the aid of genius programmer Jeff Minter. Tempest 2000 was one of the few bright spots in the bleak Jaguar library. Unfortunately, too few players got to experience Mr. Minter’s work of genius due to the Jaguar’s limited success at attaining market share.  Thanks to Interplay, mainstream players have the chance to play the classic arcade title and  a newly upgraded version  of the game on their PlayStation.

The game is simple to play. Players spin their yellow electric ‘claw’ around deceptively simple geometric webs. The object is to shoot the various enemies as the come at you from the center of the webs. Each web divides into segmented lanes. Zapping certain enemies causes powerups to appear onscreen.  When you zap an entire level of enemies, you warp to the next web where you start at ground zero.

There are three modes of play included on the CD: Classic Tempest, Tempest Duel and Tempest X. Classic Tempest is a faithful version of the original 1981 arcade game. There have been no enhancements made to the game. This mode is perfect for those who never experienced Tempest and wish to get a feel for the game.  There are no power-ups, jumps and limited special effects in classic mode. Tempest Duel is a head to head contest where each player is on the opposite side of the web.  Players have to zap their opponent while simultaneously avoiding enemies coming from the center of the web. Tempest Duel features all of the psychedelic special effects found in Tempest X mode.  Tempest X mode is a spectacular remake. This mode of play is obviously why the game exists on the platform as a standalone product instead of as part of a compilation.

The graphics have gone in for a second major overhaul since the Jag edition. “Tempest X3” overlays swirling psychedelic bitmaps over the web. It's a stunning effect that adds to the visual appeal of the title. This and the light sourcing abilities make “Tempest X3” a game that looks cutting edge. “Tempest X3” resembles the original only at first glance. Taken together these add a new level of visual sophistication to the game. “Tempest X3's” shots and explosions dramatically light up the bitmapped web as they explode.  Some of the differences are more subtle than that. There are new shapes to the webs and multicolored psychedelic gas clouds in the background add to the techno-psychedelic feel of the title. Does all this sound impressive? It’s only the beginning.

You cause power-ups to appear by shooting enemies.  You maneuver the claw to catch them as they roar up the sections of the web. When you catch them, the entire screen explodes in color. The text naming the power-up fills up the entire screen.  You can capture multiple power-ups within seconds of each other. When this happens it creates a temporary explosion of color, sound and fury that fills the entire screen.   An incredible effect shows off the on-the-fly rendering capabilities of the PlayStation. Numbers and letters suddenly explode and live on screen. In the blink of an eye, they’re gone.

There are other power-ups which you can collect which enable special levels. These warp levels have a completely different style of play. These levels take place in a first-person perspective. Players suddenly finds themselves floating above or below a beautiful, fiery background. Mellow, ambient music replaces the harsh techno in the rest of the game.  The object of these levels is to fly through spinning rings. It sounds easy enough, but the rings speed up as you collect boost rings. Getting to the end of the levels is tough because they are trickier than they appear. The ambient music cleverly deceives  players into false relaxation. These bonus levels showed up first in the Jaguar edition. Their inclusion makes “Tempest X3” more a sequel to Jeff Minter’s sequel than to the original game. Disappointingly, these dream levels  haven’t been upgraded as much as the rest of the game. They're essentially unchanged from the Jaguar edition with slightly different music.  They're still admirable  the breathing room they give the player. Not to mention  their wickedness. 

“Tempest X3” features a newly remixed version of the techno music from the Jaguar edition. The techno soundtrack is more elaborate. This is fitting for the transition from cartridge to CD audio. The games’ frenetic, thrill a nano-second matches the hard edged techno score perfectly. No one will mistake the soundtrack for a group like Orbital or FSOL (Future Sound of London.) The remixed songs add a sense of apocalyptic urgency to the action. The music ranks with the best ever heard in a console video game. It adds a layer of audio intensity to the trance effect the game’s visuals and physical rhythms create. The voices have changed from the Jaguar edition. They’re now cleaner and easier to understand.  What beyond the eye-melting graphics, the ear popping music and the smooth as silk control makes “Tempest X3” a classic? The best way to describe it is zen : a feeling of total and complete gaming bliss that's achieved rarely. This is one of the rare titles that has the ability to do this to a player. It’s a sign of a great game when you become so hypnotized by playing it that you are completely  oblivious to the outside world.  The combination of the brilliant psychedelic graphics, the hypnotic, heavy beats of the soundtrack and not least, the timeless addiction of the actual game makes it more than a mere shooter. The Zen-like bonus levels add another layer of intensity to the game. It sucks you in and doesn’t let go.

“Tempest X3” is the best neo-classic title to appear on any system. It takes the timeless gaming formula of  Tempest and further adds many new elements to the title. Even players who are familiar with the Jaguar edition will love the many superb graphic enhancements.  It was great on the Jaguar and has aged well, even in its’ original format. The expanded abilities and effects made possible by the PlayStation make it absolutely incredible. The transformation that the classic game has undergone will amaze those who remember and revere the original game. It turns from a simple vector graphics shooter into a technodelic dreamscape of light and fury at the mere touch of a button. It’s one that you have to buy.

Soul Blade

Playstation owners looking for the next great 3D fighting game can cease their journey because it has arrived. It’s called Soul Blade and it comes from Namco, makers of the Tekken  series. It’s quite an accomplishment for Namco to be have the ability to produce such mind blowing software with short time frames of each other. Only a few months ago, Tekken 2 was hailed as the greatest 3D fighting game ever to grace the Playstation, and now, scant months later Namco blows themselves away with Soul Edge. Taking elements of Toshinden and Tekken and combining them creates a unique fighting experience that most players will not be able to put down.  Soul Blade is something special and shows it immediately upon load when the opening cinema begins. It’s easily the most most spectacular cinema ever seen in a home video game. 

The cinematic opening sets up the  plot which concerns 8 fighters vying for a mystical sword known as Soul Edge in the 15th century.  The graphics are nothing short of amazing.  The realistic movement of the fighters is unmatched by any home game, the characters move with a fluidity that even outdoes Virtua Fighter 2.   The backgrounds are simply beautiful, all use the Playstations light sourcing abilities and Texture mapping to the limit.  The graphics are  amazing enough that Soul Edge has single handedly raised the visual standard that all future 3D fighters will have to live up to.

Siegfried’s scene is the most incredible seen so far in any fighting game. It’s production and execution are among the most effective ever seen. careful viewers can see a tower collapse in the background as marauding invaders overtake the castle. As night falls and the castle is overrun, you see the flames shooting up from behind the castle walls in the distance, as the castle falls to the enemy forces. It’s no exaggeration to say that Soul Blade by far the most visually stunning 3D that has ever been attempted on the PlayStation.  The amazing graphics give the game a truly cinematic feel, even during play. The effort put into these effects, and the affect on the player is nothing short of spectacular. The light sourcing in this stage is nothing short of jaw-dropping as the flames illuminate your fighters. You can see the unbelievably realistic flames dance created shadows on the ground. These effects are nothing short of spectacular. It’s completely mind blowing when you consider that Siegfried’s castle represents  just one stage. All of the other stages at least one or two effects that will completely blow you away. The fighters themselves look incredible as well, each moves with an incredible fluidity and naturalness that is simply amazing to behold. Special moves also light up the screen with vivid streaks of color. The total visual effect of the game is outstanding. It would be a shock if Namco didn’t sweep the year end awards for  achieving a kind of graphical magnificence that is rare outside a Disney movie. Remember how your breath was taken away by the  opening scene of The Lion King? Soul Blade is to electronic gaming what that breakthrough was to animation. Taking this in combination with the orchestral scores for each stage (there are no fewer than 3 to select from, believe it or not!) Each soundtrack is a slightly different variation, but they each lend a sense of epic grandeur to the game some of the music is so inspiring, and fits the stage so well, you literally have to pinch yourself and try not forget to interact with the game in between drooling. T gives Soul Blade an aesthetic impact that has yet to be matched.

Namco hasn’t compromised the gameplay in the interest of incredible graphics.  Instead of using their fists as in Tekken, the fighters in Soul Edge all use weapons much like Toshinden. The control of the fighters uses a modified version of  the highly responsive and  easy to master Tekken formula. The makes performing special moves, timing your attacks, and dodging opponents’ parries a true joy.  The game’s difficulty is adjustable, but many players will not find it too terrifically difficult to beat. The actual fighting is very entertaining and challenging.  The wide variety of styles of each fighter definitely adds to challenge.  The variety of characters will keep players interested. While there are only 8 selectable characters (and a few hidden) their diversity and relative originality is what keeps the game fresh. Unfortunately, the one minor flaw with playing the game is one shared by almost every other 3D fighter: ring-outs. They occur with far too much frequency and can really be detrimental to the game at times. This is especially troubling in that so much effort and time has been brought to the rest of the game that you’d think Namco would have thought of a better solution to this frustrating problem. Aside from this, Soul Blade shines in the gameplay department. The characters’  well balanced attributes means that you’ll find Soul Blade spinning in your console months later. Special moves can be preset to be automatically performed with a single touch of one of the shift keys. This feature takes it’s cues from most other 3D fighters.   There are literally dozens of different options from which the player can choose. Soul Blade’s variety of options includes no fewer than FOUR completely different modes of play.  Arcade mode is self-explanatory, while time attack mode modifies the standard mode into a race to see if you can beat all the fighters in the quickest time. Versus mode allows two players to duke it out. The most innovative way to fight in Soul Edge  is the Edge Master mode, which adds a new dimension of role-playing. At the beginning of each round, players look through the story of their fighter in a book. After each round of play, the book continues on with the story depending on the outcome of the fight. This makes Soul Edge more like an RPG than a fighting game. It accentuates the player-fighter identification, while not detracting from the game’s action. Several “guest fighters” appear in this mode that are in none of the other modes. There’s also something else that’s been added to  make the “Edge Master” mode more interesting. After you defeat an enemy, you can use their weapon, for added fun and excitement.

Namco has done an outstanding job with this game, it showcases the polish and depth of play that has become the company’s trademark while adding enough new features and ratcheting up the graphics intensity to an entirely new plain. Soul Edge’s excellence in all areas should take  to the very top of your PlayStation shopping list. 

Ridge Racer Revolution

Namco has done it again. Last year Ridge Racer defined the standards of arcade to home translations, but with the new version, Namco makes a great game even better. The gameplay is basically unchanged, with nearly the exact same cars included this time ‘round the track save for the white angel car. The control is as tight as ever and those powerslides seem to be easier to accomplish. Namco has added more sophisticated AI to the opposing cars which makes the game a lot harder to beat. The graphics are much better, here’s even less pop up than the last time around, plus a much better variety in the scenery. The courses are more complicated than they were in the first title but the game still takes place on one large course with different paths. The main difference between  RRR and the original is the rear view mirror which makes blocking cars behind yours possible and adds a whole new level of realism to the game. The soundtrack is basically unchanged with some slightly changed versions of the original music included. RRR isn’t quite revolutionary, but it is evolutionary. This translates into the best traditional 32-bit racing game yet. 

Burning Road

As racing titles go, Burning Road is one of the better ones released recently. Players can select from a variety of muscle cars and trucks and race on 3 different courses. The large bitmapped polygons and twisting roads are reminiscent of Daytona. Playmates has some good twists on the genre, but the action and control are all pretty good. Burning Road is a little on the easy side, but players won’t be bored by the quick laps. The 3 courses offer good variety and some nice effects, such as the rain falling on the urban advanced course. BR offers players solid gameplay and action. It’s graphics are right up there with the best  PS racing titles, though it’s a bit too easy. Burning Road is an excellent, well balanced title but is not good enough to be in the same league as Ridge Racer or Wipeout.


What do you get when you take Doom and change the setting to ancient Egypt? Basically a game that leaves the player with a strong sense of deja vu. It’s no exaggeration to say that Powerslave is nothing but  another in the endless string of  those derivative “It’s just like Doom - WITH A TWIST” software titles.  Why the software industry still feels the need to open the tomb and unwrap this mummified game again and again is a mystery. Perhaps,  it’s a pharaoh’s curse on gamers. The object of the game? Simple: collect keys, unlock doors and shoot enemies. That’s the whole game. The “You’re trapped in a pyramid!” plot is only an excuse by the designers to change the demons from Doom into mummies. The usual switches and ‘secret’ panels are here as well.  The graphics are pretty fair for his genre, nothing more or less than you’d expect from this type of game. While there are some good examples of light-sourcing here and there, the game’s textures are bland, and pixelate much like Doom. The enemies themselves look pixellated and drab, with poor animation, this is especially apparent when players switch to the third person mode. The music is nice, but nothing beyond what you’d expect, it kind of sounds like ancient Egyptian drones mixed with generic heavy guitar noodling. Powerslave’s sound effects are  pretty generic. The control is about as good as you’d expect from this type of game, it doesn’t break much new ground here either. Despite a few interesting twists, most notably the ability to the view the action from a third person perspective like Tomb Raider. Players can also swim underwater, which isn’t very exciting to be honest. These options are the sole bits of real originality or imagination present in the title. It doesn’t add much to Powerslave however, it’s mostly used to do tricky maneuvers such as jumping.

The most important aspect of any game is how it plays. As described above, it plays much like Doom. Which means,. This is where Powerslave really falls down. The plot lacks the originality and urgency of classics like Doom or Quake. The less-than-thrilling plot leaves the player with a monotony of play. The game consists of shoot mummy, find the key, open door and, do it again. Running down the endless hieroglyphic covered corridors of Powerslave gets older faster than a mummy left in the sun. The enemies while putting up a decent fight don’t really make much effort to beat, not from an experienced Doom player, at least. The level designs reveal a distinct LACK of creativity and imagination. The weapons are uninteresting giving the player a rather dull arsenal to use. The puzzles are boring and predictable as are the locations of the secret areas and panels. This game will excite the eyes or the hands of very few players. Most of this PIE release’s elements have been seen before in countless games before it. When all is said and done, Powerslave is sad and has been done. 

Per4mer Turbo Wheel  

At first glance, this product seems to be an excellent choice for the PlayStation racing fanatic. The Per4mer wheel is solidly built, attractively styled in sleek all black with gray buttons  that add subtle accents to the product’s design. The pedal set that comes with the Per4mer is  a solid piece of hardware. The pedals plug into a Y-cord that it shares with the controller itself. The foot pedals are responsive and comfortable to use. Games can be played with or without the foot pedals, but playing with the pedals is preferred as they are more reliable than the buttons on the Steering wheel and add a layer of realism to play. Since adding realism to the experience of the games is the point, most will find the pedals necessary. Anything that frees a few fingers  to deal with  the wheel’s unavoidably clunky design is a definite improvement. The solid construction of the wheel and it’s standard shape would lead most players to think that this controller is about equal to the Mad Catz controller. The design of the controller is straightforward. There are two buttons on the steering wheel itself, two on the face of the wheel towards the player and two shift buttons directly behind these for intuitive reach by the player.  these buttons are comfortable to use.  However, it quickly became apparent after even a few cursory rounds of play that this product has some very serious flaws. Firstly, there are no labels on the 5 buttons of the controller’s face. 5 buttons are also awkwardly positioned on the face of the console.  This configuration is difficult to become accustomed to.  It quickly becomes frustrating having to configure each game to use the controller properly.  There just aren’t enough buttons to accurately represent all the commands on the Playstation. This lack of design foresight becomes even more pronounced during play when  this button arrangement becomes extremely difficult to use.  The buttons all have the same basic shape making for some frustrating play. The wheel itself seems over-responsive at first, but gets better as the player becomes accustomed to it’s level of sensitivity.

Another major problem with the wheel is it’s rather bulky physical dimensions, which make the wheel unwieldy to keep on your lap. Why would you want to Keep the Per4mer on your lap? Well, there are no rubber grips, or feet, on the bottom of the console. This means that the wheel is hard to stabilize on a table and this is another reason why the wheel wasn’t as good as it promises upon first glance.

 Some titles did not go with the controller that well. In fact, just about the only titles that truly shone using the  Per4mer were Namco’s war-horse Ridge Racer series and Psygnosis’ Formula One. Several titles would not work at all. Sony’s Jet Moto was completely incompatible. To be fair, Jet Moto did not work with the Mad Catz driving wheel either. The title that benefited the most from this product’s use was Namco’s Ridge Racer, performing tight maneuvers,  and pulling off more accurate power-slides became much easier with this product’s use than it would have been using a standard issue Sony joypad. Pysgnoisis’ Destruction Derby 2 worked fairly well enough , but players will have to switch controllers for the menu screen since the Per4mer doesn’t quite jab with the keys used to select items. The controller frequently locked the player into an inescapable reverse when the pedals were not plugged in. Both the Per4mer and the Mad Catz shared this flaw with this game. You figure it out.  The Wipeout games did not perform well with this controller, it was a bit too over-responsive for these games. To add more frustration, moving  up and down is not possible with this controller, rendering a whole layer of strategy completely useless and moot. Formula One was another game which did quite well using this controller. Formula One played well with this controller, it’s excellent sensitivity definitely enhanced the game’s play. The Per4mer’s no-frills features make  it seem more suited to standard driving games.  I also tried the driving wheel using Pole Position on Namco’s Museum Volume One. It was a very frustrating experience using this controller caused more frequent crashes than a standard joypad, the difficulty in shifting (you have to use the shift keys on the back of the Per4mer) made playing this classic game  a frustrating experience. There was one game that used the Per4mer that was not compatible with the Mad Catz, and that was Tunnel B1 from Acclaim. The stunningly beautiful Doom-driving hybrid worked like a charm with this product, after some tricky controller switching.  The Per4mer seems like a good choice on the surface, it’s flaws detract more from the product’s performance than it’s positive aspects do. If you can’t find a better controller, this may be a barely acceptable substitute. While it’s a solidly constructed device that can be fun to use once you get past its’ quirks, it just is not compatible enough games to fully justify its’ price. The controller starts out with it’s engines roaring, but quickly stalls after the second turn.

Mad Catz Analog True Wheel 

This driving wheel is a superior product from the people at Mad Catz.  What makes the Analog True such a superior product? It’s in the design. This wheel is the epitome of a  fully functional, smartly conceived piece of Playstation hardware. Starting with the wheel itself, which feels very smooth and is highly responsive, though not overly so. Add 3 smartly positioned buttons on the left and right side of the controller with a single shift key in the back for ease of use. Then you combine some very nice foot pedals, which are easy to use and connect to the main unit. Adding even more ease of use to the product, position an easy to find oval start button on the face of the controller and a mini control-pad on the wheel itself for easy selection. The kicker comes in the addition of a small shift stick on the right of the controller which makes the Mad Catz perform like a dream in even manual gear mode. The shift stick adds new dimensions to games such as Ridge Racer, while making  a game such as Wipeout, which uses up and down movements to control the angle of the racer, shine in ways they never could with a standard controller. The Analog True has obviously been designed with enough features to please even the pickiest driving game aficionado. Not a single feature of this controller seems unnecessary, useless or unintuitive to the player. This is a fantastic product, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, it isn’t perfect. The two main flaws in the design are comparitively minor. First, the buttons on the face of the wheel have a habit of staying stuck in the down position when pressed too hard or too often, making for some frustrating play at first. Players can compensate for this by using a light touch on them, however. The other flaw is a bit more serious. The cord linking the foot pedals to the main console has a tendency to pop out in the middle of gameplay, whether this is due to poor design or caused by overly aggressive play is no excuse. This could easily have been fixed if Mad Catz had used a more reliable connector. Overall, the wheel performance is excellent and it’s flaws do not cause serious detriment to the wheel’s value to the player. Of course, once you get past the physical characteristics, what really counts is how the wheel performs with actual software. This is where the Mad Catz really shines above its’ competition. Unlike the Per4Mer from ST&T, this controller is compatible with a large variety of titles. What’s more,  It’s forward looking design really enhances most of the titles it works with. For Starters, we can use Ridge Racer Revolution to see what the wheel does for these types of game. While it’s probable that any driving wheel would probably enhance this game due to it’s sophisticated design unlocks some features of the game that were previously either hard to use or impossible to perform with a standard Sony joypad. The smooth action that the wheel provides makes performing tricky blocking and passing maneuvers much easier than it would be with a regular pad. Playing the game with the manual transmission selected is actually an enjoyable experience thanks to the shifting gear which is intuitive and extremely responsive. This allows the player to use slightly more powerful cars without the aggravations caused by the joypad. Other games also benefit nicely from this controllers features. Wipeout and Wipeout XL are highly compatible with the features used in the stick. The smooth action of the pedals and easy to use wheel/gear stick combo make gliding over the futuristic terrains a breeze. The wheel does seem a tad overresponsive for this game, but it doesn’t take long for players to compensate for this. Formula One from Psygnosis was also enhanced, it’s realistic stock car racing action is amplified by the realistic touch of the Mad Catz. Unfortunately, using manual transmission isn’t as smooth as it could be, the way that Formula One is configured means that players must use the shift keys in the back of the wheel and not the gearstick. This is a highly unfortunate configuration, given the gearstick’s usefulness in other racers. Those of you who like ultra-violence mixed in with your racing will be happy to know that another of Psygnosis’ flagship titles, Destructon Derby 2 works perfectly, though with a caveat: It only works truly well with the pedals, using the regular buttons on the wheel face with DD2 causes the car to inexplicably become locked into reverse from time to time. This same problem affects the ST&T wheel as well, so it’s probably due to lack of support on the part of Psygnosiss than it does with the wheel.  Finally, for all you classic game fans this wheel was tested with the classic driving game Pole Position on the Namco Museum Volume One. It should make the nostalgic SILICON reader happy to know that in addition to the arcade perfect translation on the screen you now have the option of purchasing this controller for the closest thing to the real arcade machine you can own short of owning an actual standup. Since shifting from high to low gear was and is such an integral part of the game, it comes as no surprise that using the Mad Catz is a must-own product if you want to recreate the classic arcade experience at home. While keeping the lead throughout the race, the Mad Catz still managed to extend it’s lead down the stretch and win the race by a mile.  This product is excellent in design and function, and it’s a very highly recommended addition to any Playstation owners’ peripheral arsenal.

- Michael Palisano