- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008

Superhero and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. Around the world, youngsters and guys who can”t get dates spend countless hours in front of their computers and video-game systems.

With this in mind, I salute the melding of pop-culture character and Silicon Valley with a look at some …

Comics plugged in

A famed dinosaur hunter and comic-book legend returns to entertainment consoles completely re-imagined in the first-person shooting extravaganza Turok (rated M for mature, $59.99).

Touchstone revives the once-successful game franchise for Xbox 360 owners by introducing a grizzled hero tasked with trying to escape a planet loaded with steamy foliage, subterranean structures, soldiers and carnivores.

What’s the story? Paraphrased from the game’s manual: Joseph Turok, once a member of Wolf Pack — the most savage, merciless black-ops team of its time — has been attached by special order to the elite commando unit Whiskey Company. Its latest mission is to capture Roland Kane, an escaped war criminal and former leader of the Wolf Pack who resides on a backwater planet loaded with prehistoric beasts.

Characters’ character: A lame tale of survival and revenge greets the player as he hunts down dunderheaded soldiers while a bunch of pesky man-eating dinosaurs keep getting in the way.

Other than Joseph Turok’s being an American Indian, the game has nothing to do with any of the comic-book series and offers a minimal amount of drama. Nevertheless, it temporarily stands out for its choice of feisty, lifelike creatures and the total chaos and carnage one can inflict on his foes.

For patient players, one of the better parts of the game enables them to sit back in a safe location and watch beasts such as raptors hunt enemies for them.

Unfortunately, the overall game is pretty much a cookie cutter of similar titles and has little innovation except for watching icons such as the Tyrannosaurus rex on the attack.

Turok does eventually wield a bow for some stealth hunts, and the player can have him put more power into a shot by just holding a trigger. He also can carry a knife and two additional weapons he finds lying around to inflict damage.

None of the celebrity voice-over power helps the story or action. Ron “Hellboy” Perlman is once again doing his grouchy tough-guy impersonation, and Turok’s words by Gregory Cruz do little to inspire the player.

Additionally, Turok’s online multiplayer option, with 10 available maps and six modes, has limited promise. Basically, if you already own Halo or Unreal Tournament, why bother?

How would Lt. Frank Drebin fare? Weapons such as a flamethrower and the surprisingly effective Blackfly Stick Bomb gun are plentiful, but targeting has all the precision of a 10-year-old aiming a bazooka. Boss battles come with a total lack of guidance, and even the average enemy soldier can take an incredible amount of damage before he falls. I opened up point-blank on a guy with a shotgun blast, and he was barely stunned.

Parental blood-pressure meter: 250/150, dead on arrival. Being rewarded for pinning an enemy to a wall by impaling him with an arrow is just a quick example of the celebration of death unleashed in the game. Flesh peels off dinosaurs as they are shot or explode into bits, adversaries can take a knife to the head, and close-range kills set off brutally violent animations. Basically, blood flows whenever an opportunity arises.

Read all about it? Turok has a long history in sequential art that spans more than four decades. Classic early Dell/Gold Key copies of the series Turok, Son of Stone might be too costly for the average fan (about $30 each in near mint condition for the later issues). I suggest finding any of the Acclaim Comics, especially its adaptation of the Nintendo 64 game from 2000, Turok 3: Shadows of Oblivion ($4.95).

What’s it worth? By not tapping into any of the imaginative sequential-art stories surrounding the Turok legend and trying to completely redefine the character, the game is the shell of a first-person shooter.

Hard-core gamers will find much better titles to satisfy their slaughter addictions while comic-book fans will wonder where their hero went. That leaves the average gamer, who may want to rent Turok if all the copies Call of Duty 4, Doom and BioShock already are taken.

Pop bytes

A brief review of game titles that didn’t have time to get fully plugged in.

Naruto: Ninja Destiny (D3Publisher of America for Nintendo DS, rated T for teen, $29.99) Shonen Jump’s anime and manga star continues to attack the video-game world with yet another title devoted to his adventures.

The player uses Nintendo’s hand-held unit to help the knuckleheaded ninja work though a story line encompassing the first 140 episodes of his popular cartoon. It’s a 3-D fighter at the heart of the action as up to 16 characters, including Sakura, Kakashi and Naruto, can battle, displayed in beautiful cel-shaded brilliance.

Unfortunately, the touch magic of the DS is underused here as players tap on icons at the bottom of the screen to increase their attributes before fights, but the important jutsu attacks are delivered without any inventive use of the DS.

Multicard wireless play helps extend the arcade mode as a couple of friends can battle, but the lack of a Wi-Fi wireless connection to challenge Naruto fans around the world makes the title a bit antiquated.

For my money, I’ll stick with Naruto: Rise of a Ninja for the Xbox 360, but devoted fans of the show will love this portable, which does pack a colorful punch.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (https://video1.washingtontimes.com/zadzooks/) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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