IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Guts, goons, gore & Godzilla

Guts, goons, gore & Godzilla: Nothing like a few video games to get you in a Halloween mood. By Tom Loftus, MSNBC.
"Let's do the time-warp again!"  There's something about "BloodRayne 2" that screams "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"Let's do the time-warp again!"  There's something about "BloodRayne 2" that screams "Rocky Horror Picture Show."Majesco

The lunar eclipse, the Red Sox victory and now Halloween ... things are getting a little strange these days. To celebrate we have a number of new videogames that honor the macabre and the horrific:

"BloodRayne 2"
Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox
Rated M for Mature

Blood not only flows in "BloodRayne 2," it gushers, spurts, mists and pools.

The 2002 original was a third-person action fighter that pitted the heroine, a half-human half-vampire vixen, against the Nazi undead. The sequel finds BloodRayne once again on a quest to rid the world of her EuroTrash vampire brethren, melding an action film sensibility with vampire lore and plenty of blood and guts.

The fast-paced, if at times repetitive, game combines acrobatics with gun and sword play. More Bruckenheimer than Hammer Horror, BloodRayne prefers evisceration to seduction and Frederick's of Hollywood to Hugo Boss.

There's plenty of neck sucking, as well.  BloodRayne's power lies in satisfying her bloodlust and she indulges in the practice with the enthusiasm of a Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked on Temptation Island.

After feeding, BloodRayne kicks or impales her victims with a flourish -- so much for not playing with your food.

Vampires have always had a strong sexual undercurrent, but game maker Majesco, in a nod to the young male audience, has stripped all subtlety away by creating a character that is really no more than spandex with teeth (BloodRayne even "appeared" topless in Playboy magazine last month.)

Like a bad late night horror movie, "BloodRayne 2" sets out to entertain -- good taste be damned -- and it does so despite (or because of) its over-the-top violence.  Baddies are dispatched in the most creative ways from basic decapitation to heel grinding to conveniently placed stuffed rhino heads.

Sets are appropriately macabre and many items from stuffed animals to antique Louis XIV furniture -- apparently the favorite furniture of corrupt EuroTrash vampires -- are destructible.

Ultimately, however, some gamers will ask themselves if the storyline, action and overall production are engaging enough to play through the end. Once the intended audience discovers the cheat code for making BloodRayne's breasts grow, they may declare "Mission Accomplished" and move on.

"Mortal Kombat: Deception"
Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox
Rated M for Mature

You may recall 1992's "Mortal Kombat," the infamous early street fighting game that introduced gaming to gobs of gore.

When the victor memorized the proper sequence of buttons, his character would administer a particularly gruesome coup de grâce to the losing fighter. Removing the opponent's spinal column and skull and holding it aloft was a particular favorite. 

"Mortal Kombat: Deception" matches the blood-sport of the original. Characters suffer all sorts of deaths from falling 20 stories onto a pike to getting pancaked in a metal press.  There are finishing moves to memorize.  Losers can unlock various "hari-kiri" actions to deny the victor the spoils.

So ... all this should be a warning to parents starting their holiday shopping. 

But adult gamers who understand the cartoonish quality of the "Mortal Kombat" series may get a kick out of the vast improvements in character and set design. Returning "Mortal Kombat" veterans include Scorpion, the whip-wielding tough guy who looks like he was recruited from a leather bar, Sub-Zero and the she-devil Mileena. They all look great, as do the improved interactive settings that range from tower tops to an iron smelter. 

For the first time in the series, "Mortal Kombat: Deception" allows online battles on both the Xbox and PlayStation 2. It also ships with several mini-games including a particularly violent (and hilarious) version of chess, a puzzle game and a rather lame adventure game.

What's missing from the series' most ambitious package to date is the controversy. The fact is that the gore the original "Mortal Kombat" helped introduce has been literally done to death over the last decade.

Looking for something new, I actually found it in a complimentary copy of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" that some PR person packaged along with my press review copy of the game:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

"Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django"
Nintendo Game Boy
Rated T for Teens

Last year game maker Konami solved the parental worry that children were spending too much time inside playing video games by attaching a small solar sensor to the cartridge of "Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hands," the vampire-hunting game for the Game Boy.

The sensor made gameplay contingent on the player's physical surroundings. Killing vampires and gaining health required that game hero stayed fully stocked up on solar energy. And the most effective way to build up on solar energy was for junior to waddle outside with the Game Boy and expose the battery to natural light.

"Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django" is more of the same. Natural light allows Django to store up energy, practice magic on attacking zombies, forge weapons and, in a nice touch, expose traps that would otherwise have remained hidden if the scene was played indoors.  

A built-in-clock further tightens the bond between the game and reality. When it's nighttime in the real world, it's dark in the game and the zombies are more active.  

While rated T for Teens, "Boktai 2" is not really a scary game. There are enough small tasks built-in to keep the Game Boy generation immersed in play: food to acquire, maps to explore and assets to allocate.  And this being a Konami game, there are plenty of strange Japanese-to-English mistranslations that make navigating the story as tricky as navigating the dungeons. 

"Godzilla: Save the Earth"
Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox
Rated T for Teens

From Atari comes another fighting game, this one starring the monsters of Japan's Toho Studios, the creators of Godzilla and dozens of other rubber-suited monsters.

The premise for "Godzilla: Save the Earth" involves an alien race hoping to harvest the cells of earth's monsters for a super weapon.  Somehow this sets the stage for the fighting sequences.

Players can choose from over a dozen monsters including Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and a number of additional Toho monsters that never appeared on my local Saturday afternoon "Chiller Diller."

Like the rubber-suited versions, the digital versions are slow and ponderous.  It is unclear whether this was intentional to mimic the films or if it was the result of faulty programming.  But a fighting game where responses are slow can be a frustrating experience no matter the realism it represents.

Buildings collapse and freeways buckle as the monsters do battle.  Again, the effects look as 'realistic' as they did in the films where viewers could practically read 'This side up' printed on the cardboard buildings.  Is this intentional?  I'm not sure, but buildings were far more realistic -- and thus, more fun to destroy -- in the arcade classic, "Rampage."

A multiplayer component extends playability, but like the original Toho films, "Godzilla: Save the Earth" can be enjoyed and forgotten in a couple Saturday afternoon sessions.