Think differently

Dec 20, 2000 at 12:00 am

Behold, this is Sega’s glory stance: Rocketed by rival Sony’s inability to manufacture PS2 units in time for holiday shopping warfare, the Dreamcast is finally given due recognition as an overflowing powerhouse of gaming majesty. For only $149 and 50 coins per game, why not scream “Sega?” Here are two reasons to wear out your voice box and damage your button-jogging thumbs:

“Jet Grind Radio” is only one of the company’s triumphs this year, possibly the most spectacular. Propelled by nearly flawless 3-D environments (skate aside, Tony Hawk), enhanced by eye-candy, cell-shaded graphics (like Bugs and Daffy, only interactive) and immortalized by unlimited playability (unlike PS2, one-play-wonder trash), “Jet Grind” is pure, unfiltered escapism.

The fuel is the sound track — including Rob Zombie, Jurassic 5 and Mix Master Mike — and the art is not the graffiti-clad plot, but everything funky. Five expansive, obstacle-ridden environments will remedy any boredom cells in your bloodstream and 16 ambitious Rollerblade missions will surely keep even the tiredest gamer’s eyes wide open. (Actually, “Jet Grind” could be sold as a caffeine supplement.) Bonus challenges with potential gang tricksters and an in-game graffiti design kit offer even more reasons to abandon Santa Claus gatherings for a Dreamcast controller.

But wait — Sega has conquered more digital turf. Like “Space Channel 5” — the virtual, Mexican-inspired fiesta — “Samba De Amigo” covers new gaming ground. However, players may be without a groove method if a pair of $70 maracas isn’t purchased. Swinging to the Latin tunes of “Samba,” while attempting to master the game’s beat-hitting challenge, will surely dizzy everyone from 8 to 80 into a fun-filled frenzy — yet the Dreamcast’s odd button combos might confuse some shakers.

Trying to play both “Jet Grind” and “Samba” simultaneously? Don’t overwhelm yourself.

Maraca-bouncing monkeys and grinding, spray painting tag artists are plentiful in Sega’s Christmas lineup. And they endure.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].