Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Brute force

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2001 at 12:00 AM

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“The Bouncer” is like an upper-class struggle — the bourgeoisie representing graphical elegance and feudal miscreants playing out the plotline. Thus, the internal conflict arises: the beauty of the opulent can’t feasibly cooperate with the illiteracy of the many unfortunate street urchins; too many disputes arise.

Undoubting, this is a sad day for gaming.

As one of the first brash moves of famed developer Squaresoft (“Final Fantasy,” “Chrono Trigger”) “Bouncer” merges into other genres, leaving a blurred impression, at best. It attempts to embrace the beat-’em-up class of actioniers, such as many formidable precursors — specifically “Final Fight” and the “Double Dragon” franchise — but crash lands on a postmodern death trap. The game’s story line is shaggy; its gameplay control, utterly rotten. And though it may seem odd, the simplicity of “Bouncer” plays a prevalent role in its collapse.

The combat system is in Lincoln Log mode, a basic, unschooled “strike” and “defend” assemblage. For trotting along at such an elementary level, the Matrix-esque maneuvers of each character seem erroneously justified. By pressing one button on the control pad, the game’s main character, Sion Barzahd, fist-juggles enemies in midair, often striking three to four times before a body even flops on the pavement. Shouldn’t such a complicated attack take practice to master?

But most tragic is the hazardous pacing of the game. Even though the cinematics are spectacular, often challenging the blur between animation and reality, the entire game feels too much like a movie. Not enough focus is paid to interactivity. One minute may be spent battling a psychotic robo-mech, while, in ratio, four minutes will be wasted watching the story line develop.

And during such brief action sequences, another glaring error is exposed. Squaresoft has single-handedly managed to create the worst camera in history. Much too often, when switching angles, orientation is completely confused and many enemies reveal themselves with punches from off-screen. That doesn’t seem fair.

Once upon a time, there was an arcade where gameplay ruled. Alas, “The Bouncer” ushers in a new era of gaming, where graphic flair prevails over purity of play. You may commence mourning.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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