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Hybrid Heaven
Platform:  Nintendo 64
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Konami Osaka
Publisher:  Konami
Features:  Expansion Pak, Rumble Pack compatible
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  53 pages
One of the things the N64 has been sorely lacking is a good, solid adult adventure game. In the past couple of weeks we've gotten Shadowman, Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (well, it sort of counts), and now Konami's Hybrid Heaven, which is one of the strangest console games I've played this year. Imagine a mixture of the films Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Matrix, with a little of The X-Files, and add parts of Tomb Raider, with a splash of Mario and a little WWF. If that sounds confusing, and I know it does, don't worry, all will be explained...

The story plays itself out as you go through the game, an excellent touch that makes you keep playing to find out just what the heck is going on. It combines political intrigue, science fiction, and some horror elements. You start the game as "Mr. Diaz", part of an alien race called Hybrids, who plan to take over the Earth by (get this,) substituting our President with one of their guys! All they really had to do was send in one of their cute, chubby Hybrid gals, with a tin of Altoids... but that's another game altogether! Anyway, their plan gets off to a less than perfect start when a voice in his head makes Diaz shoot and kill one of the other Hybrids! After a battle with two Hybrid agents sends you tumbling down an elevator shaft of sorts, the actual game begins. The majority of the game consists of exploring the many, many rooms of the vast underground Hybrid complex; here, you'll speak to people, find and use items, and try to solve a number of platform based puzzle rooms. These areas are not too difficult, but the control at times is a bit awkward with the analog stick. It's a bit too sensitive when you have to turn just a tiny bit to line up for a jump. There should have been an option to use the D-pad for movement, or adjust the stick sensitivity. You can also adjust the camera viewpoint to 3 angles, as well as use it to scope out your immediate surroundings, very handy when dealing with those pesky security drones! There's even an automap, for the directionally challenged! The characters here can run, jump, shimmy and crawl, Lara Croft style, but suffer from the occasional stiff movement now and then, which make navigating some areas more treacherous than it should be.

You're armed with a small "diffuser" to destroy those annoying sentry droids you'll find all over the place, the other enemies you meet in the game (thanks to your character letting them loose in a cutscene), you have to deal with... with your fists and feet! That's right, hidden within Hybrid Heaven is a full-fledged turn-based wrestling simulator! The game is loaded with mutated monsters set to maul your mug on the mat! Enter a room with an enemy, and the game switches over to combat mode, where you have free range of movement as you plan out your attack. There are two bars, representing your power and stamina-You'll need to pay close attention to these, as they determine when you can attack. You also have to position your body so that you can strike effectively, like in a real fight! Once you find an opening, a quick tap of the "A" button pauses the action and brings up a menu, from which you can choose a number of moves. Choose carefully, and you'll connect with a crushing blow- but if you're set up to throw a left hook, and instead go right, your opponent will smack you down, around, and all over town! If (and when) this happens, you have to move out of range quickly lest you leave yourself open to another smackdown. You can dodge your opponent while your meter refills, and try to attack again. Each part of your body has it's own "meter" of sorts that levels up according to what part was used for attack or defense after each fight. You can also do throws, reversals, and learn new moves by getting them used on you first- this is a great touch, since you have to watch your HP- do you learn the new technique and risk it all, or play it safe and go for the quick kill?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things get even more unusual; when the storyline suddenly does a suplex on your mind, and you find out some things aren't as they should be! I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say, you'll most likely need a scorecard to follow all the crazy stuff here! The game is structured so that you get thrown into the middle of things and HAVE to keep playing. The graphics and level design range from bland to excellent, and although you have the option to play the game with the Expansion Pak, you might not notice too much. You can also play the game in a letterbox format, but I recommend this only if you have a huge TV. The music is pure Konami excellence, and probably the best on the N64- it sounds like there's a CD player inside your system! There's also a two-player mode, which requires two saved games, as well as a single-player battle mode, in which you can take on enemies that you've already faced.

As much as I enjoyed the game, I couldn't help but take notice of a couple of flaws, such as non-adjustable camera angles during some crucial moments, or the sense of repetition in the gameplay. There are only 30 or so enemies throughout the game, so the initial surprise of say, an unseen enemy dropping down from the ceiling gets tired after the 10th or 11th time it happens. Some of the artwork and characters do look a little blocky and less than "real". But the game has a certain style that only Konami could have pulled off, in terms of the amazing cinematic feeling throughout the game. If you pick up Hybrid Heaven, thinking it's going to be the next Metal Gear Solid- you may be disappointed. But if you're looking for a good, solid adventure game with a story that'll keep you guessing 'til the end, as well as yet another good N64 game, Hybrid Heaven deserves a place in your collection.

Greg Wilcox

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