The PC is home to almost any game you can imagine. Whether you want to control the intergalactic trading of an empire or help an imprisioned alien escape from becoming tommorrow s meal, you can be sure to find it on your trusty computer. This being said, I often ask myself how a popular sport like volleyball can be so poorly represented, especially with an icon like Gabriel Reece involved. The good thing about the lack of representation, especially for the developer, is if there is only one volleyball game on the market, it won t have anything compared to it. First-person shooter games have so many titles to battle with, which gives an average FPS very little chance of becoming popular. Daikatana, for example, may have fared better if it didn t have to compete with the onslaught of A+ games sharing the genre. And that is exactly why Power Spike Pro Beach Volleyball had me hooked over the weekend. Graphics Graphically the game isn t something that taxed my 1.2 Thunderbird and GeForce 3. There wasn t a 32-bit color option, so I stuck with running at 16-bit color at the maximum resolution. The game isn t hard on the eyes per se; it just doesn t push technical limits. This may be a blessing in disguise for everyone sporting a lower-end PC. There are a couple of nice effects (shadows and dust clouds) that spruce the looks up a bit. However, the player models are very low polygon count, and the stadium fans are completely lifeless. The stadiums don t seem to have enough variety to keep gamers coming back. There are day and night changes, but that s not enough for me. I find it hard to believe that all volleyball stadiums are the exact same size. Ported from a Playstation title...and it shows. Sound The bare-bones focus follows suit when considering the sounds. With the lack of a soundtrack or in-game music, the game relies on sound effects to keep your ears at attention. The lack of high-quality sounds, especially grunts and groans (which would have fit nicely), leave much to be desired. Still, I never had a problem turning down the music and listening to WinAmp during my games. Control The control scheme is a mixed bag. Let me say I find it extremely annoying when I set up a control scheme only to find it has been reset upon exit. Whether this is a conflict with my gamepad (Saitek P750) or a problem in need of a patch matters very little. In addition, I found the menus had calibiration issues, even when the game controlled flawlessly. Outside of that the controls worked pretty well. The game allows for five different buttons to be used to control your team: Block, Attack, Strong Attack, AI and Change Formation. All shots can be traced via a positioned red circle that functions both as a means of aim and a target for defense. If you are relatively close to the circle when your opponent attacks, holding the button will result in a correct block. From there, you can pass to set or pass to spike, as can your teammate. After about ten minutes, I picked up the controls perfectly and I didn t have any problems playing the game. Gameplay In essence, 2-on-2 volleyball is fairly straight forward, and Pro Spike definitely captures that feeling. Instead of picking through a menu of a hundred plays or passing fifteen times before a slapshot, you always know what to do. And that is the beauty of the game. For gamers that remember Super Spike V-Ball for the NES, Pro Spike Volleyball will be a pleasant surprise. The high points of the game occur when the ball stays in play for long periods of time, exactly what makes playing volleyball intense. But that is the only thing that keeps you coming back. Whether you re in the single game mode or playing in the World Tour, you want those tense situations. But that is only amusing for a couple of hours, or a couple of days at most. LAN support would have been much more fun and would have added to the replayability considerably, but the shared screen mode doesn t cut it. Wizard Works games always seem to be budget games at budget prices. Some of them, though, surprise me and easily could be considered a very good non-budget title. As for Power Spike Pro, Gabrielle Reece looks pretty on the cover, but you know the old saying. -==KapTeNKrYloN==-
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