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Ooga Booga

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Media: GD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Party

Graphics & Sound:

What to do at the end of a love affair? After the crying and consoling, you naturally throw a big party. Nothing helps ease the pain more than a fun gathering with a bunch of friends. So, with not more than a few nails remaining to be driven into the Dreamcast's coffin lid, here comes Sega with Ooga Booga. Settle in with this one and party like it's 9/9/99...

The theme that Ooga Booga is kicking around is tropical, native, primitive, pick your poison. Shot on location in different island haunts, you'll take on the role of a village medicine man (or woman) to compete, and should the will of Ooga Booga go with you, be victorious. Each of the initial characters you have to choose from is drawn with bold strokes. The Fatty tribe prone to some serious butt-crack during victory dances, the Hottie tribe hewn from hard-bodied Amazonian stock, the Hoodoo tribe looking like nothing less than a floating cigarette butt, and the flea infested, miniature Twitchy tribe make for some amusing action. The voice-overs are hilarious, but the best is when characters you've dealt a particularly hard blow to groan your name in agony or shout it in anger. The music is great stuff, island styles mixed with world beat and a touch of jazz. You'll barely hear the soundtrack over the shouts of characters, the crackle of spells and the oinking of outraged boars. And that's all just in the game. You don't even want to think about a roomful of people cranked up in the middle of some multiplayer Ooga Booga tournament. It's not that any of the sound or visuals proves to be groundbreaking, but just that they enhance the action without getting in the way.


Gameplay:

As a pure and simple party game, Ooga Booga is almost no fun to play alone, and lots of fun with other people. Luckily if all of your friends happen to have names like 'tuRFwarZ82' or '2cOOlone' and live in cyberspace, you'll find it just as easy to strike up an online multiplayer session as inviting folks into the discomfort of your own home to grab a greasy controller. In fact, for my money, I'll take online play any day. Some party games are a mile wide and only an inch deep, but Ooga Booga balances both sides well enough to make it more than just average.

First, you'll have to compete in a Tribal Trial to open up most of the special options before taking on any human players. The Tribal Trial will introduce you to all the major aspects of Ooga Booga gameplay, and will earn you the turf and the means to defend it, along with some neat extras. Each trial is preceded by a short tutorial, so people like me who generally avoid reading the manual will have all the help they need just by following the little words onscreen. Completing a Trial will unlock elements like Spells, which come in very handy in both attacking opponents and defending objectives. You will learn to ride animals in these Trials, which turns out to be a very critical piece of gameplay. You'll also open up islands and arenas that can host you again with your friends in the future. Tribal Trials is the only one player mode, and it's over quickly. This is nice, since you probably only want all the goodies so you can cream your friends. Some extras like player masks and even special players can be unlocked also. Beyond just introducing weapons, game types will be found here, like Smakahuna, Rodeo and Boar Polo. Once you decide you're a master of strategy, it's time to move on to multiplayer.

Offline Skirmish gives you and as many friends or CPUs up to 4 a chance to face off. You choose from available options and then launch into the action. If everything is open, you'll have the chance to play Smakahuna, a no-rules smackdown for points. Points are awarded for things like swatting opponents, hitting them with spells and even mowing them down with a charging boar. If you like the sound of that 'charging boar' stuff, try Rodeo. In this style, you'll only be given points for hitting the other players when you're riding on a boar. You'll still be able to cast spells, throw shrunken heads (they grow on the trees in these islands) and simply ride over characters, but stay on that boar! A variation on this game is Boar Polo, still riding the boar of course, but required now to knock a ball into a goal. It really is good fun. With plenty of locations to choose from, each supporting different types of strategy and action, and the ability to modify what spells and creatures are available, there's a huge amount of variation possible in each multiplayer game. Battling it out with humans is the way to go, and if you don't have the peeps at home, try going online. The interface is simple, and the connection need not be superfast for you to enjoy Ooga Booga action across the wires. One especially neat touch is that you and another player at home can connect to an online game and play in split-screen mode! When you connect to the server, you'll find a chat room, a place to look for specific players and a 'room' to see which game has players and is ready to begin. Everything seemed intuitive, and although you may worry about the online traffic for a game on a system that isn't so live and kicking, you'll have plenty of people to play with. Look at the persistence of games like the original Diablo or Starcraft. Even after cheating and the passage of many, many years, folks still sign-on for the experience because online multiplayer is fun. Ooga Booga is no Starcraft, but it's fun to play and will amuse the hell out of you.


Difficulty:

There's plenty of room for cheap shots, and you'll take advantage of this constantly to beat the CPU opponents. The tricks become less amusing when you face off against real human opponents and realize that they wise up all too soon to your naughty deeds and feed you painful doses of your own medicine. So, be warned. Nothing apart from the ability to sock it to the other guy in a rather unmerciful fashion makes Ooga Booga hard to handle, but especially in online play you're liable to meet someone who's found a way to stack the odds in her favor. But, the basic controls and game rules are so simple that it comes down to your devious nature and button mashing skills. Go forth and kahuna!

Game Mechanics:

Obviously, a big question for online multiplayer is 'How easy is it to get online?' I liked that Ooga Booga not only picked up the default settings from (I assume) my browser file in the VMU, but also offered advanced or optional settings for other phone numbers and dialing rules. With the defaults, if you've ever gone online with the Dreamcast before, Ooga Booga should run like a charm. If you need to set one of the advanced options, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure things out. The manual does a great job of walking you through the different areas of the online gaming area, and you can also ask a friendly chat room denizen for some assistance. Since the Tribal Trials include extensive tutorials, very little in the way of learning isn't picked up through gameplay. Use of the camera or 'extra' commands are in the manual, but if you pass all the Tribal Trials, you'll know what you're doing. What you're doing generally amounts to activating weapons on the top buttons and moving or aiming with the analog stick. At times when you're riding a boar or a bird, the controls stay the same, but the possibilities are expanded, such as the dive bombing you can do on the bird. There are even assisting Tikis that will fight for you when activated, but they do so automatically once you put things into motion. The scoring can be a little silly at times, rewarding simple smacks and physical gameplay over use of spells, but once human players get thrown into the mix, you'll find that walking up and smacking someone isn't possible any more. Spells, riding creatures and strategically using the environment becomes key to victory when playing with people, and the amount of 'oomph' that human partners give to Ooga Booga is unbelievable. Some control issues, such as how the ball moves in Boar Polo, will stick out and beg for better physics, but the engine is as the engine does. In this case, Ooga Booga isn't about creating some picture perfect world or trying to 'out-Quake' Quake. It's lighthearted fun, and a party game through and through. It's the kind of thing you might keep running at a party and expect people to pop in and out of, much like a game of lawn darts. In fact, it's almost exactly like lawn darts, but without the pointy danger and those annoying grass stains. Give this one a try if you're hot to make use of that Dreamcast and need to accessorize around the island theme party you've been planning. Even as a rental, Ooga Booga is catchy enough to be the life of any party.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Sega Dreamcast Metropolis Street Racer Sega Dreamcast Razor Freestyle Scooter

 
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