Abarcy

Sega Superstars

Sega jumps on the EyeToy bandwagon with this offering of mini-games, altering the formula a little by bringing a whole stable of Sega characters to the mix. It's hard not to see this as just a cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of as many established characters as possible, but all that can be forgiven if the gameplay is up to scratch.

Given the wide range of characters, the visual style of the games vary a lot, from the realism of Crazy Taxi to the primary colours and toylike appeal of Puyopop Fever. In each case games consist of short rounds which you can play at three or four difficulty levels, and you can't move on to the harder levels without first completing the easier ones.

Sega Superstars introduces an element of linearity by having unlockable sections, and through the rings system. As you play you will earn rings, which can be spent in the Chao garden. Chao is a cute but high-maintenance virtual pet who is never happier than when you buy him toys and food. Anyone who plays can earn rings to help to pay for all this (in other words, you don't have a profile with your own personal virtual pet). Even if you lose a game you may still be able to pick up a few rings, so there is some incentive to tackle the harder games, and there are goals to work towards.

The games introduce a number of characters and older series of games, but you don't have to be familiar with them to enjoy Sega Superstars. Samba de Amigo is a dancing minigame, similar to EyeToy : Groove and Beat Freak from EyeToy : Play. It's mainly latin music, 12 tracks in total, 8 of which have to be unlocked. Space Channel 5 is also a dance game, this time a matter of copying the moves. It's all looking quite familiar. This minigame requires a lot of precision, and even at easy level this is a fairly tough one to master.

Space Channel 5 is one of three games that initially seem very challenging, the others being Nights and Monkey Ball. In Nights you fly around super-hero style, collecting things and trying to reach a destination in time. Initially the controls may seem unreliable, until you figure out that the character will stop moving forward when you bring one or both of your hands too close to your body, and you can use this method to change direction abruptly.

Monkey Ball involves using your arms to tilt a platform where a monkey in a ball is rolling around. Roll over bananas to get points, but let him fall through the gaps and you lose a life. To say that these three games are frustrating is putting things mildly, but if you have great hand-eye co-ordination and enjoy tough challenges you might like them.

Perhaps the oddest-looking game is Puyopop Fever, where you direct coloured blobs into trays. But although it looks silly the gameplay is well-designed. However the most innovative game here is Crazy Taxi, which uses the EyeToy's audio capabilities. The aim is to hail a taxi by shouting and waving your arms. How much enjoyment you get from this has to depend on whether you live in a crowded apartment block with thin walls, or on your own in the middle of nowhere, and how much you want to annoy your neighbours.

In several games, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, you play as characters other than yourself. This makes a welcome change from watching yourself all the time. With the inclusion of a fighting game (Virtua Fighter) and a football game (Virtua Striker), it's clear that the format of Sega Superstars owes a lot to EyeToy : Play. However Sega Superstars builds on what has been before so that it's different enough to be interesting, and there are enough unlockables and surprises to introduce a feeling of progression.

One niggle is the positioning of the "return" button in the bottom corner, where it is too easy to walk past and activate accidentally. This can be infuriating. In spite of this, Sega Superstars turns out to be an entertaining series of games which brings new twists to the EyeToy experience.