It is an extremely rare occasion in which I would come across a game that should be trashed in a matter of seconds, but usually, and against all odds, I don't. In fact, not only do I grow to appreciate the ugly duckling, I often end up being hopelessly addicted to it. The last time this happened was when playing V-9 Space Griffon on the PlayStation. Graphically, Griffon was nasty even by first generation standards and the controls were simply awful. But the story kept me on edge and allowed me to tolerate all the negative aspects. Now a similar situation has happened again with Hybrid Heaven.

Hybrid Heaven doesn't have terrific graphics (which Dale described as 'bland') and it doesn't have a great control scheme either. But it does have an excellent storyline (unfolded through some of the best cut-scenes to grace the N64), emotionally complex characters and some interesting ideas towards gameplay. For example, I start out the story as one character, but after a couple of stages, I'm unmasked to be another character. It's a Total Recall-type plot twist and quite a balls-y move on the part of the developers. Then there's the RPG-esque turn-based combat system that many critics complained about as being overly slow. Yes, I agree that it's a little more tedious than I would like, but what kept me glued to it was the sheer variety in attacks and the experience of never having played anything quite like it. It may have been slow, but it never bored me.

All the elements (good and bad), however, don't come together in the end, which keeps Hybrid Heaven from reaching greatness. But some of the parts by themselves are truly innovative and deserve some recognition. As a critic, I'm obligated to inform consumers of its serious flaws and drop the score down a few notches. As a gamer, if you are looking for something with a little substance in the story department and don't mind the offbeat experiences, I wholeheartedly recommend Hybrid Heaven. This is one of the few games in recent months that had me on edge till its end. Rating: 8 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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