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

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui
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