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It's Fun to Play the MDK!
October 20th, 1998

Gary: Well, Randy, here we are. Seasoned veterans of the column-writing circuit. In our first four columns, we have tackled subjects as far ranging as our hopes and dreams (the fictional gMac), a dissertation on the state of Macintosh developer relations, and we even time-traveled back into the golden age of arcade gaming.

Randy: So this week, we thought we would write about the historical aspects of gaming, how society is changing in response to gaming, and how that in turn, affects the games we play. We will also talk about the societal ramifications of competition and how it has truly defined us as a culture, and as individuals who identify ourselves by how we are measured against each other.

Gary: Or, we could just write a review of MDK.

Randy: Thank God!

Gary: Alright. MDK kicks butt! I'm done.

Randy: Yep, that about covers it.

Gary: Seriously, though, MDK , from Shiny Entertainment, is a great new twist to the first-person shoot-em ups that we all love and have played to death. (Bad pun intended.)You are Kurt, sent to save Earth from a race of mining monsters that plan to suck the planet dry. Kurt has been orbiting the globe with Dr. Fluke Hawkins, an inventor, and Bones, er, Max, the six-legged wonder dog.

The first thing you realize is that these guys have a sense of humor. I laughed out loud as I read the booklet that sets up the story line. And it makes it that much sweeter to kill one of the aliens after enduring their taunting and, yes, mooning.

Randy: I don't believe I've ever had an AI drop his drawers for me before MDK. I agree, the kids at Shiny had their tongue planted firmly in their collective cheek when they hatched this game. From martini sipping alien bosses to "the world's smallest nuclear bomb" there are laughs aplenty in MDK. But don't let the humor scare away you hard-core action fans. The game play in MDK is second to none.

We would like to thank Shokwave Software for the excellent port to the Mac. Keep up the good work!

In a world of first-person shooters, this is the only game in a long time to actually find a new way to play an old tune. The game is actually played from a third-person point of view, and you are tracking Kurt's movements from directly behind him. The action is presented in real-time 3D, with stunning panoramas of the Earth cities outside the arenas. We say arenas because there are very few claustrophobic maze-like hallways as in Quake or Marathon. Most of the game-play takes place in wide-open areas with lots of levels to climb on or jump from. Each level of the game has its own distinctive feel and design. Lots of cool reflected surfaces show off the artwork and add to the visual complexity of the game-play.



Gary: The artwork mixes Brazil with The Wizard of Oz. I found myself thinking of Fritz Lang's classic silent film Metropolis when I played. It has a distinct retro-futuristic feel, and I give the art design thumbs up.

But it's not just the art design that makes this game feel different. It's also the creative game play. You don't just waste rooms full of aliens. You have to think and solve ingenious puzzles in order to waste rooms full of aliens. In fact, a lot of the time you are not killing aliens at all.

Randy: That's true. We had some of our most fun just getting from level to level. Sometimes you are sliding on your butt down huge, long tube-like corridors or driving around inside a stolen robot, while other times you are in free-fall with nothing but your ribbon shoot to save you from falling a mile or two to your death.

Gary: These guys have come with many variations of game play, each one a surprise, and better than the last. I haven't even gotten close to completing the game, and I am excitedly awaiting what lies ahead. There are gizmos and gadgets galore, including grenades and bombs, and a few surprises....

However, the coolest gadget you get is the one you use the most. Your shock suit.

Randy: You got that right. You are sent down to face the mean spirited alien invaders in an amazing shock suit that allows you to take incredible amounts of damage and comes with a cool ribbon shoot that allows you to glide on air during those long falls. Your main weapon is a chain gun with unlimited ammo. However, you can pick up all kinds of beefier weapons during the game, but the higher power weapons like the sniper grenade and the mortar rounds have only a limited amount of ammo.

One of the coolest ways to fight is with your chain gun in sniper mode. The gun mounts on the front of your helmet to become a sniper rifle. And this baby has a seriously high-powered scope. You can zoom in from miles away and pick off your enemy without them even seeing you. While zoomed in you can observe the aliens in exquisite detail. The models are far superior to anything in Quake. You can actually see emotion in the animated faces of your enemy.

Gary: Sniper mode is a lot like having a super high-end telescope mounted on your gun. It is a total blast. (There I go with the puns again.) And if spying on your enemy before you pop him right between the eyes isn't fun enough, there's the bullet cam.

The bullet cam is exactly what it sounds like. Every bullet you shoot has its own camera, and you can monitor up to three bullets as they zoom in on their targets through little panes atop your main sniper view screen. Watch closely, though. Those bullets are fast.

Which brings us to the interface. Generally, I feel that having a view screen with a lot of windows and an inventory is distracting to game play. But I found myself completely immersed in MDK, and I found switching between regular and sniper mode very intuitive.

Randy: This took me a little getting used to but, once I got the hang of it, sniper mode has become one of my favorite ways to play. During normal game play the interface is full screen except for the life meter in the lower right of the screen and your weapon inventory lines up on the bottom left side of the screen. I did have problems trying to switch weapons with the keyboard during the heat of battle. If you take your eyes off the screen for even one second to see which weapon in selected in the inventory you can lose a lot of precious life. Hopefully, a different keyboard setup will help you in this area.

Gary: And that is one of the few flaws in this game. I wish the keyboard and mouse were more customizable. For example, if you are used to playing Quake by running and strafing with the keyboard and navigating with the mouse, you will be disappointed. There is no way to prevent the mouse from walking you forward and backward, which can really clog up the game play.

Randy: Part of the keyboard problem stems from a limitation of the game. When you look up or down the game stops. You can not run or shoot while you are looking up or down. One thing I missed (that you can do in Quake and Marathon) is setting the mouse to control my head movements for full 90-degree vertical pan play-action. MDK only lets you look forward during game play. However, make sure you use the look up and down views, because you'll see some spectacular shots this way.

Gary: Overall, MDK is a cutting edge game experience, with a lot of character and humor to keep you going. I do wish they had a network play option, though. And there is no hardware 3D acceleration available for the Mac, even though a patch for the Windows version exists. Let's hope that changes very soon.

But be assured that we have missed several crucial deadlines and let down those closest to us as we saved the earth from the evil minecrawlers.

Randy: It was completely worth it.


MDK gets This may be the most fun we've had since MYST!

Shiny Entertainment
MRP: $49.95
System Requirements:

Mac OS 7.5 or later
100 MHz Power PC or better
16 megs of free RAM
3 megs of available HD space
256 K of Level 2 cache or better
CD-ROM drive


The Idiots use a four stick rating system to rank the games we play. Here's how it works:

= Lame = Sales Bin Only = Pretty Cool = Excellento!

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .

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