Software Review: Hold your nose

If you really have to play this game, it's best to start with the video mode.

alvin disk 88  (photo credit: )
alvin disk 88
(photo credit: )
Alvin and the Chipmunks, a CD-ROM in English by Brash Entertainment, distributed by Hed Artzi Multimedia, requires an 800 Mhz Pentium III PC or better, for ages three to nine, NIS 220 Rating: * Hold your nose while singing an American-style ditty like California, so you can sound the way a chipmunk would sing if it could. If you are a kid with a high pain and boredom threshold and can stand hours of listening to such so-called music, this game might be for you. But if you have a low threshold for nonsense and junk, just hold your nose - because this program stinks. I write this antagonistic review with regret, because today there are so few good children's videogames either made here or imported and we should be grateful for any game we get. But this American disk, issued to promote a Christmas movie being shown now in the US, is just another example of dumbing down of those who produce software for children, as the big money is made from supplying teenagers with violent action and strategy games around the world. Alvin and the Chipmunks is a five-time Grammy Award-winning animated music group launched in 1958 by a pianist and actor with the stage name of David Seville who performed all the rodents' voices (with the tape being sped up to give them a high-pitched animal-like sound). Alvin is the mischievous troublemaker; Simon wears glasses to make him look intellectual; and Theodore is pudgy and sweet. They were very well known for decades in American cartoons and movies. In the videogame, the musical trio plays electric guitars and percussion instruments. They are trying to win a rock music competition called Rockathonapolooza and ask you to help them. But the story is nonsensical, the graphics archaic, the storyline flimsy and there is little connection between your input of mashing keys and what happens on the screen. The developers apparently intended it as the preschool equivalent of the wildly popular Guitar Hero, a teenage rhythm game for PlayStation 2 that comes with a guitar-like device with buttons you have to press while watching videos of rock 'n' roll stars in discotheques. Gamers pick among six rock characters and virtually perform at concert venues that grow in size as their music "career" progresses. But with the chipmunks, you rapidly press the A, Z, M or K button on your keyboard as stars shoot out of a spot in the center of the screen toward pink, aqua, green and yellow target stars in the corners. Depending on whether you're playing at easy, medium or hard levels of difficulty, the shooting stars will be released faster or slower and toward four or only two of the corner stars as you keep up with the rhythm. That is all you have to do, besides having to watch the number of points you collect and your progress on the Rockometer. If you really have to play this game, it's best to start with the video mode, which presents the chipmunks performing three American songs plus a few more that can be unlocked as you accumulate more points. There is a dream sequence in which the chipmunks think about their future in music. The story mode unlocks the others and is played in a few locations, from a gig in the treehouse, civic center and ski resort to "performances" in the mall, painted desert and the prom. But it's all the same, whatever the venue change. The quick-play mode is the same as the story mode, except that allows you to perform any song you've unlocked before without having to recall its location; this also gives you the chance to improve previous scores. Finally, the two-player mode pits two players against each other in the story mode, with the screen split horizontally. But there's an awful disconnect: Even if you've got rhythm and press the right keys, it doesn't affect the Chipmunks' music. You can make plenty of errors and still get the maximum number of points. The stage backdrop is terrible, and the interface is so old-fashioned that you can select from menus only by hitting the Return button. You can't use the computer mouse at all. Only the most dyed-in-the-wool Chipmunk fan would have the patience for it. The rest of us will hold our noses.