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Want fast action? Don’t play ‘Ring of Red’

But if you like strategic games, this one’s for you

SHARE Want fast action? Don’t play ‘Ring of Red’

Turn-based games are an acquired taste. It's hard to sit still and be blown to bits without being allowed to defend yourself.

But "Ring of Red" by Konami for the PlayStation 2 isn't half bad.

It is set in 1960s Japan, in some alternative universe where the island nation was divided after World War II into a communist north and a democratic south, much like Korea.

Instead of using tanks, the warring sides use giant robots, or mechs, to fight their battles. If you've never played this type of game, it requires plenty of strategy to get your mechs where you want them to be.

Now comes the bad part. You take a shot at the enemies. Then you stand there while they shoot back. At first, you can't move to dodge the shots. If you're not killed, you get to shoot back.

It's more like checkers than war, since no self-respecting military genius would operate that way. It also makes for a very slow game with limited excitement.

"Ring of Red" does spice things up a bit, though. Each mech gets up to two squads of infantry that you can control. These soldiers add a lot to the game, especially in the looks department. They are beautifully rendered and animated.

The mechs also are a treat to watch as they clank and churn across the landscape with exhaust puffing out behind them.

Several problems remain, however. For one thing, while this is a nice game to look at, the combat scenes should be in the dictionary to illustrate the word SLOW. You wait to get blasted, then you wait for your cannon to charge, then you fire and wait to see if you hit the target.

Then you have to sit through interminable cut scenes. There's no way to skip them, so if you are killed and have to start a section over, you have to sit through the cut scenes again. And again. And again.

Besides the slow pace, some battles take hours to complete, and you can't save until the end. That means if your mech is toasted as you approach the final shots, you're looking at fighting the whole thing over.

There goes the weekend.

Graphics get a B. This is a great-looking game, with nicely detailed machines and soldiers and backgrounds. Somebody with an artistic touch spent a lot of time at the computer, and it shows.

Control also gets a B. It's an easy game to operate, but there really isn't much for you to control. Move, aim, shoot — and watch those blasted cut scenes.

Sound gets a C. I really liked the sound effects, but instead of the mech controllers talking, their heads pop up and their words scroll by in little boxes. A little chatter, please, especially in combat.

"Ring of Red" gets a C-plus. If you like strategy or turn-based games, it is perfectly designed to bring a smile to your face. But if you prefer a less-than-glacial pace and a bit more excitement, take a pass.

"Ring of Red" is rated T, for ages 13 and up