Body Hop
Two self-possessed videogames

Ever feel like you're pretending to be someone you're not? It's a prime attraction of videogames: I'm not really a buxom beauty climbing walls and spraying automatic gunfire, but I play one on CD. Now, downloading directly into the videogame character and rebooting your soul from body to body is the theme of the Christmas season.

See also...
... by Suzanne Ashe
... in the Scope section
... from December 10, 1999

Omikron: The Nomad Soul (Quantic Dream/Eidos, PC) is a (very) first-person adventure. Your body is staring safely at the monitor, but your soul shifts into the body of Kay'l. You now live in a fully-3D, Blade Runneresque world that constantly offers Dickian hints that this is not really a game. As usual, you have to rummage for clues, but this time you also get to have PG-13 sex with Kay'l's girlfriend -- and pee standing up (a first for me).

As each hostbody, or "incarnable," dies, you need to shed it for another one, such as giving up the ghost for the beautiful and dangerous Iman 631. That's how you get around, exploring the domed city to find out that a totalitarian government keeps the denizens in check. A governing computer program dictates everything from the weather to the news and even the food you eat (and you will have to munch on a Koopy sandwich).

At the heart of this Orwellian world is a demonic plot to suck the souls from every man, woman, and child until they sound like a Tin Machine album. Famously, Omikron features the ch-ch-changing David Bowie as two pivotal characters in the game's plot (and provider of the background music). Watch for the music to change when your character steps into one of the many gray, cavernous buildings -- it doesn't miss a beat, but takes on the feel of elevator Muzak. (three and three-quarters stars)

Bloody saviors -- you wait for them forever, then two show up at the same time. The similarly-fashioned Messiah (Interplay/Shiny, PC) is another transcendental role-playing adventure. As Bob, the chubby, winged, diaper-clad messenger from God, you reincarnate as different characters in order to bring the wrath of the Almighty upon the world, one sinner at a time. Unfortunately for Bob, if he doesn't cleanse the world of evil, God won't let him back through the pearly gates -- puts a whole new spin on the wheel of Samara, doesn't it?

Unlike the destroying angels from the Bible, Bob is not equipped with miracle/mayhem producing powers. Instead of floods, pestilence and earthquakes, he's limited to running, hopping, and occasionally flying like a domesticated chicken. But what luck! Bob can also body-hop on the fly. Each body (a gun-toting thug, a nun, a cop, and a rat, just for starters) allows you different ways to carry out your heavenly homicide -- like assault rifles, concussion grenades, and rocket-propelled harpoons. Not bad for a cherub. But our celestial champion is also vulnerable -- if the evildoers catch him between hostbodies, he can be killed. And when an angel dies, he is gone forever.

Both long-anticipated games will push your PC to the max. You'll need divine intervention to run on them at anything less than 300 MHz with 4 spare gigs of hard drive. But not all hope is lost -- the PlayStation version of Messiah will be released in January. Then again, we've been waiting over three years for the pair of them, so I wouldn't hold your breath for The Rapture. (Three and a half stars)

Suzanne Ashe is perfectly happy with the body she's got, although she wouldn't mind too much if someone possessed it now and again.