September 2003

Sega and Nintendo’s F-Zero GX Makes Your Heart Pump and Proves Brutal to Master

Sometimes it seems like video games in general are getting easier and easier. Back in the day, it was normal to replay the first three levels of a game hundreds of times before making it to mythical level four (and then bragging to all your friends about it at school the next day). These days, though, it seems save-anywhere features and a focus on storytelling have forced games to be easy enough for most any button-masher to complete. Where games once had to be hard so they would last longer, now they have to be easy so they don’t just go on forever.

Standing against this trend of easiness is Sega’s F-Zero GX for the GameCube, a game that makes you remember how hard games used to be.

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Located at 7409 Baltimore Avenue, Kings Park Café offers a nice change of pace from the standard college town eatery fare. While the café does serve college staples such as subs, wings and pizza, it’s the Mediterranean offerings that will keep you coming back.

As soon as you walk in, the vaguely Arabic music and wall decorations let you know that you’re in for a different experience, while the neon signs, big screen TV and standard deli atmosphere let you know that it won’t be too different. The clean and well-maintained 40+-seat Café is a vast improvement over the dingy Penguin Bar & Grille that formerly occupied the location.

The service was very nice and fairly quick – it took 5 minutes to get our appetizer and roughly 10 more to get our meal. Everyone in the restaurant had a smile on their face and was quick to make friendly conversation and suggestions as we ordered. The only down side to the atmosphere was the seating: those who would rather not squeeze into the small tables and chairs should probably get take out or delivery.

Appetizers like grape leaves, hommos and baba ghanouj are a far cry from the standard fried fare you get at most College Park restaurants (Don’t worry if the dish names are unfamiliar; a helpful picture menu above the counter will help you choose). I particularly recommend the falafel, which is served hot and crispy with a tangy sauce that doesn’t overpower the vegetable patties. For big groups or parties, the Kings Park Combination is a great deal: $14.99 for five appetizers of your choice.

For a Mediterranean main course, you can choose from a variety of platters, kabobs (beef lamb, chicken or veggie) and pita bread sandwiches such as gyros. The Shawarma in particular features beef, lamb, or chicken served in a soft, warm shell of pocket bread. The meat is tender and spiced, but not too spicy, and the smooth and flavorful sauce adds to the taste. Platters are served with the standard, heavily seasoned fries and a good selection of fresh vegetables. There’s even a pickle spear to complete the dining hall sandwich line feeling.

From the salads, the tabouleh was fresh and juicy, but featured a little too much parsely for my taste. It was definitely different though, and served in a portion big enough to be a meal on its own. For dessert, the baklava is an exceedingly sweet, flaky pastry that was sticky with honey. It was a little tough to cut with the plastic utensils, but so good that you wouldn’t mind eating it with your hands. For the less adventurous, you can choose from chicken/beef salads or cheese cake for dessert.

Exotic pizza toppings such as shwarma meat, feta cheese, and marinated lamb round out the interesting items on the menu. A complete appetizer, entrée, drink and dessert meal will run you about $13, but coupons and combos can reduce that price.

Across the street from the Café, I noticed a neon sign at Ratsie’s noting that they now serve falafel. If the exotic fare at Kings Park Café catches on, you may see a lot of area restaurants scrambling to offer the same well-priced selection of great Mediterranean food.

Dan Gillmor sees a day when reporters use suitcase-sized, satellite uplinks to report on leads culled from customized, syndicated feeds. He sees readers using cell phones to take pictures and upload them in public Web logs. He also sees emerging technology creating a new, far more participatory journalism.

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Fighting gamers usually fall into one of two extreme groups. The first are the button-mashers: the guys who play the game mainly to see what cool moves they can get the characters to do by madly tapping on the controller. Then there are the button-memorizers: the guys who know every special move for their favorite characters and know how to string together insane combinations on their unsuspecting button-masher opponents.

Many fighting games skew gameplay to appeal to only one of these groups, either through a simple fighting system with little depth (Super Smash Bros. Melee) or an overly complicated system, inaccessible to new players (Virtua Fighter 4).

Namco’s Soul Calibur II for Playstation 2, Xbox and GameCube, however, strikes a balance that will likely keep both mashers and memorizers happy.

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Does the world really need any more futuristic racing games? Of course it does. A better question would be: Does the world really need another futuristic racing game without a soul?

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If you had told me twelve years ago that I would be playing something as pretty as Rayman 3 on a portable console, I would have put down my copy of Super Mario Land and laughed at you.

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