The Ring Hands-On

Want to know about the Infogrames Dreamcast survival-horror game that's not Alone in the Dark? Check out The Ring.

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Nobody can claim that Dreamcast is without its share of rehashes. The survival-horror genre in particular is hardly underrepresented on that system. Apparently Infogrames disagrees, as the company's oddly titled The Ring will soon be joining the ranks of Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Carrier, and Blue Stinger. Will The Ring feature enough improvements to the somewhat tired Resident Evil formula to stand out? So far, it doesn't look like it.

The Ring casts you as CDC agent Meg Rainman (whose part, regrettably, is not played by Dustin Hoffman). Meg's life is turned upside down when her boyfriend mysteriously dies of mysterious causes. How mysterious. Meg takes over her dearly departed's lab position and discovers that he and two other recently deceased researchers were involved with a computer program known only as The Ring. Meg decides to boot up The Ring, and she is instantly transported to another reality. She finds herself in a shadowy world of monsters and dark basements, dressed in futuristic combat gear, and with an officer barking orders at her. Upon returning to the lab, she receives a message that she will be dead in seven days. Thus begins her quest to discover the secret of The Ring and save her own life.

The Ring is a typical survival-horror game in every sense. The controls are slow and awkward, the puzzles are arbitrary, and the voice acting is grating. Despite all these factors, the game doesn't attain the endearing "B movie" feel of Resident Evil, which dispensed quickly with the FMV and dialogue and got on with things. The Ring's text-only in-game conversation scenes drag on aimlessly for minutes at a time, and character movement and menu navigation are needlessly painful.

The Ring is loosely based on a Japanese manga, movie and TV series, so fans of the overall story arc will probably want to check the Dreamcast game out. Aside from those people, only die-hard survival-horror junkies will really be interested in The Ring.

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