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GameCube's 'Giant Egg' a bit scrambled

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service

A scene from Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg.
A scene from Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist whose reviews also appear on the Gannett News Service.

The creators of the popular Sonic the Hedgehog series are back with their first new franchise since the days when Sega's Saturn console system was hot.

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, exclusively for Nintendo GameCube, is a somewhat entertaining 3-D action/adventure title.

The game's lead character and game play, however, don't quite match those found in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.

Giant Egg tells the story of an evil king determined to keep Morning Land, a kingdom inhabited by chickens, under a shroud of darkness. To do this, the Chicken Elders, whose voices bring dawn each day, have been kidnapped and sealed inside golden eggs. It's up to Billy Hatcher to don a magical chicken suit and rescue them.

In the single-player mode, much of the game play involves rolling huge eggs around colorful outdoor environments and using them to crush enemies or to activate switches and portals and perform special jumps. It is also important to hatch the eggs in order to free helpful creatures, each of which has special abilities.

Billy must roll the eggs over food so they grow big enough to hatch. Then Billy must make a "rooster call" to break the eggs and discover which creature -- such as Clippen, a penguin with the gift to douse flames -- is inside. Bonuses, such as an extra life, are locked inside some eggs too.

At the end of each mission, players are presented with information about how long it took to complete, what bonuses were awarded for defeating enemies, using combination moves and more.

From the main menu, players can access an "egg gallery" screen that reveals how many they have collected out of a possible 72 eggs.

The multiplayer game -- for two to four players on the same TV screen -- offers three fun battle modes. One challenges players to take out as many enemies as possible within a time limit. Another is a "last-man-standing" combat round not unlike one of the modes in Sega's Super Monkey Ball, and the third is a "hatch battle," where the winner is the one with the most hatched eggs before time runs out.

Giant Egg is hampered by some shortcomings that get in the way of game play and fun.

Most noticeably, the egg-rolling and egg-hatching game-play mechanics, while a clever concept, get stale after a while. Except for new environments and a different "boss" enemy at the end of each level, no new game-play elements are introduced after the first hour.

Even though the game play seems repetitive and some game elements are outdated, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg is a fairly enjoyable adventure for younger players. Its saving grace is the multiplayer modes, which make it worth renting.

CAPTION: When playing "Billy Hatcher," follow the directions of wise chicks like this one or you'll end up with egg on your face.

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