Many thanks to WolfDragon for the transcript

Montreal Gazette



Tv's Xena is going virtual

New York-For the past year, Hollywood has laboured on two female-morphing
projects: transforming an animated game heroine into the star of a live
action movie, and converting a live television star into the heroine of an
animated game.

Production of the Tomb Raider movie has been delayed, and there's still no
word on who will play Indiana Jones-style swashbuckler Lara Croft. But
actress Lucy Lawless, television favourite warrior babe, Xena, has been
successfully transferred into a virtual puppet in a Playstation game from
Universal Interactive Studios just released by Electronic Arts Check out
Xena: Warrior Princess, and it's easy to see why it was ready to debut
within days of the start of the popular syndicated TV show's new season.
It's a competent knock-off of the three-dimensional graphics and
combat/puzzle-solving gameplay that Tomb Raider helped pioneer three years
ago and has been refined ever since (the fourth instalment is due next

Xena's younger teen fans are likely to enjoy participating in her
sword-and-sorcery adventures. Universal essentially succeeds in
replicating its television franchise as an animated interactive
experience, incorporating not only major characters and continuing
conflicts but also the show's theme music and sound effects (from
crisis-punctuating clangs to Xena's battle cry).

The game, like each TV episode, begins with Xena and her friend Gabrielle
chatting as they walk down a forest path. The digital Xena is a
relatively accurate facsimile of Lucy Lawless, whose face has been scanned
and "texture-mapped" onto it. Renee O'Conner, the actress who plays
Gabrielle, has also had her face scanned and mapped-but you don't see much
of it: she's kidnapped by the wicked King Valarian's army at the outset of
the adventure, while Xena is busy saving a village besieged by pirates.

As virtual Xena's puppeteer, the player must first master her weapons
(sword, staff and chakram-a razor edged variant of a boomerang) and her
signature moves (360-degree splits, groin kick, back flips) before
confronting the pirates and then, pursuing Gabrielle across seven worlds,
going head-to-head with Cyclops, dragons, Medusa, golem and evil Amazon
Queen Naruss.

The game occasionally offers on screen text advice. At one point, it
advises you to dispatch enemies who are holding hostages by throwing the
chakram from a distance, rather than rushing in to duel. But the game's
controls-or one's reflexes and aim, perhaps-are not always precise.
Miscalculate, and you kill the hostae.. Ouch. No gore. But very

During the day's testing, the controls were the game's least impressive
aspect. I couldn't get Xena to run instead of walk when she was in
danger. I couldn't get the Playstation's dual-analogue control pad's
thumb-operated mini-joystick to work (I had to use the less precise
directional buttons, instead). And, though the game claims to offer
force-feedback effects during battle, the controller never vibrated as I
hacked and hewed at adversaries or was squooshed by boulders tossed by

It was a pleasure watching the statuesque Lucy Lawless in motion, even as
a 3-D cartoon figure. I'd seen her only twice before: in the flesh,
wearing her Xena outfit at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los
Angeles last May. That same night, on the hotel TV, I saw my first and
only episode of Xena. Now after being joined at the fingertips for a day,
I'm curious about her pre-Xena days and plan to check out Lucy Lawless:
Peach and A Bitter Song, two critically acclaimed short films made in New
Zealand. In one, she's a lesbian truck-driver. In the other, she's a kind
nurse who helps a troubled young girl. First Run Features is releasing
the films in the United States Nov. 9 on DVD.


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