Picks and Pans Main: Etc.

updated 08/19/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/19/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

Having a hedgehog as your hero is a concept that takes some warming up to. But little old Mario, whose game this one at times resembles, is not exactly inspiring either.

Sonic runs, bounces, rolls up into a spherical shape and spins along like a bowling ball with ears. The idea is to get through six levels of booby traps, mazes and various obstacle-filled scenes en route to a final battle with chief bad guy Dr. Robotnik.

If the basic scheme isn't revolutionary, the action is fast and the backgrounds are especially colorful. The violence is innocuous, since Sonic vanquishes only robotic villains. (Sega for Sega Genesis, $54.95)

(Thad Novak, 11, says: The graphics are a little cartoony. But this is a very good, challenging game—maybe too challenging for some people.)

PGA TOUR GOLF

You can get your scores down into the 70s a lot faster on this game than you can in real life, but competing with the pro opponents on the tournament level is another question.

They "play" offscreen, with their scores showing on a tally board. Meanwhile, you are hacking around your choice of four courses, modeled on Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., Avenel in Potomac, Md., the Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., or the imaginary Stirling Shores.

The timing, coordination and self-control needed to make good shots is a scaled-down version of the skills needed in the real game, and the frustration level can get just as high. Weather conditions are factored in, and the game's splendid graphics include overhead, helicopter-like shots of each hole and detailed analyses of the greens.

The sound effects are also noteworthy, from the chirping of birds and oohing and aahing of the gallery to the sounds of the ball bonking off trees or splashing into water hazards, which some of us hear more often than we'd like. (Electronic Arts for Sega Genesis, $59.95)

JAMES POND—UNDERWATER AGENT

The most enjoyable part of this game is that each of its 12 missions has a title—"Leak and Let Die," "The Mermaid Who Loved Me," "Fishfingers"—that suggests a movie about a secret agent who isn't a fish.

Otherwise, Mr. Pond is a routine sort of video-game hero, building up points, scavenging the odd power-up and dealing with enemies such as oysters, jellyfish and squid.

Many of his missions are eco-minded, so it's at least possible that young players will learn something while dispatching, say, the construction workers who are ruining a rain forest in the "Orchids Are Forever." (Sega for Sega Genesis, $39.95)

(T.N.: This game holds your interest, though some parts are confusing,—strange characters appearing out of nowhere, for instance—and they aren't explained in the instructions.)

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