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Cute little squirrel misses his target audience

CONKER'S QUEST, FOR GAME BOY COLOR: Here's a character who's been in the Nintendo lineup for quite a while without getting his own game. There's a reason for that.

There's nothing wrong with either the character or the game independently. But together, they're an example of what can go wrong when worlds collide.

Conker is a terminally cute little squirrel, and he and his world are too cute for gamers older than about 6 to appreciate. And, unfortunately, the action requires a lot more skill and coordination than the average tot can muster.

At a birthday party for Conker, the Evil Acorn kidnaps his best friend Berri _ and all of the presents! Conker has to explore his forest world to find them.

The action's a top-down exploring game, like the original Legend of Zelda for the old NES. You see the land and characters from above. As Conker explores, he encounters enemies like squirrel-eating plants and mechanical mice, and he finds new places that offer clues to the whereabouts of his friend and the birthday goodies.

All in all, we'd say Conker's real quest is to find an audience.

JONATHAN SAYS: Gee, Conker is awfully . . . cute. Girls might like the character, but I don't think they'll like punching and shooting things with slingshots, which is how Conker conquers bad guys. Grade: C.

CHIP SAYS: If you can get beyond the fact that Conker is this adorable, fuzzy little squirrel, there's actually a pretty fair adventure game here. I especially like the way he scampers across the screen in running mode _ it's pretty funny, but it also helps move the game along quickly. Grade: B.

OVERALL RATING: B _ Not sure who you'd rent it for!

KEN GRIFFEY JR.'S SLUGFEST, FOR GAME BOY COLOR: Here's a chance for the Griffey gang to put the embarrassment of the N64 game behind them, and they seize it well. The Game Boy Color version of Slugfest is nothing like its big brother, and that's a good thing.

This one reminds us of the old eight-bit NES baseball games _ and it should, since it is eight bits _ but it's much better than any of those moldy oldies.

You get all the real teams and players, with rosters that fairly represent the '99 season.

At the plate, there's no real interface _ you just move back and forth and up and down in the box and swing away when the pitcher throws the ball. There's no target locator when you're pitching, either; you try to change speeds and manually make the ball curve to fool hitters into missing or hitting pop-ups and grounders.

This is the best baseball title we've seen for the small screen. Don't expect all the bells and whistles of a Next Gen baseball game and you won't be disappointed.

JONATHAN SAYS: I guess I'm spoiled, but it's hard for me to go back to eight-bit baseball after playing the N64 and PlayStation versions. I'm not enough of a baseball fan to deal with it on Game Boy. Game: C.

CHIP SAYS: On the other hand, I'm a real baseball fan _ that's what lured me to home video games in the first place oh so many years ago. That means I'm more willing to suspend disbelief and be a little more forgiving in what I expect from a hand-held baseball game. Real teams, real players, decent action and good graphics _ what more could you want in a Game Boy baseball title? Grade: A.

OVERALL RATING: A _ all ages.

Write to Chip and Jonathan Carter in care of the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.