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Here are reviews of some hot new computer and video games.

"Blood & Magic" (rating: C): This is Interplay's first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons-licensed title, and it's available for your home computer. It's set in a previously unexplored area of the "Forgotten Realms" world called Utter East.

You control 28 Advanced Dungeons characters in battle on five different realms, from snow-covered battlefields to floating islands. And no, this isn't like "Fighting Vipers" or "Mortal Kombat." Those side-scroll fighters don't come close to the graphic complexity or deep story line here.

You embark on up to 30 missions, each with its own story line, and you have the ability to change the endings each time. Oh, and Mac users, don't fret. You'll have a version by February.

"Scorched Planet" (C): This PC title from Virgin Interactive has 18 missions with real-time shadows and multiple resolutions. The combat title, while cartoonish, also looks good because only 3-D models were used (no flat 2-D sprites here).

The plot line is rather worn: Creatures are taking over the planet. Armed with a "deadly morphing tank/fighter craft," you have to stop them. Your tank/fighter features good weapons, like lasers, missiles, grenades and cannons -- and destruction comes in real time.

"A-10 Cuba" (C-plus): In the cockpit of the A-10 Warthog, you fly along and shoot away at MiGs that have stormed Guantanamo Bay. Be sure to use your GAU-8/A cannons. The cockpit has custom controls (new) and more than 20 weapons (seen that before) plus an artificial intelligence that doesn't follow preset flight paths (nice).

Combine that with a game that looks good and has more than 15,000 miles of Cuban territory to fly over, and, well, you've got yourself a distinctive flight sim.

(Ratings: A (the best available, must have); B (excellent); C (average); D (below average); F (forget it).

-- Knight-Ridder

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