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Congratulations--you are the Demiurge, who oversees heaven and hell. Think of yourself as the city manager of the hereafter. Your job: to monitor the sins and virtues of new souls so they have enough karma stations, Limbo bars, and proper housing, like hell's ''Tooth or Dare'' building jammed with dentists. The trick: to run Hades so efficiently you get pennies from heaven. But beware of the chaos when hell freezes over.

Welcome to Afterlife, one of this year's hottest new computer games. It's among a slew of new CD-ROM titles that don't rely on the typical twitch-and-trigger formula--shoot, kick, or bludgeon the bad guys. These games that even grownups can love let you do everything from compete on a game show to sleuth out an alien conspiracy. If you just couldn't get into digital gore, now is the time to take the fun plunge.

You won't be disappointed. The horsepower of Pentium PCs, combined with splashy 3-D animation and stereo sound, have given the latest batch of games a rich, cinematic look. Siskel and Ebert would give some of the new plots a thumbs-up, too. Says analyst Peter Rogers of Bear Stearns: ''Historically, 90% of the market was 10- to 17-year-olds. But this year the demographics could explode.''

ALIEN ADVENTURES. A top game pick remains Myst, a CD-ROM adventure game that has already sold 2.5 million copies. This $50 title, published by Broderbund Software in 1993, transports you to an eerie world where you must unravel puzzles to figure out a mystery. There is no combat, no dialogue, just mind-wracking clues. Among the gaggle of would-be Myst killers: Myst II, due in 1997, and Drowned God: Conspiracy of the Ages, a cross between TV's X-Files and Myst. Players are entangled in an alien conspiracy going back 50,000 years that touches on everything from Atlantis to the assassination of JFK--all set to a spooky soundtrack. Developed by Epic Multimedia Group, the $50 game will be on store shelves in mid-November.

If you prefer your adventure with a bit of whimsy, consider The Neverhood, a $55 claymation adventure by DreamWorks Interactive available in November. Its hero is Klaymen, a goofy-looking guy you move through a land of kooky creatures and mysterious artifacts. Three tons of clay were used to create Neverhood, a charming but downright weird world. And there are no keystrokes to memorize; just point and click.

But if Myst-like adventure games bore you to cyber-tears, consider the humorous You Don't Know Jack from Berkeley Systems Inc. It uses a game-show format akin to Jeopardy, but with a host whose one-liners would pass muster with Jerry Seinfeld. Subject categories go from the sage to the outrageous, such as ''Cold Cuts and Other Parts of the Male Anatomy.''

And what of the old, straightforward shoot-'em-up games? A promising new title is Deadly Tide, $54.95, just released by Microsoft. The graphics, done by the same artisans who worked their magic on TV's Seaquest, are dazzling and the tension thick in this underwater adventure, in which you are a 26th century hydropilot fighting off aquatic aliens. Four CD-ROM disks guarantee more than 40 hours of game play. Then again, if you sample half this stuff, you may find you're lost in your own ''afterlife.''

By Kathy Rebello

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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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