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For Eyes

The 3-D ‘G-Force’ Is A Guinea Pig To See What Could Become

August 9, 2009

To parents and kids, "G-Force" is merely a poorly reviewed 3-D movie where sassy guinea pigs toil as U.S.-trained soldiers, battling against waffle irons and ordinary appliances that have come to evil life.

To me, "G-Force" is a mildly fun video game based on that movie - and the game's technology is a step in a bold direction for the video game world at large.

That's because "G-Force" comes with 3-D glasses so you can play the game either in flat 2-D or broader 3-D. It's. About. Time.

Real 3-D is something games never offer, but should. Why can't I play "Call of Duty" in 3-D, seeing bullets whiz at my face from enemy soldiers. How cool would that be?

In fact, I hereby challenge third-party game companies around the world to take 3-D to the next level: To invent and sell a peripheral which translates any video game into a holographic chess board hovering over your living room floor. Sound crazy? It ain't.

It should be relatively easy to create a holographic device compatible with games, because games are already drawn and programmed so that characters and settings (battlefields, houses, etc.) are rendered internally as 360-degree models inside your Xbox 360 and PS 3.

The big obstacle might be retail cost, since such a device would require expensive visual display points to work. But the way the business world spins, a holographic add-on would be expensive at first, then cheaper as supplies became produced in bulk.

OK, so there's my soapbox. On with the game: It's better than expected, but I'm not sure there's much replay value in it.

In "G-Force," you play as a guinea pig who has weapons strapped all over his little body. You use a laser gun to shoot things; a laser whip to whip things (it's like a rubbery light saber); and a jetpack to reach vents.

You need these weapons, because the world has come alive with evil anthropomorphic appliances. A blender sprouts legs and tries to blend you to death. Alarm clocks hover in the air and fire electricity, as if they were in "War of the Worlds." Paper shredders - stay away from them.

Sometimes, the anthropomorphic villains don't make sense. You'll find yourself as the guinea pig crawling through an air conditioning vent, where a waffle iron is waiting to bite at you. What's a waffle iron doing hanging out in a vent?

But "G-Force" creates a surprisingly creative array of weapons, villains and puzzles. I say "surprising" because movie games usually stink, and this movie in question is a product of, ohhh, Jerry Bruckheimer.

The only problems: Place settings are stale (you travel through metallic government offices); you can wrap this game up in a moderate number of hours; the 3-D images look blurry sometimes; and like I said, I'm not sure how much replay you're getting for your dollar.

However, it's a fine little game, which is itself a guinea pig to see how 3-D can fly us into a future where much more is possible.

("G-Force" by Disney retails for $50 for Wii, PS 3 and Xbox 360; $30 for PS 2, PSP and DS - Plays mildly fun, more so in 3-D. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "E 10+" for fantasy violence. Three stars out of four.)

Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.

NEW TO YOU - USED GAME OF THE WEEK

If you're a fan of horror-shooting games, you may want to check out "F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin" (Warner Bros. Interactive), if you haven't already. It's a fantastically drawn adventure that promises startling jumps and top-notch shooting.

The plot revolves around a supernatural villain woman (a kind of super-maxed version of females from Stephen King's "Firestarter" and the movie "The Ring"). She has extraordinary psychic abilities to set fires, cause mass-weapon chaos and appear where she wants at will.

You play as a soldier, running about an apocalyptically challenged cityscape with other soldiers. Glog-humans leap at you, shoot at you, and hide from your guns.

The storyline can be shallow, but the ending does deliver a wacky yet intense ending where the naked supernatural woman well, I can't give that away.

The online multiplayer was OK, but I tired of it in short order. Now the February release is selling in used-game stores for around $18, a good price for a three-and-a-half star adventure.

It's available for Xbox 360, PS 3 and PC. It's rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes and strong language.

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

NEW AND COMING SOON

"Wolfenstein" (Activision) gets back in the business of killing Nazis like crazy, and I mean crraaazy.

This time out, the "Wolfenstein" series sets you down in a parallel dimension where Nazis are trying to capture power from a Black Sun to develop a weapon of mass destruction. You must stop the Nazis.

Lucky for you, in this first-person shooter, you not only fire thousands of bullet holes into history's greatest villains. You also pick up upgradeable, futuristic weapons (like a particle cannon) that sort of vaporize Nazis, kind of freeze them, and set them on fire, and so forth. Nazis don't need love. They need death.

This supernatural addition to the "Wolfenstein" franchise includes a power you can tap into, where you can see through walls and other obstacles, and slow down time so you can get a better head shot on fleet-footed Nazis.

I haven't preview-played the game yet. I've only seen videos. From that, I can report so far, only, that it looks super-duper violent, highly stylized and a shooting bonanza.

Online, there are eight battle maps and three multiplayer modes (team deathmatch, team objective, and speed-team objective).

The Aug. 18 release retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for PC. It's rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence and language.

"Paws & Claws: Pet Vet" (THQ) lets you run a pet clinic, which sounds innocent enough, as this simulator for kids and families mostly deals with garden variety issues, though what if the animals need help with illnesses?

You help dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, birds and other animals who need pampering, cuddling, TLC and rabbit-hopping training. You also keep your kennel in order and expand it as a business.

"Pet Vet" has already been available for PC and DS (for $20), as well as some phone carriers. The Aug. 18 release retails for $30 for Wii. It's rated "E."

- DOUG ELFMAN

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone;" "T" for "Teen;" "M" for "Mature 17+")

TOP 10 RENTAL GAMES

Here are the Top 10 best-renting video games, according to Blockbuster. Games are listed by title, company, the gaming system, and rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

1. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for Wii, PS 3, PSP, PS 2, PC and DS; rated "T" (fantasy violence)

2. "NCAA Football '10" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, PS 2, PSP; rated "E"

3. "UFC 2009 Undisputed" (THQ) for Xbox 360; also available for PS3; rated "T" (alcohol reference, blood, language, mild suggestive themes, violence)

4. "Fight Night Round 4" by EA for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "T" (mild blood, mild lyrics, suggestive themes and violence)

5. "Call of Duty: World at War" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3, Wii, PS 2, DS; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, strong language)

6. "Resident Evil 5" (Capcom) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, strong language)

7. "Prototype" (Activision) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, strong language)

8. "Red Faction Guerrilla" (THQ) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, strong language, violence)

9. "Fallout 3" (Bethesda) for Xbox 360; also available for PS 3; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs)

10. "NCAA Football '10" for PS 3

(Ratings: "E" for "Everyone"; "T" for "Teen"; "M" for "Mature 17+")

CAPSULE REVIEWS

Four-star scale

ADULT GAMES

"Leisure Suit Larry: Magna cum Laude" for Xbox, PS 2 - The goal is to make your character get college women drunk and in bed. Plays fine, if a little slow at times. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "M". Three stars.

"Playboy: The Mansion" for Xbox, PS 2 - Live the mogul, sexy life of Hugh Hefner in his home. Plays entertaining, if tedious. Looks good. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "M". Two and one-half stars.

CHILDREN'S GAMES

"Coraline" by DP3 for Wii, PS 2 and DS - This game is the very definition of a terrible game. Based on a movie (problem No. 1), it is a short game I finished in four hours because it hews so closely to the film, but looks much worse, moves slow, doesn't allow you to even jump or run across some grass, even though the only setting in the game is a house. It forces you to play dumb games like "Go Fish," or to use a slingshot to shoot at apples while ominous music plays. Eww, scary. One of the worst movie games ever, quite a feat. Plays as un-fun as un-fun can be. Looks shoddy. Very easy. Rated "E 10+." Zero stars.

"Dance Dance Revolution Extreme" for PS 2 - Dance fast on a mat, and hook up to an EyeToy to dance with your hands. Plays frustrating if you don't have a big, expensive mat. Looks good. Very challenging. Rated "E". Two stars.

"Donkey Konga" for GCube - Get the $50 version, which comes with bongos that register your pounding hands as well as clapping. Great for beginning percussionists. Plays addictive. Looks OK. Challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Katamari Demacy" for PS 2 - Play as a space alien on Earth, rolling magnet-type ball over cats and cars and turning them into stars. Plays very creative and rather addicting. Looks bizarre. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Madagascar" for Xbox, PS 2, GCube and PC - Plays fun. Looks good. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "E 10+". Three and one-half stars.

"Metroid Prime 2: Echoes" for GCube - Very similar to the first "Metroid Prime," play as a female space soldier who destroys creatures on a rogue planet. Plays fun. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "T". Three stars.

"Monsters vs. Aliens" by Activision for Wii, PS 3, Xbox 360, PS 2 and DS - Based on a 3-D computer animated film of the same name, this game (not a 3-D glasses experience) lets you play as the three main characters, a towering woman, a punching brute and a blob that moves like a mop. Essentially, you Rollerblade, punch crates and things, and move along a pre-set path, sort of like a glorified "Crash Bandicoot" for the 21st century. Plays dull for an adult, maybe just fine for young kids. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E 10+." One and one-half star.

"Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath" for Xbox - Travel across a weird world and beat up cute but dangerous characters. Plays cute but too complex. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "T". Two stars.

"Over the Hedge" for Xbox, PS 2, GCube - Based on the animated movie, play as a skunk and other animals frolicking in people's backyards. Plays cute and fun. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E 10+". Three stars.

"Patapon" for PSP - An extremely creative adventure, you play as a god, directing warriors who look like circles into battles, armed with hatchets, arrows, spears and magic. To make warriors move, you touch buttons as if they're drums, keeping rhythm to music that sounds like the old indie-pop band Tom Tom Club. The music can get annoying sometimes, but "Patapon" is addictive. Plays very fun. Looks cool. Begins easy, becomes challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Pikmin 2" for GCube - One of the cutest, most creative games I have ever played. Pikmin grow out of the ground, like carrots, but they have legs and a brain. Make them work for you. Plays fun. Looks fantastic. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Psychonauts" for Xbox, PS2 and PC - Plays sort of fun. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "T". Three stars.

"Space Chimps" by Brash Entertainment for Wii, Xbox 360, PS 2 and DS - Based on a summer animation, "Chimps" is a basic double-jumping side-scroller where you jump across rocks, climb rocks, run across walls and other basic adventures. Plays fun if you're new to childlike, 2-D platform games. Looks very good. Rated "E 10+" for animated blood, crude humor, language, mild fantasy violence. Two and one-half stars.

"Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" for Xbox, PS 2 - One of the best kid's games ever is also fun for adults. Vacuum and herd rabbits and other little creatures safely away from the British gardens they're destroying in cute and wondrous land based on the "Wallace & Gromit" stop-motion animated movie. Plays as great fun. Looks awesome. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

NINTENDO DS GAMES

"Animal Crossing" is a cult classic. Play as a little creature in a cute forest or seaside, or whatever you want to create, where you design clothes, decorate your house and other stuff. Plays like a simulation game. Looks OK. Easy. Rated "E". One and one-half stars.

"Big Brain Academy" for DS - Solve math quizzes, memorizes sound bites and symbols, and use your brain to analyze puzzles. Plays fun. Looks fine for a puzzle game. Challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day" for Nintendo DS - This is a collection of math and word puzzles, including sudoku puzzles. Plays entertaining, if you like brain teasers. Looks OK. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day!" - This sequel tests how fast you complete more math and logic puzzles, plus offers sudokus. Plays addictive. Looks fine. Very challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow" makes you stab vampire cult followers. Plays boring and repetitive. Looks poor. Moderately challenging. Rated "T". One star.

"Clubhouse Games" - Lots of entertainment is to be had here, with 40 games ranging from non-Vegas poker to backgammon, chess, solitaire, Mahjong solitaire, darts, hearts, rummy and old maid. Plays fun. Looks fine. Easy to challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Death, Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom" stars Death Jr. (son of Death) saving his friends from death in a cute, comic-horror adventure set in a school. Plays somewhat fun but too repetitive. Looks cute. Moderately hard. Rated "E 10+". Two and one-half stars.

"Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest" by Majesco for DS - Play as a bear-like wizard. You activate squirrel-esque creatures that battle evil robots and other silly villains that are trying to destroy your tiny-looking cartoon forest and your tree house. Plays too slight for adult fun, but may entertain very young kids. Looks rudimentary. Moderately challenging. Rated "E" for mild cartoon violence, mild language. One star out of four.

"Electroplankton" for Nintendo DS - Make fish and sea water bubbles play rhythmic musical loops in 10 levels. Plays cool, but too short for long-term gaming. Looks pretty. Easy. Rated E". Two stars.

"Feel The Magic: XY/XX" is a mature dating game for the DS, you seduce a girl with bizarre but imaginative dating rituals. Plays fun. Looks great in a retro-'70s surfer-art look. Challenging. Rated "T". Four stars.

"Frogger" is like old "Frogger," but not as much fun. Plays blah. Looks poor. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". One and one-half stars.

"GoldenEye: Rogue Agent" makes you walk through halls, point a gun and shoot bad guys, but the shooting method is messy. Plays average. Looks OK. Challenging. Rated "T". Two stars.

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" is good enough for a handheld game. You play as one of the main three kids from the books and movies, as the trio treks on an adventure through the great and scary outdoors. Plays fun. Looks OK. Challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Kim Possible: Kimmunicator" is surprisingly charming for an old-time sort of game that makes you move from left to right, and punch and kick. It feels repetitive too often, though. Plays mostly fun. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits" resurrects a handful of old 1980s hits, like "Contra" and "Track and Field". Plays fun, but games are too brief. Looks rudimentary. Moderately hard. Rated "E 10+". Two and one-half stars.

"Madden 2005" looks and plays like "Madden" did about five years ago. Plays OK. Looks mediocre. Easy. Rated "E". Two stars.

"Magnetica" for Nintendo DS - Shoot marbles at other marbles to make them disappear, or they pile up and end your game. It's a puzzle game. Plays entertaining but can be frustratingly difficult. Looks OK. Very challenging. Rated "E". Two and one-half stars.

"Mario Kart DS" should be more enticing than this racing game is. Plays OK. Looks OK. Easy to challenging. Rated "E". Two stars.

"Mario Pinball Land" is a great pinball game that lasts, and has detailed locales. Plays very addictive. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Metroid Prime Pinball" is a good game for pinball lovers, though maybe not for others. Plays fun. Looks OK. Easy to challenging. Rated "E". Two and one-half stars.

"Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" is quite the bizarre little game. The dialogue is painful, but the action is not horrible. Plays dull sometimes, and plays addictive sometimes. Looks OK. Moderately challenging. Rated "E 10+". Two stars.

"Need For Speed Underground 2" is a rudimentary racing game. Plays weak. Looks below-average. Challenging. Rated "E". One and one-half stars.

"Nervous Brickdown" - It's not just a rip-off of "Breakout". It reimagines "Breakout" as a more interactive and artistic game that is quite impressive in cute game play and creativity. Plays fun and cool. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "E". Three and one-half stars.

"The New York Times Crossword" offers 1,000 interactive crosswords for diehards and lovers of wordplay. Plays addictive. Looks fine. Challenging. Rated "T". Three and one-half stars.

"Nintendogs" is an electronic-pet game plays more like a dog-owning simulation, with long stretches of ear-scratching, than a game. Thus, it's recommended only for lovers of electronic-pet simulations. Looks OK. Easy. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Picross DS" - A bizarre math game, you use logic to figure out how to fill in giant blocks of squares, which look kind of like "Battleship" maps. Plays intriguing if you're a math dork. Looks workaday. Easy to challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Pogo Island" offers a series of mini brain games in the vein of "Tetris," solitaire and anagram puzzles. Plays addictive. Looks cute. Moderately hard. Rated "E". Three and one-half stars.

"Ridge Racer DS" is a mediocre racing game. Plays OK, but not great. Looks weak. Challenging. Rated "E". Two stars.

"Spider-Man 2" has the gamer jump, punch and swing through platforms and city buildings; desperately lacking a good map. Plays fun when not frustrating. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "E". Two and one-half stars.

"Sprung" is dating game with funny dialogue, "Sprung" bogs down in a marathon of memorization games. Plays half-fun. Looks fine. Moderately challenging. Rated "T". Two stars out of two.

"Super Mario 64 DS" is a signature game for DS, this stars Nintendo characters from yesteryear. Plays very fun. Looks magnificent. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Tetris DS" for Nintendo DS - Like other "Tetris" games, you rearrange puzzle pieces until they either magically disappear or stack up and make you lose. Plays addictive, if you like "Tetris" games. Looks OK. Moderately challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"The Urbz: Sims in the City" could have been less work and more fun if we weren't always searching for food, water, a toilet, a bed and a TV. Plays fun, when not toilet obsessed. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Tony Hawk's American Sk8land" has the same fun feel of "Tony Hawk" games for PS 2 and Xbox. This DS version may not have the same high level of graphics, but it settles for a cartoon look and addictive good times on a skateboard that turns just like the Xbox version. Plays fun. Looks good. Challending. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Top Spin 2" comes to the DS, but the tennis title moves sluggishly, though it looks pretty good for a DS game. Plays almost-fun not quite. Looks OK. Easy. Rated "E". One and one-half stars.

"Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble" is a great-looking cartoon game packed with punches, kicks and a campy storyline about a real action hero (you) rescuing a movie land based on an action hero. Plays fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "T". Three and one-half stars.

"Yoshi Touch & Go" is a nave but creative game for kids. Plays fun as a kids' game. Looks adequate. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "E". Two and one-half stars.

NINTENDO WII

"Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree" for Wii - Test your IQ (or officially, your brain size) by sorting through teasers, math puzzles and other school-like quizzes. Plays like a fairly entertaining school test. Looks OK. Challenging. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Big League Sports" by Activision for Wii - The football, tennis and other mini-games in "Big League" are lame, slow, cartoon, cardboard cutout versions of sports. Plays slow, too simple and boring. Looks poor. Moderately easy. Rated "E." One-half star.

"Call of Duty 3" - A fantastic shooting game for other systems doesn't play as well on the interactive Wii. It's hard to point and shoot. And you can't play it online. Plays mildly fun. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "T". Two stars.

"Donkey Kong Jungle Beat" for Wii - You run through jungles, up mountain faces and down ravines, collecting bananas for energy and punching meanies a lot, in this side-scrolling action-adventure that is more entertainingly than it should be, because it's dumb. Plays very fun. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "E 10+." Four stars.

"Elebits" for Wii - Use a sort of spirit gun to shoot thousands of little Gremlin-like creatures that sleep around your house. Strange, yes, but interesting. Plays fun but repetitive. Looks good. Easy to moderately difficult. Rated "E" for cartoon violence. Two and one-half stars out of four.

"Excitebots: Trick Racing" by Nintendo for Wii - You drive through jungles and across sandy plains in cars and trucks shaped like frogs, mantises and other creatures, in a zippy racer that makes you do side challenges, like throwing darts out of your car at dartboards. Comes with player-vs.-player. Plays just fun enough. Looks fair. Moderately challenging. Rated "E." Three stars.

"The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" for Wii - A basic fighting game that's sort of tough to keep control of your fighting moves. Plays mildly fun in multiplayer mode only. Looks poor. Easy to moderately difficult. Rated "E 10+" for cartoon violence and crude humor. One star.

"Klonoa" by Namco for Wii - In this side-scroller, you portray a cartoon kid who runs across lands, up and down platforms, picking up round villains and throwing them at other round villains, while taking on big bosses along the way. It's an adventure with terrible dialogue and horrible sound effects, but it's pleasurable for its smooth action and creative game play. Plays fun. Looks good. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "E 10+." Three stars.

"Kororinpa: Marble Mania" for Nintendo Wii - Essentially, it's a play off of old "Marble Madness" games. You roll a marble, or a round panda or some other round creature, along mazes made of wood and candy; it tests your ability to keep up with physics, since the mazes flip around like M.C. Escher illustrations. Plays fun. Looks good. Easy to very difficult. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Anniversary" - Based on the original "Tomb Raider" game, but updated, you jump, shimmy and swim your way through caves, tombs and ancient cities. Plays very fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "T". Four stars.

"Marble Saga Kororinpa" by Konami for Wii - This is like every marble game ever created, which means it's good if you like marble games. You tilt a board around, to make a marble roll around boards, tubes and other terrains governed by the laws of physics, then you try to make the ball drop into a hole. Plays as fun as a marble game could be: fairly well but not great. Looks good enough. Challenging. Rated "E." Two stars.

"Mario Party 8" for Wii - It's most fun if you're playing against other gamers. But the series of cutesy mini-games take too long to load, and it unfairly rewards players who are losing merely to make the game tighter. Plays average. Looks OK. Easy. Rated "E". Two stars.

"Mario Power Tennis" by Nintendo for Wii - It looks like tennis, but with the squat characters of Mario's world. This is not a tennis simulator, but a cartoon-ish tennis with mini-games that include childlike craziness. Plays rather flat, despite appearing cute. Looks pretty good. Moderately easy. Rated "E." Two stars.

"Medal of Honor: Heroes 2" - Use the interactive gun to shoot Nazis in more World War II battles, in solo missions and in online multiplayers. Plays fun, if routine. Looks great. Challenging. Rated "T".

"Rayman Raving Rabbids" - A minor masterpiece. You play dozens of mini-games based on Whack-a-Mole and shooting galleries, among other arcade and classic games. It's rare, too, in that it's funny. Plays as fun as games get. Looks great. Quite challenging. Rated "E". Four stars.

"Red Steel" A Japanese sword fighter. It's fairly easy to use the wireless wand to point guns and swords, but the sword play is lackluster. Plays mildly fun. Looks pretty good. Challenging. Rated "T". Two stars.

"Resident Evil 4" - One of the very best games of all-time, you trek through scary horror towns full of evil farmers, kill them and try to save a girl from religious cultists. Plays very fun. Looks great. Very challenging. Rated "M". Four stars.

"Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles" - Basically, this is a shooting-gallery arcade game, where zombies pop up and you blast them over and over. Plays rote. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated "M". Two and a half stars.)

"Sonic and the Secret Rings" for Wii - Like any "Sonic" game, you run fast, collect gold rings and battle villains. Plays fun if you like "Sonic" games. Looks good. Easy to moderately difficult. Rated "E" for cartoon violence. Three stars.

"SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature from the Krusty Krab" - An inventive game that may be best for kids. You run, jump and shoot things. Plays fun, kid-friendly. Looks OK. Easy. Rated "E". Three stars.

"Super Mario Galaxy" retails for $50 for Wii - One of the best kids' games of 2007 sends Mario shooting through space, landing on planets that look like big globes; you run around and under the globes, instead of the camera always straightening out the visual perspective; it's cool and kind of wondrous. Plays fun. Looks very good. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "E" for mild cartoon violence. Four stars.

"Super Paper Mario" creatively lets you play as Mario and pals in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional settings, during a fine artistic adventure to save the world and rescue Princess Peach, again. Plays fun, fairly addictive. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "E". Three and one-half stars.

"Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" for Wii Use the Wii remote as a golf club, but only if you're prepared to struggle with getting your swing down. Plays confusing. Looks fine. Difficult. Rated "E". Two stars.

"Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam" - Plays fun. Looks pretty good. Challenging. Rated "E 10+" (mild violence, comic mischief, mild language). Three stars.

"WarioWare: Smooth Moves" for Wii - A good party game where you take on a series of short, mini-games, such as balancing a broom on your hand. Perfect for the Wii. Plays very fun in multiplayer mode, and fun alone. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E 10+" for crude humor and mild cartoon violence. Three and one-half stars.

"Wii Play" for Wii A collection of mini-games, like billiards, spot-the-lookalikes, and a "Duck Hunt"-esque game. Largely, it plays fun only if you're competing against other gamers. Looks OK. Easy to moderately difficult. Two and one-half stars.

"WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2008" - The standard bearer of wrestling games, you punch, kick and pile-drive opponents into the mat. Plays fun. Looks good. Challenging. Rated "T" for blood, mild language, suggestive themes, violence. Three stars.

GAME SYSTEMS

Microsoft Xbox 360 - The new standard in gaming through 2006, this system costing up to $400 plays games in high-definition, plays DVDs, and depending on the bundle you buy it comes with a wireless remote control. Games can be played online through Xbox Live. Four stars.

Microsoft Xbox - Once the next-best video game system on the market, the Xbox runs about $150 and usually comes with a controller or two, and maybe a game or two. Dozens of great games are available, and so are quite a few masterpieces, like "Red Dead Revolver" and "Madden" football games. A $20 adapter will let you watch DVDs on it. And if you have cable Internet, you can play against people online. But new games are getting phased out for it, so beware. Four stars.

Nintendo DS and DS Lite - The best handheld game system for kids of parents who don't like violent graphics, the DS has good-looking games, one regular screen and a touch screen. Four stars.

Nintendo DSi - This update to the DS Lite comes with two cameras, one on each side of the machine; an SD slot for storing music and photos; and downloadable games. Plays fun. Looks good enough. Easy to challenging games. Rating N/A. Four stars.

Nintendo Game Boy Advance - The GBA used to be great, but compared to the DS, the GBA's $50 price seems steep. Games just look too dinky on it. One star.

Nintendo GameCube - The GCube really packs punch for a system that uses a tiny mini-disc to store games on. At times, it seems faster and cooler than the PS 2. This $100 system is certainly the best choice for paranoid parents, since dozens of fun titles for kids are available. But I like having it as a secondary system. It's getting harder to find new games for it, with the Nintendo Wii out. Three and one-half stars.

Nintendo Wii - A revolutionary gaming system that tests very well with women, because games are interactive and more physically playful than games for other systems. It's also a great choice for kids of violence-paranoid parents, since kids games are rolling out for it quickly. It retails for $250. Instead of using a regular hand controller, a wireless wand and a wireless "nunchuk" let you control game characters by moving your hands around in the air. Genius. Four stars.

Sony PlayStation 2 - The PS 2 was great when it came out years ago. But since the Xbox hit the market in 2001, the PS 2 seems weak and slow. It retails for $150 when it shouldn't. But people keep buying it, because it's a brand name they know. It's not bad, it's just not the Xbox. A $20 adapter lets you watch DVDs on it. Only the newest, smallest PS 2's let you play games online using cable Internet. Three stars.

Sony PlayStation 3 - The most expensive game system has the most powerful computer system in it. It can even act as your online surfer, if you have broadband cable in the house. If you have a high definition TV with HDMI capability, you can get 1080 progressive scan. If not, it won't look better than the Xbox 360. It is comparable to the 360. But the system, debuted at the end of 2006, should have bigger, longer games within a year or two of release. Plays Blu-ray movies. Four stars.

Redesigned Sony PSP retails for $170 - The lighter, newer PSP is better than older PSP (more memory, faster load times), although old PSP peripherals from Griffin and other companies don't fit it and become obsolete. Plays fun. Looks great. Easy to very challenging games. Four stars.

Sony PlayStation Portable - The PSP is a fantastic handheld game system whose games look as good as a powerful PS One, and at times like the PS 2. "Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City" and several other games are very fun. The price goes up to $250, though. Steep. Four Stars.

GAME BOY ADVANCE

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - Just like it says in the title, you run through a chocolate factor, jumping on platforms and solving puzzles. Plays fun for a short while. Looks like an old platform game. Easy. Rated "E". One star.

"Disney's Magical Quest 3" - Swing around a colorful world as Mickey and Donald. Plays OK now and then but seems lame. Looks OK.

 
 
 

 

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