November 01, 2006

Game Dork

Beheadings and Such

I just yanked the head off a dude. I did that right after I won a PGA Tour golf championship. Then I played with my artificial Dalmatian, which comforted me after I lost a load while playing poker. Isn't the world of video games a happy place? They let us live so many widely different lives that would never be possible, at least not for those of us who aren't murderous golfers and gambling dog owners.

"Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" — Oh, how the world changes. I played the original "Mortal Kombat" in the early 1990s when politicians were calling for the heads of "Kombat's" makers. They were angry that in the game, when you beat up an opponent, you could pull off a "finishing move," such as ripping his or her head and spine out of his or her body, as if he or she were a sardine or a shrimp. It was super cool. In retrospect, it was quaint.

"Armageddon" is just the latest, greatest, gruesome rehash of those early "Mortal Kombat" titles, but it's predictably much more graphic, as computer animation has blossomed like a beautiful flower. And the game is just as fun as always. All these years later, there is zero controversy. None. Life moves fast.

The finishing moves are vast. My favorites are simple pleasures, like breaking a fighter's neck, decapitating him, or naturally, the "spine rip." It's fun, looks great, and has easy-to-hard settings you can choose from. It's available for Xbox and PS 2. It's rated "M" for blood, gore and intense violence. Three and one-half stars out of four.

"Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" — I put off playing the new "Tour" for a few days, because I knew once I started, I wouldn't be able to stop for 10 hours or so. The greens, fairways and roughs are rolling hills of green. The faces of Woods and other golfers are very detailed. And best of all, it's addicting to create your own golfer (mine's a woman with a large blouse and a short skirt) and develop your golfing skills by hitting eagles and great ball-spinning drives. It's very fun no matter the platform, on Xbox 360, Xbox, PS 2 and PSP. It looks great. It's very challenging. And it's rated "E". Four stars.

"Nintendogs: Dalmation & Friends" — This is a new DS version of "Nintendogs" that is really no different than earlier "Nintendogs, except you can play with a Dalmation right off the bat. Earlier "Nintendogs" made you play forever before you could get a Dalmation.

It comes with more than a dozen breeds. There's a lot of petting, feeding, walking and Frisbee challenges. It's good stuff for kids if they're into this sort of thing. Me, not so much. But I'm not really the target demo. Plays like standard simulation games. Looks good. Easy. Rated "E" for comic mischief. Two stars.

"Clubhouse Games" — This DS title offers more than 40 fun games for kids and adults. Here's a small list: solitaire, Mahjong solitaire, darts, dominoes, backgammon, chess, Chinese checkers, contact bridge, hearts, rummy, old maid and spit. There are instances of blackjack, Texas hold 'em and five-card stud, but oddly these poker games aren't Vegas enough and deal with points, not cash. It plays fun, looks fine and is as easy or challenging as the games you choose. It's rated "E" for simulated gambling. Four stars.

New to You — Used Game of the Week

The wild football game "Blitz: The League" is new to the Xbox 360, but it's already available for PS 2 and Xbox, and used copies of those older titles are going for around $15.

Since Electronic Arts bought the rights to the NFL for its "Madden" series, Midway added women "escorts," graft and blood to the violent sport for this narrative sport adventure. It's rated "M" for blood, strong language, suggestive themes, use of drugs and violence.

New and Coming Soon

"F.E.A.R." is a shooting game with paramilitary, special-ops soldiers going up against assassins and big gunners in a space station. It retails for $60 for Xbox 360. It's rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence and strong language.

"Blitz: The League" turns professional football action into a crazy, adult sport with corruption and female "escorts." It retails for $50 for Xbox 360. It's rated "M" for blood, strong language, suggestive themes, use of drugs and violence. "Need for Speed: Carbon" is the latest upgrade of the car-racing series, featuring a new town full of twisty roads. It retails for $60 for Xbox 360; $40 for Xbox, PS 2, GCube, PSP; $30 for DS. It's rated "E 10+" for mild violence.

"Final Fantasy XII" is the latest, very anticipated English-language sequel in the role-playing fantasy. It retails for $50 for PS 2. It's rated "T" for alcohol reference, fantasy violence, mild language, partial nudity and suggestive themes.

"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories" comes to Sony's handheld PSP after being a great, smash hit on PS 2 (and on Xbox as "GTA: The Trilogy"). It retails for $50. It's rated "M" for blood, gore, strong language, strong sexual content and violence.

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

Top 10 New Games

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

1. "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent" (Ubisoft) for Xbox 360; also available for Xbox, PS 2, GCube; rated "M" (blood, language, violence)

2. "Scarface: The World Is Yours" (Vivendi Games) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of drugs)

3. "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" (EA) for Xbox 360; also available for Xbox, PS 2 and PSP; rated "E"

4. "Madden NFL '07" (EA) for PS 2; also available for Xbox 360, Xbox, GCube, PSP and DS; rated "E"

5. "Bully" (Rockstar) for PS 2; rated "T" (crude humor, language, sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco, violence)

6. "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" (Midway) for PS 2; also available for Xbox; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence)

7. "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" for PS 2

8. "Scarface: The World Is Yours" for Xbox

9. "Madden NFL '07" for Xbox 360

10. "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon" (Midway) for Xbox; also available for PS 2; rated "M" (blood, gore, intense violence)

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

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