November 15, 2006

Game Dork

Pick Pocket

With the holiday shopping season inching upon us, I'll be writing soon about Sony's new PlayStation 3 (launching Nov. 17 for $600) and Nintendo's new Wii (launching Nov. 19 for $250), as well as games for Microsoft's Xbox 360 ($400). But there is yet another great gift option: Sony's handheld PSP.

After a year and a half on the market, it's still pricey at $250. But scores of good games come out for PSP every month. It is sort of a luxury item, but I love it. It fits in my pocket, yet the screen is splendid. Here's a look at some classic PSP games and a few newbies.

— The new "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories" and 2005's "GTA: Liberty City Stories" may be the most entertaining games available for the PSP, if you're into shooting people, robbing them and driving fast cars through city streets. PSP "GTAs" look almost exactly as good as "GTA" games on PS 2. They can be very difficult, though. Rated "M." Four stars out of four.

— "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07" is the signature sports title for the PSP, I think. It also looks about as good as "Tiger" for PS 2. It has lush greens, gorgeous action and swinging is easy to figure out. The previous "Tiger" downside is fixed now, too; it no longer takes forever for a hole to start. It's easy at first, very difficult later on. Rated "E." Four stars.

— This summer's "Field Commander" is one of the most fun role-playing games I've played on any system, and I don't love role-playing games. "Field Commander" is sort of like "Risk." You send tanks, helicopters and soldiers along a chess-like path to beat competing armies. It's a great brain game with nice artistic flourishes. It's fairly difficult. It's rated "T." Three and one-half stars.

— The new "Medal of Honor: Heroes" brings the very entertaining war franchise to PSP. You play as a soldier, shooting rifles and machine guns during gritty-looking battlefields in Italy, Holland and Belgium. You can play against up to 31 other players by accessing the PSP's wi-fi online function. It's rated "T." Four stars.

— "SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals: Fireteam Bravo" is more ambitiously entertaining than it sounds. You go undercover and save the world from terrorists. The fun is in negotiating intricate moderately difficult battlefields, or shooting against other gamers. Also out now is the sequel-worthy "SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2." The original is rated "M," the sequel "T." Four stars.

— Newish "LocoRoco" is a holy-cow game, as in, holy cow is this a cute, addictive, bizarre blast. You play as a yellow, happy blob. You roll along a cartoon land, picking up items along the way, like in "Sonic the Hedgehog" but gentler, merrier and slower. You don't have feet to run. Instead, you press buttons to turn the world sideways, and gravity forces you to roll along. I imagine kids, adults who aren't allergic to cuteness and female gamers would eat this thing up. It's rated "E." Four stars.

Used Game of the Week

One of the most intense shooting games of 2006 has been on the market long enough this year to be selling in used-game stores for $20. It's "Hitman: Blood Money" for the Xbox 360, Xbox and PS 2.

"Blood Money" is the most recent adventure of a paid assassin, entertaining from start to finish. You can either sneak on your missions or blast bad guys in crazy slaughters. Its artistic details are impressive. It's rated "M" for blood, strong language, use of drugs, partial nudity, sexual themes and intense violence.

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

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