December 06, 2006

Game Dork

New Kids on the Block

Over the years, readers have said their favorite video game reviews are the ones where I compare games to pop culture or ex-girlfriends (which ones are high maintenance, etc.). But it's the holidays, so I need to stay in news-you-can-use mode. Hang in there, fans of dating parallels.

Anyway, here's a straight-up look at more releases for the brand-spanking new PlayStation 3.

"Ridge Racer 7" — Once again, you drive super sleek racecars at up to 200 mph and beyond, through concrete jungles of cities, under dark tunnels and around mountain curves.

As usual, you make hairpin turns by briefly letting off the gas, then stomping on the gas while sliding around corners. The courses are pretty, though many seem like leftovers from "Ridge Racer 6."

The real value may be in racing up to 14 players online. It plays fun, if basic racing is your thing. Looks very good. Challenging. Rated "E" for mild language, mild suggestive themes. Three stars out of four.

"Tony Hawk's Project 8" — I've been playing "Tony Hawk" games forever, it seems, and it's still the hardest game for me to conquer. "Project 8" sets you on a series of familiar (to "Hawk" fans), goal-oriented tricks. You ollie. You flip your board. La-la-la.

It's even cooler this time, with slow-motion tricks you do in the air. But you'd better be a master of the board to play this crazy thing. It's also available for Xbox 360, Xbox and PS 2. Plays fun, but frustrating to me. Looks great. Very challenging. Rated "T" for alcohol reference, blood, crude humor, language and mild violence. Three and one-half stars.

"Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom" — You run through villages and kill barbarians with your warrior powers, and save your king's kingdom. It's all about beating up skeletons and monsters and such with a giant hammer (as a warrior guy) or with acrobatics and blades (as a stealthy woman) or with magic (as a magic-y dude).

Occasional dialogue arrives along the lines of "Aye. The people of Dureth suffer greatly," and "We shall take your head." This is what a role-playing game used to look like, but you actually get to wield weapons instead of just sitting and watching your character give the beat-down on baddies.

It's good, large and creative, but it's not a masterpiece. In online gaming, you play in standard cooperative mode where you swing your weapons at bunches of loser skeletons. Plays fun if you like this sort of somewhat repetitive fantasy. Looks good. Easy to moderately challenging. Rated "T" for blood and violence. Three stars.

"Marvel: Ultimate Alliance" — Granted, this is one of those games I just don't get. It's gotten really good reviews from other critics, but to me it's just a small-looking fighting game stuck inside a fake adventure.

You play as Spider-Man, Iron Man and other classic heroes. You run forward. You punch guys. You throw guys. Blah. I went online with the game to see if it would be more fun playing with other gamers, but no one in the whole world was playing it online. So. Eh.

It's also available for Xbox 360, Wii, Xbox, PS 2 and PSP. Plays repetitively. Looks OK. Moderately challenging. Rated "T" for mild language, violence. Two stars.

Previous ratings for new PS 3 games — "Call of Duty 3," rated "T" (four stars); "NBA 2K7," rated "E" (three and one-half stars); "Madden NFL '07," rated "E" (four stars); "Resistance: Fall of Man," rated "M" (three stars); "Genji: Days of the Blade," rated "T" (three stars); "Tiger Woods PGA Tour '07," rated "E" (four stars); "Need for Speed: Carbon," rated "E 10+" (three and one-half stars); "Fight Night: Round 3," rated "T" (four stars).

New to You — Used Game of the Week

"Project Gotham Racing 3" came out a year ago, along with the then-new Xbox 360. It's a testament to "PGR's" good quality that it was put out at launch. It's not nutty like the "Burnout" series, but it's a solid racecar game featuring Lamborghinis and 80 other style toys.

It's just now selling for less than $20 in used-game stores. It's rated "E 10+" for mild lyrics.

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

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