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MERCENARIES: PLAYGROUND OF DESTRUCTION
For: PlayStation 2, Xbox
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: Pandemic

Essentially, Mercenaries is about blowing things up in communist Korea, blowing things up in mammoth pyrotechnic extravaganzas à la various incandescent Hollywood blockbusters. This is more compelling than blowing things up in, say, Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal because you're rewarded for doing well. For the mercenary character you control, it's about the money. Really for the average game player, it's about getting a pat on the back from your crew and the gangsters with whom you deal. In that sense, it's about community, and it's not that different from Jack Bauer in 24, or Charlotte in I Am Charlotte Simmons, for that matter. And that's what keeps you coming back (to get all the Koreans in a 52-card, Iraq-like deck): The fires down below, and that pat on the back, which goes to your head.


PRINCE OF PERSIA: WARRIOR WITHIN
For: GameCube, PC, Playstation 2, Xbox
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer Ubisoft Montreal

POP begins with an excitingly beautiful blur of action—slashing sword fighting, lunkhead wraiths, the very hot Goth Shahdee fighting you in a strong bikini (à la Kelly Freas), and it's almost quicker than Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. It slows as you practice running across walls, but then speeds up in a Back to the Future way. Moving between eras, back and forth in time, can be damn frustrating, but it just may be worth it since the game is so spiritually, unremittingly dark and occasionally depressing, more like Errol Flynn's autobiography My Wicked, Wicked Ways than his swashbuckling movies.


ALIEN HOMINID
For: PlayStation 2
Publisher: 0~3
Developer: The Behemoth

If Alien Hominid were an animated movie, it might be nominated for an Oscar. But this great achievement was ignored in the crass and seemingly fixed Spike TV game awards a few weeks ago. (How and why does Brooke Burke win over Judi Densch?) With low tech drawing à la South Park (and humor that's Bill Plympton-twisted), this side-scroller starring a plucky humanesque outsider does something only the roller coaster at Coney Island has done. It made me laugh at the same time I screamed bloody murder. While AH is dubbed an indie creation, it's really made by veterans of the industry. Still, it's about as indie as games get, which alone is a reason to support it.


Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
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