By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
You're the ultimate procrastinator. You didn't make plans for the first day of the Armageddon Strike and got stuck at the back of the line on the bridge. And you certainly haven't done your holiday game shopping. So here's a little help from a cranky critic who gets all the games all the time, but still rants to the gaming gods when the discs don't arrive on the day they're released.
It doesn't have Project Gotham physics, but it feels pretty close to real racing. MARIO KART DS lets you compete within the wacky worlds of Mario. Sure, the hermit in you can speed solo, but the most amazing feature about this game is the ability to play via Wi-Fi the world over. With the variety 30 colorful courses, and one particular racing mode which makes you blow into the DS microphone, you can't go wrong. Go ahead, put your lips together and blow.
SONIC RUSH (DS), starring everyone's favorite hedgehog, makes very good use of the handheld's dual gaming screens. During 14 levels, Sonic meets up with new character Blaze The Cat. As they race through obstacles swiftly, you'll feel like you're part of a roller coaster ride through the cosmos, and, hey, you need a dream world like that while your stuck in strike traffic.
I can count the games released for girls this year on one hand. But there's hope. When the Bratz doll craze began about five years ago, the hip, ultra-stylin' toys were so scarce, folks had trouble buying them, even on Ebay. Finally, there's a Bratz game which lets you live the Bratz life, kind of like the Hilton sisters, but these cartoons are smarter. BRATZ ROCK ANGELZ lets start your own fashion magazine, have fun with other Bratz and travel the world with your own rock band. No, they don't make a sex video.
How about a game with just a few pixels? If you want to go old school, crank up the Cory Hart, dust off the Cabbage Patch doll and play the 80s-era Atari games with ATARI FLASHBACK 2. You get two Atari 2600 joysticks, the console and 40 games like Pong, Pitfall, and Centipede. Just plug it into your TV to go retro wild. And give that Cabbage Patch doll a good punch when you lose at Centipede.
"The happy people are failures because they are on such good terms with themselves they don't give a damn," said Agatha Christie. No one's bright and bushy-tailed in AGATHA CHRISTIE AND THEN THERE WERE NONE where 11 "sailor boys" on a mysterious island begin to drop like flies. The nicely written, graphically intense adventure game also includes a copy of Christie's best-selling book.
You wanna be Malick or Stone, Spielberg or Lucas, Meryl or Julia? If you're a fan of tinseltown and you have a PC, you can become "the ultimate Hollywood power player" with THE MOVIES. Created by Peter Molyneux, the creative mind behind Fable, the game coxes you to create your own studio and any kind of movie genre you'd like. But if your stars have scandals (and they will), you'll have to go into serious spin mode to save your flickand your shirt. Alas, the spin doctors don't have scandals à la Lizzie Grubman.
Disney fans will love TOONTOWN ONLINE. If your computer has online capabilities, the game, which comes with a free two-month subscription, lets you create your own cartoon character in massive, Disney-like environs. It's a humorous game which promotes the idea of community: you'll defeat the evil Cogs and gain powers à la EverQuest. Don't think of going in and making Donald a whore, though, or Mickey a cusser. Disney's got rules about them things.
Little guys can fight, too, even if they're two inches high. Should you have an N-Gage phone, don't pass up ONE, a multi-faceted urban fighting offering with many virtues, including admirable graphics. After putting together your own fighter, the brawling that ensues includes a story mode during which you move up through the ranks. For a cell phone game, this is one deep experience that includes hundreds of fighting movesjust like Roger Toussaint.
Horrors fans hate the holidays: they want things creepier than a morbid, depressing meal with the relatives. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft should flock to CALL OF CTHULU: DARK CORNERS OF THE EARTH, a survival horror game for the Xbox that, when played with only the light of a Christmas tree, will scare you. You'll find yourself flinching and starting when your detective character begins to go insane. Think of it as your own Nightmare Before Christmas, albeit very dark.
For folks who love the knowledge and depth within history, CIVILIZATION IV lets the megalomaniac in you rule the world from the beginning of society. In this strikingly cinematic game with narration by Leonard Nimoy, you'll strategize your way to victory, all the while learning from the great political, military and religious leaders of centuries past. If you've been impatient with strategy games of yore, don't worry. Civilization IV moves very quickly. Don't tell George Bush or Dick Cheney. They might get . . . ideas.Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
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