By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
With all of the hoopla surrounding E3, the lurid, seven-deadly-sin-filled video game convention in Los Angeles this week, you might miss a brand new game featuring Nintendo's big superstar, Mario. The omnipresent Mario is for Nintendo as Mickey is for Disney. He's not only a cuter-than-the-Olsen-twins-as-toddlers character; he represents everything for which the company stands: wholesome fun for kids and adults alike.
The mustachioed Italian plumber has been a cultural icon of the video game world since his birth in the 1980s with a series of exhilarating running and jumping games. While Mario releases have occasionally been hit and miss, Nintendo never fails to come up with some innovative idea within each gamewhether it's the frantic nature of the "Mario Party" series or the creative "Warioware" mini-game spinoffs for the GameCube and the DS.
Now for the DS comes NEW SUPER MARIO BROTHERS. It's an old school 2D game with a lot of new twists. And because of all the new power-ups, you get a kind of Alice In Wonderland feeling as you play. That's not to say that it's full of biting satire of Carroll's classic tome. But mushrooms make Mario huge, a giant among plumbers. And when Mario grows, he has the power of Godzilla, wreaking havoc upon the small world below for the short time he's huge. Here, as in past Mario games, Princess Peach is being held captive. So Mario and his brother Luigi must join forces to save the young royal.
Mario is rendered in high tech 3D in a luridly-colored 2D side scrolling world. You won't be using the touch screen much in the single player mode or in the two-player wifi mode. Nintendo's saved the touch screen aspect for a variety of mini games. The one that's the most fun asks you to roll a snowball via the touch screen to a goal in 20 seconds. Make sure you miss the obstacles along the way, or you'll never get there on time. The variety of mini games is vast, including puzzle games, action games, and an addictive version of poker featuring Mario's brother, Luigi, as the dealer.
While it's disappointing that you can't use the touch screen in the single player game, the adventure within the side scroller is occasionally thrilling and often challenging. You'll find various creatures along the way to head stomp and butt stomp. And there's even a new control which lets Mario cling to walls a la Spider-Man. I have to say I really don't like the happy music, which becomes repetitive and annoying. I just turned down the sound when I didn't like the tune.
Ultimately, what New Super Mario Bros. contains is a tried and true fairy tale full of humorand the realized dreams of saving the beautiful damsel in distress. As the hero, you get the girl in the endalthough you might not in real life. But that's what games are for: to live out your fantasies.
If you think about the legendary female characters in TV and in the movies, you think the bright, witty Emma Peel from The Avengers, even the quiet power of the Bionic Woman or the steadfast nature of Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. You can even look at Julia Robert's Erin Brockovich as a kind of hero. You don't think of Lara Croft as a well-rounded character, really, not in movies, or in games. That's because Lara Croft is more Wonder Woman meets Indiana Jones than a thoughtful heroine. Lara Croft has been a comic book-inspired action heroine from the get-go. So when the cliché Angel of Darkness showed up as an abominable iteration in 2003, I'd had it with Tomb Raider games.
About two months ago, the good people at Eidos came over to the house to demonstrate their biggest game in years, Tomb Raider: Legend. I have to say I had my doubts, especially since the series has had its ups and downs, especially with Angel of Darkness. And, franky, the movie versions of Lara starring Angelina Jolie were good, though not life-changing experiences. But the moment the demo came on the screen, I could see how much care had been put into creating the latest Lara. And you know what? This Lara character is pretty darn deep.
Immediately within the game, the graphics shined. There was Lara in all her glory, stealthily making her way in around a raging waterfall in one of the early levels. The beautiful Lara seemed almost human, and the waterfall was stunning to behold. I don't want to dwell on the environments and graphics for too long, but when they're this stellar, you really want to delve deeply into a game. When I took the PS2 controls and moved Lara around, negotiating the falls was easy, and the controller reacted properly, just like the most recent Prince Of Persia games. She moves smoothly and seamlessly. Also, I saw very few camera angle issues, which boded well for the future release.
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