When the games finally came, even the blurbs on the boxes were compellingly written, if not grammatically correct: "In a race against time, Lara must travel across the globe to unearth history's greatest weapons. A legendary artifact of such immense power it could threaten humanity's very existence." Once I played finished copies of "Legend" in all formats, one thing became clear. Not only is Lara back, she's better than ever.

Once you finish an early level, you can explore Croft Manor, which holds secrets and information on game play. But be careful of one thing: games are not automatically saved, so save your progress often. And you'll want to use the "Safety Grab" feature which prevents Lara from falling off ledges.

Along the way, you'll be driving a sleek motorcycle for missions that are fun, if a little too simple to complete. And you'll use Lara's powers for varied melee attacks, including a slide attack, which knocks enemies off balance, an aerial attack, in which she lands on an enemy, and a power kick, which gives enemies the boot. You'll also have a PLS, Personal Light Source, for the dark catacombs you must courageously explore. The one thing I don't like is Lara's PDA, from which she gets her latest missions. The PDA has been around since video games came on CDROMs back in the early 90s. There should be something a bit higher tech than a PDA and a headset to herald Lara's return to gaming.

Mario: The cutest Italian plumber ever!
image: Courtesy of Nintendo
Mario: The cutest Italian plumber ever!

Details

New Super Mario Bros.
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
For: DS

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    As Lara travels around the world, the lands she visits are lavish and lush or cold and foreboding. It's also fun to make Lara swim underwater. But I liked the level which features an old English amusement park the best. The feeling you get is creepy and scary, like there's some monster about to jump out at you from inside an eerie haunted house. Finally, developers Crystal Dynamics have created some terrific puzzles. Some of them just tease your brain, while others attempt to turn your gray matter to mush.

    Ultimately, Legend creatively revives a series that some said was in its death throes. But Lara proves she has more lives than a cat. She just might be around fighting baddies when we're old and gray.


    Kingdom Hearts II
    Publisher: Square Enix/BVG
    Developer: Square Enix

    In a last great orgasm before an E3-enforced detumescence, a plethora of games have been released that are like powerful little super-sperm. Play these suckers and you'll be screaming in ecstasy. So turn up the volume: you don't want the neighbors to hear your rapture. Truth be told, I can't recall a late March/early April period in which so many good and occasionally great games were foisted upon the market. This week, a trio of good-to-great games jump the bones.

    The long-awaited and long-delayed Kingdom Hearts III has finally landed. With synchronicity that often isn't seen between Hollywood and game makers, Disney has teamed up with the RPG magicians Square-Enix, the people who make the Final Fantasy series. They've lent everyone from Mickey Mouse to Johnny Depp as crusty Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean to unleash a really thoughtful and deep adventure story. It makes the delay completely worth the wait.

    This is a game of full of modern myth, Disney style, in which you travel between various worlds to help the local hero, whether it's Mickey or the Little Mermaid. From the voice acting (which includes James Woods as the big-voiced ruler of Hell) to the soundtrack which includes the Little Mermaid's Jodi Benson, the game is full of pleasant surprises. You'll also meet some of the greatest characters from the Final Fantasy series. Plus, Square-Enix has made some terrific graphics on the soon-to-be-old-school PlayStation 2. 

    The only game play problem I can see is that to access various abilities and magic gleaned from hanging with the Disney characters, you have to scroll through various menus. This slows down the action. And you sometimes encounter problems with the camera angles, a game development challenge that's generally too ever-present in the world of video games. But the story, full of everything from fairy tales to sword and sorcery magic, makes you feel like kid again. To really understand the worlds of the game, you might also buy the original Kingdom Hearts, which you can get online for as little as $13.


    Blazing Angels
    Publisher: Ubisoft
    Developer: Ubisoft Romania

    Although it's been criticized as not quite deep enough, I like Blazing Angels for the Xbox 360. Here, you'll "feel like a pilot in a great WWII movie." Sure, it's got great graphics from a pilot's eye view, and you'll love flying over London and Big Ben as you battle. But with 42 different kinds of aircraft and the ability to play with 16 others online, the word ‘intense' becomes an understatement. I went out and bought a mouth guard to stop grinding my teeth from the tension I encountered. If you haven't played an arcade-like WWII war game before, try renting the game before you buy. With attackers coming from every direction and good graphics that are sometime great, you'll have a lot of fun with Blazing Angels.

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