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The Season's Top Sports Games

So I'm sitting at the Helen Hayes Theater, listening to ventriloquist Jay Johnson weave his life story into 90 minutes in the sometimes magical "The Two And Only." What's important about Johnson is not only that he's one of the last of a dying breed of voice-throwers. What's important is the fact that you suspend disbelief, feeling that there are two or more characters on the stage at the same time. You even feel that a tennis ball is a real, feeling human. I'm not saying you feel like a ventriloquist when you play a video game. What I am saying is that you feel like a multitude of characters when you play: from Mario to Shaq. I have no idea what these thousands of personalities have done to my paranoid mind. But I do know that when I play one of the better sports games below, I feel like a thick legged hockey player or an eagle-eyed basketball player. I ain't makin' the millions, though, that's for sure. Then again, I don't have LeBron's elbow in my nearsighted eye when trying to make a shot under the basket.

NBA 2K7 (2K Sports)—There are three companies vying for your console dollar this year. I choose NBA 2K7 because of the sheer variety of moves, the outstanding graphics where you can see the players sweat and react, the many modes of play and the ever-smarter artificial intelligence. But some new moves can get you down occasionally—especially when it come to free throws, which are hard to master. And they've got to pep up the boring and occasionally mistake-filled banter by the announcers. Aside from these errors, NBA 2K7 has it down and is the one to buy. The bonus? The online play is almost seamless with very little lag time.

NBA 07 (Sony)—If you're looking for a basketball game to take along with you on your travels, give NBA 07 a try this year. Not only is the gameplay superior on the little wide screen, there are carnival-like mini games to help you hone your skills, and make you smile. Be aware that the Artificial Intelligence is very tough on you, maybe too tough when you play against the computer for a full season. It's better to wage war against your pals in the Wi-Fi mode.

NHL 07: Feel like the next Gretzky
image: EA Sports
NHL 07: Feel like the next Gretzky

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  • Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
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    NHL 07 (EA)—No hockey game is going to make you feel as though you're playing on real ice. Yet NHL 07 comes pretty darn close on your gaming console. Why? The new controller system gives you the heady feeling that you're getting a real skating workout. Your right analog stick gives you so much control over shooting and skating that you'll get an ego and think you're the next Gretzky. While this is truly an amazing step forward for hockey games, there's a problem. The rest of the game isn't that much improved over last year's offering. It needs to feel newer, spicier. Still, you won't get any better than this when it comes to a hockey game for your console.

    NHL 07 (EA)—If you're a PSP fan, you'll also be happy with the depth of NHL 07. I have a hard time using the PSP's controller stick because it can be imprecise. But this game packs much of the console game into its smaller UMD disk. Not only will you play electrifying hockey against the PSP, you'll also be able to manage your team with precision. Be warned that the online play with friends is fairly choppy, however.

    NASCAR 07 (EA)—While there are some forward-thinking improvements to Electronic Arts' NASCAR franchise this year, there really isn't enough in these offerings for the old Xbox and PlayStation 2 to satisfy the eager racer in you. Sure, you've got driving that often feels fast and accurate. And you have to love the career mode in which you start out as a naïve racer with stars in your eyes. You work hard to compete and climb the rungs of the NASCAR ladder. But the graphics and gameplay don't seem substantially different from last year's model. You'll wish the company had waited a year and created a really amazing NASCAR for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

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

    Nintendo DS Roundup

    On Sunday, I sat on a barstool whose leather was cut up by a pocket knife. I was in Buffalo, drinking and getting drunk on trashy Mike's Hard Lime-aritas while watching the hapless Buffalo Bills get beaten by the marginally better New York Jets. When it became clear that the Bills would lose the game, the rueful fans began smoking cigarettes. Suddenly, someone set off a smoke bomb. Then, a pack of extraordinarily noisy firecrackers were tossed on the dance floor. If the home team had won, there would have been bottle rockets, according to one tipsy fan. I love Buffalo.

    Strangely, it all reminded me of some of the better Nintendo DS games of the season. (I know, I should get out more: but I was trying by traveling to the dive bar). DS games are a lot like fireworks. They explode with lurid color and momentary excitement, the same kind you get when exploding a firecracker. So herewith is a look at some of the better video game fireworks for the DS this season.

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