By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
ULTIMATE GHOSTS 'N GOBLINSWhen Capcom decided to update one of the best, old-school side-scrollers of all time, the blogosphere went wild. In this PSP game with beautifully rendered backgrounds, you'll have a load of new weapons and magic potions to play with. And if you're really masochistic, you'll try to play it on "Ultimate," the hardest way to play a creepily challenging game full of weird, undead monsters.
MORTAL KOMBAT ARMAGEDDONSince this fighting franchise from Midway has been around since 1992, it's had its ups and downs as far as quality goes. This year, the Mature-rated game lets you create your own fighter and your own gruesome way to die. For those who don't want to see so much blood and guts, there's a mini game called Motor Kombat in which you race with the evil characters you play against in the game. While the fighting is great (you can even fight in the air), the racing isn't.
JUSTICE LEAGUE HEROESEach Halloween, you see a spate of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman comic book character costumes. Wouldn't it be terrific if you could play as all these superheroes, and more? In this Teen-rated game, you'll even have Green Lantern on your side. This action-filled role playing offering lets you get inside the minds and bodies of the superheroes as you never before have (unless you're a comic book geek who knows all the trivia from back in, say, 1977).
Scarface The World Is YoursThere's long been a cult of folks who love Brian De Palma's 1983 film, Scarface. In this game for the PSP and PlayStation 2, you get to play as Al Pacino's Tony Montana. You haven't died, as was the case in the movie. Instead, you're back with a vengeance to reclaim your turf. In super powerful Blind Rage mode, Tony becomes one of the scariest monsters Halloween has ever seen. And his henchmen are pretty terrifying, too.
DEVIL SUMMONERIn this atmospheric offering, you're a teen detective who can summon the devil in this, the only game of the bunch which evokes real terror. Set in Japan during the prosperous Taisho era, you'll find the streets reek with demons. Not only can you make the demons your allies in this Mature-rated, PS2 game, you can mix demons together for some really scary super powers.
THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY & MANDYWry and full of ascerbic wit, this game based on the quirky Cartoon Network show not only features the Grim Reaper. You'll have 14 other characters who make their way through 45 twisted missions. In this PS2 game everyone can play, the sarcastic geniuses behind the show even parody some of the more recent Hollywood horror films.
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 occasionallyespecially 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 (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.
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