By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
While Bully is not perfect, it's one of the last great games for the PlayStation 2, which will be considered old school by mid-November when the PS3 is launched. For those of us who left school years ago, Bully is a hard-edged, often-touching reminder of how school can be about survival of the fittest. For those current high school folks who consider themselves nerds and geeks (even though they aren't), Bully will probably be a triumphant experience in which they live vicariously through young Hopkins. The nerds won't have to wait until they graduate into adult life to succeed among their peers. They can rule the roost right now in Bully. At least, they can try. For they are like the pig's head in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Like the pig, "their half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business." Until you get out of school.
The makers of horror, whether they're from the publishing, movie, or gaming worlds, make their livings as parasites of sorts. They prey on people's deepest fears, gorging themselves like ticks as your nerves fray. That's what I love about this time of year, daring people to scare me until I'm as withered and paranoid as Hawthorne's preacher from The Minister's Black Veil.
In the game world this year, the games aren't as terror-filled as in years past. Still, they hit the essence of Halloween, that idea of dressing up as someone else for a night of mischief and mayhem. Here's a look through the sometimes creepy peephole of horror.
DESTROY ALL HUMANS! 2This Teen-rated game is so full of fun and humor, you'll almost forget there's a creepy alien involved who wants to kill every human alive. Last year, THQ released a 50s-themed Destroy All Humans! This year, it's a 60s-themed release. Not only are the PlayStation 2 and Xbox games full of shooting fun, they're rife with on-target parodies of hippies, British rock, and miniskirts. There's even a section called "The Rage of Aquarius."
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.
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