Nobel Prize in Football; You’re Clay and Can


The New York Times‘ Matt Richtel was probably right in taking MADDEN NFL 2006 to task for not having enough brand new features to rationalize the $50 price tag. Yet if you’re a football nut in the way embattled Nobel Prize Winner John Robert Schrieffer was nutty about theories of superconductivity, you just have to have the game. Yeah, the new QB Vision is hard to work. So turn the damn thing off, if you like. What’s cool? You get to create a player from the genes on forward. (Don’t tell those pesky, so-called pro-lifers, OK?) And whether you want to crack his head or laud him for his individuality (I prefer the latter), the game has prodigal Ricky Williams, who has returned to the Miami Dolphins. Run, Ricky, run!

GUMBY VS. THE ASTROBOTS is cooler than The Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards in the stretching department. (Wouldn’t you love to see a Celebrity Deathmatch with those two?) Here, you wander across Toyland because those infernal Blockheads have hired these things called Astrobots to imprison Gumby’s pals, say it ain’t so, books. Here, you get to move from book to book, running, jumping, stretching and morphing (’cause you’re clay and you can) to check out the various worlds inside the tomes. Too bad The Kite Runner and In the Hand of Dante aren’t included. But I’m real glad My Old Man and The Historian aren’t.

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Allow me, just for a minute, to leave the dog days of summer gaming—when the great releases are few and far between—to talk about a critic. Even though the Times ignored him in their piece, it was really Philadelphia Inquirer game writer Dennis McCauley (and his GAMEPOLITICS.COM) who broke the story to the media about the mod-unlockable sex scenes within the PC version of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Yeah, McCauley’s spent a little too much time reporting on GTASA‘s sex. But if you look further into the blog, you see the beauty of journalism beyond the boring tricks and tips ala What’s present is real opinion about the politics of gaming, from Schumer ranting against the upcoming 25 to Life to the unending lawsuits claiming that video game violence makes kids kill people. It’s not just worth a look; it’s worth a bookmark.

Killer 7
For: PS2
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom

The questions for KILLER 7 are these: Is it all style and no substance, and is the style good enough to keep you gunned up for 30 hours of gaming? The art is comic book meets animé, and that’s cool, especially when you add the noir-like script and admirable voice acting. The biggest twist here, however, is the fact that you can become any one of seven personalities that lie within a wheelchair-confined hit man. In that way, you can attempt to save the world from a killer virus. What doesn’t work well is the actual gameplay, which is the same and then the same again. It’s almost like having a pretty, Stepford Wife robotic shell with not that much underneath to keep you going. Yet there’s a shallowness that actually enhances the look of the thing—but not enough to make me play the whole game.

Graffiti Kingdom
For: PS2
Publisher: Hot B
Developer: Garakuta-Studio/Taito

These are the dog days of summer for gamerheads. Until mid-August, the releases are serious woofs, woeful pieces of mongrel doo shoveled your way just in case you think a new game will divert your mind from the raging heat. And then there’s GRAFFITI KINGDOM, a quiet little child’s game with a twist. You can draw your own characters. Add wings, tails, legs, sexual organs, whatever you like via the left, analog stick. Even if you’re no Miyamoto (and who is?), the quirky function adds verve to a fairly common RPG with platformer elements. In the game, you’re young Pixel, who comes upon a magic wand/paint brush, but also lets loose a devil and his minions who want to take over the local kingdom. Everything here is cute, even the monsters. Yeah, it all makes you think about the real meanings of cute: From baby-Olsen-twin too-cute to Pokemon-animal-huggable cute to manufactured-Aaron-Carter cute. But there’s one important thing that wide-eyed kids and jaded adults will take from GK: the paint brush is mightier than the sword. That, in itself, is enough to buy it and play.

For: DS
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Shin’en

There’s no story to NANOSTRAY, just shooting. Yet I can’t put it down that easily. It’s not that the lurid graphics are equal to anything on the DS, even if they are. And it’s not that the techno music lulls me into a dance floor-like submission, but it does. The real point isn’t just shooting; it’s methodically arcing along, rhythmically and alertly avoiding bombs and rays from other flying vehicles. The weapons are varied and the DS’ touchscreen keeps me informed with weapons and radar and info on big boss ships. Shooting hordes as a single agile flying fighter is a game format that’s been around since the 80s. Yet these eight stages on planets set within some odd, foreboding solar system have me coming back for more. Is there such a thing as game pheromones?