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THE ALTERNATIVES | GOT GAME?

Superman or SpongeBob?

December 21, 2006|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

WHILE shopping this weekend, if you find yourself standing at the video game aisle of your local electronics store, staring blankly at the thousands of video games available and wondering what would be the perfect gift for Tina or Tommy, worry not. We've given the following 10-plus games the once-over and offer you our first impressions after playing each for at least one hour. Is it worth your time? Is it worth your money? Most important, will they like it? No need to fret, dear reader, we do this for a living....

Burger King Games

The three titles -- Pocketbike Racer, Sneak King and Big Bumpin' -- available for purchase at Burger King restaurants are better than a lot of games that cost 10 times as much. They're a steal and should be under the tree of anyone with an Xbox. Our favorite was Pocketbike Racer, a great cart-style racer that rivals the Mario Kart series. (Xbox 360 and Xbox platforms; $3.99. Rated: Everyone.)

Viva Pinata

Strange, whimsical and colorful, Viva Pinata is a game in which the goal

is to grow and maintain a garden that attracts strange little living pinatas.

Plant flowers, breed species and care for your visitors in this game, which is perfect for anyone with a large imagination and a love of all things cute and colorful. (Xbox 360 platform; $49.99. Rated: Everyone.)

The Sopranos: Road to Respect

This is an interactive episode of the hit HBO show with more violence, depravity and nudity (yes, nudity) than you can shake a controller at -- if you are older than 18, that is. The controls are a bit choppy at times, but the story more than makes up for it. Gamers will find trips into the Bada Bing nightclub to be, ahem, eye-opening. (PlayStation 2 platform; $39.99. Rated: Mature.)

Rainbow Six Vegas

After the first hour of play, we were still battling terrorists in a dusty Mexican town, nowhere near Las Vegas. But, based on the ease of control, stunning visuals and realistic Special Forces action, we'd happily walk to the capital of sin if it meant we could play this more. We're already hooked, and that was before we discovered the multiplayer modes. (Xbox 360 platform; $59.99. Rated: Mature.)

SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature From the Krusty Krab

The makers of this fun adventure were almost too eager to make use of all the Wii remote's sensors. While young ones will surely love exploring this bizarre dreamland, adults may get frustrated when they can't find the sweet spot for operating the game's winches. (Wii, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance; $49.99-$29.99. Rated: Everyone.)

Superman Returns

Finally, a Superman game that's good enough to make gamers forget the dreadful Superman 64, the worst game of all time. Here, the Man of Steel can easily fly over Metropolis, saving citizens from evildoers. Flying, smashing, exploring and saving the world while wearing blue tights shouldn't be this much fun. (Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS platforms; $59.99-$29.99. Rated: Teen.)

Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops

A sequel to 2004's MGS Snake Eater, Portable Ops finally gives fans some sneaky Snake action to help tide us over until next year's game of the year lands, MGS Guns of the Patriots. Closer to a traditional action-packed MGS title than last year's MGS Acid, this one also packs a wireless multiplayer mode. (PlayStation Portable platform; $39.99. Rated: Mature.)

Smackdown vs. Raw 2007

Another year, another wrestling game. Like the Madden NFL series, the WWE games have gotten as close to perfection as possible -- so why do we need a new title every year? The controls are smooth and the wrestlers have never looked better. Aside from that, there isn't a whole lot different from last year's outing. Hard-core fans only. (Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and PSP; $59.99-$49.99. Rated: Teen.)

Eragon

Here's a hint to fans of the "Eragon" dragon movie (and those who love them): Take the 60 bucks you might have spent on this clunker of a game and go see the film a few more times. Then buy the book. Do anything but waste your cash on this obviously rushed money grab of a tie-in. (Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance; $59.99-29.99. Rated: Teen.)

Call of Duty 3

We knew the Wii changed everything, we just weren't sure how much. In Call of Duty 3, the latest entry in the World War II series, the Wii remote controls the gun sights and the "nunchuck" controller moves the soldier. It takes a while to get used to, but once you do, hang on for buckets of intensity and action. (Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox and PlayStation 2; $59.99-$49.99. Rated: Teen.)

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