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Right off the big screen

January 05, 2006|Pete Metzger | Times Staff Writer

IT'S a fact: Most games based on movies are rushed through production and released before the proper amount of polish can be applied. They usually end up being pretty miserable.

Peter Jackson's King Kong is the rare exception.

Players assume the role of Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody's character in the film) as they explore Skull Island and beyond. (The lack of a typical heads-up display helps immerse gamers in this remarkably cinematic first-person shooter. Just pick up a controller and get exploring.) The jungles are moody and lush, but they can be a little dark at times, ratcheting up the fright level when those creepy bugs attack -- and if you've seen the film, you probably already see them in your sleep.

When the adventure reaches a certain point, players get to control the beast himself, King Kong. Though the smash-and-grab fun is plentiful as Kong, the third-person view suffers from lack of camera control. And, as you might imagine, controlling a 25-foot ape isn't as easy as steering a puny human around.

Think of this as a fun, extended version of the three-hour movie.


Details: \o7All platforms (Xbox 360 version reviewed); $59.99 to $34.99; rated Teen (blood and violence).


Needed: originality

A few more quick thoughts about the new Xbox 360, now that we've had a chance to play it to death:

Where's the must-have stuff? Of the 19 games that were released during the system's launch, only one was an original title designed exclusively for the 360 (the exciting Condemned: Criminal Origins). Microsoft is surely saving Halo 3 to counter spring's PlayStation 3 launch, but throw us a bone here.

Is it crash-prone? The Internet is abuzz with reports of frequent crashes related to the power supply, but we haven't had any issues. Microsoft says the crashes are "isolated incidents."

Do you hear that? The fans that cool the unit are quite loud and distracting.


Bend it like Mario

Super Mario Strikers is another in the line of sports games given the Super Mario treatment to great success. A perfect pick-up-and-play game, Strikers delivers frantic soccer action without pesky offsides and foul penalties to slow things down. Each of the familiar characters plays the game differently, but all can chuck the Mario-brand turtle shells and use speedy mushrooms to gain the upper hand on their opponent.

Details: GameCube platform; $49.99; rated Everyone (mild cartoon violence).


Apply a headlock

Wrestling fans will love Smackdown vs. Raw 2006. Besides improved graphics and better likenesses of each superstar, real voices can be heard. (Note: Some are better at reading the script than others.) New match types have been added to spice things up and offend the prudish. (Case in point: the "Fulfill Your Fantasy" mode, in which two shapely divas have a pillow fight while dressed as schoolgirls.) But the series' best feature continues to be the create-a-wrestler function, in which gamers can dream up what they'd look like if they were a muscle-bound behemoth.

Details: PlayStation 2 platform; $49.99; rated Teen (blood, language, sexual themes and violence).


Leave it in the closet

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is your typical game based on a movie (see above). For all its charms -- immersing yourself into the fantasy world of Narnia being one of the best -- the game dishes out three times as many servings of frustration: There's no camera control, the levels require a remarkable amount of multitasking, and you have to repeatedly mash buttons. It's too bad, because the in-game footage seamlessly cuts between action from the film and playable cyber fun, an amazing feat. At least the graphics aren't too bad -- when you can see them, that is.

Details: All platforms; $49.99; rated Teen (fantasy violence).


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