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THE ALTERNATIVES | GOT GAME?

Star Wars, with 'tude

October 26, 2006|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

IN the "Star Wars" universe, "new" doesn't always mean "new." Take the trilogy of classic films, "digitally restored" and newly released at various times in theaters and on DVD: Nothing had really changed from the movies we know and love.

This is not the case with Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy, recently released to game systems. Sure, the game's plot follows the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the gang, but with so much delightful attitude added, the game seems to say, "Sure, you've seen the films, but have you seen them like this?"

The result is perfection.

Seamlessly infusing the galactic fable with the little plastic blocks, LSW2 recasts the adventures of the three films with expressive Lego characters in a game full of breezy play and smile-inducing cut-screens infused with tongue-in-cheek humor.

Chockfull of unlockables and unexpected hidden areas (such as the storm trooper sauna on the Death Star), LSW2 is a must-have for "Star Wars" fans looking for a truly new twist on the familiar.

Details: PlayStation 2, Game Cube, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance platforms; $39.99 to $29.99; rated: Everyone 10+ (cartoon violence, crude humor).

*

At least it looks good

Despite boasting a richly detailed story, imaginative controls and vibrantly colored visuals, the Japanese fable-themed Okami never really sinks its teeth in. The story of a heroic white wolf, reborn to help rid the land of an evil curse, looks amazing with its dark brush strokes and graphic-novel style. And using an on-screen paintbrush to control certain mystical powers the wolf possesses during battles is quite innovative. Yet with all this, the lack of a clear direction in the adventure left us confused and dissatisfied.

Details: PlayStation 2 platform; $39.99; rated Teen (blood and gore, crude humor, fantasy violence, suggestive themes, use of alcohol and tobacco).

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Engaged in a war zone

Portable wartime action games don't get any better than Killzone: Liberation. The sequel to the PlayStation 2 hit makes full use of everything the PSP can do. Liberation sports a fun, retro-feeling third-person view with great, console-like graphics. (Think original Metal Gear Solid for the PS One.) Co-op modes and battle zone free-for-alls make excellent use of the PSP's ability to connect wirelessly to another unit. There's even a "share a game" mode that allows you to upload demo levels of the game to a friend's unit to show them exactly how great this game is.

Details: To be released Tuesday; PlayStation Portable platform; $39.99; rated Teen (blood, language, violence).

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The truth can hurt

Condense the long-winded story, eliminate half the slow cut-screens and add better camera control to Yakuza and you'd have an average game. Instead you get a story about one man's quest to uncover the truth in Japan's underworld that tries to be cinematic but comes off as downright boring. (And if you don't have a doctorate in Japanese mafia terminology, prepare to be as lost as Tom Hanks was in "Cast Away.") When the main guy is attacked, which seems to happen every three yards, the battles are nearly identical. Yawn.

Details: PlayStation 2 platform; $49.99; rated Mature (blood, sexual themes, strong language, use of alcohol, violence).

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A big step backward

Memo to the Clippers' Chris Kaman: Call your lawyer. The makers of NBA 2K7 have made you look like a caveman. Last year's version was one of the first games we played on the Xbox 360, and it was jaw dropping. This year's is stomach turning. The players look stiff, the faces on the local teams don't resemble those of their real-life counterparts, and the interfaces are awful. It's almost if they threw out everything that made last year's title great and started over.

Details: Xbox 360, Xbox and PlayStation 2 platforms; $59.99 to $29.99; rated Everyone.

For more video game coverage, go to latimes.com/videogames.

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