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THE ALTERNATIVES | GOT GAME?

This havoc is familiar

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

If imitation truly is the best form of flattery, then the new release Saints Row must have made Grand Theft Auto San Andreas blush brightly. After all, Saints is basically the same violent gang warfare and crime action that made GTA so popular, just this time with a few more bells and whistles. The graphics are flashier and take full advantage of the Xbox 360's capabilities, the cars you steal (or buy) can be pimped out with new colors and accessories, and your character is fully customizable.

Aside from that, if you've played GTA -- and who hasn't? -- you aren't playing anything new with Saints. Steal a car! Change the radio station! Open the map, choose a mission to do! Attack a rival gang!

Although it would be a well-executed game if it were the only one of its kind, because it's just another in the long list of GTA clones, it comes off stale and familiar.

Details: \o7Xbox 360 platform; $59.99; rated mature (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and alcohol).

*

Just let it flow

Don't let the infectious fun of LocoRoco fool you; as much as it feels as if it should be created by Nintendo, kings of the hand-held market, it's actually made by Sony for its PSP. And it's a perfect fit. Using the shoulder buttons on the unit as controls, gamers tilt a little blob to and fro as it explores the brightly colored 2-D world that is freshly old school. Kind of like a water balloon filled with tomato soup, the LocoRoco's flowing movements are hypnotic and mesmerizing. Add to that an upbeat soundtrack and you've got a must-have experience.

Details: PlayStation Portable platform; $39.99; rated Everyone.

*

These words can hurt

Dead Rising is a perfectly good "zombies takeover a suburban shopping mall and it's up to a scrappy photojournalist to uncover the truth while cracking zombie skulls" game rendered almost unplayable by the unreadable in-game type. As the story progresses, our hero is asked to solve various missions. Trying to read the instructions to the next action proved near impossible on our 32-inch TV, even if we sat an eye-straining two feet from the screen. Too bad. Smashing zombies is a blast.

Details: Xbox 360 platform; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language, partial nudity, use of alcohol).

*

Racing in paradise

Sure, the selection of more than 90 exotic autos available to race in Test Drive Unlimited is impressive. But the real star of this title is the land where you race. Using GPS data, the makers re-created the Hawaiian island of Oahu down to its last palm tree. (Using the zoom functions of the map to find races or dealers to purchase new cars is reminiscent of Google Earth.) The roads are beautiful, the driving realistic. Though the cars are indestructible (too cheap to afford a damage license?), TDU is an amazing experience.

Details: Xbox 360 platform; $39.99; rated Everyone 10+ (language, mild violence).

*

Anatomically incorrect

Perfect for its intended audience, Barnyard features simple, kid-friendly controls and missions. Although little gamers will be highly amused with this tie-in to the animated Nickelodeon film, they will also be confused. Choosing a boy cow as your playable character still meant he received a nice set of working udders to squirt milk at targets. We're no scientists, but even we know that just ain't right.

Details: PlayStation 2, Game Cube and GameBoy Advance platforms; $39.99; rated Everyone 10+ (cartoon violence, comic mischief).

For more video game coverage, see latimes.com/videogames.

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