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GAME DAY

Wrapped up in one box

With five fun and diverse games on one disc, the Orange Box is the season's best value.

December 20, 2007|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

Portal is a ground-breaking puzzle game that challenges the brain like no other. Team Fortress 2 is an outstanding online multiplayer with a super-original sense of style. And Half Life 2 (and its two sequels) is one of the most intense first-person shooter action games ever made.

By combining all five of these diverse and just plain fun games on one disc, the Orange Box wears the crown of best gamer value of the year, perhaps ever.

Sure, HL2 and its first sequel, HL2 Episode One, have been previously released, but with the addition of the new sequel, the amazing puzzle game and the fantastic multiplayer shooter, the Orange Box is less like a greatest hits collection repackaged with some new spices and more like a whole new collection. (The Orange Box also offers developer commentary as you play the games: Complete a level, go back into it and activate a little icon, and the developers tell you what they were thinking as they built the level. It may not be superexciting stuff, but it is groundbreaking.)

Offering something for just about any kind of gamer -- a deep, action-packed FPS with two sequels, an intriguing puzzle game, and an addictive and fresh multiplayer outing -- and all on the same disc, the Orange Box is a must-have.

Grade: A (astonishing value).

Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Teen to Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language).

Wii Zapper brings pain into play

Playing the Wii isn't supposed to hurt, right?

Add the Wii Zapper to the list of Nintendo's offbeat peripherals that must have seemed better on paper than they did in execution. (We'll put it right next to ROB, the stupid little robot controller for the old-school NES that never seemed to work right.)

The idea: Connect the Wii remote and the nunchuck controller and get blasting. But the way the unit is designed, there is no comfortable way to play games that use the top buttons on the Wii remote, which is just about every title.

Designed to look like an old tommy gun, except with the trigger on the front handle, it makes playing games (like the decent Link's Crossbow Training that comes with it) more difficult and less fun.

Grade: D (don't waste your money).

Details: Wii platform; $24.99; Link's Crossbow Training, rated Teen (fantasy violence).

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