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Bugging out and loving it

February 15, 2007|Pete Metzger | Special to The Times

TAKE the man-versus-giant-bugs action of "Starship Troopers," set it in a frozen wasteland like Hoth in "The Empire Strikes Back," add a dash of the futuristic cartoon battle suits of "Robotech," and what do you get?

The first must-have game of 2007.

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is spectacular from start to finish. The graphic details of the frosty environments send chills down your spine. The variety of action, whether it's battling giant, deadly bug-like aliens called Akrid while on foot or piloting a giant mechanized suit of armor called a Vital Suit while scrapping with space pirates, gets white-knuckle intense. The levels are long and involved, but they have enough checkpoints to eliminate the frustration of having to repeat everything just because you died during the boss battle at the end.

Lost Planet's story line even has some great video game stereotypes: the insomniac main character hellbent on revenge, the freaky brooding leader of the team, the quirky computer nerd helper guy and the hot chick love interest.

Details: Xbox 360 platform; $59.99; rated: Teen (animated blood, mild language, violence).


Ready, set, go!

WarioWare: Smooth Moves, like its predecessors on the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance, is an unexpectedly fun collection of crude, frantic and bizarre mini games that are mind-blowing when mixed with the immersive controls of the Wii system. Remarkably simple and at the same time confusing, the random puzzles that flash at you in rapid succession are solved by moving the Wii remote from one of 19 starting places (flat on your palm like a waiter or at your side like a samurai ready to strike, to name two). Head-scratching good times.

Details: Nintendo Wii platform; $49.99; rated: Everyone 10+ (crude humor and mild cartoon violence).


Destructive behavior

Elebits is another charming little game that could only be played using the Wii controller. A lightning storm has shaken up the normally well-behaved, electricity-infused creatures called Elebits, causing them to escape from appliances and hide all over a house like fleas. Collecting the little buggers is simple: Point the remote at the screen, spot one and zap away. Power up your ray gun enough, and suddenly furniture and objects can be picked up, shaken or tossed to uncover more hiding 'bits. Though at times repetitive, making a giant mess of a stylized virtual room is oh, so fun.

Details: Nintendo Wii platform; $49.99; rated: Everyone (cartoon violence).


Sun and mindless fun

On a high-definition television set, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is the perfect vacation from the winter blues -- and from games that have pesky things like plot lines. DOAX2 follows the buxom beauties of the Dead or Alive fighting franchise as they take a little time off at a tropical island to catch some rays, visit the casino and even do a little jet skiing. The lush jungles, deserted white sand beaches and sexy anime-inspired beauties are so crisp and detailed, you'll be reaching for the sunscreen. Sexist? Sure. Vapid? Oh yeah. Hard to put down? You betcha.

Details: Xbox 360 platform; $59.99; rated: Mature (partial nudity, sexual themes, simulated gambling).


Not yet solved

The graphic styling is original and the interface innovative, but the interactive mystery novel game Hotel Dusk: Room 215 can't quite put it all together. Turn your Nintendo DS sideways (like a book) and choose from a selection of responses on the touch screen while conversing with the denizens of a creepy motel in an effort to uncover the truth about the room you rented. But alas, a mystery novel is only as intriguing as its plot, and this one takes so long to get moving that it's hard to stay interested.

Details: Nintendo DS platform; $34.99; rated: Teen (mild language, mild violence, use of alcohol).

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