When the Wii took America by storm in 2006, it came bundled with Wii Sports, a collection of five games that changed how gamers played sports.
While its sequel, Wii Sports Resort, won't change anything per se -- even with the included Wii Motion Plus dongle that enhances the sensitivity of the Wii controllers -- it is one of the best and most diverse Wii titles to date. There is something for everyone in this package, which hit store shelves Sunday. With features including a full 18-hole golf game (played over one of six picturesque courses), swordplay battles (what "Star Wars" games on the Wii should be like), and air sports (such as stunt flying and sky diving), the smooth, simple controls and peppy fun make this "resort" a required destination for every Wii owner.
Starring the Mii of your choosing (and populated by other Miis in your collection), gamers have more than a dozen different types of sports unlocked from the start and can quickly unlock additional variations of some events after playing a short time. (One hundred-pin bowling is one of our favorites. Hearing the sounds of a strike in which 10 times the usual amount of pins fall is giddy bliss.)
As in the original Wii Sports, here the avatar's actions mimic those of the real-life gamer. So yes, it does get tiring after a while hoisting up three-pointers in the shooting competition, and yeah, your arms will get sore making pedal motions in the cycling race.
Still, for Wii owners, this is one collection not to be missed.
Grade: A (awesome variety).
Details: Nintendo Wii platform; $49.99; rated Everyone (cartoon violence).
Who watches the game designers?
When Sony released the PlayStation 3, it used the old Trojan horse line of attack to win the high-def DVD wars. Buy our great game system, they said, and look, you get a snazzy new Blu-ray player included. The strategy worked, as evidenced by the stacks and stacks of HD DVDs going for bargain-basement prices at your neighborhood Fry's.
The same thinking must have gone into the planning for the Watchmen: The End Is Nigh video game: If we include a Blu-ray version of the movie, complete with bonus stuff, Warner Bros. must have thought, people will have to buy the PlayStation 3 version of our lousy game.
The two-part game, set before the film, allows you to choose between only two of the characters, Nite Owl and Rorschach, as you battle wave after endless wave of bad guys using clunky fighting moves while wandering through a freakishly repetitive environment. (Part 1 of the game is set in 1972 and feels like it was created with technology from 1982. Part 2 is even worse.)
Grade: C- (buy the PS3 version for the Blu-ray copy of the movie, not for the lackluster game).
Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $49-$29.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, nudity, sexual content, strong language, violence).
We ain't afraid of no ghosts
Welcome back Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston. We missed you. The great new Ghostbusters video game picks up where 1989's "Ghostbusters II" left off. This interactive sequel managed to round up all the original stars (such as Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd), and even got a script from the series' writers, Aykroyd and Ramis. The wit that made the films such big hits is still intact.
The graphics are solid, though some of the well-known faces (like Murray's) look a little odd. The classic music is nostalgic (whatever happened to Ray Parker Jr.?).
In the movies, catching ghosts looks so easy, but here the action does get a little difficult from time to time. (I guess it's easier to nab Slimer when there is a script.) Still, we didn't realize how much we missed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man until we saw him walking through Times Square early in the game.
Grade: A- (a happy trip down memory lane).
Details: All platforms; $59-$19.99; rated Teen (comic mischief, fantasy violence, mild language).
A heavyweight champion returns
Another icon from late '80s video gaming also made his return recently: Mike Tyson. The star of the immortal classic Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, the fighter was on top of the boxing world until he faded "into Bolivian" (an actual Tyson quote) after a huge upset in the ring and some monumental -- and criminal -- events outside of it.
For a while, the Tyson of the '80s seemed like he could defeat Muhammad Ali in his prime. Happily, Fight Night Round Four gives gamers the opportunity to stage that impossible and epic battle: Ali vs. Tyson, both in their primes, each beautifully rendered and easy to control.
The action is simple to get into (with a straightforward, logical control set), and while the fights at times resemble those silly boxing nun puppets, this is how a boxing game should be done.
Grade: A (Iron Mike's long-awaited return to video boxing).
Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Teen (mild blood, mild lyrics, mild suggestive themes, language).
You're supposed to misbehave
The '80s nostalgia continues in Overlord 2. Remember those bad little monsters from the film "Gremlins," with their pointy teeth, scaly skin and vicious manners? The makers of Overlord sure do.
Here gamers control an angry little army of evil minions that closely resemble the creatures from the 1984 classic. See those baby seals? Get clubbing! That peaceful elf? Attack! That town's Christmas tree? Burn, baby burn. As master of the little vermin, you decide what havoc they unleash.
While the controls get a little more complex than they need to at times, Overlord 2 is a decent game that makes it fun to be indecent. And we always thought feeding them after midnight was a bad idea.
Grade: B+ (being bad is good).
Details: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms; $59.99; rated Teen (alcohol reference, crude humor, suggestive themes, violence).