The biggest box in video games belongs to Activision's "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock."
The new Nintendo Wii title (which is also available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) comes with a life-size wireless guitar in a three-foot-long cardboard box. The guitar has swappable face plates, and you can remove the neck to make storage easier.
The game itself has a fun action battle mode where you can play against a friend. But I enjoyed career mode most. You try to play your way out of the garage onto the big stage, mainly by playing against "bosses" in "American Idol"-esque competitions. When you do well, you earn money to buy better equipment, outfits and instruments.
But to do that, you have to master the controls, which can take awhile. Even the best of you are not going to replace Eddie Van Halen or anything, but you can get to where you can strum pretty well. And if you hit a few great notes in a row, your "star power" meter lights up and you can use it to increase your score -- and beat down your buddies.
The guitar controller has a hole for the Wii remote to snap into and connect via the Nunchuck port. This allows the guitar to be wireless and use the Wii controller's rumble feature and the speaker. So when you're playing, the guitar will give you real feedback.
Graphics are ramped up over older "Guitar Hero" games. Rock guitar legends Slash, Tom Morello and Bret Michaels spent hours in motion-capture suits so that the in-game characters look and move realistically. And if you can beat a "boss" like Slash in a battle, you can unlock him for future use (like in the next song, having him play lead on "Welcome to the Jungle").
A few hints: When you play, stand up and look toward the top of the screen as much as possible, because the "notes" for you to play drop from the top of the screen. And if you get lost, stop playing and find the beat again. Bad notes can make the game stop faster.
On the Xbox and PS3 versions, you can download new songs, but Wii fans get an incredible song list from groups like Aerosmith ("Same Old Song and Dance"), Guns N Roses ("Welcome to the Jungle") and tracks specially recorded for the game. The Sex Pistols re-entered the studio for the first time in 30 years, Activision claims, to record "Anarchy in the UK."
This is going to be a big holiday hit.
Review: Lost-Cauze Gaming Headphones
Parents of gamers, you know what it's like when the kids are going at it and you have to keep telling them to turn it down, right?Good news. AblePlanet's new Lost-Cauze Gaming Headphones will give you some peace and allow your kids to play without having the sound up really loud -- where it could hurt their eardrums.
The headphones, which are large and comfortable, cancel background noise almost too well. You don't hear much of anything except the music you're listening to or the game you're playing. I couldn't hear the phone or the doorbell even with the volume on 2 or 3. The company says its proprietary "linx audio" technology enhances sound quality and improves speech clarity while filtering out undesirable sound, and increases perceived loudness without increasing volume.
And I'd agree it does all those things well, plus it comes with an extension cord, so you don't have to sit 2 feet away from your TV.
Review: Nyko Wii Charge Station
Game controllers are constantly sucking batteries dry. But Nyko's new charge station for the Wii can keep them fresh.
And this is clever: Using specially designed covers that replace the original battery covers, the dock allows you to charge the batteries while they are still in the remotes.
The station comes with two rechargeable NiMH batteries, the two covers and a 6-foot power cable. You can charge one controller or both controllers at the same time. Now I'd like to see a similar product for the Xbox 360.