Monday, December 03, 2007

Viva Pinata for Windows is smart move

Microsoft Game Studios has done a smart thing this holiday season.

It's ported over the popular "Viva Piñata" from the Xbox 360 to Windows XP and Windows Vista-enabled PCs.

The game, which I enjoyed on the 360 and PC, challenges players to start as a character from the popular Saturday morning cartoon. You then create a world of your own that you use to attract up to 60 piñata species.

Once you have a few "inhabitants," you can personalize your community. Piñatas can get their own name and a tag put on their home turf within your world. You can also customize with costumes and accessories.

I know it may sound simple and boring, but you find yourself constantly tweaking your world and your inhabitants -- and the more inviting your environment, the more elaborate the animals you attract will be. Then, when you do attract newcomers, you have to work to keep them happy.

It's like being a landlord, of sorts, and of course there are some rather evil characters in the game that do their best to make your life difficult.

This is simple, fun and rather addictive.

Grade: B.

Review: `Ghost Squad'

This was a big hit in the arcades in 2004. Now it's available from Sega for the Nintendo Wii. The game supports the new Wii Zapper accessory, and using it here you can easily target on-screen enemies. The game is designed for up to four players and has three mission areas, 25 weapons and 14 uniforms.You play as a member of the Ghost Squad, a Special Forces unit secretly established by the United Nations to combat terrorism. In this game, you have some real-life type missions: releasing hostages, stopping bombs and rescuing the U.S. president.

The game's missions are divided into levels. In each level, you can take different routes, each with differing degrees of difficulty. And the further you advance in a level, the tougher your competition gets. Enemies attack from everywhere. Graphics are good, and the action's fast.

I'm not big on recommending gun games to kids, but for older teens and adults, this one's pretty intense.

Grade: B.

Review: `Masters of Illusion'

I didn't think much of this game until my 7-year-old, Trey, kept playing it on his Nintendo DS. I figured it had to be pretty good.

I tried it and saw that early on the game teaches you to do some simple card tricks and has step-by-step tutorials for 20 different tricks.

You can take the game with you. It acts as an assistant for some of your stunts, and it comes with a magic deck of cards.

Kids learn these tricks quickly, and even I was having fun trying to fool the wife.

Trey thinks it's great. I can't argue.

Grade: A.

Review: `Medal of Honor Airborne'

Electronic Arts claims this multi-platform title is the only first-person shooter that lets players airdrop into combat and land anywhere in an open battlefield.

To me, it just felt like "been there, done that."

The game is well done and beautifully drawn. You're part of a team in World War II tackling some historically true missions. Enemies will advance or retreat depending on how well you do; so will your allies.

The combination of impressive visuals and outstanding AI makes it fun to watch the computer-controlled guys take cover, jump into a building through a window, or leap over a wall.

Kill shots produce real results, and guys will now actually run from grenades instead of just waiting for it to blow up in their faces. (So hold it a little bit, or "cook" it and then toss. Much better results.)

Another hot feature: As you improve your skill with a particular weapon, you gain access to upgrades within that weapon, making it more powerful.

I feel like I've played too many games like this lately. But, then, I can't really say anything was lacking.

Grade: B.

VIDEO GAMES Langston Wertz Jr.
Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358-5133;

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