Sunday, January 25, 2009


Drawing inspiration from varied media

Like so many American creations, baseball, comic books, rock 'n' roll-the video game is a mongrel art form. Literature, music, art and film all get jumbled together in this relatively new medium, but even that isn't enough: Designers have to figure out how to make the whole package interactive as well.

While Fallout 3, for example, is rooted in post-apocalyptic science fiction, it also draws from 1940s music, splatter movies and Dungeons & Dragons. The less ambitious games reviewed here display their influences right in their titles.

  • Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party:

Ubisoft's screaming, madcap rabbits have become regularson the Wii over the last three year. Like too many other Wii products, the Rabbids titles are collections of mini-games, but they bring welcome doses of character and chaos to the increasingly stale genre.

This time, the bunnies have invaded Rayman's TV set, careening through an assortment of TV parodies, from trashy realtity shows to music videos to dramas such as Prison Fake. There are a few duds such as an inspired Project Runway knockoff, but about 90 per cent of the mini-games are keepers.

Some of them use the Wii balance Board, which you may be asked to sit on. Yes, at long last you can control a game-say, tobogganing down a mountain on a wildebeest-with your rear end.

(The game by Ubisoft is designed for the Wii and priced at US$ 49.99 / RM 185 )

  • You're in the Movies :
Mini-game anthologies are less common on the Xbox. This one builds on a gimmick : the Xbox Live Vision Camera, which lets you insert a video of yourself into the game. (The camera is included in the package)

The premise here is that you're performing in a B-movie, so you need to obey the director's demands, perhaps swatting at monsters or running from villains. The problem is that the camera doesn't do a very good job of separting players from background objects, so you usually end up by disconnected body parts floating around the screen.

Even if you have the patience to sort out the technical issues, the games in You're in the Movies are slow-paced, repetitive and just not much fun.

(The game by Codemasters is designed for the Xbox 360 and priced at US$ 69.99)

  • Hasbro Family Game Night :
Hard to believe, but there was once a time when people played games that weren't connected to a TV set. Perhaps you;re curious about such pre-Atari artifacts, or you're a parent who wants to share childhood favourites with your kids.

Family Game Night bundles electronic versions of Connect 4, Yahtzee, Boggle, Sorry! and Battleship, each with an assortment of interesting variations. They're not much fun to play solo, though and Bogge doesn't quite work in this format. Still, it's a good package for families who don't already have these games in their closets.

(The game by Electronic Arts is priced at US$ 39.95 for the Wii, and US $ 29.95 for the PlayStation 2)

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