- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lovers of multimedia experiences can travel to the far reaches of the galaxy as easily as into the deepest portions of the brain through a trio of treats tied to space.

Psychonauts, from Majesco for Xbox, rated T: Content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. This 3-D, third-person platforming puzzler takes a single player on an adventure through the mind while making a strong case for being one of the best of its gaming genre.

The story follows a gifted young fellow named Razputin who runs away from a circus and sneaks into a psychic summer camp. The earthy compound is a training ground for children to become part of the legendary cerebral-emergency-warrior team of Psychonauts.

When Razputin discovers someone is stealing the camp children’s brains, reducing the camp-goers to couch potatoes, he quickly must earn merit badges in areas such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis and clairvoyance to strengthen his skills and save his new pals.

The game works on a pair of landscapes as the player first has the ability to wander around the enormous camp’s grounds, talk to eccentric characters and collect items such as arrowheads and psi cards. The items can be used to purchase helpful psychic tools and increase powers.

However, the clever designers also have Raz project himself into the minds of lead characters, including a deranged dentist and a possessed lungfish, to battle their nightmares and twisted psychoses.

It reminded me of something film director Tim Burton would come up with in character design, surreal fairy-tale storytelling and colorfully inventive surroundings.

Through 13 areas of extremely refreshing action, the player eventually battles a Napoleonic complex, tackles a military obstacle course and fights a bull within a glowing velvet painting. “Matrix”-agent-type Censors abound along the varied paths to try to expel Raz from characters’ minds.

Almost every pun associated with the brain comes into play, including capturing figments of the imagination, removing mental blocks and using positive mental health to stay alive.

Star Trek Enterprise: The Complete First Season, from Paramount Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated PG, $129.99. Crews of the Starship Enterprise will no longer go where no man has gone before now that the most recent “Star Trek” television series has ended.

However, fans of the iconic science-fiction franchise can watch the shows via an avalanche of DVD sets that includes the inaugural season of the final series, starring Scott Bakula as Cmdr. Jonathan Archer.

My beef all along with Paramount’s “Trek” DVD sets has been the underuse of multimedia possibilities. The latest compilation furthers my gripe.

Fans will appreciate the 26 episodes on the seven-disc set. They will get a kick out of a few subtitled text tracks from “Trek” historian Mike Okuda telling about the techniques used to isolate space contamination and the early designs of the transporter, warp engine and phaser.

Paramount then throws in some detailed featurettes on the last disc, and that’s about all, folks. Nothing for the PC user to enjoy and definitely nothing innovative about the presentations.

Spaceballs: Collector’s Edition, from MGM Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated PG, $29.98. Am I in an alternate universe? I remember the movie “Spaceballs” as a mediocre parody of “Star Wars,” at best.

Yet hearing the accolades spewing from a two-disc DVD collector’s edition released in the film’s honor, one would think it achieved new heights in defining special effects and cinematic comedy.

After watching the 96-minute effort, viewers should enjoy the ramblings of legendary funnyman and director Mel Brooks during a pair of features.

First, in his optional commentary track, pulled from the 1996 laserdisc release, he wastes too much time gushing about his cast and crew and not enough exploring his stellar career. He needed Carl Reiner to ask him questions or at least co-writer Ronny Graham, who is with Mr. Brooks in the taping session, to offer some direction besides the occasional snicker.

His memories are a bit more focused on a 20-minute second-disc discussion as he reminisces with the other “Spaceballs” screenwriter, Thomas Meehan. It’s unintentionally hilarious, though, as Mr. Brooks provides a clinic on his screenwriting process and Mr. Meehan tries to keep him focused on talking about the movie.

Some of the other extras include humorous navigation menus (with some sneaky control icons to press and get more on-screen silliness), a tribute to John Candy, a boring multiple-choice trivia quiz and the ability to watch the film in about 60 seconds at “ludicrous speed” — OK, that was pretty funny.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002, or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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