- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Here’s a look at some of the latest discs for game players and movie lovers:

Tak 3: The Great Juju Challenge, from THQ for Xbox and PlayStation 2, rated E: content suitable for ages 6 and older, $39.99. How much Tak can I take? Plenty, obviously, as I find myself for the third year in a row eagerly plunging into stinky bushes, climbing cliffs and getting eaten by sandworms in this sequel to the amusing third-person, 3-D platforming adventure.

Tak, by the way, is a pint-size shaman who keeps finding himself saving his Pupanunu tribe from a variety of menaces and the evil Tlaloc while constantly honing his Juju powers.

The fluidly animated adventure finds the minimagician accompanied by his dunderheaded pal Lok, the muscle of the duo, as the pair must compete together against teams from the world’s best tribes for the favor of the moon goddess.

This leads to dreaded timed challenges consisting of obstacle courses spread out among gorgeous mountains, deserts, caverns and forested lands with the occasional prehistoric demolition derby thrown in for good measure.

The player controls both characters, each with different powers, as they beat up chickens, pulverize rock monsters and collect valuable jewels, quickly jumping, climbing and running through levels.

Wonderful colorful design and engaging moments will have players using their noggins and thumbs to get through often hilarious dilemmas.

A few favorite situations include Lok stinking himself up to avoid attracting an amorous ape that has the sweets for him, Tak using chanting stones (a player must follow controller directions emanating from the minitemple), and Lok dealing with fish that will not allow him to cross any waterways.

Teamwork is paramount to success in the game, as Lok may have to throw Tak up to a ledge or Tak may need to stand on a stone to open a door for Lok.

Tak and his companion seem to have an endless supply of tricks to perform, such as riding a rhino to clear a path of thorny growth, dressing up as chickens or lobsters, and using cannons to blast weights. Really silly voice work — especially from actor Patrick Warburton, whose high energy brings Lok to life — helps propel the on-screen fun.

Most appreciated in this year’s game, however, is a split-screen cooperative mode. Now a game-playing parent, besieged by a child who has been collecting Tak toys from McDonald’s, can jump in and take part in the team shenanigans.

Kingdom of Heaven, from Fox Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled home entertainment centers and computers, rated R, $29.99. Director Ridley Scott’s epic about knights and the crusades makes it to digital video in a two-disc set that fleshes out a historical period when human slaughter under the guise of seeking eternal salvation was the order of the day.

The film, starring Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, takes place between the second and third crusades in the 12th century. It highlights the massive battle for Jerusalem as blacksmith-turned-knight Balian of Ibelin tries to hold off the overwhelming Muslim forces of Saladin who are trying to take back the fortified city.

In addition to the 144-minute movie, the first disc offers an optional streaming-text commentary track that takes up 33 percent of the screen space. It offers knowledge nuggets such as how Europeans learned to bathe regularly, the three types of typhus and the fact that knights were mostly noblemen because it was expensive to own a suit of armor.

The second disc tries to separate fact from the movie’s fiction through a pair of 45-minute A&E; documentaries. Viewers will appreciate “Movie Real” for its historical concentration on the real-life characters and situations of the saga rather than the “History vs. Hollywood” program, which feels too much like a promotional piece.

The disc also contains an innovation called the interactive production grid, which allows viewers to watch “making-of” content tailored to their tastes. By selecting grid points connected between pre-production, production and post-production; and director, cast and crew sections, viewers eventually work through 85 minutes of filmmaking. Although the feature might save a few minutes, those obsessed with the film will just hit the “play all” option and avoid the nonsense.

Unfortunately, no PC-specific content can be found, which in its simplest and cheapest form could have provided a wealth of information on the crusades through such mechanisms as interactive timelines, Web-site links and text materials.

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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