History's greatest leaders take center stage as they "build an empire to stand the test of time" in Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution(2K Games and Firaxis, for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.99).
Mr. Meier has streamlined his PC classic, building the popular turn-based, strategy epic for home entertainment consoles. In the game, a player works his way from the dawn of man to the space age after choosing a head of state and one of 16 civilizations to manage.
Each leader has strategic advantages ranging from Queen Elizabeth I (naval support doubled) to Genghis Khan (knowledge of communism) to Abraham Lincoln (factories triple production).
A player's goal is to build the most powerful civilization on the planet, mixing elements of culture, government, military might and technology. Each order executed per turn in the creation of a bustling city — everything from placing settlers to constructing a library to defining scientific goals — involves a certain number of turns to complete and is enacted through an easy-to-administer menu interface.
Much of the action is led by methodically building and moving military units (from archers to horsemen to artillery and riflemen) around a three-dimensional map and entering into skirmishes or forced negotiations with opponents.
Conquering enemies on the battlefield and seizing cities is not the only way to win the game. Taking an overwhelming lead in technology (launch a ship to Alpha Centauri), economic (build a World Bank) and cultural (corner the continent with great thinkers and wonders of the world) arenas also takes the victory flag.
The surprising amount of depth to the game is never ending. Activities found in a typical match might include:
The graphics are cartoony, and animated characters often pop up and speak in gibberish to offer tips, negotiations and accolades on accomplishments.
An added level of replayability comes with an Xbox Live connection and its multiplayer elements involving hooking up with players around the world in cooperative and versus matches. Additional online elements include teams, ranked matches and a Game of the Week with a competition for the highest posted scores.
Learning time: Two areas in the game provide access to a wealth of educational information.
First is the massive resource Civilopedia. It not only acts as a tutorial, but also contains biographical information (text, photos and even occasional videos) on all of the major characters (real leaders and great people from artists to scientists), architectural wonders and cultures highlighted in the action.
Next, the Hall of Achievements offers a spiffier way of presenting historical entries from the Civilopedia. Players roam through expansive rooms and view all of their trophies and the characters found during their conquests and travels.
Age range: Any thinking human, 10 years old and older fascinated with history and willing to put patience before an adrenaline rush will love the game.
Final advice: Fans of Risk, Monopoly and Battleship will find Civilization Revolution irresistible. It's a complex, virtual-board-game experience accessible to the entire family and will consume hours of well-spent time (just make sure to tap into the Civilopedia).
Here's an abbreviated look at some multimedia items for the entire family:
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon (for Wii, Square Enix, $39.99) - Famed treasure hunters Cid and the chick Chocobo help a town that has lost its memories in this dense role-playing game.
Clearly created with the younger gamer in mind, this rich adventure offers Pokemon and Kingdom Hearts character and world design within a fairy-tale story set in the lands of Memoria.
The player controls the too-cute fluffy feathered fowl Chocobo to help a magical child restore the memories of everyone in the town of Lostime. Action mixes resource management, long-winded character dialogues, treasure collecting, attribute upgrades and turn-based battles found in shape-shifting dungeons.
Along the perilous journeys above and below ground, the hero also finds minigames such as darts and fishing, numerous items to use in fights and plenty of food to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, the interactivity of the Wii is practically nonexistent here and the game's visuals could be better served on the more high-powered entertainment consoles.
Extending play possibilities is a Wi-Fi-connected trading card game where players can build decks and summon creatures to fight.
Soul Bubbles (for DS, Edios, $29.99) - A young shaman's apprentice stars in this fantastic puzzler requiring a steady-handed gamer to draw protective spheres around spirits and guide their souls to the great beyond. The player controls a bulbous-headed imp as he maneuvers the bubbles through a gantlet of more than 300 environmental mazes within eight worlds.
Taking full advantage of the touch-sensitive DS, lines are drawn over the screen not only to shape the bubbles around the spirits, but also to get the apprentice to use lung power to blow at the spheres and follow a trail of stardust through the terrain.
The miniature rescuer also can wear specially powered masks to cut, deflate and reassemble bubbles (when passages are too narrow) and destroy evil creatures that steal the orbs.
The game's developers promise no gang fights, postapocalyptic soldiers or orcs, providing an experience that is a refreshing and soothing change of pace to typical video games.
Joseph Szadkowski's ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washington times.com.