A home entertainment room is transformed into a game-show studio with help from Buzz! Quiz TV (Sony Computer Entertainment America and Reckless Software for PlayStation 3, $59.99 requires eight AA batteries). Optimized for Sony's high-definition gaming console, the latest version of Quiz TV offers wireless control, sharp graphics and a wealth of online options to keep the action fresh.
Up to eight players can take part in the often silly and cerebral fun as they select from five quiz channels and answer more than 5,000 multiple choice questions on topics ranging from music and movies to sports and food.
Hosted by a Buzz, a difficult-to-understand, sarcastic and sadistic Fred Willard muppet, this challenge succeeds with humor and the never-ending stream of trivia.
The game includes four wireless buzzers, each with a big red button and four colored buttons that work as limited controllers. A small battery bank will be needed to keep them fed, but it's worth the interaction.
After each player selects an onscreen avatar (a collection of caricatures from Napoleon to a mime can be chosen), a personal buzzer sound and name, the work begins with Buzz ready to dole out the questions and insults.
Each contest consists of six rounds, with high scorer having the best chance of winning. I definitely mean "best chance" - the Final Countdown round has contestants stand on pillars of different heights (based on point totals) that slowly sink into the loser's pit with every incorrect answer.
Much like reality television that often relies on humiliating contestants, Quiz TV has its own brand of torture. In certain rounds, when a contestant answers correctly, he can toss a pie at the loser of his choice, temporarily knocking him out of the game. Or, a ticking bomb can be added to the festivities for a round of "hot potato" trivia. When the bomb explodes, the unlucky handler loses points.
Options to create new, eight-question sets extends the game's potential as does the ability to use the Eye camera to capture and post victorious poses.
The multiplayer possibilities extend online with the cleverly titled Sofa versus Sofa mode. Anyone connected around the world becomes a challenger in four-player matches - no Google cheating, please.
Learning time: For as silly as the game can be, it does offer a great mix of educational content for the average high school student. Since the 20 topics are customizable, it's possible to create a contest loaded with questionson, for example, science and technology.
More impressive are the downloadable quiz packs that can be bought online at the PlayStation Network ($5.99 to $7.99 each). Available in 500-question chunks, I would direct gamers to the National Geographic: Safari pack that unleashes the specifics of African wildlife on unsuspecting contestants.
Additionally, gamers around the world post free question sets that cover an even deeper set of disciplines such as Greek mythology, math and chemistry. (Inappropriate content is filtered out, by the way.)
This type of community knowledge base provides an unlimited resource for home-schoolers and educators to make learning fun.
Age range: Geared toward teens and older players, some of the humor is a bit harsh and the occasional bomb explosion is as violent as a scene from a Tex Avery cartoon. The T for teen rating is justified, but the sophisticated tween playing with his parents won't be traumatized.
Final advice: Buzz! Quiz TV works great in a party atmosphere, as a hands-on activity for the competitive family and as a clever teaching tool.
De Blob (for Wii, THQ, $49.99) - An unlikely gelatinous hero saves Chroma City from color-sucking villains in this imaginative third-person platform challenge.
A story involving the I.N.K.T. Corporation versus the Color Underground provides the player a palette to use his bouncy blob to enrich a monochromatic world.
Action involves battling Comrade Black's paintbot minions, stomping the hues out of them and then restoring color to every part and piece of the city.
Splatter, spray and explode tints and tones like a frenzied Jackson Pollack on buildings and streets in timed levels that require the player roll, bounce, stop on a dime and jump within city locales.
The Nunchuk controls the horned, squishy hero and players slam the Wiimote in the air to make the bulbous fellow jump and attack. Shaking both controllers at the right time will beautify specific landmarks, after the right proportion of colors is collected.
However, city painting is not all there is to this gorgeous title. Navigating obstacle courses (avoid the black ink, spikes and hot plates), freeing Raydians (the citizens of Chroma), intelligent color mixing activities and enjoying some genuinely funny computer-generated scenes all play a part in the all-ages spectacle.
Under multiplayer, up to four fierce artists can paint the town.
WipEout HD (Sony Computer Entertainment America, for PlayStation 3, $19.99) - The latest downloadable game in the burgeoning PlayStation Network library resurrects a frenetic racing franchise now sparkling at 1080p resolution.
The futuristic, high-speed action entails controlling antigravity ships that have design elements in common with "Star Wars" podracers and the Vipers of "Battlestar Galactica," and testing one's driving skills around upgraded versions of the best eight tracks from previous games.
Five racing modes, three difficulty levels and a great selection of vehicles culled from 12 race teams allow players to compete within locations as exotic as a snowy mountainside or through underwater tunnels.
Junior pilots can get an assist option to stay on the track while more adventuresome players have the Sixaxis, motion-sensing controller to handle some steering.
Additionally, a full arsenal of weapons makes the races infinitely more intense as does the option to pilot in a first-person perspective - quite the dizzying ride.
The obligatory online multiplayer option gives up to eight drivers options to compete in a single event or 12 race tournaments.
The overall result is a potent mix of flash, dazzle and velocity in a motion-sickness-inducing experience that would make Speed Racer proud.
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 email@example.com.