- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at some multimedia titles for the entire family.

Pokemon Platinum Version (from Nintendo for the DS, $34.99) — Those famed, cuddly Pocket Monsters that have mesmerized children for 14 years return in a sort-of-new video game for Nintendo’s hand-held system. Re-energizing the Diamond and Pearl versions of the franchise, this title adds more community interactivity and upgrades the sort of Pokemon minutia only the purest of fans can appreciate.

Anyone familiar with this role-playing juggernaut already knows the drill. The player picks a boy or girl avatar, controls the avatar from an over-the-head perspective and goes on a fantastic, cartoony adventure where he interacts with characters, collects and stores items, goes on side missions and, of course, trains, catches and battles creatures.

Features in the Platinum edition include access to new forms of legendary Pokemon (some must be migrated over to the game from previous versions and upgraded), an improved Battle Frontier with new facilities for trainers, further exploration of the Sinnoh region, an expansion of the encyclopedic Pokedex, and the ability to make Poffins with friends.

The big jump in the action is even more online, social integration with the use of a wireless, broadband connection. The player easily can interact with up to 20 of his contemporaries from around the world to trade Pokemon, share video of battles, fight, chat, play minigames and even watch a fireworks show.

Does it help to know the difference between a Chimchar and a Piplup? Not really, because this game delivers the Pokemon experience with such spirit and depth, it will be hard for even the nonfan to put it down.

New Play Control! Pikmin (from Nintendo for Wii, $29.99) — One of my favorite GameCube titles from 2001 has been ported to the Wii, making controlling an army of pipsqueaks a painless experience.

If you already have enjoyed Pikmin, then all you need to know is the Wiimote and Nunchuk now work to direct and issue commands to the creatures and their leader. A new save feature, a widescreen presentation and sound effects on the Wiimote speaker also are new, but the action and mission remain essentially the same.

Basically, a player gets 30 Pikmin-length days to find all the parts of Captain Olimar’s broken spaceship before his oxygen runs out. The good news is a devoted following of bulbous plantlike minions arrives to help.

The bad news is he crash-landed on a survival-of-the-fittest planet and this real-time strategy delight requires careful resource management and deployment of the creatures in timed missions to keep the fine captain alive.

Spawn, pluck, grow and lead an army of up to 100 of the little fellows around the beautiful but hostile terrain where they fight creatures, break down barriers, carry stuff and even build bridges.

The controllers offer a mostly intuitive and streamlined approach to the action highlighted by the point-and-click activation of the Pikmin. Let’s not discuss the sometimes-confusing camera controls.

Although the Wii Pikmin is a fine and nicely priced addition to the family room, the more serious fans might want to hold off for Pikmin 2 to get the Play Control treatment or even the rumored third game in the series, completely built for Nintendo’s Wii.