- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Here are some last-minute gift ideas for the younger fans of pop culture and adults who are into the massive world of comic books and cartoons.

For role players

*Boba Fett Electronic Helmet (Hasbro, ages 5 and older, $29)-Embrace your inner Mandalorian warrior with this working piece of gear from one of the most feared bounty hunters in a galaxy far, far away. Hasbro’s latest and greatest turns children (and a few adults I know) into Boba Fett with a full over-the-head battle-damaged helmet that, with the press of the button, offers phrases such as “Surrender … or face disintegration” and “You’re lucky Jabba wants you alive.”

Blaster and rocket-pack sound effects, as well as a light-up working antenna that indicates when the bounty hunter’s prey is near, rounds out this great memory from the “Star Wars” universe.

Woody (Mattel, ages 4 and older, $8.99) - The action and drama of Pixar/Disney’s latest animated mega-blockbuster carries over to children’s playrooms with a complete collection of “Toy Story 3” action figures. Choose from colorful new characters such as Stretch the Octopus and Mr. Pricklepants the porcupine or old friends including Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and Woody. Each features limited articulation, great design detail for the price and the occasional accessory. The 6-inch-tall cowboy comes with a red neckerchief, holster and removable hat.

*Steel Marauder (Hasbro, ages 4 and older, $19.99) - The heroic G.I. Joe team’s pursuit of the evil Cobra continues in a faraway jungle, and it will take some serious firepower to knock out the group’s Terror Drome Fortress. Thus the story is set for children to play with this 8-inch-tall mobile mech suit that includes a missile-firing Gatling gun (six projectiles included), working capture claw and opening cockpit. Young warriors will appreciate the included 3 3/4-inch figure of Kickstart, but also will need (parents listening?) the Cobra Deviant Mech Suit with Cyber Viper V1 ($19.99) to set the war into motion.

For gamers

*Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo, for Wii, rated E for everyone, $49.99) - One of the legendary stars of the video-game universe returns in a brilliantly updated homage to his Super Nintendo origins. With a tip of the banana to the days when serious old-school side-scrolling platforming captured a hard-core gamer’s life, the title delivers updated graphics and eight worlds loaded with coins, hearts, balloons, letters, puzzle pieces and that delicious yellow fruit ready for collecting.

Our hairy hero still faces nasty environmental obstacles, but he can ride the backs of some animal friends and gets help from his pal Diddy. New to Kong’s arsenal are the abilities to climb and blow. Of course, shake the Wii remote to perform ground pounds and barrel rolls and to generate blasts of air. By the way, two players (one as Donkey and one as Diddy) can take part in the monkey business.

*Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the Video Game (Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, for Wii, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $39.99) - “Holy pop-art-pleasing-epic, Batman.” Based on the Cartoon Network’s animated show, this colorful side-scrolling set of four adventures stars some of the greatest heroes of the DC Comics universe paired up to thwart the plans of legendary villains such as Catwoman, Gorilla Grodd and Gentleman Ghost.

One or two players select from a superhero lineup including Hawkman, Robin, Black Canary, Plastic Man, the JSA’a own Wildcat and, of course, Batman to cooperatively solve puzzles and battle the forces of evil with upgradable weapons, hand-to-hand combat and clever retorts. Even comic-book-reading parents will jump aboard for the tongue-in-cheek humor, the cool 1960s vibe, the Nelson Riddle-esque soundtrack and the chance to see Bat-Mite or Golden Age Flash’s Jay Garrick in action.

*Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet (THQ, for Xbox 360, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $39.99) - Hasbro and the Cartoon Network’s pint-sized versions of Marvel Comics‘ legendary characters return to video-game realms in this child-friendly, third-person action game. Let’s call it the toddler version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance as this humorous adventure finds one or two players cooperatively challenging evil legends such as Thanos, Dr. Doom and Super-Skrull in a tale loosely based on the epic sequential art miniseries from 1991.

Players eventually access more than a dozen heroes, including Wolverine, Hulk, Thor and Scarlet Witch, each with signature combat powers, and can even unlock new costumes for avatars such as Iron Man as War Machine. For those looking for more chaotic battles, the challenge mode allows a quartet of friends to compete in minigames as either heroes or villains. As a bonus, the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game include a character download pack to access Captain America, Bucky and the Red Skull.

For Watchers

Shrek: The Whole Story (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated PG, $49.99) - High-definition high jinks abound in this four-disc set paying tribute to the big-budget computer-animated version of William Steig’s famed ogre. Gorgeous visuals via the Blu-ray format allow viewers to enjoy the funny quartet of films “Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” “Shrek the Third” and “Shrek Forever After” starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas along with the holiday singalong extravaganza “Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular.”

Story Continues →