- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Here's a look at some hardware and software now available: War of the Monsters, by Sony Entertainment for PlayStation 2, rated Rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. Just when I thought I had seen the definitive video game starring radioactive behemoths in the form of Nintendo's Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee, along comes another dandy simulation, sure to entrance the 1950s sci-fi movie crowd.
In the finest cinematic tradition of "The Deadly Mantis," "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" and "Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Monster," this 3-D fighter features 10 distinctive monsters battling within 13 fully destructible and manipulable environments.
Through a menu that pays homage to an outdoor theater, players first must select from an all-star cast of friends introduced via cheesy movie posters of a bygone era.
Looking for a King Kong-type to control? I suggest Congar with his bad attitude and sonic roar. Looking for the definitive mech warrior from the rising sun? Try Ultra V with his eye lasers and energy sword. Of course, a gigantic dinosaur (Togera), molten lava creature (Magmo) and an electrified plasma eyeball (Kineticlops) also are available to enjoy for some classic confrontations.
Characters can then kick, taunt, throw, punch, impale, drop a building on, fling a gasoline truck at and even roll a boulder over their enemies. Developers of the famed Twisted Metal Black, Incog Inc. Entertainment, did a fantastic job with living landscapes such as a metropolis, a Las Vegas strip and a secret government facility. They are fully destructible and come loaded with vengeful surprises.
A single player will enjoy the adventure mode, which takes the classic fighter-game genre and adds a platform element. The player battles bosses and minions to discover, ultimately, his creature's origin. I found my wrists aching for a break during much of the intense and varied action.
Although the game might be considered a traditional button masher hit as many things on the controller in proper sequence (of course) to inflict damage I found the delicate strategy of knowing when to collect health and power icons, when to hide behind a structure or climb a tower and when to pummel an injured opponent vital to success.
Also, computer-controlled monsters know when to attack and when to hide and love to gobble up those limited glowing health globules, so players need to strike quickly and pay heed when an opponent flees.
Other modes include free-for-all, elimination and endurance, which involves beating as many monsters as possible with just one life. The two-player wars can involve up to four combatants (two controlled by the computer) and uses a clever split-screen viewpoint that merges into a single screen as player-controlled opponents meet.
Further adding replay value to the game, victories lead to the amassing of tokens, which unlocks more characters, arenas and costumes as well as some minigames, including a dodge-ball battle.

Sims, by Electronic Arts for PlayStation 2, rated Rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. Owners of Sony's powerful entertainment console who do not have a life of their own can find a new friend in this popular strategy simulation.
Sims may be the best-selling PC game of all time, but I need a better way to spend my time. I simply do not get the point of it. Yes, I know, I build a human and his family from scratch, acquire material wealth and must interact and solve problems in a real-time environment. Pardon my naivete, but I already do this on a daily basis.
However, if this were the kind of action I wanted worrying about when a character has to take a shower, call a friend, use the bathroom or order a pizza I would report that the Sims does an immersive job.
The player can create a community or enter the wacky "get-a-life" mode, in which he must work his way out of unemployment and living with mom to acquire riches and a mansion. A solid two-player mode allows one player to build a unique Sim, put it on a memory card and move it over to a pal's PS2.
Sims is guaranteed fun for the meddling manipulator in the family. For my cash, however, I will stick with titles that take me out of my sometimes mundane existence and into fantastical environments.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 1, by Paramount Home Entertainment, not rated, $99.99. The Star Trek franchise may be sputtering a bit, but hard-core fans still will find plenty to love as they walk down memory lane through the entire first season of "Deep Space Nine" on digital video disc.
Stuck on a space station orbiting the planet Bajor and sworn to guard a wormhole against the Cardassians and the Dominion, Commander Benjamin Sisko and his crew engaged in numerous adventures over seven seasons of television shows. I never thought the series was as endearing as "The Next Generation," but it certainly gave a fresh look to the franchise.
The six-disc set boasts more than 16 hours of sci-fi drama, with plenty of familiar friends, including Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the omniscient Q and Lwaxana Troi, stopping by during the 20 episodes. Bonuses, confined to the sixth disc, include featurettes about the cast and characters (accessed by clicking on hot spots in a picture of the space station), a look at Quark's bar, a short vignette on the genesis of the show from the creators, and a production photo gallery.
One would think a series based on the wonders of future science and technological advances might contain some nifty additions for the computer user in the family. Alas, they would be very wrong. No "Trek" time line, no games, no interactive station diagrams, not even a link to the information-packed "Star Trek" Web site (www.startrek.com).
The first season of "DS9" looks great on DVD; unfortunately, it does nothing to further the digital-disc revolution.
Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC, 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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