- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Here are a few titles featuring some favorite colorful characters starring in third-person platform games. A famed elf, lynx and cat have returned to give players some spectacular computer-animated, rich-in-action adventures.

Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal from Sony for PlayStation 2, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. The former furry mechanic, Ratchet, and his wisecracking robotic assistant, Clank, have been traveling around galaxies since 2002. Their third adventure places them back on Planet Veldin to battle mechanical supervillain Dr. Nefarious.

The game seduces through spectacular graphics, humorous character interaction and the use of inventive weaponry as the protagonists reunite with Captain Qwark and the superteam Q-Force. The player eventually works through dozens of missions spread across 20 worlds and also can join seven other players online for a partylike experience. This is easily the most enjoyable of the current bunch of platform games.

Favorite moments: Turning thugs into ducks, dressing up as a Tyhrranoid and just watching the interstellar travel of Ratchet and Clank was as exciting as using weapons such as an infector (which causes enemies to turn on one another), plasma whip and lava gun.

Blinx 2: Masters of Space and Time from Microsoft for XBox, rated E: content suitable for ages 6 and older, $39.99. What if cats could control time while absorbing mine? Developer Artoon answers that question in a sequel to its 2002 game featuring vacuum-cleaner-wielding felines that have the ability to pause, rewind, slow down and fast forward their fates while battling pirate pigs.

This year’s game allows the player not only to control the feline time-sweepers, but also to maneuver the sneaky swine through portals to land in cat-infested environments and steal time crystals.

The porkish Tom Tom Gang’s functionality includes controlling space rather than time as they create black holes, teleport around areas and use warp tunnels to pull off their capers.

Favorite moments: I had fun sucking up terrestrial debris and using a targeting option to spit it back at red frog fish and stone guardians. However, I really enjoyed ducking cannon fire as if I were in a Wachowski brothers movie, cracking safe codes and personalizing my pig or cat team.

Jak 3: From Sony for PlayStation 2, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. Naughty Dog and the developers of Crash Bandicoot have spent the past three years creating a visual masterpiece surrounding a misunderstood elfin hero tasked with discovering his true place in the universe.

The final part of the trilogy finds Jak banished from Haven City to a wasteland where he must fight for the respect of its surly natives and enter a quest for redemption. Of course, his sarcastic little ottsel (a mix of an otter and weasel) buddy, Daxter, comes along for the ride and never shuts up.

The player controls Jak, who wields a multimorphing weapon along with the ability to transform from Light Jak to Dark Jak. He also occasionally can maneuver Daxter.

The often-too-serious action is overly focused on vehicular racing as the pair ride off-road vehicles and also can mount gliders and jetboards to take out the villainous Metalheads. However, the beautiful look of the terrain and detailed demise of enemies makes it quite an engaging simulation.

Favorite moments: Even though I wanted less racing and more fighting, I still found hunting and gobbling up minidinosaurs upon my Leaper Lizard mesmerizing during the desert portion of the show. Jak 3 worked best for me during the run-and-gun missions and transforming into his Dark and Light equivalents.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washington times.com).

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