- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Owners of Nintendo’s dual-screen, hand-held gaming system, the DS, have a trio of fantastic puzzlers to feed family members’ gaming addiction.

First, Meteos from Nintendo ($29.99) demands that players defend their world against an unending supply of block-shaped meteors shot across the galaxy by the evil planet Meteos.

The player uses his stylus pen on the DS’ touch screen to move the multicolor meteors around so that a trio of matching meteors line up either horizontally or vertically. The match causes the lines to ignite like the blasters on a rocket ship and lift off from the bottom screen to the top and scatter across the galaxy in an awesome display.

If the line of blocks reaches the upper limits of the stratosphere (fills the screen top to bottom), a planet nova occurs, and the player loses a life.

The exhilarating experience leads to hours of addictive fun as the player defends more than 30 planets, each with its own alien race, theme music and block designs while even going on a space trip to use blocks to destroy enemy planets.

The slick replayability continues as launched meteors also act as elements that are collected and can be combined to create new planets, helpers in battles, rare metals and sounds.

More impressive, four friends can play against one another using a single game cartridge via the DS’ download and wireless capabilities.

Next, a character that has been around since 1983 returns to perplex players in Bomberman from Ubisoft ($29.99). Those unfamiliar with the over-the-top legend can envision Pac-Man reborn as an explosives expert. The player walks a little fellow through mazes while dropping bombs to blow up obstacles as creatures get in his way to finding an exit.

The usual power-ups abound as the player can eliminate walls to retrieve icons that grant the ability to place multiple bombs in pathways, invoke invincibility, move faster and use an assortment of specialized explosives such as an invisible mine.

The DS version of Bomberman offers 100 stages, some of which take place over both of the hand-held console’s screens via interconnecting tunnels. During certain stages, players can yell “ka-boom” or an expletive of their choice into the DS’ microphone to explode the bombs on-screen.

It is the multiplayer mode, however, that turns Bomberman DS into a classic as up to eight players, using just one of their cartridges, can compete wirelessly as they walk through mazes and spring flaming traps on unsuspecting opponents.

Finally, a block-pattern challenge for the purist arrives in Polarium from Nintendo ($29.99). A bit more Tetris-fueled rather than filled with eye-popping graphics, the game requires logic and pattern-recognition skills to succeed.

The strategist simply uses the DS’ stylus pen to draw lines over black, white or a combination of tiles as they cascade from the top to the bottom touch screen. With a click of the pen, the highlighted tiles change to their opposite. The goal is to eliminate tiles by changing horizontal lines of them into the same color before the entire grid fills up.

In addition to the cascading challenge, a player will find 100 single-screen puzzles that require him to draw one continuous line through either the black or white tiles to clear the board.

The multiplayer option allows another friend with a copy of Polarium to connect wirelessly to a game in which one player’s eliminated tiles move to the opponent’s screen. Amateur puzzle makers also can design and send single-screen puzzles to a pal for download.

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

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