- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Here’s a look at two of the latest games that extend the adventures of their film franchises.

Shrek Super Slam from Activision for Xbox and PlayStation 2, rated E10+: content suitable for ages 10 and older, $39.99. The famed green ogre and 19 of his friends and enemies enter third-person brawls in a video game that makes professional wrestling look like a chess match.

Castle towers crumble, the Poison Apple Inn’s furniture collapses, and the Gingerbread Man’s house tumbles down within 16 destructible environments as characters including Donkey, Prince Charming, Puss in Boots, Fiona (as both ogre and human) and gnomes with an attitude come to spectacular-looking three-dimensional life, ready to pummel one another.

The very slick cinematic styling of the game delivers plenty of humor, music and decent voice-over work as great-sounding impressionists sub for the movies’ celebrity voices.

The obligatory power-ups lying around the game’s environments are just plain silly as players can bop someone over the noggin with a giant ham hock, shoot frenzied character-seeking fairies out of a bazooka, or wear a dragon mask to give an opponent a fire blast.

The key to succeeding in matches is to keep unleashing a Super Slam on opponents before they return the favor. As players beat one another, a meter fills up underneath the character’s name and, when it blazes, so does the character, which then can perform an impressive-looking and damaging maneuver. Ogre Princess Fiona’s belting out an ear-shattering aria at combatants was a standout.

The game is great at parties as up to four brawlers can go at it, but it also comes with a few single-player modes that are equally fun. The first has the ogre spinning yarns to get Donkey’s youngsters to fall asleep. Those eight tales lead to gaming events that might find a player controlling a furious Pinocchio, who takes on the Black Knight after the mumbling thug ruins Pinocchio’s drive-up window at the Friar’s Fat Boy.

Next, more than 40 mega-challenges take the player on a whirlwind tour of Fairytale Land through timed missions that may involve throwing a set number of gingerbread men into an oven or stopping Fiona from setting off fireworks. The minigames are not just entertaining; success leads to unlocking more characters and various costumes.

The latest Shrek simulation may not amaze the hard-core gamer, but it will cause a child’s eyes to light up gleefully every time the ogre unleashes one of his green gas attacks.

Star Wars Battlefront II from LucasArts for Xbox and PlayStation 2, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $49.99. Just the other day, I was wondering whether LucasArts ever would develop a game that not only allowed me to fail miserably as a member of Emperor Palpatine’s elite army, but also take on the role of one of his star-fighter pilots only to burst into flames as a separatist vessel blasted me from space.

Well, my frustrating visions panned out, as the sequel to last year’s grunt-controlling extravaganza returns with more of everything, including space battles, to give the “Star Wars” fan an incredible, immersive third-person experience.

The game is not as hard as I make it sound, but it will challenge and consume lots of time, especially for fans of the Skywalker clan.

Clips from the movies; John Williams’ orchestral score; visits to environments including Coruscant, Hoth, Dagobah, Endor and Mustafar; controllable storm troopers, super battle droids, Wookiee warriors, Jedis (including Ki-Adi-Mundi, Mace Windu and Yoda), Sith Lords and a certain owner of the Millennium Falcon; and the chance to pilot land speeders, armored tank droids, TIE Interceptors and AT-ATs all combine to complicate the gamer’s life in jaw-dropping adventures.

Just one of the single campaigns, a story mode dubbed “Rise of the Empire” manages to combine all that makes the game great. As a member of Darth Vader’s 501st Legion, I traveled the galaxy and took part in most of the legendary battles from all of the major “Star Wars” films as I learned much about the extended “Star Wars” universe.

Adding to the spectacle are the plentiful split-screen multiplayer modes (four way for Xbox or two way for PS2) and online play possibilities as up to 24 players on the PS2, up to 32 on Xbox or up to 64 on Windows systems can take part in the massive adventures.

Can Battlefront eventually spawn another sequel? If it does, I’ll have to find room for a full-size X-Wing and Spider droid animatronic in my back yard because LucasArts probably will have me sit in a real cockpit while I battle it.

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

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