- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Here’s a look at a pair of the latest video games based on movies.

Chicken Little, from Buena Vista Games for PlayStation 2, rated E: content suitable for ages 6 and older, $39.99. Disney’s computer-generated retelling of this classic story has been transformed into a third-person adventure mixing platforming, driving, sporting events and shooting challenges.

Developers demand that a single player assume the roles of the feathered hero and many of his friends as he works through 21 levels that eventually take him from Oakey Oakes into the stars. The game features all of the voices of the movie cast as well as gorgeous film clips, 3-D environments and character renditions.

Unfortunately, the game also features a whole bunch of brow-flinching, thumb-cramping missions that will require specialists from the entire family, depending on each’s gaming genre skills.

When not making Chicken Little jump, climb, slide, explore and collect acorns, the player may engage in on-screen activities such as driving around to deliver pizzas in a set amount of time, taking part in a game of dodge ball, using Mayor Turkey Lurkey’s cannon to blast alien ships, outrunning Goosey Loosey in school hallways, and controlling a spaceship while flying through an asteroid field.

Winning the prize for “most aggravating challenge” is a baseball game in which the player must help Chicken Little get a hit. First, the simulation forces players to use their controllers to mimic a list of button icons streaming — and eventually screaming at breakneck pace — across the screen.

Once that is accomplished, a player still has to line up a pitch meter and hit the ball, based on a strike zone determined by his accuracy with the rhythmic button-pressing exercise.

The title also boasts six minichallenges to be enjoyed by a pair of players either working together or against each other. Unfortunately, the games must be unlocked, which requires collecting a certain number of Buck Cluck trading cards within the levels, a challenging feat for the average gamer and nearly impossible for the youngster.

However, players are placated for their frustrations with a free ticket to the movie in the game’s package.

Overall, Chicken Little lays a golden egg for its slick-looking presentation and attempts to break away from the ordinary movie-licensed gaming fodder, but dang, that baseball game nearly killed me.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, from Electronic Arts for Xbox, Game Cube and PlayStation 2, rated E 10+: content suitable for ages 10 and older, $39.99. As Harry, once again, reigns supreme at the box office, gamers get a third-person adventure perfectly complementing the on-screen exploits of the famed wizard-in-training.

This version differs from previous Potter games in that players are not allowed to roam around expansive environments. Instead, they get into more linear action much more quickly while exploring famous locales such as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the prefect’s bathroom, the Forbidden Forest and an occasional graveyard where evil Lord Voldemort may be lurking.

Back are the three main heroes, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and Harry, who can be controlled by a single muggle or cooperatively in a multimuggle mode. (Players can jump in or leave the game at any time.) The action delivers a great lesson in teamwork and also makes playing the title a family-friendly event.

Nuances such as consuming chocolate frogs to revive a protagonist who has fainted (of course the protagonists do not die), watching fantastic visual effects while using magic spells such as Aqua Erupto (shooting water at flaming salamanders) or Wingardium Leviosa (moving boulders), and listening to Ron gush over Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans brings author J.K. Rowling’s vision to life. Participation in the Triwizard Tournament does not hurt, either, as the player tries to outrun a horned dragon and encounters underwater levels.

I loved the strategic and visual use of collectors’ cards in the game. Each character can buy cards depending on how many Bott’s Beans he accumulates during a mission. Those odd-tasting delicacies also come in handy to replenish stamina and add to a magic meter.

The cards feature images from the movie and three-dimensional views of the major characters or creatures encountered. (Using an analog stick can move the cards to get better 3-D views.) The player can load his character with up to three cards to assist in his magical endeavors, defeating specific creatures or maintaining health.

Electronic Arts also has done a great job with the Nintendo DS version of the game ($34.99), providing players with the ability to take care of a virtual pet Niffler (whistle into the DS to get its attention), use the hand-held console’s touch screen to cast spells, and even feed a Hippogriff. It also features wireless connectivity, allowing the player to join with another who owns a DS and game cartridge for Wizard Dueling.

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

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