- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Here’s a look at some traditional challenges that have made it to the world of hand-held gaming:

Tic Tac Toe, from Radica, stand-alone product requiring two AAA batteries (included), $9.99. Lovers of the centuries-old game of aughts and X’s can take on a friend or computer opponent now that the game has been crammed into a 1-inch-thick portable unit.

Using 15 buttons and a tiny black-and-white LCD screen about half the size of a Game Boy Advance’s playing area, the simulation offers the traditional game as well as Triple Tic Tac Toe, which requires that players keep track of three levels of action on a 3-D plane. Variations on the multilevel challenge allow certain spaces to be blocked out automatically to make it a little easier on the brain.

Features include a hint button, a sleep mode that takes effect after three minutes of nonactivity, automatic tracking of wins and ties, sound effects and, for no apparent reason, the melody of “We’re in the Money” for a victory.

Sudoku, from Techno Source, stand-alone product requiring one CR2032 button cell battery (included), $19.99. Japan’s numbers-logic challenge is taking its place next to crossword puzzles as American newspaper readers’ latest form of addictive entertainment.

The game requires that players fill in a 27-space board so that the nine rows, columns and 3-by-3 grids on the board contain the numbers 1 to 9 without repeating a number.

This stylish, pocket-size unit from Techno Source — think a silver-and-white personal digital assistant — uses a large touch-sensitive screen and stylus pen to give players more than 100,000 puzzles to enjoy anytime.

It features a training mode for beginners (an incorrect number placed in a box will continue to flash), an advanced mode, four levels of difficulty, sound effects, a timer, a pause option to continue a game later, storage for one of the two included stylus pens, a contrast setting and an answer key.

Techno Source has delivered its best hand-held game to date and offers a great way to introduce youngsters to the wonderful world of numbers.

Kids Cards, from Majesco, for Game Boy Advance, rated E for everyone, $19.99. Car-ride blues may be minimized slightly with a quintet of virtual classic card challenges compatible with Nintendo’s held-held entertainment system. Parents may be much happier, too, watching their offspring engage in a round of Go Fish, War, Crazy Eights, Old Maid or Slap Jack rather than games featuring blasting, shooting and fighting on-screen opponents.

Through a minimalist presentation consisting of a colorful, slightly animated background, music and a child’s voice that narrates the action, the title allows a single player to challenge up to three computer-controlled opponents.

Amazingly, there is no multiplayer feature — a real mistake — and a lack of options with some of the games, especially the inability to freely ask any player for a card in Go Fish, make the lightweight title strictly for the first-grade demographic.

World Poker Tour: No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em, from Radica, stand-alone product requiring one CR2032 button cell battery (included), $19.99. Has anyone noticed that America has poker fever? When even this non-poker-addicted human knows actress Jennifer Tilly has become some sort of card shark, I know the game is a pop-culture platitude.

One of the latest portable systems allows a player to take on up to five virtual opponents in a fairly competitive and intuitive interface.

Through a wallet-size unit and an LCD presentation, viewed from the perspective of the player facing his computer competition with the dealer laying out cards in the middle of the table, a single player tries not to lose his 5,000 credits to a variety of skilled card tacticians.

Players can bet, raise, re-raise, check and lose chunks of their bank, just like the pros and even occasionally outmaneuver the computer if lady luck is on their side.

The game keeps high scores, has an automatic shut-off and shows all winning hands, so newbies actually might learn something.

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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