- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Rub Rabbits! by Sega for Nintendo DS, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $29.99. This sequel to Feel the Magic, a clever simulation from 2004, once again finds a faceless human fellow pursuing his true love, only this time, he competes with 11 other suitors and contends with the unrequited love of a crazed girl as he works through 35 chapters of a challenging courtship.

The title brilliantly relies on the DS’ standout attributes, which will find the player testing the durability of the hand-held’s touch screen and the sensitivity of its microphone through a gantlet of eclectic minigames. Flipping the unit upside down and sideways also is required to interact with the visuals spread out across the system’s two colorful screens.

The design features silhouetted characters highlighted with bursts of colorful clothing (looking as if they were culled from an early IPod commercial) along with an infectious music track reminiscent of a 1960s European movie. Both help cement a pop adventure requiring the player to help the lovesick fool succeed amid dancing and bobbing mayhem during the puzzling dilemmas.

A typical minigame might find the player touching the hero on-screen with the stylus pen or a finger to move an escalator up so he can meet his gal at the top while moving side to side to avoid competing character traffic. Or it might involve simultaneously targeting with the pen on-screen and blowing into the DS to shoot a dart at suitors parachuting from the sky.

More surreal events include waving a rose in front of the object of his affections (who happens to be exercising) without pricking her with a thorn; making eye contact with her during another challenge when she is surrounded by suitors (the player must move around her by dragging the hero); or keeping piranhas and electric eels away from her by using a finger as bait.

All successful encounters in the chapters garner love points for use in the Maniac mode to dress and accessorize the perfect female companion, including creating clothing that will appeal more to the fashion fancier in the family.

The game transcends from the single-player story mode to a multiplayer party game with a number of party challenges that work with a single DS or can be shared across multiple systems.

One hand-held can be used in Hullabaloo to generate a team Twister-like game for the fingers. The game involves players passing the DS to one another while holding down the correct buttons ordered by the software. Also, a pair of players can have a baby by working together to cut a cake, and the toddler can visit a young pal in another DS when the owner also has a Rub Rabbits! cartridge.

Many of the mini-games are even available for a single DS user to upload to three other hand-helds for quick multiplayer contests.

I’m a fool for games that expand the DS’ capabilities like this, and Rub Rabbits! will have players addicted to love in a new way.

Doom: Unrated Extended Edition, Universal Studios Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, not rated, $29.99. Another movie based on a video-game franchise failed to strike-box office gold last year and will barely stay memorable as a special DVD release.

If producers had made personable wrestling legend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson the hero of the movie and offered more first-person-perspective creepiness, they might have had a winner. However, this film about a group of Marines called upon to stop a genetically induced plague on Mars turns into a simple splatterfest that worked much better as the first-person shooting video game.

Extras to the DVD include a brief tutorial on the Doom 3 video game with tips on the various uses of a flashlight, the necessity of loading weapons often and the importance of constantly saving the game.

Also included is an enlightening breakdown and discussion of the five-minute first-person shooting sequence shown in the film, which was the best part of the entire 113-minute effort. It offers a frightening look at the potential for video games as graphics become more lifelike.

Additionally, a history of the Id Software-produced Doom franchise is featured, with some neat footage from the early days of the game and — the best part of the single-disc release — the chance for Xbox owners to enjoy two single-player and two multiplayer levels of Doom 3.

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

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