- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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

Just Cause, from Eidos, for Xbox 360, rated M for mature, $49.99. A hero must single-handedly bring down a dictatorship in this single-player, third-person adventure game loaded with enough cinematic stunts and explosive action to make any B-movie director proud.

The island of San Esperito becomes a destructive playground for Rico Rodriguez, a guy with the look and invincibility of Antonio Banderas’ El Mariachi as he attempts to stop President General Salvador Mendoza on his quest to build weapons of mass destruction.

The opening scene sets the tone for the interactive flick. As the hero jumps from a plane, the player must deploy his parachute and guide him down for a beach landing — or end up swimming to shore. Next, it’s a quick firefight before Rico moves to take control of a mounted gun on a Humvee and blast away any enemy vehicles or helicopters now in his pursuit.

Before one can utter “Viva la revolution,” he is off to rescue a guerrilla leader from a prison fortress with help from a “Great Escape”-style motorcycle, speedboat and a submachine gun.

Life does not get easier for Rico, as the player can take him on more than 300 missions within 250,000 explorable island acres.

With a ridiculous supply of firepower and a liberal number of vehicles at his disposal, the hero usually will blast his way to success. He also can get help from the local rebels, and his successes lead to more respect and access to safe houses to rearm and regain health.

Additionally, Rico can call for CIA support in the form of a vehicle dropped at his feet or an extraction to a well-stocked safe house.

Between the dizzying pace of busting through blockades, assassinations, avoiding the relentless pursuit of police and raising the flag of freedom in villages, the bloodied body count quickly adds up, and the game becomes a desensitizing, repetitive exercise in noisy, violent chaos.

Its graphic intensity is balanced by the beauty of being able to perform physics-defying stunts such as standing on top of a moving vehicle, sky-diving off a cliff and parasailing off a boat (with a perpetually redeployable parachute).

Although a little subtlety and variation of side missions would have given the game a more lasting appeal, Just Cause delivers a great-looking blockbuster.

Mercury Meltdown, from Ignition Entertainment for PlayStation Portable, rated E for everyone, $39.99. One of the most deadly metals on the planet returns to Sony’s hand-held game to keep puzzle fans addicted and perplexed as they control a blob of mercury through a gantlet of mazelike challenges.

With a tip of the pixels toward classic wooden labyrinth games, this cartoony-looking title requires that a player use the PSP’s analog stick to maneuver the blob around more than 160 three-dimensional laboratory levels loaded with obstacles, contraptions and traps.

The game does not cater to the brain-dead. Players must be aware of the effect gravity and extreme temperatures have on viscous liquids, and also the results of mixing the light spectrum (the blob can change color at paint stations) to succeed in the very challenging courses.

Additionally, the mercury easily can break into smaller globules to further complicate, or help, a course run that could contain a layout with ramps, force fields, conveyor belts, lightning bolts and creatures ready to eat the liquid metal.

Just to add plenty of pressure to the proceedings, each level is timed, and the player is awarded points for the amount of mercury he manages to deliver to the finish pad.

The options-loaded Mercury Meltdown also includes minigames, replays of course runs, a playground for practice and multiple wireless modes to challenge other PSP owners.

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


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