- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

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

Earth Defense Force 2017, from D3 Publisher of America, rated T for teen, $39.99. For those in need of mindless stress release, this noisy sci-fi adventure offers a third-person immersion into H.G. Wells’ worst nightmare.

Through action with liberal amounts of cheesy dialogue and bug-stomping firepower not seen since Paul Verhoeven’s “Starship Troopers,” along with the enormity of a campy extraterrestrial invasion not seen since “Independence Day,” the game requires one or two players to defend their planet as members of the elite Earth Defense Force.

In battles that take place above and below ground in very destructible environments, a team of soldiers (the player only controls one of them) is tasked with blasting massive ants that shoot acid from their backsides and spiders equipped with sticky, health-damaging webbing.

The king-size insects are soon supported by gleaming silver attack fighters, large drop ships and, eventually, mech-warrior-style robots and robotic prehistoric creatures.

Before an assault, a soothing female voice reminds the player that he must carefully choose two weapons from an arms stash that will grow to more than 150 variations of missile launchers, assault rifles, acid guns, flame throwers and bombs and use the weapons liberally as the insectoid forces fall in a gooey green mess or explode into a fiery fall from the sky.

The player will constantly attack hostile forces with help from a computer-controlled team. Icons that look like cardboard cutouts can be picked up by the player after they’re dropped by dead enemies to enhance armor, replenish health and collect new weapons.

The player also eventually has at his disposal a quartet of armored vehicles that require an engineering degree to maneuver. I suggest sticking to the old-fashioned mode of bipedal transportation.

The simplicity of the objectives, scarce design, five levels of difficulty and immediate gratification of taking down multistory-tall enemies will quickly attract the testosterone-driven gamers in the family, who must work through more than 50 levels to save Earth in solo or split-screen cooperative modes.

Although I am pretty excited by the nonstop action and the cinematic explosions of fallen craft and bots, the game is not a crowning achievement in the genre. It more closely resembles what would happen if the Son of Svengoolie hosted a special, color-restored version of “Them.”

In fact, in the history of video games, Earth Defense Force will be a cockroach squashed underneath the shoes of much more complex and intense third-person games such as Lost Planet, Shadows of Colossus and Dead Rising.

However, players will have a maximum amount of fun for a minimal price.

Gyruss, from Konami for Xbox 360, rated E for everyone, 400 Microsoft points ($5).

This classic space shooter from 25 years ago gets a bit of a face-lift as it becomes part of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. One or two players work together or battle each other across the galaxy in this thumb-cramping button mash in which pilots try to fly a spaceship from Neptune to Earth and blow away hostile ships while avoiding space junk along the journey.

Through cylindrical movements and attack patterns — think an amalgam of Galaxian and Space Invaders — the action unfolds in a light-speed pace through 23 levels, with those great old arcade laser and explosion sound effects in abundance.

Nostalgic types also can play the original version of the game, while online multiplayer modes are delivered through a split-screen presentation.

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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