- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 1, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at some multimedia titles for the family.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (from LucasArts for the Xbox 360, 800 Microsoft Points, $10) — Wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood gets a high-definition makeover while revisiting his first adventure in this Xbox Live Arcade downloadable epic.

The 20-year-old classic puzzler will astound old-timers through its newly drawn animated designs and the addition of narration and a fully remastered musical score (no more midi meanderings).

The story of Threepwood’s swashbuckling endeavors and struggles against the ghost pirate and principal villain LeChuck still packs a humorous punch. It also still demands that a player point and click on every possible character, creature and object to advance in this interactive storybook. Multiple-question clicking conversations fuel the fun — don’t forget to talk to the “Men of Low Moral Fiber.”

A drop-down menu provides easy access to commands to interact with objects and just as easily pull out and use or combine items collected in the inventory. The addition of a hint button will help those who don’t quite grasp this once-classic game design.

Nostalgia buffs also get to quickly show new players what it was like in the old days, thanks to the ability to toggle the visuals from the pixilated old to dazzling new.

Those who can rebuff the scorn of younger family members amused as to why one would ever play such a methodical adventure will thoroughly enjoy the experience.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (From Activision for the Xbox 360, $49.99) — Young fans enamored with the exploits of Sid the Sloth and his prehistoric brethren will find plenty to like in their last adaptation to the video game universe.

Based on Twentieth Century Fox’s latest movie, this three-dimensional platformer features 15 short-attention-span-grabbing levels and use of six of the film’s familiar characters, including Manny the woolly mammoth, Scrat the squirrel and Buck the wily weasel.

A single player finds himself mired in a variety of slightly repetitive tasks, often as Sid, as he travels across a frozen tundra and through underground caverns and a lush tropical forest.

He might control a raging saber-tooth tiger chasing after a gazelle, fend off an attack by mole hogs, pick off a dodo bird with a snowball, roll an egg down a snowy mountain or run away from the mama T-Rex.

The junior gamer also will spend plenty of time collecting berries and crystals to buy stuff such as powerups and film clips from the fast-talking armadillo, Tony.

It’s almost too cute when enemies get beaten: They turn into a pile of fall foliage and a couple of berries for characters to grab.

And, for once, the voice acting shines as the stars of the film, including John Leguizamo (Sid), Ray Romano (Manny) and Josh Peck (Eddie) reprise their vocal roles and do not simply phone in their performance. It really sounds like they had a good time with the process.

Although not as stunning as the actual film’s computer animation, the game’s colorful visuals still hold their own with pretty water, ice, vegetation and snow effects, illustrated cave paintings and feisty “Land Before Time”-quality dinosaurs.

Eight minigames, with up to four-player competitions, back up the solo action. Themed between being sloths and dinosaurs, players find themselves in the midst of mudball fights, surfing lava, collecting the most berries and stomping tiles to win.

The only element sorely missing was an animal encyclopedia to quell the barrage of “what is that?” questions from young participants. It wouldn’t have hurt Activision to include a bit of educational content here, eh?

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