- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

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

3 on 3 NHL Arcade (for Xbox 360, 800 Microsoft Points; and for PlayStation 3, $9.99 from Electronic Arts) — The best of the National Hockey League is compacted into frenzied fun for tweens through an affordable, action-packed competition.

Within a three-skater-and-goalie versus three-skater-and-goalie format, 40 leaders from the NHL are available (including Alex Ovechkin) as they take part in an all-star-type setup (i.e. red jersey against blue jersey).

First of all, serious sports fans need not apply here. The depth of statistics and realism seen in top-tier hockey video games does not exist. NHL Arcade lives for lovers of the less complicated style of action much more focused on eliciting a grunt and a high five rather than micromanagement.

It’s still basic hockey, no rules, and hard-checking players through and over the boards (even the goalie can take a shot) is mandatory as the bone-crunching moves release powerups on the rink. Skate over a powerup to shrink an opposition’s goalie, take advantage of super speed skating, turn a competitor into a block of ice or grow a teammate into a behemoth.

The player models are slightly cartoony, the ice rink looks great and primal sound effects are worth a laugh during every match. I also liked the number of trick moves and shots available along with the Skill Stick finesse seen in big brother’s NHL ‘09.

Although the three-on-three action can be played by a solo player, it gets pretty monotonous after an hour or so without a tournament or career mode. It takes two competitors (parent versus child is a hoot) to deliver the maximum fun factor from the ice. Better yet, grab a trio of friends for a party and go online to challenge another team.

Big Bang Mini (for DS from SouthPeak Games and Sandbox Strategies, $19.99) — Kids light up the heavens and travel the world to battle waves of enemies in this wonderfully creative homage to the Space Invaders legacy.

The frenetic shooter presents a variety of design styles but stays deceptively simple.

Pyromaniacs in the family maneuver a ship on the lower DS screen using the stylus and flick above it (like striking a match) to launch a projectile into the top screen. If it hits an enemy object, it explodes into a colorful display and drops a star. Collect enough stars to fill up a meter and move to the next level.

Fireworks that do not hit their mark cause a shower of sparks that fall back on you. Take a hit either by the debris the enemies drop or the sparks and it’s back to the beginning of the level.

Players visit locations from Tokyo to New York to tackle some dynamic environments and work through a whopping 90 levels. Designs will impress with, for example, the pixilated pyramids in Luxor or a comic-book-style version of the Big Apple.

Powerups such as stopping time, homing missiles and a deflector shield mix with boss battles at the end of each location to spice up the action

Modes such as arcade, versus (two DS owners share one card), mission, and even one to just relax and create some dazzling displays round out the robust experience.

Observers looking over a player’s shoulder will love the visual smorgasbord, regrettably, the actual player will find himself too focused to fully appreciate the show.

Pardon the obvious pun, but the game offers more than enough bang for the buck and is one of the best DS releases of the new year.

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