- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 11, 2009

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

Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories (for PlayStation 2, Square Enix, $29.99) - So why would I bother with a new game for Sony’s last-generation console that essentially is a 3-D remake of a 2004 Game Boy Advance title? Because a great story bundled with complex game mechanics and hours of action wins a player’s devotion every time.

Such is the case with the return of the young, spikey-haired hero Sora in an adventure to find his friends that takes place between the first and second Kingdom Hearts games.

Stuck in the ominous Castle Oblivion, our hero is part of an ultimate mind game as he fights to regain his memories.

Also back to help and hinder is a cavalcade of Final Fantasy and Disney superstars, including Donald Duck, Cloud Strife, Simba, Maleficent and Mickey Mouse.

Between long-winded storytelling, exploration and colorful cut scenes, a player’s primary goal is to advance through areas by engaging in waves of battles versus Heartless and Organization XIII using a collectible trading-card combat system unleashed in real time.

Decks are built and collected cards are played in rapid succession in fights to deplete each opponent’s health or help the hero. A combination of cards can be played to execute powerful moves while some are found or won to help unlock areas and get more assistance from Disney’s finest.

The biggest frustration with the game is wondering when Square Enix will get its act together and put out the next chapter of the Kingdom Hearts saga - for the PlayStation 3 please.

Line Rider 2: Unbound (for Wii, Genius Products, $29.99) - The popular Web-based game developed by a Slovenian art student back in 2006 gets a makeover and moves to Nintendo’s popular console to give youngsters a wintry challenge.

Snow-sled racing, romance and a rascal named Chad set the tone for a player to complete courses and give our hero Bosh a clear path to the finish line.

The Wiimote becomes an instrument used to draw and enhance missing pieces of track in 40 brain-busting puzzles. A full arsenal of tools to render straight and curved lines, areas to accelerate and slow down, trap doors, trampolines and even triggers to perform tricks give the player full control of Bosh’s fate.

With the missing pieces added and the laws of physics at his side, Bosh sleds down the completed course. If he rides over all of the target icons and stops over the finish line, the story can continue.

Engineers can scrutinize their results with a zoom-in function and full playback options (stop, rewind, pause, etc.). If a piece of track causes our hero to crash, it can be erased or manipulated to deliver the proper results.

Once tired of following the story, players can create their own courses. Drawing a complex layout with the Wiimote is not an easy task and the slightest bump in the road can cause a crash. Youngsters might need help from older family members to beat maps or really express their creativity.

Additionally, an online component allows builders to share puzzle designs and art components.

Line Rider 2 won’t win any awards for its underwhelming presentation and soundtrack, but it offers a sliding scale of fun and frustration for the casual gamer.

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