- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

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

Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force (for DS, Disney Interactive Studios, $29.99) — Disney’s massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORP) expands to Nintendo’s hand-held platform to give youngsters a chilly and multitasking adventure.

Tweens become part of a feathery secret agent team and must hunt down rogue robots, help townsfolk and find G the Force’s gadget guru.

Besides the standard variety of activities afforded a role-playing game, including interacting with characters, solving puzzles, clicking on objects and collecting stuff, the player enjoys minigames, compiles an arsenal of secret gadgets and amasses coins to customize his avatar.

The action stays nearly true to the virtual Club Penguin universe with plenty of help from Tribble-like companions, the Puffles (blow into the DS to activate a whistle to call them) and a near duplication of the Arctic environments.

An upgrade from the Web world is moving in a first-person perspective rather than directing an actual penguin, accomplished with the DS stylus as a guide.

Fans will appreciate the easy-going, cartoony action that easily expands online and through multiplayer modes.

First, a card included in the package offers extras to use with an avatar created at the Club Penguin Web site (www.clubpenguin.com) — 1,500 coins and a communicator, not too shabby — where players find more games and social interactivity.

Wireless, multicard play includes minigame versus contests and a way for agents to work together on a mission. Additionally, Disney’s impressive D Gamer option offers an easy way to download coins to the Web site and access a community area. A paid membership is required to spend the coins.

Skate It (for Wii, Electronic Arts, $49.99) — Another perfect match for Nintendo’s console and the Wii Fit balance board puts younger players on a skateboard as they rip extreme stunts.

First of all, yes, it’s cool and as fun as it sounds. Place the Wii board sideways and stand on it while simulating maneuvering a skateboard through the apocalyptic landscape of San Vanelona transformed into a massive skate park.

The player builds his avatar and equipment, down to licensed trucks and wheels on his board, skates with pros, and rides through challenges to get sponsored by real companies and tour the world. Loud music rocks the screens and a cameraman covers a skater’s action (a replay feature is included).

With the balance board, the player can shift his weight over six areas of the device and perform most of the core skateboard stunts, including ollies, nollies and kick flips. The Wiimote can be used for more intensive tricks.

My only beef is these dudes are not wearing helmets, setting off my parental concern alarm. However, the game goes out of its way to point out when a skater is injured, covering his areas of distress, all bundled under the famed “Hall of Meat” moments.

This overall gnarly experience is also a bonus for any balance-challenged family member who never has tried to stand on a real skateboard.

For big brother, who certainly will enjoy Skate It, Skate 2 (Electronic Arts, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.99) also has hit store shelves. The sequel, geared to teens, looks as spectacular as last year’s hit, enhanced by a doubling of the possible tricks, a custom graphics creator and movable in-game objects.

That’s all great, except sitting in a chair and holding a controller is nowhere near as slick as standing on that balance board. I’m still with Skate It.

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