- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at a DS title for everyone in the family.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Stardust Accelerator: World Championship 2009 (from Konami, $29.99) — That mouthful of a title leads players into a world of virtual, collectible trading cards based on the Japanese pop culture franchise that has flourished for more than a decade.

This game takes its story from the 5Ds spinoff series and features Jack Atlas, king of the riding duel, and plenty of characters always sporting unusual hairstyles.

After a player selects an avatar with options for a wild coif and facial expressions, he rides in motorcycle races, interacts with other characters, roams Domino City, collects stuff, and, most importantly, partakes in card duels.

However, the racing with a Duel Runner and exploration in back alleys is just an add-on to the meaty main event, those complex card matches.

A player uses a deck of cards to battle opponents. Through a very complex set of rules devoted to phases, placing spells and traps, and using a wide range of monster cards, he must wipe out an opponent’s health points. A generous supply of cards — more than 2,800 are available — can be bought with amassed duel points or awarded for successes.

Fans of the series will digest the action and complexities quicker than a Dark End Dragon munching on a Mystic Tomato. Anyone new the Yu-Gi-Oh! phenomenon, however, will need to read the lengthy tutorial, rest the brain and read it again and again.

Of course, a necessary multiplayer tournament mode gives up to four duelists in the same room or around the globe the chance for wireless competition or card trading. The package even includes three real cards to hook players into the world of collectible card games.

With a fairly rich mythology, thanks to the 4KidsTV cartoon and an infinite amount of management to the deck and duels, the latest Yu-Gi-Oh! game for the DS will keep the mobile player seriously addicted.

Lego Battles (from Warner Bros. Interactive, $29.99) — TT Games, known for creating the fantastic Lego-licensed video games tied to Star Wars, Batman and Indiana Jones, takes younger players back to the Danish block maker’s less flashy lines for a pretty deep real-time strategy adventure.

Using pieces tied to Lego’s Space Police, Castle and Pirates themed building sets, a player eventually accesses 55 characters, 30 vehicles and works through six story lines totaling 90 levels of action in the land, water and air.

With a learning curve set for the ambitious 8-year-old, the game requires using the stylus to command troops, manage resources with expanding menus, collect items and spend Lego brick currency to build and replenish resources.

Units have different functions: A builder can cut down trees or quickly construct defense towers or mines while a hero, such as a king, can unleash an earthquake or heal nearby minions. The characters are quite an eclectic bunch, ranging from legends such as Captain Brickbeard to conquistadors to a troll king and even Santa.

Cut scenes highlight dramatic moments of the adventures and will elicit a smile thanks to some surprisingly emotive, though mumbling, figures.

The developer keeps the game fresh with a free-play level using a choice of units, encouragement to explore areas after completing mission objectives, finding red bricks, Lego studs and minikits to unlock more stuff, and providing wireless multicard action for up to three friends.

Any real-time strategy aficionado in the family will scoff at the lack of precise controls and the simplistic battle designs. However, for any young player enamored with controlling armies of pirates, knights and aliens, it is a mesmerizing experience.

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