Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Thumb Warriors from Radica USA, stand-alone product uses three V-button cell batteries (included), $14.99.

The fine art of thumb wrestling gets a high-tech upgrade as players control a device that combines audio trigger technology and muscle power to challenge opponents.

The pets contained in each package resemble the chest-bursting creatures from “Alien.” Players form a symbiotic relationship with their new rubbery pal as they attach one to a thumb and wrap its tail around their wrist.

Each warrior wears three pieces of armor to protect its soft cranial area. The goal of each battle is for the opposing player to manipulate his thumb pal to knock off the opposition’s armor and expose its Trigger of Doom.

As players manipulate their thumbs, audio bytes are activated through the creatures’ skeletal sensors, delivering chomp and roar sounds. Once a creature loses its armor, the player presses down on the Trigger located on the top of the head for three seconds, and a loud consolation scream is released by the creature, signaling the agony of defeat.

Not only are the battles fun when opponents of equal age are involved, but the creatures also are nasty-looking enough to captivate the 6-year-old male demographic, who will get the feeling of being part of a horror sci-fi film.

Six distinct Thumb Warriors are available in varied colors and styles of armor and with names such as Magma, Hydra, Dracul and Pachua.

Tetris DS, from Nintendo for Nintendo DS, rated T: content suitable for ages 13 and older, $29.99. A video gaming legacy is celebrated with another look at the classic block elimination challenge. Now it incorporates the world’s most interactive gaming system and famous Nintendo characters into its puzzling missions.

The player still works to manipulate and stack geometrically confused Tetriminos as they fall into a rectangular holding area, getting rid of them to earn points, but the variety and levels available are astounding. The player can use the DS’ touch screen and stylus to move blocks around in most games or still use the controller pad and buttons to execute commands.

Through six types of Tetris, the player could, for example, try to assemble a 4-by-4 cube in a Metroid Prime environment (which looked kind of like a Borg ship) and watch it explode when successful or work through 200 puzzles that require the player to use a small selection of blocks to complete a pattern and clear a board.

Animated characters including Mario, Yoshi, Zelda and Donkey Kong monitor the player or perform in the background as the games develop, which makes their appearance more of a marketing novelty than an integral part of the action.

As an incredible added value, Tetris DS is Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection-friendly and allows up to four players (each with a cartridge) to compete in battles against friends or strangers across the globe, or, with just one game card, up to 10 players can compete simultaneously using the Download Play option.

NYKO Technologies has released a pair of slick gadgets using the Sony PlayStation Portable’s AC adapter to make content on the hand-held media center even more enjoyable.

First, the Charger Grip, $29.99, gives gamers with big hands a break from the thumb cramping associated with long sessions with the PSP, thanks to a sturdy pair of handles. Emulating a console controller’s feel, the grip unit attaches to the sides of the PSP for a comfortable experience.

That’s not all. The grips also have a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that uses a wire attached to the charger port to extend PSP playtime by five hours.

Next, Theater Experience, $79.99, arrives in a 12-inch-long aluminum unit. When opened, it reveals a pair of amplified stereo speakers and a place to mount the PSP in an angled stand and plug in the device through audio and charger jacks.

The unit performs a pair of necessary functions for movie fanatics as it cleanly boosts a flick’s soundtrack and recharges the PSP to extend its battery life by seven hours. It also has a pair of headphone jacks in the front plate and includes AC and stereo cables to enjoy the PSP away from the case to get its benefits. A neoprene lining in the sturdy enclosure keeps the expensive hand-held safe.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (

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