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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Just in time for Christmas, some ideas for the video game fan on your list

BY TOM FISHER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sometimes it can be hard to buy for the avid gamer. You usually need a list of things they want to avoid buying something they already have. Here are some ideas that they'll be sure to love, and some they probably have never even thought of. These offer lots of fun.

Sony PSP-3000 Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters Entertainment Pack ($199.99)

First we need to discuss the PSP-3000 itself. The third generation of the handheld is a big improvement over its earlier incarnations. It sports a more vibrant screen with richer colors and a higher contrast ratio. The screen also features anti-reflection technology allowing you to view it in brightly lit rooms or outside. 'Ghost' image problems that existed with previous versions of the PSP have been removed, making for impressive game play.

Also new to the PSP is a built-in microphone. While some people may not use this feature, it allows players to converse during online play or make a call using Skype.

With the WiFi capabilities, you can browse online and share photos or videos with friends. Most important, though, the WiFi allows gamers to play multiplayers online, or download games from the online store for instant satisfaction.

The Entertainment pack comes with a movie, National Treasure 2, and a game, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters. While this is not a review of the game itself, it was a lot of fun, and both the movie and the game looked great on the new screen. If you know a gamer who needs a handheld device, the PSP-3000 centers on gaming but offers a whole lot more.

Music games have nearly taken over the gaming industry, with new games and gadgets popping up all the time. Guitar Hero, the franchise that launched the genre, has led the way in improvements and innovation. Recently, however, the rival title Rock Band has given GH a run for its money. Mainly it was because they offered the whole band experience guitars, drums, microphones. With the unveiling of Guitar Hero World Tour, Activision has once again taken the lead in the industry.

The Band Pack comes with a guitar that features a brand new touch-sensitive slide bar that allows gamers to hit the notes without having to worry about strumming the strings.

For the first time we have a great drum set. The Band Kit comes with a three-pad, two-cymbal, wireless drum set and a foot pedal for the bass drum. The pads are wide, color-coded, and of high quality for what is essentially a game controller. A microphone also is included for the person that has to sing along with every song.

Players can create a band with up to four people and compete in the living room or online. You can also compose songs and create your own rocker, adjusting every detail all the way down to facial structure. The song list is pretty extensive, covering a variety of genres and featuring hits from greats such as Willie Nelson, Jimi Hendrix, Blink 182, The Eagles, The Sex Pistols, and many more. When it comes to the battle of the band games, World Tour is the best yet.

For Wii owners who wince at the price tag of Guitar Hero World Tour, there is a cheaper option available. The 'Pop Star' series from XS Games allows teens and pop music fans to act out their favorite songs air guitar-style. The game comes with two Wii remote covers that neatly utilize the buttons to act as chords on the guitar neck.

There are 12 characters and more than 50 songs to choose from. You can also form your own band and play in competition or in co-op mode in 25 different venues, some of which have to be unlocked. The set list includes songs from Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Fall Out Boy, and more. I'm not a big pop music fan but I have played this one, and while it's no where near Guitar Hero, it does offer a decent musical experience with a much friendlier price tag. Teens and air-guitar enthusiasts will love it.

Microsoft Game Studios and Krome Studios are back with a second version of the popular board and DVD game for the Xbox 360 console. You can get the game alone or with four big-button wireless controllers. The controllers are durable, aesthetically pleasing, and ergonomically contoured to the hand.

Game features include new questions, new movies, and new puzzle challenges such as Pixel Flix, where players try to guess the film after watching a low-resolution animation of a famous scene. This was the most fun to watch, and surprisingly hard to guess at times. Box Office Smash also has online play over Xbox LIVE and allows you to create your own avatar to interact with others throughout the game.

More than 250 of the most recent films, including Baby Mama, 27 Dresses, and There's Something About Mary.

There are favorites and cult classics like Slap Shot, Spartacus, and Miracle on 34th Street.

All the Monty Python movies are there as well.

When you look through the titles that are covered in Box Office Smashyou see an impressive list. The best thing for me is that the game covers a lot of decades, evening the playing field for those of us who haven't been to the theater lately.

It's a great idea for kids because it combines two of their favorite things, games and movies. But it's really great for any adult gamer too.

In fact, you really don't have to be a video game fan, you just have to know a bunch about movies. Great for long winter days when you're stuck indoors, or parties with friends. I wasn't the best at it, but we played for a long time and that's what's important.



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