Games

The Sims Life Stories

Like sands through an hourglass, these are the chapters of your Sims' lives.  Sims fanatics finally get a break from the continuous barrage of expansion packs in the form of The Sims Life Stories, a new stand-alone game for the Sims franchise. While the premise is the same as in other Sims games - you micromanage the lives of virtual people by making sure they eat, sleep, shower, and so on - it also features several changes that give new life to an aging premise. 

FizzBall

You can't miss in FizzBall, especially in kids' mode. FizzBall successfully puts new spin on the Breakout style of game, where the object is to eliminate brick walls with a bouncing ball. As Professor Fizzwizzle, you use a fizzball to capture and save cute little animals that have been abandoned on an island. Using a steampunk-style paddle, the professor swats the fizzball at animals, food, and more, but capturing the animals isn't easy -- numerous obstacles block the fizzball's path.

Tips: Lego Star Wars II

Lego Greedo can't be far away. Feral's Lego Star Wars II ($40, www.feral.co.uk) combines the classic Star Wars universe (from episodes IV to VI) with the lovable style of Lego building blocks, all wrapped up in platform/collection gameplay. Armed with a good blaster and these tips, win the game you will. 

SketchFighter 4000 Alpha

We can't get enough of the graphic style. Explosions and dead enemies leave eraser scuffs on the background. SketchFighter 4000 Alpha brings so much style to an arcade shooter that it almost forgets to pack the substance. Instead of the latest glossy 3D graphics, SketchFighter animates scribbles from a teenager's math homework into a top-down, 2D arcade shooter - and the uneven, scribbled lines are as stunning as they are simple.

Smack Mahjong

In Smack Mahjong, you click matching pairs of tiles to make them disappear. Solitaire and killing time go hand in hand, but we're looking for a new game to help pass those last minutes before quittin' time. We think we found it with Smack Mahjong. The goal is to click on pairs of matching tiles and eliminate them from the board, but you can only select tiles that are free on the left or right. A clock keeps track of your time, so you'll want to work as quickly as possible, but the game doesn't have any sort of leaderboard for bragging rights. 

World of Warcraft - The Burning Crusade


Tease a Blood Elf about her ears? You're just asking for trouble.

 

It's been over two years since World of Warcraft took over the MMORPG world, which means that thousands of gamers have hit the progression ceiling. Finally, the wait for a WOW expansion pack is over - with The Burning Crusade, the feeling of excitement and discovery you felt when you first played WOW is back.

Prey

Remember to look right, left, right again, and then up, before crossing a busy intersection. Prey takes the stagnant first-person shooter genre and literally turns it on its head. This sci-fi alien shooter is loaded with unique environments and situations, such as its vertigo-inducing rotating rooms. While many of its techniques originated in other classic games - think Descent's ambiguous definition of “up” and the ability in Alien vs. Predator to scamper up walls and ceilings—Prey manages to inject them into a fresh, perspective-changing experience.

  Nasha encounters numerous types of sea life, but also fantastical creatures inspired from the sea. As she travels through the corridors and caverns of her underwater world she can manipulate aspects of that world through song. She can do this through a circular tool feature (reminding one of the Neverwinter Nights’ UI toolset). Players click on Nasha, then click on musical notes in different order. This create songs which change Nasha and affect her environment. Each musical note is just a visual image; there is no text associated with the image, so there is no distraction from the rest of the game.

 There's an odd contrdiction here at the Game Developers Conference. There's a obvious Mac presence in the form of people using Macs. It feels like about a third of the crowd here is using a Mac notebook, mostly iBooks and PowerBooks, but there are some MacBooks around. Considering the Mac's small stature in the games market, it's surprising to see this many Macs. At the same time, several people we spoke to are both surprised and disappointed that there aren't more games for the Mac. Some people felt that the introduction of the Intel Mac would open up the Mac as a gaming platform, but the first Intel Mac was released well over a year ago, and we're still waiting for that rush of games we were hoping for. And, of course, we hear over and over again, "I use a Windows box only for work, but I have a Mac at home," or "I would buy a Mac if I didn't have to use a Windows box for work."

Sony unveils a new online virtual world. Ho hum.