entertainment

Star Wars: Empire at War

If you're a dyed-in-the-wookie-wool Star Wars fanatic, get ready for real-time strategy fun. If not, well...

31 Top Kids' Software Titles

These children's apps are guaranteed to make your kids smarter and more creative while keeping them entertained.

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. 

Redline

Blast your favorite driving music in iTunes while racing against others online. Gun that engine and mash that accelerator - there's a new Mac-native racing game. Ambrosia Software's Redline sports an advanced physics engine that’s finely tuned for a tight driving experience, yet at the same time gives you the feeling that inertia can be a harsh mistress. As you fly around hairpin curves at close to 200 mph, you'll see that Redline’s physics engine was made for drift turning.

The Sims 2: Open for Business

We're finally realizing our Eliza Doolittle dreams by opening a modest flower shop. Many people dream of breaking free from The Man by starting a business. Sims are no different. The Sims 2: Open for Business expansion pack gives your Sims the ability to start and run a business. It's satisfying, but after a while, Open for Business is all about work. And that doesn't sound like - or is - much fun. 

TubeSock

Handy YouTube Video-Converter Software

Mindstorms NXT

Currently patrolling our editorial offices, pestering late editors. LEGO's Mindstorms NXT is 577 pieces of the LEGO goodness that you grew up with, but it's now designed for digitally influenced imaginations.Mindstorms NXT is a robot-building kit. You can build robots with arms, legs, claws, wheels, and more, but the core of the Mindstorms NXT kit is the Intelligent Brick, which holds programs that are used to make your robot perform. The Brick has connectors so you can attach robot parts to it, four sensors (light, sound, touch, and ultrasonic) to help your robot react, and three servomotors for movement.