ANIMAL CROSSING: CITY FOLK (Nintendo Wii) Rating: NNN
Animal Crossing is one of those strangely addictive games where you do nothing but collect things - shells, fish, insects, furniture. There's plenty to get obsessive-compulsive over. At its core, this version is no different than its DS and GameCube predecessors, so if you didn't like those, stay away.
However, new features provide something fresh to those who enjoyed listening to KK Slider for hours on end and have their full set of golden tools. Voice interaction via Wii Speak and the trade of goods in the auction house are the biggest additions.
As well, the Suitcase feature allows you to port your character and all his or her worldly goods from the DS version of the game released a few years ago to the new Wii version. So, instead of starting anew, you can be that much closer to paying off your mortgage to Nook and expanding your house. And displaying your shell collection. And your fossils. And insects. And, if you've got any room left, your furniture!
Available for $49.99 at Future Shop (10 Dundas West), 416-971-5377.
LITTLE BIG PLANET (PlayStation 3) Rating: NNNN
Sackboy will win your heart as the side-scrolling Little Big Planet makes a place in your game library. The variety of levels appeals to all ages but recalls the WarioWare scenarios - random micro-vignettes strung together in a storyline that I found a bit wanting. The level editor is great - it reminds me of the classic The Way Things Work, with physics and mechanisms involved.
Freedom and fun flow through all aspects of the game. Though this is a platformer game, the focus is more on creativity and imagination. Between customizing your Sackboy (or Sackgirl) and creating the most artistic and sadistic levels, it'll keep gamers occupied for a long time.
Available for $59.99 at Best Buy (65 Dundas West), 416-642-8321.
VALKYRIA CHRONICLES (PlayStation 3) Rating: NNNN
Scanning the title, I originally mistook this for a sequel to another game that I enjoyed, Valkyrie Profile. But this is a far different genre, a finely crafted tactics/action/RPG game that borrows from the best and makes it its own.
The mix of pseudo-real-time action and turn-based tactics with the familiar rock-paper-scissors approach is effective. The pale palette of watercolour-washed graphics contrasts with the violence of the unfolding battle. I found myself ensconced in this alternate 1930s European world, defending my homeland against the invading Empire.
This is probably the best game I've played on the PS3, even if it does have a few too many cut scenes. It's a well-polished gem that targets tactics-lovers and action-adventurers.
Available for $69.99 at Future Shop (10 Dundas West), 416-971-5377.
YOU'RE IN THE MOVIES (Xbox 360) Rating: NN
At first glance, this looks like the first Xbox 360 game to make good use of the Vision cam. As it turns out, the only great thing on offer is the Vision cam bundled with it.
The premise is that you and some friends star in a movie. Scenes are captured as each player acts out a reaction or participates in a mini-game. Then clips from each player's performances are embedded in a movie trailer. Sounds like fun, but things fall apart quickly.
Setting up the camera is a challenge. You need a lot space, a plain backdrop and even lighting - things not often found in your average living room. Players must wear clothing that contrasts with the background. Even in ideal settings, you end up with jagged edges and look more like a blob than a person.
The mini-games don't map the camera movements to the action very well, and the novelty of seeing yourself onscreen wears off once it's clear that the images aren't going to get any better. Aspiring actors should skip this audition.
Available for $69.99 at Best Buy (65 Dundas West), 416-642-8321.