Ready to play the shopping game?
Finding the perfect gift for the gamer on your holiday list this year won't take any more effort than going to the local video-game outlet, closing your eyes, spinning around and pointing. Chances are, you'll end up with something worth wrapping up. This holiday, the only problem with finding good games remains choosing among the many options. Here are some ideas:
"Mass Effect", Xbox 360, $59.99, M for Mature
If you wanted to create a game that could make George Lucas jealous, this would be it. An interactive space opera with loads of action, this title combines stories and emotion with pitched battles and flashy effects.
"Super Mario Galaxy", Wii, $49.99, E for Everyone
Nintendo doesn't release a new Mario game often. When it does, the quality shines through. This new adventure is no exception. Weird, wonderful and full of unexpected challenges, "Galaxy" offers a universe of fun.
"The Orange Box", Xbox 360 and PS3, $59.99; PC $49.99,
M for Mature
Even if this weren't one of the most entertaining products of the year, it would still be the best value. Bundling five separate games, including reissued "Half-Life" titles, an online team-based combat title called "Team Fortress 2," and the peculiar and cutting-edge "Portal," this is one box that every gamer should have under his or her tree.
"Assassin's Creed", Xbox 360 and PS3, $59.99, M for Mature
In this game's detailed medieval world that feels almost alive, the player takes on the role of a righteous assassin who has so many nooks, crannies and rooftops to explore that looking around can get in the way of taking out the bad guys.
"The Simpsons Game", Xbox 360, $59.99, T for Teen
Maybe the movie didn't live up to the reputation of the television series. The new game, however, provides enough challenge and goofy satire to keep kids and their parents amused for days.
"Beautiful Katamari", Xbox 360, $39.99, E for Everyone
The third game in this idiosyncratic series once again asks players to roll up giant balls of junk in a surreal world. This time around, the title takes advantage of the 360's ample graphic power to pile up more of the same good-natured fun.?
"Skate", Xbox 360 and PS3, $59.99, T for Teen
Skill, rather than button combos, propels your board and your skater across this expansive urban playground. Tony Hawk, watch out.
"Eye of Judgment", PS3, $69.99, T for Teen
Toss collectible cards on the game mat, and the PlayStation 3 will bring creatures to life on the screen. Through the magic of the included camera peripheral, this hybrid card/video game offers the jaded gamer a unique twist.
?"Guitar Hero 3", Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii; $59.99 for game only, bundles $79.99 and up, depending on platform, T for Teen
Pick up the guitar-shaped controller and strum along to the library of rock hits. Everyone has dreamed of becoming a rock star, and "Guitar Hero" remains the closest most of us will ever get.
"Rock Band", Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2, $159.99 and up, depending on platform, T for Teen
When playing the guitar isn't enough to scratch your rock itch, how about adding vocals and drums? "Rock Band" bundles a guitar, a microphone and a drum kit, allowing up to four players to jam or argue, just like a real band.
"Buzz! The Mega Quiz Bundle", PS2, $39.99, E for Everyone
Listen to quiz questions, buzz in with a big red button, and answer those questions for points. This age-old television format makes its way to the gaming console with a simple yet satisfying party game.
"Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor DVD Game",
DVD, $24.95, E for Everyone
Set aside your PlayStation and PC. This game works with nothing more than a DVD player, a remote control and the desire to solve a mystery. Who says video games require a big investment to enjoy an evening of exploration, mystery and excitement?
"Sherlock Holmes: Awakened for PC", PC, $29.99
M for Mature
Take the world's foremost detective and drop him in the horror world of H.P. Lovecraft, and you have the makings of a fascinating literary mash-up. It's up to Holmes to stop interdimensional terror by following the clues.
?"Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga", Xbox 360, PS2 and Wii, $49.99, E for Everyone
Who would have thought the marriage of Legos and "Star Wars" would amount to anything more than a short-term gimmick to sell toys? Be that as it may, the latest installment of this video-game franchise gives fans of toys and science-fiction pulp the chance to relive memorable moments from the films and the toy chest.
"Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games", Wii, $49.99,
E for Everyone
Mario. Sonic. Olympics. Minigames. The combination appeals from the very beginning. And even though it takes a bit of time to get into the various events included on the disc, once you do, the game will get you off the couch and moving around the living room.