Game Time: "Mario Party 9" and "Silent Hill: Downpour"


Mario Party 9 Wii$49.99/March 11Everyone's favorite plumber is back with a gaggle of wacky characters as they run, jump and blast their way through the wildest competition in video game history. "Mario Party 9" continues the beloved series by combining all the family-friendly fun of a good old-fashioned board game with fast- paced minigames. As with the titles that have come before it, ultimate glory goes to the player or team who can collect the most stars before the predetermined end of the game.

"Mario Party 9" boasts plenty of new features and updates that create a fresh feel for the returning player and a perfectly polished experience for the eager newcomer. Where past versions had competitors ending their games after a specified number of rounds, only to have their stars counted and a winner determined, players will now face a boss battle. In this final all-play round, the characters attempt to defeat superpowered enemies such as Bowser and King Boo while increasing the score in the process. Also new to the series are special vehicles. These colorful carts offer new and interesting ways to move across the map while keeping everyone involved in the action at the same time.

Media Link: The video game-themed adventure "Level Up" airs Thursdays and Fridays on Cartoon Network.

Silent Hill: Downpour X360, PS3/$59.99/March 13Your average tourist may view the sleepy and slightly creepy town of Silent Hill as one of the world's worst vacation destinations, but for convict Murphy Pendleton, it ranks higher than his prison cell. His opportunity to escape comes in the form of a bus accident just outside the town, and not one to question fate, he makes a run for it. What follows is a story filled to overflowing with warped realities, strange creatures and unsettling little girls who scamper about the landscape, giggling.

The "Silent Hill" franchise has never been known for piling on new features. Instead, each game evolves by telling a new tale, with new characters and updated sights and sounds. This becomes readily apparent as you freely wander the beautifully rendered town as the plot slowly builds around you. Much like the horror movies that inspired it, "Silent Hill: Downpour" features music that intensifies the atmosphere, creating a feeling of dread every step of the way.

The story is more than enough to coax horror fans into purchasing "Silent Hill: Downpour," but the gameplay, graphics and score will have gamers cheering while shuddering in fear.

Media Link: "The Rite" airs Wednesday, March 14, on HBO.

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