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The joys of nation building

Special to The Times

Shh! Don’t tell any of the kids who play Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution, a brilliant cross between Sim City and the classic strategy board game Risk: They might learn something.

The perfect mix of strategy and action, Civilization lets gamers select from one of 16 cultures, each with its own strengths and each with its own leader. (Cleopatra leads the Egyptians, Montezuma the Aztecs, Lincoln the Americans, for example.)

As the game progresses, it’s up to you to manage your civilization’s growth by making decisions such as which science to study, where to station your military and what type of government to use. (As in real life, different forms of governments have their pros and cons. With democracy, for example, citizens get richer quicker but wars are not allowed unless you are provoked.)

Conquering the other civilizations’ capitals is one way to win, but there are others, such as accumulating the most money or starting a United Nations.

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The logical thinking and strategic focus, which force you to use your brain, are disguised with cool graphics and cute action. And the different levels of difficulty will mean replay after replay.

Who knew learning could actually be fun?

Grade: A (awesome!)

Details: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS platforms; $29.99-$59.99; rated Everyone 10+ (alcohol and tobacco reference, mild suggestive themes, violence).

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All but the game is good and funny

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” says Floyd, one of the characters in the party game Hail to the Chimp. After playing the repetitive game and watching the teriffic cut screens, the choice is clear: Until a cheat code is released on the Internet that lets you unlock all the shorts (and we were unsuccessful finding one), select something else.

In the game’s story, the king of the jungle is gone and it’s time for democratic elections to decide his successor. The news network, a fun CNN spoof called GRR, runs a series of hilariously written campaign ads during the main menu screen. And after completion of a level of game play, more great “On Demand” cartoon video footage is released. (Example: A clip from “Orcrah” shows an interview between a dolled-up killer whale and a little rat that looks like James Frey and is apologizing for lying in his book, “A Million Little Feces.” Great stuff.)

Problem is, to see the clips you have to play the game. Lacking any variety save for the backgrounds, the levels all play the same: terribly.

It’s too bad such good comedy is wasted.

Grade: C- (The cut screens? Boffo. The game play? Bunk.)

Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $39.99; rated Teen (alcohol and tobacco reference, crude humor, mild cartoon violence).


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