Taking fun to an Uncharted land

Because both hands are required for most video games, it’s nearly impossible to eat popcorn while playing.

That causes a problem while experiencing the best game of the year (so far). You see, the movie-style action, white-knuckle excitement and robust visuals in Uncharted 2 Among Thieves would fit better on a big screen in some multiplex than on a TV at home.

Uncharted 2 is ridiculously immersive, so much so that you forget you are controlling the actions of treasure hunter Nathan Drake. From the seamless way the cutscreens hide the loading screens, to the ease of controls, to the story, everything is done right.

The story unfolds in a fractured arc that finds Drake seeking Marco Polo’s missing fleet of ships (and all the wealth contained within). From the first moments of dangling from a crashed train over the edge of a snow-covered cliff, gamers realize they are in for something special (and we defy your pulse not to rise during that intense sequence). Soon, a brilliantly executed story of treachery and betrayal unfolds as Drake begins his quest.

There are multi-player and co-op modes and even a way to tweet during games, another example of the “includes everything but the kitchen sink” approach the makers took to this stunner.


Now if they could just help us with the whole popcorn thing. . . .

Grade: A+ (a masterpiece).

Details: PlayStation 3 platform; $59.99; rated Teen (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence).

It doesn’t rock hard enough

Even though all the elements are there to make it one of the best games ever, Brutal Legend comes up short. Maybe it’s the less-than-brisk pacing of the story. Perhaps it’s the stiff character animations. Or maybe there isn’t enough to do in the vast land in which the story is set. (More driving through the hills? Really?)

One thing it does have plenty of is Jack Black. His character, Eddie Riggs, is impeccably drawn and voiced. His fans will love all the attitude and inflection he brings to the roadie turned rock god.

The other thing Legend has in spades: all the fun and quirkiness of heavy metal music. With cameos from rock stars such as Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford and Lita Ford, and a driving soundtrack with plenty of big hits, the game explores a rock ‘n’ roll fantasy world as Riggs strives to drive evil from the land and become the ultimate metal legend.

It’s too bad that the game itself doesn’t feel so legendary.

Grade: B (should have been brutally awesome).

Details: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms; $59.99; rated Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language, suggestive themes).

Civil war among the superheroes

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 makes perfect use of last year’s Civil War story that enveloped all the heroes in the Marvel Comics universe of comics.

A hero-created disaster strikes a Connecticut town, and the ensuing outrage leads to Congress passing the Hero Registration Act, under which every masked hero is required to disclose his secret identity to the world. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with some heroes and they form an underground movement to overturn the legislation. Voila! A civil war is born.

As with the last version, four heroes of your choosing (selected from an impressive roster) slug it out side by side. Character upgrades (like new moves), combo attacks (like combing two characters’ abilities to clear the battlefield) and plenty of unlockables (like new characters and different costumes) keep the action intense.

Grade: A (a story ripped from the headlines! Well, at least the comic book headlines).

Details: All platforms; $29-59.99; Rated Teen (mild language, violence).

Spore Hero lands but doesn’t sprout

Most games that start off as titles for the PC have a hard time making a successful jump to the mouse-free consoles. Spore Hero is no exception.

While the Wii version is a good stab at the create-and-evolve-a-creature-and-watch-him-conquer excitement the original hit Spore was based on, some of the character creating (the game’s main premise) is made impossibly complicated by the controls.

Grade: B (if only the controls were as creative as the creatures.)

Details: Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS platforms; $29-49.99; Rated: Everyone 10+ (crude humor, mild cartoon violence)

Dashing through a Home Depot

If caulking tiles and mowing lawns is your idea of fun, then Our House Party is the perfect game for you. Gamers race to successfully remodel a house by doing an assortment of home-improvement-themed mini-games. The action is fresh and fun and, as an added bonus, boasts the funniest unintentional comedy we’ve ever seen in a video game.

Naturally, because this game is all about doing it yourself, Home Depot is an in-game sponsor. In between challenges, players can visit a virtual version of the warehouse store to buy special tools to help win future projects. Problem is, to purchase said products, you have to beat the other customers to the last item on the shelf, then be the first to race to the only open check stand to pay, all while avoiding the logjam of other shoppers before time expires.

Lousy service? Small inventory? Angry customers? A hilarious case of art imitating life. Clearly, the people from Home Depot didn’t think this one all the way through.

Grade: B+ (original fun that is off-the-charts funny).

Details: Nintendo Wii platform; $39.99; rated Everyone (animated blood).