If there are some youngsters on your shopping list, you may be looking for a videogame or two to brighten their holiday morning.
Allow me to offer some assistance.
At the top of my list would be "Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus," from Sucker Punch and Sony for PlayStation 2.
This is a delightful 3D action-adventure game, featuring a heartwarming, bandit-mask-wearing raccoon who's in business to steal from some evil chaps known as the "Fiendish Five."
The quintet have boosted Sly's legacy -- a family how-to book on burglary called the "Thievius Raccoonus" -- and carved it into five pieces.
Sly's goal is to slip into the heavily guarded hide-outs of the flaky five and steal back the portions of the book. He handles the chore with aplomb, besting the bad guy's armies of flunkies, solving puzzles and leaping with abandon.
There are no huge surprises in the game, but even the routine can be messed up if you're not paying attention. In this case, the folks at Sucker Punch did their homework. Everything Sly does, from shooting to platforming to driving, works smoothly and with no glitches.
It's a great game for children, although really young ones may have some trouble. On the other hand, it offers enough challenge to keep adults interested.
Graphics get an A. The cartoon drawings are colorful, with beautifully smooth animation and plenty of detail.
Sound is another A. The voice acting and the bright, cheerful tunes are excellent.
Control gets a B+. Everything works just as it should, aside from some occasionally touchy jumping.
Give Sly an A.
Another nice package is Sega's "Sonic Mega Collection." That it appears for Nintendo's GameCube is just another delicious bit of irony in the ever-changing world of videogames.
The collection offers seven titles, ranging from the 1991 classic "Sonic the Hedgehog" to the 1996 title, "Sonic 3D Blast." In between, you'll find such old favorites as "Sonic the Hedgehog 2," Sonic the Hedgehog 3," "Sonic and Knuckles," "Sonic Spinball" and "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine."
These were Genesis titles, and thus are 16-bit, 2D side-scrollers long outdated by progress and processing power. They've been spruced up and look as sharp as they can, given the material they were working with.
Colors don't rival current palettes, and the simplistic controls of yesteryear respond well to their translation to the GameCube controller.
Just because these games weren't developed yesterday doesn't mean they aren't fun to play, both on their own merit and as an educational tool (basically a history lesson) in gaming's past.
If your Genesis is currently residing in a landfill, the "Sonic" collection is a great way to connect with your past.
Give the package a B-.
"Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus" and "Sonic Mega Collection" are both rated E, for ages 6 and up.
On The Net:
You can contact William Schiffmann at bschiffmannap.org