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SORE THUMBS: WHAT’S NEW IN VIDEO GAMING

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: PHANTOM HOURGLASS (E)

Rating: *****

Nintendo Nintendo DS

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a true Nintendo console until it offers a Zelda game, so the release of Phantom Hourglass is a belated rite of passage for the DS. And as with all rites of passage, you emerge on the other side all grown up, and the DS has certainly done that. The Nintendo DS, with its innovative touch-screen interface, has shined in the last couple years primarily with an assortment of mini-game titles, but Zelda proves at last that any genre of game can work with a brush and tap of the stylus.

In Phantom Hourglass, you drag the stylus where you want Link to go, you tap where you want him to swing his sword, you draw patterns on doors to open them and you trace a path across the map screen to where you want Link to sail his little boat. The controls are almost exclusively mapped to the touch-screen, and it works beautifully. The story picks up where GameCube’s Windwaker left off, with our intrepid, green tunic-clad hero sailing with Tetra and her pirates across an ocean high above the land of Hyrule, and all of it is rendered in the same stylized, cel-shaded graphics as Windwaker. The combat, plot and puzzles are pure Zelda, and when it comes to video games, there’s no endorsement better than that.

SPIDER-MAN: FRIEND OR FOE (E10+)

Rating: ***

Activision Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2

After a string of movie-related Spider-Man games, Spidey’s finally getting back to his roots, with a cartoony art style and a series of smartass quips. Courtesy of a convoluted storyline, this beat’em-up has the webslinger fighting alongside some of his most famous adversaries, and you can switch control between them on the fly. However, since the titular man-bug handles better than the other characters, there isn’t really a need to switch.

MY SIMS (E)

Rating: ***

Electronic Arts Wii

Though this is clearly a dumbing down of the Sims franchise for younger Wii users, My Sims dumps a lot of the series’ most mind-numbing conventions. You no longer have to worry about going to the bathroom or work—thus eliminating the risk of wetting your pants and then not having money for new ones. Hardcore Sims fans are likely to miss the micromanagement, but fans of lighthearted, cutesy life simulations like Animal Crossing will love it.

NAMCO MUSEUM DS (E)

Rating: ***

Namco Bandai Nintendo DS

Namco’s latest hit-and-miss compilation works best if you don’t mind holding the DS like a book. Turned on its side, the DS screen is in just the right proportions to accommodate the arcade classics from Pac-Man’s heyday. But games like Dig Dug II are best enjoyed with the DS closed and turned off. Not every game is a classic just because it’s old.

When Las Vegas Weekly contributor Matthew Scott Hunter realized his career as a lab technician was seriously interfering with his gaming, he pink-slipped himself into a successful career as a freelance writer. Bug the hell out of him at saxmorshin@hotmail.com

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