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SORE THUMBS: WHAT’S NEW IN VIDEO GAMING

BEAUTIFUL KATAMARI (E)

Rating: ***1/2

Namco Bandai

Xbox 360

So the King of All Cosmos has such a powerful backhand, he’s actually managed to rip a hole in the space-time continuum with a tennis ball. This newly formed black hole has sucked in all sorts of celestial bodies, and it’s up to the Prince of All Cosmos to create new stars. What are stars made of? Katamaris wrapped in a whole lot of junk. Of course, you’ll have to roll these katamaris yourself, first by gathering random items in neighborhoods, then, as your katamari grows, gathering whole neighborhoods, then whole cities, and eventually, entire continents.

If it sounds like I’ve completely lost my mind, then you’ve probably never played Katamari Damacy or its sequels. But to those who have experienced the ineffable joy of rolling giant balls of stuff, this should all sound familiar—perhaps too familiar. As this bizarre series makes the jump to Xbox 360, its biggest problem is a lack of innovation. It’s the same gameplay, cooperative and competitive modes, and PS2-era graphics we’ve seen before. This katamari is still wrapped in a winning formula, but it might consider rolling over a new idea or two.

STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT: RENEGADE SQUADRON (T)

Rating: ***1/2

LucasArts

PlayStation Portable

The Battlefront games let you know what it’s like to be a bit player in the Star Wars universe. When your name’s not in the credits, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be bantha fodder. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun dying over and over in galactic multiplayer skirmishes. It’s almost as fun as blasting Ewoks. Unlike its predecessor, Renegade Squadron tries to incorporate a single-player campaign, but the lame story actually makes Phantom Menace look good.

SYPHON FILTER: LOGAN’S SHADOW (T)

Rating: ****

Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation Portable

The once moribund Syphon Filter series has found new life on PSP, where it plays like a really stupid, big budget action movie with awesome battle scenes. The convoluted storylines are just comprehensible enough for you to realize how ridiculous they are, but it doesn’t matter when you’re popping up from behind crates to score repeated headshots. And with extras like a frantic multiplayer and a preview for an upcoming spin-off game to round out the package, Gabe’s latest mission is one of the best you’ll find on PSP.

CHIBI-ROBO: PARK PATROL (E)

Rating: ****

Nintendo

Nintendo DS

The original Chibi-Robo for GameCube was about as exciting as vacuuming your house when the cord on your vacuum cleaner doesn’t quite reach as far as it needs to. The DS version, which has your diminutive robot cleaning a park rather than a house, employs a lot of the original game’s conventions, but implements them better. Quirky characters, vibrant colors and a tremendous sense of scale make this a charming little eco-adventure.

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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