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Classic to Contemporary

So there are three basic genres of rock music, right? There’s classic (Aerosmith), contemporary (Radiohead) and indie (British Sea Power). In a similar way, video games also break down into classic, contemporary and indie formats.

And you can tell a lot about a gamer if you study which genre he or she goes for.

Someone who plays "Atari Classics (Evolved)" for Sony’s hand-held PSP is telling the world she doesn’t care as much for fancy new games, with their high-definition graphics of skull-bashing blood lust. Instead, she’s drawn to the safety and comfort of old-school blips and bleeps.

"Atari Classics (Evolved)" comes with 11 classic arcade titles, and you can unlock 60 more games designed two decades ago for the old Atari 2600 system.

There’s "Asteroids," "Centipede," "Missile Command," "Tempest," "Super Breakout," "Pong" and my favorite, "Battlezone." "Evolved" offers a fine time. But like the best Aerosmith hits, you know this standard by heart.

On the other hand, if you see your best friend playing "Turok," you can imagine this person prefers to sit on the couch and shoot things in the head. In "Turok’s" case, you blast little and big dinosaurs on an outer-space island.

"Turok" games have been around for a while and have seen headier days, just like Radiohead has. But like Radiohead, "Turok" is trying new things to please fans: better graphics and a bigger online adventure.

The story line is a contemporary first-person shooter. You run as a soldier on a crazy planet, which resembles scenes from "Jurassic Park" and "King Kong." Your mission is to kill soldier-minions en route to a big bad guy named Kane, who went nuts with power.

"Turok" is basic fun times, if somewhat repetitive. The coolest parts, offline and online, come with killing things with a knife — grab, then slice a throat (gruesome) — or creating a diversion so dinosaurs kill minions for you.

You are more likely to see me playing "Patapon" for the PSP, just as you’re more likely to see me listening to British Sea Power. Like many indie bands, "Patapon" is pushing creativity into the future, despite being distributed by a major label.

The main characters of "Patapon" (set for release on Feb. 26) are strange little warrior dudes whose torsos are nothing but round, black circles, with one big eyeball in the middle.

You send them walking into dozens of battles against similar-looking dudes, plus dragons and fortresses. As you win each battle with hatchets, arrows, spears and magic, you gain points to grow more warriors out of a tree.

What makes "Patapon" unique and addictive is a lot — the look, sound and game play. Visuals are vibrant and flat, like paper-cut art or sleek graffiti art.

And to make your little guys march, fight and shield themselves, you press a series of buttons as if you were banging different drumheads, on the beat, in sync with music that’s reminiscent of the indie-pop band the Tom Tom Club.

"Patapon" is so fresh to the brain, it takes a few hours to figure out the right moves. It also may pose great challenges to players who can’t keep a beat. And like listening to indie-rock, "Patapon’s" music can sometimes grate on your nerves, but you’re rewarded with the feeling that time keeps on slipping into the future.


("Atari Classics (Evolved)" retails for $20 for PSP — Plays fun but very familiar. Looks OK. Easy to challenging. Rated "E" for mild violence, simulated gambling. Three stars out of four.)

("Turok" retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 — Plays fun, though somewhat repetitive. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated "T" for blood, gore, intense violence, language. Three stars.)

("Patapon" retails for $20 for PSP upon Feb. 26 release — Plays addictively fun. Looks cool. Begins easy, becomes challenging. Rated "E." Four stars.)

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