Descent into ‘Madness’

My cat died. And most of my friends just got the news they’ll be laid off from work this week. So bear with me while I get grumpy about a slate of adequate sports games that fail to distract my mourning heart.

I don’t understand the appeal of “NCAA March Madness ’08.” I don’t know why sports fans want to play as measly college basketball kids when they could instead be playing as big, powerful pros.

The forwards are so small, I think I could beat them up, or at least scare them with mean words. Worse, everyone dribbles and maneuvers slower than in pro games. I want athletes to move fast, like they’re on fire. These guys are lukewarm, like the water Jazzmine used to drink. Oh, Jazzmine.

Fortunately, this annual collegiate outing from EA Sports comes with all the teams from the main university systems. If you’re itching to see an exact duplicate of the Thomas & Mack Center, you’re in luck.

“Madness” also improves on ball handling and shooting ease, compared to previous EA college games.

Meanwhile, 2K Sports’ “College Hoops NCAA 2K8” makes it harder to drive the paint. I get sick of taking shots from the perimeter.

On the other hand, “Hoops” comes with reams of college teams, and it’s smoother and sweeter than “Madness.”

If you want fun, there’s more of that inside “FIFA Soccer ’08.” “FIFA” gets better every year, and this go-round improves on its tremendous feel of play, set in gorgeously drawn soccer stadiums.

The ball handling is an itsy-bitsy bit better than ever. Full disclosure: I still stink at soccer games. The genre hits my blind spot, maybe because when I was a kid, I quit soccer after five minutes. I am not a fan of getting kicked in the shin.

Since none of these games could get my mind off Jazzmine, I thought, “Oh, maybe it would be nice to play a Wii game where I get to swing the Wii wand. Get some aggression out.”

But “MLB Power Pros” doesn’t let me swing the wand. I have to press buttons on the hand controller, as if I were playing it on the ancient PS 2. What a waste of Wii potential.

This isn’t to say “Power Pros” is bad. You might like it, if you’re looking for a cute game where all the players from real life are represented by Lego-like creatures, complete with real players’ attributes, minus growth hormones.

Most impressive, your favorite pitchers wind up just like the real thing, even though they’re wobbly like Weebles. And if your favorite real-life batter has a furry bearded face, he does here, too.

“Power Pros” is sort of difficult. So be careful, casual gamers. This one’s not for you. It’s for your boyfriend who memorizes every statistic of every player on his fantasy baseball team.

And there you go. I’m sad. These aren’t diversions for me. But all these games have moments of greatness for gamers who dig toy baseball players, young college basketball players and soccer.

Excuse me now while I go shoot Nazis in the head in “Call of Duty 4.”

(“NCAA March Madness ’08” retails for $50 for Xbox 360 and PS 3, $30 for PS 2 — Plays fun enough. Looks very good. Moderately challenging. Rated “E.” Three stars.)

(“College Hoops NCAA 2K8” retails for $50 for Xbox 360 and PS 3, $30 for PS 2 — Plays fun enough. Looks very good. Moderately challenging. Rated “E.” Three stars out of four.)

(“FIFA Soccer ’08” retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for Wii, $40 for PS 2, PSP, $30 for DS — Plays fun. Looks great. Challenging. Rated “E.” Three and one-half stars.)

(“MLB Power Pros” retails for $40 for Wii, $30 for PS 2 — Plays fun enough, despite the lack of Wii wand interactivity. Looks good. Challenging. Rated “E.” Three stars.)


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