Let’s start with Tiger Woods, since he’s all anyone wants to talk about suddenly. Aside from his adultery/the media’s freakout, his video game was one of the best of 2009. Sadly, Tiger doesn’t meet girls in the game.
You’ll find Tiger in my Top 10 Video Games list for 2009, a very good year, creatively.
10. “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” by Rockstar for Nintendo DS; rated “M” — In this fun if morally bankrupt “GTA” experience, you kill people, hijack cars, deal drugs … same old, same old, but executed nicely.
9. “Brutal Legend” by EA for Xbox 360 and PS 3; rated “M” — You play as a roadie (voiced excellently by Jack Black) who slips into a fantasy land where you drive hot rods across vast fields, and kill baddies with an ax and a guitar, accompanied by Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford and other metal heroes. Crazy!
8. “Wet” by Bethesda for Xbox 360 and PS 3; rated “M” — It looks and plays like a Tarantino film (sword play and gritty cinematography) mixed with Lara Croft (jumping and pole-swinging).
7. “The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena” by Atari for Xbox 360 and PS 3; rated “M” — Vin Diesel is back in this first person, stealthy action-adventure. Half of it is an upgrade of 2004’s “Escape from Butcher Bay.” The rest is all new spaceship action; shimmying ledges and ladders, and shooting idiots.
6. “Scribblenauts” by Warner Home Video Games for DS; rated “E 10+” — This was maybe the most groundbreaking game of 2009. You write words like “god” and “TNT,” and god and TNT appear on screen. Tens of thousands of words are in the database. Write words, those objects appear, then interact. Amazing.
5. “Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’10” by EA for Wii, Xbox 360, PS 3, PSP, PS 2; rated “E” — Insanely addicting golfing.
4. “The Saboteur” by EA for Xbox 360, PS 3 and PC; rated “M” — The best “GTA” rip-off of 2009 is a fantasy set in Nazi-controlled Paris. You get great guns and blow up zeppelins with rocket launchers.
3. “Afro Samurai” by Namco Bandai’s Surge for Xbox 360 and PS 3; rated “M” — The sword fighting is above-average. But the astonishing look, feel and sound are beautiful art forms, narrated with attitude by Samuel L. Jackson, set in a silky mood of American anime.
2. “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” by Sony for PS 3; rated “T” — Play as an Indiana Jones-type in this beautiful shooting-and-climbing game, featuring a satisfying story line featuring quirky twists, tongue-in-cheek cinema scenes, and clever dialogue delivered by perfectly cast actors.
1. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” by Activision for Xbox 360 and PS 3; rated “M” — The solo mission is quite good, but the online shooting is the most addictive and realistic in years (fantastic “balance” in 14 modes and 16 maps). The new cooperative mode called “overview” is groundbreaking.
Oh, and I’m flawed: Originally I gave “Wet” just three out of four stars, and “Afro Samurai” and “The Saboteur” three and one-half stars. Clearly, I should have given them four stars since they’ve stuck with me.
(“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” by Activision retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 — Plays most fun as an online first-person shooter, or a cooperative game, but is too short as an offline solo campaign. Looks fantastic. Challenging. Rated “M” for blood, drug reference, intense violence and language. Four stars out of four.)
Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@ reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.NEW IN STORES
“Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers” (Square Enix) is an action-adventure of combat and magic set 1,000 years after 2003’s “Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles.”
You play as a blond-haired, blue-eyed magical “crystal bearer” guy, escorting a ship for a tribe. Then the ship gets attacked by monsters, and you embark on an adventure of battles to save the world.
This is one of those titles that will seem familiar to longtime fantasy-land gamers. In addition to outright fighting with magic and weapons, there’s a kingdom, weird-looking monsters, weird-looking villain guys, bikini-clad Japanese-inspired girls, jungles, castles, dragons, and terrain that goes from snow to jungles to trains to water bodies.
The game retails for $45 for Wii. It’s rated “T” for alcohol reference, crude humor, fantasy violence, mild language and suggestive themes.
“Learn Chess” and “Learn Geography” (Dreamcatcher) are the latest installments of a series that previously produced “Learn Math.”
These are hand-held DS games that attempt to deliver exactly what they sound like: lessons. There are three modes to learn and retain information — exercises, training/learning and minigames.
In “Geography,” you put together maps, name countries, and take on timed quizzes. In “Chess,” you learn the rules and strategies. “Learn Science” is an upcoming game without a release date yet.
The Tuesday releases, “Chess” and “Geography,” retail for $20 each. They’re rated “E.”
— By DOUG ELFMAN