'NEED FOR SPEED CARBON'
(EA Games) for Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, PSP, PS2, Xbox, DS
If you've kept up with the Need For Speed franchise, you will feel right at home, as "Carbon" picks up where the last game ended. But as with all the games, you will spend your time tricking out your car and engaging in street races and high-speed pursuits in the name of glory.
You don't have to race alone, however -- in "Carbon" you get sidekick drivers to run interference or pull others tricks during races to help you win. There's plenty of depth to the races themselves, whether you are dong standard time-based races or going against a boss in order to overtake his turf.
"Carbon" is a solid and enjoyable game on any of the platforms, but its lacks punch on the Wii because the controls don't work as well as they should. Game companies need to begin to suit games for the Wii better than some are doing now, because gameplay on the Wii is radically different than on Sony and Microsoft's consoles.
'CASTLEVANIA: PORTRAIT OF RUIN'
(Konami) for DS
The Castlevania franchise is enjoying a nice rebirth, with some excellent new games, both on the consoles and the hand-helds. This has helped breath new life into the vampire-hunting series that was close to extermination since the rise of other like-minded games like "Darkwatch," "Devil May Cry" and so forth.
The story will be new to fans, since the hero(es) do not have the Belmont name, which is so connected to the series. Here you get one hunter who uses force (Jonathan) and another who conjures magic (Charlotte). There is some interesting gameplay to be had here, and although the game limits the amount of touch-screen usage you'll encounter, it's not distressing enough to ruin the experience.
The weapons Jonathan wields are varied and fun; Charlotte is a great teammate, but her magic is limited, because you never end up using some spells. You can level-up each character as you progress, and in Jonathan's case it makes him an unstoppable killing machine. The bright, colorful levels have great detail for a DS game and plenty of contrast to make the game interesting.
What makes "Portrait of Ruin" so rewarding is that it stays true to the franchise's best aspects, but the team format adds a novel twist that does not hurt the game one bit.
'BROTHERS IN ARMS D-DAY'
(Ubisoft) for PSP
Of the many complaints that can be lobbed toward "Brothers In Arms D-Day," perhaps the most important is its almost complete lack of originality. The problem isn't necessarily the theme (although let's face it, this is not the first time we've encountered a WWII-themed first-person shooter). The lack of creativity is more that "D-Day" is pretty much a mash-up of the two previous Brothers In Arms games that were released on the consoles.
It's astounding how almost all of D-Day is stripped right from those two games -- the characters, the storylines, the control schemes or the types of missions you will play. You've got to give it up for the noble attempts at translating a squad-based shooter to the PSP, but it's a failed effort and it's going to take more work to make this concept successful on the hand-held device.
At the very least, the game looks pretty good from a visual standpoint, although there's nothing that separates it from "Medal of Honor," "Call of Duty" or any other WWII franchise. Sadly there is little reason to try out D-Day, unless you want to breeze through it via weekend rental.
Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard