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Vedio Game Reviews

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Online Chess Kingdoms

Konami

Sony PSP

Chess players don't have much to choose from on today's portable gaming systems. Konami fixes that with the release of Online Chess Kingdoms for the PSP, a fanciful take on one of the world's oldest games.

Those who crave a quick match can choose from five unique sets — Order, Chaos, Magic, Reason and Spirit — duking it out against the CPU or online on a variety of interesting 3-D boards. Taking an opponent's piece triggers a battle animation, which, while initially interesting, can get tiresome. Fortunately, the animations and battle sounds can be turned off.

Chess purists can choose more traditional pieces and play on a 2-D board similar to versions used in chess publications. Four skill levels will prove challenging to all players except the most advanced. Those who have studied chess will face a wily opponent that does not "stick to the book" in openings. Oddly, there is no clock or in-game chess tutorial, which, combined with the fantasy world pieces and boards, would have been a good way to introduce the game of kings to a child. A story mode expands upon the fantasy world setting by pitting the five fantasy armies against one another on a map divided into a grid. Move an army into an enemy square, and you'll have to win a game of chess to conquer it. Online play brings a world of opponents to the table.

Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom

Sony Online Entertainment

PlayStation 3

The latest in the Untold Legends series makes no attempt to be anything more than a visually upgraded version of its hack-and-slash predecessors. By setting the bar so low, it succeeds. But given the hardware and the game's price tag, it could (and should) have been much more. Those familiar with the "role-playing lite" genre will feel right at home playing hero in this oft-told tale. The king of a mystical land has fallen prey to evil, and it's up to your character to slaughter a few thousand evil creatures to set things aright.

Players can choose one of three vanilla character classes — Mage, Warrior and the nimble Scout. Despite outward appearances, the three are similar enough that, once you learn the simple combat and spell-casting scheme, the same button combos work equally well for each. Combat is fluid, and the controls feel responsive, but battles tend to be a letdown. Loot drops are plentiful and include upgrades to weapons, armor and spells, but there are better game options out there. The graphics are merely passable.

At times, characters can get stuck on objects such as boulders. The biggest drawback, other than the repetitive game play, is camera control. Assigned to the right analog stick, it is too easy to accidentally zoom in and out. Once zoomed out, objects such as trees block the player's view of his character. Co-op and online multiplayer adds real value to those who will share the journey with friends — up to four players can join the slaughter at once.

Star Trek: Legacy

Bethesda Softworks

PC, Xbox 360

"Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise?" The words can send chills up the spines of Trekkies throughout the solar system. With each Star Trek game release, these same Trekkies hold their breath and hope the majesty of Gene Roddenberry's classic science fiction TV show can somehow be recaptured.

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