Thu, Nov 01, 2007 - Page 14 News List

Video GAME REVIEWS

NY Times news service

Dance, Dance Revolution: Hottest Party
Konami
Nintendo Wii

T he Dance, Dance Revolution series, which challenges energetic dancers to tap their toes on a dance mat to the beat of popular music, has been solid gold for Konami. Numerous DDR titles exist and a new one with a different array of tunes seems to come out every few months.

Newest on the scene is Hottest Party, the first DDR game to boogie onto the Nintendo Wii's virtual dance floor. Unlike other versions of the game, the Wii waltz requires players to move their hands as well as their feet to match the visual clues that pop up on the screen. But it doesn't add much to the experience because the Wii's motion-sensitive controllers are used to capture only basic left and right movements.

The single-player Groove Circuit mode plops a competitor in a series of discos where they must outperform computer dancers to advance. Workout mode encourages gamers to - horror of horrors - break a sweat by dancing until a certain number of calories are burned.

R acing games typically fall in three camps - arcade, simulation and those like the Project Gotham series that try to straddle the line between the two.

Unlike strict sims, which only reward speed, PG races typically encourage style points (called kudos). Sliding around a corner, for example, can pause the clock during a time trial. Kudos points can also be used to unlock more vehicles and tracks.

The most noticeable addition to PGR4 is motorcycles, which race side-by-side with cars and are tough to beat. Though initially a bit more difficult to control, the combination of instant acceleration and easy kudos from popping wheelies make them feel a bit overpowered, especially since they aren't as easy to send careening into a wall when they go buzzing by.

Also new are four beautifully rendered cities - St Petersburg, Quebec City, Shanghai and Macau. These cities feature more hills than the five locations returning from 2005's PGR3 - London, Las Vegas, Tokyo, New York and Germany's tricky Nurburgring track.

Weather - rain, sleet, snow - can affect traction, forcing a more cautious approach. Fog is particularly nasty when it obscures turns and other drivers. Graphically, there's not a slicker looking racing title. It's not just the fantastic cars - the meticulously crafted cities and adoring roadside fans are equally impressive.

Dungeons & Dragons fans speak in reverent tones when discussing the critically acclaimed role-playing titles Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights.

Mask of the Betrayer, an expansion pack for 2006's Neverwinter Nights 2, is more of the same, and that's a good thing. Instead of beginning the adventure as a combat dummy, players can start a new character at level 18 or import their high-level character from NWN 2.

The level cap has been increased to 30, meaning players will eventually have godlike powers at their disposal as they go toe-to-toe with an evil sect known as the Red Wizards of Thay. This is not a game for the uninitiated as the addition of numerous spells, feats, races and classes have the potential to bewilder anyone unaccustomed to the D&D rule set. Familiar annoyances remain, including the camera angle, which, despite new options, feels awkward. And the graphics, while often glorious, can be so blinding when spells start exploding it's hard to keep track of the action. The darker tone of "Betrayer" is realized through a new game mechanic - a spirit meter, which forces players to choose between suppressing a hunger for souls or feasting on them.

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