The Sims 2 Pets Expansion Pack (PC) [Electronic Arts - $24.99 at Amazon]
There are plenty of gamers looking for something a little less frantic than war games and shmups, and what better way to celebrate the holidays than to, say, buy a new kitty cat for the one you love? What’s even better is that a SimKitty won’t give you hives, or rip your curtains apart, or breed with a stray, though the same can’t necessarily be said for your poor SimOwners. Pets is a worthy Sims 2 expansion pack, one that takes an awful lot of time in figuring out how to make time for the new inhabitants of your SimHome. Just, whatever you do, don’t kick your chihuahua. You may think it’ll make you feel better, but it doesn’t. [Amazon]
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Kubricks [Rockstar Games - $35.99]
The mere existence of a product like this is bound to have you feeling warm and fuzzy for the holidays. Have you ever seen a “Kubrick”? It’s like a little posable Lego dude, painted up to look like a given character. Medicom Toys worked with Rockstar on these, and, well, you almost have to see them to believe them. Of course, Tommy Vercetti is bound to be a popular figure, but even more popular will be one Ms. Candi Suxx, the adult film star here given endowments worthy of Picasso. If your target gamer has every game he or she could ever want, if there’s no peripheral that must be had, if the Playstation 3 is hopelessly sold out, well… think of these Kubricks as an investment—maybe by next year they’ll be going for exorbitant prices on EBay. Besides, the fully-posable nature of the figures means that you’re only a step away from modeling Hot Coffee, Vice City-style… and who wouldn’t want that? [Rockstar Games]
If you need a gift for your gamer that’s going to keep permanent butt-prints from forming in your favorite living room furniture, a portable gaming system is doubtless the way to go. It’s hard to deny the momentum that the Nintendo DS is carrying with it at this point, but there’s a good reason for that: Nintendo knows how to adapt. Nintendo has not tried to force their consumers to embrace new technologies (Come on, Sony, UMD? You can do better than that.) or pay out the ear for their portable gaming. Instead, they took the Game Boy Advance, added an extra screen, incorporated a stylus, and came up with the perfect little system for the Palm generation. Innovative game designers are just now starting to figure out how to take advantage of that second screen and the stylus, with inventive entries in the portable gaming canon like Elite Beat Agents, Gunpey, and the ever-entertaining Trauma Center giving the system a unique feel that’s utterly appealing. Plus, is there a better way to kill five minutes than WarioWare: Touched? [Amazon]
Roboreptile Robotic Reptile [WoeWee International Ltd. - $99.99]
This is a kind of freaky beastie boy / grrr grrrl toy in that it doesn’t always do what you expect—or demand—of it. That must be the “fiery personality” mentioned in the press sheet. I tell it to leap back on its hind legs, it snarls at me, takes a few menacing steps forward, and then leaps back on its hind legs; I tell it to “feed” and it sometimes roars, sometimes squeals, but always makes this funny little bone crunching sound while “eating”, and then, quite of its own accord, it may (or may not) waggle its tail and shake its head, clearly “happy” with the imaginary, bloody meal just imaginarily ingested. Sometimes I tell it to eat, but it refuses—with a snarl. Roboreptile is simultaneously sophisticated in its behaviors, and with its sensors that will help it back out from under a sofa, but also clumsy, in that it’ll whack its head around a bit, before it figures out how to get out from under a narrow plant stand.
Roboreptile is about two feet in length—that’s the size of my cat, stretched out—a cat that, to my perverse glee, Roboreptile will stalk with little prompting. One drawback: it can’t leap up on the bed after the cat. It can, however, throw what looks like a tantrum that it can’t leap up on the bed, flinging its long head and tail about and screeching. So perhaps you can image that if Roboreptile doesn’t want to eat, you shouldn’t try to make it eat. And if you haven’t “fed” it in a while, don’t expect it to cooperate with your remote controlled demands until its eaten. And that unpredictable “sass”, if you will, is what really makes this a cool toy. Set the controls down and walk away; you’ll hear it snapping and growling, raring and lunging, roaming about of its own accord.
The Roboreptile is expensive at $100; as demanding of your wallet as it is demanding of your attention when it’s turned on. But it’s so freaky cool. [Amazon]
To endorse one of the next-gen systems this holiday season would be damn near pointless—so much has been written about the Wii, Playstation 3, and even the XBox 360 that it’s nigh impossible at this point to write anything that hasn’t yet been said. Tech-junkies want the PS3, casual and family gamers want a Wii, and then, there’s a quiet faction of gamers sitting back and smiling while people fight over the two flavors of the month, content in their belief that the XBox 360 will outshine the other two in good time. The first sign of such dominance? None other than Gears of War, the end result of what can happen when a system is given a year-long head start over its primary competitors. Gears of War simply feels like everything a next-generation title should, from the intricacy of the graphics to the brilliantly-designed cooperative play mode to the elements of horror that permeate every single byte, it feels like more than just a game. Quite simply, it’s exactly what “next-gen” should be. [Amazon]