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Mortal Kombat

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Maybe it was the summer breaks spent in sweltering arcades, or because the original console versions came out in September, one of the hottest months in the Bay Area, but Mortal Kombat always reminds me of summer. The newest installment’s two dimensional perspective and ridiculous gore takes the “klassic” (sorry, I had to) series back to its roots. Its fighting system is approachable enough to learn at a party in-between drinks, while its simple rules and camp sensibilities make it a great, if gruesome, spectator sport. Those looking to dig deeper will find that NetherRealm Studios created a fighting system that is both accessible and robust, making Mortal Kombat a serious contribution to the competitive fighting game scene. Whether you’re looking for a summer fling or a long term relationship, Mortal Kombat will steal your heart and then show it to you. Scott Juster


 
The Quest (iPhone and Palm)


There’s literally no other game series quite like The Quest and its myriad expansion packs. At once brainy and adult, while visually striking and relying on a method of game interaction that involves reading text, challenging problem solving, and character design choices, this RPG is amazingly addictive, and offers superb replayability. The original game was developed by Hungary’s Redshift Games as a next generation of an earlier popular Palm platform game called Legacy. Redshift made its game editor available to The Quest players, and like Legacy before it, a devoted community has formed around the game and created new expansion packs every few months. Most of those are from Zarista Games and each of their additions outdoes the one before. Pick up Quest Gold from the App Store, which includes the base game and several expansions, and be prepared for at least a solid week or more of questing. Undoubtedly, you’ll need tips, but there’s a loyal fan community at catacomber.com to help you along the way. Then pick up all the expansions from Zarista, each around $2.99, and worth every penny. Yeah, I know you should be looking at the waves and breathing in the summer air, but you know you still wanna look at a little screen and play… even on the beach. And that’s something you can do with this thoroughly engaging RPG on your iPhone. Sarah Zupko


 
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PlayStation 2 / PSP)


Despite school being out, some of us do miss friends, teachers, and even a little academic rigor during the dog days of summer. Persona 3 is a perfect antidote for those still looking to get their “school days” fix but in a completely fantastic setting. In this Japanese import, students attend class by day but find their high school transformed into a labyrinthine dungeon by night. While this is an involving dungeon hack, the true charm of the series is the presentation of the students and the complexities of navigating the ever treacherous hallways of teenage social life. You might come for the role playing elements, but you’ll stay for the fascinating relationship simulator that overlays the whole system of the game. Who says you have to leave your school friend behind for summer? You’ll need them if you want to save the world before the school year ends. G. Christopher Williams


 
Tropico 3 (PC / Xbox 360)


In this political and economic simulation, the player takes on the role of El Presidente, the dictator of a Carribbean island called Tropico. Building the infrastructure of a struggling banana republic is the chief interest of the game, albeit a familiar one for the genre. What sets Tropico 3 apart from other sims, though, is its tongue-in-cheek look at Cold War politics and the way that those politics affect your tenuously held beach front property. Constant pressures from various interest groups from Communists to Capitalists, from the Church to the intelligentsia, from the U.S. to the U.S.S.R. will force you to rethink your policies and strategy and prevent a coup before completing each of the missions in the overall campaign. The game never takes itself too seriously, and the soundtrack is full of a host of great Spanish language party tunes that feel right at home in what you hope to make a tropical paradise for the people. G. Christopher Williams


 
Two Summer Boredom-Busters From the Atari Vaults


Around this time of year, magazines and websites usually make lists of the best upcoming games. To them, summer may be all about diving into an intricate puzzle that takes days to complete, but some of us opt for something a little simpler on those ozone action days. Enter PITFALL!, or the superior but lesser known Jungle Hunt. The original and its many offshoots have been released on everything from the Atari 2600 to Playstation 2, but PITFALL! remains endearingly easy. You are Pitfall Harry, an Indiana Jones-esque explorer tasked with collecting treasure from a sunny jungle world by jumping over/avoiding fires, snakes, and sinkholes. It is more fun than it sounds. Jungle Hunt, however, is ten times more fun to play, but it never inspired sequels or an animated series (Pitfall Harry). You can swing on vines, punch out swimming crocodiles, jump over rolling boulders and tiki warriors, and rescue a girl at the end, but all Jungle Hunt ever got was a lawsuit from the estate of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. Such is the fickle world of ‘80s video games. Jessy Krupa




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