Game Check

GAME CHECK

December 29, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

THE BEST OF 2005

This year lacked a hyped blockbuster like "Halo 2" - the hype went to the new systems, the PlayStation Portable and the Xbox 360 - but it was still stuffed to the brim with great games. Here are some of the best:

Lumines

(PlayStation Portable)

Lumines may be even better than the perennial Tetris. At heart it's a simple block puzzler - guide clumps of four blocks in two tones, and match them up into two-by-two or larger shapes that are cleared out by a glowing line that moves to the tempo of the game's music. The simplicity is what makes the game, like Tetris, so addictive, and the mesmerizing visuals and memorable, ever-changing soundtrack work with the game play to give Lumines a heck of a hook.

Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2)

Colossus takes the best parts of most action games - boss battles - and uses them as the basis for the entire adventure. The main character systematically weakens and destroys 16 enormous and strangely beautiful beasts for the sake of saving a young girl, but their ponderous majesty makes it feel like the hero's quest may be wrong. There are few titles anywhere with such a haunting and wonderful look, or such a resonant, melancholy quest.

We Katamari (PS2)

Inspired weirdness, thy name is Katamari. You push around a little ball that picks up junk and grows bigger and bigger, gathering larger objects as it increases in size. It's strangely satisfying to roll up a previously unrollable item, and the bright, sometimes psychedelic visuals, oddball humor and catchy music make for an instant all-ages classic.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (Nintendo DS)

The best turn-based strategy game of the year comes in the smallest package. Dual Strike takes good advantage of the DS' two screens, letting players command two separate forces in several of the game's numerous missions. New commanding officers join the old group, bringing with them new specialties and powers, and now pairs of them can take to the battlefield and team up against the Black Hole Army with a selection of new units. But the star is the game play; the smartly designed missions will likely test even strategy buffs.

Burnout Revenge (Xbox)

Take the best parts of every arcade racer and movie car chase, mash them up with excellent graphics, and you get Burnout Revenge. Insanely fast and gleefully chaotic, the game rewards the driver who does the most damage - and what glorious damage it is as demolished cars careen and disintegrate. New maneuvers, like bumping traffic into rivals' paths and blowing up your own car, bolster the series' barely contained high-octane chaos.

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