Game Check


September 14, 2006|By [TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES]

Ninety-Nine Nights


[Xbox 360] Rated 17 and older

Whatever your tastes in video games, Ninety-Nine Nights is not likely to keep you as busy as the title suggests. It was more like Two-and-a-Half Evenings.

And, if you were unfamiliar with the concept of "button mashing" before playing this game, you'll be an expert afterward. That's because, while you may slay thousands of orcs, goblins and other creatures in the game, you'll do so mostly by constantly jamming one or two buttons.

The story begins with only one playable character, a 17-year-old girl named Inphyy, a member of the Temple Knights and wielder of one particularly hefty broadsword. As you progress through the game with Inphyy, you'll unlock access to other characters with various weaponry and abilities. Playing as each will give you differing perspectives of game events, showing how their lives intersect.

Unfortunately, the concept sounds grander than the execution. At the start of each mission, you can choose the kind of units that will accompany you into battle: infantry, heavy infantry, pikemen or archers. One group will be on your left flank, the other on your right, and you can order them to attack or defend.

However, once you're in battle, they become fairly useless. They mainly stay together in clumps, and for every one or two enemies they vanquish, your character will have killed ten times as many.

While fighting, you'll charge a meter that, once full, lets you unleash a super attack, which deals even greater damage and only serves to make your allies even more useless.

As a further indignity, there's not even an online multiplayer option in the game.

Texas Hold 'em


[Xbox 360 Live Arcade] Rated 13 and older

It's hard to make a great poker game that doesn't involve real money, but the new downloadable Texas Hold 'em title for Xbox 360 comes pretty close. Online play, the core of the game, is solid. And Microsoft has a potential ace up its sleeve later this year for this title.

There are several multiplayer and single-player modes, but the single player is really just practice for the online stuff. While you don't gamble for cash, you can accumulate a virtual bankroll that eventually allows you to buy into bigger tournaments.

Of course, there are plenty of idiots online who go all in at every opportunity (most of them seem to be under the age of 10, despite the age rating). But the gameplay is solid. And unlike the single-player mode, where the computer never bluffs, there's much more strategy online.

The coolest feature isn't available yet, though. When Microsoft releases its Web camera for the 360 later this year, Texas Hold 'em will support it, so you can actually see your opponents. It will be interesting to see how many online poker studs can actually keep a straight face.

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