Guitar Hero: World Tour

November 18, 2008

Microsoft Xbox 360, also for Sony PlayStation 3, PS2, Nintendo Wii. Rated Teen. Retail $59.99; other versions $49.99 to $59.99 (game only)****

Guitar Hero was left playing catch-up last year when Rock Band introduced drums and vocals into the music-game mix. Well, consider Guitar Hero caught up, and then some.

The Tour package includes an updated guitar (larger and with a touch-sensitive secondary fret pad), its own drum set (with three drum pads, a bass drum pedal and two "cymbals") and a microphone. The game is compatible with Rock Band instruments and vice versa.

World Tour has an excellent new feature: its song-editing mode, in which players can create tunes with guitar, bass, drum and keyboard parts, and share them online.

World Tour and Rock Band 2 have similar game play and an extensive selection of songs, both on the disc and for download. Each has online and offline modes, group play for bands, and a career mode that unlocks songs, venues and other goodies.

Also new: BioShock now is just as BioShock was a year ago: It's one of the best games around, though it has a slightly unsatisfying endgame. Exclusive downloadable levels are planned for release eventually, for a fee.

The graphics, sound, music, game play and most of the story are fantastic. Players control a nameless protagonist as he explores the ruined halls of the once-beautiful underwater city of Rapture, slowly uncovering the secrets behind its fall. (*** 1/2 ) Sony PlayStation 3; $59.99. Age rating: Mature.

Secret of Mana is an excellent blend of exploration and action. Players start out as a boy who's banished from his village after pulling an enchanted sword from a stone; later he'll meet two companions. Players can control these characters at will, and a second or third player can join in. (*** 1/2 ) Nintendo Wii (Virtual Console download); $8 (800 Wii Points) Age rating: Everyone

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