Companies are in a frenzy right now, releasing as many video games as possible in the lead-up to holiday shopping for the Xbox 360, PS 3 and Wii. But two significant handheld games shouldn't get lost in the shuffle.
First, the sadly forgotten Sony PSP has one of its best games ever on the market in God of War: Ghost of Sparta.
The God of War III finale came earlier in 2010. In this prequel, you once again portray Kratos, the angriest, least sympathetic warrior in history. In this adventure, you control Kratos during the olden time when he was the God of War, as an active member of the Zeus club of deities.
If you've ever played a God of War title, this one will seem familiar from top to bottom. That's mostly good.
Ghost of Sparta is a third-person adventure, where you swing your knives of fire, and summon magical forces that kill evil skeletons, evil soldiers, evil monsters and several big bosses, like King Midas.
This is an origins-story game, where you get to see more of Kratos' tragic life, particularly dealing with his mother and brother, Deimos.
Ghost of Sparta has already won Best Handheld and Best PSP awards from several entities during the annual E3 video game convention. It is stellar - an amazing visual feast of volcanoes and castles of grandeur; cinematic dialogue scenes; and nearly perfect actions.
But I hate to say this. The God of War series, maybe my favorite series of all time, is in need of a jolt of newness. Everything is the same as before, essentially - the same fighting movements, the same kinds of puzzles, even similar settings (fiery volcano interiors instead of fiery gates-of-hell interiors).
Before my complaint gets out of hand, let me declare this is still one of the best games of the year. The God of War people just need to brainstorm new ideas for future prequels or sequels, that's all.
The other important new handheld game is Super Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. This sequel to the groundbreaking Scribblenauts is fascinating.
You type nouns and adjectives to form creatures (striped gods, sad cats) and items (houses, anvils) appear on the screen. There are 10,000 adjectives to draw from, for 120 levels.
In one level, the game tells you to think up adjectives in order to turn ordinary objects into horror movie props. Keep typing "bloodsucking vampire," "haunted car" and "happy zombie" all you want. Those aren't the answers.
IGN.com reports the game even has the word (and thus the item) "cassowary" in it. That's a New Guinea bird that can't fly.
This is an incredible endeavor, although it still seems suited primarily to fans of the written word. And there are limitations. I don't understand why Super can't create "four-headed" beasts, and many other hyphenations of words, especially since the game lets you use hyphens.
But you get used to boundaries, which do test your brain power. And Super is a must-have game for people who love tinkering with "big," "stupid," "amiable," "terrifying," "polka dotted" words.