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Doom, despair and agony 

Two new games show the best and worst of the medium

From old-school pinball machines to today's gaming supercomputers, the best games have always presented one thing to players: challenge. To make a captivating and exciting videogame, makers can't just present the same old situations that the previous version had; there's a specific need for complexity and advancement in any game. As we see with the anticipated Playstation 3, gaming systems and game creators are constantly reenvisioning formats. Even in point-shoot-maneuver games, a certain complexity of graphics, audio and situation is expected. Here are two examples of the best and worst that can come of games which beg little of the mind, yet offer the player a trip through another world.

Doom 3 (Activision, XBox, PC)The terror has hit home with the new Doom, bringing more blood, guts and a Marine with a shotgun back into gamers' hands. The game has stretched its wings again with Doom 3, a massive and graphic encounter of player versus evil in a terrifying shoot-em-up gorefest. The PC version is a huge advancement from the prior two versions, allowing layering of rooms, jumping and more realistic graphics. The designers wanted this game to be as lifelike as possible, and the zombie-like hell creatures did manage to scare me a few times. While the game runs similarly to the previous ones, new puzzles and tools have been added. My main complaint with the PC version is that it requires a pretty hard-core graphics card and an equally formidable sound card. This knocks out less dedicated players, because most low-level systems don't have those features. Adding the necessary hardware would be like knocking out a wall to get a better view of the yard. However, don't despair, because Doom 3 is premiering on XBox, which finally gets the game into the hands of average gamers. While similar to the PC version, this one is a bit more limited in terms of player options, and there are more challenges to getting into the interactive player modes. These aren't huge roadblocks, it just means that time must be taken to learn the XBox format that otherwise wouldn't be necessary on PC. Some fun features include the ability to slow time, and a weapon called the "grabber," which lets you pick up smaller enemies and hurl them at larger ones. My favorite is the double-barrel shotgun, which is far too much fun to play with, especially when battling friends and foes in the multi-player mode. Doom has always been a great game for anyone old enough to play it (remember, this is rated M). Aficionados should pick up the Limited Collectors Edition - which includes Ultimate Doom and Doom II — so you can play from the beginning to the present. Doom is a terrifying, exhilarating ride that I highly recommend, despite the sleep you'll lose.

Madagascar (Activision, PS2)Franchising does it again with the game Madagascar, pulled from the new children's movie. Though kid-aimed, the game isn't too friendly. After seven hours of jungle and zoo animals, I found myself disliking everything about them, from their repetitive commentary (each level has the characters saying only about three lines of dialogue) to the systematic action. Initially, the game plays a lot like the old Super Mario: you collect things, get through levels, bash stuff to find coins, etc. But remember those anger-inducing air levels in Mario where you spent the whole time jumping and trying not to fall, thus ending your game? Madagascar is full of that. I was gritting my teeth as I re-started the jungle course for the fiftieth time, and I wholly agreed with Alex the Lion when he said to me, "This sucks!" (Apparently the word sucks is now OK in a children's videogame.) Not only were those levels annoying because of the design, but the control given to the joystick is minimal. A simple push to one side sends your character careening, making jumps and movements erratically. As I collected monkey coins throughout the level, I began buying items. Offered in the Zoovenier shop are apparel, games and extras. As far as I can tell, the apparel does nothing but dress up your characters in goofy outfits. No defense bonus, no strength or ability bonus, just silly clothes. The games open up other games that are hybrids of things like shuffleboard and Dance Dance Revolution. They're simplified and sometimes include another player, but overall they tend to be tiring and don't rack up points for your characters. The extras are the only good things, and I suggest saving up to buy a coin magnet, because the thing helps you grab more money, which you can then use to dress up your characters in funny outfits. Overall, Madagascar is an exercise in patience, the last thing any kid playing videogames has or wants. From the shoddy graphics to the thin, movie-dependent storyline, this game falls well below average on all levels and will be gone as soon as the movie hits the video stores.

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