Beijing Olympics 2008
Sega of America for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3,
rated E for Everyone
Digital Access for only $0.99
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The problem with games like Beijing 2008 is that they have a limited shelf life. After the Olympics are over, this game will lose a lot of appeal.
Worse, it's kind of boring and repetitive.
You compete in a variety of Olympic events – like cycling, weightlifting, swimming and pistol shooting – but in nearly every one, you play the same way: hold down a button to build momentum, then bang away at two buttons to move faster.
Even when I did well, my hands started to hurt from finger-boxing with my Xbox 360 controller. (I'd like to see this on the Wii, where maybe you would go faster if you moved your arms back and forth faster.)
Graphically, this game looks good enough on the 360, and it's got plenty of features – you can choose your athlete, country, and compete in 38 events; you also can check online leaderboards, and track your performances.
But the actual gameplay wasn't much fun. Even my two young kids didn't take to the game.
Hudson for Nintendo Wii,
rated E for Everyone
If you want an enjoyable Olympics-style title, I'd highly recommend Deca Sports. It's just one of those uber-cool experiences tailor-made for the Wii, and it encourages the family-friendly fun this system is famous for.
There are 10 sporting events to choose from, and you can play in tournament mode, on teams or against the computer.
One of my kids' friends, Maddie, had fun playing figure skating, while I really enjoyed playing basketball with the Wiimote (it's the hardest event to master, although beach volleyball, snowboarding and badminton can get pretty intense).
It's so easy to pick up the basics that you don't really need to read the manual, and there's enough computer assistance that you don't have to have pinpoint accuracy or lightning-quick reflexes. How easy? My 4-year-old has no problem beating his Dad.
This is simply pure fun. And at just $29.99, Deca Sports could be the best bargain in video games. Go get it.
Soul Calibur IV
Bandi Namco for Xbox 360 and PS3, rated T for Teen
In this blockbuster sequel, gamers get a chance to duke it out with legendary “Star Wars” characters like Yoda and Darth Vader.
Namco says this game is “retooled from the ground up” and it is indeed more beautifully drawn than ever before. Also new: a feature called “Critical Finish,” which allows you to stop your opponent with one blow, Bruce Lee-style. I like the online multiplayer action, too.
Unless you love weapon-based fighters and/or are a long-time fan of the franchise, a rental probably will do it. But nonetheless, it's a solid offering in the genre.