‘MLB Power Pros' provides levels for everyone

MLB Power Pros

2K Sports for Wii and

PlayStation 2

On the surface, this looks like a sports title for kids.

The players – caricatures of real-life pro stars – are drawn with no noses or ears (and only the occasional mouth). When a pitcher gets tired, he starts huffing and puffing.

Thing is, “MLB Power Pros” can be used as a true simulation, too. You can develop your own team, using real Major League players, teams, and stadiums. You can play an entire season or even start as a minor-league player – with a part-time job – and work your way up to the pros. The surprisingly deep season mode also lets you sign players and run practices.

On harder difficulty settings, you have to learn a variety of button combinations to control baserunners and to play defense, basically making the game as intricate as a traditional sim.

But “Pros” plays much faster than most “serious” baseball sims, and is a ton of fun to play.

This was almost like two games in one: an easy version everyone can appreciate and a more advanced mode with plenty for hardcore gamers to enjoy.

Top Spin 3

2K Sports for Xbox 360,

PlayStation 3, Wii

2K Sports didn't do tennis quite as well as it did baseball.

On the one hand, everything looks great. The graphics realistically render current tennis stars like Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova and classic stars like Monica Seles and Boris Becker, or you can create your own player with a fairly deep array of customization choices. During play, you'll see your characters sweat and pick up grass and clay stains when they fall or dive for balls.

However, the gameplay itself could be a little easier to pick up. The learning curve is extremely steep, and requires a great deal of patience.

If you practice and learn how to position yourself just so for certain shots, you'll do fine. But I wonder how many gamers are going to put in the time to really get good.

Bangai-O Spirits

D3 for Nintendo DS

This update of a classic '90s video game (that I'd never heard of) is one very intense experience. It's probably too difficult for many gamers.

Basically, it's a “destroy-all-enemies” shooter. It's got 160 levels, some of which are puzzle-based, all of which are open from the get-go. You can also design your own levels.

Enemies come at you from everywhere; it's like “Space Invaders” on steroids. This game actually made my palms sweat. There's also plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor. For instance, when you die, the game laughs at you. And you die a lot.

If you want a challenge, try this one. And let me know if you master it.