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XBox; Gamecube; Playstaion 2; IGN Codes

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XBOX (xbox.com) What, you expected some flair? In classic Microsoft style, this site is as bland and functional as a pair of Dockers. But under the layers of embarrassing attempts at gamer-cool (”Tony Hawk is in the house!”) are straight-up stats, demo clips, and release schedules touting the console’s all-star game faces, from Shrek to The Rock. But the Xbox’s ominous good looks are barely put to use here, in what amounts to a static collection of lists…and still more lists. And a bit of friendly advice for the site designers: Green type isn’t as exciting as you think it is. C+

GAMECUBE (nintendogamecube.com) Like Nintendo mascots Luigi and Pikachu, the online home for this whimsical new machine is drenched in kid-friendly surrealism and silliness. Donkey Kong’s paws swipe at the text, pages pop and twitch as you mouse around, and five Flash-powered mini-games relentlessly drive home the Cube’s cutest qualities. The fun house is packed with such nutritional goodies as videos showcasing cool graphics and some comic-book-style interviews with the machine’s designers. But there’s only so much fun you can milk from conversations with computer programmers, even if they do work for Nintendo. A-

PLAYSTATION 2 (us.playstation.com) The Sony site wisely plays up the console’s significant marketing advantage: namely, volume, volume, volume. It’s been on store shelves for a year already, so there are gobs of games listed here. Browse through the library (by genre, release date, or popularity)—or just log off and play. It seems an active community of gamers visit the message boards and browse the code archives, where advanced tips for hundreds of titles are stored. These goodies are muted by Sony’s constant hard-selling of its own games, DVDs, and music (which all can be played on the PS2)—and even hats and backpacks (which, surprisingly, cannot). B-

IGN CODES (codes.ign.com) It’s easy for the hardcore gamers to get bored with hyper-powerful [yawn] graphics machines, so they keep busy by sniffing out the secrets that most game designers hide somewhere in their titles: the extra levels, bonus characters, and godlike [drool] powers. This fanboy hangout collects thousands of tips, tricks, and cheats: from turning on ”Jar Jar Mode” in Star Wars: Starfighter (not recommended) to getting Will Smith to race your car in NASCAR 2000. And if owning the biggest consoles on your block still fails to excite? Well, kick it old-school with plenty of cheats for the ancient (late ’70s-early ’80s) ColecoVision and Atari 2600. A

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