Two new versions of great classics
OUTRUN 2006: COAST 2 COAST
(Sega; Everyone; PS2, Xbox, PSP, PC)
This is what Ferris Bueller had to say on the matter of driving a Ferrari. ”It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” Both would-be truants and sports-car enthusiasts will be happy to know that there are no less than 15 different Ferraris to choose from in OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast — Sega’s spiffy update of the arcade classic. Think of it as a car with a sleek new body powered by an old but reliable engine: The creators have found a formula that works and they’ve stuck to it. That said, this game is hardly last year’s model. One new feature, a ”slipstream” efffect, is supposed to help pump up the speed of the Ferrari you’re driving (but takes some serious skill to nail down if skidding off the road isn’t part of your race stragtegy). Like the previous version, there are a multitude of environments to choose from (try to keep your eyes on the road while driving over the Golden Gate Bridge — I couldn’t) and some alternate skill challenges when just racing becomes a bore. The only detraction — besides not having that rockin’ arcade car in front of the TV — is a lack of splitscreen mode. Sure, there’s an online option, but it’s just not as much fun to smoke competitors if you can’t see the expression on their faces. B —Paul Katz
NEW SUPER MARIO BROS.
(Nintendo, Everyone, DS)
In one of the many charming moments in this game, a disembodied voice greets you after you flip open your slumbering Nintendo DS and resume playing: ”Itsa me, Mario!” As if we could forget. Reliving the past generally isn’t a very wise idea when you’re talking about videogames — we all have fond memories of Pong, but does anyone really feel like playing it now? — but over the years, the exceptions to this rule usually involve Nintendo’s iconic plucky plumber. New Super Mario Bros. is a nostalgic homage to the old-school side-scrollers that ate up far more of our time than we’re willing to admit. It’s both a rousing and refreshing return: Once you’ve reacquainted yourself with the simple controls and insanely catchy sounds and theme music, you’ll realize how much you’ve missed the elegant simplicity of a Mario-themed 2-D adventure.
You already know how to play, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve dashed across an over-sized mushroom or stomped on one of those brown, lumpy Goombas. The game is more than just a rehashed fossil from yesteryear. Mario encounters a few new foes (look out for the snarling fish that can gobble Mario whole), and can collect some new power-ups, the best of which turns him into Mega Mario, a sort of Godzilla in blue coveralls, who can rampage through the Mushroom Kingdom, leaving a trail of cartoonish carnage in his wake. Ironically, the only areas where the game falls a bit flat are the ones that try to take advantage of newer technology: a two-player wireless mode that gets Mario’s brother Luigi into the mix, and some minigames that don’t fully exploit the DS’ touch-screen. Both of these aren’t half as fun as the single-player mode, which is more than enough to prove that after all these years, Mario issa stilla Number One. A- —Gary Eng Walk