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Shining a light on ''The Darkness''

Inside the murky mafia world of the latest first-person shooter. Plus: ”Transformers: The Game,” ”Peggle,” and ”Cake Mania: Back to the Bakery”

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CONSOLE GAMES

The Darkness
(2K Games; for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; Mature)
There’s weird, there’s spooky, and then there’s The Darkness, a sometimes baffling first-person-shooter that is a strange hybrid of The Sopranos and A Nightmare On Elm Street. Based on a semi-obscure comic-book series (and not, sadly, the charismatic English glam-rockers of the same name), The Darkness follows the spooky misadventures of one Jackie Estacado, a mob hitman with Professor Snape-like locks. Jackie spends most of the game hunting down his crew’s capo, Uncle Paulie, who has put a hit out on him as a way of marking his 21st birthday. Wiseguy shenanigans ensue, all done in dem same Noo Yawk accents you’ve heard a million times before.

While the story plays out like a second-rate mobster revenge yarn, there’s also the not-so-minor matter of the two serpentine demon-heads that menacingly dart out of Jackie’s arms. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Said tenacious tentacles are the manifestations of the Darkness force and can, on command, engulf foes with one ungodly chomp. And the carnage doesn’t stop with the initial kill: press another button, and your freaky appendages will rip out and devour the victim’s heart. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The Darkness power does all sorts of other mildly interesting things, like summoning portals from which spew homicidal lemmings. (Yes, you…) A handy tool, this Darkness force. It’s also the only element that makes you even consider seeing Jackie’s mission through to the very end. The game makes the best out of the shoddy source material — it at least takes a stab at making Jackie a three-dimensional character — but The Darkness is a project that probably should never have seen the light of day. D+Gary Eng Walk

Transformers: The Game
(Activision; Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; Teen)
You know the deal: good robots versus bad robots, all having the ability to morph into cars, tanks, and planes. A great idea for a movie. And, one would think, the premise for a cool videogame. Yet the playable version of this summer’s blockbuster never quite transforms into anything fun. Essentially a series of repetitive, drawn-out tasks that robotically take you from point A to point B (and a dozen points beyond…), Transformers: The Game is a chore to play. Sure, there’s no shortage of houses and cars that will crumble or crumple under your robotic might, but the environments are way too fragile. Autobots and Decepticons are like mechanical bulls in a china shop: the slightest bump into a building results in mass devastation that would give even Michael Bay a headache. DGEW

NEXT PAGE: Peggle and Cake Mania: Back to the Bakery

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