January 03, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Tourist Trophy: Get your motor running

(SCEA, Everyone, PS2)
For the follow-up to its extremely successful Gran Turismo series, game developer Polyphony has applied its considerable racecar-driving know-how to the world of two-wheeled vehicles. And like the GT series, Tourist Trophy’s focus is on accurate, real-life driving physics — not smash-and-bash arcade thrills — and it’s got enough licensed motorcycles (more than 100 models from manufacturers including BMW, Ducati, and Triumph), faithful recreations of 35 international courses, and geeky customizable settings (gear ratio, anyone?) to keep diehard motorheads happy.

For the rest of us, it means that TT is very, very difficult. Casual gamers will struggle with this game, which has an even steeper learning curve than the notoriously patience-busting GT. Just executing a hairpin turn at a decent speed requires finding the right angle to attack the curve, while simultaneously working the throttle, front and rear brakes. It took me about two hours to snag the beginner’s ”Novice License”; several hours of gameplay later, a checkered flag is still out of reach. But as it is with all that is challenging, victory, when it comes, is very sweet. A-Michael Endelman

(Konami, Everyone, PS2)
I wasn’t particularly adept at this game back when it was called Simon and required far less motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Now that it’s evolved into this Herculean test of rhythm and reflex, I barely got out of the training mode before I started spraining finger joints. The setup: Music plays while red, white, and blue bars cascade, Tetris-like, from the top of the screen. These bars correspond both to elements in the song — horns, snares, etc. — and to keys on the specialized controller that’s sold with the game. Scratches, the red bars, are controlled by the mini-turntable, also on the controller. As the bars hit bottom, the player must hit the keys and spin the disk in time with the beat.

Fans of Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania’s close cousins, will likely be thrilled by the manic mimicry required to tap out the bass kicks in disco staple ”Funkytown” or the synths in Britney Spears’ ”Toxic.” (Not every song is recognizable; the catalog consists mostly of obscure, beat-heavy electronica.) Music enthusiasts and, especially, DJ wannabes be warned: The tracks are throwaways that can easily be deconstructed into stabs, and the controller works nothing like an actual DJ setup. In short, Beatmania has about as much to do with spinning at a club as DDR has to do with dancing at one. B-Neil Drumming

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