Namco
"Katamari Damacy"
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 11/22/2004 12:21:58 PM ET 2004-11-22T17:21:58

So many games ... so little time. The video game industry is following its time-honored tradition of flooding the market with new titles during the closing months of the year. In the face of such choices, what's a confused parent or goggle-eyed gamer to do?

For your holiday shopping convenience, I've assembled a list of promising new titles and a couple old favorites from 2004. Every game, unless noted, has been played and recommended by our MSNBC.com staff of thousands.

'Everyone' means you, too
You can trust your children with the games below ... provided they can wrestle the controller from your hands. They're that much fun.

"Katamari Damacy" (PlayStation 2). What were the game developers on? Move a sticky ball over anything in its path. Start small by picking up household items, but keep rolling and your ball  gets bigger until it can roll up people, trees and even buildings. This game has it all: addictive gameplay, catchy pop tunes and Japanese-to-English translations courtesy of Hello Kitty's copywriter. Rated "E" for Everyone.  $18.99.

"Pikmin 2" (GameCube). One of the best games of 2004, "Pikmin 2" is colorful and refreshingly bizarre.  Use the pikmin to harvest the detritus of an alien world.  Designed by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, "Pikmin 2" will have even the most jaded adults up late clucking over their herd of tiny pikmin.  Rated "E" for Everyone. $49.99.

"Ultra Bust-A-Move" (Xbox). Cute graphics, an addictive pop-music soundtrack, online play and plenty of riffs on the three in-a-row game makes "Ultra Bust-A-Move" a nice update to the board games of youth.  The best of both worlds -- easy to learn, yet complex in outcome. Rated "E" for Everyone. $29.99.

"Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door" (GameCube).  Mario is out treasure hunting again and to meet his quest he needs to assemble a colorful crew of characters.  "Paper Mario" boasts a stylized "two-dimensional" look and feel that unfolds like a pop-up book.  Eye-candy for kids and adults. Rated "E" for Everyone. $49.99.

"Hamtaro: Ham Ham Games" (GameBoy Advance).  Hamster Olympics. 'Nuff said. Rated "E" for Everyone.  $29.99.

Party games
The games below involve more physical interaction than just button-mashing.  Best played with a cup of holiday eggnog in hand.

screenshot from "AntiGrav"
Sony Entertainment
"AntiGrav" practically demands that you get off the couch and start sweating.

"AntiGrav" (PlayStation 2).  "AntiGrav" will have you racing a surfboard through a futuristic city.  Built to work with the EyeToy camera which captures your movements, "AntiGrav" requires, nay demands, that you remove your rear from the couch and start sweating.  Squat to avoid low overheads, use your arms to grab power-ups. When airborne, wave your arms to execute tricks and scream "AAAIIIIIEEEE!" "AntiGrav" requires the EyeToy USB camera.  Rated "E" for Everyone. $49.99.  (sold separately, the EyeToy at $29.99 to $34.99).

"Dance Dance Revolution Extreme" (PlayStation 2).  While the included music sounds like Donatella Versace’s desert island disc, "DDR" still puts the "partaaaahaaaaay" in play. Get a dance mat and the EyeToy (both sold separately) and "DDR" records both hand and feet movements. A great mini-game has the television screen "misting" up.  Only moving your arms frantically while dancing -- i.e. doing your standard 1980s dance moves -- will de-mist the screen and reveal the hidden dance moves.  Rated "E" for Everyone. $39.99. (sold separately, the EyeToy at $49.99 and the dance mat at $29.99 to $59.99).

"Donkey Konga" (GameCube). Karaoke for drummers. Grab a set of GameCube-friendly bongo drum controllers (sold separately) and pound away to the notes running across the television screen. Do I need to stress that "Donkey Konga" is not for anyone with a discerning ear? Among the songs included for your drumming delight: "Louie, Louie." More horrifying than a raft of zombies. Rated "E" for Everyone. $49.99 (sold separately, the Donkey Konga Bongos at $29.99).

"Karaoke Revolution Volume 3" (PlayStation 2).  Because what's a holiday party without someone belting out "Flashdance … What A Feeling," the series that united strained vocal chords with cutting-edge home technology is back.  New for "Karaoke Revolution" is a duet feature where wanna-be American Idols can croon and compete against each other.  Rated "E" for Everyone. $39.99. (sold separately, microphone or headset starting at $29.99

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