There have been only a few truly scary video games, most notably the "Silent Hill" and "Resident Evil" series. Nonetheless, characters we're used to seeing in horror movies — vampires, werewolves and the like — pop up in games all the time.
The "Castlevania" series, for example, revolves around Dracula's castle, but the games have always emphasized action over suspense. The ghosts in "Pac-Man" or "Super Mario Bros." are more annoying than frightening. And in "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," the hero doesn't run from werewolves — he is one.
None of the games reviewed here will give you nightmares. A couple of them may put you to sleep, however.
"Lunar Knights" (Konami, for the Nintendo DS, $29.99): The vampires of "Lunar Knights" are no longer bothered by the sunlight, having developed light-resistant armor as well a planetary shield called the "paraSOL." That's bad news for the rest of humanity — except for two kids, Lucian and Aaron, who decide to fight back.
This adventure from "Metal Gear Solid" creator Hideo Kojima packs plenty of variety into a small package. Most of the time you'll be scouring dungeons for monsters until you suddenly find yourself shooting down enemy rockets in space.
You need to keep an eye on the constantly moving clock, since Lucian is stronger at night while Aaron thrives in the daylight. The heroes eventually find a way to control the paraSOL, allowing them to manipulate the weather. And they rescue some "Terrennials," elemental beings that add assorted spells to the boys' arsenal. There's a lot — maybe too much — going on in "Lunar Knights," but it all makes for an unusually satisfying trip.
"Bullet Witch" (Atari, for the Xbox 360, $49.99): It's 2013, and Earth has degenerated into chaos, besieged by plague, war and an invasion by armies of hungry demons. Enter Alicia Claus, sorceress, gunslinger and former Playboy model. (Seriously, she's was one of Hef's "Women of Gaming" last year.) The leggy goth goddess can take out most of the monsters with her blandly named "gun-rod," a broom-shaped firearm that can also be used to cast spells.
Fortunately for humanity, the demons are really slow and stupid; their artificial intelligence is so weak that Alicia can walk right up to them and start firing before they notice her. Spellcasting isn't much more fun, using a clunky multi-step interface to unleash magic that, for the most part, isn't worth the effort. Perhaps the most shocking element of this M-rated adventure is that it looks awful, with graphics that wouldn't have been acceptable on the original Xbox. Alicia may be sizzling, but "Bullet Witch" is a dud.
"Ghost Rider" (2K, for the PlayStation 2, $29.99): Nicolas Cage's "Ghost Rider" stunned all the experts last month when it roared through theaters, grossing more than $100 million in its first four weeks. The "Ghost Rider" game won't surprise anyone: It stinks. As in the movie, the Rider's mission is to stop Mephistopheles' son from unleashing an apocalypse on Earth. The hero's weapons are a shotgun, which is almost useless, and a chain that looks an awful lot like Kratos' "blades of chaos" in "God of War."
The combat, alas, isn't that creative, requiring you to fight the same stupid demons over and over again. The motorcycle-riding sequences are no better; you simply drive from point A to point B, shooting at demons while jumping over or sliding under obstacles. None of the controls in "Ghost Rider" feel tight, and they're even more slippery in the biking sequences. "Ghost Rider" does serve up a lot of bonus material for fans of the comic book, but most gamers will find nothing of value.