Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Majesco, for Nintendo DS
rated E 10+ (mild violence), $29.99

Every gamer has one white whale. By that I mean a game that became their sole addiction. A game they spent every possible minute playing, often staying up late and skipping meals in order to get more play time in.

For most folks these days it seems to be "World of Warcraft." For me it was "Civilization II" (well, that and "Tetris"). Sid Meiers’ turn-based strategy game kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, building little empires and battling ancient armies.

I thought I had put all that behind me until I started playing "Age of Empires: The Age of Kings," a spin-off of the popular PC game, slimmed down for the Nintendo DS.

It only took a few minutes before that pure gaming rush came back. Very quickly, "Age of Kings" became my gaming drug of choice and any free moment I had was spent amassing my armies, building towns and crushing my virtual enemies into the dust.

The developers at Backbone Entertainment have done an excellent job translating Microsoft’s strategy franchise to the DS.

Where before you might have to page through countless menus in order to move your troops, now it can all be done via your stylus and the console’s touch screen. It’s just further proof that the DS’ unique interface can allow for a variety of games previously thought unadaptable for a handheld.

As with other games in the "Age of Empires" series, your job here is to amass armies and defeat your opponents. Through the game’s various missions, you play as Joan of Arc, Gengis Kahn and Richard the Lionhearted.

Each mission has specific goals, such as destroying a particular fortress or escorting a traveling dignitary, which does a good job of keeping the game from feeling repetitive.

Ensuring success doesn’t just mean having the best warriors. You’ll have to build mines and towns, grow farms and research technology to achieve victory.

The fact is, "Age of Kings" requires a good deal of strategy to win, which is a good part of the reason it’s such a compelling game to play. If, like me, you’re up way past your bedtime with "Civ II" or a similar game, "Age of Kings" will find you losing sleep all over again.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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