In coming weeks, you may see some disturbing sights. People will be walking around, cooing into handheld game systems. Others will be saying, "Sit. Siiit. Siiiiiiit!" before smiling and stroking their screens with a stylus. Fear not, they don't belong in padded rooms. They're just playing with their Nintendogs. And once you've spent a few minutes interacting with these disarmingly cute and astonishingly lifelike virtual pets, you'll want your own, too.
Though more like a Tamagotchi (those briefly popular key-chain pets) than a true videogame, Nintendogs ingeniously utilizes, and frankly justifies, all of the Nintendo DS's wacky features. Voice recognition lets you teach your puppy (one of 36 breeds) to respond to verbal commands. The touch screen lets you reach out and reward your obedient pet with a pat on the head. And the wi-fi lets you take your puppy for walks to meet and play with other Nintendogs in the area. Nonstop cuteness ensues.
GEIST (M) (3 stars)
In most first-person shooters, the point is to avoid death, but you start out that way in Geist, hence the title (the runner-up was Polter). On your quest to regain your earthly form, you'll need to possess mundane items and use them to scare your enemies, thus turning them into ripe ground for the planting of your soul. But since you're always limited to possessing the one item that can frighten your host, the clever gimmick eventually feels like a chore, which makes for a dull afterlife.
HELLO KITTY: ROLLER RESCUE (E) (3.5 stars)
At first glance, you'll probably think this game is just for little girls, but let's take a moment to compare it to some other popular titles ... like Halo 2. In both, you massacre an invading army of aliens. Only in Hello Kitty, you do it with a pink wand. And it's a 3D platformer with a lot of melee combat ... like God of War. Only you wear cute roller skates. OK, it's just for little girls, but still a decent game.
SIGMA STAR SAGA (E10+) (3.5 stars)
If you were to play an old, 16-bit-era Final Fantasy game, but every time a random encounter took place, you suddenly found yourself beamed, a la Star Trek, into Gradius, then you'd know what it feels like to play Sigma Star Saga. The genre-mixing twist certainly beats standing on opposite sides of the screen, choosing spells.
Matthew Scott Hunter has been known to mumble, "Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start" in his sleep. E-mail him at