I’m not sure if it means anything, but when I played the original version of the game in 2004, John Kerry won over George W. Bush in the majority of the contests I played. For those of you who haven’t been foreclosed on or missed paying $60 a gallon for gas, it turns out Bush won. So maybe the game doesn’t have mystical powers, but for those of us who love politics—the horse races, political catfights and attack ads—Stardock’s Political Machine 2008 for the PC is right up your alley.
Before we go on to the election, just a few words about the game. Everything that made the first installment so fun and infectious is here. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot new beyond that. The game’s characters have a decidedly different look; think an upside-down bowling pin stuck on a teeny body. You still open up headquarters, raise funds and take positions on topics like the war in Iraq, Alaskan drilling, same-sex marriage, etc. Its nuts and bolts are the same game, with some tweaks to content and game play that make it more enjoyable than the original.
Now on to the main event: Like four years ago, I tried to keep the video-game candidates’ positions on the issues as close as possible to their real-world counterparts. In my elections, I selected Hillary Clinton as the vice-president twice, John Edwards once and Al Gore once. It didn’t seem to matter, as the Obama Machine kept rolling on, usually with way more than the electoral votes required. In four separate contests, I was able to take Barack Obama to the White House over John McCain—often handily, although there was one close one. Good thing I built that campaign headquarters in Florida.
But don’t just do your serious election business on this game. Feel free to play with Republican Congressman Ron Paul, and watch him go down in defeat to just about anyone as you try and match his positions. This is the only guy who voted against Megan’s Law (laws which require information on sex offenders to be made public), by the way, because its creation wasn’t outlined in the Constitution. Good luck trying to pull in middle-class voters from Iowa with that one.
Alone in the Dark
It’s always tough when I have to review a true middle-of-the-road game. Do the positives outweigh the negatives enough to warrant a purchase, rental or the time necessary to see it through to conclusion? I like the concept in this Atari title: a 100-year-old amnesiac fighting monsters that only can be killed by fire in modern-day Central Park. That means a lot of interesting ways to light stuff on fire and use it to kill your enemies. But the clunky and at times inept game play takes a lot of the fun out of playing. So I leave the choice to you. If you like a good story and can get past not-so-great game play, then give it a shot. If you like ’em crisp and clean, leave it on the shelf. (Atari, Rated M, XBOX 360, PS3, PS2 Wii, PC; $49.99.)
Guitar Hero: On Tour
No, no, no, no, no, absolutely not. Guitar Hero for the Nintendo DS may be one of the most blatant cases of video-game pimpery that I’ve ever seen. There are already three main console versions and two side titles (one featuring ’80s music and the other, just released, featuring Aerosmith). You get a four-button guitar simulator that plugs into the game, and you strum with a lame guitar-pick stylus. It’s hard to control; the graphics are all squashed onto that tiny screen. This is such a great console game, and I never thought I’d ever write these words: Guitar Hero sucks. (Activision, Rated E, Nintendo DS; $49.99)