>Gamer tidbits: Mini video-game reviews

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The latest “Elder Scrolls” sequel is a role- playing game, and a darned good one. You start by walking through unbelievably detailed character creation screens, sending your alter ego off on a quest to find an emperor’s last heir in a seamless world that feels frankly huge by console standards.

The best part of the game may be the way your character progresses. When you start, you don’t just pick a random class and bump up this statistic or that armor piece. Instead, you begin with a rudimentary version of all the possible skills, and then the game sits back and watches what you do with them.

You’ll get better at w hatever you use most. The skills you choose will cause the game to nudge you toward one class or another in the end, and you’ll probably be surprised by the results. Once past the first level, my character continued to skill up in those things she used most, in the most incredibly seamless and incredibly deep role- playing mechanic I’ve ever seen in a console game.

You’ll find all kinds of PC-standard RPG abilities here, a pleasant change of pace for console players. You can craft, repair your armor, pick locks and cast intricate spells. Shoot someone and miss and you can go retrieve the spent arrow afterward.

If you’re a role-playing fan and you have a 360 or gaming PC, make a face and dig out the $60 it takes to buy this title. You’ll never regret it.

– Heather Newman
‘Tetris DS,’ Nintendo for the Nintendo DS

“Tetris” is back with five new variations on the DS. And, w ith so many ways to play, I had a hard time figuring out where to start!

Each mode has a Super Nintendo theme with, for example, Mario traveling through levels on the top screen as you progress on the lower one. The first mode-standard-is the one “Tetris” players are used to, with the Tetriminos-the moving shapes-dropping down one at a time. In puzzle mode, you get all the time you need. You have a choice of Tetriminos and use them one at a time to clear all the lines in the puzzle. There is mission mode, in which you have to follow instructions such as “clear three lines at once.” In catch mode, you have to catch the Tetriminos on a block. Once you have a 4-by-4 box around the middle cube, it explodes, giving you loads of points.

The last two modes are ones I didn’t enjoy as much. In touch mode, you get a stack of Tetriminos and have to push them around on the touch screen to create full lines. In push mode, you and the computer try to clear two lines in a row to push the stack into the opponent’s zone. The first one to reach the danger line with a stack loses. The graphics are 2-D and nothing flashy. The worst thing is that you can’t save in the middle of a level and then pick up where you left off. It forces you to play until you lose. This kept me playing just to see how many lines I could get before I was in over my head. It is so simple; anyone can master it.

– Craig Campbell, 13

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