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A game parents will love?

I didn’t buy a Sony PS3 for a few reasons, the number one reason being games.

I didn’t buy a Sony PS3 for a few reasons, the number one reason being games. Xbox 360 had the best titles as far as I was concerned, and since I made that decision I’ve been rewarded again and again as a few formerly Playstation exclusives were opened up to the Xbox 360 for the simple reason that the game companies want to reach as many customers as possible with each release. I’ve always conceded that the PS3 is probably the superior machine, coming with a Blu-ray player, Internet browser and free online gaming, but hardware means nothing without the software to back it up.

While I stick by my decision, I’m a little sad that I won’t be able to play Little Big Planet, available on Oct. 21.

On the surface, this is just a cute kids game, albeit with incredible graphics, where you move your custom SackBoy or SackGirl through a make-believe world of cardboard and wood structures. It combines adventure, puzzle solving, group co-operation (when in multiplayer), and the games are as varied as human imagination.

The best part is that you can design and share whole levels yourself — early beta users have designed levels that mimic Super Mario, Age of the Colossus, Halo, and other games. Beta testers are showcasing new levels on YouTube all the time, with dozens of new levels posted in the last week.

My impressions watching these levels, as well as a video on how levels are designed, is that parents will love this game. There’s no blood and gore, no bad language, it encourages puzzle solving and teamwork, and, when you design levels yourself it channels creativity and encourages some appreciation of both art and physics. Making a level is like opening a box of Lego and throwing out the instructions, or buying a puzzle and putting it together without looking at the box.

Playing levels developed by others also means there should be an endless number of new challenges out there after you finish the storyline — something that should more than justify the $60 sticker price.

The fact that Sony is publishing the title pretty much rules out any chance that there might be a port for the Xbox 360, but a PC port may be possible in the future. I’ll take whatever I can get!


iPhone/iPod Touch a gaming machine?

Last week Nintendo announced the release of a new portable DS, the DSi — a follow-up to the all time best-selling game system on the market by a large margin with more than 50 million units sold around the world. Sony is also getting ready to drop their PSP 3000, or the third-generation of their way less popular but far more powerful handheld game system.

I was reading about the new systems (I’m not flying again without one) when I stumbled across a comparison chart for portable game devices, and discovered that the iPhone and iPod Touch actually have the best gaming hardware of any portable device. Although it doesn’t have that many good games yet, that’s bound to change with millions of units sold.

Here’s a quick comparison of hardware:

Screens — The Nintendo DS is unique with two 3.25-inch displays, the iPhone and iPod Touch have a 3.5 inch screen, and the PSP has a 4.3-inch display. In terms of resolutions, the DSi screens are 256x192, compared to 480x272 for the PSP and 480x320 for the iPone/iPod Touch. The PSP has the best picture quality, however, and can represent the most colours.

Processors — This is where the comparison gets interesting. With two screens the DSi has one 67 MHz processor and a 33 MHz processor. The PSP has a processor that is clocked up to 333 MHz. The iPhone has a 620 MHz processor, the fastest of the bunch, but it runs at a native 412 MHz.

All three portables have cameras, or the ability to plug in a camera, and onboard storage that is expandable, as well as Wi-Fi capability, web browsers, and online application stores. Both the DSi and iPhone/iPod Touch have touch screens, while the PSP does not, and the iPhone/iPod Touch is unique with its onboard tilt and rotation motion sensitive accelerometer that can be used to control several games.

While Apple said from the start that the iPhone and iPod Touch would have a bright future as gaming platforms, I doubt they expected nine of the top-10 downloaded applications at the Apple App Store last week would be games.

Most games are of the puzzle variety, although we can expect more racing games, classic PC games like Myst and Diablo, and extensions to popular PC and platform games like Spore. The lack of a joystiq and buttons will limit the types of games available, but the touch and tilt opens up other interesting possibilities.

While many of us would shy from the iPhone because it leaves you saddled with a three-year service agreement that will cost about $2,000 in the long-run, the iPod Touch is very affordable with a baseline price of $259 — more than either the DSi or PSP, but it doubles as a music player.