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Under Our Thumb: Movie-Related Video Games

Movies or video games?

It's hard to say which kids enjoy more, which is why the season's most hotly anticipated films have inspired games sure to top most children's — and many adults' — holiday wish lists.

"Games are an extension of the movie experience," says Andrew Adamson, who directed "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and closely supervised the making of the game of the same name. "You can do things and go to places in the game that the movie doesn't necessarily take you."

Sometimes, a game gets better reviews than its movie, judging from the pummeling the "Aeon Flux" motion picture got from critics.

While "Narnia" and "King Kong" have yet to hit the big screens — bowing, respectively, on Friday and on Dec. 14 — their games are already on the shelves.

Here's how the latest crop stack up, from 1 to 4 stars.

AEON FLUX
Format: Xbox, PlayStation2
Multiplayer: No.
Rated: Teen (violence)

What it's about: In a city-state 400 years into the future, you play Aeon Flux, a lethal (and highly flexible) operative of an underground rebellion. To stop the tyrants, you'll use a combo of bone-crushing takedowns, sci-fi puzzle-solving and super stealth.

What we like: Style points for take-downs! The better you get, the more elaborate your next attacks can be.

What we don't: Checkpoints are few and far between, so unless you're settling in for a long night of gaming, you'll have to endlessly repeat sections every time you turn on your console.

Best for: Kids who can't wait for tomorrow.

Hardcore gamers say: "Buy this game if you like well-designed jumping puzzles mixed in with some decent combat sequences." — IGN.com

We give it: 3 stars

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
Format: Xbox, PS2, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, PSP, PC
Multiplayer: Yes.
Rated: Everybody (fantasy violence)

What it's about: As Harry, Hermione or Ron, you'll study Defense Against the Dark Arts, prepare for the Triwizard Tournament, and cast spells (like the fire-quenching "aqua eructo") while solving puzzles, collecting shields and fighting magical creatures. Ultimately, you'll face off against Lord Voldemort.

What we like: The Triwizard challenges, especially when you're riding a broomstick, hot on the tail of a dragon, blasting through Hogwarts and its surrounding forests and cliffs.

What we don't: The game automatically ejects you back into the main menu before you complete the tasks you need to do.

Best for: Wizard wannabes ages 8 and older.

Hardcore gamers say: "It's a worthwhile platforming experience for hardcore Potter fans, but some may be put off by all the collection quests and backtracking." — GameSpot.com.

We give it: 2½ stars

PETER JACKSON'S KING KONG
Format: Xbox, Xbox 360, PS2, GameCube, PSP, Nintendo DS, PC
Multiplayer: No.
Rated: Teen (blood, violence)

What it's about: Part first-person shooter, part third-person smash and bash (Kong), most of this action-adventure game takes place on Skull Island. As Jack, you'll throw spears and shoot guns at mutant insects and dinosaurs; as Kong, you'll swing through the air, grapple with dinos and protect the lovely Ann. Eventually, the action moves to New York.

What we like: The amazingly detailed environment (Xbox 360 users will get the best graphics) and fantastic sound: The dino roars will blow you away.

What we don't: There's no HUD (heads up display) to tell how much life or ammo you have left, leading to unexpected, pulsating death.

Best for: Risk-takers.

Hardcore gamers say: "It won't take you long to blow through 'King Kong,' but it's sometimes thrilling, often tense, and always entertaining ..." — GameSpot.com

We give it: 4 stars

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
Format: Xbox, PS2, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC
Multiplayer: Yes.
Rated: Teen (fantasy violence)

What it's about: After dabbling in some mansion hide-and-seek, the Pevensie kids — Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy — enter Narnia, ruled by the evil White Witch. It takes wits and brute force to defeat her and free the mighty lion Aslan, the rightful ruler of Narnia. Expect minotaurs, minoboars, cyclops and more.

What we like: The seamless co-operative play makes it easy for a friend to jump into the action at any time, which comes in handy when you're mowing down tons of enemies at once.

What we don't: Playing solo, you'll waste a lot of time scrolling through all the characters every couple of seconds, as each challenge demands a particular skill only one of the kids has (i.e., Susan's the go-to girl for throwing things).

Best for: Closet nerds.

Hardcore gamers say: "Throw in 10 hours of cool bosses, refined gameplay and awesome visuals and you've got the recipe for one seriously entertaining game." — IGN.com

We give it: 2½ stars