Video games are supposed to be for kids, right?
But an uneducated parent navigating the wilderness of a game store would probably have a tough time finding suitable entertainment for Junior.
As I write this, there are nine titles advertised on the Web site of GameStop, the nation's largest game retailer.
Of those nine, I wouldn't recommend a single one to a child; even the games I love are either too violent ("Resident Evil 4") or too hard ("Guitar Hero").
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So it's little wonder that parents resort to familiar titles when they shop for the kids.
If the young'uns loved the movie, they're sure to love the video game, and mom doesn't have to worry about zombie intestines suddenly being splattered across the screen.
There are more inspired kids' games out there ("Viva Pinata" comes to mind), but if you've been to the cineplex, you know what to expect from these tie-ins.
—"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (Electronic Arts, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $59.99; Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, $39.99): The latest Harry Potter game is a fairly ambitious attempt to recreate Hogwarts in all its intimidating majesty.
You'll spend a good amount of "Order of the Phoenix" running up and down its staircases and hallways — which is nice if you want to play tourist, but not much fun if you want to see some action.
As Harry, your first task is to learn a few spells, like levitating and repairing objects. Then you're sent out on a series of errands, with the goal of assembling an army to combat Lord Voldemort.
But most of the quests are irritatingly mundane, like pulling off mild pranks or fetching objects for your fellow students.
All this builds to a confrontation with Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
Sounds dramatic, but the combat here is tedious, usually requiring that you simply cast the same spell over and over.
"Order of the Phoenix" may appeal to Potterphiles who want to spend a few hours in Harry's robe, but most of us muggles want something a little more exciting.
Two stars out of four.
But you won't be whipping up any culinary masterpieces in this disappointing knockoff, which squeezes the brilliance of the Pixar film into a generic adventure with all the flavor of a slice of white bread.
Remy is a French rat who dreams of becoming a chef. The cleverest scenes in the movie focus on his efforts to fulfill that dream, but the game takes a more hackneyed approach: Instead of cooking food, Remy's goal is just to steal it, outrunning humans and other animals who give chase.
The gameplay itself isn't that bad, although some sequences will frustrate the kids who make up the target audience.
But "Ratatouille" represents a missed opportunity to do something different, a la the great "Cooking Mama," instead of something that looks like just about every other toon-based game.
—"Surf's Up" (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, $49.99; PlayStation 2, $39.99): Sony's surfing-penguin cartoon was one of this summer's lower-profile kid flicks, even though it got generally positive reviews.
The AP's Christy Lemire gave the movie three stars, but I'm sad to say that the game doesn't come close to that.
Unlike most tie-ins, "Surf's Up" doesn't even bother trying to follow the movie's plot line.
Instead, you pick your favorite bird — spunky Cody Maverick, say, or stoner Chicken Joe — and grab a surfboard at the Big Z Memorial Surf Off on Pen Gu Island.
Once you're in the water, you score points by executing tricks at the top of waves, passing through gates or collecting icons.
Unfortunately, there's little variety in "Surf's Up," and even a child can finish it in a few hours. It's a decent rental, but not much of a value for 40 or 50 clams.