Nintendo's innovative Wii console deserves a lot of credit for broadening the audience for video games.
Sure, the core demographic still consists of the caffeine-addicted, ADD-afflicted, 18-to-35-year-old guys who came out in force for last month's "Halo 3" launch.
But the Wii has attracted younger and older players as well as women — audiences that most of the industry had largely given up on.
Toddlers and geezers alike appreciate the Wii's simpler controls. Even people who have never played a video game before can automatically grasp the way the Wii's motion-sensing remote is supposed to work.
While an amateur wouldn't stand a chance in a "Halo" deathmatch, just about anyone can enjoy Wii bowling.
Since the Wii's arrival a year ago, I've had more parents asking for game recommendations than ever before.
Here's a batch of Wii games designed for younger players:
— "Cosmic Family" (Ubisoft, for the Wii, $49.99): A relative rarity on a console — a game designed specifically for 4-to-8-year-old kids. Parents are used to seeing such software on computers, and it's nice to see it migrating to the Wii.
The Cosmics — mom, dad, three kids, a dog and a cat — live on a rocket ship. Each room contains a multitude of surprises, usually provided by one of the aliens that have infiltrated the spacecraft.
By clicking on different household objects, kids will discover a variety of simple games, like jigsaws and matching puzzles.
Players can also color scenes from the Cosmics' adventures or draw new pictures of their own.
The family members and the friendly aliens are a lively, likable bunch, and the good-natured comedy is genuinely amusing.
There is one annoying glitch: At times, instructions are drowned out by overly loud music.
Overall, though, "Cosmic Family" is a nice way to introduce your kids to gaming.
Three stars out of four.
— "MySims" (Electronic Arts, for the Wii, $49.99): The landmark series has always reached across age and gender barriers, but EA is more clearly reaching for younger players with "MySims."
The characters are rounder, cuter versions of the types seen in "The Sims," and boring chores like bathing and cooking are replaced with building projects that will appeal to anyone who's ever played with Legos.
The setup is similar to that of Nintendo's classic "Animal Crossing": You move to a new town where all the residents have favors to ask.
Usually, they want you to build something, ranging from a simple chair to a fancy restaurant. Most of the time you have a blueprint, although there's plenty of room for creativity in your constructions.
"MySims" has a clean interface that makes it easy to pick out the parts you need to build things, although very young players will need some initial guidance.
Kids may also be frustrated by loading screens that pop up every time you switch tasks or locations, and it would be nice if more than one person could play in the same town.
— "Dewy's Adventure" (Konami, for the Wii, $49.99): In this eco-friendly adventure from the creators of last year's "Elebits," Dewy is a droplet of water trying to save his world from a polluting enemy.
You move Dewy around by tilting the remote, and you can cause earthquakes or wind gusts by shaking it. You can also turn Dewy into ice, allowing him to attack enemies, or into vapor, which lets him float and shoot lightning.
"Dewy's Adventure" has some clever ideas, but I can't wholeheartedly recommend it for kids.
While the little guy is adorable, he's not always easy to control, and some of the levels are unnecessarily difficult, even for a seasoned gamer.
A scarcity of save points compounds the frustration; few things are more exasperating than having to start over at the beginning of a long maze just because you fell off a cliff at the very end.
A bit of in-game advertising for a bottled-water brand will also bother some parents.
"Dewy's Adventure" is an appealing, innovative effort, but I wish the designers had followed through on its promise.