Real news from the virtual world:
— TWIST AND SHOUT: With gigantic, time-consuming video games like "Fallout 3," "Fable II" and "Gears of War 2" either in stores or coming soon, it's hard to decide what's worth $60.
What you need is a lighthearted, casual game — say, for $20 — to take your mind off all the stress.
Here comes PopCap Games to the rescue. The king of casual games — fast-paced, inexpensive software like "Peggle" and "Zuma" — is back with its latest creation, a new version of its blockbuster "Bejeweled."
PopCap unveiled "Bejeweled Twist" at an event at Seattle's Experience Music Project, and it looks like another keeper.
As always, the object is to line up three or more diamonds in a row. The "twist" is that your only move is to rotate four-gem blocks counterclockwise.
The trick for PopCap was to bring something new to "Bejeweled" without turning off the millions of fans who are still playing the first game nearly eight years after its release.
"It took considerably more time, more money and more people than the original 'Bejeweled,' but we feel it was worth every ounce of that effort," said PopCap co-founder Jason Kapalka.
PopCap's goal is to "keep scratching the fun bone," said spokesman Garth Chouteau. "The idea is to take a fundamental mechanic to the most extreme level possible without alienating anyone."
It looks like PopCap succeeded: Superfan Cindy Robertson said, "If 'Bejeweled' is hot chocolate, 'Bejeweled Twist' is a double mocha latte."
Right now, the game is only available at PopCap.com, but it will be in stores and on other Web sites Nov. 18.
A warning before you fork over your $20, though: It's so addictive you may find yourself neglecting those flashier games that you spent three times as much on.
— COME TOGETHER: The companies behind "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" have been battling back and forth all year over rock 'n' roll's greatest bands.
"Guitar Hero" scored an exclusive with Aerosmith; "Rock Band" nailed down AC/DC. Now we're ready to move onto the B's and the biggest act of all-time: The Beatles.
MTV Games and Harmonix, the publisher and developer of "Rock Band," have signed a deal with the owners of the Beatles catalog to build a new game around the band's classic tunes.
Harmonix chief executive Alex Rigopulos said it won't be a new "Rock Band," although it will use the guitars, microphone and drums you already own.
"I would say that there will be interactive performances of The Beatles' music as well as new dimensions that you haven't seen from us before," Rigopulos said.
The new title will draw on music and imagery from throughout the band's 1962-70 career.
"I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out," Paul McCartney said. Ringo Starr added, "How wonderful that The Beatles' legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerized world we live in."
The "Rock Band"/Beatles deal is going to be tough for "Guitar Hero" publisher Activision to top. Anyone got a number for Led Zeppelin?
— DRIVE MY CAR: Car geeks owe a lot to the video-game industry. It's one thing to go to auto shows and gaze longingly at those fabulous vehicles you'll never be able to afford.
It's a lot more fun to pick up a copy of "Gran Turismo" or "Midnight Club" and simulate driving a high-end sports car.
And now you'll be able to virtually drive one of next year's hottest models before it hits showroom floors.
In what both companies say is the first deal of its kind, the 2009 Nissan 370Z is making its debut in Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed Undercover," which will be released later this month.
Christian Meunier, vice president of Nissan Marketing, said, "Our relationship with EA has been instrumental in bringing the Nissan brand to a passionate and unique audience."
Presumably, Nissan will discourage real-world buyers from re-enacting the game's 180-mph highway chases.
— NEW IN STORES: The big guns this week are the sequels to two of 2006's most popular shooters — Microsoft's "Gears of War 2" (Xbox 360) and Sony's "Resistance 2" (PlayStation 3). ... Ubisoft launches a new strategy franchise, "Tom Clancy's Endwar" (360, PS3, PlayStation Portable, DS). ... Activision ties into two very different movies, "Quantum of Solace" and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (most systems). ... Mythical creatures escape Pandora's box in Gamecock's "Legendary" (360, PS3). ... War rages across an alternate Europe in Sega's "Valkyria Chronicles" (PS3).