Like so many American creations — baseball, comic books, rock 'n' roll — the video game is a mongrel art form.
Literature, music, art and film all get jumbled together in this relatively new medium, but even that isn't enough: Designers have to figure out how to make the whole package interactive as well.
While "Fallout 3," for example, is rooted in post-apocalyptic science fiction, it also draws from 1940s music, splatter movies and "Dungeons & Dragons."
The less ambitious games reviewed here display their influences right in their titles.
— "Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party" (Ubisoft, for the Wii, $49.99): Ubisoft's screaming, madcap rabbits have become regulars on the Wii over the last three years. Like too many other Wii products, the "Rabbids" titles are collections of minigames, but they bring welcome doses of character and chaos to the increasingly stale genre.
This time, the bunnies have invaded Rayman's TV set, careening through an assortment of TV parodies, from trashy reality shows to music videos to dramas like "Prison Fake."
There are a few duds, like an uninspired "Project Runway" knockoff, but about 90 percent of the minigames are keepers.
Some of them use the Wii Balance Board, which you may be asked to sit on.
Yes, at long last you can control a game — say, tobogganing down a mountain on a wildebeest — with your rear end. Three stars out of four.
— "You're in the Movies" (Codemasters, for the Xbox 360, $69.99): Minigame anthologies are less common on the Xbox. This one builds on a gimmick: the Xbox Live Vision Camera, which lets you insert video of yourself into the game. (The camera is included in the package.)
The premise here is that you're performing in a B-movie, so you need to obey the director's demands, perhaps swatting at monsters or running from villains.
The problem is that the camera doesn't do a very good job of separating players from background objects, so you usually end up with disconnected body parts floating around the screen.
Even if you have the patience to sort out the technical issues, the games in "Movies" are slow-paced, repetitive and just not much fun. No stars.
— "Hasbro Family Game Night" (Electronic Arts, for the Wii, $39.95; PlayStation 2, $29.95): Hard to believe, but there was once a time when people played games that weren't connected to a TV set. Perhaps you're curious about such pre-Atari artifacts, or you're a parent who wants to share childhood favorites with your kids.
"Family Game Night" bundles electronic versions of "Connect 4," "Yahtzee," "Boggle," "Sorry!" and "Battleship," each with an assortment of interesting variations. They're not much fun to play solo, though, and "Boggle" doesn't quite work in this format.
Still, it's a good package for families who don't already have these games in their closets. Two-and-a-half stars.