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Review: Puzzle Games Dominate PlayStation Network

Two years into the lifespan of the PlayStation 3, Sony's online offerings are a mixed bag.

On the plus side, "LittleBigPlanet" and its energetic community of amateur level designers make it essential for PS3 owners to have an Internet connection.

On the minus side, there's "PlayStation Home," the drab, underpopulated virtual world that's drawn almost universal derision since its beta launch in November.

And then there's the PlayStation Network, whose library of software, game add-ons and movies has grown at a healthy clip over the last year.

Some of PSN's more experimental titles, like "The Last Guy," "Echochrome" and the forthcoming "Flower," have gotten plenty of much deserved attention.

But lately, I've been relishing some old-fashioned puzzle games from an unheralded Massachusetts developer called Creat Studios.

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—"Cuboid" (Creat Studios, $9.99): The object of "Cuboid" is to maneuver a rectangular brick (actually, two cubes glued together) through a two-dimensional maze.

Sounds simple, but one key restriction — you can only move the cuboid by flipping it on its sides — makes each puzzle much more difficult than it originally appears.

As the game progresses, you'll confront new obstacles, like switches, drawbridges and panels that can't bear the full weight of the cuboid.

Some mazes seem impossible until you stumble across that "a-ha!" moment, which is the most satisfying experience you can ask for out of a puzzle game. Three stars out of four.

—"Magic Ball" (Creat Studios, $9.99): You know the old "Arkanoid" formula, in which you use a paddle and ball to clear a screen full of obstacles. That's the essence of "Magic Ball," but the simple bricks of the original have been replaced with animated figures.

In a nautical-themed level, for example, you may have to knock out pirates and sharks. You can also juice up your attack with nifty power-ups, like cannons and meteors.

"Magic Ball" doesn't break new ground, but it's the liveliest, most colorful "Arkanoid" knockoff yet. Three stars.

—"Lumines Supernova" (Q Entertainment, $14.99): The hypnotic block-matching puzzler "Lumines" has been a reliable time-killer since its debut in 2005. The PSN version adds one new mode, Dig Down, in which you're forced to start with a mess of unmatched blocks.

Otherwise, most of "Supernova" is recycled from previous releases. It's worth the investment if you're new to the game, but veterans may be disappointed. Two-and-a-half stars.

—"Crash Commando" (Sony, $9.99): If you get your online kick from running around and shooting your friends, you don't want to miss "Crash Commando." It takes the 3D deathmatch gameplay of, say "Unreal Tournament" and squishes it into 2D.

The result is as hectic and hilarious as any full-price shooter. Three stars.

—"Jeopardy!" (Sony, $9.99): You can't take America's most popular quiz show and make it multiple-choice. And you definitely aren't going to meet another Ken Jennings among the dunderheads I've seen playing this lifeless translation of the TV hit. One star.