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Review: Wii Games Finally Grow Up

Now that we're in the third year of the Age of Wii, Nintendo's popular console is pretty easy to find.

Which means that a lot more people are learning its unpleasant secret: There are a lot of terrible games for this system.

The Wii shelves of your local GameStop are groaning with cheap "Wii Sports" knockoffs (like "Vacation Sports"), tedious "party" games ("Totally Spies! Totally Party") and halfhearted translations of Xbox 360 hits ("Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop").

Even Nintendo's reputation as a game publisher has taken a hit: Its most recent Wii releases are recycled GameCube titles.

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But not all hope is lost. There are some developers who are bringing fresh ideas to the Wii, with games that don't particularly mesh with Nintendo's family-friendly image.

They may not appeal to the broader Wii audience, but they deserve to be celebrated for their originality.

--"MadWorld" (Sega, for the Wii, $49.99): With this ultraviolent brawler, as well as this year's earlier "The House of the Dead: Overkill," Sega seems determined to blast holes through the Wii's wholesome rep.

Some of its developers worked on 2006's beloved "Okami," and "MadWorld" is just as visually distinctive -- if quite a bit more gruesome.

The premise is a bit hackneyed: a game show in which the contestants murder each other.

Your character, Jack, has a chain saw attached to his right hand, but you're expected to find ways to use the environment as a weapon. You can hurl your enemies under a pile driver, for example, or through an airplane engine.

There are dozens of ways to kill in "MadWorld," and an impressive variety of opponents.

"MadWorld" is presented in highly stylized black-and-white -- with broad splashes of blood red. The voice acting, particularly by comedians Greg Proops and John DiMaggio, who serve as the game show's announcers, is first-rate. The story is far better written than your typical beat-em-up, with clever dialogue and some genuinely surprising twists.

This isn't for your "Wii Bowling"-loving grandma. But it is the kind of game the Wii needs more of. Three stars out of four.

--"Deadly Creatures" (THQ, for the Wii, $49.99): You've never seen video-game heroes like the two leads in "Deadly Creatures."

They're a tarantula and a scorpion, and they're a lot less cuddly than the critters in "Animal Crossing." They eat grubs and crickets, have to defend themselves against bigger animals (like Gila monsters and rattlesnakes), and eventually have to outwit a couple of humans.

The desert setting feels like an alien world, both beautiful and disturbing. The protagonists have distinctly different moves: The tarantula is faster and can climb walls, for example, while the scorpion has stronger defenses. And there's an intriguing mystery concerning two men who are searching for a Civil War treasure.

However you feel about arachnids, "Deadly Creatures" will give you the creeps. It's a fascinating journey. Three stars.