$19.99 for Nintendo DS. Rated Everyone. ***
As Mr. ESC, players guide survivors out of disaster areas in the puzzle game Exit DS. There are 150 levels to challenge players as they try to reach each stage's exit. Mr. ESC can walk, run, jump, climb and use items, but he's only one man. To succeed, he'll need the help of the survivors he's rescuing, whom he can order to take routes he can't, help push heavy objects, pick up items he can't reach, and otherwise help him help them.
The game has a stylish, expressive look and solid game-play fundamentals, but it is hampered a bit by poor path-finding on the part of rescued survivors. Directing one to a particular spot often has to be done in multiple small steps, lest they become confused and stay in one place or go the wrong way.
Shaun White Snowboarding
$59.99 for Microsoft Xbox 360, also for Sony PlayStation3. $49.99 for Nintendo Wii. Rated Teen ** 1/2
Shaun White Snowboarding is all downhill - it's a tall order to snowboard up a mountain. Instead of the event-based structure of most snowboarding games, Shaun White goes for the open-world approach. This new franchise shows some promise, but it needs more polish.
Players can choose from several mountains, take a helicopter or chairlift up to their desired starting point, and go freestyle down the hill (or stop at event markers on the way down to participate in more structured play) and earn cash for more gear.
The game looks good, but the controls are often a problem. It's too easy to hit an obstacle or pull off the wrong trick in the air, and it's a pain to backtrack if one overshoots an event or some point of interest.