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Audio Cleaning Lab 2005; Sudeki; Catwoman

Microsoft/

Climax Studios

Each of the four heroes in Sudeki's simplistic storyline (they must unite to defeat an evil deity, Heigou, that has invaded the land of Sudeki) brings distinct skills and special abilities to the table. Tal, a swordsman, excels at hacking and slashing but can also push and pull heavy objects. Buki, an expert at hand-to-hand fighting, can climb any surface. The mage Ailish can attack from a distance with magic spells and can also heal others. Elco can soar with his jet pack and wields a souped-up pistol called an energy gun.

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The battle against Heigou spans six massive worlds filled with a wide variety of enemies and puzzles. Combat involves dozens of foes instead of the usual handful and happens in real time. The heroes' diverse talents allow different ways to win: You can engage in a button-mashing frenzy of melee combat by playing as Tal or Buki, or run-and-gun it with Ailish and Elco.

Sudeki also looks beautiful, from its vividly rendered spell attacks to its densely detailed, richly colored environments.

But for all these virtues, the game simply ends too quickly. Most role-playing titles go on for more than 30 hours, but this one can be finished in less than 20. Without any worthwhile replay elements such as unlockable characters and levels and no online gameplay, it's a terrible buy at $50, but a decent deal as a rental.

-- Tom Ham

Xbox, $50

CATWOMAN,

Electronic Arts

This Hollywood-licensed game, which reportedly spent just eight months in development, looks and plays like a rush job. EA, which has had great success with games based on the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and James Bond movies, strikes out sloppily with this shoddy title.

Much like the movie, the game's appeal starts and ends with star Halle Berry, who provided both her voice and likeness for the game. Berry's character looks great, whether climbing fences, strutting across rooftops or standing still (leave her alone for a moment, and she rubs her hands against her leather pants and licks her hands). But all the effort sunk into these motion-capture animations seems to have left no time or money to make any of the other characters look half-decent or any of the levels to look better than collections of clip-art backgrounds.

Control is as wretched as the graphics: Although many parts of the game demand precision (for instance, using your whip to navigate its maze-like environments), a horrible camera system constantly obstructs your views. You wind up having to replay often boring levels until you memorize the right sequence of moves to get out of each one alive.

This game is the perfect counterpart to the critically lambasted movie -- something that appeals to neither fans of the comic nor those of Berry. It belongs in the cat litter box, right next to the flick. -- John Gaudiosi

Win 98 or newer, GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, $40


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