Sunbelt Software

What: Junk e-mail filter. Details: Everybody hates spam, but nobody wants to sweep innocent e-mail out with the e-junk, as many spam filters do. This program, a plug-in for Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express, starts by "mining" your e-mail folders for your correspondents' addresses, which you can then mark as trusted or not -- not a quick process. You can let it run its own spam-screening rules or create rules of your own (for instance, blocking mail in foreign characters), although some rules offer little indication of how well they'll work. All of this runs counter to Sunbelt's claim of "No configuration or setup needed." The program did, however, identify and quarantine the latest spam without incorrectly nailing much legitimate e-mail. That's critical in this kind of tool; you don't want to lose a letter from your rich uncle just because he mentions his new mortgage or his Viagra prescription. Fortunately, you can also check the mail that's been quarantined, then pull out any real messages (it had flagged some business newsletters as spam but was coaxed into accepting them). Sunbelt's program doesn't try to get spammers kicked off their Internet account, but at least it will keep their garbage out of sight. Bottom line: Not a full solution, but better than the delete key. -- Daniel Greenberg

Win 98 or newer/Win NT 4 or newer, $20 at www.sunbelt-software.com


What: Movie-based action-adventure game. Details: This title loosely tracks the movie's plot without matching its entertainment value. Its 40 levels can be finished in less than 10 hours, thanks to a lack of any real game play. Whether you're simply running past the Precrime officers, security guards and various robots or are forced to fight, your opponents consistently exhibit some of the dumbest behavior seen in a video game this year. Minority Report's fighting engine is fairly competent, allowing a variety of combos with just a few button presses; you can also acquire advanced weapons, combo moves and power-ups on the black market. But why try that hard when the enemy is so dumb? The bad guys routinely leave themselves open for the kill; armed guards fire at regularly timed intervals for your convenience; you can even conveniently grab enemies and toss them off buildings and down flights of stairs for an instant death. The act of killing goes against the whole premise of the movie's story, but you're never penalized for all the guards and Precrime officers you take out. The game's looks aren't that much better than its action. Although the developers re-created some of the movie's more interesting weapons-fire effects (such as the concussion gun) and flawlessly rendered jet packs and the hover-jet in flight, shadows are drawn inconsistently, textures look bland and considerable clipping problems cause figures to get cut in two by the scenery. Bottom line: Everyone should run away from this. -- Tom Ham

GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, $50

BMX XXX, Acclaim/Z-Axis

What: "Adult" BMX game. Details: Memo to Acclaim: Adding a few minutes of gratuitous female toplessness to a mediocre game will yield only a mediocre game with a Mature rating. The company unwisely used its cash to license the appearances of dancers from Scores, the New York strip club, who appear only after players have explored every nook and cranny of the game and placed first in a series of mundane BMX biking challenges. It's all quite a chore and not worth the quick video clips that supposedly reward the effort (note that the PS2 version edits out the nekkidness anyway). The game is also loaded with obscene language and adult humor, although it's unlikely that anyone beyond the eighth grade will laugh at it. The game doesn't stand out graphically; the female bike riders you can create, with or without shirts, look like jagged-polygon figurines. Nor is there much depth to game play, in keeping with earlier, subpar Acclaim BMX releases (formerly sold under the Dave Mirra label). There's no track editor, which leaves just a handful of single- and two-player modes. Bottom line: A flat tire of a game.

-- John Gaudiosi

PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, $50


What: Education-free TV tie-in for kids. Details: Don't be taken in by the Learning Company's stamp on the box or by the fact that this story takes place in a natural history museum; there's no knowledge to be gained here. Kids will not learn a single fact about dinosaurs, fluorescent minerals or insects -- but they will have a good time. The story is typically Scooby-dubious: The dog and his human pals have wound up at the Kudzula County Museum of Natural History, where a Glowing Bug Man has messed up the exhibits and scared off the visitors. Players must straighten up the displays in the museum, using skills such as logical thinking and sequencing in a series of challenges involving puzzles and mazes. After each exhibit is put to rights, players find clues that lead them, through process of elimination and a helpful chart, to identify the culprit from among five suspects on the museum staff (for example, finding a parking pass rules out someone who rides his bike to work). My daughters, Rachel, 8, and Sara, almost 6, spent a couple of hours on a rainy Saturday working through the game on the middle skill level; Rachel especially enjoyed the mosaic puzzle, and Sara got a kick out of a silly conveyor-belt game. Everything worked and was self-explanatory, and the kids were having too much fun to care that the "story" didn't make much sense. Bottom line: Scooby-Doable, and fun, too. -- Elizabeth Chang

Win 95 or newer/Win 2000, $25, ages 5 to 10

Minority Report: Save your money for the DVD.A new junk-mail filter tries to can the spam.Kids won't learn a thing from the Learning Company's Scooby-Doo game, but it is fun.