ROCKY LEGENDS, Ubisoft
This is the second Rocky video game in two years -- even though it's been 14 years since the last "Rocky" flick. Then again, Stallone is still talking up a sixth film. This arcade boxing game is for fans of the films, and fans of fighting games in general, rather than boxing enthusiasts. This button-combo brawler requires more offense than defense, with little variety in this action outside the eight training contests (including that scene from the second film where Rocky catches chickens).
You play as any of the first four movies' main characters -- Rocky Balboa, Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. The game's career mode shows you how Creed, Lang and Drago got their start before taking on Rocky; if you beat him as any of these fighters, an alternate movie ending plays. Voice acting is done by sound-alikes, not the original actors, and not all of them sound anything close to what you remember. But the game does throw in 25 boxing venues, plus the movies' music -- including the theme song that's probably already pounding away in your head.
The graphics can stand up on their own, with faces that get bloodied and bodies that get bruised, but they don't match the realism of Electronic Arts' Fight Night 2004. And with no online gameplay, the two-player arcade action gets old pretty fast. This game could have been a contender, but it's just a decent rental.
-- John Gaudiosi
Xbox, PlayStation 2, $40
The soundtrack for the latest sequel in the Tony Hawk franchise includes Metallica and Frank Sinatra, and the gameplay in Tony Hawk's Underground 2 is all over the map, too. Its Classic mode keeps a tight focus on skating and stylishly executing combos, using some of the levels and goals from earlier Tony Hawk games. But the Story mode's gleefully cartoonish World Destruction Tour is more likely to remind gamers of Grand Theft Auto or Burnout 3.
Here, players compete in eight settings, running up point totals while causing as much mayhem as possible. Between jumps and grabs, you need to perform destructive stunts -- say, rail over cannons to make them shoot or spray-paint graffiti all over the city. The part where we had to steal a gurney from a hospital so the sick kid could meet Tony Hawk was cheesy, but we liked it anyway. The World Destruction Tour, alas, ends a bit quickly; we completed it in seven hours. Two new gameplay modes, Elimiskate and Scavenger Hunt, round out the action.
Smooth player animations, seamless transitions and a brighter, deeper color scheme help this game jump off the screen, especially in the Windows version. PS2 and PC online gameplay is a bonus.
-- Tom Ham
Win Me or newer, $40; PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube, $50
NISUS WRITER EXPRESS 2.0, Nisus Software
Downloading this Mac word-processing program costs $59, while the cheapest you can find Microsoft Word is $149 (the Student and Teacher Edition price that pretty much any home user qualifies for). That price includes the rest of Microsoft's Office suite -- but if, like many home users, you make little use of spreadsheet or presentation software, Microsoft is basically charging more than twice as much for its writing program. So opting for Nisus Writer Express can make financial sense.
It also makes aesthetic sense. Solana Beach, Calif.-based Nisus aimed to match the streamlined elegance of Mac OS X itself, and it shows. Nisus Writer Express presents customizable editing and formatting controls in a toolbar across the top and a slide-out menu on the side of each document's window instead of being buried under menus and submenus. A PowerFind feature allows for detailed searching -- for instance, it can be set to locate only phone numbers or particular patterns of text. A set of prerecorded macro scripts automates such tasks as adding line numbers and removing blank lines. Unfortunately, you can't record a macro and instead must write it in Nisus's script syntax.
Since we live in such a Microsoft world, Nisus Writer Express has to open and save documents in Word format reliably; fortunately, it does this well. The one thing it can't do that Word can is desktop publishing, since Nisus Writer's basic page-layout capabilities don't go far beyond putting multiple columns on a page. Nisus Writer also lacks some of Word's specialized editing tools, such as its revision tracking and built-in dictionary. But otherwise, it's close enough to Word to make a switch easy for Mac users unhappy with Word but unsatisfied by Apple's aging AppleWorks.
-- Anthony Zurcher
Mac OS X 10.2 or newer, $60 at www.nisus.com
Saving a Web page instead of bookmarking it means you don't lose access to it when your Internet connection -- or the site itself -- dies. But the downside for Web pack rats is staying on top of a collection of archived pages. SurfSaver 6 offers another way out: By keeping a searchable database of all the Web pages it saves, it ensures that you can find what you bothered to keep.
SurfSaver adds one button to the Internet Explorer toolbar (it works only with IE, sadly). Clicking it reveals options to save the current page and other pages a link or more away from it.
From this same interface, you can also search through saved pages, fine-tuning queries through such helpful options as proximity (where two words must appear within so many words of each other). You can also annotate archived pages with comments and keywords. They're kept in a proprietary format to speed up searching but remain fully viewable within IE.
-- Rebecca Rohan
Win 95 or newer, $20 at www.asksam.com