Football season is upon us from all sectors—high school, college, and pro—and just in case you’re between games, our video game reviewer reports that NCAA Football 13 will keep you from jonesin’ for the real thing. Looking for something more chill? Teens can settle back with the new Sparkle soundtrack, and play a little Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes. Fun, but not too intense; good action, decent listening, enough to pass a few hours in disco/superhero bliss.
Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA)
The soundtrack for the remake of the movie Sparkle has a tough act to follow. The original 1976 soundtrack featured eight songs by powerhouse Aretha Franklin and hit number one on the R&B Billboard charts. Knowing this, producer R. Kelly enlisted big-name artists such as Jordin Sparks, CeeLo Green, the late Whitney Houston, and the emerging British Nigerian singer and actress Carmen Ejogo to generate some buzz and vocal power. The result is an album that has some great tracks, but considering that it’s more such a high-profile group, it’s a bit of a letdown. Of the 11 tracks, Ejogo’s solo performance on “Yes I Do” is a definite highlight. The 1950′s doo-wop vibe fits perfectly with the album’s retro feel. Sparks really shines on the gospel song “One Wing,” but the single “Celebrate” with Whitney Houston falls flat. Speaking of Houston, it was wonderful to hear her perform again on “Celebrate” and “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” but unfortunately her voice and strength wasn’t what it used to be. Overall, this album doesn’t sparkle—it just has some shining moments.—Claire H., grade 10, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes ( Warner)
Lego Batman2: DC Super Heroes presents a lighthearted and family-friendly version of the Caped Crusader but still mimics the calculating and troubled nature that prevails in the “Dark Night” series. A great addition to the Lego series is the first-time use of voice acting instead of miming among the characters. The humorous banter enhances the confrontations between Bruce Wayne/Batman and the colorful cast of villains—the Joker, Penguin, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, and more. The spoken dialogue helps the pacing of the narrative as Batman and Robin deal with the villains’ breakout from Arkham Asylum. Batman then enlists the aid of Superman (whom he has a strong opinion about) as well as others from the cast of DC’s Justice League. The 15 missions take you to a vast number of locations around Gotham City, and although the gameplay is simple and repetitive, it’s still loads of fun. There are a few new sequences as well, which make things extra exciting. Traveller’s Tales gives you to opportunity to freely roam around Gotham collecting scattered items such as red-and-gold bricks and parts of mini-figures. Most items have a puzzle or challenge tied to them that makes collecting these more high stakes. It’s definitely a great game, but Lego Batman2 may not appeal to older gamers. Rated E for Everyone.Platform: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Nick M., grade 9, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
NCAA Football 13 (EA Sports)
NCAA Football 13 is a great game with a very high replay value. The latest version features subtle changes and additions that’ll be obvious to anyone who’s been playing the series for a while—and you’ll appreciate them. The passing game has some challenging and exciting improvements such as new ball trajectories, added placement control, variable throwing speeds, and better timing on deep passes. The on-the-field game play has always been great, but now you can scout with NCAA’s Dynasty mode. With scouting and recruiting working together, you’ll gain more information to influence your choices. A really awesome feature is the Heisman Challenge. This mode lets you play with 10 to16 former Heisman Trophy winners and try to match or exceed their statistical achievements. Overall, this installment has a lot to offer and provided hours of satisfying game play. Rated E for Everyone. Platform: PlayStation3 and Xbox 360.—Ryan A., grade 9, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
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