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Leo Laporte's 2004 Technology Almanac for February 2004: Games and Entertainment

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Check out this excerpt from "Leo Laporte's 2004 Technology Almanac" devoted entirely to the noble pursuit of games and entertainment for PCs, Macs, game consoles, and PDAs.

Megan Morrone

Today you can use the same machine to organize your finances, create a presentation for your boss, and defend the Earth from flesh-eating aliens. But let's be honest: Even with the crazy advances in software, organizing your finances and creating a presentation for your boss are still not half as much fun as defending the Earth from flesh-eating aliens. That's why we've devoted the entire month of February to the noble pursuit of games and entertainment for PCs, Macs, game consoles, and PDAs.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that you can skip right over this chapter because you're not a gamer. Gamers are all sweaty, pimpled, 16-year-old boys who lock themselves in their basements sustained only by complex carbohydrates and Mountain Dew for days on end, right? Wrong. Video games aren't just for young boys anymore. Saying you don't like video games is like saying you don't like ice cream or cheese or television or fun. Are you trying to tell me that you don't like fun?

If you watch The Screen Savers, you know that each member of our little TV family has a uniquely different interest in games. Morgan loves a good frag fest, whereas Martin's tastes tend toward the bizarre (think frogs in blenders or cow tossing.) Kevin knows how to throw a cutting-edge LAN party, while Joshua and Roger like to kick back with old-school retro game emulators. I like to download free and simple low-res games that you can play on even the dinkiest PC, whereas Patrick prefers to build and rebuild the perfect system for the ultimate gaming experience (see February 13). And leave it to Leo to discover the most unique new gaming experience for the consummate early adopter (see February 1).

This month we review games for all platforms and all personalities, answer your gaming tech support questions, show you where to find the coolest games online, and review all the latest gaming peripherals. Morgan even shows you how you can cheat at Solitaire. Unfortunately, she doesn't tell you why you'd want to.

From text-based games to high-end virtual-reality 3D graphics, video games let you use your imagination to do something you could never do or be someone you could never be. In the following pages, you can learn how to become Zeus, a caveman, a pirate, or a Jeopardy contestant. You can solve jewel puzzles, drink beer with aliens, placate camels, kill giant insects, escape from evil monsters in the mall, and pull goofy-foot ollies off the rooftop of City Hall.

So, do you still think you're not a gamer? Maybe you just haven't found the right game.

Sunday, February 1: Leo's Pick: The Pyramat PM300

Leo Laporte

Get some comfort to go along with your gaming with the Pyramat PM300 from Pyramat (http://www.pyramat.com). The Pyramat is a futon with speakers—pardon me, I mean a high-density foam reclining system with sound reinforcement.

Relax and Play

The Pyramat contains a three-speaker sound system and 50-watt amplifier in the headrest, and a handheld wired remote control. When you're ready to play, unroll it, lie down, and pump up the volume. The PM300 is compatible with all video-game consoles, computers, DVD players, MP3 players, and anything else with audio out. Around $150, it's only a little cheaper than my Xbox, but it's a lot cheaper than the recliner I usually sit in to play video games, and it sounds a lot better.

The Pyramat PM300 is one gadget I'll take lying down.

Scary Games

Roman Loyola

If you're looking for an interactive (nonhuman) way to get a good old-fashioned scare, read on:

  • Fatal Frame (PS2) (http://www.fatalframe.com). The scariest thing about Fatal Frame is that it looks like Resident Evil meets Pokemon Snap. Its scare factor alone is reason enough to play this game.

  • Aliens vs. Predator 2 (PC) (http://avp2.sierra.com). If you want one of the most entertaining single-player experiences of the year and some solid and original multiplayer fun, it's right here.

  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (GCN) (http://cube.ign.com). This M-rated title earns its rating not through gratuitous gore or cheap sex, but by presenting a story line that's adult-oriented in its complexity and thought.

  • Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon (Xbox) (http://www.universalinteractive.com). The only thing scary about this game is that it was made in the first place.

Download of the Day: Maelstrom 3.0.5

Megan Morrone

Save your quarters for laundry. I have an updated version of the ultimate Asteroids clone. And get this: It works on Mac (OS 9 or higher), Windows, Linux, and BeOS.

It's called Maelstron 3.0.5. Ambrosia Software created the original Mac version (shareware, or $15 to purchase) and allowed Sam Lantinga to port it to Linux and Windows for a school project.

Download the file, unzip it, and start playing. Use the Tab key to shoot and the arrow keys to move. If you don't like that setup, press C (or click the C button) when you start up to configure your controls.

Important hints:

Turn up your speaker volume for the full arcade experience.

Maelstrom for Windows and Linux (http://www.devolution.com).

Maelstrom for Mac (http://www.AmbrosiaSW.com).

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