The Player

by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Elebits Rated Everyone; Wii & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & ll this anime is obscuring my view of the snow. It descends from above the cliffs splendidly -- luminous white particles too round to be snowflakes, yet insubstantial enough to blow down from the sky like them. When I turn to look around, though, the anime kicks in, and I'm swiveling like a mechanical-action He-Man toy. He-Man as a red licorice-lined, bodysuit-wearing, special-op turned pirate. And he is as heroic as any videogame hero, though he can only carry two weapons at a time and wears a fur-hooded parka.

He moves sluggishly enough when encumbered by heavier weapons (hauling a Gatling gun, for example), so it makes it all the more heroic when he overcomes some of the game's elite-target bosses. (Shooting out every fidgety yellow spot on the humongous snow worm earned me fifty Gamer Points on my 360 -- five times more than I earned from clearing the game's first four levels.)

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition is almost a pure shooter, without much maze-traversing, puzzle-solving or even gate-key finding. A selection of guns lies around a frozen planet, and Wayne -- the licorice He-Man -- picks them up and shoots his way through the levels. Occasionally there are short animated cutscenes during which badly dubbed dialogue veers far into incoherency. Then Wayne heads out to kill the alien bugs.

Aliens display prominent glowing spots in which they store the thermal energy required to survive on the planet. This makes nearly every enemy an opportunity for aiming, not just blasting, though that works too. Wayne depends on the thermal energy to keep his health replenishing and his codpiece glowing, so he always has to be targeting his way forward through the level.

While this monotonously exciting action is going on, the designers pull every trick to enhance the pale snowscapes: rainbow- colored skies, pastel bosses and towering cliffs before succumbing to hallway, cave and volcano settings. These can be found in any videogame. A game in which the setting matters -- in which it can kill as much as an alien -- is rare. The early parts of Lost Planet show snow done right.

THE GOOD: The weapons are diverse, which lends variety to the shooting of similar enemies. But being able to change bodies by climbing into mech suits changes the game entirely. There are a handful of different models -- some good at hovering on jet engines, others capable of transforming into snowmobile vehicles. The best of the group wears skis. And though the single-player game lacks much variety in the challenges that it offers, there are a couple of optional bosses that are prestige kills, though they can be run past if necessary.

THE BAD: Usually the shadows of giant flying trilobites dart around on the ground below them. But often they would pass through cave walls or stop on the ground like puddles. Even solidity was intermittent. Enemies shot me through walls that didn't register as walls, and a heinously hard dinosaur boss kept hitting me with ice missiles he sent through steel pixels. I don't care if they can wade through snowpack as though it were water -- aliens shouldn't be able to play so fast and loose with solidity.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A third-person epic, insecticidal snowglobe.