by Marty Demarest

Sunscreen? Check. Bottled Water? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Home entertainment center? Um...

Going on a road trip or sending a kid away to summer camp isn't nearly as simple as it used to be. Even an afternoon spent escaping from the daily grind to go hang out on the water is filled with packing enough substance to guarantee that our collective cultural addictions are satisfied. It's the reason that coffee stands almost outnumber sunbathers, while billions of dollars have been spent making our telephones, music players and video devices smaller, faster and more portable.

When Nintendo introduced the Game Boy in 1989, there had been plenty of hand-held video game players around for years. But the Game Boy was a new concept -- a portable device that could play any game built for it that players plugged into it. Combined with the high standards Nintendo has always brought to its products, and bolstered by the addicting presence of the classic time-sink Tetris, the machine went on to sell more than 110 million units in its various incarnations.

Last year Nintendo took things one step further when it introduced the Game Boy Advance. Packing as much processing power as the classic Playstation, the machine also featured a larger screen than the Game Boy Color, and it played every game for the Game Boys that had come before it. And at $70, it still seems a bargain.

But in order to get the most out of your machine, a few additional investments would be wise. Nyko manufactures both a clip-on light (Worm Light) for the Game Boy Advance, and a rechargeable power pack (Shock 'N' Rock) that also makes the unit more comfortable to hold. At $10 and $20 respectively, the investment is small considering what you'll save yourself and your child in eyesight and batteries.

But what games do you pick up for it? Consider Tactics Ogre as perfect road-trip fare. It's a turn-based combat game, which means that armies attack each other at a leisurely pace, affording plenty of opportunity for tactical thinking or just doing something else between turns. It's beautiful, long-lasting and more than challenging. But if the fantasy world of Tactics isn't to your taste, try Advance Wars, which has similar gameplay with a military cartoon style. Of course, there are always the classics. Super Mario World brings the Nintendo original from the home console version with no loss in power. It's like having the entire entertainment center with you wherever you go.

Our Legacy: Our Voice, Our Action, Our Power

Thu., Sept. 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
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