Even NASCAR Games Make You Use Tire Gauges
August 11, 2008
Attention America, I am not running for president, but I have two solutions to your energy crises, and I’m bringing them to you in the form of video games. You’re welcome. First, here’s my Energy Brainstorm: So I’m protecting a tree house from destruction in ‘‘Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest’’ on my handheld DS, when the most basic, energy-saving idea congeals in my mind. It’s super simple: When you turn off your TV and appliances, they still eat up energy, because they’re plugged in. That’s an eco problem and it’s expensive. Solution: Why not have an electrician move your home’s power breakers to the living room? And instead of turning off the appliances, turn off those breakers. That way, most power-sucking things in your home, except essentials like your refrigerator and oven, stop consuming energy and money. My brother Brad, a home builder-type plumber in New Orleans, cautions you’d definitely have to hire an electrician, but it’s doable, although Brad himself is shopping for windmills and solar panels, since he’s paying $650 in electric bills for his three-bedroom house. Yeesh, he could almost buy both an Xbox 360 and a PS 3 for that much money. Anyway, I had this breaker brainstorm while hugging some trees in ‘‘Eco-Creatures,’’ a slight nothing of a DS game that isn’t much fun for me, but it is cute and Earth-save-y enough perhaps to entertain very young kids. In ‘‘Eco,’’ you play as a bear-like wizard. You activate squirrel-esque creatures that battle evil robots and other silly villains that are trying to destroy your tiny-looking cartoon forest and your tree house, which appears to rely on no energy whatsoever, although the robots are definitely battery-powered. And as tree-huggers and philosophist would agree, you have to see see both the forest and the trees, so why not hug the whole shebang? Then, My Energy Realization: I’m playing ‘‘NASCAR ’09’’ on Xbox 360, and the racing game convinces me that everyone’s right when they say I can save gasoline money by keeping my tires inflated and aligned properly. You’ve probably heard the same thing lately from Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, NASCAR and the U.S. Department of Energy. The ‘‘NASCAR ’09’’ experience gets a little closer than ever to mimicking the oval-driving sport, and this includes — no, I’m not kidding — keeping your tires properly inflated to the correct pressure. In fact, you tune up your car, tinker with your horsepower, maintain your tires and sleek up the aerodynamics so that your gas guzzler rides faster, smoother and more fuel efficient. You can also play as any major driver on the circuit, from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and beyond, while the host of the game is Jeff Gordon, who was filmed in high-definition so video of Gordon pops up from time to time to give you talking points. ‘‘NASCAR ’09’’ is well done, but it is often dull, because like all ‘‘NASCAR’’ titles and NASCAR itself, you just drive around and around these tracks, always turning left, left, left. Huh. Isn’t that funny? Someone should tell those NASCAR Republicans we keep hearing about that they should be turning right, right, right. (‘‘Eco-Creatures: Save the Forest’’ by Majesco retails for $15-$20 for DS — Plays too slight for adult fun, but may entertain very young kids. Looks rudimentary. Moderately challenging. Rated ‘‘E’’ for mild cartoon violence, mild language. One star out of four.) (‘‘NASCAR ’09’’ by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $40 for PS 2 — Plays well but kind of dull. Looks very good. Easy. Rated ‘‘E.’’ Two stars.) Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at DougElfman.com.
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