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Sat 15 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Game over

Melissa Sleiman gets misty-eyed for her childhood in front of the latest Xbox.

Melissa Sleiman gets misty-eyed for her childhood in front of the latest Xbox.

I grew up with computer games as a child, playing Pacman and Lemmings on my father's lap. Years later, I begged my brother to lose the finals of the national spelling championships he participated in - the runner-up prize was a PlayStation.

And during university I was addicted to throwing carrots at turtles as Super Mario on my Game Boy Advance.

The Xbox is one of the few consoles that I hadn't tested out. However, Microsoft has had some great, exclusive games developed for them over the years, so I decide to check it out.

The Xbox 360 Elite looks very much like the PlayStation, except that it comes in the shape of a box. The consoles are bigger and easier to hold and - hooray - wireless.

The games I'm supplied with, however, are not exactly my taste. ‘Viva Pinata' is for three-year-olds onwards and the main character on ‘Too Human' looks very... aggressive. Since I'm an Xbox n00b (newbie, for the non-nerds), I decide to give the first game a try anyway.

I join my insect friends in a vibrant, colourful garden. A creepy little bug (Professor Pester) grins evilly at me while I crawl through the weeds as a snail. I say ‘hi' to a smiling sunflower with a Teletubby voice. Suddenly I find myself in the air.

I'm a butterfly! I spot flowers and insects in the grasses. It's not particularly exciting, but the detailed graphics and beautiful colours make the game perfect for kids to learn about flora and fauna.

The next day I discover that there are games saved on my console. It can store up to 120 GB, which should be more than enough for an avid gamer (unless you're one of those who never stop collecting things).

Typically, a game is just a few GB. There's the possibility to download games and store them on the hard drive.

The Xbox comes with access to ‘LIVE' features, but unfortunately my internet connection is too pathetic to test it out. Basically, those features enable the user to compete with other users online and download games and even movies.

The headset can be used to send and receive voice messages. Sounds great, but for now I'll just play without any friends.

I'm pleased to find out that one of the games is for racing. Fancy cars, angry policemen, exotic locations. The graphics are amazing and the game loads quickly. I forgot the title, but it reminded me a lot of Need For Speed.

I was so addicted to that series that I raced every course over and over again, testing each and every car, my face at one point resembling that of a zombie. Strange, for someone who doesn't even have a driver's license yet.

The next game I play is about fish eating fish. The more you eat, the bigger you become. I maneuver my tiny fish through dangerous waters, chasing schools of little creatures.

I chuckle when I transform into the biggest fish and gulp down everyone and everything (except the lovely mermaid, who rewards me for my munching with bonus points). I scream as oysters trap me in their shells, or when a barracuda chases me around. How old am I again?

Even simple puzzle games are made interesting with themes. I get sucked into a game called ‘Zuma', about the Mayan period. I play a frog spitting out coloured marbles.

A little choir sings ‘umbachaga, umbachaga' in the background. A snake consisting of marbles moves towards what looks like a pit of doom and the ‘umbachaga's' become louder as I fail to break up the snake. I panic, and curse the frog.

And just to test how well the Xbox compares to the PlayStation, I pick up a copy of Pro Evolution Soccer (which I played on the PS2). I won't bore you by describing my journey from an insignificant manager to that of the hottest football players, though.

The game loads fast, the graphics are fine and the sound is good - the cheers of the watching are as annoying as I remember. Not much difference in those aspects.

I suppose the difference mostly lies in the titles of games you're interested in. But with the wide variety available, the Xbox is more than enough to keep the entire family happy. Or in my case, to rediscover my childhood.