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KNOW YOUR CLUNKERS

Recently, I talked a bit about games that make great holiday gifts, but it’s also important to discuss a few titles that might make gamers cringe, or otherwise be inappropriate.

While it generally doesn’t do much good to harp on specific titles, a game you might want to be wary of ” unless some masochist specifically asks for it ” is Konami’s “Rock Revolution.”

Do not let the game’s appearances and $30 price tag trick you into thinking it’s a worthy substitute for “Rock Band 2” or “Guitar Hero: World Tour.” If retailers run out of those titles during the run-up to Christmas, anyone with a modicum of common sense would rather receive an IOU than a flawed knockoff of a hit game.

To be fair to Konami, the company did help pioneer the music game genre with arcade games “GuitarFreaks” and “DrumMania.” But that only serves to make “Rock Revolution’s” flopitude that much more puzzling.

The game features about half the number of songs you’ll find in Harmonix’s “Rock Band 2” or Activision’s “Guitar Hero: World Tour.” And while those games use original master recordings for their songs, “Rock Revolution’s” tracks are all cover versions.

What’s more, there’s no vocal track or microphone in “Rock Revolution,” presumably because some clueless suit decided the inclusion of singing would undercut sales of Konami’s “Karaoke Revolution” franchise.

Judging by reviews, the game’s six-head drum peripheral, designed to more closely resemble a real drumkit than the one you’ll find in other music titles, is just needlessly complicated and confusing, thanks to an on-screen display that doesn’t neatly correspond with the kit sitting in front of you.

In other words, “Rock Revolution” is so inferior to its competitors, it ought to be required to display a warning on its packaging. Getting this game for Christmas in lieu of “Rock Band 2” is like getting a walkie-talkie when you wanted an iPhone.

Based on a handful of critics’ judgments, “Disney’s Ultimate Band” on the Wii may offer a similarly disappointing experience, but my own review copy arrived last week. I’ll post my thoughts on the game over the weekend.

KNOW YOUR HARDWARE

Another thing to bear in mind is that sometimes great games can make bad gifts. Make sure when purchasing game-related gifts that you’re buying for the right video game machine. (You can’t play a Mario game on anyone’s console other than Nintendo’s, for example.) If it’s a PC game, make sure the gift recipient’s computer has current enough hardware and the right operating system to run the title.

KEEP AGE IN MIND

Along those same lines, familiarize yourself with the rating system that all games use and remember that video games aren’t just for kids anymore. With the average age of gamers hovering somewhere around 30, there are increasingly large numbers of hit titles made primarily for adults. Familiarize yourself with the Electronic Software Board‘s website and ratings system. If you can spare the time, read the summaries of games’ potentially objectionable content.

Games rated E are suitable for children 6 and older. Games rated T are for children 13 and up. Games rated M are deemed appropriate for children 17 and older.

Now, lots of kids younger than 17 play M-rated games, just as many of them watch R-rated movies. But this is a decision that’s best left up to the gift recipient’s parents. Don’t buy your 15-year-old nephew “Fallout 3” without running it by his mom and dad first.

Similarly, older gamers might be bored by E-rated titles, or find them too easy.