Over the Hedge

We've been manipulating furry little critters in video games for years, so how come playing platform actioner Over the Hedge didn't hit us as an exercise in boredom? The short answer: multiplayer. The slightly longer answer: a decent sense of humor.

Over the Hedge takes its characters from an upcoming Dreamworks animated feature (code for "kiddie cartoon") in which a bunch of woodland creatures mount an assault on suburbia. As you can imagine, the idea is for hilarity to then ensue ... what makes this a little different from the mounds of other licensed child-centric schlock is that hilarity actually proceeds to ensue.

While bearing a striking resemblance to other multiplayer kids' games, such as Shrek SuperSlam, Over the Hedge maintains a unique personality by offering up a selection of four different, actually interesting characters. Particularly silly isHammy the crack-addicted squirrel (no, he's not really addicted to crack, but he seems like it) who gets top marks for ridiculous antics. As we jammed around the neighborhood dodging bears, exterminators and other suburban inhabitants, we enjoyed giving our feet a rest while having our partner carry us around on his back. It's those little touches that force laughs out of you whenand haveyou saying to yourself, "Hey, this game is actually pretty fun."

Your basic goal is to free your other woodland friends, who have been trapped by the nefarious exterminator -but carrying out your plans calls for a variety of tactics. Most of the game is your standard platform fare, featuring an attack and a jump button, but it's the mini-gamesthat keep you playing. The RC Car Racing game enables you to tool around a racetrack as a diversion from all the jumping, bashing and collecting of the main game.