Cool Stuff: Your 2007 Holiday Gift Guide

More than 50 amazing gifts for the technology lovers in your life

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Family Fun


Who says the whole family can't have fun together? We've found a grab-bag of games and systems that will keep the whole gang entertained. Video gaming console: Nintendo Wii

The most affordable console on the market is also the most fun for the family.

At $249, the Nintendo Wii has been wooing casual and hardcore gamers alike with its innovative interface: motion-sensing controllers that are as easy to pick up as a TV remote and as intuitive to use as a baseball bat, doing away with controllers that have more buttons than you have fingers. Without pushing a single button, first-time Wii players can hit a grand slam.

The Wii, courtesy of Nintendo.

The Wii, courtesy of Nintendo.

Nintendo's popular franchises -- Mario, Zelda, Metroid -- have all returned in new offerings rated "E" for everyone. But the Wii is imminently playable right out of the box: a pack-in game, Wii Sports, offers five sports and 15 mini-games for one to four players, and its daily Wii Fitness test will determine your age based on how well (or poorly!) you perform.

With the Wii's Virtual Console, you can also purchase and download classic games from decades past. Rudimentary e-mail and Web surfing are also part of the Wii's built-in wireless Internet. (An Ethernet adapter is sold separately.)

Even though Wii has been available for a year, demand for the gaming system still exceeds supplies. Check with your local retailers often to see when they're expecting new stock to arrive; keeping an eye on eBay can't hurt, either.

—Ken Gagné  

Wii from Nintendo of America Inc.

Price: $249 (more with bundled games) | Tech specs | Store locator | Phone: (800) 255-3700

Summary: Nintendo's Wii video game console uses motion-sensing controllers to simulate actions such as throwing a punch, swinging a sword and firing a gun.
Rock Band, courtesy of Harmonix.

Rock Band, courtesy of Harmonix. Console game: Rock Band The Guitar Hero video games have become smash hits, with their authentic rock tunes and guitar-shaped controllers, which give players the opportunity to rock 'n' roll their way to fame. Though the third installment in that series is due out soon, Harmonix, the development studio that created Guitar Hero, isn't responsible for Guitar Hero III.

Look instead for this company's latest experiment: Rock Band, coming this holiday season to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 and 3. Having created both the Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution video game series, Harmonix is pooling all aspects of music performance into a single package.

With Rock Band, you and your family can be the next Osmonds as you jam together on guitar, drums and microphone to one of 45 songs from groups like the Foo Fighters, R.E.M., Bon Jovi, Nine Inch Nails and the Rolling Stones.

Fame comes at a price: The game and all instruments are bundled together for $170. (Rated "T" for Teen)

—Ken Gagné  

Rock Band from Harmonix Music Systems

Price: $169.99

Summary: Get Mom on the drums and your brother on bass and practice those classic-rock riffs. Can a world tour be far behind?
Puzzle Quest, courtesy of Infinite Interactive.

Puzzle Quest, courtesy of Infinite Interactive. PC and Mac games for the whole family It may seem like computer games are dominated by first-person shooters, but there are plenty of alternatives that provide hours of fun and challenge to all ages. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

This combination of role-playing and puzzle genres offers an alternative to the violent conflicts of other games. Journey the world to discover dungeons, castles, magic and monsters in this epic story of good vs. evil -- but when battle occurs, break out your tiles.

Combat occurs in bejeweled fashion as players take turns swapping gemstones to make colored combinations that will disappear. Local and Internet multiplayer options are included. (Also available for Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, and Sony PSP)

Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull

The famous girl detective is back in a mystery that sends her through mansions and crypts looking for clues. Plenty of puzzles and notetaking compose a challenging case for gamers at least 10 years old.

Viva Piñata

Complementing the 4Kids TV cartoon, Viva Piñata challenges players to cultivate a garden that will attract colorful piñata residents. Gamers can then make and accessorize their piñatas or have them compete in various minigames. (Also available for Xbox 360)

Bee Movie Game, courtesy of Activision.

Bee Movie Game, courtesy of Activision. Bee Movie Game Jerry Seinfeld leaps off the silver screen and into this video game adaptation. Barry Bee Benson rushes around his hive in his little bee car before voyaging outside, where he must avoid cars, rainfall, and other menaces as he collects pollen and tries to save his colony's honey. (Also available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS) GooBall

You're an alien stuck inside a transparent ball, and you roll around various landscapes collecting gems. The difference between this and similar rolling-marble games is that you can make your ball sticky to climb up walls or stop short of a cliff. GooBall is just one of Ambrosia's lineup of creative arcade and strategy games -- check out Bubble Trouble and Apeiron (like Centipede) as well.

Diner Dash

Seat customers, take their orders and deliver their food. Sound easy? Ever been a waitress? Start with the original game or jump to the latest Hometown Hero version. Once you're hooked, join the community.

—Ken Gagné and Jake Widman  

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords from Infinite Interactive Pty.

Price: $19.99 | for Windows

Summary: Puzzle-solving meets epic adventure -- and jewels!
Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull from Her Interactive Inc.

Price: $19.99 | for Windows

Summary: Track the clues to solve the mystery.
Viva Piñata from Rare Ltd.

Price: $39.99 | for Windows | Tech Specs | Where to buy

Summary: A strategy/management game with an ecological twist.
Bee Movie Game from Activision Publishing Inc.

Price: $19-$20 | for Windows

Summary: A bee's-eye-view adventure game.
GooBall from Ambrosia Software Inc.

Price: $25 | for Mac

Summary: A rolling ball game with a sticky twist.
Diner Dash from PlayFirst Inc.

Price: $19.95 | for Mac and Windows

Summary: See if you can manage a restaurant full of hungry customers.
Cool Stuff
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