Samurai Warriors 2

Samurai Warriors 2 is an experiment in how many times a rat will hit a lever before it gets sick of the pellets. The action is simple: You're a hero tearing across a battlefield, cutting a swath through enemy infantry—and that's all you do, mission after mission, hour after hour. Aside from a few tactical details and boss fights, you're just a killing machine, mashing a single button as quickly as possible.

Ninety-Nine Nights recently tried to put a more epic, dramatic spin on the same concept, but Samurai Warriors 2 is as garish as a pizza-joint pinball machine—and much more fun for it. Distractions and bonuses keep whizzing by, from the steady stream of power-ups to the running B-movie dialogue with your comrades—like Keiji Maeda, who talks like a surfer and sports a hairdo like an electrocuted shih tzu. The game nails the balance between action and payoff, giving you just enough rewards for your brainless twitching to make the action addictive. And with more than a dozen characters and plenty of combos to unlock, it'll take hours to beat the game, even though not much changes along the way. It isn't a great game, but you aren't the first rat it's experimented on, and it knows how to keep you playing.

Beyond the game: Samurai Warriors 2 takes place at the end of Japan's feudal era, and it gives a placemat-level look at some real heroes of the period.

Worth playing for: The dialogue. To quote a non sequitur from scene-stealing ninja Kotaro Fuma: "The land is a complex place. But not nearly as complex as the mind."

Frustration sets in when: Your comrades regularly demand help from the other side of the battlefield, right when you're in the middle of something else. But failing to come in time can blow the whole battle. If you don't want to deal with the slightest tactical dimension, pick "Survival" mode, where a henchmen-filled castle delivers an all-you-can-beat buffet.

Final judgment: Hours of fun, but don't forget your drool cup.

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