"Re:coded" is an amalgam of episodic content played on cell phones in Japan, and feels like it. The game's core is still based on what fans of the "Kingdom Hearts" series have come to love -- an action RPG, where your characters expand their skills over time but fighting takes place in full button-mashing real time -- but the game takes frequent detours into platforming, sidescrolling and even shoot-'em-up sequences. If you're not familiar with "Kingdom Hearts," it's a odd meeting of very different worlds: "Final Fantasy" and Disney. That means you could find yourself fighting alongside Goofy in a village from "Final Fantasy X," and a little bit later get an assist from a "Final Fantasy VII" character while liberating Agrabah from "Aladdin."

"Re:coded" wisely puts the focus back on Disney after ODing on "Final Fantasy" in its previous DS outing, the dour "358/2 Days." This one starts when resident historian Jiminy Cricket is looking through his journals of your previous exploits and sees a line he doesn't remember writing: "We must return to free them from their torment." Having seen "Field of Dreams," Jiminy knows he must act on this message, setting in motion a weirder variety pack than anything sold by General Mills.

Winning Chuck Barris' approval: an intriguing story that lets you revisit familiar areas; a brilliant character progression system, in which your options are laid out on a motherboard you fill with microchips to customize your hero; and sidescrolling-type sections in which you don't have to deal with the camera. Receiving a gong from Steve Martin or David Letterman, whichever can strike first: the insistence upon a 3-D world when the DS, let's face it, can't handle it; and a bizarre preponderance of platforming. Variety is great, but who wants to spend time jumping around on crates in an RPG?

'Kingdom Hearts Re:coded'
» System: DS
» Price: $34.99
» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars