Instant entertainment, with the latest handheld electronic games

The popular arcade frog has hopped into a miniature format. The critter dodges cars and skips over logs in two different games, each with five levels. Good for ages eight and up. Hasbro, $17.99.

Improved graphics--now in color!--make new games such as Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest ($29.95 each) even more addictive than the black-and-white ones. But if you prefer your old favorites, this Game Boy is "backward compatible": it actually colorizes Nintendo black-and-white game packs like Tetris and Zelda. Nintendo, $79.95.

With its advanced touch-screen interface and backlighting, you can even play this one in the dark. Better yet: you can use it for games--nascar Racing, Metal Gear Solid ($24.99 each)--that until now could be played only on large systems like the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo N64. Tiger Electronics, $29.99.

Games pop to life on the vivid, 4,096-color palette of this new system. Comes with a joystick, a calendar, an alarm clock, and even a horoscope program. Games cost $24.95 to $34.95. SNK Corp., $69.95.

Now kids can E-message their pals and make new ones with these egg-shaped gizmos. Users input personal stats (age, gender, hobbies) to link up with others who share their interests. A 25-foot range lets kids send private notes (protected by a password) to one friend or to a group, and broadcast messages that only girls (or boys) can receive. Playmates, $39.99 for set of two.

Parents will wrestle with kids to play this updated version of the classic board game. There are no little plastic houses or hotels to misplace, and your opponent can be real or virtual. Other handheld games you can buy include Operation and Trivial Pursuit. Milton Bradley, $19.99.