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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

The Tokyo Game Show is coming soon and Sony came out early with some significant announcements.  The biggest among them being a new piece of hardware. The PSVita TV is a $100 piece of equipment the size of a deck of playing cards that has a lot of potential.

The hardware is currently slated for release in Japan, but I can’t see any reason why Sony wouldn’t bring it over to North America at some point soon.

Its primary purpose will be to allow people to play PSVita games on HDTVs using a DualShock 3 controller (the controller that comes with the PS3). This is great for people who were interested in the PSVita game library, but were not interested in paying over $200 for a handheld device. The announcement left us to wonder about how they will make the touch screen controls in many of the PSVita titles work, but I am certain that Sony will fill in the blanks as they get closer to the launch.

That’s not all it can do though. The PSVita TV will also be able to play the role of a retro-PlayStation machine by playing Playstation Classic titles that are downloaded using Sony’s Playstation Store. This makes it a great option for people who are looking for a bit of nostalgia.

Lastly, the device is going to allow media streaming much like the current Roku boxes and Apple TV. This will include things like Netflix and Hulu. I know that just about everyone has more than a dozen devices in their home that can stream like this, but it is never a bad idea to include the features.

Those features are fine, but what really struck me as interesting about this device is its potential integration with other Sony products and services.

Presumably, this product will be able to connect to the PS4 remotely and allow people to play their games on a separate TV without moving the main box. As someone who plays a lot of games while my wife is watching her own shows at night, this is an attractive feature. The implications of allowing a child to play PS4 games on the “playroom” TV while leaving the actual PS4 unit protected in a parent’s bedroom or an office sounds like it would be a great idea.

Sony also purchased a company in the last year called Gaikai that was developing technology to allow people to play streamed games similarly to the way we watch movies on Netflix. Sony intends to, at some point, give people access to their library of games through that service. This would be an excellent piece of equipment to do that with.

We’ll have to see how it all plays out in the long run, but for right now this is a pretty exciting device. What do you think? Would you buy one? How would you use it? Sound off in the comments section!

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PAX East 2018 – Saving the World in Earthnight!

Earthnight, by Cleaversoft, is a procedurally generated infinite runner hand painted in an anime style set during a dragon apocalypse. coming to PS4, PSVita. and PC/Mac later this year. That sure is a lot to unpack, but it my demo was so good when I played it at PAX East that its worth digging in to every detail we can about it. The game has been in development for several years at this point. So long, in fact, that it started when infinite runners were just starting to pick up steam on mobile devices. The team  at Cleaversoft wanted to make a game together and decided on a project that improved on the genre by adding more depth. They wanted to take Infinite runners to new heights so they decided to go into space… with dragons.

 

The most striking thing about Earthnight is the art style. Every frame of animation is hand drawn by a brilliant artist in an anime style. The two main characters, a 14 year old girl name Sydney and a freelance photographer named Stanley, are beautifully animated. Their detailed running and jumping animations each help to give them as much personality as a few dozen pages of dialogue and backstory. Even the character selection screen serves to illustrate their character.

The level design is important, too. The team created something they like to call “hand-designed procedural generation.” They divide each dragon into three different core components: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each of those components has at least five different hand-designed variations that spawn based on a set of rules. This means that players will be able to master the different segments as they play the game, but their time with the game will never be the same.

The action is also very fast. The characters run on their own so the only way that players can control them is through timing their jumps. Stanley, the photographer, is the easier of the two characters to control. He doesn’t have as many options for movement so it will be easy for even novice characters to pick him up and do well. Sydney, on the other hand, is incredibly difficult to control. I played a few rounds as Stanley and got cocky so I tried to take a turn with her. I paid for it at first because she controls very differently. The biggest difference between the two of them is that she can dash forward after jumping. This might not seem like a big deal, but the added choice mixes things up a bit. That dash can help you get onto far away ledges, but it can also land you in big trouble.

We will, hopefully, be getting our hands on Earthnight later this year. I asked the developers about other consoles and they didn’t have anything to announce at the time. I am hoping that this one finds it sway to as many platforms as possible. It is too pretty not too.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Secret of Mana is being Remade with Modern Visuals and Sound!
Square Enix has announced a complete remake of the Secret of Mana. It is scheduled to be released on February 15, 2018 for the PlayStation 4, the PSVita, and PC. They aren’t kidding when they say it is a complete remake either. Square is giving the game an overhaul with 3D graphics, bright colors, and voice acting!
 
Secret of Mana is one of the most beloved RPGs of all time. Its claim to fame, at least in my heart, is being the first action RPG to include two player, simultaneous, cooperative play. It was one of the first opportunities my brother and I had to play a game like this together. It actually supported three players, but we were never able to make that happen. We will get that chance again when the remake comes out. 
 
Square Enix is giving Secret of Mana a full makeover. They are using a bright and colorful art style that will be a sight to behold. It’s interesting that Square Enix waited this long to remake this one, but I am hoping that this will become a trend. They have a huge catalog of games that are worthy of remakes like this.
I know that we’re picking this one up the minute it comes out. What about your family? Sound off in the comments!
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Playstation Plus logo

Sony has announced the lineup of free games being released as part of the PlayStation Plus program for August 2017. The list includes six games: two for the PS4, 2 for the PS3, and 2 for the PSVita. It is worth mentioning though that a lot of the PSVita games are “crossbuy” which means that you can also download then on the PS4.

This month’s lineup of games isn’t terribly good for families. The biggest game on the list is Just Cause 3. It’s a good game, but it is an action game where you explore, destroy a Mediterranean island. That, generally, places it in the “after bedtime” category for most families.

Take a look below for the list of upcoming games!

PlayStation 4

  • Just Cause 3 – M for Mature
  • Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry – M for Mature

PlayStation 3

  • Super Motherload – E 10+
  • Snakeball – E for Everyone

Vita

  • Downwell (crossbuy with PS4) – E for Everyone
  • Level 22, PS Vita – E 10+

 

What do you think of this lineup? Sound off in the comments!

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nintendo-switch-logo

The Nintendo Switch is a console designed to live in two worlds. It is expected to hold its own as a home console while also serving as a handheld gaming device. The Switch does not excel in either way compared to its contemporaries, but I just don’t think that matters. The Switch is able to serve both purposes well enough to justify its purchase. In this case being a jack of all trades is NOT a liability. Without further fanfare: here is our Nintendo Switch review.

Hardware

The hardware specifications are the boring part. So let’s get them out of the way first, shall we?

 

Feature Switch Xbox One PS4
CPU: Cores 4x ARM Cortex A57 8x AMD Jaguar 8x AMD Jaguar
Memory 4GB 8GB 8GB
Storage 32GB flash (microSD-expandable) 500GB HDD 500GB HDD
Physical game formats Game Card Disc Disc

 

These numbers likely won’t mean much for the average consumer, but suffice it to say that in regards to home consoles smaller numbers are generally worse.

The Nintendo Switch is underpowered compared to the other consoles on the market right now. This means that it won’t be able to output the graphics that most game developers would need to be able to put the same games on the Switch that they would on the PS4. As a result, it is possible that the Nintendo Switch may lose out on some of the higher end games that are released each year like Call of Duty, Battlefront, etc.

Nintendo does have the strongest lineup of first party (internally developed) games of any of the console makers though. These companies are no stranger to making the best of underpowered hardware which they have been doing since Nintendo launched the Wii.

Portable Gaming

We live in a world where almost everyone has a giant phone or a tablet. Mobile gaming is no longer the novelty that it used to be. As a result, the Nintendo Switch needs to do something different to stand out from the crowd. It needs to provide experiences that are unique to the console and superior to the other options on iPads and phones to be worth the increased cost.

Fortunately, this is where the Nintendo Switch shines. All you have to do is pull the Switch out of its dock and you can take it anywhere to play the same games as you would at home. I know that I was concerned (before the console’s launch) that this would be a significant drop in the graphics. The drop is certainly there, but it isn’t nearly as severe as I was concerned about. Instead I am left with a console where I can truly play console quality games wherever I go. That is an amazing feeling and one that cannot be reproduced on any other piece of hardware on the market today aside from the Nintendo Switch.

Battery Life

The Nintendo Switch is limited by the size and power of its battery. Our experiences and testing has shown that a fully charged Switch will last for between 2-3 hours undocked while playing graphics intensive games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

It is worth noting, however, that the Switch is compatible with USB C cables and will work with many of the popular portable chargers on the market. Using one of those will definitely extend the battery life of your device.

Unique Gaming Experiences

The Nintendo 3DS, the PSP, the PSVita, and many others have given us portable gaming before. That really isn’t anything new. The Switch, however, offers options for gaming experiences on the move that were never possible before.

The biggest new feature is the ability to play local multiplayer games like Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe anywhere we want. This is going to be one of the biggest features for our family and for many others, I’m sure. Our kids have had 3DS systems for years, but they have never been able to play their home console games anywhere else without moving the whole system. The fact that they can easily play multiplayer games on the thanks to the multiple Joy-Cons included with the console is just an added bonus.

Controllers

Each Nintendo Switch includes a pair of Nintendo Joy-Con controllers. They will attach to either side of the Switch tablet or to either side of a special controller called the Joy-Con grip. The Joy-Cons are definitely small so you will need to be careful not to lose them.

The Joy-Con Grip is a reasonable facsimile of a controller and will work for a while. But, if you or your family intends to play games for any length of time then I recommend the separate purchase of the Switch Pro controller. This is a controller that is built to be similar to the controllers for the other home consoles. It also happens to be a very good controller.

Online Services

As of today’s writing, Nintendo is offering a minimalist online experience for its online focused games at no charge.

That will change later on in 2017 when they add in a paid online service that will include a multiplayer app along with other functions at a premium charge (estimated to be around $30 annually).

We will have to see how that shakes out as they explain the service to us over the summer.

Games

Consoles live and die by the power of their games library. As of right now I feel very strongly that the library for the Switch is large enough to justify a purchase. The fact that the system launched with the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was likely enough, but in the months that have passed the library has only grown with such titles as Graceful Explosion Machine, Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Puyo Puyo Tetris.

Conclusion

The Nintendo Switch is an amazing device. It is not going to replace any dedicated home consoles like the PS4 or Xbox One in terms of sheer power, but I don’t think that matters. This is a tremendous system that will be a worthy purchase for any family.

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Overwatch-Characters

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. We had a lot of options for our game of the year, because we played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

overwatch-teamwork

 

Overwatch – PC, PS4, Xbox One

Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. But, it wasn’t the only great game we played this year. Take a look below for out other favorites!

Pokemon Go – Mobile

Pokemon Go Logo

Pokemon Go doesn’t really have a lot of “game” built into it. You don’t really have a lot of meaningful decisions to make. It doesn’t look terribly good. But, none of that matters when you take into account the impact this game had on the world as a whole.

It felt like the entire world was on their feet and moving around more starting the day after Go’s release. There are videos from all over the world showing massive crowds of people playing together in spite of the fact that they were all playing on their phones.

I covered it in an EFG show awhile back, but at one point towards the end of last year Pokemon Go players has collectively walked the equivalent distance between Earth and Neptune!

There is no question that Pokemon Go has declined in popularity, but we couldn’t leave it off our games of the year list because of that. Its cultural impact was just too great.

NBA 2k17 – PC, PS4, Xbox One

nba-2k17-logo

NBA 2K17 is one of our games of the year because it is, quietly, three very good games in one package.

Players looking for a near perfect simulation of the sport of professional basketball certainly get their wish here. Gameplay is fluid and the developers spent a lot of time giving skilled players the ability to create magic moments on the court.

That isn’t all the game has up its sleeve though. NBA 2k17 is also an amazing management sim. Players can take on the role of GM for their favorite franchise or create an entire new one as they chase greatness. You get to make all sorts of interesting decisions in this mode. So many, in fact, that you might not even have time for the games themselves (But, don’t worry. You can play those too.)

NBA 2k17 is also one of the best role playing experiences around right now. The single player story mode is a straight-up rpg. Players take on the role of Prez, a young player entering his NBA career. You don’t just play his games though. You control his entire schedule. This includes when (and whether) he practices, who he hangs out with, and how he interacts with some of his teammates. It is an unprecedented level of control and it gives a very accurate representation of the NBA lifestyle.

I can’t recommend this game enough for people who are even tangentially interested in the NBA.

Final Fantasy XV – PS4, Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV

How do I even begin with this one? I have been waiting for this game almost as long as I have been a parent. While I have to admit that Final Fantasy XV didn’t exceed any of my expectations and completely blow my mind… it was still an awesome game.

For starters, the game is absolutely gorgeous. Every time I passed over the crest of a hill or rounded a corner I was greeting by some of the most gorgeous vistas I have ever seen. I was endlessly astonished.

It did not hurt that the action was always intense when I got to my destination. XV passed on the turn based combat that has been a franchise mainstay for three decades. Instead, this game features a combat system that is much more action focused. The best analogy I can come to  is that it will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played a Kingdom Hearts game in the past.

This is a must play for even lapsed fans in the series, because Square has done everything they could to bring the series back from the brink and I think they succeeded.

Stardew Valley – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

stardew-valley-logo

Stardew Valley is one of the surprise indie hits of the year. It is an incredibly deep farming, dating, fishing, life simulator that is playing using graphics that look like they could have run on a Super Nintendo.

The simple graphics are just a smokescreen though. This game does everything and does it well. It also has a very slick gameplay loop that gives you just enough time during each game day to do about three quarters of the things you wanted to do. This might sound like a trap, but it just gives that much more motivation to make your next day that much more efficient.

This is a great game that is available on consoles, but it is really best on PC and will run on some of the most antiquated machines. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You’ll like it.

Pokemon Sun/Moon – Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon sun and moon box art

Pokemon certainly had a big year in 2016. It celebrated its 20th anniversary as a franchise. They released the aforementioned Pokemon Go. They also capped the year off with the release of the 7th generation in the mainline Pokemon titles in Pokemon Sun and Moon.

These games did just about everything right. They provided the most accessible entree to the franchisee in years. They simplified (and reduced some of the grinding) involved in Pokemon breeding. And they rode the wave of success from Pokemon Go into being some of the fastest selling video games in Nintendo history.

If you are a Pokemon fan and don’t already own one (or both) of these games, then I would seriously consider it. These are excellent games that are worthy of your attention.

Super Mario Run – iOS (Android 2017)

super-mario-run-logo

This game only came out a few weeks ago, but it left a very strong impression on me. Super Mario Run is the first in an oncoming wave of mobile games being developed by Nintendo exclusively for mobile devices and it is a great start.

It plays very similarly to  standard Mario games at its core. But, there is one exception. Mario almost never stops running. The only level of control that players have is tapping on their screen to make Mario jump. This game is all about timing your jumps perfectly as you try to collect a set of five special coins.

I have enjoyed all of the time I sent with this one so far, and I think that it bodes well the the games that Nintendo will release in the future.

Street Fighter V – PS4

street fighter V

My love for the Street Fighter franchise is well documented. I’m terrible at it, but I love it. Street Fighter V is the newest entry in the franchise and it brings back all of the wild action that I have loved from the past and it looks very pretty doing it.

The game has not had the best start, but Capcom has continued to support the game with DLC characters, competitive fixes, and other updates. This is one game that will look very different over the next few years. I can’t wait to see it all.

Ratchet and Clank – PS4

ratchet-clank-prev

One of the questionable trends over the last handful of years has been the tendency of companies to remaster their content and repackage it for sale to earn a quick buck. Ratchet and Clank looks like it might have been a part of that trend to the untrained eye, but it is anything but.

The key difference is that Ratchet and Clank is a frame for frame, point for point remake of the original game in the long standing franchise using a new engine, significantly improved graphics, and modern game design sensibilities. It also happens to be a TON of fun.

Do not sleep on this game folks. If you own a PS4, then this is a must own.

Skylanders Imaginators – PS4, Xbox One, Wii U

imaginators_keyart

Sure. I get it. This is  a games of the year list on a family gaming site. Of course Im going to include the Skylanders game right? I’ll admit it. That was more than likely, but Imaginators is something special,

In my opinion Skylanders Imaginators is the best game in the Skylanders series so far, bar none. My reasoning here is simple. We’ve been used to getting a new batch of interesting Skylanders each year, but there was something special about being able to create and continuously improve my own character. This made me much more invested in everything that happened throughout the game.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360

lego-star-wars-the-force-awakens-logo

I would have thought that LEGO Star Wars series was dead in the water after Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise and Electronic Arts signed a 10 year license to create Star Wars games. But, lo and behold, the franchise isn’t just alive. It is thriving.

This entry follows the plot of episode VII very closely and even includes some plot points that were hinted at in the movies but never explicitly discussed like C-3PO’s red arm. They even included *that* seen and managed to handle it tastefully while still holding true to their typical humor.

They also managed to, somehow, include several new gameplay modes including cover based shooting and aerial dogfighting. This works out great because the added level variety helped keep the game interesting.

Dragon Quest Builders – PS4, PSVita

dragonquest_builders_new

When I first say this game I thought it would be a cheap Minecraft ripoff. I never expected it to be one of the biggest, and most pleasant, surprises of the year.

It is undeniable that Builders takes some of its design cues from Minecraft. Players travel around a map gathering materials by defeating enemies and breaking cubes. They then use those materials to build things.

The difference here is that unlike Minecraft, this isn’t a pure sandbox game. Players are placed in gameplay scenarios and tasked with building up and defending a settlement. This is a significant change, and one that really appeals to me because I enjoy the more focused gameplay experience.

It doesn’t hurt that the game also features the charming Dragon Quest art style.

I feel comfortable recommending this game to anyone who is looking for a change of pace from Minecraft.

Unravel – PC, Xbox One

unravel

unravel

Unravel was a captivating experience for our family when it came out earlier this year. It was one of the most gorgeous games we had ever seen to that point. The story it told resonated with us very strongly. And the puzzle platforming elements brought us all together as we worked together to solve them.

We loved the short time we spent with Unravel. This is a great game for your family if you are looking for a game to work through together.

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Sony-Playstation-logo

Sony will be closing out the day on Monday with their E3 press event just like they have for the last several years. They have a sales lead so far for the current console generation, but I wouldn’t call it a *comfortable* one.  They need their press event to be amazing in order to maintain their lead over the Microsoft Xbox One (especially now that their base model is $350).

Here are some of my thoughts and predictions:

Uncharted IV: A Thief’s End will take center stage.

The uncharted series is rated M, so it doesn’t merit much discussion here, but this is likely going to be the biggest release for the PlayStation 4 by the time it is released next year no matter what comes out between now and then. It is a MASSIVE franchise.

Anyone with teenagers will want to at least keep your eye on it as it will likely be something they want if they have a PlayStation 4.

The PSVita will be a non-presence.

The long and short of it is that The PSVita is thriving through the support of independent game developers and will continue to do so for a long time. Sony doesn’t have to spend a single marketing dollar on the PSVita in order to make that happen.

Virtual Reality will be part of their show.

Project Morpheus is Sony’s VR headset. It is currently slated for a 2016 release but we don’t have any real details aside from that. I expect that we will see the final product and some actual games to go along with it. If we are lucky we will see a price point and a smaller release window, but that is a real stretch.

Sony will, finally, unveil some of the projects that their first party studios are working on.

Sony owns a whole bunch of studios that are responsible for almost all of their PlayStation exclusives. Many of them are working on projects, and have been for years, but they have been silent on what exactly those projects are.

They are running headlong into a Holiday season where Microsoft will be releasing several HUGE games like HALO 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Forza Motorsports 6. The next big Sony release will not happen until months later when Uncharted launches. Sony has been hesitant to announce games too early in development, but it would probably be a good idea to share some information with the world to help build excitement.

Maybe. JUST MAYBE. We’ll finally see the Last Guardian.

At this point The Last Guardian is a legend. It was debuted at an E3 several years ago to thunderous applause. This was a follow-up from the team that made Shadows of the Colossus (argued by some as one of the better games in the history of the medium). The trailer showed a young boy travelling alongside a giant dragon/dog/bird-like creature. But we have seen nothing of the game since then aside from reassurance that it is still in development.

Many doubt this to be true, though, because that means it would have been in development for more than a decade. That is unprecedented.

With that said, if the game is coming, then maybe we’ll see it on the biggest stage of them all.

What about you? What are your Sony predictions? Sound off in the comments.

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Comcept will be teaming up with Deep Silver to publish the “Kickstarter sensation” Mighty No. 9 during September of 2015. The game, designed by Keiji Inafune (the man behind Mega Man), will release in the US on September 15th in both a digital and retail version! The Kickstarter had predicted a Spring 2015 launch, so many fans were disappointed today when Comcept made the announcement. But, delays in the video game industry are always good. They always result in a fuller and more polished experience.

In this case the delay, coupled with the partnership with Deep Silver, has allowed Comcept to add even more value. They will be including an extra game level in the retail version of the game that features an epic battle with the character “Ray.” Completion of the level will unlock Ray as playable for the entire game. If he plays very differently than Beck, then this is a great value add for everyone.

Retail versions of Mighty No. 9 will be available for the Microsoft Xbox One, the Sony PlayStation 4, and the Wii U. Digital versions will be available for those systems as well as the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PSVita, and Nintendo 3DS.

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Today is Earth Day and the staff at Engaged Family Gaming wants to share some games you can play to celebrate! Below are our picks for board games (and a video game) to play today (or any day) that will help you learn about, cherish, or save the only home we have ever known.

EcoFluxx

EcoFluxxThe Fluxx series of card games, by Looney Labs, provides a pretty simple set of rules: The cards are the rules. The games start with a draw-one, play-one rule, but new rule cards can be played to change that, goal cards can change the victory conditions, and players get “Keeper” cards that help them reach the goal conditions. EcoFluxx is fast (5-20 minutes) and chaotic, with ever changing rules and win conditions, but great silly fun for the family. Lots of themes are available for the game, but the Eco theme is the perfect fit for your Earth Day game table.

Takenoko

TakenokoTakenoko is a gorgeous looking game that puts players in charge of a shared Japanese bamboo garden. Players work to complete individual goals, either by building out the colored, hex-shaped tiles into a certain layout, moving the gardener to encourage the gardens to grow a certain amount of bamboo, or moving the adorable panda figure to eat a certain amount of bamboo shoots. Multiple concurrent goals allow players lots of choice in how to score points, and the brightly colored and beautiful components will keep interest for both kids and adults alike. This gardening game is fast becoming a staff favorite.

CO2


Perhaps the most directly Eco-conscious game on the list, CO2 is a complex combination of worker placement, area control, and economic development game mechanics. Players take control of fictional corporations, building power plants, attempting to leverage green technologies and overall reduce CO2 emissions while still remaining profitable. The game certainly falls on the more fiddly, complex side of the fence, but for those with families comfortable with Euro or worker-placement style games, CO2 provides some deep (and green!) gameplay

 

Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game

Koi Pond Card Game

Koi Pond is a card game we haven’t talked much about on Engaged Family Gaming before. In it, players compete to create the most beautiful Koi Pond they can by collecting numbered fish cards (which are gorgeous by the way) and place them either in your public pond or private home.This gorgeous, set collecting game is fun to play, but requires a small amount of bluffing since you have hidden cards.

 

 

 

 

Flower

flower the game companyFlower, by That Game Company, is the only video game to grace our list today. The reason?  It was simply too beautiful to leave out. This is a game where players control a cluster of flower petals as they are blown by the breeze around a number of beautiful environments.  The story is told without words, but it is a wonderful allegory about the destruction of nature by our industrialized society.

It is currently available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PSVita.

Pandemic

pandemic boardYeah. Yeah. Pandemic doesn’t fit the typical Earth Day vibe. But,  we figured: “What better way to celebrate the world than by saving it!”

We’ve spoken a ton about Pandemic before (One of our writers MIGHT have a small obsession with it),  so you can check that out here.

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Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Reviewed on iOS, available on Android

Overall Review

When a trailer for a WWE themed fighting game by Nether Realm Studios shows up on RAW I was excited. I love fighting games and they have done an excellent job with both Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us in recent years. This felt like a slam dunk. That excitement faded a bit when I found that that it would be a free to play mobile game as opposed to the deep tournament worthy fighting game I was hoping for.

Nevertheless, I wanted to give the game a shot. I enjoyed the Injustice mobile game for what it was so it couldn’t possibly hurt. Right? I am glad that I did because WWE Immortals is a lot of fun.

The first thing that makes WWE Immortals stand out from other wrestling themed games is its presentation. This is not a pro-wrestling simulator by any stretch of the imagination. This is a full on fantasy based fighting game that features witches, giants, demons, and angels. The premise is hokey, but it fits. Bray Wyatt has found a magic lantern that will help empower him to show the way to his followers. The Authority steals it from him and activates its power. This tears a whole in reality and brings different versions of the WWE superstars together to do what they do best: fight!

WWE Immortals Gold Heroes screenshot

The best of the best!

The characters themselves are all fantasy expressions of their in ring personas. Sheamus is an ancient druid. The Big Show is a giant. The Rock is literally made of stone and lightning (He is the most electrifying man in sports and entertainment after all). Each character has a unique move set that are at least thematically similar to their moves in the ring. They are, however, heavily stylized and exaggerated. Kane is a big guy, but he isn’t getting the Big Show up on his shoulders for a power bomb and jumping in the air. This was my family’s favorite part of the game. We view WWE superstars as close-to-real-life superheroes and villains.WWE Immortals presents them as exactly that. Engaged Family Gaming has a complete list of the WWE superstars that appear in the game here

WWE Immortals Screenshot

The action is touch based, but very intense.

Family Gaming Assessment

Parents will face some of the same dilemmas with WWE Immortals as they would with the TV show.

First, it is a game built around combat. All of the action is built around fighting other characters. That can be excused on the show though because it is all under the guise of athletic competition. We, as adults, know that the match outcomes are decided beforehand, but the story they are putting forward is one of “superstars” competing for championships. The game doesn’t share that pretense at all. This is a pure fighting game with a loose story. I don’t know that this is an “issue” per se though. I would think that any parent who is comfortable letting their child watch a RAW broadcast will be comfortable with this game.

Second, and most importantly, the female characters all share “commercially idealized” bodies and wear revealing outfits. There is nothing risqué happening on screen, but it is something worth mentioning for parents who might be concerned about that sort of thing.

Playability Assessment

I recently praised Super Smash Bros for Wii U for its accessibility for less experienced players and WWE Immortals follows suit. The entire game is played based on tapping the screen or swiping in the direction of an arrow. Even the most inexperienced gamers will be able to jam on the screen and make characters play. Movement isn’t even an issue as that is entirely handled by the machine.

Younger players might have difficulty with the meta-game involved in choosing the correct three fighter team. But, they will be able to play even if they just choose their favorites.

Conclusion

It is hard not to recommend giving a free app a chance. But, even if we set that aside WWE Immortals is well put together and provides a lot of fun for very little cost. I wish that some of the upper tier characters were less costly, but that is a small complaint.

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