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Stephen Duetzmann

 

By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is looking more and more like it is going to be one of the highlights in family gaming this holiday season. The demo is releasing on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC this week. The actual game will hit retail shelves next Tuesday.

We all know that kids can get attached to certain heroes and refuse to play games or use action figures when they aren’t involved. Take a peek below for a full list of the characters that are available in the game. (Note: This list is VERY long since the game includes all of the major characters and a lot of fringe characters that casual fans have likely never heard of.)

Heroes

  • Spider-Man
  • Captain America
  • Thor
  • Wolverine
  • Black Widow
  • Nick Fury
  • Iron Man
  • Cyclops
  • Mr. Fantastic
  • The Thing
  • Jean Grey
  • Emma Frost
  • Storm
  • Rogue
  • Psylocke
  • Invisible Woman
  • Human Torch
  • Iceman
  • The Hulk
  • Thundra
  • Hawkeye
  • Deadpool
  • Silver Surfer
  • Iron Fist
  • Luke Cage
  • Ghost Rider
  • Moon Knight (My personal favorite!)
  • Black Panther
  • Blade
  • Nova
  • Dr. Strange
  • Daredevil
  • Elektra
  • Ms. Marvel
  • U.S. Agent
  • Gambit
  • Nightcrawler
  • Black Cat
  • She Hulk
  • Black Knight
  • Doc Samson
  • Wonder Man
  • Tigra
  • Ka-Zar
  • Misty Knight
  • Scarlet Witch
  • Quicksilver
  • Colossus (!!!!!!!)
  • Namor
  • Cloak
  • Dagger
  • Photon
  • Quasar
  • Hercules
  • Mockingbird
  • Quasar
  • Ant-Man
  • Wasp

Villains

  • Dr. Doom
  • Loki
  • Ultron
  • Amora The Enchantress
  • Baron Mordo
  • Venom
  • Carnage
  • Magneto
  • Kang The Conquer
  • Bullseye
  • Abomination
  • Super-Skrull
  • Mystique
  • Toad
  • Avalanche
  • Blob
  • Pyro
  • Hydro-Man
  • Mysterio
  • Electro
  • Sandman
  • Vulture
  • Baron Zemo
  • The Juggernaut
  • Sabretooth
  • The Wizard
  • Trapster
  • Klaw
  • Titania
  • Moonstone
  • Warlord Krang
  • Byrrah
  • Attuma
  • Tiger Shark
  • Absorbing Man
  • Taskmaster
  • Living Laser
  • Green Goblin
  • Hobgoblin
  • Mole Man
  • Wrecker
  • Thunderball
  • Piledriver
  • Bulldozer
  • Skurge the Executioner
  • Blizzard
  • Batroc the Leaper
  • Red Skull
  • Whirlwind
  • Dreadknight
  • Crimson Dynamo
  • The Mandarin
  • Dormammu
  • Mad Thinker
  • Beetle
  • Arcade
  • Egghead
  • Constrictor
  • Ringmaster
  • Swordsman
  • Plantman
  • Malekith the Accursed
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Greetings,

Engaged Family Gaming is on a mission to show that gamers have a social conscience and sense of community. We want to show the world that Gamers Give Back, and we want you to be a part of it!

Each year Extra-Life raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network through a massive network of gaming marathons. This year WE will be joining the ranks of thousands of gamers who work hard to help raise funds for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

These hospitals provide care to children for some pretty horrific illnesses like cancer and cystic fibrosis. They also help treat children for serious injuries. Even more importantly, they do all of this regardless of whether or not their parents can pay for the services. They cannot, however, perform these miracles alone. They need our help.

On November 2nd, 2013, I’ll be participating in this huge worldwide fundraiser. My chosen hospital is Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, CT. It’s my sincere hope that you’ll find it in your heart to support my efforts with an hourly pledge or one-time gift to help them.

Your donation is tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids.

Last year, Extra Life raised more than 2 million dollars to save kids. But in 2013, the goals, just like the needs of the kids they serve, are much higher.

So, how is it going to work?

It’s simple. On November 2nd, 2013 I (and hopefully a team of friends) will be spending the entire day playing games of all kinds. We will be playing board games, video games, tabletop RPG’s and even childhood favorite outdoor games. When we take into account the fact that we “fall back” that day, my team and I will be playing games for a total of 25 hours. (I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified).

How exactly does playing games raise money?

Playing games for 25 hours is a challenge. It is an almost insurmountable challenge. So marathoners are all collecting sponsors to help inspire them to keep going. That is where you come in. You can either join my team and raise funds alongside me, you can pledge to support me, or pledge to support another team member. Making a TAX FREE donation online is safe and easy! You do it by clicking the “Support Me” button on this page. You can pledge a dollar amount of your choice. You can make a lump sum donation, or you could donate a smaller amount and repeat it over however many months you choose.

I want to join your team! How do I do that?

I’d love to have people play alongside me! If you would like to join our team and help us raise funds, then head on over to this page  and click “Join this Team.” Make sure to leave a comment here and let everyone know that you have joined the cause!
So it’s all just that easy? You play some games and people donate to charity?

Well… Yes. That is generally how it works. But we don’t do anything the easy way here. Team EFG has been challenged! The good people over at GoodGamesWriting.com have challenged us to a fundraising duel. The loser of which has to followup THIS fundraiser with another one where we have to play games chosen by the winner. (Yikes!)

I’m on a mission to save kids and I need your help. Thank you in advance for your donation and for caring for our kids!

Thank you,

Stephen and the entire Engaged Family Gaming team

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Developer: Rovio Studios

Rating: 4+

Release date: September 19th, 2013

Reviewed on iPhone 4, available on iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire

Overall Review:

Angry Birds is the mobile franchise to rule them all. The games themselves are relatively inexpensive to make and they sell by the boatload so we should probably just settle in and be ready to play these games for the rest of our natural lives. If you consider the sheer number of games in the franchise you would think that we would be tired of it all by now. But, lets be honest with ourselves here for a minute.

We’re not tired of it at all.

Angry Birds Star Wars II follows the story of the much maligned Star Wars prequel trilogy. It also gives us the chance to “Join the Pork Side” and play as pigs in a true Angry Birds game for the first time. The game play itself is exactly as we will remember it from previous game. We are given a limited number of birds, each with a different power, that we launch towards a castle or fort made up of different colored bricks to knock over all of the pigs.

The biggest difference this time around is the ability to purchase Angry Birds Star Wars themed toys called “telepods” and use them as characters in your game. I’ll be honest here. It surprised me that it took this long for Rovio to put this business model into action when I consider the massive success of the Skylanders franchise. Players can use special QR codes on the bottoms of each bird or pig to bring them into the game in place of another bird in the lineup. This adds some depth to the strategy here because it doesn’t just give you extra guys. Fortunately, the game gives you the chance to earn coins to purchase the special characters within the game, but they are all limited use.

Overall, I enjoyed myself. I have always loved Angry Birds games and this one was a welcome addition to my collection.

Family Gaming Assessment:

If you have played one Angry Birds game then you have played them all. There is nothing to be concerned about here.

Playability Assessment:

The game play is very similar to the other games in the franchise. It does, however, feel like the puzzles put a stronger emphasis on the use of each bird’s special power. The fact that there is a second input after the bird is launched changes the game. So much so that some younger players, who have grown accustomed to the more “fire and forget” strategies available in earlier games, might struggle.

The ability to substitute characters using actual toys is a new feature, but it doesn’t change up the strategy of the game enough to make it more complicated. Instead, it gives players more options to overcome each puzzle than the preset options at the beginning.

 

Conclusion:

If you are an Angry Birds fan, then Angry Birds Star Wars II is a must have. But, those people who are burned out from the franchise can probably find better games to play.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Nintendo held a Nintendo Direct video presentation on October 1 that focused entirely on 3DS and WiiU games that are on the way. The following is a list of the five most important things we learned from watching the presentation.

Super Mario 3D World is coming November 22, 2013

It also looks like it is EXACTLY what Nintendo needs to kick off the holiday season. The game looks amazing and is bringing more innovative ideas to the table than I can ever remember from a Mario game. This is going to be a must own for families that own a WiiU (and might even be a reason to buy a WiiU in the first place).

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze has been delayed until February 2014

This is a pretty big disappointment because it was one of my most anticipated games of the holiday season. I really enjoyed the last Donkey Kong game.

The last thing Nintendo needs to do is to push some of its premier franchises out of the holiday window, but it is possible that they wanted to avoid any potential competition with Super Mario 3D World.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 will feature an online multiplayer component

Players will be able to earn points for their country to help contribute to a leader board. This will be a great warm-up for the Nintendo online multiplayer services to help them get ready for Mario Kart 8 next year.

 

A new Kirby 3DS title is in development

They showed a brief preview of the title in progress and it looks amazing. The game is currently slated for release next year. Kirby fans look like they have a lot to look forward to. (I. Cannot. Wait.)

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will feature some significant changes

They announced significant changes regarding item acquisition. The biggest difference is that items will be available for “rental” in order to allow players to tackle dungeons in any order they choose. This is a significant change for players used to previous entries in the franchise that were much more linear.

It looks like there is a lot to be excited about for Nintendo fans this year and next. What are you most excited about? Sound off in the comments!

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Developer: Whitaker Trebella

Release Date: July 2012

Reviewed on iOS (iPhone 4), available for iPad

Overall Review:

Pivvot is a bizarre mash-up of the puzzle and rhythm genre that the developers call a game of “strategic avoidance.” I hate to fall into the trope of saying that the “game play is difficult to describe,” but in this case it is true. Players are tasked with maneuvering a ball that is tethered to a line around various obstacles while traveling down a mazelike path. The game is much less about reflexes and more about figuring out what angle to take when approaching challenges.

I had a lot of difficulty “getting” this game at first. It doesn’t really give much explanation when you get started. Instead, you are left to pick it all up on your own. I never felt confused though.

The game moves at an unforgiving speed, which should have made the game intense and stressful when you consider the flashing lights and the techno music. Despite all that I found it to be a relaxing experience. In fact, I found it far more “zen” than some of the relaxation games that are marketed that way.

Family Gaming Assessment:

We’re talking abstract shapes, electronic music, and flashing colors here folks. There is nothing to be concerned about at all.

Playability Assessment:

The problem here lies in the games difficulty. His is not an easy game to play. Many children will struggle with it because of the games speed.

There is almost no reading involved in the game so children who had difficulty reading won’t need to shy away from the game at all.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a minimalist puzzle game to help kill time, then this is a great choice. However, the $2.99 price tag is tough to justify unless you, or your kids, are big fans of the genre.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief

Square Enix/Crystal Dynamics

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Release Date: March 2013

Reviewed for PS3 (Also available for Xbox 360 and PC)

Overall Review:

This is not the Tomb Raider that you remember. It might be hard to scrub the images of the original Lara Craft flipping around tombs dual-wielding pistols. But, you’re going to have to do it in order to play this game.

Crystal Dynamics took a chance here by reinventing one of the most iconic video game franchises in history. Tomb Raider games were a huge deal in the past, but they had fallen flat in recent years. The developers decided to reboot the franchise and take Lara Craft back to her roots and explore how a young woman could turn into a cold, confident killer. It was definitely a risk, but it paid off. The result is a game that is much grittier than the originals, but shows the pain, hardship, and danger that helped create her modern persona.

The story starts with Lara on an expedition south of Japan. She convinces her team to travel into “The Devil’s Triangle,” and the ship is caught in a very sudden and equally powerful storm that sinks it. She and much of the crew find themselves on an island that turns out to be “less than deserted.” The result is a string of events that lead up to a climax that caught me by surprise. Most importantly, the different steps of the narrative help us see Lara evolution as a person. This adds weight to every conflict and deeper meaning to everything that she says and does. In short, the storytelling is superb.

Game play is very similar to most third person shooters. I felt like there was a lot of variety to the encounters will enemies and never felt constrained with “one correct way” to deal with a fight. The combat is heavily centered on her bow since it can kill silently and from a significant range, but she does end up with other weapons. One thing that I found interesting is that there are very few options in melee combat. She never picks up a knife or a sword. Instead, the game encourages you to use guns at close range.

There are Quick Time Events (QTEs) spread throughout the game, but they never felt like they got in the way. Also, the interaction buttons were always the same based on context. For example, I would always be asked to use the square button to catch myself while falling.

Family Gaming Assessment:

I’ll be blunt here. This game is not intended for young children. The tame gun play of the original Tomb Raider series is gone. Instead, gun play results in generous splashes of blood and realistic death animations. I would not recommend putting this game in front of someone who was not mature enough to understand what was going on.

The game also features a lot of foul language. I lost track of the specifics after a while, but just about every colorful four letter word imaginable was thrown into the script for this game.

Playability Assessment:

There is no doubt that this game is challenging. Just about every button on the face of the controller finds itself used at one point or another. You are given more options slowly though, so it never feels overwhelming.

The hallmark of the series has been the puzzles. In previous years objects would flash if they could be interacted with. Crystal Dynamics ignored that in favor of adding visual cues to the environment that tell players what to do. For example, anything covered in white cloth or canvas can be set on fire and boarded up doorways covered in barbed wire can be blasted through with a shotgun. This limited some puzzles to games of “Where’s Waldo,” but it helped me remain immersed in the story.

Conclusion:

There are so few games with female protagonists that this game is a must play for just about anyone old enough.

I can’t stress enough that this game isn’t for young children, but if you have a teenager who is struggling to appreciate strong female characters in fiction, then this is something to show them.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB: E 10+

08/11/2013

Reviewed on 3DS

Overall Review:

If you had told me when I was a teenager that one of my favorite role playing game (RPG) series as an adult would feature Mario and Luigi I would have laughed at you. I would never have imagined that the Mario and Luigi series would captivate me as much as it has.

To put it simply: Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is brilliant. This series never fails to impress me with its wit and charm. This particular entry stands out because it “features” Luigi. I use quotes here because most of the action takes place while Luigi is sleeping on the job!

If I were to have one complaint about the game it would be its length. I know that sounds odd considering it is a role playing game (RPG), but I was ready for it to be over by the time I was done.

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is nothing really worrisome about this game.

The villain can be a little scary at times, but the things he does and says are often funny enough to laugh it off.

Playability Assessment:

Anyone familiar with Super Mario games should be familiar with them. They look simple and cute, but that shiny veneer hides a devious learning curve. Mario and Luigi: Dream team is no different.

There are puzzles in almost every area that will test your child’s logic and memory. If they are easily frustrated by these types of activities you might want to play with them to help make sure they don’t get too angry.

There is a lot of reading involved in the game. Young readers might struggle with some of the words, but if your child can retain words that they read a few times then They won’t have much trouble after a while. The language is very repetitive.

Conclusion:

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

If you have a child that is interested in role playing games, then this is the perfect entry point to the genre.

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

We don’t normally post sad news here, but it is with great sadness that we report that Hiroshi Yamauchi, former Nintendo President, passed away today.

Yamauchi led the company for 53 years and helped the company grow from a humble playing card manufacturer into the video game giant that is responsible for some of the best video games ever made.

Yamauchi was the man who chose to hire Shigero Miyamoto who eventually became the lead game designer for Nintendo and eventually created Donkey Kong, Link, and Mario (and many more).

He was a visionary and will be missed.

This man was largely responsible for Nintendo’s success. What is your favorite Nintendo memory? Sound off in the comments so we can remember his legacy!

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

EA Sports

ESRB Rating – E for Everyone

Release Date – 08/27/2013

Reviewed for PS3, available for Xbox 360

Overall Review:

The NFL season is upon us and with is, has come this year’s installment of the perennial Madden series. This is one of the longest running franchises in video game history and it shows no signs of stopping. If your family enjoys football, then it is inevitable that this game will find its way onto your child’s wish list at some point.

The developers set the goal of creating an authentic experience NFL experience and they have succeeded. Playing the game FEELS like you are watching a game on television. It’s not perfect; there are some weird graphical glitches that are inevitable when you have that any characters moving around on one screen. Some of the commentary by Jim Nance and Phil Simms can get… repetitive if you play more than a few games in a row also.

There are several modes of play for your family to enjoy. The most prominent mode of play is called “Connected Careers” and allows players to play as either a user created player, a coach, or an owner. All three of these options offer their own unique game play challenges. I know that my sons enjoyed calling plays and watching me execute them. I had to rush them along to deal with the play clock a few times, but that was part of the fun of it all!

The Owner mode provided even more decisions for me to let them make. They could set concession stand and ticket prices and then watch the impact. It wasn’t super robust, it wasn’t the best economic simulator I have ever seen, but it was an interesting little experiment.

Overall, I enjoyed my family’s time with the game.

Family Gaming Assessment:

The good news about Madden 25 is that the game is designed to be an authentic Sunday afternoon TV experience. As a result, there is very little to be concerned about.

That all goes out the window if you decide to let your child play online. EA Sports has no way of screening players so you could end up exposing them to some crazy stuff. This is why I usually recommend avoiding online multiplayer in these types of games.

Playability Assessment:

The key factor that needs to be considered when purchasing a Madden game for your child is that this is a simulation. The developers are building this game to try and recreate an authentic football experience. They don’t pull punches on difficulty here. The controls are complex, and, unless your child has a firm grasp of American football rules, they will probably struggle with it.

Players should be very familiar with how to hold a controller and use it. Every button on the face of the controller will be used at one point or another. If they don’t know how to hold the controllers properly, then this game is a nightmare to play.

There isn’t much reading in this game per se, but play calling is a very difficult task if the player doesn’t really understand what the X’s and O’s mean.

Conclusion:

If you are a fan of the NFL, then this game is worth a try. The simulation can be tough though, so I recommend grabbing it from a Redbox for a rental first.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

On January 24th of this year a group of Senators presented a bill called the “Violent Content Research Act of 2013” that, if passed, would require the National Academy of Sciences to perform further research into the potential harmful effects of video games on children. This was presented as part of a comprehensive response package after the tragic events in Sandy Hook last year.

The bill looks for a comprehensive investigation to be performed to determine if “there is a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects to children.” They want to determine if the video games cause children to act aggressively or if it causes any other “measurable harm.”

The bill’s authors seem to have predicted some of the potential criticism that they might hear. They are looking to investigate whether or not violent video games have “a disproportionate effect on children who are already prone to aggressive behavior.”

My stance on this topic is well documented. I don’t believe that there is any sort of connection. I may be opposed to the use of federal funds, but I don’t have an issue with the study being performed. There have been a number of studies performed already and many of them have found no causal link between violent video games and violent behavior in children. But, I see no reason why another one would be inappropriate so long as it is not a rehash of previous experiments with different conclusions.

I’ll keep everyone posted as this moves along in the process.

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