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The Adventures of Captain Spirit is Slowly Winning Me Over

By: Drew Habersang

If your tastes are anything similar to mine, you sort of cringed watching the announcement trailer for “The Adventures of Captain Spirit”; a new companion game to Dontnod’s Life is Strange. While I’ll concede that I kind of loved the premise of a kid playing make-believe with dramatic cinematic overlays of spaceships and fireballs and so forth, I was unconvinced that there was much of a story there. At least, I was certain that anything I or anyone else could conjure in our minds would easily outperform a game essentially trying to emulate the same thing.


(I know that isn’t the ‘point’ of this or any game but follow me…)

Today, I rewatched the exact same trailer. And, while I wasn’t completely won over, there were a few elements I hadn’t noticed on the initial viewing that led me to believe I had underestimated the game. Yes, the awkwardly proportioned protagonist looks a little old to be playing pretend in a cape, but there was something so downright charming about peering in on the awkward machinations of a lonely nerdy kid and being invited to see his play as he imagines it.

I’m not yet sold that a compelling story can be derived from this premise, but I am very slowly be charmed into believing that such a thing might not be as important as I first believed.

The Adventures of Captain Spirit launches on June 26 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC for the perfectly reasonable price of $0. With literally no barrier to entry, I cannot imagine I won’t at least take it for a spin. I imagine it might be worth it.

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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More Story Revealed in New Shadow of the Tomb Raider Trailer

By: Nicole Tanner

The latest trailer for Shadow of the Tomb Raider was shown during Microsoft’s E3 briefing on Sunday. The third in the series since 2013’s reboot of the franchise, Shadow looks to take Lara on a different type of emotional journey than either of the previous games.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is set in the jungles of Mexico where Lara is looking for a sacrificial dagger. She’s trying to outrun Trinity, the shadow organization that was introduced in Rise of the Tomb Raider. She gets to the dagger first, but it seems like she’s made a huge mistake in taking it.  We see her confronted by a man who tells her the “cleansing” has begun.

It’s apparent in the trailer that Lara has honed her combat abilities. She looks more brutal in her killings than either of the previous games, but the biggest difference seems to come from her state of mind.

In Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara’s missions are about doing the right thing – not only in her own mind, but also in the context of the story. In Shadow she seems to be placed in a conflict between what she thinks is right and the negative consequences of her decisions.

It’s an interesting place to take her character. At the end of Rise, she had come into her own and became fully confident about her purpose in life. In Shadow it looks like her problem might be overconfidence. Having a humbling experience will add another level of depth to her character, furthering the developers’ goal of making her a believable and relatable character.


Shadow of the Tomb Raider will be released on September 14 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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Bungie Announced Destiny 2: Forsaken!

By: Drew Habersang

Bungie finally revealed its next Destiny 2 expansion, Forsaken, today and, boy oh boy, are there LOTS of changes coming.

 

New Raid & Raid Location: The Dreaming City

While not exactly tight-lipped on the new location, Bungie was understandably vague when talking about the new raid. One comment of note from Bungie highlighted that this raid will have more bosses than any previous raid in Destiny. What they have said for certain is that the location in which the raid takes place is also intended to be the location for much of the endgame content.

New Game Mode: Gambit

Gambit is a wonderfully strange mashup of PvP and PvE (Player vs Player and Player vs Environment respectively). Two teams of four fight in separate “Prison of Elders” style arenas, collecting ‘motes’ to power up a central terminal. The goal is to be the first to defeat all enemies and bosses. Most interestingly, it appears that opposing teams will be able to cross over into each other’s arena and cause mayhem. Sweet.

Annual Pass

Destiny reveal a new “Annual Pass” offering as a new way to deliver content. Presumably for a fee, Annual Pass owners will get access to the three expansions planned after “Forsaken” is released this fall. The Forsaken Expansion will cost $39.99 and the Annual Pass will cost $34.99.

Gear Collections & In-game Triumphs

FINALLY Bungie is bringing back progress & achievement logs and, for the first time, is providing a kiosk for previously collected weapons and armor sets.

Bungie stopped short of further details offering coly that the abundance of questions relative to answers inspired by this reveal was “by design”.

Bungie. promised a full story reveal during next week’s E3. We will be on the scene and will report back on everything we find!

 

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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God of War Screenshot 1

By: Drew Habersang

***Mild spoiler warnings for those who want to stay spoiler free – I’ll be discussing game elements and largely avoiding plot, but there will be a few very small reveals – consider yourself warned.***

God of War -is back and it is better and more different than ever! 

In the previous games, Kratos ascended to Godhood in an all out one man war of vengeance against the Greek pantheon who betrayed him. This time around, Kratos is battling the Norse Gods and their underlings, but for entirely different reasons.

For those of you not familiar with the franchise thus far, don’t sweat it. The latest entry in the series is a soft reboot that leaves enough room for newcomers to get somewhat familiar with the story. Rest assured, you’ll have a deeper more meaningful experience if you’ve played the previous three playstation releases, but it’s hardly a requirement.

Until this release, apart from a few minor variations, the series has stayed close to the form and style of the first game. And, while fans would no doubt have been entirely fine to leap into another round of God-slaying, this game takes a decidedly different tone. Like many popular franchises that have gone the soft reboot route, the new God of War includes a number of open-world RPG elements. Kratos has evolved from the previous games and now has levels, armor, loot and different equipment, and his equipment will affect Kratos’ ability to take on various threats in their unique environments. Enemies in the new God of War have levels as well and these scale as Kratos levels up.


Note that, while these shifts constitute massive changes, the core of the game remains unchanged. Kratos is still absolutely brutal death dealer, but the tone of the game has changed considerably. The modulation in tone is largely thanks to the addition of Kratos’s son, Atreus. Kratos’s unhinged fury has been tempered into patient calculating resourcefulness. These changes are largely observable through Kratos’s relationship with his son, Atreus. Kratos has in no way abandoned the violent tendencies that made him a horrifying revenge-monster. However, with his young son Atreus to protect and guide, we also get to see Kratos patiently (most times) mentoring his son as they both discover more about the world around them and each other.
.

Kratos as a dad is spectacular and his relationship with his son is the emotional core of the game. This almost goes without saying, however, this is where to storytelling really excels. What could have easily been an overwrought predictable maudlin “escort journey the game” is instead handled with deftness and subtly. My favorite scenes are spare in dialogue and disarmingly sincere. Kratos still wrestles with his past. The game acknowledges this, yet gives him a way to redemption by way of his son, Atreus.  If nothing else, Kratos is determined to guide his son toward a different path than the one Kratos chose for himself.


The original game was intentionally bawdy and fantastically violent. In this latest iteration, the quick-time sex events (seriously) and over-the-top violence have been replaced with something far more sincere – Kratos holds his son’s tear streaked face in huge blood-stained hands as they both cope with unspeakable grief and it is, without a doubt, a most natural and necessary evolution.

I’ve loved every game in the God of War series but this one managed to incorporate emotional scaffolding upon which new stories can be built.

I’m already chomping at the bit for the follow up.


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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Blossom-Tales-The-Sleeping-King

This Guest Review was written by our goods friend Rob Kalajian! He runs the board game website Pawn’s Perspective! You should definitely check it out!

What would happen if you took an older 16-bit Action RPG, oh, let’s say Zelda: A Link to the Past, crossed it with The Princess Bride, and released it on a modern day system? Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. That’s what. When I bring up a Link to the Past, it’s not just for comparison sake. Blossom Tales plays like a love song to the classic SNES title. It’s a retro gaming lover’s dream, even if it’s a short one.

If you’re familiar with Zelda: A Link to the Past, or top-down action-RPGs in general, then you know what to expect from Blossom Tales. Players take control of Lily, Knight of the Rose, trying to save her king and kingdom from a dark wizard. You’ve got a sword, shield, and special items to help get Lily through all sorts of puzzles and other sticky situations. One major difference here is that unlike most similar titles that may limit your supply of arrows, bombs, etc…, Blossom Tales doesn’t. Instead, you’ve got a Special Meter that depletes as these items are used. One that recharges rapidly. It gives the game a bit more of a fast-paced feel than those that have come before it.

I mentioned The Princess Bride before. That reference mostly comes from the fact that Blossom Tales is a story being told to two children by their grandfather. As he tells the story the children often interrupt him, arguing with his storytelling technique and offering the player choices on how to change the story in tiny ways. It’s a really cool mechanic, but one that’s a tad underutilized.

Some Concerns

That brings us to the first gripe with the game. The whole idea of the grandfather telling his grandchildren a story that they influence is excellent. The choices given, however, really have a very little effect on the story as a whole. I would have loved to see the choices made have a bit more control over what happens in the game, possibly opening different dungeons or providing the player with some sort of different item or power that they couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

The next issue with the game is its length. You’re only getting a handful of dungeons – four to be exact. The entire game rounds out to about 15 hours of gameplay. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the younger gamers in a household, but for those of us who grew up on similar titles, it’s a bit short and straightforward. There are no real story twists that change the world or shake up the main objective.

Putting those two minor complaints aside, Blossom Tales is smooth, polished, and a blast to play. It’s family friendly, and while the game is based on combat there’s nothing explicit here. The game safely falls in its E10+ rating and can be enjoyed by younger players as long as they have the ability to read. While the game certainly feels like it’s aimed at fans of old Zelda games, it certainly has an appeal to new players with it’s colorful, retro styles and approachable gameplay.

Conclusion

Blossom Tales is available on both Steam and the Nintendo Switch at a price of $14.99. There’s really no excuse to pass up on this one. My preference would be the Switch version since it makes it easy to take the game on the go, but both the Switch version and Steam version are identical.

 

Developer: Castle Pixel
Rating: E10+ (Fantasy Violence)
Platform: Switch, PC
MSRP: $14.99
Reviewed On: Switch
FCC Disclosure: A Switch code was provided gratis for this review.

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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5 Things You Didn’t Know Could Be Done With LEGO

Everyone loves LEGO. They’re fun, colorful and offer a world of possibility. It isn’t all about cool toy buildings and LEGO spaceships, either. Here are five things you didn’t know could be done with LEGOs!

LEGOs are a great way to exercise creative and out-of-the-box thinking. It’s no surprise that we have many cool and interesting creations both from the LEGO company itself and from fans. Some people, however, managed to make incredible things with these plastic interlocking bricks. In no particular order, here are five of them to show you, courtesy of BrickPals.com!

A LEGO Harpsichord

The LEGO Harpsichord is a full-sized, fully-functional musical instrument made by Henry Lim. The harpsichord is an older version of the piano, smaller and simpler, which makes it a perfect candidate for LEGO bricks. This build is entirely made of LEGOs, the only non-brick pieces being the strings themselves. You can check the build in Henry Lim’s official website, which includes a sound sample. This isn’t the only musical instrument made of LEGO: there are others out there, including a ukulele.

Other than the harpsichord, Henry creates full-sized sculptures of various things, such as dinosaurs and people, out of LEGO.

The LEGO Car

This creation isn’t just a life-sized LEGO car. It actually works! Made entirely of LEGO bricks (including the engine) except for some structural parts such as wheels and tires, this car moves on compressed air and can reach speeds of around 15 to 20mph. Steve Sammartino and Raul Oaida, with the help of 40 patrons and over 500,000 LEGO bricks, designed and built the car themselves. Raul Oiada, a teenager from Romania, built it and then shipped it to Melbourne, Australia, to an undisclosed location. Once there (and after some repairs due to damage to the pieces), the car took to the streets, a full-sized success.

A Starbucks Coffee Machine

Yes, it makes real coffee. Yes, it’s made of LEGOs. This amazing design does use some extras, mainly SAM Labs’ motors for some of the mechanisms, and it includes a heating coil for the water and coffee. It uses powdered instant coffee, so it’s not exactly the same a just-ground coffee, but for a LEGO creation, it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

A Full-Sized House

This LEGO house was a full-sized, fully functional home. Located in Denbies, Surrey, over a thousand volunteers put the house together with over 3 million LEGOs. From chairs to goblets, from a bed to a hot shower and working sink and toilet, the full thing was perfectly livable! It even included a little LEGO cat and decorations. Unfortunately, this fantastic feat of LEGO creativity came to an end in 2009. Attempts to sell it to Legoland failed due to shipping costs, and conflicts over building permits caused the house’s demolition.
James May, who initiated the project to build the house, later hosted the James May’s Toy Stories where he talked about favourite toys of the past and how they came to the modern world.

A Functional 3D Printer

Yes, you read that right. This isn’t 3D printing LEGO bricks; it’s making a printer out of the bricks themselves. Surprisingly, there are several LEGO 3D printers out there, and some designs are available for anyone to build for themselves, but we found this one particularly interesting. In this design, developed by Arthur Sacek, the printer carves any 3D design out of floral foam. The only part of it that isn’t LEGO is the drill.

So there are some remarkable things that can be done with LEGOs. Did you know of them? Do you know more? Let us know!

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monopoly gamer box

By: Stephen Haberman, TheGeekyHusband

If I were to guess how many coins I collected in video games over my lifetime, I would bet I’d be the Warren Buffet of in-game currencies. When it comes to Monopoly however, I find it difficult to pronounce myself as anything more than an average property connoisseur.

I have played Monopoly all of my life. It started during childhood when they released a “Town of ____” Monopoly for basically every town in America. It continued into my early teens when I was playing on my Gameboy or begging my folks to take us to McDonalds. Even soon after college, my wife and I found new love for the game with “Monopoly City” which moves from cash to credit cards. So, I can say my interest in the game has always existed, but it is a game that can run long, and can feel as if the odds pile up against you.

Now, Monopoly Gamer comes to market with a promise to reinvigorate the title, by incorporating everyone’s favorite plumber into the mix: Mario. Mario is actually not a stranger to the Monopoly world, having already had a Monopoly game rebranded with his likeness before, and having tried to mimic the game’s core mechanics in Nintendo video game releases of Mario Party, as well as Fortune Street.

The problem with a simple rebranding is that the core of what makes Mario familiar and fun is not just the characters, but the collectibles, the power ups, and the journey to defeat all enemies that stand in his way. Monopoly Gamer brings all of those mechanics into this new board game, and does so while also waking up a stagnant Monopoly series.

Power-Ups

How does this differ from other Monopoly games?  To start that conversation, we need to talk about power-ups. Power-ups have been added to the game while also replacing a six-sided die. At the beginning of a turn, you’ll roll a power-up die and a six-sided die. The power ups give players the ability to collect coins, force opponents to drop coins, and move forward.

 

Coins! Coins! Coins!

Coins, the only currency that matters in the mushroom kingdom, have replaced cash, and are rewarded/used for everything.

  • Rent is paid with coins
  • Coins are awarded for landing on unique spaces
  • Picking up coins that players were forced to drop

 

Boss Battles

It used to be that passing Go over the course of Monopoly was just a way to get some extra cash in your pocket, but now you (and anyone else that passes Go) will be activating the Boss Battles every time around the board. These Boss Battles will reward the victor with additional coins for the end of the game, as well as some fun treats like a free property, or stolen goods from an opponent.

Zone Control

If you played Monopoly,  then you know that owning property and getting all of the properties of the same color is a key to victory. It is no different in Monopoly Gamer, but the costs for purchase and rent are much smaller in scale to other version of the game. Also, with the inclusion of Player abilities, power ups and Boss Battles, you could own all the property and still come up short.

Player Select

What tops off the experience is the difference in experience you can have due to the character power-ups. Characters range from the well-known (Mario, Luigi, Peach) to the less familiar (Boo, Diddy Kong). All of them have a unique power up ability, and a unique event that occurs if you should land on the invincibility star space.

Not all characters come with the game by default, though.  Mario, Preach, Donkey Kong, and Yoshi come with the base game. Others can be purchased through a $3.99 character pack, which comes with the board figure, a sticker, and the player card with the character’s abilities.

 

Go!

With all of these new features being added and a pace that really speeds up a game known for dragging on,  Monopoly Gamer feels like a game Nintendo and Parker Brothers can be proud to have their names on. The ability to add additional player characters is also a great way to add replayability to this one.

I would recommend this game for any video game fan looking to have something to play when unplugging, or a board game fan with less free time. I would even say the character figures, design and style of the game as a whole will look good on your shelf.

If you have any further questions about the game, please check out a full play through of the game I did with my wife on my Twitch Channel here!

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Destiny 2 is Coming and We are Very Excited!

By: Uncle Badger

Destiny fans, rejoice!

Destiny 2, the sequel to Bungie’s wildly popular shared world shooter, is finally launching this fall (September 6). If you’re like me, a massive fan of Destiny 1, you’re most likely losing your mind. But, if you’ve somehow missed out on the original Destiny, here’s a quick primer:

Destiny is an online multiplayer first person shooting game. While it shares many similarities to MMOs (for example, players inhabit a shared world and are required to be online at all times), developers describe it as a “shared world shooter”. It’s a distinction that, at first blush, seems not to describe something entirely different, but after a couple hours in the Destiny universe, it becomes clear that the game has really carved out a unique space that warrants the distinction.

In the world of Destiny set far into the future, an extraterrestrial traveler has empowered human beings with extraordinary powers which we then use to defend ourselves and this traveler against “the darkness” aka evil aliens. Players can select one of three character classes; Hunter, Titan, or Warlock – and employ a vast array of weapons and armors in various quests and adventures to keep the planets safe from various enemy hordes. Destiny made a name for itself not only with fantastic gunplay upon which the game is centered, but also with a deep and expansive lore. Additionally, the game is highly social, particularly when it comes to endgame content like raids or special in-game events.

Still with me? Great.

The original Destiny didn’t quite feel like an MMO but didn’t exactly feel like a pure FPS either and, overtime, “Shared World Shooter” became less of an in-house descriptor and more of a legitimate genre. By all accounts, Destiny 2 is looking to build on that new genre with improved gunplay, more expansive shared play spaces, and, of course, TONS OF LOOT!

In terms of story, Destiny 2 couldn’t be more compelling. Set one year after the events of Destiny: Rise of Iron, the Red Legion faction of the Cabal, led by their emperor, Dominus Ghaul, attack The Last City. Ghaul, believing that he deserves the power of the Light, succeeds in stripping the Guardians of their powers and destroying the Tower. Scattered and powerless, the Guardians must acquire new powers to face Ghaul and the Red Legion.

Unlike the original game which had its lore hidden apart from the game in online ”Grimoire Cards” players had to access through a separate website (yikes), Destiny 2 promises much needed story improvements. At launch, the game will be boasting over 50 cut scenes which is slightly more than Destiny 1 even including all its expansions. Additionally, Bungie has confirmed that those loathsome Grimoire Cards are no more – 100% of the story will be told in the game itself. Huzzah!
Destiny 2 brings back all three characters classes from the original game, but with new skills and abilities. Specifically, each of the subclasses for the Titan, Warlock, and Hunter classes have been overhauled.

The Titan

The Titan’s defender subclass known primarily for its defensive bubble has been reworked considerably. The “bubble” is still an option, but now alongside that is the option to run a defender with a throwable, slammable void shield – think Captain America. The Striker subclass super ability has been changed as well from a single powerful slam to a roaming series of slams, each leaving behind a damaging field of arc energy.

The nova bomb from the warlock’s subclass has been enlarged considerably and now splits into smaller projectiles upon impact. The much beloved Sunsinger subclass has ditched the self-resurrection ability in favor of a new super called Dawn Blade. It functions very much like the Titan’s Hammers from Destiny 1.

Lastly, the hunter’s Golden Gun has been nerfed a bit, no longer guaranteeing a kill with each shot. To balance this, the length of the super has been extended, offering more shots per super. And the hunter arc subclass has an entirely new super – Arc Strider – think Blade Dancer from Destiny one but a bit more agile and with a polearm instead of daggers.

Each of the character classes will launch with two subclass instead of the three you might be used to from Destiny 1. And while Bungie has played coy when asked if all three classes will be returning, it’s safe to say that they’ll all be making a comeback at some point after launch.

Overall, gunplay seems relatively unchanged from Destiny 1, and that’s a good thing. Nevertheless, the small improvements are noticeable as the gunplay feels as if it’s grown up a bit. The way Destiny 2 is setting up weapons is somewhat confusing. There are still three slots, but the first two are now “Kinetic” and “Energy.” Gone are the primary, secondary, and heavy weapon designations. This means that weapons like sidearms are now primaries and can be either elemental (energy) or non-elemental (kinetic), and old favorites like snipers, shotguns, and fusion rifles are now classed with rocket launchers.
Like I said, it’s a little confusing. I’m sure we’ll get used to it.

Overall, Destiny 2 is looking to build on the success of its predecessor by doubling down on excellent gameplay and expanding the already rich mythos of the Destiny universe. And, of course, there will be a ton of loot!

Destiny 2 launches worldwide on September 6, 2017, for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. The PC version is set to launch later on October 24.

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Teaching Math By Making Up Your Own Rules for the Pokemon TCG!

Guest Writer: Nicole Tanner

Lots of games are designed specifically to teach something. But often, you can find ways to teach with otherwise “un-educational” games. My daughter’s interest in Pokémon has provided us with an opportunity to teach math. The main Pokémon TCG is a great way to teach addition and subtraction, but we had to improvise a bit and the result ended up teaching multiplication.

Ana had been asking for Pokémon cards for a few months, so when Emerald City Comic Con rolled around my husband came home with a slew of cards, picked up willy-nilly from multiple booths. Not having played the game ourselves, we had no idea we had to have a “Trainer’s Kit” in order to play the game properly. Ana still wanted to play with her cards until we got one, so my husband designed a variation on “War.”

 

 

Here’s the basic idea. Each player has a deck of Pokémon – no Trainer Cards or Energy – just Pokémon. The number of cards in the deck doesn’t really matter as long as each player has the same amount. Evolutions and special powers don’t matter either. Taking turns, each player picks a Pokémon from their deck to play. The other player then selects a Pokémon from their own deck to do battle.  You have to figure out how many hits it would take for your Pokémon to beat the other one using the highest scoring attack on each card. The Pokémon that would use the least hits to knock out his opponent wins. Once the match is over, the winner gets both cards. You continue playing this way until the decks are empty. Then the player with the most cards at the end is the winner.

Ana picked up the gameplay rules after just a few play-throughs, and she was able to figure out the math with little help pretty quickly. We now have all the pieces to play the real thing, but the official card game is a bit too complicated for her to understand at this age. This game suits her skill level and doesn’t mean the hundreds of Pokémon cards have to go unused until she can understand the real thing.

Oh, and it’s helping her learn math.

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E3 Hands On – Tiny Trax

Guest Writer: James Pisano

Take a minute and commune with 8 year old you.  I’ll wait.

Ok, so remember all the commercials from the 80s for Matchbox race cars and track?  They promised that your cars would fly through the air, doing impossible stunts, all from the comfort of your living room, only to disappoint when you finally tried it.  Obviously… we are talking about plastic and die case metal toys here…

Enter Tiny Tracks… a VR game in development by (insert studio) and being published by (Sony?).  Through a 3rd person VR perspective and Dual Shock control scheme, you’re greeted by a kind of racing room where you will ultimately accumulate trophies and awards.  It’s there that you pick your track and car.  Keep in mind at this point in development, the cars are pretty generic.  No current plans as far as we know to license existing toy car lines, but that would add a certain flair to the game.

Once your car and track are selected, you’ll see one of several themed tracks, from tropical islands to a volcanic underworld.  The tracks are filled with twists, turns and dynamic props.  The more accurately you steer, the more boost you build up.  Hug the turns and slam the boost on the straightaways, and you’ll be a champ in no time.  So whether you’re a kid wanting to dive into VR and conquer the course, or a gamer parent wanting to realize the imaginations of your inner 8 year old, Tiny Tracks is a great choice for VR entertainment.

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