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Developer: Crunching Koalas

Reviewed for PlayStation 3 and PC, available on PSVita and PlayStation 4

Overall Review

 

I’m sure all of us at one point or another have rooted for lab mice to rise up against their evil scientist overlords, right? If you have.. well… that’s a bit weird, but MouseCraft will not be the game for you. You will find no mice but the mindless variety and not only are they taking part in an experiment, you are too.

MouseCraft mixes the gameplay of Lemmings and Tetris (if you don’t know what Tetris is, I’m afraid we must now part ways). Under the supervision of the evil overlord scientist cat Schrödinger, you are responsible for guiding each of three mice to safety and cheesy goodness using only a variety of Tetris-like blocks and a generous sense of timing.

The mice walk from left to right unless they reach an obstacle. Very quickly this default behavior becomes part of nearly every solution as you let one mouse through but deflecting the others so that you time your runs perfectly. As they walk, they will find bombs and shards (the former used to blow up blocks and the latter used as a currency to move through each of the four primary map areas). Blocks come in a variety of types: standard, jelly, electrical (and deadly), exploding, impervious, and reusable. These blocks are used to navigate the mice through water, over acid, off high falls, and to reach out of the way places to find those elusive shards.

All these environmental variables, coupled with the crazy timing wizardry, resulted in elation when I pulled it all off and saw my three mousy charges gleefully eating up their prize.

However, with 80 levels, the pacing from level to level and the introduction new mechanics was an issue for me.  I found myself particularly early in the game simply zoning out as I performed the same acts over and over. This was especially true for levels that no amount of tinkering on my point provided an answer and I was left either abandoning a mouse or shard (or more often consulting Youtube) in order to move on.

Exacerbating these issues were the flat characters. The Pixar-ish visuals promised a depth of story that the game never delivered on. A few short cutscenes were all the story given and I never cared about what I was doing for more than the gameplay.

In addition to the core game, MouseCraft also has a level editor where you can edit, save, and play custom built levels. The interface is intuitive and it was cool seeing what I could come up with. Levels are saved locally and we did not see any way to share levels online. This might be fixed later on, but is, sadly, not functional at this point

Family Gaming Assessment

 

There are some animations of the mice dying and floating to the heavens as ghost, and an option during the levels to “Kill Mice” that lets you move forward if one of your mice has gotten stuck. I would have liked different wording so that I didn’t feel guilty whenever I had to use it.

Playability

 

This is a difficult game. Young children will have a hard time getting through most of the stages without assistance, although older children might find it challenging but doable (perhaps more than my aging brain could muster).

Conclusion

 

MouseCraft was at times frustrating and at others a bit slow in progressing, but it was also rewarding when you finally pulled off the solution to a hard level. The gameplay was a unique mashup of old favorites, though the storyline and characters were shallow and uninteresting. If you are looking for a good puzzler, this is a quality choice that will have your brain spinning in a wheel.

It is worth noting that MouseCraft is “Cross-buy and Cross-Save” compatible. This means that if you purchase the game on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 or on PSVita then you will be able to download the game on the other system at no charge. This is an added value that is worth mentioning especially if your family has both a PS3/PS4 and a Vita.

Let us know what you think of MouseCraft in the comments!

 

*Disclosure: A review copy of the game was provided by the developers.

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Nintendo have been a dominant force in the handheld video game market for decades. Companies like Sony and Sega have made attempts to compete over the years, but none have really offered anything but a distraction to Nintendo as they continue to move millions of handheld units.

The Nintendo 3DS struggled to sell out of the gate thanks to a high retail price and a weak launch line up. This prompted analysts to assume that parents had abandoned the handheld market in favor of smart phones and tablets. Nintendo has overcome those concerns since then thanks to a price drop and a string of massively successful games (E.g. Pokemon X and Y have sold over 12 million units wordwide).

Sony is the only company that offers a dedicated handheld gaming device at the moment (The PSVita), but a quiet announcement out of E3 2014 might change that.

The Steamboy was announced by a company called Steamboy Machine as a handheld gaming platform that will allow users to play games from their Steam libraries on the go. The systems modest specs were not immediately announced, but they were eventually reported by The Escapist.

Even if it is never produced, the Steamboy is an interesting proposition. Valve has been working to release “Steamboxes” in an attempt to bring PC gaming out of the home office and into the living room. But, until now the idea of a truly portable PC gaming experience has been unheard of. Only time will tell if the market can support that type of equipment.

I have to admit that I am intrigued. The PC gaming landscape is vast. Indie developers are releasing games faster than people can consume them. It is possible that this would give players a new avenue to experience games that might have fallen by the wayside by giving them more time to play.

From a parent’s perspective, I can see that there might be some value here. There are a lot of PC games that are family friendly. Any of them end up being very reasonably prices thanks to the low costs associated with digital distribution.

What do you think? How much would you pay to be able to give your family they ability to play PC games on the go like this? Sound off in the comments!

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Here we go folks! You asked… and I have delivered.

I combed the web for some of the best deals in family gaming. Below is a list of deals available on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and the weekend beyond at several major retailers.

If you are going to be braving the stores on the busiest shopping day of the year, then this list should help you draw up your battle plans!

Walmart 

– Starting Thursday 6pm (see flyer for details)

PlayStation 3 12gb console – $149

Xbox 360 4gb (No kinect) – $99

Nintendo 2DS – $99

RCA Dual Core Android Tablet – $49 (1 hr in stock guarantee)

  • This tablet isn’t going to be anything to write home about. But, it will play tablet games, and watch Netflix well enough. This might not be a bad idea if your kids are asking for a tablet, but you aren’t quite sure you want to jump on the iPad mini.

Nabi 2 7” tablet – $99

LeapFrog LeapPad 2 – $54

Disney Infinity OR Skylander’s Swap Force Starter pack – 38.96

Video games priced at $10, $15, $25, $34

  • The images on the flyer are tough to see, but there are usually several displays with dozens of games to choose from.

Board games priced 8.88 or 3.88

  • Note: Gator Golf is 3.88. That is outright robbery!

Best Buy

– Starting Thursday 6pm

WiiU Black Friday Bundle : $319.97

  • Includes Deluxe WiiU console, NintendoLand, and two Mario and Luigi themes WiiMotion Plus controllers.

3DS Luigi’s Mansion Handheld Bundle: $149.99

Skylander’s Swap Force Starter Pack: $49.99

Video Games priced $11.99, $14.99, and $29.99

Skylander’s Swap Force single characters: Buy 2 Get 1 Free

Target

– Starts Thursday 8pm

Video games priced at $10, $15, $25, $35

Free $10 Gift card with purchase of Just Dance 2014 and Mario and Luigi Dream Team (3DS)

Xbox 360 4gb Kinect Bundle – $189.99

  • Includes Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports

Skylander’s Swap Force single characters and accessories: Buy 2 Get 1 Free

Disney Infinity Starter Pack: $49.99

Select “new” board games: 25% off

“Classic” Board games: $5

Toys R Us

– Check their flyer as many deals are time sensitive

Xbox 360 E 4GB with Kinect Holiday Bundle: $199.99

  • Includes Halo 3 for Xbox 360. This isn’t a “family friendly” game by any means, but the deal with worth it even without the game. Although it doesn’t make the bundle even better for families who have older children (or parents) who enjoy video games but missed out on the Xbox 360.

WiiU Skylander’s Swap Force Bundle: $249.99

  • If you are looking to get a WiiU AND get in on the Skylander’s phenomenon then this is probably the best priced option for you.

Nintendo 3DS Luigi’s Mansion Bundle: $149.99

Skylander’s Swap Force Starter Pack: 50% off

LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Explorer: $39.99

LeapFrog Leapster GS Explorer: $29.99

Board games priced at $5, $8, and $10 (and other price points)

Disney Infinity Figures, Power Discs, Accessories: Buy 1 Get 1 50% off

Skylander’s Swap Force Starter Pack: $49.99

Skylander’s Giants or Skylander’s Spyro’s Adventure Starter pack (3DS): $9.99 with purchase of 3DS XL

  • Keep in mind that the Swap Force figures will not work with these older games. The figures show what game they will work near the bottom of their packaging.

R” Super Buy Video games: Buy 1 Get 1 for $1

  • There are tons of games to choose from. But, a lot of them are bargain bin games for a reason. If the game isn’t on your child’s list do yourself a favor and look it up on Metacritic.com on your smart phone while you are waiting in line and make sure it isn’t rated too horribly.
  • When in doubt: LEGO branded games and “Classic Game Collections” are a decent stand-by. They may not be “perfect,” but they aren’t as likely to be terrible as some unknown titles.

Skylander’s Giants and Skylander’s Spyro’s Adventure Figures: Buy 1 Get 1 Free

  • This is a great deal for parent’s looking to pick up older figures to help enhance their kid’s collection.
  • If you a parent who plays with your child, then I would make sure to dig through these piles to try and find a Whirlwind figure. Whirlwind is unique because it has a healing ability available once you level it up enough. This is great for helping your kids muscle their way through difficult levels.

Skylander’s Swap Force Single Character Packs: Buy 1 Get 1 70% off

All Video Games: Buy 1 Get 1 40% off

GameStop

– Starts Friday at Midnight

GameStop has NUMEROUS gaming deals. I can’t list them all (because I would just be typing out their flyer), but I will highlight the deals that I think are the best of the best for families.

PS Plus 1 Yr Membership – $29.99 (Friday only)

  • This is a great deal for people who own a PS3, a PSVita, a PS4 or any combination of those three. The free games every month are worth FAR more than the $50 that is usually charged.
  • Families with younger kids might not get to take full advantage of this deal, but families with older children or parents who play games should get a TON of value out of this purchase.

Used Products – Buy 2 Get 1 Free

  • GameStop is known for their used games, and their buy 2 get 1 promotions are a great time to pick up some great games without breaking the bank.

Pre-Owned Nintendo DS Lite – $39.99

  • The 3DS is all the rage in recent years, but the Nintendo DS is one of the best selling consoles of all time. As a result there are a lot of games available for sale. If you bought one for your child and they are looking for an inexpensive replacement (or if you are looking for one for yourself) then this is a great deal.

K-Mart

(Thanks to a reader for the submission!)

Thanksgiving (6AM – 5PM)

BOGO Board Games Leap Pad Ultra $149.99 (+$20 in Member Points)

Leap Pad Games – BOGO XBox 360 – $179.99

New Games – $20 off

3DS $149.99 ($20 Member Points)

Games for 3DS and other platforms on sale (Can’t read it!)

Friday(6AM-Noon) –

Select PS3 Games $10-$20 off

2 DS – $119.99

$15 off Featured 2DS Games

Innotab 3S Sophia the First Bundle – $79.99

$15 for Tabletop Pool or Foosball

50% off Select Board Games (Angry Birds, Apples to Apples, Rock ‘Em Socke ‘Em Robots)

Swap Force Starter (Wii/WiiU) – $49.99

Buy two get one free SWAP Force figures

Disney Infinity Starter (All Platforms) – $59.99

Buy two get one free Infinity figures

Just Dance Kids 2014 (Wii/XBox360) – $19.99

Big Lots

(Thanks to another reader for the submission!)

(6AM Friday) –

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ Calling All Turtles or Hasbro® Funglish™- $10

Yahtzee Cassic – $7

Chutes and Ladders or Don’t Break the Ice – $10

My First Uno® or Phase 10® – $5

Disney® Duck, Duck, Mouse – $13

Golden Tee Golf – $20

Assorted Xbox 360/Wii/PS3/DS Games – $18.88 (Including: Batman™ Arkham City for PS3™, Super Mario Galaxy™ For Wii™, Plants vs. Zombies™ For Nintendo DS™,Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection™…)

 

I can’t have caught everything! Sound off in the comments if there is a deal I didn’t find!

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By Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-in-Chief

Sony held their GamesCom press conference today. They were under a lot of pressure to follow-up their strong showing at E3 earlier this year. Below is my list of the five most important things I took away.

1. We finally have a release date for the PS4!

The Playstation 4 is set to release in North America on Friday November 15, 2013. This is likely the biggest piece of news to come out of the press conference. There were reportedly over 1 million PS4’s pre-ordered and we now know when they will be going to their new homes.

This is a great move for Sony because they could not afford to miss Black Friday. (It doesn’t hurt that they put their release date out before Microsoft did theirs.)

2. The PSVita is getting a price cut.

The PSVita is quietly gaining steam. It might never gain the popularity of the Nintendo 3DS.  But, it has a LOT of great games and it has a remote play feature with the soon to launch PS4. There are both great selling points.

Dropping the price to $199 is an excellent move. This is a great value for someone looking for a handheld system with a bit more power than the 3DS.

3. Sony is getting Minecraft.

This one pretty much explains itself. People have been able to play this game on their tablets, PCs, and Xbox 360s. This lets people play it on their PS4, PS3 and PSVita .

I don’t know how much of a difference this will make for families since people buying any of these products will likely already have a device capable of playing it.  But, it is great to see that Sony has taken steps to try and bring so many things that they think their audience might want onto their platform.

4. LittleBigPlanet Hub will be a new free-to-play LBP experience on PS4.

We’re big fans of the LittleBigPlanet franchise here at EFG. The LittleBigPlanet Hub is meant to be a great source for additional content. The service will provide access to new level creation tools as well as user created experiences

Sony didn’t give a lot of information, but anything designed to enhance the LBP experience is a good thing.

5. Sony spent almost 45 minutes talking about independently developed games.

This is, simply put, a big deal. Sony has clearly demonstrated to the development community that they are interested in supporting indie games. This means that the PS4 and PSVita will be great consoles to own if you enjoy these types of games.

This also means that the games available on these consoles will be more diverse and innovative. There is no way that this can be a bad thing.

 

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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes cover art

This is the cover art for the upcoming LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. I can’t wait to play it with my boys!

When LEGO expanded their product line beyond building toys and into games, we were thrilled. Everyone loves a good LEGO game. The LEGO series of video games has been a delight to family gamers for years now. We’ve played as Indiana Jones, Batman, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and more. This Fall we will get a chance to step into the LEGO version of the Marvel universe. Are you as excited as I am? Our boys cheered when they saw the E3 trailer.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will launch this Fall on pretty much every device capable of playing games. LEGO has built the game to work on next generation consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, and WiiU. It will also be available for current generation consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. They also did not leave out handheld devices like the 3DS and PSVita. The game will feature over 100 Marvel characters. We can make some assumptions regarding a lot of them, but LEGO is being mysterious about exactly who will be featured.

Marvel has released the cover art (posted above) for the game featuring a number of characters. They are:

  • Captain America
  • Wolverine
  • Iron Man
  • Black Widow
  • The Thing
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Mr. Fantastic
  • Thor
  • Spider Man
  • The Human Torch
  • The Silver Surfer

Those are some big names. Who do you think is missing? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

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