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Take a look below for a list of the biggest family video game news of the past week!

A new Wii U Bundle!

wii u bundle

Nintendo announced a new Wii U console bundle that includes a pre-installed version of the Mario Kart 8 game. It also includes eShop download codes for the two expansion packs released so far. The console is available at a suggested retail price of $299.99.

This is an amazing deal for fans who have been waiting for the opportunity to pick up a Wii U. Mario Kart 8 is one of the best family games in recent memory and getting it (and its expansions) for free is amazing.

 

Super Mario Maker Released!

Nintendo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros with the release of their highly anticipated game Super Mario Maker. This will be a chance for armchair designers the world over to take their turn creating their own levels.

The game releases on September 11th at an MSRP of $59.99.

 

PewDiePie Reaches 10 billion Views!

Pewdiepie

 

Felix Kjellberg, the 25-year-old Swedish video star who goes by PewDiePie on YouTube, has been setting records and bringing in money by the truckloads for years. This past week we set a new record and became the first person to cross the 10 billion view mark across all of his videos.

It isn’t exactly surprising that he was able to with nearly 40 million subscribers, but it is a massive statement by the YouTuber industry saying that those videos your kids are watching aren’t going away any time soon.

 

The New Apple TV is Basically a Console

Guitar Hero Live Airplay

 

Apple announced on stage at their iPhone event this week that several games will be playable on the new Apple TV.

  • Guitar Hero Live
  • Skylanders SuperChargers
  • Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved

“Activision can confirm that Guitar Hero Live is coming to the newly announced Apple TV, as well as iPhone, iPad and iPod touch this fall. People will be able to play in their living room with Apple TV and take their game on the go with iPhone or iPad, as the Bluetooth Guitar controller works across Apple devices.”

There are lots of families cutting the cord and using set top boxes like the Apple TV to deliver their TV shows. This is a great way for video game companies to sneak their way into those households if they don’t have a dedicated console.

 

An Upcoming Mobile Game Will Let You Catch Pokémon in Real Life!

Ingress has been popular mobile game for years now. In it players “battle” over real world locations using their phones! GameFreak, the company behind the smash hit Pokémon, and the developers behind Ingress have teamed up and will release Pokémon Go in 2016.

The announcement was light on details and heavy on hopes and dreams, but we do see people traveling to real world locations and battling Pokémon alone and in groups.

The game will be free to start on Apple and Android devices. We also know it will include of yet undetermined in-app purchases. You can keep your eye on Engaged Family Gaming for more information about Pokémon Go as we get close to release.

 

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By: The Gaming Mom

The long wait is finally over. Angry Birds 2 has finally landed at iOS and Android app stores. Developer Rovio Entertainment kept gamers drooling over the sequel, which is now the 14th game in the Angry Birds series. The puzzle video game made a soft launch in Canada in early March under the name Angry Birds Under Pigstruction, but it was in July 30 that the developers released its official app with a simpler name.

After six years, we are finally able to try the sequel to the famous pig-smashing flying bird game. Is it worth installing or a waste of time? What should we expect from the Angry Birds 2?

Specifics:
During this review process, we used the LG G4, which is the exact handset used by the Rovio marketing team in producing the Angry Birds 2 teasers. Check out the video here:

We also find the LG G4 a great device for mobile gamers, as O2 says it has a 3GB RAM, Octa-core processor, and long lasting battery – everything a gamer wants from a phone. It’s also exactly the same reasons why we chose the handset for this review.

What we love about this game:
Finally, we are able to enjoy the long-awaited game. Gamers are expecting a lot from this title, given that it took the developers a long time to build this sequel. There are various exciting things about Angry Birds 2 that old and new fans will love, and here are some of them:

• The updated graphics are something to look forward to. All the objects on the screen from the birds and pigs to the background, everything has been improved, in 3D, and in high definition. The backdrops are painted-like with weather-effects, making the updated user interface a huge plus.

• Although the rest of the characters are the same with the same look and similar powers, there is one special bird that you may want to get randomly (that is if you’re lucky enough) – the silver bird. It comes with a special flying power that loops. Meet him in this video.

• More exciting games to finish. Yes, gone are the days when you only have to demolish a building of pigs and you are done with that stage. This time around, players get to play multi-tiered stages, attacking more pigs, enjoying more games. Overall, it comes with 240 stages.

• Boss Battles are exciting, where you get to defeat a big pig and deplete its health by smashing objects to pass to the next stage. Spells are also available that help you get through various challenges. These are unlockable items like the one where it lets you pummel pigs with golden ducks.

• Android gamers will love the game because they can install it even with an Ice Cream Sandwich OS, but iOS gamers will need to have iOS 7 or above device to play the title.

Some things you have to consider:
Excited to install the game? There are a few things gamers will have to consider to fully enjoy this title. Here’s what we know so far:

• Free up some of your space, as this game requires 68 MB for Android and 86.3 MB for iOS devices to download the title. Expect updates to also eat up more memory later on, so prepare ahead and clear your RAM and storage to avoid any freezing screens or crashing the app entirely.

• Save cash, and we mean it. The in-app purchases will cost you around $1.11 to $115.60 per item to fully enjoy the title.

• There’s nothing really new in terms of gameplay. The mechanics and end goal remains the same – fly the birds, crash the towers with pigs, and earn points. It even has the same set of birds except for the silver one.

• Birds do not refill between stages, so be choosy on which ones you fling. Lives are only given five at a time and will refill per every hour (reminds you of Candy Crush?).

Conclusion:
Overall, we find the Angry Birds 2 a lot more interesting and livelier title than the original, with its new user interface and interactive characters. The new Silver character is something to look forward to, while the arcade gameplay will keep you hooked for long hours. However, gamers might find the freemium features a turn off as the lives, birds, and levels will cost a lot.

Click here to download the Android version.
Click here to download the iOS version.

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Electronic Arts took some time out of the 2015 E3 press event to talk about mobile games. They even dedicated a bunch of time to a new mobile game based on the Minions from Despicable Me and the upcoming film Minions.

It is a city building style game that is free to start where you control the Minions Paradise exclusive minion Phil as you build up the island so more of your other Minion friends can come and live there.

The harsh reality here is that this is the standard free to play city building stuff that we have been dealing with for years. The difference is that this happens to be themed after an obnoxiously charming movie… and kids eat these guys up.

Brace yourself. Minions are coming.

Click here to see all of our E3 2015 coverage!

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Activision held an event at the Best Buy Theater in NYC today to give a small group of reporters a first hand look at Guitar Hero Live and Engaged Family Gaming was lucky enough to get an invite!

I represented EFG at the event and got a LOT of hands on time with the game. There were only three songs available, but all of the difficulty modes were active and I took my time to go through them all to see how it would all play out.

The difference in the presentation was clear from the minute I strapped the guitar on. Each song started with a first person view of a backstage area while my bandmates and I prepared to rush out on stage and begin our set. Activision was showing us the massive outdoor festival locations today, so running out on stage drew thunderous applause from the massive army of fans spread out before me. Every time the camera panned out across the audience I got a little more nervous even though I knew it was just a video. Activision made it clear during their presentation that they wanted to make a game that actually gave players stage fright. This definitely felt like it was working (although it could have just been the ever-so-cheerful PR person or the large group of other press watching me).

Guitar Hero Live Screenshot

It looks different, but the gameplay will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played before!

After a short intro and several generous looks out across the crowd it all came crashing down on me that I had to actually play this thing. The vertically aligned bars that have been the hallmark of the Guitar Hero franchise faded into view and a series of black and white guitar picks glided down the lines as opposed to the colored gems I was used to from before. The difference was alarming since I was very used to the older style, but it was very intuitive. I really don’t think that new players will struggle to pick up the controls.

In fact, the rookie difficulty level only included three buttons so it should be even easier for novices (and younger players) to pick up than previous. I tried that difficulty and had the crowd fired up quickly and kept them going. It was a  lot of fun playing and really getting into the rhythm of the music along with the fans.

That all changed when I switched over to more advanced difficulty levels that used both the top and bottom rows of buttons. Making those transitions was very difficult without practice. I got a little bit better over the course of a few songs, but it left me feeling a bit frustrated. There is room for improvement though. I could tell immediately where I would need to improve if I wanted to succeed moving forward. Parents should definitely be ready to step in with help for more ambitious kids. Keep in mind that you can change difficulty mid song, so if it just isn’t working you can always step it down.

The entire experience was great and I was left wanting more. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait long since the game will launch this fall for just about every console under the Sun.

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Anyone who has ever dreamt of rocking out on stage in front of thousands of fans should definitely take note. If you have then this fall is going to give you the chance to “unlock that fantasy” and feel like a rock star with the newly announced Guitar Hero Live.

Activision is the publishing giant behind a few art house games that some of you may have heard of, Skylanders and Call of Duty, and they are taking a stage dive into the rhythm game genre again after a five year absence. This time, however, they have several tricks up their sleeves to help differentiate themselves from the competition.

First and foremost, they have completely redesigned the iconic guitar controller. Fans of the previous Guitar Hero games will recall the five distinctly colored buttons that lined the neck of the guitar. those buttons have been removed in favor of two rows with three buttons each. They did this because they found, while doing research regarding the way that players used the controller they found out that the vast majority of players only used three fingers anyways. They knew that fans would likely lose their minds because gamers typically hate change, but this had the added advantage of making easier modes far easier (allowing for greater accessibility) and the harder modes even MORE difficult by using chord shapes that involve buttons on both rows.

Guitar Hero Live New Controller

The new controller looks amazing!

Second, they have done away with the animated action. Every frame that you will see is a live band performing in front of a live audience. Even better, each song was recorded separately with a crowd in venues of different sizes ranging from a small lounge all the way up to a massive outdoor festival with tens of thousands of people. Even the player bandmates were filmed.

Thirdly, the entire experience is designed to give players as authentic of an onstage experience as possible. The reactions from both the fans and the band themselves are tuned to the players performance, just like in real life, perform well and the audience will buy in and sing along! But, if you start to falter you boo and harass you; even your bandmates will start to give you the evil eye.

The entire package looks like it will be a rocking good time and will be releasing this fall on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U and even some mobile devices.

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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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The ESRB and the remainder of the IARC (International Age Rating Coalition) announced last week that they are implementing a global rating system for digital media. They are implementing this program in concert with ratings boards from across the globe including PEGI in Europe, ClassInd in Brazil, USK in Germany, and the Classification Board in Australia.

The IARC has managed to get all of these different ratings organizations to “agree on a unified process that simultaneously generates ratings for multiple territories while preserving each of their distinct cultural standards.”

What exactly does that mean though?

The ratings themselves will ultimately be the same for each organization. U.S. parents, for example, will still use the ESRB ratings that they have trusted for the past twenty years. The changes will be two-fold.

First, the submission process will change. Developers will be able to submit information about their game to one authority who will assign ratings across multiple territories.

The IACS has actually provided several useful graphics on their website to illustrate the specific process that is followed and how the ratings are assigned.How IARC Works

Second, the rating system is being extended to include digital storefronts. The storefronts currently participating are the Firefox Marketplaces and the Google Play store. The PlayStation Network, the Xbox Live Marketplace, and the Nintendo eShop are all on the way at a future date. (The iOS app store and STEAM are noticeable absent from the list.)

We will report further as more storefronts roll out to include the IACS rating system so keep your eyes locked on Engaged Family Gaming!

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Nintendo held a press conference in Japan this week to announce that they had formed a strategic partnership with a company called DeNA (pronounced D-N-A) to bring Nintendo IP to mobile devices.

Let’s take minute to let that sink in. Go ahead. I can wait.

Nintendo has been making dedicated home gaming devices for almost thirty years. They all but invented handheld gaming when they released the GameBoy. But, they have been hesitant to bring their talents to mobile devices like iPhones and Android tablets. That all changed with this press conference and the possibilities are endless.

Fear not though, Nintendo President Soturu Iwata was quoted as saying that Nintendo and DeNA would not be simply porting older games to mobile platforms. They lack the sophisticated controls to make that a pleasant gaming experience. Instead they will be taking Nintendo properties (The Super Mario characters, Link, Zelda… pretty much anyone in Super Smash Bros for Wii U) and crafting new experiences that are built specifically for mobile.

iPad

Nintendo will FINALLY make it here!

I could be misinterpreting this here, but it sounds like Nintendo is finally “getting it.” They have been out of touch with the video game marketplace for a while. The runaway success of the Nintendo Wii led them down a path of “innovation” that gave them the idea that every one of their consoles needed to have a unique X-factor. The issue being that the Wii U gamepad has been largely a dud and has resulted in less than stellar sales.

Nintendo agreeing to enter the mobile marketplace means that they recognize the power of the smartphone and tablet industries. There are tens of millions of these devices in the hands of consumers around the world and Nintendo stands to gain a HUGE amount of exposure by putting their properties on those devices. This would utilize phones and tablets like “Trojan Horses” to get Mario and friends in front of people’s faces making them more likely to buy a home console!

What do you think? What kind of Nintendo property would you like to see on a mobile platform? I’d personally love to play a Mushroom Kingdom city builder. Sound off in the comments!

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We have spent a lot of time recently talking about Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and amiibo here on Engaged Family Gaming. It makes sense because the Toys to Life category has exploded in recent years (so much so that Activision is reporting that Skylanders alone is a $3 billion franchise). Those aren’t the only toys that come to life on screen though. There is one line of toys that has been right under our noses for a while now. Even better? It is a learning toy for our toddlers!

I’m speaking of Tiggly Shapes, a set of plastic shapes that interact with special apps on iOS and Android devices. Our daughter was gifted a set for Christmas last year and she adores them!

Tiggly, the company behind the shapes, isn’t stopping with shapes. They are intend on releasing a comprehensive line of learning toys that cover all of the educational bases. Shapes came first, but it was followed quickly by Tiggly Counts, a toy to help build basic counting skills. Up next is basic letter recognition with Tiggly Words.

Tiggly Words Box and toys

Tell me these things aren’t cute?

Tiggly Words is launching this May and will feature five vowels (no y) in bright colors. It will also include several custom apps One of them will allow kids to use the letters (along with some presets within the app) to create words. For example, it might present them with a “b”, a blank space, and a “g.” They could tap the “u” Tiggly Letter on the screen to make “bug” and a cute bug will start flying around the screen!

Tiggly Words App Screensho

This is just one of the prototype apps they have in the works!

 

The apps I was able to see at New York Toy Fair were still in development, but they all showed a lot of promise. We will follow up with a formal review once Tiggly Words is released! Keep your eyes here on Engaged Family Gaming for more info!

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Developer: NaturalMotion

Available for iOS and Android

Overall Review

Clumsy Ninja is a mobile game that comes out of the shadows and will surely find its way into your heart. This story is about a ninja whose friend was kidnapped by a very dangerous villain.  The problem is our hero is pretty much the worst ninja ever and he needs a lot of training to become a master so that he can rescue his friend.

In this game, ninja training consists of assorted playground activities like jumping on trampolines, hitting punching bags, and dodging balls. Over time as you master equipment and learn cool tricks you can purchase better equipment and slowly get your little ninja closer to his goal. Clumsy Ninja guides the player with lots of quests so there is always something to keep you busy. The art style is bright and colorful and when you add the music it feels like you are in an animated martial arts movie.

Kids will love being able to drag the little guy around the screen and knock him over. His animations are hysterical!

Family Gaming Assessment

There is no real violence in this game as the ninja never battles any other ninjas. He just gets knocked around in a lot of cartoony ways.

The game itself is free and you don’t have to spend any money to download or to play.

Playability Assessment

As far as game play goes Clumsy Ninja is just a satisfying experience, there is just something soothing about making the little ninja jump on a trampoline or bouncing him off of said trampoline. Even if your kid isn’t into the grind of completing missions they may just enjoy interacting with the ninja and making him act silly for a while.

It is worth noting though that little ones who aren’t strong readers may be upset they cannot follow what is going on with the quests.

Conclusion

Clumsy Ninja is a delightful experience, it’s a complete package of game play and atmosphere that is free to play and kid friendly.

The game does put up ads when you access the menu for in game extras, but you don’t have make purchases to enjoy the game.

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