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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Publisher: 2K Sports

ESRB – E

Reviewed on PS3, available on Xbox 360 and PC

Overall Review:

NBA 2K14 is as much a celebration of basketball culture as simulation of the NBA itself. 2K sports has done an excellent job of recreating one of the most popular sports in the US. It really is fitting that the cover athlete is Lebron James. This game has an air of greatness that you can only really doubt if you aren’t paying attention.

Players are treated to a wide variety of game modes, each of them highlighting a different facet of the NBA experience. This includes modes like “Lebron James: Path to Greatness” that puts players into his shoes in pivotal moments of his career.

If your family is chomping at the bit for the NBA season to start, then this should provide a taste to get you through. This could be the most perfect basketball game ever made.

Family Gaming Assessment:

If you are comfortable with your child watching an NBA or NCAA basketball game on television, then this game should be no problem.

Several of the games modes do, however, require online play. Most online games carry the same warnings. The game developers have little to no control over game experiences that involve other players. The online gaming environment can be toxic so be aware of this is if you plan to let your child play this, or any, game online.

Playability Assessment:

This game is remarkably difficult. The most notable difficulty spike is caused by a complete lack of a tutorial mode. There is a practice option, but the game does not provide instructions, you are just given a half court to use without any distractions. There is information available online, but it does not match the teaching power of tutorial modes like the one found in Madden games.

The game’s AI (artificial intelligence) forces players to think like professional basketball players. You can’t just run wildly down the court and lob up shots. You need to pay attention to where your teammates are, pass to the open man when possible, and take open shots. If you ignore those basic principles then it really doesn’t matter what you do.

Kids who are intent on playing their own way and aren’t adept at changing their strategies to meet the demands of the game they are playing will have a lot of trouble with the game and could grow frustrated.

The game does feature cooperative play. This can be a challenge, but since it is a team sport it does allow a skilled parent to help carry their child along and still have a fun gaming experience. (Let’s just hope you can both agree on a team to play!)

Conclusion:

This is a must own for families that are fans of the NBA. It boils down the essence of the NBA experience and gives everyone a chance to shine like Lebron. This can be an empowering experience for young players and help them get excited to learn the game themselves.

Who knows… maybe they will grow up to be part of the next generation of NBA All-Stars?

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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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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: Sega

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Release Date 09/03/2013

Reviewed on PS3, also available on Xbox 360 (check other availability) and Windows

Overall Review:

Disney’s Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse is a stunning recreation of an amazing game. The developers managed to capture the essence of the original (that was published on the Sega Genesis) and breathed new life into it through updated visuals and modern level design.

Castle of Illusion’s greatest strength comes from pure whimsy. I caught myself smiling more than once even while I was struggling with some of the more challenging parts of the game.

The story is simple. Mickey and Minnie go for a picnic only to be waylaid by the evil witch Mizrabel. She kidnaps Minnie and brings her to the titular Castle of Illusion. You control Mickey as he tries to rescue her. The game is fully voice acted, and the narrator is amazing. It felt like I was playing inside a living storybook.

The game is a bit on the short side, but I never felt like I was being rushed to the end, or held back by repetitive levels. Everything felt new and interesting throughout.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Castle of Illusion is completely safe for kids. Some of the masters of illusion are a little intense, but this is as tame as your average Mickey Mouse cartoon. If they can watch that, then they should have no trouble playing this game.

Playability Assessment:

Kids may enjoy themselves while they play, but this is definitely a challenging game.

The controls are very simple. So children will have no problem figuring out how to move around. The game does, however, regularly shift perspectives in the middle of levels which can be very difficult for even the most experienced players. For example, in one level you will be traveling along in a level that is not unlike any Mario or Mega Man game that you have seen, until the game shifts perspectives to 3D and gives Mickey more freedom to move.

The boss fights at the end of each level are built around pattern recognition. Each time you manage to jump on a bosses head the pattern changes slightly. This might be frustrating to children who aren’t very good with patterns yet, but this is a great way to practice.

Conclusion:

If you and your kids are fans of Mickey Mouse, then this is a must play.

Frankly, the only reason I can see why you WOULDN’T need to play it is if you have some weird moral issue with Disney. And even then… lighten up. This is a great game.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-In-Chief

WayForward Technologies

ESRB Rating – E 10+

August 13, 2013

Reviewed on PS3 (Also available on, Wii, WiiU, 3DS and PC,  Xbox 360 version available on 09/11/2013)

Overall Review:

Just about everyone reaches a point in their adult life where they begin to develop a yearning to re-experience the things they held dear as a child. They ride on the gentle waves of nostalgia until it’s all they can do to keep themselves from spending all day at work reading Wikipedia about their favorite cartoons as a kid.

Ducktales: Remastered is the perfect game for people who are experiencing that right now. Many of us played the original title back in 1989 when it was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Remastered is crafted in such a way that it looks and sounds the way we imagined it so many years ago. The 8bit era of the Nintendo gave us the freedom to imagine the world, but Remastered allows us to enjoy it.

The feeling of playing this game, at least for a longtime fan, is the most important thing to discuss here. I could pick at dodgy controls and somewhat intrusive story sequences for a few hundred words. But, there is an intangible element to this game that transcends the game mechanics and storyboards. Most games today are full of tension. They want to evoke a feeling of dread, excitement, joy, or all of the above. Ducktales: Remastered stands apart from all that. Instead it lets me be 9 year old boy sitting cross legged in front of the TV with my brother again. That is worth my $14.99 every single time.

Family Gaming Assessment:

I’ll make this quick. This game is rated E 10+, but the content is very mild. It plays out like an episode of the Ducktales cartoon. If you would let your child watch that, then this game is no problem.

Conflict in Ducktales: Remastered is resolved through using Scrooge’s cane to pogo bounce off of enemies. There are no weapons or fighting of any kind. If violence is a concern for you, then this game should not be a problem.

The only real theme that is worth noting is that the Transylvania level does have a horror movie aesthetic. If you are concerned that your kids are easily scared by cartoon ghosts and mummies, then that level is something to consider. With that said, it is goofy enough looking that it should be easily explained away.

Playability Assessment:

This game is very difficult. I would expect children to have a fair amount of difficulty with this one unless they have had a fair amount of experience with other 2d platforming games like Rayman Origins or the New Super Mario Brothers series.

With that said, the game does have a difficulty selection option. Putting the game on “Easy” lessens the challenge by reducing the damage you take from running into enemies. It also removes the “life” counter from the game and prevents you from getting a game over. This should be very helpful for young and/or inexperienced gamers that might be discouraged by losing their progress.

Conclusion:

Ducktales: Remastered is a great game. It is not without its faults, but I found the experience to be fun and engaging. Kids will have a lot of fun playing through the colorful environments and becoming acquainted with some of the less appreciated characters on the Disney roster (a Gizmoduck/Phineas and Ferb crossover would be amazing).

All of my praise so far is based on the assumption that the prospective player is a fan of the series. The waters are far muddier if you are not a fan of the original game or the Ducktales series. The game relies on the nostalgia effect to overcome some of its weakness. When I wipe that away and think objectively about it there are not many reason to go out of your way to play this game.

My final verdict:

Fans: Buy it. Now.

Non-fans: Buy it when the price drops unless your kids REALLY like Disney games. 

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Author: Jason Jarusinsky, Collectible Card Game Editor

Stainless Games LTD

ESRB Rating: T for teen

Release Date: 06/26/2013

Version Reviewed: 2014 Release on Steam (Also available on Playstation Network, 

Overall Review:

I found Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (DoTP 2014) to be very enjoyable. A new version of this game is released by Wizards each summer in preparation for the release of their next Core Set of cards. DoTP 2014 made iterative improvements across all areas of the game. The animations were smoother, the sound design was excellent and the interface was overhauled nicely. (Editor’s note: This sounds like a perfect fit for a Magic: The Gathering game. This is what Wizards does with the card game does as part of its business model.)

The game is intended to be enjoyed by everyone in order to help spread interest in the card game itself. As a result, it accommodates all levels of experience with Magic: The Gathering (M:TG). Players are able to select their expertise level with the game which dictates the amount of hand-holding that players get. I experimented with them all, but ultimately chose to play through on the highest setting (“Planeswalker”). This allowed me to skip most of the tutorial sections that are otherwise mandatory. The lower the setting selected the more the game will walk you through the game set-up as well as the basics of how to play M:TG in general. This is an excellent way for a young player to get their feet wet and learn the game since they can learn at their own pace and can simply retry levels if they fail.

If a player has any experience with previous releases the game will seem very familiar, and allow for quick entry into whichever mode of gameplay that is chosen. I will detail these difference a little later on in my review.

The one drawback that I have experienced is that I have not found a way to upload all of the decks and cards that I had previously unlocked with Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 within DoTP 2014. I have submitted a Support Request with Steam to see if this is possible and I have not located the functionality as of yet. As of the time of this review’s publishing I have not received a response, and will provide an update once I have received an answer. If this is not possible it would mean that any player who unlocked different decks and cards, or purchased foils or deck expansions would not have access to these within the 2014 version.

Another neat change in the DoTP 2014 release that was not present in the previous year is your story is narrated by Chandra Nalaar, one of the powerful Planeswalkers in the M:TG universe. Chandra is aligned with the element of Fire, and through campaign mode you are working with her to unravel a mystery. I found this to be a welcome change as it gave the game a more immersive feel as opposed to feeling just like an M:TG simulator.

If you have a multiple M:TG player household there is an option that can bring up to 4 players together to determine your household bragging rights: Multi-Player! Each player would need to be on a separate Steam Log-in and have their own copy of the game; however once you do each person can be invited and choose from any of the decks that they have unlocked to play with your family! This one option itself has countless hours of fun potential. If you think that this might be a costly endeavor think of it this way. If you were taking a family of four to the movies for a weekend release you would be paying upwards of $40 for tickets plus concessions, and after your 2 to 3 hour film ends there is no further return upon your investment. Now for the same $40 you can purchase 4 copies of the game, and have as many hours of multi-player games as you desire. Plus as an added bonus with each purchase of the game you receive a code for an alternate art foil card for the trading card game. The card that this reviewer received a voucher for is Scavenging Ooze. Now as of this review the card price for the original is over $8.00. So if you have your four copies of the game the players of the trading card game in the house receive up to $32 of product to add to their collection. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me.

Family Gaming Assessment:

This game is rated T for teen by the ESRB. The vast majority of this rating is derived from the artwork on several of the cards (many of them are somewhat macabre) and the themes expressed in the story mode. If you are concerned about your skittish child being upset by some fo the card art, then it is worth doing a google search for DoTP 2014 cards. Flipping through the various images will give you an idea.

Playability Assessment:

As I touched on earlier every player has the option to choose their level of expertise at the very beginning of the game. So even if you have someone who has never played the game there are visual and auditory tutorials that will walk the player through every aspect of the game. In addition there are tool-tip that pop up regardless of your expertise to help remind you of certain aspects of gameplay. In addition the control menu explains what each keystroke accomplishes within a match. As a player becomes more comfortable with their level of experience the tips can be turned off which speeds up gameplay.

As one might imagine with a computer port of a card game, there is a lot of reading to be done. If your child has trouble reading things quickly under pressure, then this might not be the best game for them.

DoTP 2014 has challenges for every player. From the basic story mode to challenges that have you needing to find your way out of seemingly Impossible situations. Even the most savvy M:TG veteran will have their skills put to the test.

Conclusion:

I would absolutely recommend Magic Duel of the Planeswalkers 2014 as an addition to any families gaming library. The price point certainly makes even buying multiple copies affordable, and the multi-player option makes family replay value high. I look forward to exploring deeper into the content, and maybe I will see you for a duel on Steam if you are up for the challenge!

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I was lucky enough to receive an invite to the Playstation 3 beta for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn over the holiday weekend. I have been a lifetime Final Fantasy fan, so it was like Christmas in July. I spent about a dozen hours playing through the beta on various characters over the weekend and I wanted to share some important information.

#1: Playing an MMO with a controller is hard

There are a lot of people who will say that playing MMOs in general is hard. But, it took a lot of adjustment to be able to make basic combat commands work. The keyboard and mouse functions are far more intuitive because they involve clicking on a guy and pushing a number key. The bottom line is that unless your child can easily handle using the trigger buttons on the PS3 controller then it might be best to stick with the PC release.

#2: The game is stunning

I know we come to expect that games produced for current generation consoles are beautiful, but MMOs are a unique case. They often have to give up a lot when it comes to visuals in order to make the game run smoothly. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn bucks that trend. The animations are smooth. The textures are incredible. Even the spell animations were neat to look at.

#3: The Lalafell race may just be the cutest thing in the history of video games

Look. Some people like to pretend to be big strong superheroes when they play video games. I was one of them. But, then I realized that I could create a digital person that both looks like my four year old son AND can manipulate the elements. I was instantly converted.

I see this as something that might have a lot of appeal for younger kids. I know my youngest got a lot of enjoyment from watching himself run around on the screen.

 

#4: The introduction and tutorial is LONG

I’ll admit that I might be looking back on my previous MMO experiences with rose colored glasses, but the introduction was very long and pretty dry. I am afraid that some kids will have difficulty sticking with it. The good news it that they don’t have to share every single experience that the game has to offer so many of us can just slog through the opening on our own after they head to bed.

 

#5: For all its beauty, it is still an online game

There is no way around it. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is still on online role playing game. As a result, there was still no shortage of borderline inappropriate names and obnoxious chatter over the chat channels. These are the kinds of problems are baked into online play. You just can’t separate yourself from them. They are less of an issue for kids who can’t read, but you are in a different world once those symbols on the screen start to hold meaning.

There is another round of beta testing beginning this weekend. I’ll post again if anything significant changes.

Have you or someone you know been in the beta? What were your thoughts? Post them in the comments! I’d love to hear them!

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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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By Bill Gibbs, Staff Writer

Editors Note: I know what you might be saying. “This game is rated M. How could this be reviewed on a family gaming website?” The reality is that we will be reviewing major M rated releases because teenagers are part of the family too! We recognize that there are parents who are willing to let their 15 and 16 year olds play rated M games. So there is no reason to hide the information from anyone.

 

ESRB Rating: M for Mature

This review is intentionally vague on the details of the game as to not require a spoiler warning. Main themes, visual elements, dialog, gameplay, and age suitability are discussed below.

Overall Review:

Remember Me is a game which starts with a truly interesting yet classical feeling science fiction concept: digitizing human memory and the consequences thereof. The world created is deceptively deep given the game’s story (more on that in a bit) although most of the world of the 2080’s is revealed by optionally found journal entries. These entries detail a world ravaged by global weather changes, war, and the dramatic shift of society due to the invention of the “Sensation Engine” (called Sensen). Sensen allows for the digitalization of thoughts and the overlay of digital information in real time into the mind, an idea which the game uses constantly.

Which brings us to the problem with Remember Me. Without any major spoilers, the game itself does little to capitalize on all of this set up. The story for the game itself is fairly straightforward, and although it throws a few curves to keep things interesting the game never really deviates from a basic “topple the evil corporation” line until the last second. Overall the story is average with a few interesting bits, but it’s nothing to be amazed at.

While the soundtrack is not terribly memorable, it does its job during game play to set all the needed moods and set the pace for combat. Voice acting is well done with a particularly good job by the game’s main character Nilin.

Graphics are nearly not worth judging in today’s AAA games unless they are subpar. That is not the case here. The game is good looking, its best features being water effects, lighting, and shadows. These are the basic hallmarks of graphical ability and the game does them well. The neat thing about the visuals in this game isn’t the quality. It is the way the Sensen is intergraded into the world. Shops have their names and menu’s floating in the air directly in front of them, out of order elevators have warnings floating directly in front of them. It takes everything that is being talked about today regarding augmented reality and takes it to its logical conclusion. It’s another example of the depth and detailed thought put into this game in every area accept the gameplay or the main story. A lot of effort went into creating an amazing setting; they just failed to tell an interesting story in that setting.

This brings up the gameplay. This is unfortunately where the game is really lacking, which is a problem since this is a GAME. The primary problem is the simplicity of the combat, the insultingly straightforwardness of the platforming, and the shear linearity of the game as a whole. Starting with the combat, you can customize your combos by selecting “pressens” which is the game’s version of individual hits in the combos, into four combos. 3, 5, 6, and 8 hit combos are available which sounds like a great level of customization but in combat it breaks down into rinse and repeat the same four combos over and over for the whole game. There are a few special pressens which grant short term extra power or the ability to one shot certain enemies, but they do little to break up the monotony of combat and in many of the fights are unfortunate requirements due to enemy invulnerabilities to standard attacks.

The platforming sections which separate the fights have only one way to go: forward. There are no mistakes to be made, no having to figure out where to go or going the wrong way. To top it all off the Sensen displays in real time the next jump or move to make, so although you are playing traditional platforming sections (ala Prince of Persia), these sections are little more than an exercise in going through the motions.

There is one saving grace to the gameplay and that is the “memory remix”. In these sequences the game shows someone’s memory of a key event in their life. You then have the power to fast forward, rewind, and pause the memory while you change key details to dramatically alter the target’s personality. Not only are these sequences challenging puzzles but they are brilliant examples of the core theme of the game. How much of whom we are is dependent on our memories? What happens when you start tinkering with the most important events of a person’s life? These questions are directly addressed by the remix sections. There are 4 of them in the game, and they are the clear high points as well as being some of the darkest parts of the story.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Remember Me deals with some very dark topics at times as well as being visually graphic where its enemy designs and environments are concerned. That being said, there is little in the game’s fighting that would not be found in any PG-13 adventure or monster movie. A few moments of foul language complicate matters for the young teen audience but aside from some mutated humans called “leapers” the overall themes and events of the game are acceptable to anyone over the age of about 17.

The game does deal with some dark topics however. Differences in economic class to the point of near slavery, personal manipulation leading to suicide, and generally involved questioning just how far society can fall when given to its own vices are the core themes explored in the game. It is a dystopian world strife with inequality and violence. Although the punch kick combat is fairly sanitized (no blood, guns, or gore) the environments range from filthy flooded sewers full of mutated humans to secret high tech labs where the poor have been experimented on. These environments are not directly inappropriate for early teen players, but they also imply a lot of unseen violence and human suffering. The other issue, as noted before, is the use of profanity in some stages of the game. Though none of these sections are particularly gratuitous and in fact the language used is fairly acceptable given the situations, the fact remains it is profanity and it does happen a few times throughout the course of the game. If you don’t want your 15 year old hearing an F-bomb dropped during the memory of a man arguing with his girlfriend, then this game is not for them. Despite the thin main story, the characters and the setting itself are very real, very charged with emotion, and full of adult themes as noted above.

Playability Assessment:

All things being equal, this game uses a very simple series of mechanics. As mentioned above, the Sensen is used as an “in-game” way for the game to basically hold your hand throughout every section and basically tell you where to go. The combo system is limited and very simple. Anyone with the ability to play “Simon Says” can get through this game with little overall difficulty. The “custom” part of building your combos, while cool, is very easy to exploit which eliminates most of the challenge in the game fairly early on. There are maybe two hard fights in the game on normal difficulty, and they are less hard because they require skill and more because they require the use of a specific special move in order to do any damage to the bosses, and that move has a 2 min cooldown. Frustrating, yes. Difficult, no. Anyone with even a modicum of prior video game experience will quickly master everything this game offers in terms of challenge. Everyone else just has to be able to follow on screen instructions and learn some basic button timing. The price of failure is also not too steep, as you will quickly automatically load the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are well spaced out and after each fight, platforming sections, or major cutscene. This is good pacing but it also means that if you die during a fight all that happens is you end up restarting the fight.

Conclusion:

Remember Me is an ok game meant for a more mature audience based on its themes and dialog but will likely be ok for anyone 17 and up (again, with the profanity exception). The gameplay is lackluster and very point A to point B with little change as the game progresses. The story is thin, but the setting is fantastic. Remember Me will likely not provide much of a challenge to an experience gamer but does rely on some very common core gaming mechanics which allows anyone to pick up the game and learn some important basics.

Bottom line: the game is worth it if you are interested in experiencing a brilliant setting of a dystopian future where man’s quest for technological improvement to the self has resulted in terrible unforeseen consequences. Excellent characters that are well voiced and react fantastically to their dystopian world but unfortunately do so while undergoing very little of an overall story. If you’re looking for innovation in gameplay, a challenge, or a deep and complicated story, you’re going to end up skipping Remember Me or picking it up in the discount bin in a few months.

Parents: Though visually the game is tame and lacks most of the gore, guns, knives, and other implements of violence in its combat, the game is still not suitable for pre or even young teens. The themes are dark and disturbing, the language is adult and laced with profanity, and the atmosphere often depicts vast human suffering. ESRB has it rated as M for “Mature Audiences” citing blood, partial nudity, strong language, and violence.

This review, based on the PC version.

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EA opened their press briefing at E3 2013 with a huge surprise. PopCap Games came on stage and announced a spin-off title for their immensely popular Plants vs. Zombies series: The third-person class based shooter Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

I’ll be honest with all of you. I missed the gag in there until my oldest son started giggling. “Dad, its like Modern Warfare…. but in a Garden.” (Well played PopCap. Well played.)

They only showed a brief trailer of a co-op “horde mode” that would be part of the game. Four players controlled each of the different plant classes that were available and fought against waves of zombies while trying to plant a garden. The casual grid-based strategy gameplay was stripped away in favor of fast-paced action. The four plant classes shown were as follows:

Peashooter: This plant appears to be an all-around character. He has a reasonable long range attack and could plant other peashooter drones to lay down cover fire.

Sunflower: This was a healer/medic class. They didn’t get into to many details about what this class can do, but I can say that parents of younger kids wanting to play this game should get used to the idea of playing this support class. (I’m wicked excited!)

Piranha Plant: This was a close range brawler. What adds some challenge to this class is that, just like in the original title, whenever the piranha plant eats a zombie it can’t attack again for a while. This requires a lot of advancing and retreating in order to stay safe.

Cactus: The cactus is a sniper. One thing that I liked the most is that each of the snipers shots leave a red trail of dust. This might seem insignificant, but when playing a team based level like that the ability to know where your lone sniper is feels pretty useful.

We don’t have a confirmed release date yet, but PopCaps website has confirmed that the game will release for Xbox360, Xbox One, and PC sometime in early 2014.

If you happen to be one of the many people who just can’t wait that long for more PvZ action, then you are definitely in luck as the official sequel Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time will be released on July 18th.

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