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Rive, by Two Tribes,  is a platformer coming to the Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam that features a spider-tank with a machine gun that can also hack nearby electronic devices. You control the tank as you infiltrate an enemy base filled with kamikaze robots, traps, and massive robot bosses all bent on your destruction.

That description likely evokes a dark and gritty gaming experience for a lot of you, but I am pleased to report based on my brief demo that Rive is nothing of the sort. This is a fun arcade platformer that made me think more about Contra from my time playing on the NES of my childhood than Call of Duty or Battlefield.

The most striking element of Rive is the use of color. This isn’t exactly a Geometry Wars clone by any stretch, but the lead artists use vibrant neon colors whenever possible and the result is a much brighter and more cheerful game than anything involving a spider-tank has any right to be. I don’t mean that is a bad way either. My demo was short, but it was gorgeous. Every fight resulted a cool splash of neon lasers and explosions.

Rive Screenshot

Just look at it! Beautiful!

Gameplay was simple enough that my oldest was able to make his way through the demo, but it was apparent that they had a lot of design space available to ramp up the difficulty. Rive controls like a twisted hybrid of a twin stick shooter like Geometry Wars and a platforming game like Guacamelee. You have a machine gun that can rotate 360 degrees which makes bouncing around the levels blasting robots to bits a blast.

What really sets the game apart from other arcade style shooters is the hacking mechanic. The tank can go into a “hacking” mode that can interact with switch boxes to open doors. It can also hack repair bots to follow it around and heal damage. The devs only showed a few of the hacking options in the demo, but it is safe to assume they will include more in the full game upon release.

I think this one has a lot of promise and look forward to playing it when it comes out. Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for a review when the game releases this summer!

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Skylanders have become a huge success in recent years. Kids everywhere are asking their parents, Santa, or anyone else who might listen to help them get in on the action. The toys themselves are everywhere and it might not be very clear what games they can work with.

But, fear not! We have a quick and easy guide to figuring out how to tell if you’ve got the right Skylander for your child’s game.

If the character is out of the package, it might seem impossible to tell which version of the game it will work with, and it turns out that Activision thought of that.

All you have to do is turn the figure over and look at the color of the translucent base and that will tell you what game it came from. Just to make it easier we set up this chart to help you figure out which games it can be used in! BaseColor Also at the bottom of the base, you’ll find the symbol for the element. So, if your kids are asking for a Trap Team Earth character, you just need to look for a red base and the symbol on the chart below!

Element

Now, each game after Spyro’s adventure has a special type of character who is able to unlock mini-levels to gain magical hats. In Giants, the characters are obvious by their sheer size in comparison to the others. Swap Force brings in larger characters, that disconnect with magnets at the waist. They have an additional type that unlocks areas, that you’ll see below.

SwapForce

In Trap Team, the special characters are also larger than the common Skylanders and have a translucent weapon or headwear.

Hopefully, this guide will help you to understand what Skylanders you are getting! For more detailed information on Trap Team Skylanders, check our our article here!

*Note – we will continue to update this article as more different Skylanders are released so feel free to bookmark this and check back whenever you need to!

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Pax East 2015 Preview – VIKING SQUAD!!!

Brawlers are a great genre for families. They give more skilled parties (be they parents or children) the chance to help the less skilled players enjoy the game experience together. Castle Crashers has been a fan favorite for years, but Viking Squad looks like it has the chops to help carry the torch even longer.

Viking Squad, by Slick Entertainment,  is a three player cooperative brawler that is themed around viking warriors who are trying to wage war on supernatural horrors.

There are four different playable characters: a grey-haired character who fights with a sword and shield, a berserker who duel wields battle-axes, a warrior maiden who fights with a massive hammer, and a lithe male archer who looks to offer a change of pace to the other three bruisers.

Viking Squad characters

She’s awesome isn’t she?

The three non-archers are monstrous and intimidating figures. All of them, the maiden included, feature broad shoulders and a low stance that tells everyone around them that they mean business. This is especially important in that the female character is a rough and tumble brawler. The developers could have left her as the archer, but they took the chance to make her a melee character in favor of bucking the industry trend. (Huzzah to that!)

I am sure that a lot of parents hear about battle axes and viking warriors and are imaging a gritty game with a lot of blood. Fear not! I spoke to the developers and was told that the current build includes a toggle to turn blood off. They are even considering dropping the blood entirely in an attempt to draw in a wider audience. This is a great sign for dads (or moms!) who want to rough up some bad guys with vikings!

I spoke to the lead artist at PAX East and he let me know exactly what we can expect. He called Viking Squad “A big dumb name for a big dumb game.” This will sound bad to a lot of different folks, but I love it. Sometimes you just want to hit some buttons and make things happen. This looks like it will be a great experience.

We are a huge fans of the brawler genre so you can count on a lot of coverage for this game including some developer interviews, concept art, and other great stuff as this game comes closer to release on the PS4 and PC.

Keep your eyes here on Engaged Family Gaming for further coverage and a review once the game comes out!

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Some games depend on complex premises and grand narratives to entice players. Some of them rely on advanced tech and gorgeous graphical fidelity. Sometimes a game just needs a goat.

Toto Temple Deluxe is a small game built by a small team on Unity to be released on PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, and even the lonely OUYA. It is also a game build around crashing around small environments and trying to capture a goat and keeping it away from the other players. This premise is just as silly as it sounds and the game is all the better for it. I loved playing the game, and I spent a good half hour watching other people play as well. This is by no means an e-sport, but I could see watching this game streamed on Twitch by competitive players.

Players can move orthogonally and they have a boost button that allows them to crash from in a given direction until they bump into an obstacle. Some of these obstacles will break and a lot of the different levels feature obstacles that you have to break in order to reach the objective.

The demo I played on the PAX show floor was amazing. I, and the players around me, was nearly driven mad by the frantic action. My poor play even drew cheers from the crowd! I donʼt expect it Toto Temple Deluxe to dominate the charts upon its release this coming summer, but it is definitely going to be a fun game that families will enjoy.

Keep your eyes here on Engaged Family Gaming for more info and for a review once the game comes up!

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Dear Kaos Trap,

You elude me.  I follow sites and refresh Amazon daily, hoping to encounter your translucent black countenance, and yet you continue to mock me. I can almost hear your odd cadence as you call me “Sky-loser” while I enter yet another Target, disappointed at the empty space meant for you.

I swim through endless piles of water traps and live through the disappointment of a growing inventory of life traps. I do all of this in the vain hope that I’ll encounter you one day. All to no avail. My daughter begs me to find you, to keep looking, and my hopes are constantly crushed as I find your limited inventory (2 per box of traps) with your price skyrocketing faster than a prisoner escaping Cloud Cracker Prison.

You mock me relentlessly, and haunt my dreams with a cruelness that Dreamcatcher could never fathom. Someday I will find you, and with $5.99 you will belong to me. Then with a squeal of joy you will be mine, er, OURS forever.

Always,

Tuff Luck Mom

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One of the more exciting premiers to come out of the 2014 Game Awards was King’s Quest: Your Legacy Awaits. Activision announced that it was returning earlier this year as part of their re-launch of the Sierra brand as an indie publisher. It is being developed by a company called The Odd Gentlemen, a small company whose previous work includes the quirky puzzle game called The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom.

They have taken on a huge responsibility with this project as the King’s Quest series is one of the most iconic franchises in he history of gaming. This is similar to the pressure on Christopher Nolan when he took on directing the Batman series. Failure is just not an option with so many fans waiting.

The good news is that it appears they are up to the challenge. The game looks amazing so far. All of the art and animation assets we have seen so far look as though they were pulled directly from the pages of a storybook.

They plan to maintain the adventure game roots, but have changed up the controls. Historically, games in the franchise have been point and click adventure games. This entry will be a puzzle based platforming game. It is an odd choice when you consider the recent resurgence of point and click adventure games like Broken Age chapter 1 and the Telltale games series. I am willing to reserve judgment because it looks so beautiful, but I am hoping that the platforming doesn’t get in the way of anything.

I’m looking forward to being able to share this game with my children. What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

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Publisher: Upper One Games

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

This game was reviewed on Xbox One, also available for PS4 and Windows PC.

 

Overall Review

Anyone who enjoys games already knows they’re a creative medium like any other, with the potential for meaningful expression beyond entertainment. But Never Alone asks an ambitious question: can video games share and preserve cultural legacies?

Never Alone  Screen shot

Never Alone is absolutely gorgeous!

Developed in partnership with the Alaskan Native community, Never Alone takes an Iñupiaq myth and recasts it as the adventure of a young girl named Nuna and her companion, an arctic fox. As a relentless blizzard threatens her village, Nuna and Fox journey to find the source of the storm. As they encounter a variety of friends and foes, it’s clear that nature can be helpful, hostile, and even mischievously neutral. But with patience and perseverance they press on.

No type of game embodies the themes of perseverance and patience better than the puzzle-platformer. Gameplay is part detective work, as the player (or players–two people can play the full game together) figures out how to overcome the level’s obstacles; and play’s part pure coordination, as they alternately control Nuna and Fox to climb, jump, and swing the solution to success. Each level represents one of the myth’s chapters, and the influence of indigenous art styles is deliberately present in the level design. It’s worth emphasizing how gorgeous and distinct each level looks. It’s more than just ice and snow.

This isn’t a staid museum piece. The Iñupiat and their traditions play a living part in our world today– a world that has video games– and these games can be used as a viable storytelling technique. That’s an important point to bring home: this isn’t interactive homework, trying to “trick” kids into learning about another culture when they think they’re playing a game. Rather, it’s the bold idea that the game itself is a legitimate way to tell an Iñupiaq tale.

It works. This is a bonafide video game. Is it educational? Even a little political? Yes. Throughout the game, players discover and watch short interviews with members of the Iñpuiaq community that explain the cultural and historical meaning behind various gameplay elements. These videos tell an engaging narrative of their own and are immediately relevant, providing context and depth to the game itself.

Aptly named, the game tells a story that prizes connectedness, cooperation, and community. The young girl’s individual bravery brings her against the ravages of the blizzard, but it’s the survival of her village that urges her onward. Without the help of Fox, she could not prevail. Even then, they rely on more than their friendship, turning to the helpfulness of spirits and the environment itself. Ultimately, as one interviewee puts it, “You’re not the biggest force in the world.”

Never Alone screen shot

The windblown snow results in some beautiful on screen effects.

This translates beautifully into the gameplay, creating a game that’s truly cooperative. Each puzzle’s solution requires the active participation of both characters and their unique abilities. Nuna smashes the walls of ice that stand in their way, while Fox scrambles to otherwise unreachable heights. No one becomes a frustrating tag-along, meaning co-op mode may actually be the better experience. For any parent interested in games to play with their kids, Never Alone definitely deserves a look.

Family Gaming Assessment

Never Alone earns its teen rating: there’s no blood or gore, but the player confronts frightening situations of destruction and violence. One scene in particular even startled me. That said, none of this is glorified. Quite the opposite: there’s a strong message that courage and cooperation overcome greed and cruelty.

Playability Assessment

Like any platformer, the game requires precise coordination. Players will spend more time trying to achieve the correct timing than they’ll spend actually working out the puzzles. However, the ratio of frustration to challenge is fair. A parent-child team, especially, will find little trouble progressing at a reasonable pace.

Conclusion

Never Alone delivers on its promise. Without feeling patronizing or gimmicky, it succeeds at being many things at once: educational, artistic, challenging, and inspiring. But, most importantly, it’s a fun little game. Anybody can appreciate that.

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We know that “nothing is off limits” in regards to the Disney properties that could appear in Kingdom Hearts 3. This means we might see members of the Avengers, Jedi Knights, or maybe even Elsa from Frozen in the next adventure.

I’ve spent some time thinking about what I would like to see. Below is my top five list!

5. Spider Man

Spider Man - Miles Morales

This is the Miles Morales version of Spider Man. I’d be fine with this guy too!

There isn’t another character in the Marvel universe that would fit into the silly premise of Kingdom Hearts more than our friendly neighborhood Spider Man. He, when well written, is among the most entertaining superheroes in the business and his witty comments would be a nice counterpoint to the more “realistic” and serious Manhattan.

4. A Bug’s Life

Bugs Life Disney Pixar

Imagine these guys in Kingdom Hearts? It’d be great!

Look. If nothing is off limits then Pixar is on the table also. Flik, the main character, won the day using an array of interesting gadgets and inventions. This could be an interesting mechanic for a supporting character in the game.

3. The Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer Marvel comics super hero

The Silver Surfer and his power cosmic are a great fit!

The Silver Surfer would be a perfect addition to the Kingdom Hearts lore. His ability to fly between worlds would be a great fit and the power cosmic would give him some flashy powers to use in combat.

2. Galactus

Galactus marvel comics super villain

Galactus and the easy chair of DOOM!

If we include the Silver Surfer, then it stands to reason that we need to include Galactus as well. He literally devours worlds so having Galactus find a new source of worlds to consume in the various Disney worlds would have frightening results. His massive scale would also allow for a very cool encounter.

1. Frozen

Disney's Frozen: Elsa

Elsa would be a BEAST!

You can go ahead and call my opinion tainted here. I do have a two year old daughter. But, hear me out on this one. Elsa is insanely powerful. She created life… by accident… twice. She also created a massive ice castle while signing and dancing. She is a great pick to be a supporting character because there are plenty of options for over the top special moves and magic powers.

Also, Frozen is the highest grossing animated feature of all time. It’s inclusion will undoubtedly be a draw and will add to the success of the game.

Who would you like to see? Sound off in the comments!

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By: Andy Robertson of FamilyGamerTV

The Crew Guide

Our friends over at FamilyGamerTV who a parent’s guide to The Crew. It covers what makes this game great to what to watch out for. The video is the ultimate two minute guide!

Genre and story

The Crew is a racing game set in an open world version of the United States. In the  campaign you work through the ranks of an illegal street racing gang, with missions you can carry out alone or with other players. Beyond that, it’s a “living world” with lots more for players to do and explore.

As you drive around this open world version of the US, which lets you drive from coast to coast (albeit much more quickly than you would be able to in real life) you encounter different challenges.

For example, Follow gives you a racing line to follow that gets thinner the longer you manage to stay on it, and Precision gives you a succession of smaller and smaller gates to pass through. The game will record your attempts so that you can try to beat them or let your friends see if they can do better.

You can also create your own crew made up of yourself and other players, and challenge other crews to races and other challenges. The game requires an internet connection even if you decide to play alone. There’s no local multiplayer.

Throughout the game you have the opportunity to drive a wide range of cars from different manufacturers, from Ford to Ferrari.

Developer

The Crew is the first game from French studio Ivory Tower, which includes developers who worked on games like Need for Speed, V-Rally, and Test Drive Unlimited.

Format

It’s available for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, but not for PS3. An app for iOS and Android lets players build cars for the game.

Cost

For PS4 and Xbox One, The Crew costs £54.99/$59.99. For PC, the game costs £49.99/$59.99. On Amazon, the 360 version costs around £40/$55. A season pass, which gets you two exclusive vehicles and four car packs to be released monthly, costs £19.99/$24.99.

You’ll need PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold for some of the online features.

Duration

The campaign is around 20 hours long, but because of The Crew’s open world, side missions, and online multiplayer, players will spend much more time with the game than that.

UK and Europe – PEGI rating and additional consumer information

In the UK and Europe, PEGI rates The Crew as only appropriate for those aged 12 and older, with content descriptors for mild bad language and violence causing minor injury only. PEGI also mentions that the game “allows the player to interact with other players online”.

The Games Rating Authority expands on its PEGI rating by expanding on the violence and language, stating that “there are some cinematic sequences containing minor violence, one of which shows a man trying to attack another using a wrench”. While the scene is described as “very realistic”, “both men are unhurt”, which means it’s only “considered as minor assault”. As for language, “mild language occurs frequently throughout the game and includes words such as ‘asshole’, ‘bastard’, ‘bitch’, and ‘shit’.”

US – ESRB

In the US, the ESRB rates The Crew as T for Teen, with content descriptors for language, mild blood, mild suggestive themes, and violence, also mentioning “online features that may expose players to unrated user-generated content”.

Some of the violence is in the game itself, e.g. in Takedown missions that “prompt players to ram into other vehicles, eventually causing targets to crash”, while “cutscenes depict more dramatic instances of violence: a man fatally shot; a bloodstain on his shirt is briefly depicted”.

The ESRB is also concerned about “suggestive material” such as the protagonist “watching a woman in a short skirt; the camera briefly lingers on her posterior as she walks by”, as well as dialogue like “You hitting that? Mind if I take a run at it?””

Common Sense Media

No yet rated.

Themes

While the focus is on driving, the campaign is set up like an action adventure game, and the focus is around gangs, crime, and violence.

Why people play

Since the best thing about owning a vehicle is the freedom it gives the owner to go wherever they want, an open world racing game in which players can pick and choose missions at their will makes a lot of sense. Naturally, the game couldn’t represent the entire United States, but the fact that it has created a relatively big representation for players to drive across lends the game a sense of realism.

Given that driving games rarely have a particularly interesting campaign, it’s a positive that The Crew has several hours of story. But as the name of the game suggests, multiplayer is the focus, and will be what keeps players coming back to that open world again and again.

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2014 was great for family gamers. There were a whole bunch of great games that came out, but 2015 is looking like it might be even better! Below are five of the games I am looking forward to playing this year!

 

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda Wii U

The Legend of Zelda for Wii U is my most anticipated game of 2015!

The release of a Legend of Zelda game is an event. The upcoming release later this year will not only be the first Zelda game on the Wii U, but it will be the first time that a Zelda game will feature an open world. The Wii U gamepad offers a lot of design space for new items so it will be great to see what Nintendo puts into the game by the time it is released.

There is still some doubt that Nintendo will delay it and move it into 2016, but I have faith that it will come out this year.

Mario Maker

mario maker wii u

Making levels for and with my children will be awesome!
Bring it on kids… Daddy’s pretty good at platformers!

2015 is the 30th anniversary of the release of Super Mario Bros. There are been dozens of games in the series, but Nintendo has always been in the drivers seat on game design. Mario Maker changes things up by giving players the keys and letting them design their own Mario levels using the design aesthetics from multiple Mario games.

The biggest reason I am excited? I canʼt wait to try and run through levels created by my children. That will be a treat.

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV

It’s not confirmed yet… but a man can hope. Right?!?!

We may not have an official release date yet, but Square Enix has been releasing information at such a rapid pace recently that I am very hopeful that we will see a release this year.

We also do not have a rating, but Final Fantasy games have had sections that were good to share with your kids in the past. I have great memories of playing some of critter heavy sections of Final Fantasy XIII with my sons. I am hoping that Iʼll be able to do the same with this one.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Xenoblade Chronicles X for Wii U

Ok.. they are mechs as opposed to robots. But, I love them anyway!

Xenoblade Chronicles was a masterpiece for the Wii. It had one significant flaw though: It looked out of place without HD graphics. The sequel for the Wii U looks like it will fix that.

I also love giant robots and the trailers we have seen so far look like they will bring me a lot of them.

My only concern is that we don’t have a confirmed release date and we still haven’t heard one voice in english. It is only January so Nintendo has a lot of time left to go, but we need to hear something about this one soon or this might end being on my list of games for 2016 instead.

 

Ori and the Blind Forest

ori and the blind forest for Xbox One

This looks like it will be tough, but is beautiful enough for us to push through!

Ori and the Blind Forest was originally supposed to launch in 2014 but was delayed into early 2015. Meaning that is is ALMOST HERE! The launch trailer at last yearʼs E3 was stunning and I cannot wait to share this game with my kids (even if it means we are going to cry together).

Some of the gameplay trailers have led me to believe that this will have some incredibly challenging platforming segments, but I am sure that my boys and I will push through it together.

 

What are you and your family looking to play in 2015? Sound off in the comments!

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