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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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Sony is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation with a HUGE sale of popular PlayStation games from across the breadth of the various consoles’ life-cycles. The sales are HUGE and are up to 75% off for PlayStation Plus users. The list below is large, but it includes all of the relevant games that are rated T or less on the list.

I have highlighted the best games of the bunch so take a look and download your favorites on the PlayStation Store!

The format for the list below is as follows:

Game title -> PlayStation Plus Price-> Sale Price-> Regular Price


PlayStation 4

FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn $19.99 $23.99 $39.99

FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn Collector’s Edition$29.99 $35.99 $59.99

Need for Speed Rivals $12.00 $20.00 $39.99

Rocksmith 2014 Edition $41.99 $44.99 $59.99


PlayStation 3

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma $16.00 $20.00 $39.99

Burnout Paradise Super Bundle $7.50 $12.00 $29.99

CHRONO CROSS $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

CHRONO TRIGGER $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Dragon’s Crown $20.00 $25.00 $49.99

FINAL FANTASY IX $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY VII $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY VIII $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn $12.49 $14.99 $24.99

FINAL FANTASY XIV: A Realm Reborn Collector’s Edition $22.49 $26.99 $44.99

Jak and Daxter Collection $8.00 $10.00 $19.99

Jet Moto $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Jet Moto 2 $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

LittleBigPlanet $8.00 $10.00 $19.99

MediEvil $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Might & Magic Clash of Heroes $7.49 $8.99 $14.99

Okami HD $6.99 $8.39 $13.99

Outland $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Ratchet & Clank: Collection $12.00 $15.00 $29.99

Rayman $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Rocksmith 2014 Edition $41.99 $44.99 $59.99

SSX $5.00 $8.00 $19.99

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix $5.99 $6.99 $9.99

The Sly Collection $17.99 $20.99 $29.99

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD $6.00 $7.50 $14.99

Ultra Street Fighter IV $16.00 $20.00 $39.99

WipEout $2.40 $3.00 $5.99


PlayStation Vita

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Portable $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma $16.00 $20.00 $39.99

CHRONO CROSS $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

CHRONO TRIGGER $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Daxter $3.99 $4.79 $7.99

DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY $9.99 $11.99 $19.99

Dragon’s Crown $16.00 $20.00 $39.99

FINAL FANTASY IV: The Complete Collection $9.99 $11.99 $19.99

FINAL FANTASY IX $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY VII $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY VIII $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Jet Moto $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Jet Moto 2 $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita $7.20 $9.00 $17.99

LocoRoco $5.55 $7.50 $14.99

Lumines Electronic Symphony $10.80 $13.50 $26.99

MediEvil $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite $8.00 $10.00 $19.99

Ratchet & Clank: Collection $12.00 $15.00 $29.99

Rayman $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

TACTICS OGRE: Let Us Cling Together $9.99 $11.99 $19.99

Tearaway $14.40 $18.00 $35.99

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky $8.00 $10.00 $19.99

WipEout $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Ys: The Oath in Felghana $6.00 $7.50 $14.99


PlayStation Portable (PSP)

BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger Portable $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

CHRONO CROSS $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

CHRONO TRIGGER $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Daxter $3.99 $4.79 $7.99

DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY $9.99 $11.99 $19.99

FINAL FANTASY IV: The Complete Collection $9.99 $11.99 $19.99

FINAL FANTASY IX $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY VII $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

FINAL FANTASY VIII $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Jet Moto $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Jet Moto 2 $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

LocoRoco $5.55 $7.50 $14.99

MediEvil $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Monster Hunter Freedom Unite $8.00 $10.00 $19.99

Rayman $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

TACTICS OGRE: Let Us Cling Together $9.99 $11.99 $19.99

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky $8.00 $10.00 $19.99

WipEout $2.40 $3.00 $5.99

WipEout Pure $4.99 $5.99 $9.99

Ys: The Oath in Felghana $6.00 $7.50

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Kingdom Hearts III is coming.  It is coming slowly, but there is no denying that its slow glacial journey towards release is impacting the entire industry. Every scrap of information is analyzed frame by frame. Every interview is pulled apart word for word by every website and podcast that even thinks about video games.

It has been a very long time since the release of Kingdom Hearts 2. It has been so long, in fact, that many parents with young children might not have any idea what the game is all about.

Sora Donald Goofy Kingdom Hearts III

Sora, Donald, and Goofy will be at it again… someday!

For those in need of a definition: Kingdom Hearts is a franchise built around the unlikely pairing of Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, and Donald Duck alongside characters from the Final Fantasy series like Cloud, Squall, and Auron. These characters embark on a quest that takes them through multiple worlds all themed after different Disney films.

Each game in the series has brought with it new experiences themed after different Disney properties. We battled evil with Steamboat Willie. We helped solve problems in the Hundred Acre Wood. We even hunted for treasure with Aladdin. But, things are a little different now. Disney has gone on a significant spending spree in the last handful of years. The recent purchases if Marvel and Lucafilm properties provides fans with a lot of possibilities for new adventures, heroes, and villains.

This has caused a lot of speculation regarding the potential inclusion of Marvel superheroes and Star Wars characters in the series. All of this speculation reached a high point recently when Tai Yasue, the game’s director, was quoted as saying “nothing is off limits” by Kotaku UK.

The possibility of visiting Tattooine, Manhattan, or Asgard is pretty awesome. Many of these characters would fit very well in a story about multiple worlds besieged by an evil force. It wouldn’t even be that hard to bolt the Kingdom Hearts fiction onto the Marvel interpretation of the Yggdrasil World Tree myth.

 

Personally though, I have a feeling that the most impactful addition to the game is going to be the all but guaranteed inclusion of the world of Frozen. Anna and Elsa are characters that seem like they were almost for this type of adventure. Also, Elsa is arguably the most powerful character in Disney history. A showdown between Elsa and Maleficent in a Kingdom Hearts game would be quite the sight. It would probably end up being the fantasy battle of the century (at least for me) and the increased power of the PS4 and Xbox One would result in a very pretty fight to watch.

Disney's Frozen: Elsa

She’s as COOL as ICE!

 

 

 

Maleficent

Maleficent is a bad, bad sorceress!

 

 

VS.

 

 

 

 

What about you? What worlds would you like to see make an appearance? Sound off in the comments!

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ESRB rating: E
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Reviewed on Xbox One, also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox 360

Overall Review:

Video games first rose to prominence as arcade machines. People gathered in dark smoke-filled arcades to chase high scores in games like Pac Man, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. This was, arguably, the heyday of video game and every once in a while it is a good idea to go back for a visit. Geometry Wars 3 is exactly the sort of brief visit to those bygone days that we need. It is clean, bright, and very exciting.

The elevator pitch for Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is simple.

“Fly a neon-colored spaceship around maps of various sizes and shapes shooting at other moving objects and collecting the things that they drop to raise your score.”

I’d like to say that I could spend another thousand words explaining it better, but that minimalist description is all but perfect. The reality is that Geometry Wars cuts all of the fluff and leaves us with a neon rendered ball of insanity that is hard to stop playing. The compulsion to play just “one more game” will be hard to ignore.

The game may be a score chase, but you will have to adapt to various game modes to progress in the game. This includes a pacifism level where you have no weapons and have to weave around enemies and dodge them. The only way to score points is to pass through small gates that blow up everything around you.

All in all, this is a small game that will sit on your consoles hard drive and find regular play. This is especially true if you are in a competitive family. Chasing that next high score will be something you just can’t resist!

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions Screensho

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions is all kinds of neon.

Family Gaming Assessment:

The title “Geometry Wars” might sound concerning, but ultimately the game play is more akin to Asteroids and Space Invaders than Call of Duty. There is nothing to worry about here.

Playability Assessment:

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is not a simple game. Success depends on the players ability to remember the movement patterns of the different enemies and attack them in the correct sequence.

The controls are straight forward. It is a “twin stick shooter” so the left stick on the controller is used for moving the spaceship around the playing field. The right stick, on the other hand, controls which direction the ship shoots in. This makes it possible, for example, top move to the left while firing to the right.

Players will fail a lot. This  requires a lot of practice. If your children are easily frustrated then Geometry Wars might not be for them.

If your family enjoys passing the controller back and forth while chasing high scores then this is a great game to add to the collection.

Full Disclosure: A code of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. 

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Overall Review

The Avatar series has been a mainstay on Nickelodeon for years now. Unfortunately, it has not translated very well to other forms of media. The movie was atrocious, and the video games have been slightly better, but more so because the movie was just that bad.

It was with all of that in mind that I came into my experience with the Legend of Korra with very low expectations. I knew that the story and characters lent themselves very well to the action game game. I also knew that the developer, Platinum games, were experts at crafting stylish action games. But, I knew above all else that licensed games are fighting an uphill battle from the minute they begin development.

They had a good chance to defy my expectations, and they did in some small ways, but I canʼt say that Legend of Korra was a “good” game.

Platinum games is known for their contributions to the stylish action genre and that is the one lonely area where Legend of Korra shines. I have long dreamt of knowing even a little bit of what it is like to be a fully realized avatar. Platinum has managed to get me as close to that as I will ever feel. Combat is relatively simple on its face. You use one of two face buttons on the controller to initiate quick and strong attacks. The bumpers on the controller are used to rotate between the four different elements of bending (air, water, earth, and fire). Rotating between them creates some insane combos that mix the four elements in visually astonishing ways. The different elements each serve different purposes (water is used to attack enemies at range, earth is good against armored opponents, etc). The mechanics of the combat are sound. Korra was not the most agile of characters I have played as in these genres, but all of her moves were deliberate and strong. It suited Korra very well.

The problem with all of that is that I was robbed of the ability to experience all four of the elements together in concert until the very end of the game. Platinum accomplished this through the narrative by having the antagonist rob Korra of her bending powers at the very beginning of the game. I spent so long plodding through the game trying to earn it all back that I likely would have given up if I were not playing it for review.

The blessing in all of this is that Legend of Korra is a very short game. It is a bite sized experience that could be beaten within a few days of play. This helps keep its repetitive nature less of a flaw. It feels more like a walk up a steep hill than a trudge through a miles-long swamp.

Family Gaming Assessment

All of the conflict resolution in The Legend of Korra is completed through combat. She unleashes powerful kicks and punches against her enemies in fierce combinations. She also uses her bending to use each of the four elements against her opponents.

In the end, the action in the game is no more intense than that of the Nickelodeon cartoon. If you would let your child watch the show, then there should be no real concern here.

Playability Assessment

The Legend of Korra is not a simple game. Controlling Korra and all of her bending powers requires a the use of multiple different face buttons on the controller as well as the bumpers on the shoulders. This will make the game challenging for younger children with small hands all on its own.

The complex control scheme is only made worse by arbitrary spikes in difficulty at different parts of the story. There are times where even experienced players will need to retry encounters because enemies are just doing far more damage than they feel like they should be.

Overall

I want to recommend this title because I am such a huge fan of the show, but it is hard to recommend this game to anyone who is not really hungry for Avatar content.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann

2014 has been a GREAT year for family friendly video games. We have seen new editions of Minecraft. The Toys to Life category is exploding thanks to new editions of Skylanders and Disney Infinity and more competition in the form of Angry Birds Transformers and Nintendo’s amiibo line. Most importantly we have spent the year bearing witness to the phoenix-like resurgence of Nintendo who have slowly started to right the ship with the once maligned WiiU console.

Below is a list of five games for the Sony PlayStation 4 that are great for families and will be great gifts even if they aren’t number one of your child’s list. (And you know what… YOU might even enjoy them too!)

1. LittleBigPlanet 3

Sack Boy has been a major part of the Playstation lineup for years. He’s adorable so it makes sense. LittleBigPlanet 3 is the third installment in the franchise (duh) but this time they mix things up by giving players three additional characters to play.

2. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

It’s LEGO Batman. ‘Nuff said.

Seriously though, Traveler’s Tales has been doing an amazing job with their LEGO titles recently. Last year’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was amazing and this looks like it will be a similar experience with a DC comics spin.

3. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

PopCap knew they had a hit on their hands when Plants Vs Zombies started dominating the PC gaming world several years ago. We knew that more was coming, but no one would have ever guessed that it would have morphed into a team based online shooter.

The best part is that said online team-based shooter is also really good!

4. Minecraft

OK. So I’ll keep it simple here. If you have a child old enough to play video games then you have probably heard more about Minecraft than you will ever want to know. The good news is that Minecraft is budget priced so if you are a bit strapped after shelling out for a new console this is a great addition that won’t break the bank.

5. Resogun

This downloadable title is budget friendly and will provide hours of fun. You control a spaceship flying around an alien landscape rescuing survivors, blasting enemy spacecraft out of the sky and dodging lasers and bullets. It really is more fun than it has any right to be.

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This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org. They are a site with similar goals to our own, but with a specific focus on teenagers  and the challenges involved in being a part of their gaming lives.

~~~

By: Courtney Holmes

  Costume Quest 2 the sequel to Double Fine’s 2010 Halloween RPG Costume Quest, made me laugh out loud, many times. It’s a kid-centric Halloween romp through time and space, and while aspects of it were far from perfect, overall I had a really fun experience. The game is rated E10+ for fantasy violence, and it’s available for PC, Mac, and Linux (and soon, for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Wii U). It was developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Midnight City.

Monsters

Story

Wren and Reynold are just two ordinary twins who love costumes and candy. One Halloween, they spot the dentist Orel White cavorting with a time wizard. With the wizard’s help, White uses time travel to steal a magical talisman and eventually become supreme dental overlord of the world, outlawing candy and costumes. The twins must use time travel (and magical Halloween costumes that transform them into awesome fighters) to take down White and rescue Halloween.

Like its predecessor, Costume Quest 2 is a very kid-centric story, and the enemies tend to be adults. But it’s not just another kids-versus-adults storyline. Many of the grownups in the game are allies to the kids. Costume Quest 2 is full of adults who treat children with respect, and not condescension, which I love. The children are confident and smart, and generally behave in ways that are very emotionally mature. Overall, this strikes a really good tone. And the humor, for the most part, is spot on. I regularly found myself retelling jokes out loud to my coworkers, which I’m sure got annoying fast. But they were just so funny!

There are two things in the story, though, that make me uncomfortable. The first is that the game champions candy, but makes no mention of health or oral hygiene in a positive light. The game doesn’t make all dentists into the enemy—Orel White, specifically, has a developed character and some solid motivations for hating Halloween. However, I would really have appreciated a couple of positive notes about dental care in the game. Going to the dentist is a scary enough process, even for some adults, that it really doesn’t need to be vilified any more for kids.

tourist

The second thing that bothers me are the rare yet undeniable fat jokes, thrown in throughout the course of the story. Specifically, the people being made fun of are tourists and the very wealthy (see photos), but I found these jokes totally unnecessary. Considering that candy is an enormous part of the game, and that healthy methods of moderation are not mentioned at all, this makes me feel like Costume Quest 2 is sending some mixed signals.

rich

These aspects of the game are a huge bummer, because there are so many other things about it that I just love. Positive messages about teamwork and friendship and creativity are rife. I love Halloween costumes, I love what they can do for kids’ imagination and mental health, and Costume Quest 2 clearly gets it.

feel like myself Costume Quest 2

Overall, Costume Quest 2 does a really good job of crafting self-confident young people who know what they want and how to get it. They are respected and trusted by adults and by each other, and they are savvy about the world around them. Plus, there is a ton of great race and gender representation. This game features multiple interracial couples, and zero aspects of the story hinge on gender or race. You can choose to play as either Wren or Reynold at the beginning of the game, but the actual effect this has on your gameplay is nonexistent.

costume fight

Gameplay

There are two main aspects to Costume Quest 2’s gameplay: exploration and turn-based fighting. The game is broken up into numerous areas to explore, and in each you are tasked with going door-to-door collecting candy. At some doors, bad guys are waiting to attack you, which will launch a fight scene. Each area also has secret chests, clever missions, and hidden caches of candy to discover. The goodies were enough to keep me invested in each map and mission, and I really enjoyed looking for all of the hidden tidbits and talking to all of the people in each area, in case one of them had something special to offer me.

The fight scenes were also pretty entertaining, if somewhat tedious. When a fight starts, the kids are transformed into whatever they’re dressed up as at the time, and each costume has associated attacks that are delightfully humorous to watch. Thomas Jefferson’s special attack is particularly awesome, but they were all entertaining in their own right.

Thomas Jefferson

Plus, because the experience points are tied to the kids and not the costumes, you can feel free to try fighting with lots of different costumes, without having to put yourself at a major disadvantage.

In an attempt to make each fight have a meaningful impact, Costume Quest 2 initially made it so that you did not heal automatically after fights. Therefore, if you entered two fights back-to-back without going to a water fountain to heal up, you would be put at an enormous disadvantage. The creators have announced that they’re updating this with a patch after receiving complaints from players who were tired of constantly backtracking to find a fountain. I agree, it got annoying, though I appreciate them attempting to make the fights meaningful in a wider context. Hopefully the patch will be able to strike a balance.

A final note: if you can, play this game with a controller, instead of your keyboard. It will make moving around much easier.

Thanks, Monty!

The Takeaway

Costume Quest 2 is hilarious, satisfying, and refreshing. It’s got jokes and a plot that is entertaining for kids at multiple ages, and it’s a great way to get excited about Halloween. I loved playing as a confident, sassy kid with awesome abilities and a kind heart. That said, the story did not always stick the landing (some jokes were questionable and some opportunities for positive messages were missed).  A family discussion about this game’s content could be a good idea.

I’d still recommend giving this game a shot, whether or not you’ve played the original Costume Quest. If you’ve played the game, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Destiny, the newest title from Bungie, has been in the wild for a month now. Activision has announced that it was the best selling new game franchise in video game history. By all accounts it is a good game with even greater potential. Many of my regular readers will remember that I was pretty much all in on the game after I played the beta a few months ago.

But, in the intervening months something changed. I decided not to do it. I decided to opt out of Destiny for now in favor of waiting a year. I know. I know. It was a shock to me too at first. But, I am more than at peace with my decision.

I brought this up to a fan of the game the other day and they couldn’t wrap their mind around how I could change mine so swiftly. I was a little stunned too, but after some consideration I have two real reasons.

First, Activision and Bungie announced Destiny to be a franchise built from the ground up to be a “game-changer” over the next decade. In short, they are playing the long game with Destiny so I don’t feel like I need to do anything different. I am approaching this like I approach iPhones; jumping in right away isn’t always the best experience. I don’t see waiting a year for some content patches and game updates or even waiting a few years to jump on board for the (inevitable) Destiny 2 as a bad thing right now.

Second, this might just be my own stubbornness speaking, but Activision announced that the first expansion to the game would be released in December 2014 before the game was even released. For those of you playing at home that means the first expansion was planned for release a mere three months after the game was launched. We don’t know details regarding pricing yet, but being asked to buy an expansion every three months may as well be a subscription model. I’m just not sure that I am ready for that yet.

I won’t lie to you though. I had some “waiter’s remorse” when Twitter exploded with people playing the game. But, then I read some reviews on sites like Polygon and Game Informer and I felt that my decision to wait and see was justified.

What do you think? Did you jump in or did you decide to wait? Sound off in the comments.

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Destiny, a multiplayer online first person shooter that will release later this year, held its open beta this past weekend. People came. They shot guns. They battles aliens and robots. They explored. They even did the Harlem Shake. So many people played that Activision is reporting that it was the largest beta of this console generation (over 4.6 million players took part in it)! We learned a LOT about Destiny and how it will play. I spent a lot of time in the beta. I did everything you could do and I have to say that I came away very impressed with the entire experience. It really feels like Bungie and Activision have something here.

 

Visuals

I’m just going to get this out of the way. Destiny was gorgeous. I might have had a slightly different perspective since I was playing the game on the Xbox One, but it impressed me every single time it had the chance to do so. The level of detail Bungie was able to achieve in this post apocalyptic sci-fi world was phenomenal and we were only able to see Earth and the Moon. There are still several planets to visit in the full game and I am sure that Bungie has spared no effort in fully realizing their alien landscapes. If you like games where you can sit back and enjoy the scenery this should be high on your list.

 

The Family Factor

I won’t go so far as to say that Destiny is “kid friendly.” It has been rated T for Teen by the ESRB, but it earns every bit of that T rating with its intense action. All of the conflict resolution is done through gunplay. Its saving grace comes in the fact that, at least through the content in the beta, all of your enemies are irredeemable, monstrous, evil aliens who attack you on site. There are no moral choices here. You’ve got bad guys to deal with before they deal with you. It also doesn’t hurt that players turn into a glowing blue ball of energy when they die as opposed to falling over and laying their like a corpse.

At its peak the action is a roughly as intense as the final action sequence in The Avengers. Destiny is ever-so-slightly more intense as a result of the first person perspective. In the end, the decision to let your children watch you play is going to be a judgment call, but if you let them watch the Marvel films and other similar action titles, then it really comes down to your opinion on guns.

All content aside, this is a very challenging game. First person shooter games are incredibly difficult for inexperienced players to control. If this is the first time a player has had to use one stick to move and another to aim this will be a VERY difficult game to play. The developer includes some aim assistance to help players, but it isn’t really enough to make the game playable.

The MMO connection

One of my biggest questions going into the beta was about how much MMO was going to bleed into the game. MMO’s spiked in popularity in the last 5-6 years thanks to World of Warcraft and other games like it. But, that style of game is slowly losing its hold on the gaming audience. The long term success of the game hinges on how well they balance their shooter game play with the structure of an MMO. I came away from my experience pleasantly surprised.

Destiny is framed around a single narrative that revolves around a powerful being known as the Traveler. Players take on the role of Guardians who are led on a quest to help defend the Traveler and Earth’s last survivors. Bungie appears to have found a nice balance between pushing the framing narrative forward while still encouraging players to explore the lush worlds at their own pace.

The most interesting thing I discovered was that players can return to previously explored zones and look for glowing green beacons that will provide bite sized adventures for players to complete. As soon as you complete one another will spawn somewhere else on the map. This will continue infinitely and is a great way to relax while enjoying the social aspects of the game without the stress of the more intense strikes.

Playing Well With Others

Many online muliplayer games, like World of Warcraft, encourage players to communicate using chat channels. Players are constantly at risk of being bombarded by inappropriate content through these channels. Destiny safeguards its players by limiting their ability to communicate with anyone who is not on their “Fire Team.” This eliminated the biggest frustration that stems from playing other online shooters: other people. There are even options to mute voice chat entirely.

The best part about all of that is that players who chose not to use voice chat to communicate with others can still play with other people. They might have to get clever with their communication, but they will be able to group up and take on many of the challenges in the game.

Conclusion

I don’t regret my time with Destiny in the least. It was a very complete experience that avoided a lot of the frustrations that are common in other betas. Everything that I saw and did leads me to believe that Destiny will be a major player during this Holiday season and that this success will carry on for a very long time.

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Sandwiched amongst the zombies and guns of the Sony E3 2014 press briefing was a little boy and three of his new friends. Sumo Digital announced Little Big Planet 3. They are new to the series as the previous two were developed by Media Molecule. The latest installment in the 2D side-scrolling series has the hero, Sackboy, joined by three other cute characters: Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop.

On stage, players demonstrated as Oddsock sped around and wall jumped, Toggle used his weight and shape-shifting to move blocks and fit through tiny spaces, and Swoop flew around the screen and carried the others to safety. Not to be outdone, Sackboy has returned with a new air gun to blow obstacles out of the way.

The game uses the same hand-crafted art style we’ve seen in previous installments, made even more beautiful by the PS4’s hardware. However, the controls seemed off and the stage participants had trouble getting the characters to behave as scripted. This is an early demo and certainly Media Molecule will work on the controls, but considering LBP’s history of loose controls it doesn’t bode well.

One unexpected and welcome announcement was that Little Big Planet 3 will be backwards compatible with all user generated levels from LBP1 and 2 and will be playable in the updated graphics.

Overall, it was a strong showing from a much-beloved franchise.

 

The new heroes of Little Big Planet 3! Oddsock, Sackboy, Toggle, and Swoop from left to right.

The new heroes of Little Big Planet 3! Oddsock, Sackboy, Toggle, and Swoop from left to right.

 

 

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