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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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Sony was the last batter up to the plate after a busy day of press events. Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft had already put forth strong performances and Sony followed them up nicely.

Sony came into E3 with a lot of momentum. Their next generation console, the PlayStation 4, has outsold the Xbox One by a wide margin. So there was a question as to whether or not Sony would rest on their heels during this presentation since they weren’t in any sort of panic mode. It turns out that they maintained their aggression.

Here are five things that families learned from their press event:

1. Entwined is available now and is gorgeous.

Entwined is an independent game that is exclusive the PlayStation 4 at the moment. It was released on Monday June 9th for $9.99. The game is built around the idea of controlling two characters at once using the two thumb sticks on the controller. Each stick controls one of the two characters.

Thematically, each stage is built around a pair of souls that are in love, but cannot be together. (The trailer showed a stylized crane and a fish.) The player is responsible for guiding these souls through the level until they can finally meet at the end. The game play itself was evocative of the mobile game Super Hexagon which was a lot of fun.

Entwined will be moving to the PlayStation 3 and Vita soon as well. Keep your eyes here for more info, and perhaps even a review, as time goes on.

2. Little Big Planet 3 is coming!

Little Big Planet has been a force in the gaming industry for years now. The first two iterations of the game have been so successful that a follow-up was inevitable. I have to admit that I have always had my doubts though. I wondered how they were going to be able to innovate on a game (Little Big Planet 2) that allowed for so many different kinds of gaming experiences. I should have known that people who are FAR smarter than me would be able to figure it out.

Little Big Planet 3 was demoed at the event and showed off two major changes.

First, the levels can have significantly more depth to them. This means that you will see Saskboy running from the foreground into the background and vice versa as opposed to just making a small hop. This is something that creative designers will be making great use of for years.

Second, they created new playable characters. I don’t know why, but I never really imagined them doing it. I had always assumed that Sackboy was the mascot and that he would stand alone. But, it looks like I was wrong. They added Oddsock, Toggle, and Swoop to the game each with their own unique special abilities to help navigate different levels. The new character diversity is brilliant and will go a long way to helping keep Little Big Planet fresh as the years go by.

3. Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes

Sony is making a significant push to have their own special bundles and exclusive content for cross platform games as a way to encourage people to purchase PlayStation products.

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes is going to be a big seller this year and Sony intends to capitalize on it. There will be a Sony exclusive bundle of the game that will include the Hulk figure along with the other starter figures at launch. This may not be a significant change, but Disney Infinity figures are expensive. This could definitely lean some of the units sold in Sony’s direction.

4. Grim Fandango remastered!

Short and sweet: This is a piece of video game history that touches on storytelling tropes that everyone interested in fiction should know.

This isn’t for young kids by any means, but this should be required playing for teenagers.

5. ABZU is a long way off, but it is definitely something to look forward to!

Journey was an AMAZING game. It delivered a compelling story with no spoken words or text. It captivated us with its art design and music. Many people, myself included, put it on the short list for the best game of the previous generation (which is high praise considering the quality of game that is available).

Two of Journey’s developers have teamed up for a new project: ABZU. We know very little about the game itself, but the trailer and their history lead us to believe that this is going to be one for the history books! We’ll keep you posted as more details arise!

What about you? What do you think about what you saw? Sound off in the comments!

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Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TT Games and The LEGO Group have announced LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. It will release during the fall of 2014for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo WiiU, Nintendo 3DS, and PC.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is the next installment in the LEGO series of games that has sold more than 100 million units worldwide. Simply put: These games are HUGE and there is no sign that they will slow down.

LEGO Batman 3 looks like it will build off the momentum from last year’s Smash hit LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. This time around we will see the massive cast of characters from the DC universe jump into the action! TTgames has confirmed that the adventure will include over 150 member of the DCU cast including members of the Justice League and several LEGO big figures like Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy!

We will obviously hear more as the release comes closer. Keep your eyes here at Engaged Family Gaming for all your LEGO game news!

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Interactive games toys are taking over the video game space! Skylanders may have brought the genre to the mainstream, but Disney Infinity killed it during its first year on the market with 3 million starter packs sold and $500 million in retail sales. That is a HUGE figure for a new game series. So huge, in fact, that a follow up was inevitable.

Here are 5 things that we learned from the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes announcement event:

1. Compatibility

Players can continue to use their favorite characters, power discs, toy boxes, and even the original BASE! This doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, but it is welcome news. Parents shelled out a lot of money for Disney characters, so far, and it would be a shame for them not to work with the updated version (Besides, now we might get to see who would win: Thor vs Mr. Incredible!).

 

2. 18 Marvel Characters (At Least!)

They showed us six of the playable characters and their requisite figures.

  • Iron Man
  • Captain America
  • Thor
  • The Hulk
  • Black Widow
  • Hawkeye

Spoiler Alert: These figures are going to be a hot commodity this fall. I expect that collectors will be buying these figures up even if they don’t play the game. They are just that amazing.

More of the characters will be announced in a month at E3 (Don’t worry! We’ll have you covered there).

 

3. “Toy Box Games”

One of the biggest complaints made about the original game was that there weren’t enough game experiences outside of the play sets. The Toy Box itself was there, but a lot of kids struggled to build anything meaningful with it. Toy Box Games are the answer to that problem. They are essentially power discs that include pre-made, bite-sized game experiences. They will be based on different game genres and themes within the Disney Infinity game engine. The starter pack will come with a “tower defense” game and a “dungeon crawler.” This is an excellent value add because Toy Box Games can be released on their own down the line as mini-expansions. This has a lot of potential!

 

4. The Toy Box mode has been DRASTICALLY improved

One of my biggest frustrations with the original Disney Infinity was with the Toy Box mode itself. My sons struggled to build even the most basic environments, they would dabble for a short while, get frustrated and move on to something else.

The new Toy Box mode includes a number of improvements that will likely make it possible for even the youngest gamers to get in on the action.

“Brush Mode” is the most significant improvement. This setting lets players select an environment and paint an area of whatever size they choose, the game will then procedurally generate that environment! You want a big ol’ city? Sure. Select the city option and brush it onto a large open space in the Toy Box. BAM! The city will create itself. This is huge for young players just looking for a fast and easy experience.

 

5. The Starter Pack

The Starter Pack will include:

  • The Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes disc
  • Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow Figures
  • The Avengers play set
  • The Tower Defense and Dungeon Crawl Toy Box Games

The key difference here is that players will be able to play multiplayer inside a play set right out of the box (The Iron Man figure is also absolutely amazing).

 

We know that we’re excited here at Engaged Family Gaming, but what about you? Sound off in the comments!

Black Widow riding the roof of a car
Black Widow is a fast melee character whose moves will match her style!
Black Widow kick
Black Widow is a strong female character who can get in even the biggest bad guys faces!
Black Widow Kick
Black Widow does not mess around!
Iron Man ground punchIron Man slamming a car
Hulk isn't the only Avenger with strength!
Iron Man repulsor blast
Iron Man will have his signature repulsor blasts!
Captain America Jump
Captain America is a brawler. He has his shield to give him some range though.
Captain America shield throw
Captain America's shield will be great for keeping enemies at bay.
Hawkeye
Hawkeye's ranged attacks will do a lot of damage, but you'll need to be careful to stay at range!
Hawkeye
Hawkeye can take advantage of the high ground like no one else!
Hawkeye
Hawkeye won't be afraid to charge in though!
Hawkeye
Hawkeye is a ranged character, but he can mix it up if enemies close in on him.
The Hulk ground pound
The Hulk is a brawler character. (Surprised? Neither were we)
Thor hammer
Thor, and his hammer, will be joining the action as well!
Thor Lightning
We can't forget that Thor is the God of Thunder!
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A new Skylanders game will soon be upon us! Skylanders: Trap Team will release on October 5th for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, WiiU, Wii, and 3DS.

Skylanders is a billion dollar franchise so a new entry will be coming every year for the foreseeable future. Each new title so far has brought with it a new spin on the “toys coming to life” mechanic. First we had Giants, then we had the Swap Force. This time… we get the bad guys.

Trap Team allows players to take command of the Trap Masters, a new kind of Skylander, that can help locate Traptanium zones. They also help the player capture enemy bosses inside crystals. Once trapped they become paragon monsters that can be used by the players. There are forty different monsters in Trap Team that can be captured and collected (including Kaos himself)!

What parents need to buy:

1. A new Starter Pack – The crystal trapping mechanic requires a brand new portal. The other portals you have been using so far can be safely retired. The new one will come with the Starter Pack.

2. Crystals – In order to capture a monster you will need the crystal that matches the corresponding element. Activision and Toys for Bob have made it clear to other outlets that they will not be selling these crystals in blind packs. This means we will be buying them separately for our kids. They haven’t given any word on pricing yet.

3. Trap Masters – These are the new gimmick Skylanders. They are slightly taller than Swap Force characters and have HUGE crystal weapons. One of them (Snap Shot) comes with the Starter Pack.

4. Skylanders – There are, of course, going to be a new set of core Skylanders to collect and play with. Food Fight, for example, comes with the Starter Pack.

What parents need to know:

1. ALL of the original Skylanders that we have purchased for the first three games will be playable in Trap Team. (The new Skylanders, however, will not work with the old games.)

2. The retail starter pack will include a “Traptanium Portal,” two crystal traps, Trap Master Snap Shot, and Food Fight.

3. It is releasing for just about every platform known to man, but the 3DS version will actually be a different game.

Make sure to keep your eyes on our main page for more Skylanders: Trap Team information as it is released! How excited are you and your kids? Sound off in the comments!

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I haven’t gotten much hands on time with any of the next gen games. So I am providing a list of the most important launch games available for the PS4 that are rated T or less.

Resogun

Resogun is among the best games available for the system according to several members of the IGN staff. It is also free for PS+ members this month, so if you bought a PS4 it is worth a download because of the pricetag alone (free)!

Knack

Knack is the next generation platforming game. It looks stunning, but it has not gotten consistent reviews. If you have purchased a PS4 and are desperate for family friendly content, then this isn’t a terrible choice.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

LEGO branded games have been the surprise hit of this console generation and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes looks like it is one of the best. This game is stacked with super heroes. Your child’s favorite is all but guaranteed to be playable. This is an excellent gift for the Marvel fan on your list!

 

Madden NFL 25 Madden NFL 25 , FIFA 14, NBA 2K14

This year’s crop of sports titles has been released on the PS4 as well. They all look amazing and if you are fans of the series then you know what you will be getting here.

These are great options for sports fans if they a. own the PS4 and b. didn’t buy these games when they released for the Xbox 360 or PS3 already.

Full disclosure: Links on this guide point towards Amazon.com. Purchasing products using those links provides us with advertising revenue that will help us keep our operation going!

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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

EA Sports

ESRB Rating – E for Everyone

Release Date – 08/27/2013

Reviewed for PS3, available for Xbox 360

Overall Review:

The NFL season is upon us and with is, has come this year’s installment of the perennial Madden series. This is one of the longest running franchises in video game history and it shows no signs of stopping. If your family enjoys football, then it is inevitable that this game will find its way onto your child’s wish list at some point.

The developers set the goal of creating an authentic experience NFL experience and they have succeeded. Playing the game FEELS like you are watching a game on television. It’s not perfect; there are some weird graphical glitches that are inevitable when you have that any characters moving around on one screen. Some of the commentary by Jim Nance and Phil Simms can get… repetitive if you play more than a few games in a row also.

There are several modes of play for your family to enjoy. The most prominent mode of play is called “Connected Careers” and allows players to play as either a user created player, a coach, or an owner. All three of these options offer their own unique game play challenges. I know that my sons enjoyed calling plays and watching me execute them. I had to rush them along to deal with the play clock a few times, but that was part of the fun of it all!

The Owner mode provided even more decisions for me to let them make. They could set concession stand and ticket prices and then watch the impact. It wasn’t super robust, it wasn’t the best economic simulator I have ever seen, but it was an interesting little experiment.

Overall, I enjoyed my family’s time with the game.

Family Gaming Assessment:

The good news about Madden 25 is that the game is designed to be an authentic Sunday afternoon TV experience. As a result, there is very little to be concerned about.

That all goes out the window if you decide to let your child play online. EA Sports has no way of screening players so you could end up exposing them to some crazy stuff. This is why I usually recommend avoiding online multiplayer in these types of games.

Playability Assessment:

The key factor that needs to be considered when purchasing a Madden game for your child is that this is a simulation. The developers are building this game to try and recreate an authentic football experience. They don’t pull punches on difficulty here. The controls are complex, and, unless your child has a firm grasp of American football rules, they will probably struggle with it.

Players should be very familiar with how to hold a controller and use it. Every button on the face of the controller will be used at one point or another. If they don’t know how to hold the controllers properly, then this game is a nightmare to play.

There isn’t much reading in this game per se, but play calling is a very difficult task if the player doesn’t really understand what the X’s and O’s mean.

Conclusion:

If you are a fan of the NFL, then this game is worth a try. The simulation can be tough though, so I recommend grabbing it from a Redbox for a rental first.

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