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Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

[Adult Swim] Games

Content Rating: Low Maturity

Release Date July 12, 2013

Android (Also available on iOS)

Overall Review:

I knew that reviewing Robot Unicorn Attack 2 would be dangerous. I spent a LOT of time playing the original when it first came out. I suppose I have a weakness for good endless-runner games. [Adult Swim] has definitely figured out the formula.

Definition: Endless-Runners

These are games where players move through a level that does not end earning points based on their distance, time survived, or both. Players have to test their reaction time and hand/eye coordination as they keep progressing through the levels.

Robot Unicorn Attack 2 does just about everything right by building on the aesthetics of the original with a more refined gaming experience. You still control a robot unicorn as you jump and/or dash through an un-ending level. The art style is still reminiscent of an album cover from the 80s. They have coupled that with some significant gameplay improvements. The biggest among them being that the levels are no longer randomly generated. They are the same. This means that there is value to paying attention to what your doing and committing it to memory.

Some have complained that the game has changed fundamentally because they added a free-to-play model onto the game. This was done by allowing players to spend real life dollars to buy crystals (the in game currency) and new background music. I am of the opinion that this is just a knee jerk reaction. Crystals can be earned easily through playing the game and background music has little to do with the actual playing of the game. I never felt like I was being forced to spend money in order to succeed and the requests to sell me things never once felt intrusive.

This game is a lot of fun. But you need to be careful If you, or your child, happen to be easily sucked into video games that don’t have an end. Hours can pass without you even knowing it.

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is nothing content wise that concerns me here. The imagery in the background of the game can get a bit trippy as you traverse the various levels, but nothing gets scary or disturbing. The robot unicorn does explode on impact with things causing its head to fly towards the screen, but it is obviously a robot from the beginning.

Playability Assessment:

This game is challenging. There is no way around it. The levels speed up quickly the farther you go which makes the platforming very difficult over time.

The biggest challenge I see with this game for kids is that endless-runner games have different goals than many of the other games that kids will play. When Mario falls in a pit too many times in a Super Mario Brothers game, then you can get a game over. It means you failed and need to try again. You can’t NOT die in endless-runner games. It’s a fundamental part of the experience. If kids aren’t prepared for that it can be a rude awakening.

Conclusion:

It is hard not to recommend a game that is free. I would recommend that just about anyone should take a spin at this game to see if they are interested in it. Not everyone likes this genre of games. But, it is definitely worth your time. 

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Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

Disney

Content Rating: Everyone

Release date: July 11, 2013

Android (also available on iOS)

Overall Review:

Where’s my Mickey is the newest game in a series of physics based puzzle games published by Disney. The previous entries (“Where’s My Water?” and “Where’s My Perry?”) were wildly successful so it was inevitable that Disney would find a way to release another one in order to hold people’s interest. I may have known that a follow-up game was coming, but I had no idea that it would be so good.

The Mickey Mouse character is going through a rebranding process in recent years. He was, at one point in his history, one of the most well recognized characters in the world. This universal recognition has diminished in recent years as a result of the massive popularity of other cartoon characters. He also has not been front and center in our living rooms for a VERY long time. The release of this game feels like a calculated move by Disney. And I don’y mean that in a bad way; It works. 

Where’s My Mickey?” oozes charm. There is no other way to say it. The animation style is sharp enough to hold its own against other HD gaming experiences available, but still holds onto the classic Mickey Mouse aesthetic that many of us grew up watching.

The game itself is a puzzle game where players remove dirt by dragging their finger along the screen to allow water to reach a pipe at the bottom of the level. The early puzzles are a breeze for even the youngest of gamers, but the puzzles get fiendishly challenging as the levels move on. The good news for those of us who have trouble with puzzled is that experimentation is encouraged and restarting a level only takes tapping a button on the screen. There is no penalty for failure (which is a boon for young kids and for people like me). 

Completing a puzzle results in a short, but funny, animation celebrating your success. They are pretty clever and they are varied enough that you won’t see the same one more than once or twice. This is great news since the same animation over and again would rob the game of some of its charm.

Family Gaming Assessment:

I’ll keep this section short and sweet. There is literally nothing that could be considered offensive in this game. Feel free to let your children play it alone , but be sure to play it with them to get the most fun out of the experience!

Playability Assessment:

This is a puzzle game that ramps up the difficulty rather quickly as the game goes by. Kids who have experience with the other titles will likely have more success, but new players might get frustrated if they cant solve puzzles. I highly recommend playing this game with your child if you think that they might get frustrated quickly. Take time to talk puzzles out with them and encourage them to experiment with different options. They’ll see the results quickly and can learn from those mistakes. That can be a great learning opportunity in and of itself because of the immediacy of the feedback. 

The good news is that the controls are unlikely to get in the way here. This is a touch based game in the truest sense of the word. Players remove “dirt” by dragging their finger across it and there are occasional hoses that need to be turned on and clouds that need to be tapped to make them rain. There is nothing more complex than that.

Conclusion:

Buy this game. Today. You and your family will love it.

It isn’t free but .99 is well worth it for the amount of game that you get for it. Finexal

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By: Charles Warden

Publisher: Gameloft

Rating: Teen

Release Date: December 2012

Reviewed for Android

Overall Review:

There is no doubt that mobile gaming has made leaps and bounds in the past few years. What used to have nothing more than Tetris clones and sudoku puzzles now is fully capable of running games and game engines that were only available to the PC and console market. Modern Combat 4 is a beautiful example of this capability.

Based on the Havok engine, used in everything from Call of Duty to Skyrim, MC4 brings all the thrills of a wartime first person shooter to your mobile device. One is hard pressed to see much difference between this and other games written on the same foundation short of a few extra polygons and shaders. It even contains all the voice overs we have come to expect with our cutscenes.

When you have completed the surprisingly full story mode an online multiplayer complete with achievements and upgrades await. A wide variety of match types are available to keep things fresh and playable. Gameloft has already even added new maps and modes with more planned for release soon.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Wartime simulation is a genre parents really need to think about. On one hand war is real. Games like this are not just about running rampant and trying to be as over the top as they can be. On the other hand, war is real. You are not shooting cartoon aliens here. Real human renders with realistic blood and realistic weapons.

While the game is rated for teens parents really need to be sure their children are mature enough for this subject matter. During certain parts of the story mode you take on the role of the antagonist. While coming off as completely insane you are still shooting the “good guys.”

Children should have a strong understanding of right and wrong and the dangers of real firearms before playing this game.

Playability Assessment:

Here is where the game starts to break down. Well, more to the point, it is the platform that breaks down. Mobile controls can be clumsy. The input is perfectly responsive however holding the device and manipulating the controls can be very awkward. Only the MOGA Pro is supported as a gamepad natively. This becomes more pronounced during online play. You will see who does and doesn’t use a controller immediately

Screen size is a serious consideration. Even on a 10″ tablet I’d find myself getting shot by just a few unidentifiable pixels. Output to a television eliminates that and shows off just how detailed the game actually is.

Connection speed and age of the device can quickly limit the game. At well over 1 gb this is as big as console games from just a few years ago.

Conclusion:

At $6.99 I can’t recommend it enough. It sports both a solid story and plenty of great online play on a mobile platform for less than a used copy of Call of Duty.

I do so with one reservation. This is a game. Killing people is not. Knowing that is the difference between fun competition and real life tragedy. Be sure your little gamers can fully understand that before letting them play.

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Review by Charlotte Heldebrecht, staff writer

Developed by: Play Creatividad

Rated for: All ages.

Released: July 18, 2013

Version Reviewed: iPhone (Also available on iPad)

Overall Review:

The Guardian of Imagination is a colorful and enchanting app that encourages children to read and find hidden objects. You begin the game by getting a key to the first box. Once you open it you can begin reading the first story and go through each page. The object is to find different objects and mini-games that you can unlock. Once you’ve found the key to the next box, you’re able to start the next phase and read the next story and the pattern continues. The illustrations and sounds are darling and are sure to keep your child engaged.

There is a free version available, but it only lets you play through the first few stories before it requires that you purchase the full version. The full version is a good value though, because it will give you a lot more stories and games for your child to play.

I personally enjoyed this game and would definitely use it as a reading activity for my stepson.

Family Gaming Assessment:

This game is 100% child friendly, and will be a great addition to your child’s game library. The vocabulary my be slightly advanced for younger readers, but the fun offered will encourage them to learn and expand their language.

Playability Assessment:

I believe this game will be easily accessible to children, with only simple guidance that they need to find all the objects in the game in order to advance.

Conclusion:

This a fun, educational and imaginative activity app. Great for getting your child to read and enjoy it! I would recommend trying out the free version, and if your child loves it, then buying it for the $3.99 would be worth it. Or you could just unlock the boxes $0.99 at a time. It’s cheaper than a children’s book, and has 11 stories!

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By: Lara Murray

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: June 9, 2013

System: 3DS 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is out for the Nintendo 3DS and is the newest addition to the Animal Crossing series. Like its predecessors, it’s not necessary to have played any of the other games in the series so a new player with just basic reading, math, and comprehension skills can jump right in and enjoy the game. Up to four people can create a villager to live in town, but only one person can play at a time. Additionally, only the first villager to arrive in town can become mayor after a misunderstanding from the animal villagers, which takes away one of the neatest aspects from other players on the same game.

As mayor of the town, a player has the ability to enact ordinances and start public work projects that add decorations to the town. As a resident, a player controls their villager and interacts with other residences and the environment. Every imposition has a consequence, however subtle it may be: befriended residents will stay in town, while neglected or annoyed one will take off for greener pastures; shake a tree in hopes that “bells” (the in-game currency) or an item will fall out, at the risk that a bee’s nest will drop and you’ll be stung instead; run over the same area of grass long enough and it will wear away into a dirt path; plant a red rose and a white rose together, and find a pink rose growing one day from their cross-pollination.

Being a mayor is fun, but a mayor needs a home to retire to after a long day of work At the beginning of the game, your villager starts off with a humble tent while your house is built. It’s a small home at first, but over time the outside of the house can be remodeled and the inside can be expanded into multiple stories and floors. Remodeling cost bells, but by reselling old clothes and furniture and selling fruit, fish, insects, and fossils gathered in town, earning bells to repay your debt is easy. If money isn’t an issue, then fruit can be planted to grow more fruit trees and fossils, insects, and fish can be donated to the town’s museum for exhibition.

Seasons and time pass by in the game much the same as in real life. There’s snow on the ground in the winter and an abundant amount of mosquitoes in the summer, just to name a few of seasonal quirks. Many insects and fish only come out during certain months of the year, so there’s always something to catch. Holidays and villager’s birthdays are celebrated, often with a commemorative item available only during that time. When you want to remember a moment, pressing the L- and R-shoulder buttons will snap a photo that’s stored on the 3DS and can be uploaded online.

When you feel like your villager needs a change of scenery, chart a boat to a local tropical island for some exploration, visit the Dream House in town, or visit a friends town and see what they’re up to. You can also open the gate to your town and invite friends in. Visiting friends’ towns provides the advantage to gather fruit and buy items not available in the stores in your town, and finding travelers who only crop up in towns weekly on a random basis more often. Unless you’re in range of another player with a 3DS and a copy of the game, it’s necessary to have already swapped friend codes prior to visiting a friend’s town, preventing unwanted strangers from entering your town or you from entering theirs.

The multiplayer aspect of the island is a new feature that wasn’t featured in the past Animal Crossing games, but is one of best new features of New Leaf. Once in the same town, friends can travel to the tropical island and participate in one of the many “tours” available. The tours are mini games where participants work together to complete tasks, such as catching a certain amount of bugs within a time limit or completing a scavenger hunt, to win medals. Medals may then be cashed in to buy exclusive items available only on the island. You can also visit and play any of the tours by yourself by visiting the island when there are no friends visiting your town, but without the hectic fun of working together with friends.

The Dream House is another fun new feature in New Leaf. It allows you to visit the dream world of another town—either randomly selected from towns uploaded online, or by specifically entering a code that represents an exact town—where you can do anything you want but changes aren’t permanent. Parental controls must permit Internet access to visit any dream town, as well as unlock the Child Online Privacy Protection option in order to upload your town to the database where dream towns are pulled from.

Very few games can actually offer limitless entertainment, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf does it without missing a step. New Leaf proves that you don’t need violence or adult situations to produce a good game. Sometimes all it takes is a little misunderstanding when you move into something new to have fun.

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By Banzi – Sports/Racing Editor [Editor’s note: Banzi is our newest contributor and he’ll be lending his expertise on sports titles and racing games! We’ll be doing a little catch up over the next few weeks and then we’ll spend some time talking about what the next generation has in store for our little sports fans!]

Produced by EA Sports

PS3/Xbox

Rated E
From the avid hockey fan to the novice just being introduced to the sport, NHL 13 by EA Sports has something for everyone. It sports amazing graphics, solid gameplay, and a multitude of game modes that provide hours of hockey for everyone in the family.

I’ve played most of the hockey games on the market and I have to say NHL 13 tops them all. NHL 13 provides the most realistic gameplay and is, above all else, the most fun. The controls are quite easy to learn; you will be scoring and dangling by the defense in no time. NHL 13 is simple to learn. There are tutorials on all aspects of the game from the rules of the game all the way to the controller functions.

EA Sports has done an outstanding job paying attention to all the small details. Player movement is fluid and realistic feeling. With improved A.I. defense and goalies gone are the days of running up the score. This year there has been a huge emphasis on team play and puck movement. EA has designed the game to force players to use the whole team and employ a more team oriented game strategy.

The controls may seem overwhelming, even confusing at first, however I assure you that with enough practice they will become second nature to you and your kids. Here are some highlights to get the little guys going:

  • In the most simplistic form, the left stick controls your player’s movement and the right stick controls you actual stick. For example, if you want to shoot, all you have to do is push up on the right stick. If you want to wind up for a huge slap shot, all you have to do is pull back on the right stick and then push up.
  • If you keep in mind that the right stick controls your stick on the ice most of the movement is intuitive. Even hitting is based on the right stick. All you have to do is push the right stick in the general direction you want to send you player and he will charge forward for a hit.
  • Just like in real life, practice makes perfect. If all these controls seem to be overwhelming you have the option to use the classic controls. Which are more a little easier for younger kids to grasp since it relies on button presses as opposed to joystick movement.
  • The more you play and experiment with you player the faster you will be dangling around the defense like Pavel Datsyuk.

There are a ton of game modes to choose from in NHL 13. Here are some of the highlights:

  • There is the General Manager mode which allows you to control every aspect of a NHL team. Manage your team through draft day all the way to raising Lord Stanley’s cup. This involves thing like contract negotiations, and long term team development. This is where some of the “meat and potatoes” of the simulation come in.
  • Be a Pro mode allows you to create a player and follow him all the way to the big leagues. Through your play you will earn points to upgrade you player’s skills.
  • Finally, there is the more classic “Versus” mode. Pick your favorite team and challenge the computer or a second player. Here you will control all the players on the ice and lead your team to victory or back to the drawing board.

These are some of the more popular game modes, but there are plenty more to choose from. They mix up the action a bit and keep the game from getting stale.

Most games include the option to play online these days; NHL 13 is no exception. You are able to bring your favorite team online and connect with thousands of players across the country and even the world. I would think long and hard about allowing your child to play online thanks to the varied personality types they might encounter. They could manage to end up in a game with someone else that is pleasant and interested in honest fun. But they could also end up with a profanity spewing monster. There is no real way to filter that out (currently)

I believe there is more than enough gameplay off line to keep your child occupied. So that doesn’t really take away from the value of the game.

Overall NHL 13 brings all the aspects of a great game together. With the ease of play and realistic gameplay this game is a great way to learn the game of hockey. There are countless hours of gameplay ahead for your budding hockey star!
For more information about this game and other games by EA Sports visit

www.easports.com

 

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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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Contributor: Joe O’Malley- High School Intern (yep, an honest to goodness Teenager, folks!)

The Justice League is back!

KABOOM!—We begin our story with the chilling fact that the Joker has used a nuclear bomb on Metropolis- killing millions of people. Needless to say, Superman is furious! The scene starts with him using his heat vision to make an entrance through the wall of the police building where Batman is already trying to get answers from the prince of crime, who’s even more insane than usual. Superman proceeds to throw Joker around while the clown mocks him for not being able to stop the bomb. The Joker also teases Superman about the death of Lois and his son. In his rage, the last son of Krypton punches straight through the Joker (though you don’t actually see it) and lets out his last sinister laugh.

ELSEWHERE,—We join the J.L. in the midst of a fight over a Metropolis (which hasn’t been destroyed. Yet.) as well as The Watchtower. All of this fighting seems to be led by Lex Luthor, aided by all of the headline villains we know and “love”, including Sinsestro and Doomsday and Ares and Bane.

MEANWHILE,—The Caped Crusader goes to check out on the Joker at Arkham, only to find the Joker has escaped again. Batman is ambushed by the assassin Death Stroke. Following a quick battle, and then another with Bane and Luthor, Cyborg and Batman discover Joker preparing his nuclear weapon. Batman arrives at Joker’s location just as joker is about to detonate the nuke.

BAM!—They are teleported somewhere else which is now out of range for the trigger to work. And this is only the beginning of this EPIC and CHAOTIC story.

Growing up as a kid who preferred DC over Marvel any day of the week, I think that this game lives up to the standards of the franchise. The plot does take a slightly darker turn when we find out that Superman is an evil dictator. The storyline was an interesting change of pace from the recent Arkham Asylum series. With the Mortal Combat gameplay style and the creative character match-ups this makes for fun gameplay. The voice acting stays very accurate to the expected characteristics that go along with the all of the DC icons. However, we do not get the low scratchy voice of Christian Bale who has recently played the Dark Knight in the Batman movie trilogy. And this is the first time the Joker is not voiced by Mark Hamill in a video game in many years.

After you finish the campaign take a look at the other options of play in the single player menu. Personally, I enjoyed the battles where you have many choices of fights as any player that you want. The different modes include classic where you do battle with 10 randomly selected opponents of both heroes and villains, or if you only want to fight a select groups there’s also Heroes Only and Villains Only. But, if this isn’t tough enough for you, you may also play Poisoned where you are constantly losing health. You can also play Survivor and have your health bar carry over and you can only regain health if you preform special moves.

Parents, you needn’t be concerned for most children when they play this game. It’s classic comic book fighting that brings all of your favorite heroes and villains together. But, it is worth noting that the action is intense enough that some younger children might be better off not watching or playing. It’s somewhat graphic and there is a little foul language, but nothing major. Kids, you will be happy to know that this game also has a one on one multiplayer mode making for a friendly competition with your friends.

The game has adjustable difficulty depending on your preferences, but overall is a good challenge that won’t frustrate you once you get use to the button functions. Speaking of which, the game is very much of an all-out button mash at some points. For those of you who may not know, button-mashing is simply pressing random keys hoping for the best results. The tutorial makes reading the instructions not as important. At first the tutorial may seem like the hardest part of the game because you have to do each move 3 times to keep moving on, but you have the choice to skip it so you can get right to the actual game. Although, just a fair warning, it turns out to be quite helpful in the long run.

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By: Lara Murray

Staff Writer

 

Ni no Kuni is the collective project of developer and producer Level-5, of the Professor Layton games, and the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli, whose notable movies include Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro. Ni no Kuni tells the story of thirteen year old Oliver, who sets off to restore the life of his late mother by rescuing her soulmate in an alternative world filled with magic and monsters. Along the way he visits multiple kingdoms and befriends many people, whom come to rely on him as not just a destined hero but for his genuinely good intentions to help those whose broken hearts must be mended.

The 3-D, cell-shaded graphics are as brightly colorful as a Disney film, and at pivotal plot moments there are animated cut scenes the help move the story along. All the characters and the creatures in the game have a fun stylization that makes them cute or cool, but not scary. The music is beautifully orchestrated and most scenes, whether animated or computer graphics, have voiced dialogue that makes the story fun and easy to follow.

The theme heavily focuses on family and friendship, and consults issues like death and running away from life’s problems. It may be too much for younger children to understand without an adult there to explain the concepts, but older kids can grasp the ideas presented in the game. Violence is conceived in a bloodless manner where characters faint from exhaustion if their health drops to zero, or monsters simply disappear in a puff of smoke when defeated. There is no sexual content or suggestive language, but there are several times where the word “damn” is dropped in conversation by an adult character.

Ni no Kuni offers only two modes of difficulty for players: “Easy” and “Normal”. Once a new game is started, it’s easy to switch between modes if the game proves to be too easy or too hard. At first it starts off with just Oliver and a familiar, but as the game progresses more party members are brought in and the ability to capture creatures and train them as familiars (similar to the Pokemon series) is gained. Players can switch between party members and control them or their equipped familiars, and when they’re not under the player’s control these party members will act independently based on the commands players chooses from a separate menu.

The battle system is designed on executing your moves at the right time to cancel an enemy’s attack or block significant damage, and by pulling off these counters will cause “glims” to appear, which will either restore health, magic, or more rarely, unleash a super charged move. More battle commands become available at a staggered rate throughout the entire game, but a child has to be able to read and understand complex instruction. Kids who have already played a few role-playing games shouldn’t have much difficulty picking up the battle system, and worst case scenario, it’s very feasible for a player to patiently force their way to victory through any battle by using the same character to run in circles and use normal attacks.

Ni no Kuni is a great game with a lot to offer, but younger children will be better off watching on the sidelines as an adult or an order sibling plays through the game, or to avoid altogether if they’re too young to understand the more mature themes. There’s enough content, from concluding the story to the aspect of collecting all the familiars to the completion of the many sidequests and secrets tucked into the game, that will keep most members of the family engaged.

 

Overall score: 8.5

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By: Lara Murray

Staff Writer

Nintendo struck gold when they released the Wii in November of 2006. A revolutionary system that used motion controls in its games, it became a success due to the simple fact that anyone could enjoy it, regardless of gender, age or experience in gaming. Following its success, Nintendo launched the Wii U in November 2012 to similar acclaim.

If a family doesn’t own the Wii, then the Wii U is a gaming must. Keeping with its predecessor by inheriting the motion control feature, the Wii U also introduced a separate handheld gamepad that functions similar to a tablet. The game pad works like an interface for controlling the Wii U’s menu, but it can also control the television while the system is on. The game pad also works like a second monitor, making it possible to switch the display of certain games from the television to the gamepad. Play can then be resumed, freeing up the television for family use. Multiple user accounts can exist on the same system, but game save data is shared among all accessible accounts.

Unlike the Playstion 3 or the X Box 360, the Wii U cannot play DVDs or Blu-Rays, but it has access to stream media from Netflix. Parental controls on the Wii U allow concerned moms and dads to restrict certain content from children’s accounts like games based on their ratings as well as other modes of entertainment like the aforementioned Netflix and YouTube, purchasing software from the Shop Channel, posting or accessing the MiiVerse (a social media outlet where Wii U users can comment on their favorite games), and overall Internet access.

The Wii U is backwards compatible with Wii games, meaning that a family can play any Wii game on their Wii U system in addition to the games available for the Wii U, but Wii U games cannot be played on a Wii console. The Wii U’s catalog of exclusive games is small at this time, as is the case with any new console, but over the next few years it’s expected that game releases will fade out on the Wii in favor of exclusive releases on the Wii U. The Wii U also has a “Virtual Console”, which is an emulator that plays classic games from former Nintendo systems and some Sega systems after they are purchased from the Shop Channel.

At a price of ~$350 for the deluxe bundle packaged with goodies like a 32GB hard drive and the game Nintendoland, or ~$300 for the just the system with an 8GB hard drive, parents on a budget may opt to fill a home’s console vacancy with an original Wii, which retails at about half the price of the Wii U but comes with the cost of missing out on worthwhile exclusives, specifically Nintendoland and New Super Mario Bros. U which are both available now. With a reputable back catalog, the Wii U is a favorable option for a family looking for a next-generation gaming console with something everyone in the family can enjoy.

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