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Family Video Game Review: The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian is game that has been in development at Studio Japan for almost a decade. It was originally announced before the PlayStation 3 was released. Having taken so long to be developed, I would not have been surprised if the game was never released at all.

Trials and tribulations aside, the game was finally released on <date> and it is better than expected considering those troubles.

The Last Guardian features a young boy and his adventures in a mysterious set of ruins alongside a bird/dog/gryphon monster named Trico.

Trico is probably the most realistically animated and designed animal in video game history. He roams around the environment freely, bathes in random pools of water, and makes frighteningly sudden leaps to higher ground. Trico is trapped in these ruins and wants his freedom just like the main character. The two of them must learn to work together to overcome obstacles and escape.

But, it is clear that Trico is just an animal.  He will often behave just like a dog or a cat would. This is simultaneously one of the best, and worst parts of the experience.

The game does not give you a lot of direction regarding where to go in each level. So there were more than a few scenarios where I thought I knew what to do and waited for an obstinate animal to come help me only to find out that it wasn’t the right thing in the first place.

This was a challenge, and it made some segments frustrating, but it didn’t take away from the experience as a whole. It was still a thoughtful adventure through a wild and interesting space that kept my attention throughout.

The Last Guardian is a sight to behold. Between Trico’s animations, the unique art style used for the main character, and the gorgeous vistas there was no shortage of pretty things to look at as I played. The visuals alone were a more than worthwhile reward for playing the game.

Is it a kids game?

The Last Guardian has brief moments of intensity, and a little bit of blood. But, by and large, this is a game that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Can kids play it?

The Last Guardian is a puzzle game at its core. This means that making forward progress in the game will require thorough, patient exploration of detailed environments.

There is very little in the game that points players where to go, so it is important that players be patient and willing to explore without getting frustrated easily. It is very easy to get lost in these vast environments.

There is a narrator who helps provide some guidance at key points in the game, but these are few and far between.

The controls are very intuitive once you get used to them so even relatively new gamers should be able to navigate the world relatively easily.

Conclusion

It is hard to recommend The Last Guardian to everyone. It is a beautiful game with some ingenious puzzles. But, the core mechanic involves solving puzzles alongside an animal that just doesn’t want to cooperate with you a lot of the time.

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Family Board Game Review: Mr. Game

Mr. Game looks, at first glance, to be a simple roll and move game that would have found its way to our gaming tables ten to fifteen years ago. The truth is that Mr. Game turns that formula on its head. Its actually a party game that encourages players to bend the ambiguously written rules to their limits to eek out a victory.

mrgame2

The game contents are pretty straightforward. They include:

  • 1 game board
  • 2 4-sided dice
  • 104 Mr. Game cards
  • 8 player pieces
  • 8 player cards
  • 18 tiles
  • 2 goal markers
  • 1 rule book
  • 1 alternate rulebook
  • 4 blank cards

The game is played simply enough. The objective is to move one of your pawns to the goal. To do this, players take turns rolling the pair of four-sided dice and then moving one of their two pawns the appropriate number of spaces. Landing on a space with an exclamation point earns you a Mr. Game card which could be a Badge that will either  hinder you or help you or an action card that will let you impact the game in other ways.

Super boring  and run of the mill right? Well… yeah… if you play it straight-up. The key is that Mr. Game doesn’t want to be played that way. Each time you play the game you are instructed to designate one person at the table to be “Mr. Game.” Their job is to, essentially, be the game. The rulebook is incredibly short and leaves a lot of decisions and situations ambiguous. The intention is for players to challenge those rules and try to question the different ambiguities in order to give themselves an advantage.

This is a game that rewards people who enjoy trying to find rules loopholes while they play. The party doesn’t really start with Mr. Game until people start trying to argue the rules to their advantage on each and every turn.

We have played a lot of this game since we got our copy and we enjoyed our time with it. One of the things that we enjoyed most is that it scales based on the interests and enthusiasm of the players. We have had a group of younger kids play it as a straight roll and move game and they enjoyed its simplicity. We have also had a group of experienced gamers go at it for a half hour over whether being able to place a tile anywhere on the board means that you could put it on its side and block another players progress.

If I were to point out any real weakness in Mr. Game it would be that the game’s real charm goes missing in mixed company. Younger kids often have difficulty competing with older, more experienced gamers which can rob the game of its fun.

This is also a game that becomes more rewarding at high player counts. Two players won’t really get much out of it at all. I would recommend treating this one like a pure party game.

Conclusion

If you, or anyone in your regular playgroup, absolutely loves arguing about rules just for the fun of it then this will be a worthy addition to your collection.

 

 

 

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Editor’s Note: This review originally appeared on Pixelkin.org.

Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

We played on: Xbox One
FIFA 17 is a well-crafted homage to association football that treats fans to all of the game modes they have come to expect and all of the players that they know and love. It doesn’t hurt that the game is also gorgeous to behold.

The Gameplay

On the topic of “gorgeous,” FIFA 17 is the first game in the series to be developed using the Frostbite 3 engine that EA designed for use with its large scale combat games. The engine was originally intended to allow for things like destructible buildings, but the only structures being destroyed in FIFA 17 are defenses as you attack the goal.
The biggest place where the engine upgrade comes into play is with the interaction between players. Casual fans might regard football (soccer in the US) as a non-contact sport. But, fans of the game around the world know that this is far from the truth. Players jockey for position and all but wrestle each other to the ground while fighting for a loose ball. In the past all of these interactions were handled using canned, pre-drawn animations. This is no longer the case. Instead, the interactions between the players, their limbs, and ultimately the ball are calculated in real time by the engine. This results in more interesting (and less predictable) battles for the ball.

This also gave EA the opportunity to give players more control. There are button commands to help shield the ball from opposing players while dribbling or to lean into opponents to deflect them when they are trying to tackle the ball away from you. This is an unprecedented level of control for the game, which adds a lot to the experience. It also means that the skill cap will be higher. There will be ways to improve your skills for online play for a LONG time before you full master the game.

Once again I found myself captivated by the single player story mode in an annualized sports franchise. FIFA 17 prominently features ‘The Journey.” This is a game mode where players take control of the young footballer Alex Hunter as he progresses through his career in the Premier league. The setup is fantastic. Alex is the grandson of a well-respected player. His father’s career was cut short by injuries. This adds to the tension as he competes to earn a starting spot AND make his father proud all at once.
Players can control Alex on the field and are given specific goals to achieve within each match (score a goal, win the game, etc).

You can also control Alex in between matches by selecting dialogue options that will help shape Alex’s personality and , potentially, impact his standing on his club. The story isn’t revolutionary, but it is good enough that I don’t want to spoil it for anyone reading. That fact is fascinating in and of itself if you think about it. When has a great RPG experience ever happened in a sports game before?

The Rating

FIFA 17 is rated E for Everyone with no descriptors. The jostling of the players is probably as violent as you will see in the game.

Takeaway


FIFA 17 is a gorgeous game that includes all of the football action that fans of the sport would expect. This is a must own for fans.

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Family Video Game Review: NBA2K17

Note: This review originally appeared on Pixelkin.org.

NBA2k17, simply put, a masterpiece that can easily be placed alongside some of the best games in this generation. Yeah. I know what you’re saying.”But, Steve… its JUST a sports game. How can you possibly do that?” The answer is simple. NBA 2k17 is just that good. In fact, I think it is good enough to justify attention from people who don’t even considering themselves hardcore NBA fans.

kyrie-irving-nba-2k17

The NBA lifestyle is complicated. Players have to balance family, social media, practices, endorsements, and inter-team politics in order to succeed. 2K17 heavily features a MyCareer mode that highlights those challenges as players are thrust into the role of “Prez” a young, brash, and extremely talented high school basketball prospect. A brief stint in college leads to you being drafted somewhere in the first round of the NBA draft. From there you are introduced to Justice Young, voiced by the amazing Michael B. Jordan. Justice was drafted after you and has a chip on his shoulder. Nothing in his life has come easy for him and he sets out to challenge you. That sets the stage for what could be either a rivalry or a great friendship. And you know what? This is where things get cool.

The MyCareer mode plays out from there like an RPG. You have to  balance your schedule to make sure you attend practices, games, and social events with your fellow players. You can even keep track of the state of the game using text messages and an in-game version of Twitter. All of these activities help earn you points that can be spent on skill upgrades.

That may have been my favorite game mode it is far from the only one. There is a full suite of game modes that range from quick play, and online games all the way to a Franchise mode that goes so far as to let you create your own expansion team.

All of these game modes are built on solid basketball mechanics that make it easy for even the most inexperienced games to take their favorite players and execute some amazing moves. 2k Games has been making these games for a while and it shows. They have clearly done their research and tried to create a very accessible control scheme.

Is it a kids’ game?

NBA2k17 is rated E for everyone by the ESRB. According to the rating summary, “This is a basketball simulation game in which players can select teams from real NBA rosters, compete in tournaments, and play through regular seasons. Players can also manage individual franchises and control the careers of their customized athletes. The word “hell” appears in the dialogue.” It is worth noting that the game does feature online gameplay modes and those online interactions are not rated by the ESRB. With that said though, this is not a game that suffers if you don’t take the action online. There is a LOT of game here.

Conclusion

My conclusion shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This is an absolute must buy for any NBA fans. I also strongly believe that anyone looking for a unique take on the RPG genre should look into this one too.

(Note: This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game. It is also available on the PlayStation 4. There is also a version available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but they are not as feature rich. This is intended to be a next-gen experience.)

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Family Video Game Review: NHL 17

This review was originally published on Pixelkin.org.

The NHL series has always been good, but NHL 17 shines by adding new game modes that increase the number of options available to players.

One of the most noteworthy inclusions is the World Cup of Hockey. This new mode allows players to take control of their home (or favorite) country and play through the World Cup of Hockey just like the pros are right now. This is an interesting mode that provides special rosters and is a shorter experience than playing through a full season in the Franchise mode while still giving players more engagement than a quick match.

Another significant change came in the Franchise Mode mode. This took the Be a GM mode from previous games and turned it on its head. They did this by empowering players to micromanage their team from roster decisions all the way to which nights they give away Bobbleheads.

You even have an owner with their own goals for the club. My owner, for example, was very clear. We were expected the either make the playoffs and be a contender, or we were to make sure that the fans were happy with the direction we were going. I also had to keep my players happy. Oh! He also thought we needed more parking and a better concession stand.

These were the tasks laid out before me as I started my first season in the Franchise mode in NHL 17. I was astonished by the level of control I had in the day to day operations of the team and its stadium. They were so detailed and so interesting that I might have even considered simulating all of the games and just managing things. But, the actual mechanics of playing out the games were just too good to let fly by.

The on ice mechanics are where NHL 17 truly shines. Gameplay flows naturally as you move the puck around the ice. The natural speed of hockey is, as any fan knows, FAST and 17 doesn’t disappoint. I was under pressure at all times as opposing players were driving into me to steal the puck away or smash me into the boards.

Can kids play it?

A good sports game is one that will simulate the professional game in an authentic way. A GREAT game will teach players who are not experts to understand the sport. NHL 17 does an amazing job of that. The coaching tools come in three parts.

  • First there are on screen prompts and highlights while you are playing the game that will tell you, essentially, what your coach would want you to do and what button to press to do it. You might be prompted to press in on your right thumb stick to Hustle after the puck. You might also be prompted to pass the puck.
  • Second, the commentary team adds subtle cues to their dialogue to help identify penalties. They explain what the player may have done wrong.
  • Lastly, players are given grades in between each period. The game also gives specific pointers on how to improve their marks on both offense and defense.

Is it a Family Game?

The ESRB has rated NHL 17 E10+ as a result of some mild violence. Hockey is a violent game. It is a game where professional athletes speed around the ice with knives strapped to their feet after all. It is also one of the few non-combat sports that allows fist fighting without immediate ejection. There is an entire game system dedicated to the hockey fights. The camera focuses on two players as they hold each other’s jerseys, punch, and shove until the fight is over.

Conclusion

NHL 17 is a remarkable game that is a must-have purchase for hockey fans across the globe. It is available for PS4 and Xbox One as of September 13th!

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Family Board Game Review: The Oregon Trail

Publisher: Pressman Toy

Players: 2 to 6 Players

Age range: 12 and up

Play Time: 30+ Minutes

MSRP $12.99

Style: Card Game

Have you ever thought that life would be easier if you were born in an earlier time? Have you ever wondered if life would be great without the never ending distractions of the whirs and rings and cacophony of modern electronics? Wouldn’t we all be healthier and more fulfilled without the baggage of modern life? Oregon Trail might convince you otherwise. Play with your friends did family and learn about the struggles of a society very different from your own.

Introduction

The Oregon Trail card game is based on the 1980s video game of the same name. Oregon Trail was an edu-tainment videogame that attempted to teach the history of 19th-century pioneer life when traveling by covered wagon across the country. This new game is basically the same game (right down to the artwork and commands) in a card game format. The only difference is that this game is a cooperative game designed to be played socially instead of playing by yourself on a computer.

Contents

  • 58 Trail Cards
  • 32 Calamity Cards
  • 26 Supply Cards,
  • Laminated Wagon Party Roster,
  • Erasable Marker,
  • 1 Die
  • Illustrated Instruction booklet

Gameplay

Each player’s name is written on the laminated board as part of the wagon party. The back of the board has tombstones to move deceased players names to when they inevitably die off tragically.

Cards are then shuffled with their respective type and each player is dealt 5 Trail Cards and a selection of Supply Cards based on the number of players. The remaining Supply Cards are organized to create a shop that you can purchase from later in the game.

You then take the Start (Independence, MO) and Finish (Willamette Valley, OR) cards and place them 3 feet apart.

On your turn, you must do one of the following

Play a Trail Card: In order to play a trail card, it must connect with the existing path when placed evenly against the previous trail card. You may rotate the card to make this connection if needed. If your trail card has instructions on it, you must immediately follow the instructions on the card (more on that later). If you have a trail card that does not connect or you run out of trail cards, you must draw a new trail card and pass the turn.

OR

Play a Supply Card: Supply cards are used to remedy specific calamity cards. Supply cards can be played on a turn instead of a trail card. The supplies cannot be used immediately after a calamity is drawn.

Trail cards include

  • Forts: This card allows you to collect two supply cards
  • Towns: This card allows you to collect one supply card or remove a single calamity card.
  • Basic: These are one of the best kinds of trail cards, you progress without any event.
  • River: These cards will require you to roll a die in order to progress. A failed die roll will sometimes result in a supply card being lost or you drowning. (We found some ambiguity on some of the river cards and haven’t been able to find a consensus on how to play it so we came up with their own house rules)
  • Press the Spacebar: these trail cards trigger a calamity and make you draw a Calamity card.

Once you’ve resolved everything to the best of your ability on your turn, play passes to the left. When 5 trail cards have been placed they are then collected and stacked with the first card played going on top. The next trail card must connect to the top card.

The game is over when everyone in the party is dead OR when 10 sets of five cards is completed with at least one person still living when you get to Willamette Valley.

Is it a Family Game?

The box states that the game is best for players 12 and up. This is definitely not accurate. We have had seven and eight-year-olds play the game and have quite an enjoyable time. Gameplay is fairly simple once you get over some of the unclear instructions. Keep in mind, the game is designed to teach a little bit about history. You may be discussing some unfortunate things like measles and dysentery and other calamities that happened often in the 19th century.

Also, some of the calamities immediately cause your character to die with absolutely no recourse. This can happen very quickly and happens frequently. Calamities can take players out of the game on the first round and since the game does that last at least 30 minutes, you may have players that or upset and board by the player elimination mechanics.

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Collecting 10 sets of five cards does take a while especially with bigger parties. We have made the game go quicker but choosing to collect five sets of five cards (25 as opposed to 50). In addition to making the game shorter, this does make it easier to win. This might be a house rule that you want to incorporate when you are playing with younger players

Conclusion

We purchased this game purely for the tug of nostalgia. It certainly has the look and feel of the game from the 1980s that we were all so fond of and familiar with. Dying of disease and failing to ford a river happen often enough in this game that we feel satisfied. However, some of the more educational aspects of the 1980s game were removed from the card game testosterone enanthate. The decision to remove things like the roles of the players in the party, proper trip planning, and some of the decision-making regarding supplies and speed of travel simplified the mechanics of the game and made it more accessible to many players. Unfortunately, this leaves the game feeling slightly watered down and it relies way more on luck that it does on strategy and skill.

The MSRP on this game is very reasonable. If you are looking for a game that has a neat nod to nostalgia, then this will make for a fun evening. Because this game does not require a lot of player skill or strategy, your more experienced gamers might be bored or frustrated by the random luck in this game. Overall it is great icebreaker and a fun game to relax and socialize while playing. It does spark some discussion about history and while it is not as educational as the 1980s video game, it’s still a fun experience.

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Family Video Game Review – Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a Japanese RPG that blends themes and characters from Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem. This is a combination that shouldn’t work, but they manage to pull it off nicely in this deep and strategic RPG.

It is entirely possible that Mirage Sessions will go down as one of the most criminally underrated games on the Wii U. It is beautiful, it’s art style is interesting, the combat is challenging, and the characters are entertaining. There will be some folks who don’t appreciate the Japanese cultural influences in the game, and that makes sense to a degree. But, unless you have a significant aversion to J-POP music, then these things should not frighten you away.

TMS-Combat-Itsuki-Session

The story itself is straightforward. Humans all possess a magical energy called “Performa.” Some people, mostly singers, actors, artists, etc, have more Performa than others. This energy can be used for good or evil, so obviously, there is an evil demonic force that wants to capture all of it and use it for nefarious purposes.

Players control a team of Mirage Masters. These are people who have formed a bond with a “mirage.”  These are essentially the spirits of characters from the Fire Emblem universe. They grant thei Mirage Masters unique abilities and defenses to help battle against the demon armies.

The story is interesting enough, and contains some interesting twists so I won’t discuss it here, but the game really shines while in combat. Players control a team of three characters as they participate in turn based battles. You are encouraged to take your time and plan as all sorts of information is available while you fight. You can see the exact turn order in a bar across the top of the screen, and each monster has a window associated with them that identifies their weaknesses and defenses. This information is critical for two reasons.

  1. Enemies pull no punches. They go at you full bore and take advantage of any weaknesses you might have.
  2. Some of the skills you earn as your characters are called “sessions” which are special moves that trigger when you hit an enemies weakness. For example, one of the first sessions you learn is a move that triggers when you land a lightning attack against an enemy that is weak to it. These equate to free attacks that can deal devastating damage and keep enemies from counter attacking on later rounds. This isn’t a system you can ignore either. It is core to the experience and mastering the system is the only way to proceed in the game.

Sessions isn’t without is flaws though. Several of the dungeons in the game are so large that they need multiple trips back and forth to town to complete. This really stifled my desire to explore as I was often retracing some of my steps.

tokyo mirage sessions screenshot

Is it a kids’ game?

Well. No. Not really. At the end of the day this game is heavily inspired by anime. As a result some of the outfits and animations are a bit sexualized. That isn’t to say that the entire game is all about those themes, but they are certainly difficult to avoid.

Some of the monster designs are pretty creepy, so that is definitely something to consider as well.

ESRB: T for Teen
Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol
Other: Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB (Wii U)
This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of a high-school student who solves a mystery while helping his friend become a pop idol. As players explore dungeon-like environments, they engage in turn-based battles with fantastical enemies known as Mirages. Characters take turns selecting moves from a menu in order to use arrows, spears, swords, and magic attacks to defeat enemies. Battles are highlighted by yells, impact sounds, and light effects. Some female characters are depicted wearing low-cut clothing that reveals large amounts of cleavage; a handful of cutscenes contain brief close-ups of characters’ cleavage. Characters occasionally engage in suggestive dialogue (e.g., “I need no praise from some disappointing 3D girl with a 2D chest!”). In a handful of scenes, a character is depicted drunk and hungover (e.g., dry-heaving sounds, slurred speech); players are to tasked with finding a hangover remedy for her. The word “sh*t” appears in the dialogue.

Can kids play it?

Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a deep RPG that involves a lot of strategy. You can take your time during battles. But, no amount of patience can make up for being bad at dealing with complex decision making.

Conclusion

I think that the Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is being criminally underrated for its value as an RPG. Any adults waiting for Final Fantasy XV should check it out. With that said, if you are looking for an RPG to share with your kids, then you may want to look elsewhere.

 

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Family Video Game Review – No Man’s Sky

Our No Man’s Sky Review was written by a guest writer: James Pisano!

My whole body aches… eyes closed, still half conscious… I realize that I have no idea what happened or how I got here.

As I open my eyes, the light of an alien sun assaults my senses. I feel the sting of acid rain on my skin; even through my enviro-suit. Clicking from my Geiger counter tells me there is enough radiation in the atmosphere to kill me three times over. I turn my gaze from the lime green ball of fire in the sky over to my ruined ship. This is going to take some serious effort to get in working order… I better get to it.

And that’s how No Man’s Sky started for me. Marooned alone, and completely baffled to the world around me. But even in the deadly environment, there was unparalleled beauty all around. Wondrous creatures roamed the landscape… many of which were docile and majestic. Although the sun was bright, and toxic to my anatomy, the viridian light that shone from it was awe inspiring. Over every rise, a new vista awaited me… showing me visions that I had not even dreamt of. Nobody had… because you see, that’s one of the many amazing things about No Man’s Sky.

It is a game set in a universe of 18 quintillion unique, fully explorable worlds… all procedurally generated. This wasn’t born of a fantastic idea in the mind of a human being. This is the universe, as a computer created it from a math equation.

That is part of what is so amazing. I truly don’t know what to expect every time I explore a new planet. Just this morning I saw what looked like a pig, with compound eyes, hooves, and what were kind of like butterfly wings, flying low to the ground. It might sound like a train wreck, but it was strange, yet beautiful. Until I realized it was carnivorous and it charged at me, taking my shield down in one blow. I pumped the gas on my jetpack to get up onto a rock so the creature could not reach me. Without even thinking I pressed the button on my visor scanner to learn everything I could about the beast. I was rewarded with a wealth of knowledge about what this creature was, and I realized that through my travels, I should learn all I could about the animals and plants around me. Not only would it enrich all of those who followed in my footsteps, but it may very well save my life. So, if you find yourself on a toxic planet called “Pisano Prime” and you see this beautiful abomination of alien nature charging at you… RUN. That thing packs a punch! But enough about my adventure, because you will surely have plenty of your own!

So how does the game feel? Is it playable? Is it fun? The short answer, in my opinion is “Great, yes and YES”. More below…

As far as the “game” goes, No Man’s Sky does offer a story, and like everything else, it does so in a fresh, innovative way. As you explore the galaxy, you will come across ancient alien artifacts that will each inform you about the history of the area’s dominant intelligent race. Some of these artifacts offer a choice, some simply offer information, others will help you learn the language of the local population. That’s right, word by word, you can actually learn the language of the aliens that inhabit the galaxy. So as you interact with them, gibberish subtitles are displayed. But, as you learn more, the words fill in, the meanings become clear, and correct communication can be achieved. Even if you don’t learn a word, the game gives you some context as to what is going on so you can still interact with aliens from the get go. You just might not respond the right way, like being a tourist in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. It makes for some very interesting events that, I can assure you.

After some time on the initial planet you will start on, you’ll want to venture to the stars. As you break through the atmosphere, depending what solar system you start in, you may notice anything from asteroids and a multitude of planets to space stations, space freighters, and yes, even space pirates. Did you pick up some valuable minerals on that planet? Watch out! Other space faring creatures may want a piece of that. Your ship will warn you, and within seconds, you may find yourself in a dog fight with one of the best views gaming has to offer.

Early on, you may fumble with the controls, and curse your inability to shoot down anything, but don’t worry, as you upgrade your ship and get a little bit of practice, that will all get better. And should you fall to space pirates, or anything for that matter, you’ll re-awaken in the nearest space station with your ship. Your ship will have one damaged system, and all of your cargo will be gone, but you can simply fly back to where you died and retrieve all of it. Be careful not to fill up your cargo hold before finding your “corpse” though, or you won’t be able to retrieve your original belongings!

Is the game just about exploring planets and fighting aliens in space? Absolutely not. Once again, No Man’s Sky manages to be everything to everyone. Should you want to be a trader and make millions of units (the currency of the game) on the galactic market? No problem. Want to be a space pirate yourself and raid freighters for -their- valuable cargo? You got it! Want to journey to the center of the galaxy? Great, because that’s the main storyline of the game. I have not reached the center myself, but various NPC’s throughout the game have told me that a great secret and great power await me there. I don’t need a lot more motivation than that!

Even if you simply want to take in the beauty offered throughout the galaxy, you can do that. You never have to fire a gun, or harm a creature. That’s why I think No Man’s Sky is perfect for anyone in your family. I handed the controls to my 9 year old nephew the other day and I was so happy to see the look of wonder on his face as he started exploring. It was not unlike my own when I first started my adventure. Now when I see him, he asks me to tell him stories about what I discovered. I feel like an old sea captain regaling my family with tall tales of my adventures on the high seas.

Conclusion

There is more to No Man’s Sky than anyone will ever know. This is because it would take FIVE BILLION YEARS to explore. It’s a beautiful, immense, dangerous, captivating universe out there. I would highly suggest that you and your family take the plunge. You never know what you might find… in No Man’s Sky.

 

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Family Board Game Review – Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Ticket to Ride is one of our all time favorite games and Ticket to Ride: First Journey is taking strides to make it a much more accessible game for the whole family.

Ticket to Ride: First Journey takes the formula of its predecessor and strips out several of the more complex concepts in favor of a streamlined experience that can be played by kids who are even younger! We have always said that the Ticket to Ride series was accessible to savvy kids, but this new version is even better.

Gameplay is very straightforward. On their turn a player can either draw two cards off the train deck OR claim a route using the same basic rules as TTR. The main thing missing here is the lineup of trains that all of the players can see. You don’t have to make any real decisions here. If you need more cards; you draw.

The map is simplified also. The game board is large, and the various cities are not only larger and more defined, but each of them has an image associated with it that is colorfully illustrated on the board. New York City, for example, has The Statue of LIberty, whereas Dallas has the Lonestar. This makes the game playable even by early readers who might not know how to read Albuquerque.

The train game pieces have been upgraded as well. They are much larger (almost twice as big) and are much easier to hold onto. This means that younger kids with undeveloped fine motor skills can still play the game without real issue.

Instead of keeping track of points, the game revolves around earning tickets for completed routes. The first person to finish six routes is declared the winner. This encourages efficiency without forcing players to get into the weeds with counting trains and trying to use longer paths.

My favorite feature of this game isn’t really any of the simplifications. I really appreciate the fact that this game teaches players the general flow of a game of Ticket to Ride without the burden of some of the finer details of the senior game.

Is it a kids’ game?

Yes. Absolutely. There is nothing in this game from a content perspective that should give parents any pause whatsoever.

Can kids play it?

Yes. This game is designed for younger children than even the original game is designed for. It may not quite be toddler ready, but that doesn’t mean it won’t find value in homes with younger kids.

Conclusion

We have enjoyed the time we spent with the game so far and feel very strongly that your family will love this game too. This is especially true if your family contains younger kids who want to play Ticket To Ride, but just don’t quite have the game experience to make it work yet.

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Breaking Games

Age Rating: 8+

Players: 2-6

Timeframe: 20-30 minutes

MSRP: $40.00

Style: Abstract Strategy

4 The Birds is a family board game that is a wonderfully designed classic lineup game (think Connect4 but allowing squares as well). It was designed by Steve Ewoldt and illustrated by Ben Crenshaw. This game is easy to learn and fun to play and has unique elements like a ‘pecking order’ among birds, non-player crows and hawks that scatter the flock, and 6 action cards that allow players to manipulate gameplay.

Contents

  • 36 STUNNING Player Bird Pawns
  • 36 Coordinating Action Cards
  • 6 Non Player Crows and 3 Non Player Hawks
  • 4 Custom Dice (2d8 and 2d10)
  • Rules Booklet
  • Game Board
The board is STUNNING.

The board is STUNNING.

The components are gorgeous. The artwork and aesthetic (much like Breaking Games’ Letter Tycoon) really add to the overall appeal of the game. The colorful birds are reminiscent of a stained glass window with some celtic flair. The tree on the game board has an intricate pattern that is a bit complicated, but beautiful. The box interior is not particularly well laid out and if you are bothered by everything getting jumbled up, definitely consider getting tiny zip top snack bags to make organization easier.

Gameplay

At first glance, the game board and number of pieces seem overwhelming. However, this is a one of those games where it is a good idea to just play and work out the mechanics as you go. Once you get in a round or two, it is becomes clear and is very simple to play. Each player rolls two dice on their turn to determine where they will place their bird on the tree. The tree on the game board has a grid with numbers within circles. If a player rolls a 4 and a 2, they get to choose if they place their bird on the 24 spot or the 42 spot.

When placing birds, territorial disputes are resolved via a fun mechanic called a “Pecking Order” and there is slide mechanic that goes into effect when birds vie for the same spot on the board. If a player chooses not to place a bird they can play one of their 6 action cards instead. These cards allow you to disrupt an opponent’s strategy or save you if you get stuck. Non-player birds (crows and hawks) add unique obstacles as well as chain-reaction board-reorganizing, sliding, and scattering. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to get 4 birds in a row or in a square on the grid.

Is it a Family Game?

This is a great game that is fast and easy to learn and play. It has elements of strategy as well as some elements that rely on simple luck.

There is hidden learning to be had here beyond the numbers and the spatial reasoning. While playing, our children got into discussions about the different species of birds, where they live, and why crows and hawks were the “villains” in the game.

As for overall playability, this one falls middle of the road for us. Our younger children had trouble moving pieces around and a bit of difficulty distinguishing which way to slide and which birds they could move. The recommended minimum age seems fairly accurate. Kids younger than 8 can certainly play the game if they are savvy game players and can handle using their fine motor skills to manipulate pawns on a crowded board. However, be aware that even older players can knock over pieces on the crowded game board with a tiny bit of clumsiness while playing.

One small recommendation is to avoid having the red and orange birds out at the same time if you can. They are really hard to tell apart in poor light.

Conclusion

This is a gorgeous family board game that can be enjoyed by new gamers, casual gamers and experienced gamers alike. Because the game strategy is familiar, but includes a few unique twists, we really enjoy it. Our children often choose to bring this to the table to teach new friends how to play. And, so far it has managed to not become dry or stale. While the game doesn’t have the inherent EXCITEMENT level of some of the more popular gateway games, the adults we introduced the game to enjoyed themselves. The price point of $40 is similar to other games like it and is worth it considering the quality of the components. You should definitely consider adding this game to your game shelf!

FCC disclosure: A copy of this game was sent to us by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

monstersteroids.co

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