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Dear Kaos Trap,

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

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

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

Always,

Tuff Luck Mom

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Holiday shopping is getting more and more difficult every year. Parents used to have to worry about “the hot toy,” but now there are so many video games released each year that it can be very confusing for parents.

The following is a list of some of our recommendations for parents who need a little bit of help to make sure they make the most of their holiday dollars.

“The Games”

Below will be what we consider to be the most important family friendly games available.

Multiplatform

  • Minecraft (If you are buying your child a new Non-Nintendo console this should probably be the first game you buy to go with it.)
  • Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
  • Skylanders: Trap Team
  • Disney Infinity 2.0
  • Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

Nintendo WiiU

Mario Kart 8 or Super Smash Bros. For WiiU

Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Pokemon Omega Ruby

Microsoft Xbox 360

Forza Horizons 2

Microsoft Xbox One

Forza Horizons 2

Sony PlayStation 3

LittleBigPlanet 3

Sony PlayStation 4

LittleBigPlanet 3

Sony PS Vita

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Board Games

Squashed Family Board Game 

Full Disclosure: We have no reviewed this game yet, but a full review is on the way!

This is an interesting strategy game that involves moving pawns around the outside of a cube. The goal is to outmaneuver your opponents as the cube rotates. You want to be the last player with a pawn on the board. This one looks interesting just for the unique game board itself.

Robot Turtles

We reviewed this one earlier this year and it is still one of the coolest learning experiences you can play with your kids. It actually manages to teach some of the basics of coding while playing a simple board game. We highly recommend it!

Qwirkle

This strategy game intended for players six and older is simple to learn and will remain fun for a very long time. In it players place wooden tiles on a flat play area and match them up in rows by either color or shape.

There is even a travel version that is great for parents on the go (and is great for teaching colors to even younger players)!

Spot It!

This game is simple, inexpensive, and portable. Oh! And your Preschooler has a decent shot at beating you in it.

Ticket to Ride

This was one of the first board games we reviewed. It is among the best family games on the market. If your family has been entertaining the idea of starting a family game night, then this is, bar none, the best game to start with.

Forbidden Island

Most board games that families are used to playing are competitive. Forbidden Island bucks that trend by being a perfect entry point into the realm of cooperative gaming.

Minecraft Stuff

LEGO Minecraft

Minecraft is a phenomenon. It has been described as “digital LEGOs” since it arrived on the scene. It actually stunned me that it took so long for LEGO to actually get in on the action. There are tons of different sets out there.

Minecraft Hoodie

I know the stereotype is that kids hate to be given clothes for presents, but this hoodie from ThinkGeek might just fix that.

Minecraft Sheet Magnets

There is a ton of Minecraft merch out there and I dug through a lot of it to make this list. I don’t know why but something about these really sung to me. Nothing screams “perfect gift” than something that will result in lots of little magnet squares attached to the fridge. This is probably most Mom’s personal nightmare right? Aunts and Uncles looking for vengeance gifts take note. (Full disclosure: My wife made me add that last bit since she basically hates these things.)

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection

The various Minecraft handbooks are a great way to encourage kids to get excited about reading by engaging with Minecraft while they aren’t at the keyboard. The information in these books is very useful. Some of the details will likely be out of date relatively quickly as the game is patched, but the theory will be useful.

Miscellaneous Gaming Gifts

LeapFrog LeapTV Educational Active Video Gaming System – $149.99

No one should call this a knockoff. The LeapTV won’t be able to unseat any of the big name consoles, but its games are guaranteed to be child appropriate.

This may be a great option for households with a significant separation between older and younger siblings. This would be one way to keep the younger sibling away from a teenagers games.

The Bag of Holding (ThinkGeek.com) – $59.99

If you get this reference… you will want to buy this thing.

Parents: It’s ok if you don’t get this reference. This will be hysterical to your son or daughter if they play Dungeons and Dragons. Trust me.

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Skylanders Trap Team is almost upon us. This means a whole new wave of toys to collect, merchandise to sort through, and bad puns to endure while we shop for figures. (Here’s looking at you Tree Rex.) It has only been 4 years, but it is hard to imagine a time before Activision and Toys for Bob changed the video game landscape. But, Activision isn’t ready to rest on their success so far. They want even more families playing Skylanders (and thus buying the toys). They have even gone so far as to develop a tablet edition that will work with the millions of iPads (and other assorted tablets) on the market. Put simply, they want that starter pack in every home that they can get it into.

To that end, Activision has been working with Beenox, a developer who has made a name for themselves developing Spider Man titles, to quietly release a version of Skylanders each year for the Nintendo 3DS.

The 3DS does not have nearly the hardware power of the consoles on the market so Beenox hasn’t been able to just port the entire game over. Instead, they have developed unique game experiences with their own stories. In essence, the 3DS model has been “more Skylanders.”

The 3DS version ofSkylanders Trap Team features the villainous Dream Sheep and thirteen other exclusive villains. The plot details are sparse, but I am assuming that Dream Sheep will be trying to do something along the lines of what the Boogeyman did in The Rise of the Guardians.

Many parents look at the 3DS starter pack and assume that it will be a pain to lug around along with all of their children’s figures around only to have them get lost or broken. The 3DS version of Trap Team solves this by allowing players to preload multiple figures into their game at home and use them while on the road! This is a great feature that should help more than a few concerned parents take a plunge on the handheld version to help supplement the console edition. (It would make a great Christmas gift for those people who buy the console version day one!)

The Skylanders Trap Team 3DS Starter Pack will retail for $64.99.

Note: Skylanders was listed on the Toys”R”Us Hot Toy list for 2014! Check out all the other video games on the list!

Check out all of our other Skylanders’ Reviews!

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Each year Toys “R” Us releases their “Hot Toys List” to help parents identify what some of the best new toys are for each holiday shopping season. The following are the highlights of the list that are relevant to us here at Engaged Family Gaming. The rest of the list (including a pretty awesome NERF Bow and a very cool new ImagiNext play set) can be found here.

Kurio Xtreme

The Kurio Xtreme is a Toys“R”Us exclusive 7” Android tablet that comes with a suite of motion based children’s apps. It is built with children’s web safety in mind. This is straight from the product description: “Parents can rest assured their kids are web surfing safely with the Kurio Genius technology, which includes time controls, app management and allows for up to 8 individual user profiles.”

Kid friendly tablets aren’t all about web services though. The Kurio Xtreme comes with a rubber bumper that is designed to help protect it from the inevitable drops.

LeapFrog LeapTV Educational Active Video Game System

The LeapTV is a new video gaming system built to teach through motion. “With a library of 100+ LeapFrog educator-approved game cartridges, game downloads and videos, kids never run out of fun!”

The LeapFrog system is built around educational programing. It features over a hundred educator approved cartridges designed to teach reading, writing, and mathematics. Game types include:

Body Motion: No controller required – the Microsoft Kinect-ish camera captures kids’ moves as they explore Disney Sofia the First’s world or dance in LeapFrog Dance Party.

Pointer Play: Swivel one end of the controller out to transform it into a wand controller to let your children play as Jake from Disney Jake and the Never Land Pirates, or bowl a strike in LeapFrog Sports.

This system does its best to capture some of the magic other other gaming systems at a fraction of the cost. I am hard pressed to believe that it will be as high quality as the other systems, but it’s collection of purely educational games is hard to match.

Lego Fusion Town Master

Ok. Real talk. This sounds real cool. Lego Fusion Town Master is a Toys”R”Us exclusive playset that lets kids build a town and then scan it building by building into an iOS or Android app. This takes all of the random free to play city building games on the market and turns then on their head. I am a very big fan.

Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack

Of course Skylanders are on the list. This year’s release isSkylanders Trap Team. This iteration of the title gives players the ability to capture villains and fight with them alongside their (likely massive) collection of figures.

The new release will come with a set of new figures that your children will want to add to their collection including new Skylanders Minis.

If your family hasn’t taken the Skylanders plunge for lack of a home console there is even atablet edition.

Disney INFINITY: Marvel Super Heroes 2.0 Edition

Disney Infinity was new to the toys-to-life model last year, but it was a massive success. We knew from the outset that this was intended to be a platform for all of Disney’s properties and it only took a year for them to unleash Marvel superheroes on the world.

Disney INFINITY: Marvel Super Heroes 2.0 Edition  features the Avengers as well as Spider-Man, the Guardian’s of the Galaxy, and multiple villains. More will certainly be released throughout the year, but the starting lineup is excellent. If your children are Marvel fans than this will likely be a must-own.

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It’s that time of year again folks. The holiday season is almost upon us and with it comes the new release of Skylanders. This time around it is going to be called Skylanders Trap team and includes with it the ability for players to capture certain enemies and use them like they do their (massive) collection of figures.

Toys for Bob is at the helm for development again this year (they are the company that was responsible for the first game in the series) and they are going out of their way to try and innovate on the Skylanders formula this time around. The ability to capture bad guys is interesting and might turn out to be a lot of fun. The real question is going to be how difficult it will be to locate and capture them; we’ll find that out once the game comes out on October 5th.

Activision sent out a press release this week announcing an all new game play mode called the “Kaos Doom Challenge.” It didn’t give a lot of details, but the new mode will task players with using their collected Skylanders figures, as well as the enemies they have captured in Trap Team, to help defend themselves from one hundred different waves of Kaos’s minions. It appears that this will be a tower defense style game where the minions will walk a set path and players will be setting up towers, walls, and other defenses to help slow their advance and defeat them before they reach a certain point.

Skylanders Trap Team Kaos Doom Challenge

Skylanders Trap Team Kaos Doom Challenge – Fist Bump

We obviously don’t know how well this mode will be executed, but it is very exciting to see that they are experimenting with new game play modes as opposed to just churning out more figures and leaving the game experience the same year after year.

I don’t normally include the text from press releases in my articles, but this one was well written and presented in the voice of Kaos, the villain in the series. It is worth posting here just so everyone can get a good laugh out of it!

Attention, foolish human fools! Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), is officially announcing an all new diabolical gameplay mode in honor of me, Emperor Kaos, the most infamously evil villain in all of Skylands! In my glorious “Kaos Doom Challenge,” sniveling Portal Masters like you can feebly battle through increasingly difficult waves of my personal minions using your ridiculous army of Skylanders.

And since you obviously won’t stand a chance, I, Kaos, will graciously allow you to build defensive towers and battle my fearsome allies using any of your Skylanders from your entire collection. However, when you bumbling Portal Masters utterly fail to progress past my hordes of evil underlings, the “Mystery Box of Doom” will be opened – which will then incomprehensibly spit out gigantic villains that will completely destroy you! And because I am both benevolent and merciful, I will even let you fools use any of your pitiful Trapped Villains to fight them.

And, should any of you so-called “journalists” need an official quote from me – BEHOLD! “A recent evil study of a thousand trolls revealed that nine out of ten agree that I am the most powerful and impressive evil doer to have ever conquered Skylands. Naturally, I had every tenth one banished to my ‘Kaos Doom Challenge’ to test the effectiveness of my 100 waves of ultimate evil doom – and they were never heard from again. So let’s just say EVERYONE agrees – I am the most powerful and impressive evil doer ever.”

 

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Skylanders+Trap+Team_Mini_Trigger+Snappy

Activision is really going crazy with the news recently! They have already announced a tablet version of their upcoming game Skylanders Trap Team. This time around we have an announcement for a new line of figures.

Activision’s One of Swords PR account has announced the Skylanders Minis line. Players who have been around the block with Skylanders will recognize some of these characters as mini-figs that have been included as promotional items through a partnership with Frito-Lay. In previous iterations these figures were simply mascots that would follow you around. That is all changing now. These mini-figs are full blown characters with their own upgrade paths and levels.

There are sixteen different characters that are available in the line and they will be available in packs of two for $13.99. (Yay! Who needs a savings account right?)

The list of playable minis is as follows:

Water: Gill Runt, Thumpling

Earth: Terrabite, Bop 

Fire: Small Fry, Weeruptor

Life:Whisper Elf, Barkley 

Tech: Trigger Snappy, Drobit 

Magic: Mini-Jini, Spry 

Air: Pet-Vac, Breeze 

Undead: Eye-Small, Hijinx

skylandersminis

Are you excited about this new line? Sound off in the comments.

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Activision has made a major step in bringing its Skylanders franchise to the masses. They have made billions of dollars so far, but all of their games have been limited to the console market. I had never looked at this as a “limitation,” but apparently they disagreed. As a result Skylanders will be coming to tablets this fall.

The “why” is simple to explain. Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing said in the press release that they “always want to be wherever gamers want to play.” This is a pretty straightforward answer. The tablet market is HUGE. Go ahead and think on this. When was the last time you went somewhere and didn’t see someone using one? Probably a long time. How many families do you know that don’t have one in the house? Probably not many. The reality is that the tablet market is a massive and companies that CAN take advantage of it should do so.

The Skylanders Trap Team Tablet Starter Pack is going to release on the same day as the traditional console versions. It will include a Bluetooth Traptanium Portal; a Bluetooth controller; a built-in tablet stand; two Skylanders characters; two Traps and a display tray.

The most interesting feature of this package is the Bluetooth controller. Players have been struggling to find a controller that works with their tablets for years and it has not gone very well so far. If Activision likes it enough to package it with one of their premier franchises, then this has to be at least “’alright.” A lot of people will be looking at the performance of this new controller as the game is released. What do you think? Do you know anyone who will be picking this up?

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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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