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Super Smash Brothers Wii U is one of our most anticipated games for this upcoming holiday season. Nintendo amazed longtime fans of the series when they announced that they would release an adaptor that would allow the use of the original GameCube controller via an adaptor.

This may not seem like a big deal, but this is a significant concern for fans of the Super Smash Brothers tournament circuit where players grow VERY attached to their controllers. This move by Nintendo went a long way towards comforting that community. Many of them have been playing Smash Brothers games for a decade, so they are largely responsible for keeping people interested and introducing new people to the game years after its release.

A new bundle was announced that includes the game, Super Smash Brothers Wii U, a new GameCube compatible controller, and an adaptor for $99.99. This may not be terribly relevant for casual fans, but this is an excellent deal for anyone who has GameCube controllers lying around that is looking for a great way to use them!

The bundle can currently be pre-ordered on Amazon  and GameStop right now. Sound off in the comments if you take them up on the deal!

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Fuzzy Wuzzy Games

ESRB – E for Everyone

Reviewed on Wii U

Overall Review:

We live in a world dominated by video game nostalgia. HD remakes are being released in droves and games like Shovel Knight are showing us the games of our past as we remember them. Armillo is a game that doesn’t immediately appear to be part of that movement. It might not even have been designed as such, but it feels decidedly old school in spite of its modern presentation.

Armillo for the Wii U feels like the sequel to Marble Madness (an amazing Nintendo era video game) that I have always wanted.

Players are tasked with controlling a space armadillo and controlling him as he rolls around sphere shaped levels destroying obstacles, gathering keys and avoiding hazards (lots and lots of hazards) . There is a story that involves fighting off a race of robot invaders, but that largely serves as window dressing for the arcade-style action within the game.

This wasn’t the most complex gaming experience I had ever had, but I could not take the smile off my face while I was playing. Every level presents new challenges and new environments to play in. Some of the hazards were more frustrating than they were “fun” (I’m looking at you block mazes!), but nothing ever felt unfair. This is important because Armillo is definitely not an “easy” game to play.

I gave my oldest son a shot at playing the game and it took some time for him to adjust to the controls, but he was able to make a reasonable amount of progress before his motor skills started to fail him.

All in all, this was an enjoyable experience that was definitely worth my time and I think that your family will enjoy it too!

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is nothing to be concerned about here. Armillo is an alien armadillo that rolls around spherical mazes. There is no foul language, blood, etc. I would feel comfortable letting anyone play it.

Playability Assessment:

There are two control methods available for Armillo that drastically change the ease of playing the game: joystick and motion. Using the joystick manually controls Armillo as he rolls through the different mazes. The motion controls make use of the sensors within the Wii U game pad to allow players to control him that way. This choice is available in the options menu and is entirely up to the player. Everyone will find their personal preference.

Conclusion:

Armillo is a simple game, but it is a unique experience that players will not find anywhere else. Its low price point ($7.99) makes it a great impulse buy or reward for good behavior.

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Mario Kart 8 is one of the biggest releases this year for the Nintendo Wii U. It has, historically, been one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, but it has rarely received any kind of post launch support to keep the game fresh in its players’ minds.

That is all changing on August 27, 2014. Nintendo is releasing a free update that day that will bring some cosmetic game play changes AND introduce three new karts based on cars from Mercedes-Benz history.

The new karts are:

  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster
  • Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow

The GLA will come with its own set of wheels, but any of the three will be useable with current stock of wheels and wings. (The idea of a GLA with giant monster truck tires amuses me to no end!)

The game updates are mostly quality-of-life changes. They make the game experience smoother and more feature rich without changing the game play itself in any meaningful way. The updates (per the Nintendo press release) are as follows:

  • Drivers will now have the option to display the course map on the TV screen during races.
  • The order of the menu after each race will be changed to “Next Race”, followed by “Watch Highlight Reel”.
  • The game will remember the most recent kart options that were selected, even if the Wii U system was powered down.
  • Users will be able to change options of other players’ Mario Kart TV downloaded highlight reels, such as changing the focus to different characters or actions.
  • A score screen will be added so players can see how many coins they’ve collected, the win-loss record of their online battles and their frequently used characters.
  • Improved the stability of the online connection to enhance user experience during online battles.

These are definitely all welcome changes in our book. Are any of them going to be particularly important for you? Sound off in the comments!

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It isn’t very often that a review from another website is newsworthy, but it happens. Today was one of those days! Kotaku is a website that covers video games for the “core gamer” audience. They published an updated review of the Wii U today.

The update itself is significant because they changed their rating of the Wii U console to “Yes” meaning that they now feel that the Wii U is a “must own” console.

Now… I’m sure you are asking why I would be posting this. Who cares what they say?

We normally wouldn’t, but this is a special case. The Wii U has been beaten up in the mainstream press for the last two years. There were very few sites that recommended that their readers buy one. Kotaku themselves weren’t big fans either.

Their review is posted here. Reading over the review led the staff at Engaged Family Gaming to reflect on the WiiU and why this might end up being a turning point in the console’s future.

This site is obviously focused on family gaming so it is only natural that we would favor consoles that favor family friendly games. The Nintendo Wii U has been that and more since its launch. But, that hasn’t been enough for the rest of the world. Kotaku may be the first to publish it, but “core gamers” everywhere are starting to look at the WiiU and realize that the game lineup is big enough (and good enough) to justify a purchase.

If this results in higher sales numbers for the console, then it will obviously result in a stronger Nintendo brand. Frankly, a stronger Nintendo brand can only mean good things for families down the line. More consoles sold will mean more support from third parties (non-Nintendo game developers). This will mean more games to choose from (which is NEVER a bad thing).

We obviously don’t know yet whether one website’s review will have a long term impact on the Wii U’s sales. The entirety of this article is based on hopeful speculation. But, we would be lying if we didn’t see success in Nintendo’s future!

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Nintendo

ESRB – E for Everyone

Reviewed on Wii U

Overall Review:

Is it too early to start talking about my game of the year?

I’m sure that I will need to keep myself calm for a few more months, but Mario Kart 8 is such a joyful experience that it is hard to contain myself.

High quality experiences are nothing new in Mario Kart. In fact, the games in the franchise have been so good over its history that it has supplanted almost all other Nintendo franchises as the “biggest” in their lineup based on sales numbers. Put simply, the release of a Mario Kart game for a Nintendo console is an EVENT.

The release of Mario Kart 8 has been wild so far. Sales have been through the roof and they have helped boost sales of the flailing Wii U. It hasn’t hurt that players who purchase the game and register the title on their Club Nintendo accounts before July 30th will be able to get a free download code for another Nintendo title. But, the game should continue to have success.

Mario Kart 8 delivers and is the first true “killer app” for the Wii U.

MK8 follows the same formula as earlier games in the series with little variation. Players can choose to race in four course Grand Prix circuits, battle it out in a multiplayer battle mode, or take their skills online. There are other options like the ability to race against the clock in time trials, but the real meat of the game will be played in those first three options.

One would think that leaving the basic game play modes the same would be boring, but it is just the opposite. The layout of Mario Kart 8 is comfortable; like putting on a favorite pair of running shoes. This limits the distractions and lets players truly enjoy the few things that are truly “new.”

The biggest change to game play itself is the addition of the anti-gravity mode. Racing over a blue strip will automatically turns your wheels sideways and allows racers to drive along walls and even upside down. I was concerned that the camera movement would be nauseating, but instead it simply rotates casually behind the kart as it loops upside down and up on walls. Truth be told, some of the animations we so smooth I didn’t realize just how upside-down I was until I watched the race over again afterwards using the replay feature.

Another significant change that was regarded with less than a passing thought before release was the improved visuals. We knew they were coming. We knew that the graphical power of the Wii U would bring improvements. But, I don’t think anyone expected what we got. To say it is stunning is an understatement. Mario Kart 8 is easily the best looking game released on a Nintendo console. Every kart, character model, and race track are loaded with fine details that take full advantage of our new high definition world. Mario’s mustache rustles as wind races past him. Wario’s gut jiggles as he goes over bumps in the road. Luigi shifts his angry gaze towards any racer that he passes. There small details were all but impossible in previous generations and they add to the authenticity of the experience. (Not to mention the fact that Luigi’s death stare is hilarious when paired with music.)

Nintendo is a company that is focused on making games for children for decades. As a result, they have been hesitant to leap into the online gaming space. Their hesitance is admirable. They are trying to protect an audience that they built from predatory behavior in the wilds of the internet. Mario Kart 8 does a good job of taking players on a light safari into those wilds. The online play in MK8 allows players to participate in ranked online matches in either the Grand Prix mode or Battle mode. Players cannot use voice chat in the lobby unless they are already friends, but they can choose from a pre-selected batch of words and phrases like “Welcome,” Good luck!” and “I’ll get you next time!” This may not be the full on multiplayer experience that adults have been looking for (voice chat during races would have been nice!) but it is a step in the right direction. Online play is intended to give games a longer lifespan and it is good enough in Mario Kart 8 to keep things going for a very long time.

(Side note: Mario Kart 8 allows players to host tournaments at scheduled times. Engaged Family Gaming will be scheduling weekly Mario Kart 8 tournaments in the coming months. Keep your eye out on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for scheduling and rules!)

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is nothing to be concerned about here. These are cartoon racers racing on fantasy racetracks and battling each other with turtle shells. Your kids are good to go!

Playability Assessment:

Mario Kart 8 isn’t a racing simulator like Gran Turismo 6 or Forza Motorsports 5, but that does not mean that it is simple. The cartoon visuals and bright colors do a great job of concealing a very deep experience. There is no avoiding the fact that there is a lot to learn for players who are new to the series.

There is very little reading involved in the basic game play. The different karts, wheels, and gliders have different stats, but casual players don’t need to pay a huge amount of attention to them. The game is designed with balance in mind so casual players can choose whichever character they like and a kart based purely on the look without worrying too much about performance.

The experience scales very well based on difficulty level. Even novice racers will be able to compete, if not win, 50cc races once they get used to the tracks. They can then move on to 100cc and 150cc difficulties that will ramp up the challenge (and the number of purely competitive racers in each Grand Prix.

Conclusion:

This is a must own for the Wii U. In fact, what are you doing still reading this? Go get it!

 

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Nintendo is banking very heavily on its first party franchises to help motivate players to go out and pick up a WiiU. Mario Kart 8  has already launched this year, and we are quickly approaching the release of  Super Smash Brothers for both the 3DS (October 3rd, 2014) and WiiU (Holiday 2014).

One of the most exciting things about the impending release is that we will start see the final roster additions! Nintendo took advantage of E3 this week and shared more members of the Smash Brothers roster with the public.

They fighters they announced were:

Pac-Man – There were rumors regarding his inclusion for a while, but he has now been confirmed. His inclusion means that players can set up the ultimate grudge match: Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, and Pac-Man. Insane!

Mii Fighters – This was a bit of a surprise, but it is very cool. Players will select a Mii and then select one of three archetypes: Swordsman, Brawler, or Shooter. Players will then be able to further customize their Mii fighters by choosing each of their special moves. This will give players the ability to include any character they want into the roster so long as they are willing to create the Mii!

Lady Palutena – She is a character that debuted alongside Pit in the most recent Kid Icarus game. She is an impressive addition to the roster with a powerful set of specials. She also helps by bringing another strong female to the roster!

Take a look at the slide show below to see if your favorites are in the roster!

Super Smash Brothers 3DS Box Art
Super Smash Brothers 3DS Box Art
Super Smash Brothers WiiU Box Art
Super Smash Brothers WiiU Box Art
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Pit
Pit - Kid Icarus
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Lady PalutenaSuper Smash Brothers Characters - Lady Palutena
Lady Palutena - Kid Icarus: Uprising
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Pac Man
Pac Man
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Bowser
Bowser - Super Mario Brothers
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Mii Fighters
The newest addition to Super Smash Brothers!
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Ike
Ike - Fire Emblem
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Greninja
Greninja - Pokemon
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Sheik
Sheik - Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Yoshi
Yoshi - Super Mario World
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Charizard
Charizard - Pokemon
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Zero Suit Samus
Zero Suit Samus - Metroid
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Diddy Kong
Diddy Kong - Donkey Kong Country
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Little Mac
Little Mac - Punch Out (NES)
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Princess Zelda
Princess Zelda - The Legend of Zelda
Super Smash Brothers Characters - King DededeSuper Smash Brothers Characters - King Dedede
Kind Dedede - Kirby
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Lucario
Lucario - Pokemon
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Rosalina and Luma
Rosalina & Luma - Super Mario Galaxy
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Marth
Marth - Fire Emblem
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Luigi
Luigi - Super Mario Brothers
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Princess Peach
Princess Peach - Super Mario Brothers
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Cartoon Link
Cartoon Link - Legend of Zelda : Windwaker
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Pikmin & Olimar
Pikmin & Olimar - Pikmin
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Villager
Villager - Animal Crossing
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Mega Man
Mega Man
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!Super Smash Brothers Characters - Mario
Mario - Super Mario Brothers
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Wii Fit Trainer
Wii Fit Trainer - Wii Fit
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Link
Link - The Legend of Zelda
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Samus Aran
Samus Aran - Metroid
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Kirby
Kirby
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Pikachu
Pikachu - Pokemon
Super Smash Brothers Characters - Fox
Fox - Star Fox
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Meta Knight - Kirby series
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Shulk - XenoBlade Chronicles
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Ness - Earthbound
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Robin - Fire Emblem
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Dr. Mario - Dr. Mario
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Lucina - Fire Emblem
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Falco - Star Fox
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Captain Falcon - F-Zero
Super Smash Brothers WiiU/3DS Roster!
Dark Pit - Kid Icarus: Uprising
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Mario Kart 8 Logo

We know that Nintendo makes great games. What we didn’t know is could they translate a good game into positive sales on the much maligned Wii U system. On Monday, however, Nintendo released the first sales figures of Mario Kart 8 and it sold 1.2 Million copies in its opening weekend. To put this in perspective, Super Mario 3D World sold only 107,000 copies in its first week last November and has still only sold 2 million units.

It’s a great start for the latest addition to the series. The Mario Kart franchise as a whole has sold more than 100 million copies, including MK8’s console predecessor, Mario Kart Wii, at 35 million. (Check out the sales statistics at the bottom of the article to see how much of a force Mario Kart has been historically.)

“The early response to Mario Kart 8 demonstrates that the best days for Wii U are still ahead,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America president.

This is great news for family gaming. Nintendo has shown the strongest commitment of the “Big Three” manufacturers to family friendly content and safe environments (to a fault some critics would say). A stronger Nintendo means more options for us to sit down with our family over great experiences like Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World.

I’m anxious to see whether sales of MK8 are translating into console sales. Anecdotally I’ve heard of emptier shelves and the Twitterverse was full of people saying this is pushing them to buying. Can Nintendo ride this momentum through next week’s E3 event and keep Wii U’s forecasts on the rise?

Total Mario Kart Sales by Release (Stats care of Nintendo)

Title System Global Sales (as of 3/31/14)
Super Mario Kart Super Nintendo 8.76 million
Mario Kart 64 Nintendo 64 9.87 million
Mario Kart Advance Game Boy Advance 5.91 million
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! Nintendo GameCube 6.88 million
Mario Kart DS Nintendo DS 23.56 million
Mario Kart Wii Wii 35.53 million
Mario Kart 7 Nintendo 3DS 9.62 million
Total: 100.13 million
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Pushmo World for WiiU

Pushmo and Crashmo have been huge successes on the Nintendo eShop on 3DS. So much so that a release on the Wii U was inevitable. Pushmo World will launch on June 19th exclusively on the Nintendo eShop on Wii U at a price of $9.99.

Pushmo World is a game designed to be enjoyed by people of all ages. Mallo and Papa Blox are adorable characters that are designed to appeal to kids. The puzzle-based game play will be attaractive to long time gamers looking to for new challenges.

Players are given the task of solving three-dimensional puzzles by pushing blocks around on a 3d plane and climbing to the top. The challenge increases over time by introducing larger puzzles with more moving pieces. But, fear not! If players get overwhelmed by a puzzle they can skip ahead to the next one.

Pushmo World will also feature “almost endless replay value by letting players create their own puzzles!” Once a player completes (and solves) their puzzle they can then share it using a built-in QR code generator or through the World Pushmo Fair.

Pushmo World looks like a great puzzle game for the whole family and a whole lot of game for $10! Keep your eyes here at Engaged Family Gaming for more news and a review as we get closer to the release!

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The Demo for Mario Kart 8 is now available for play at GameStop locations across the country. This is a great chance for anyone who is on the fence about purchasing the title to get some hands-on time.

I brought my eight year old son to our local store over the weekend and we were lucky enough to be able to spend some uninterrupted time playing it. Below are some of our impressions:

1. WHOA!!

This is easily the best looking Nintendo game I have ever played. The colors were vibrant. The animations were smooth. The lighting effects were superb too. I couldn’t find even the smallest nit to pick with the visuals. What was best about Mario Kart 8 is that it didn’t just impress me. It made me hungry for another 3D Mario game. (Ahem. Nintendo. Super Mario Galaxy U please! Thanks!)

2. The Racers

This was everything I could have wanted in a Mario Kart game: a wide range of racers and huge pile of Kart customization options. If there is any complaint that one could have about the racers it is that there are a LOT of babies.

3. The Tracks

There is a ton of racetrack diversity. I was amazed with the number of tracks we could race on and how different they all were and we were just playing the demo! This game is going to be heavily played for a long time. My personal favorite was Sunshine Airport. It forced me to choose between multiple paths, and seeing massive planes take off and land throughout the race was a sight to see!

4. The Anti-Gravity Effect

My biggest concern going in to Mario Kart 8 was that the Anti-Gravity effect would be difficult to adjust to. It turns out that there was nothing to be concerned about at all. It is clear that Nintendo put a lot of effort into making sure that the signature effect in the game was done right. The camera rotates along with you as your kart climbs walls and rides ceilings. There were times that I didn’t even realize I was upside down until I took a sharp turn and started crashing downwards towards the ground!

At the end of the day, this was just a demo, but it gave me and my son a lot to look forward to!

 

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Nintendo
ESRB – E

Reviewed on WiiU

Editor’s note: We know that this isn’t a particularly new game. We have a back log of reviews that were written, but not published during our hiatus over the holidays. So we’re publishing them now!

Overall Review:

Super Mario 3D World is pure multiplayer perfection. Mario games have included 4player game play for years, but they have always been more about spreading chaos and dissension than about fun. Those days are over.

Super Mario 3D World gives up to four players the chance to step into Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad’s shoes without stepping on each other’s feet. The switch to a 3d plane helps here. Levels are designed to be large enough for everyone to do their own thing without impeding each other; this is all but impossible in side scrolling levels in more traditional 2d Mario games. This style is excellent for allowing players of varied skill levels to participate in their own way.

I have spent a lot of time playing with both of my boys (8 and 5) and we have been enjoying ourselves immensely!

It also needs to be noted that 3D World is likely the most gorgeous Mario game I have ever played. Simply put, anyone who has said that Mario wouldn’t benefit from sharper and more colorful visuals is definitely proven wrong here.

The WiiU has struggled to find a foothold in the world market and has thus far failed to move the kind of units that its predecessor, the Wii, did. Super Mario 3D World may not be ‘the solution’ to that problem, but the only thing that Nintendo can do is to improve the quality of its WiiU library as quickly as they can. Super Mario 3D World certainly helps with that goal and is a must own for anyone with a WiiU.

 

Family Gaming Assessment:

Mario titles  are the poster children for family friendly video games, there is nothing to be concerned about with this game.

It is worth noting that this game does prominently feature a playable female character, Princess Peach, who has a very unique and often advantageous power. She has the ability to hover over obstacles. Peach may wear a pink frilly dress, but this is a great chance for young girls to feel good about selecting a female character that they can enjoy playing that isn’t just tacked on.  In fact, my entire family has been known to fight over playing her, that isn’t terribly common among a group of boys.

Playability Assessment:

This game  is a 3D platforming game. This can make it very challenging for young children who struggle with navigating their characters on a 3D plane.

Mario games are, historically, very challenging. Recent games in the franchise have softened the challenge slightly by providing a power up at the beginning of a stage after a player has failed five times. This power up makes the player permanently invincible throughout the level, but doesn’t protect them from falling into pits. In a way, this provides a sort of middle ground to the game where a player can focus purely on the platforming elements before they worry about balancing that with enemies.

Conclusion:

If you own a WiiU, then there is no reason not to purchase this game. It is just that good.

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