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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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Project Totem by Press Play

Let’s just keep this one short and sweet. Press Play, the developer of Project Totem, has a sure hit on their hands. I had the pleasure of playing their latest game at PAX East this past weekend and am proud to declare that we chose it as our Game of the Show!

Project Totem (releasing this fall for Xbox 360 and Xbox One) has mastered the trifecta of my criteria for a good game. Press Play’s mastery of these major components compelled me to declare this game my winner.

The Challenge

While it is always a challenge to get any significant gameplay time at a huge conference, I played this game for every minute that I could get my hands on the controller. Though I didn’t get a full picture, even the small taste I got seemed to be building to an epic crescendo. I played a handful of different stages, each of which taught a different trick, tactic, or ability. It didn’t take a huge imaginative leap to picture how the pieces would fit together to form a challenge that would bend a player’s mind with difficulty by the end of the game.

Fear not though! I may have died (a lot), but I was never frustrated. Each time I failed at a jump or mistimed a landing I was back to playing again in seconds. There were no loading screens, there were no “you have X number of lives left” screens. Instead, the player was treated with a quick explosion of triangles (part of the art concept) and a pair of reformed totems back at the last checkpoint.

With this quick load time, Project Totem tests players’ skills while respecting their time. It didn’t seem to have some of the major time sink drawbacks that other games in this style tend to have. With all of the responsibilities of our families, this is the key to our heart here at Engaged Family Gaming.

The Art Style

I was never one to appreciate the “art” in games when I was a kid, but boy has this appreciation grown now that I am older. I am aware that graphical power has increased in consoles in recent years, but some of my most graphically enticing games have ditched hyper realism and focused on a more artistic style. Journey and Valkyria Chronicles are good examples.

This game’s art style might seem simplistic considering the artist told us that every character, platform, background, and particle effect in Project Totem is made up of tiny triangles. Don’t believe anyone could pull that off? Take a close look at the featured image on the article.

I know that the word “unique” gets thrown around far too often, but it is appropriate here. I have seen plenty of games with great pixel art, but this novel take on an often overused art style is amazing. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

Cooperative Craziness

The coolest thing about this game is that it can be played by two players. Two players each control two totems and go through the levels. I enjoy playing games with my son, and I have been keeping my eye on games that are coming out in the future for experiences that he and I could share together. He is only just starting to find his legs in platforming games, so this will definitely be a challenge. The premise is charming enough to keep him interested long enough to play through the entirety of the game with me. So far, in our platforming game experiences, we haven’t been able to find that. He gives up too quickly. But, this one seems seems interesting enough that he’ll keep at it with a little help from me.

I am also interested to see how he and his friends play this game together. The fast re-spawn times give this game a party game atmosphere. I can easily see that messing with your partner doesn’t have an impact on the outcome of the game, but could be enticing and fun. A bunch of kids playing through Project Totem without adult intervention will likely be hysterical!

Overall, this game brings a compelling challenge, a fun and unique art style, and a great cooperative aspect to the table. This trifecta makes one of the most appealing games we saw offered at PAX East.

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

Just Dance 2014

Ubisoft, the company responsible for the Just Dance franchise, looks like they will be cranking out these titles until the end of time. This is great news for fans of the dance game genre.

Just Dance is an annual release that includes updated song lists and dance routines. Anyone who enjoys dancing like a crazy person in front of their friends is in for a treat here. Just don’t be ashamed to dance in front of your kids… it’s our job to embarrass them!

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

LEGO branded games have been the surprise hit of this console generation and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes looks like it is one of the best. It is lower priced than other games on the market ($50) and is loaded with super heroes. Your child favorite is all but guaranteed to be playable. This is an excellent gift for the Marvel fan on your list!

Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14 , NBA 2K14

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

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

Forza Motorsport 5 Day One Edition

There are a lot of racing games coming to market soon. Forza Motorsports is getting a lot of press right now (and rightfully so) because it is beautiful. But, we have to remember that the Forza series is a racing simulation.

If your kids are expecting to be able to race around tracks like they do in Mario Kart they will be VERY disappointed. Forza isn’t impossible, but they are trying to simulate a real driving experience. There are some “assists” that can be turned on to help smooth out the experience for less experienced drivers though so your mileage may vary (pun intended).

Peggle 2

Note: Peggle 2 isn’t out yet, but will be available on Xbox One before Christmas.

Peggle has been one of the most popular games on the web for a very, very long time. You can give the previous game a try on PopCap’s website. I would take advantage of the chance to try it out before you send your money on this one.

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

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is looking more and more like it is going to be one of the highlights in family gaming this holiday season. The demo is releasing on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC this week. The actual game will hit retail shelves next Tuesday.

We all know that kids can get attached to certain heroes and refuse to play games or use action figures when they aren’t involved. Take a peek below for a full list of the characters that are available in the game. (Note: This list is VERY long since the game includes all of the major characters and a lot of fringe characters that casual fans have likely never heard of.)

Heroes

  • Spider-Man
  • Captain America
  • Thor
  • Wolverine
  • Black Widow
  • Nick Fury
  • Iron Man
  • Cyclops
  • Mr. Fantastic
  • The Thing
  • Jean Grey
  • Emma Frost
  • Storm
  • Rogue
  • Psylocke
  • Invisible Woman
  • Human Torch
  • Iceman
  • The Hulk
  • Thundra
  • Hawkeye
  • Deadpool
  • Silver Surfer
  • Iron Fist
  • Luke Cage
  • Ghost Rider
  • Moon Knight (My personal favorite!)
  • Black Panther
  • Blade
  • Nova
  • Dr. Strange
  • Daredevil
  • Elektra
  • Ms. Marvel
  • U.S. Agent
  • Gambit
  • Nightcrawler
  • Black Cat
  • She Hulk
  • Black Knight
  • Doc Samson
  • Wonder Man
  • Tigra
  • Ka-Zar
  • Misty Knight
  • Scarlet Witch
  • Quicksilver
  • Colossus (!!!!!!!)
  • Namor
  • Cloak
  • Dagger
  • Photon
  • Quasar
  • Hercules
  • Mockingbird
  • Quasar
  • Ant-Man
  • Wasp

Villains

  • Dr. Doom
  • Loki
  • Ultron
  • Amora The Enchantress
  • Baron Mordo
  • Venom
  • Carnage
  • Magneto
  • Kang The Conquer
  • Bullseye
  • Abomination
  • Super-Skrull
  • Mystique
  • Toad
  • Avalanche
  • Blob
  • Pyro
  • Hydro-Man
  • Mysterio
  • Electro
  • Sandman
  • Vulture
  • Baron Zemo
  • The Juggernaut
  • Sabretooth
  • The Wizard
  • Trapster
  • Klaw
  • Titania
  • Moonstone
  • Warlord Krang
  • Byrrah
  • Attuma
  • Tiger Shark
  • Absorbing Man
  • Taskmaster
  • Living Laser
  • Green Goblin
  • Hobgoblin
  • Mole Man
  • Wrecker
  • Thunderball
  • Piledriver
  • Bulldozer
  • Skurge the Executioner
  • Blizzard
  • Batroc the Leaper
  • Red Skull
  • Whirlwind
  • Dreadknight
  • Crimson Dynamo
  • The Mandarin
  • Dormammu
  • Mad Thinker
  • Beetle
  • Arcade
  • Egghead
  • Constrictor
  • Ringmaster
  • Swordsman
  • Plantman
  • Malekith the Accursed
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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

EA Sports

ESRB Rating – E for Everyone

Release Date – 08/27/2013

Reviewed for PS3, available for Xbox 360

Overall Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Family Gaming Assessment:

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

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

Playability Assessment:

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Ubisoft made a ton of announcements today! The most exciting of those announcements is the upcoming release Child of Light.

Child of Light, by the same team that brought us Far Cry 3, is a hand drawn, side-scrolling adventure game that pays homage to classic role playing games (RPGs). The team is leveraging the “UbiArt” platform that allows level designers to animate hand drawn art. This is the same platform that was used to develop Rayman Origins.

The details of the game itself are limited, but, as you can see from the trailer above, it is absolutely stunning visually. This has instantly become one of my most anticipated games of next year.

One detail that Ubisoft was proud to show off about the game is of particular interest to our readers. According to an interview that they did with Polygon, Child of Light is being designed from the ground up to be played with a child. (How exciting is that?)

If you watch the trailer you will see a little green sphere floating around the screen. That is a pixie creature named Nicholas who follows the sword wielding heroine on a journey. A second player can control him using a controller and can interact with the environment or with enemies when in battle. If the child doesn’t want to help, or can’t, then they can simply spend their time moving the little green ball across the screen.

The designers have also done what they can to remove as many words from the menu system as possible on order to allow children to understand what is going on by recognizing symbols.

The potential for this to be a family gaming masterpiece is definitely there. Take a look at the trailer and sound off in the comments. Does this look as cool to you as it does to us?

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

The release of the PS4 and the XBOX One are fast approaching. Is it worth the cost of upgrading now? Or is it ok to wait?

I spent some time last week talking about the differences between the Xbox One and the PS4. A lot of readers shared their opinions, but several of them asked me whether the upgrade was worth it.

As a result, I thought I would take the time today to say, “Maybe.”

Look. Video game consoles are luxury entertainment devices. They are not (no matter how much we might try to say they are) necessary for our basic survival. As a result, I find it really difficult to stand here and define upgrading as a “necessity” for everyone. Instead, the decision to upgrade is going to be a unique decision for everyone who has to make it.

Some people “need” to get the next new toy right away. Those people don’t need a reason. They probably won’t even think much about it and that’s ok.

But, there are a number of legitimate reasons for waiting.

First, we can’t ignore the cost. These machines represent a fair amount of value. They will likely be a large part of our entertainment for multiple years. BUT, there is still a significant up front investment. No one would be skipping monthly bills to buy one of these things (I know some people will… but they really shouldn’t.)

Second, the previous generation of consoles is still alive and kicking. Many of the biggest titles of this holiday season will be launching across next and current generation hardware. This means that holding off on upgrading doesn’t really prevent you from experiencing much right away. Some of the bigger console exclusives will come out in 2014 so holding off will be less attractive than.

I can’t tell anyone what to do, but I can say that my family and I are going to wait. There just aren’t enough games that are exclusive to the next generation consoles to justify the price right now. We’ve got our eyes on Skylander’s Swap Force and Lego Marvel Super Heroes, but both of those games are going to be able on the systems we already have.

What are you planning on doing?

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in chief

Question: We are going to be inundated with marketing for the PS4 and Xbox One over the next few months. Can you explain the differences between these two systems?

The birth of a new generation of consoles is thrilling for gamers like me, but it can be frustrating for parents who are not as connected to the industry. I’ve actually gotten a fair number of questions like this one. Below is a list of some of the important areas to consider when making your decision.  

1. The hardware specs don’t really matter. 

I could spend time copy and posting the specs from each of the two websites, but it just isn’t worth the space on the screen. The two systems are similar enough that the hardware specs don’t matter. They are both very powerful machines that will pump out some amazing graphics. Certain games might be better in some small ways, but these differences are difficult to perceive for the average user.

2. Both of these consoles will have an impressive lineup of games on launch day.

The good news is that there will be great games available for purchase whether you buy the Xbox One or the PS4. Many games, like Skylanders: Swap Force and Lego Marvel Super Heroes, will be available on both of these systems as well as the PS3, Xbox 360, and WiiU.

3. Microsoft and Sony both have exclusive properties.  

The vast majority of games that are released will come out for both platforms. However, each company has a stable of exclusives that might make the difference.

Sony has a big of an advantage when it comes to having more family friendly exclusives because they have LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper. The issue we run into is that Sony doesn’t have any of these properties available for purchase on the PS4 at launch. Instead, they have the platformer Knack.

Microsoft may not have much in the way of exclusives to compete with that, but the vast majority of the games that are released for use with the Kinect sensor are family friendly.

4. Price. It always comes down to price.

Price is obviously a huge factor when deciding what console to buy. I can’t report that either of them is “cheap,” but both of them present a reasonable value for their cost.

The Microsoft Xbox One is priced at $499.

The Sony PlayStation 4 is priced at $399.

The cost difference is the result of the Kinect sensor that comes packaged with the Xbox One. That drives the price up a bit since it is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology.

5. Which one should I buy?

It is really hard to argue with either console right now; they both pack a lot of potential. I would give the edge to PS4 right now because of the lower price point in spite of similar specs. There just aren’t enough family oriented Xbox One exclusives to overcome $100.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-in-Chief

Microsoft published a list of 23 titles that will be available on the release date of the Xbox One console. It is worth noting that many of these titles will be available on PS3, Xbox 360, and/or WiiU.

Family Friendly:

FIFA 14
Fighter Within
Forza Motorsport 5
Just Dance 2014
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Madden NFL 25
NBA 2K14
NBA Live 14
Need for Speed Rivals
Peggle 2
Powerstar Golf
Skylanders: Swap Force
Zoo Tycoon
Zumba Fitness

Games that might be family friendly:

Crimson Dragon

Other Titles that you may be interested in:
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag
Battlefield 4
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Dead Rising 3
Killer Instinct
Lococycle
Ryse: Son of Rome
Watch Dogs

Which of these titles are you grabbing on day one?

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LEGO Marvel Super Heroes cover art

This is the cover art for the upcoming LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. I can’t wait to play it with my boys!

When LEGO expanded their product line beyond building toys and into games, we were thrilled. Everyone loves a good LEGO game. The LEGO series of video games has been a delight to family gamers for years now. We’ve played as Indiana Jones, Batman, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and more. This Fall we will get a chance to step into the LEGO version of the Marvel universe. Are you as excited as I am? Our boys cheered when they saw the E3 trailer.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will launch this Fall on pretty much every device capable of playing games. LEGO has built the game to work on next generation consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, and WiiU. It will also be available for current generation consoles like the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. They also did not leave out handheld devices like the 3DS and PSVita. The game will feature over 100 Marvel characters. We can make some assumptions regarding a lot of them, but LEGO is being mysterious about exactly who will be featured.

Marvel has released the cover art (posted above) for the game featuring a number of characters. They are:

  • Captain America
  • Wolverine
  • Iron Man
  • Black Widow
  • The Thing
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Mr. Fantastic
  • Thor
  • Spider Man
  • The Human Torch
  • The Silver Surfer

Those are some big names. Who do you think is missing? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

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