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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-in-Chief

Electronic Arts (EA) held a press conference today at GamesCom. These are the five most important things that I took away from the event.

1. Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time has been HUGELY successful so far.

EA lavished PopCap Games with huge praise for the early success of PvZ2. The game has been downloaded 16 million times so far (this is made more impressive when you consider that it is only available on iOS devices right now).

They also provided some very interesting statistics:

  • Total suns collected: 11,426,961,692
  • Total zombie waves: 2,029,756,132
  • Total plants planted: 4,021,761,039
  • Total hours played: 15,071,541,100*

*History lesson time: That play time translates to 1.7 million years. If we were to go that far back in time we would find ourselves in the Lower Paleolithic era. There would be no humans, but we would find Homo Habilis thriving with stone tools.

EA and PopCap Games announced that the game would be getting regular updates in the coming years with new plants, power-ups and time periods. The first major update will be “The Far Future,” but there will be more. (Here’s hoping for ninjas somewhere down the road.)

2. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare looks like great fun.

EA and PopCap Games announced that the game will feature 24-player online multiplayer battle modes, a 4 player co-op mode, and splitscreen game play. This game really looks like it will be the shooter that fans of the genre will finally be able to play with their kids.

They also announced that zombies will be playable with different classes. Each class will have unique abilities and can be customized with different gear. It looks like the game will have a lot of  depth like the big name shooters (Battlefield and Call of Duty) but with a family friendly coat of paint.

Pre-orders are live. We can’t wait to get our hands on this one when it launches for Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

3. Peggle 2 is coming as a timed exclusive for the Xbox One.

Peggle is a pachinko style game that has been a huge success for PopCap Games over the years. Seeing a sequel is no surprise. Seeing the sequel as an exclusive on a next-gen console is a BIG surprise.

The good news for fans of the franchise (or people interested in giving it a shot) is that this is a “timed exclusive” which means that it will eventually come out for other platforms in the future. You’ll just have to wait on it if you don’t own an Xbox One.

4. Titanfall looks absolutely stunning.

We don’t usually talk about shooters here on Engaged Family Gaming, but I can’t help myself. EA may have really found something special with Titanfall. This game is an online multiplayer focused shooter set in a far future world where players can choose to use massive armored suits called “Titans.” The idea of mobile suits of armor is nothing new, but they have typically been cumbersome and slow. Instead, Titanfall bucks that trend by giving their Titans a speed and agility that can’t help but make them more fun to play with.

Take a look at this trailer and see what I mean.

5. FIFA 2014 makes Soccer sound WAAAAAY cooler than it is.

I’m not trying to tear down soccer. It is a great game that is beloved the world over. But, FIFA 2014 is quietly becoming one of the best sports games that EA produces year over year. The trailers they showed as part of this press event were a big draw.

Take a look.

 

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Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

[Adult Swim] Games

Content Rating: Low Maturity

Release Date July 12, 2013

Android (Also available on iOS)

Overall Review:

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

Definition: Endless-Runners

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

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

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

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

Family Gaming Assessment:

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

Playability Assessment:

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

Disney

Content Rating: Everyone

Release date: July 11, 2013

Android (also available on iOS)

Overall Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Family Gaming Assessment:

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

Playability Assessment:

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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By: Charles Warden

Publisher: Gameloft

Rating: Teen

Release Date: December 2012

Reviewed for Android

Overall Review:

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

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

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

Family Gaming Assessment:

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

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

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

Playability Assessment:

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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Review by Charlotte Heldebrecht, staff writer

Developed by: Play Creatividad

Rated for: All ages.

Released: July 18, 2013

Version Reviewed: iPhone (Also available on iPad)

Overall Review:

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

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

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

Family Gaming Assessment:

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

Playability Assessment:

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

Conclusion:

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

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Author: Jason Jarusinsky, Collectible Card Game Editor

Stainless Games LTD

ESRB Rating: T for teen

Release Date: 06/26/2013

Version Reviewed: 2014 Release on Steam (Also available on Playstation Network, 

Overall Review:

I found Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (DoTP 2014) to be very enjoyable. A new version of this game is released by Wizards each summer in preparation for the release of their next Core Set of cards. DoTP 2014 made iterative improvements across all areas of the game. The animations were smoother, the sound design was excellent and the interface was overhauled nicely. (Editor’s note: This sounds like a perfect fit for a Magic: The Gathering game. This is what Wizards does with the card game does as part of its business model.)

The game is intended to be enjoyed by everyone in order to help spread interest in the card game itself. As a result, it accommodates all levels of experience with Magic: The Gathering (M:TG). Players are able to select their expertise level with the game which dictates the amount of hand-holding that players get. I experimented with them all, but ultimately chose to play through on the highest setting (“Planeswalker”). This allowed me to skip most of the tutorial sections that are otherwise mandatory. The lower the setting selected the more the game will walk you through the game set-up as well as the basics of how to play M:TG in general. This is an excellent way for a young player to get their feet wet and learn the game since they can learn at their own pace and can simply retry levels if they fail.

If a player has any experience with previous releases the game will seem very familiar, and allow for quick entry into whichever mode of gameplay that is chosen. I will detail these difference a little later on in my review.

The one drawback that I have experienced is that I have not found a way to upload all of the decks and cards that I had previously unlocked with Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 within DoTP 2014. I have submitted a Support Request with Steam to see if this is possible and I have not located the functionality as of yet. As of the time of this review’s publishing I have not received a response, and will provide an update once I have received an answer. If this is not possible it would mean that any player who unlocked different decks and cards, or purchased foils or deck expansions would not have access to these within the 2014 version.

Another neat change in the DoTP 2014 release that was not present in the previous year is your story is narrated by Chandra Nalaar, one of the powerful Planeswalkers in the M:TG universe. Chandra is aligned with the element of Fire, and through campaign mode you are working with her to unravel a mystery. I found this to be a welcome change as it gave the game a more immersive feel as opposed to feeling just like an M:TG simulator.

If you have a multiple M:TG player household there is an option that can bring up to 4 players together to determine your household bragging rights: Multi-Player! Each player would need to be on a separate Steam Log-in and have their own copy of the game; however once you do each person can be invited and choose from any of the decks that they have unlocked to play with your family! This one option itself has countless hours of fun potential. If you think that this might be a costly endeavor think of it this way. If you were taking a family of four to the movies for a weekend release you would be paying upwards of $40 for tickets plus concessions, and after your 2 to 3 hour film ends there is no further return upon your investment. Now for the same $40 you can purchase 4 copies of the game, and have as many hours of multi-player games as you desire. Plus as an added bonus with each purchase of the game you receive a code for an alternate art foil card for the trading card game. The card that this reviewer received a voucher for is Scavenging Ooze. Now as of this review the card price for the original is over $8.00. So if you have your four copies of the game the players of the trading card game in the house receive up to $32 of product to add to their collection. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me.

Family Gaming Assessment:

This game is rated T for teen by the ESRB. The vast majority of this rating is derived from the artwork on several of the cards (many of them are somewhat macabre) and the themes expressed in the story mode. If you are concerned about your skittish child being upset by some fo the card art, then it is worth doing a google search for DoTP 2014 cards. Flipping through the various images will give you an idea.

Playability Assessment:

As I touched on earlier every player has the option to choose their level of expertise at the very beginning of the game. So even if you have someone who has never played the game there are visual and auditory tutorials that will walk the player through every aspect of the game. In addition there are tool-tip that pop up regardless of your expertise to help remind you of certain aspects of gameplay. In addition the control menu explains what each keystroke accomplishes within a match. As a player becomes more comfortable with their level of experience the tips can be turned off which speeds up gameplay.

As one might imagine with a computer port of a card game, there is a lot of reading to be done. If your child has trouble reading things quickly under pressure, then this might not be the best game for them.

DoTP 2014 has challenges for every player. From the basic story mode to challenges that have you needing to find your way out of seemingly Impossible situations. Even the most savvy M:TG veteran will have their skills put to the test.

Conclusion:

I would absolutely recommend Magic Duel of the Planeswalkers 2014 as an addition to any families gaming library. The price point certainly makes even buying multiple copies affordable, and the multi-player option makes family replay value high. I look forward to exploring deeper into the content, and maybe I will see you for a duel on Steam if you are up for the challenge!

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By: Charles Warden

Publisher: Pikpok

Release Date: July 10, 2013

Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Overall Review:

It happens all too often these days that movie tie-in games are just re-skinned infinite runner games like Temple Run. Gladly, this is not the case with Turbo Racing League which is based on the upcoming Dreamworks movie Turbo. Beautifully designed tracks await your upgradable snail while it races through Dos Bros taco stand. Collect and spend tomatoes, readily available or purchasable in game, to increase your performance or customize your snail’s appearance. There aren’t that many different tracks, but there is plenty of variety to the game play thanks to time trials and a slalom mode. Leader boards are also available in ranked races so you can see how you stack up against everyone else.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Turbo is based on an upcoming children’s animated movie and television cartoon series so it is perfectly suitable for the whole family. Even older children and adults will enjoy the quick controls and even faster experience. Parents need to be be aware this is a “freemium” game. That means there are in-game purchases for real money and advertisements that can lead you away from the game. All advertisements seem to be for other games from PikPok or their partners. Turning off data and wifi seems to remove this for the duration of play.

Playability Assessment:

The controls to the game are quick and responsive. That’s what makes it so much fun to play. However, this means the youngest of children may find it very difficult to progress past a certain point when things start to get really fast.

This is a newer game so owners of older devices could experience some slowdown in these later stages as well.

Conclusion:

Overall this is a hugely fun game that shows off how far mobile gaming has come in the last few years, especially considering the standards set by movie tie-in games in the past. As a “freemium” game you could just download and enjoy kicking the tail end of your nitrous infused snail sideways around the track. You should, however, consider a small purchase as a way to support the developer and tell them that you want to see more quality mobile games like Turbo Racing League.

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PopCap Games announced on its blog that they are releasing the highly anticipated follow-up to Plants Vs. Zombies in Australia and New Zealand first. They explained that they are doing this “soft launch” to help perform a stress test on their servers and to help put some of the final touches on the game before release.

This is a reasonable step for them to take. The original Plants vs Zombies has grown in popularity significantly over the years. It has slowly evolved into one of the most popular mobile titles available. The demand for a sequel is massive. They would just be asking for trouble if they didn’t add to that the fact that the sequel will be free to play. The last thing they want is to miscalculate things and fail to deliver their product to their fans.

This process can only mean one thing: The release day is imminent. We’ll post an update as soon as the game goes live and will follow-up with our full review shortly thereafter!

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July 10th will mark the 5th birthday of the iTunes App Store. Yep. That’s right. The App Store will be old enough to go to Kindergarten on Wednesday. It’s crazy. It’s even crazier than in the last 5 years 50 BILLION apps have been downloaded.

Apple has a lot to celebrate. They have made a ton of money (and helped a lot of people make money) and they are celebrating by giving away some of their best apps and games.

This is a great value for families and it shouldn’t be missed. Here are some of the highlights:

Badlands:

Rated 9+

If you have a child who loves a challenge in their touch based games, then this is the app for them. You control a shadowy floating monster and navigate through a world that is falling apart. The levels start off easy enough, but they get VERY hard VERY fast. The developers also update the game constantly by adding levels and achievements.

Tiny Wings:

Rated 4+

This is a deceptively difficult game that kids will love. This is another touch based game that involves controlling a bird and helping it take off from ramps and fly across islands while racing computer controlled opponents. My 4 year old figured it out quickly and was showing us all how to make it work by the end of the day. Being told how to play a game by your preschooler is a humbling, yet awesome, experience. I recommend it to everyone.

Where’s My Water: 

Rated 4+

Disney hasn’t been known for releasing amazing games since the 8 and 16 bit era (we’ll talk about those games soon). But, they have a hit on their hands here. Where’s My Water is a puzzle game where players need to wipe away dirt in order to guide water to help a friendly Gator take a shower. The puzzles start out easy, but eventually get maddeningly difficult. The good news is that starting over is easy, and sometimes failing has hilarious results. You’ll have a blast sitting around the iPad testing out potential solutions. Trust me on this one. It’s worth the full price, so getting the game for free is just a miracle.

Infinity Blade II: 

Rated 9+

Infinity Blade II is a timing based sci-fi/fantasy combat game. The story can be difficult to follow, but older kids and teenagers will love exploring this insane world and gearing up their guy with all manner of armor and weapons. There is some violence, so I wouldn’t play this with young kids. For a comparison, a night watching Monday Night Raw will be more intense.

If you are an old school gamer and have been dreaming of letting your kid play an updated version of Punch Out then this is your chance.

 

Barefoot World Atlas:

Rated 4+

This isn’t a game per se, but it is a very neat app. It is a touch controlled globe that lets kids explore the world and discover interesting facts from all around the world. I recommend it for any family with lots of curious kids.

The only real challenge is that the narrator is VERY British so you might have to help explain some words to kids that aren’t familiar with the Queen’s English.

 

There are a few other apps on the list that might be of value to you so make sure to check out the full list. Whatever you do, make sure to do it fast because these apps won’t be free forever.

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Those of us who were waiting patiently for the long-awaited follow up to Plants Vs Zombies will have to wait just a little bit longer. PopCap Games confirmed via the franchise’s official Twitter account that the game is being delayed until later on this summer. The title was originally slated for release on iOS on July 16th.

This is definitely a disappointment as it was one of my family’s most anticipated games, but a few more weeks are a small price to pay if this means the game will end up being more polished by the time they release it.

We don’t know a whole heck of a lot else about the game so far. But we have been able to find a few interesting bits of information.  

First, and most important, is that the game will follow a free-to-play formula. They have indicated that you will be able to play every level and earn every plant without spending a dime. Now, before any of you cheer too wildly, you have to remember that free-to-play games often have features hidden behind a paywall. In this case, I’ll bet that unlocking different plants will require spending coins that you find on the field with the option to just spend cash to unlock them faster. This is actually a great system. Those people who don’t want to pay anything will be able to play through the game that way. Everyone else will be able to pick and choose their purchases.

Second, we’ve been able to confirm that the game will involve time travel this time around. We don’t really know what that means yet since they have been very cagey with the details. But, we can assume that this will result in a wider variety of zombie opponents to deal with like knights, cowboys, etc.

This game looks like it could be one of the highlights of the summer. How excited are you for this one? Sound off in the comments section!

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