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Written by Mike Melkonian of CardboardConsole.com

Concrete Genie is currently available for PlayStation 4 and is playable on PSVR.

In a gaming landscape filled with epic AAA blockbusters, it’s refreshing to see a smaller, experimental game come out of Sony’s Worldwide Studios. Players take on the role of Ash, a young artist living in the now deserted town of Denska, and must use the power of his imagination, as well as a magic paint brush, to restore his hometown to its former glory.

Developed by the small team at PixelOpus, Concrete Genie follows in the tradition of games like Flower and Journey to create a unique and artistic experience that, while not challenging in the way a satisfying game typically should be, provides the player with a solid six hours of eye candy, therapeutic play, and deeply thematic moments of self reflection.

Gameplay

Concrete Genie combines elements from various genres to create a one of a kind single player campaign, but is at its core an environmental puzzle game. Players must paint “genies” (which can be customized to the players liking) on the walls of Denska, and use their unique properties to progress past various obstacles (for example, fire genies can burn down wooden crates blocking Ash’s way, electric genies can power generators needed to operate machines, etc).

There is also quite a bit of platforming in the game, and the animations of Ash scaling the various walls and environments of Denska look strikingly similar to Nathan Drake’s animations in the Uncharted series, to the point where I think PixelOpus is intentionally trolling their fellow Sony studio, Naughty Dog. The game also provides quite the scavenger hunt for all of the missing pages in Ash’s sketch book, and this collectathon will keep players engaged long after the main story is over.

Critiques

Even though this is a game aimed a younger audience, the developers could have provided a *little* more challenge. Players who have ANY experience with games will find Concrete Genie a breeze to get through, and while I understand this may have been an intentional choice, some more difficult side/optional content would have been appreciated.

Is it okay for kids? Absolutely! I think anyone between the ages of 6 and 12 will likely enjoy this game, and I strongly suggest that people play Concrete Genie as a family activity. There are so many themes for a kid to relate to, including some relatively heavy subject matters such as divorce and parental fighting, that it may be helpful for parents to play along and explain the meaning of certain interactions to their kids when it’s needed.

Conclusion

While the simplistic gameplay holds it back a bit, there is no denying the sheer amount of heart that went into crafting this product. It is a truly beautiful game, and at an affordable price, I would say Concrete Genie is a must buy for any PS4 owners with kids, and even those without.



What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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This Episode Steve and Jenna go around the horn,talk about some Kickstarter gems and then GenCon 50!!!

Game 1
A Dog’s Life

Game 2
Ninja Monkeys

Kickstarter Game 1
Cauldron: Bubble and Boil Board Game

Kickstarter Game 2
Ninjitsu! – the Ninja card game for all ages

GenCon50

Bunny Kingdom

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GenCon 2016 has come and gone and it is, essentially, the E3 of board games. Every year dozens of board games are debuted there to be demoed (or purchased) by thousands of gamers hungry to be on the cutting edge of the hobby.

We, unfortunately, weren’t able to make the trip ourselves, but thanks to BoardGameGeek.com and a lot of press releases we have a pretty good idea of what games made a big splash there. Take a look below for a list of the games that we have our eyes on.


Seafall

  • Plaid Hat Games
  • Ages 14+
  • 3-5 Players
  • 90-120 minutes

Legacy games shouldn’t be anything new to board game fans as there have been several. The most recent legacy game, Pandemic: Legacy Season One, took the world by storm last year. Seafall, however, is different because it is the first game that has been built from the ground up as a Legacy game.

In Seafall, players take on the role of explorers during the age of sail that have discovered a new land. The map on the gameboard is empty and it is up to the players to explore the land and see what is going on.

What I love most about this game is that I have to speak about it in general terms because I honestly don’t know what happens. I know there is a story much like there was in previous Legacy games. I just don’t know what it is, and the fact that it is a completely new title means I have no context to try and figure it out on my on.

I guess I’ll just have to play it!

Scythe

  • Stonemeier Games
  • Ages 14+
  • 1-5 Players
  • 90-115 minutes

There are very few games that have been hyped up as much as Scythe has been over the past year. This is a game that was backed heavily on Kickstarter thanks to its gorgeous art and the fascinating premise. The game takes place in a diesel-punk alternate history version of post World War I. Some of the art featured in the game includes quant pastoral villages with adorable farmhouses being towered over by multistory diesel-belching mechs.

At first, when I saw the campaign I had assumed that it was a miniatures wargame featuring towering mechs and bear riders. But, as I learned more about the game I found out that it is really more about resource management and territory control. You actually can only earn so many points through battle. The rest of the points you earn are through other means.

One feature that I think really sets the game apart is the idea of popularity. Different achievements and resources are worth a different amount of points dependant upon your popularity level with the people. This means that taking explicitly evil actions that might turn the people against you can have a significant cost in the long run (that doesn’t mean they won’t be worth it though).

Star Trek Panic

  • USAopoly
  • Ages13+
  • 1-6 Players
  • 90-120 minutes

We have talked about Castle Panic before and you might be tempted to just write this one off as a simple reskinning of the original. Do yourself a favor and wipe those thoughts away right now.

Star Trek Panic adds a lot to the formula like

We’ve talked about Castle Panic before. Star Trek Panic is similar in form, but it does more than replace the sword and sorcery theme with a shiny sci-fi one. Instead, this game adds things like missions, character cards, and new mechanics.

The best part about the game though? The cardboard USS Enterprise that sits in the center of the game board while you play.

Star Trek: Ascendancy

  • Gale Force Nine
  • Ages 14+
  • 3 Players
  • 90-180 minutes

This is a big year for Star Trek. We had a new movie (Star Trek: Beyond),  an upcoming series (Star Trek: Discovery), and several licensed board games. While Star Trek Panic is a lighter strategy game based around an existing idea, Star Trek: Ascension brings the Trek universe into the heavy strategy genre.

The gameboard is all but blank when this game starts. That is because the galaxy will be discovered slowly as the three players (each one controlling either the Federation, The Klingon Empire, or the Romulan Empire respectively) travel around the board discovering new stars, planets, and eventually each other. At that point the players will need to trade, form alliances, and explore in order to earn the win.

 

Vast: The Crystal Caverns

  • Leader Games
  • Ages 10+
  • 1-5 Players
  • 75 minutes

Asymmetrical gameplay is a challenge, but is is very cool when it comes together well in a board game. Vast: The Crystal Caverns certainly shoots to accomplish that.

Vast is a dungeon crawler game that has each player assigned to a different role from the valiant knight and the slumbering dragon to the cave itself. Each role has completely different game mechanics and win conditions. For example: The Knight wins by killing the dragon. The Dragon wins by waking up and escaping. The cave wins by collapsing in itself and crushing everyone else inside.

Kreo

  • Cool Mini or Not
  • Ages 10+
  • 3-6 Players

This is a cooperative game where players take on the role of greek titans who are working to create a sustainable world. There are element cards which help you build nature cards, Nature cards are used to build the planet.

The game looks as simple as it is fast. The entire deck of cards is dealt out to the players. Gameplay involves multiple rounds wherein players while simultaneously play cards trying to complete different phases of creation. The key is that players cannot communicate directly about what they are going to play. This limitation can be circumvented by using a limited resource, but it is a pretty significant part of the challenge.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails

  • Days of Wonder
  • Ages 10+
  • 2-5 players
  • 60-120 minutes

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails mixes up the traditional TTR formula in two main ways. The first is that it includes a double sided map that includes a world map and a map focused on the Great Lakes region of the United States. The second is that players can also claim routes across land using trains and sea using boats. They even mix things up by including train cards and boat cards that players have to collect to claim their respective routes. This adds a lot of new decisions for players to make.

We haven’t played a bad version of Ticket to Ride yet, so we’re sure this will be a great one to add to the collection.

Beyond Baker Street

  • Z-Man
  • Ages 13+
  • 2-4 players
  • 20 minutes

This is a Sherlock Holmes themed cooperative deduction game. Players are racing to solve a crime before the legendary Sherlock Holmes can. The gameplay itself is very similar to Hanabi. Players each hold a set of five clues, but they can’t see what they have. They can only see their what their teammates are holding. Each turn players can Assist another detective, Investigate a crime scene, Confirm evidence, Eliminate dead leads, or Pursue new leads. The players win if they can gather enough evidence before Holmes does.

I’ll admit that I have had some bad experiences with Hanabi, but I am definitely willing to give this one a shot.

Captain Sonar

  • Asmodee
  • Ages 12+
  • 2-8 Players
  • 30-60 minutes

Ok. So we all played Battleship when we were kids right? Captain Sonar is a game that pits two teams of players against each other as they each run Submarines that are trying to destroy one another. Each player has a separate role and the battles take place in real time.

This sounds to us like it has the makings of a great game to pull out at game nights and we can’t wait to give it a shot.

Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea

This is a competitive deck building game that is themed around the idea of farming deadly cone snails. They are deadly creatures, but they can be farmed to harness some of their pieces to help make medicines and other useful products.

Killer Snails was designed in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, the National Science Foundation, and the Media Center IFP. There is even a teacher’s guide to using this game to help learn.

Fight for Olympus

  • Lookout Games/Mayfair Games
  • Ages 12+
  • 2 Players
  • 30 Minutes

Fight for Olympus is a two player competitive card game with strategic elements. The game is based on Greek Mythology so we know our oldest son is hungry for this one.

Players control six spaces on a virtual game board. Three of them are reserved for military action and the other three are for resources and “Power Discs.” Creatures played in the front row deal damage to creatures directly across from them. If there are no creatures to attack then the damage is dealt to the other player directly.

The art on the different cards looks great and the combat mechanics look interesting enough to rocket this game very high on our list.


Did you see anything at GenCon 2016 that caught your eye? Sound off in the comments!

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GenCon took place last month and was, essentially, the E3 of board games. Every year dozens upon dozens of board games are debuted there to be demoed (or purchased) by thousands of gamers hungry to be on the cutting edge of the hobby.

We, unfortunately, weren’t able to make the trip ourselves, but thanks to BoardGameGeek.com and a lot of press releases we have a pretty good idea of what games made a big splash there. Take a look below for a list of the games that we have our eyes on.

Seafall


Plaid Hat Games

Ages 14+

3-5 Players

90-120 minutes

 

Legacy games shouldn’t be anything new to board game fans as there have been several. The most recent legacy game, Pandemic: Legacy Season One, took the world by storm last year. Seafall, however, is different because it is the first game that has been built from the ground up as a Legacy game.

In Seafall, players take on the role of explorers during the age of sail that have discovered a new land. The map on the gameboard is empty and it is up to the players to explore the land and see what is going on.

What I love most about this game is that I have to speak about it in general terms because I honestly don’t know what happens. I know there is a story much like there was in previous Legacy games. I just don’t know what it is, and the fact that it is a completely new title means I have no context to try and figure it out on my on.

I guess I’ll just have to play it!

 

Scythe


Stonemeier Games

Ages 14+

1-5 Players

90-115 minutes

 

There are very few games that have been hyped up as much as Scythe has been over the past year. This is a game that was backed heavily on Kickstarter thanks to its gorgeous art and the fascinating premise. The game takes place in a diesel-punk alternate history version of post World War I. Some of the art featured in the game includes quant pastoral villages with adorable farmhouses being towered over by multistory diesel-belching mechs.

At first, when I saw the campaign I had assumed that it was a miniatures wargame featuring towering mechs and bear riders. But, as I learned more about the game I found out that it is really more about resource management and territory control. You actually can only earn so many points through battle. The rest of the points you earn are through other means.

One feature that I think really sets the game apart is the idea of popularity. Different achievements and resources are worth a different amount of points dependant upon your popularity level with the people. This means that taking explicitly evil actions that might turn the people against you can have a significant cost in the long run (that doesn’t mean they won’t be worth it though).

 

Star Trek Panic

USAopoly

Ages13+

1-6 Players

90-120 minutes

 

We have talked about Castle Panic before and you might be tempted to just write this one off as a simple reskinning of the original. Do yourself a favor and wipe those thoughts away right now.

Star Trek Panic adds a lot to the formula like

We’ve talked about Castle Panic before. Star Trek Panic is similar in form, but it does more than replace the sword and sorcery theme with a shiny sci-fi one. Instead, this game adds things like missions, character cards, and new mechanics.

The best part about the game though? The cardboard USS Enterprise that sits in the center of the game board while you play.

 

Star Trek: Ascendancy

Gale Force Nine

Ages 14+

3 Players

90-180 minutes

 

This is a big year for Star Trek. We had a new movie (Star Trek: Beyond),  an upcoming series (Star Trek: Discovery), and several licensed board games. While Star Trek Panic is a lighter strategy game based around an existing idea, Star Trek: Ascension brings the Trek universe into the heavy strategy genre.

The gameboard is all but blank when this game starts. That is because the galaxy will be discovered slowly as the three players (each one controlling either the Federation, The Klingon Empire, or the Romulan Empire respectively) travel around the board discovering new stars, planets, and eventually each other. At that point the players will need to trade, form alliances, and explore in order to earn the win.  

 

Vast: The Crystal Caverns

BoardGameGeek Link

Leader Games

Ages 10+

1-5 Players

75 minutes

Asymmetrical gameplay is a challenge, but is is very cool when it comes together well in a board game. Vast: The Crystal Caverns certainly shoots to accomplish that.

Vast is a dungeon crawler game that has each player assigned to a different role from the valiant knight and the slumbering dragon to the cave itself. Each role has completely different game mechanics and win conditions. For example: The Knight wins by killing the dragon. The Dragon wins by waking up and escaping. The cave wins by collapsing in itself and crushing everyone else inside.

 

Kreo

BoardGameGeek Link

Cool Mini or Not

Ages 10+

3-6 Players

 

This is a cooperative game where players take on the role of greek titans who are working to create a sustainable world. There are element cards which help you build nature cards, Nature cards are used to build the planet.

The game looks as simple as it is fast. The entire deck of cards is dealt out to the players. Gameplay involves multiple rounds wherein players while simultaneously play cards trying to complete different phases of creation. The key is that players cannot communicate directly about what they are going to play. This limitation can be circumvented by using a limited resource, but it is a pretty significant part of the challenge.

 

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails

Days of Wonder

Ages 10+

2-5 players

60-120 minutes

 

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails mixes up the traditional TTR formula in two main ways. The first is that it includes a double sided map that includes a world map and a map focused on the Great Lakes region of the United States. The second is that players can also claim routes across land using trains and sea using boats. They even mix things up by including train cards and boat cards that players have to collect to claim their respective routes. This adds a lot of new decisions for players to make.

We haven’t played a bad version of Ticket to Ride yet, so we’re sure this will be a great one to add to the collection.

 

Beyond Baker Street

Z-Man

Ages 13+

2-4 players

20 minutes

 

This is a Sherlock Holmes themed cooperative deduction game. Players are racing to solve a crime before the legendary Sherlock Holmes can. The gameplay itself is very similar to Hanabi. Players each hold a set of five clues, but they can’t see what they have. They can only see their what their teammates are holding. Each turn players can Assist another detective, Investigate a crime scene, Confirm evidence, Eliminate dead leads, or Pursue new leads. The players win if they can gather enough evidence before Holmes does.

I’ll admit that I have had some bad experiences with Hanabi, but I am definitely willing to give this one a shot.    

 

Captain Sonar

Asmodee

Ages 12+

2-8 Players

30-60 minutes

 

Ok. So we all played Battleship when we were kids right? Captain Sonar is a game that pits two teams of players against each other as they each run Submarines that are trying to destroy one another. Each player has a separate role and the battles take place in real time.

This sounds to us like it has the makings of a great game to pull out at game nights and we can’t wait to give it a shot.  

 

Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea

This is a competitive deck building game that is themed around the idea of farming deadly cone snails. They are deadly creatures, but they can be farmed to harness some of their pieces to help make medicines and other useful products.

Killer Snails was designed in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, the National Science Foundation, and the Media Center IFP. There is even a teacher’s guide to using this game to help learn.

 

Fight for Olympus

Lookout Games/Mayfair Games

Ages 12+

2 Players

30 Minutes

 

Fight for Olympus is a two player competitive card game with strategic elements. The game is based on Greek Mythology so we know our oldest son is hungry for this one.

Players control six spaces on a virtual game board. Three of them are reserved for military action and the other three are for resources and “Power Discs.” Creatures played in the front row deal damage to creatures directly across from them. If there are no creatures to attack then the damage is dealt to the other player directly.

The art on the different cards looks great and the combat mechanics look interesting enough to rocket this game very high on our list.

 

Cytomel T3 for sale
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GenCon 2015 is happening as we speak and board game publishers and independent designers alike are spread out across the show floor demoing some very exciting games. Below is a list of some of the more exciting family friendly games being shown.

 

Tail Feathers

Mice and Mystics is am amazing cooperative gaming experience. Plaid Hat Games knows that they have a great game world on their hands and are in the process of developing a miniatures based war game in the Mice and Mystics universe called Tail Feathers.  It is, without question, our most anticipated game of the near future.

Mysterium

We are huge fans of Dixit here at Engaged Family Gaming. Mysterium is a game that shares some similarities in that the game is driven by people’s empathy and understanding the potential meaning behind a given image. The difference is that Mysterium has a specific end goal. Players are each psychic mediums who are attempting to solve a murder with the help of a spirit who is sending them dream images to communicate who the killer was, where it took place, and what the murder weapon was (Sound familiar?)

This will likely be a bit difficult for younger players, but will be  a great game to have around as your family gets older

7 Wonders: Duel

This game shares a lot theme-wise with 7 Wonders. The difference is that instead of drafting cards from a hand that you pass from player to player you draft your cards from a pattern of cards placed face down and face up on the table between you. Also, as the name suggests this is a game intended for two players.

Two players games can be difficult for families as they often don’t allow for highly varied skill sets, but it is hard to ignore the pedigree. Stay tuned for more info as release comes closer.

Thieves!

Thieves_Calliope Games

We posted about this one the other day when it was announced. Thieves was originally published in Europe but it is finally making its way to the US. Calliope Games does a great job of picking amazing games to publish so we are looking forward to getting our hands on this one.

Ninja Camp

Maybe we jump have summer camp on the brain since our oldest just came back from one, but this looks like a very fun little game.

Players each take on the roll of a Ninja competing to be the student of a master.  Each player starts with two cards, each of which is a ninja move, and the rest of the cards are dealt face-up on the play area. Players progress across the board and add new moves to their hand.It looks like a lot of fun

Smash-up: Munchkin

This is pretty straight forward. It is a munchkin themed version of Smash-Up. Both of these are popular games that turn genres upside down in an attempt at random humor. This looks like a lot of fun.

Broom Service


This one was a Kennerspiel des Jahres nominee for 2015. Anything that is even NOMINATED for such a prestigious award is going to be worth at least a look.

 

Nefarious The Mad Scientist Game

 

This is the second edition of a game that was released several years ago.

What kid doesn’t want to play the role of a mad scientist? This is purportedly a quick playing game where players are racing to build crazy contraptions like freeze rays and attack robots before their opponents can.

Penny Press

 

I would never have thought that I would want so desperately to play a board game based on running a news paper during the early 1900’s, but this worker placement game is doing it to me.

Players each have a number of reporters that they can spread out throughout the city to cover different stories to fill up their paper. Different stories are worth different amounts, but take up different amounts of space on the paper. Its worker placement at what looks to be its finest.

Medieval Academy

 

This a game where each player takes on the role of a squire who is competing with the other players in an attempt to earn chivalry points. The art is hilarious and it is being published by IELLO who has done some really great games in the past.

 

This list is not even close to complete. we are certain that there are tons of games we didn’t have enough room to talk about. What did we miss? Sound off in the comments!

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These days when talking about console gaming systems there are three main options; PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii. (Editor’s Note: We know about the Wii U, we promise. We will discuss that system in a next generation comparison.)

Each console has its own history, niche, and style to bring to the table. When choosing a console it really comes down to knowing what interests you and your family the most. If you are not sure how to answer these questions, you do not have to buy the newest system on the market. There is something to be said for looking at older systems and what they offer. Keep in mind that Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox all have an extensive history, and if this is your first walk down the console path, it is best to know what your interests are and what you will get the most enjoyment from. Are you interested in high end graphics and games that look like movies? Are you interested in iconic character games that your family will immediately be comfortable with? Or, are you interested in extensive online gameplay? Each of these interests will point you to a particular style, and it may be cheaper to investigate some consoles and games that have been out for a few years to find out what your family will really enjoy before spending the money to be at the current tech level. This is particularly important heading into the next few months, as new consoles are expected to be released by both Sony and Microsoft, possibly at a very high price tag.

With regards to the current popular systems, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are really very similar in capabilities and are marketed to similar types of gamers. Both systems have high graphics, speed, and memory capabilities. Both systems have additional capabilities beyond gaming. They are both capable of playing DVDs and have the ability to stream Netflix. The Playstation 3 can also play Blu Rays. They both can connect wirelessly to the internet and have subscription networks. They are capable of online play and offer the ability to download game content. Only Microsoft charges for their online subscription. It is important to note that even though the two systems usually offer the same game titles, you cannot play with friends online unless you have the same system.

Players who enjoy sports games and first person shooters are typically drawn to the hardware offered by Microsoft and Sony. The HD graphics, downloading speed and internet capabilities are all key for these systems. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 tend to have more mature rated games because of their graphical fidelity. Likewise, you won’t typically find mature titles on the Nintendo Wii. Although most of the games released for these two systems are playable solo or through some form of story mode and cooperative play, the most popular games offered for these systems are online multiplayer games. Both systems support a vast online community complete with online profiles, friend lists, and the ability to chat via microphone while connected and playing online. Much of the online gameplay is highly competitive and can require a decent time investment to get a sense of accomplishment or to complete achievements.

 

While it is true that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems do have titles that are written for a lower age bracket and even some multi-player/party games, the selection is not as vast as the Wii with regards to titles of this nature. Overall, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are systems that appeal to an older demographic. Many titles released for these systems require a higher level of game play ability and time dedication.

The Nintendo Wii systems are more typically geared towards kids and families. Most of the Wii’s popular titles are built around adventure platform games or in house multi-player gaming (not usually online multi-player). The Wii uses wireless controllers and promotes active gaming. The Wii has become known for mini-game copllections and party games that can be highly entertaining for any age group. The Wii also features platform games that appeal to a broader audience than the more hardcore games that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are known for. These games have a relatively short learning curve and are far easier to pick up and put down at leisure then some of the first person shooters and online multiplayer games that the other two systems are known for. The Nintendo Wii’s biggest draw comes from iconic characters that are well known and loved like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link.

The Wii system hardware is vastly different from the other two systems. It connects to the internet and can stream Netflix (It does not, however, play Blu Rays or DVDs). There are many good retro games available on their Virtual Console as well as some WiiWare software and games available for purchase in the Nintendo eShop. While the Wii can browse online, it is less than user friendly then the other systems and it cab be difficult to use the Wii controller to navigate. Overall, the Wii is a great system that appeals to families.

Before making a final decision on which console to purchase, keep in mind that consoles have a technology cycle of about 5-10 years, but your system’s actual life cycle can average 10 years or more. Many gamers still have systems that work from 10-15 years ago or more. In fact “retro gaming” is a big passion for many of us who still have our old systems or access to the old software of some of our favorite games. Just because the next generation of system is coming out does not necessarily mean your system is obsolete or near the end of its life.

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The next generation is nearly upon us. We’ve seen the first wave of information from both Sony and Microsoft and both of them have made it clear that new consoles will arrive in 2020. So, naturally, it’s time for us to throw out our wishlists for console features. We’ve already published one list for the PlayStation 5 and another for whatever Nintendo has up their sleeves.

I was given the task of writing up a wishlist for the Xbox Series X. This turned out to be a very challenging task. You see, the Xbox One had an incredibly rocky start thanks to some incredibly poor decisions before its release. Phil Spencer has taken over as the head of Xbox and made a lot of great moves, but he was never able to overcome Sony’s commanding lead.

However, he has been making all the right moves leading up to the new console’s launch. They have been buying studios, improving the value of being a part of their ecosystem, and more. Xbox has already announced a lot of the things I wished for.

The show must go on though! So, here is my list of five things I want from the Xbox Series X

1. Good First Party Games (Other than HALO)

Give us a new Fable game you cowards!

The Xbox Series X needs its own slate of first party games to compete with the likes of God of War, Spider-Man, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. They will, of course, always have HALO and I am sure 343 Studios is going to do a wonderful job. But, Xbox needs to come out guns blazing as quickly as possible. But, they can’t settle for quantity. They need some of these new studios to release games that start or resurrect first party franchises.

This isn’t an impossible task either. They own a wide range of developers who are all working on games as you read this. I can’t imagine a world where at least SOME of those games end up being hits.

2. Continued Momentum With Xbox Game Pass

xbox-game-pass
xbox-game-pass

It is no secret that I believe Xbox Game Pass is the best value in video games right now. $9.99 fro over one hundred games (including day 1 access to all Xbox exclusives) is just bonkers. I don’t think they can rest on their laurels though, because their competitors are absolutely looking at the success of the Game Pass model and considering their own options.

No one has been a “fast follow.” Game pass has been around for more than a year and still stands at the top of the heap. You could argue that PlayStation Now is a competitor, but the services are pretty different right now. With that said, Sony could up and change PS Now and make it a real competitor at any time.

Xbox needs to stay ahead of their competition and continue to innovate. The biggest opportunity they have for innovation is original, exclusive games. They have a bunch of studios at their disposal and directing some of them to create content that is exclusive to the Game Pass platform would go a long way towards making the service desirable.

3. Keep Being Transparent

Phil Spencer and team Xbox have been VERY open about their plans, their goals, and the way that the prevailing conditions have impacted them. We know a lot about what the Series X is going to be able to do. We know that they have a LOT of teams making games. They have gone so far as to straight up tell us that all of their games will play on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X for the first year and beyond.


This level of communication is refreshing and they need to keep it up. It has made me confident in my buying decision and happy to support them. These are uncertain times and I want as much certainty as I can get, especially when it comes to an expensive hobby like console gaming.

4. Hardware Improvements Beyond Just Graphics

The big focus for the marketing communications we have been shown so far has been about graphics. Microsoft has talked endlessly about Teraflops, Ray Tracing, and SSDs. We have a more practical request for our next Xbox console.

We would like a more resilient piece of hardware. All of our Xbox consoles have had some kind of mechanical defect that hampered our enjoyment. Our Xbox One has a very flaky disc drive that doesn’t like to read discs unless you tilt the console to 45 degrees. We could have ignored it if the problem wasn’t so common that there are several YouTube videos with instructions on how to deal with it. We even skipped the Xbox 360 generation entirely because of the “red ring of death” fiasco. I don’t expect the new Xbox to be indestructible, but it will likely never move more than a few feet after we install it in our entertainment center. We’d like it if it wouldn’t break under use.


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It is no surprise that Nintendo has been very successful with its handheld and console hybrid, the Nintendo Switch. In 3 years, the Nintendo Switch has sold almost sixty million units. That puts it as Nintendo’s 7th best-selling console and 3rd best-selling home console when handhelds are taken out of the equation. With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X come out at the end of this year, people are wondering where that leaves the Nintendo Switch. Will it be left in the dust of these better performing, higher operating systems? Or, will it continue to be the juggernaut that it is. Even though we are quite a few years away from the next Nintendo console being released, here are some ideas I want Nintendo to consider for the Switch or whatever the next console will be.

1. It Still Needs to be a Hybrid Between Handheld and Console

            One of the biggest selling points of the Nintendo Switch is that it can be played on a television like any other console, or you can play it as a handheld system. I believe that whatever system Nintendo comes up with in the future must still have this feature. Nintendo’s next console will not be as successful without this feature. I also do not think it will be called the Switch 2. Nintendo has a habit of giving their consoles unique names. The one time they tried to keep the same naming convention for a console (Wii U) it was a complete failure and is the lowest selling Nintendo console of all time.  If Nintendo’s next console does not “switch” between handheld and television play, it will be a huge step back for Nintendo.

2. Better Online Infrastructure

            It is no surprise that Nintendo’s online infrastructure is severely lacking. In even some of the simplest games that do not require a lot of extensive action, Nintendo games will still stutter along and dip in framerates. It does not bode well when EVO, one of the largest game tournaments in the world, cancelled the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate tournament because it could not reliably run on Nintendo’s online system. If Nintendo wants to compete against these more powerful systems, it needs to be able to take its games online with better quality and not have all of these hurdles that need to be jumped over. The next Nintendo console needs to allow headset to be used through the controller so that you can talk to your friends while you are playing. It should not require the use of a separate app as a means to talk to each other while playing a game.

            Nintendo also needs to not have as many restrictions on their online play. Allow more than one island in Animal Crossing or allow my friends to be able to send more than 3 gifts to me during a day. Also, if my friends and I want to play some Super Smash Brothers online, allow us to put in a couple of computers so we can have a full four-person game going. It was really surprising when Super Mario Maker 2 came out and Nintendo’s original plan involved not being able to play online with your friends. I also do not understand why we still cannot play games like New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe online and can only play them locally.

3. Bring Back the Virtual Console

            When the virtual console debuted with the Nintendo Wii, it was a gamechanger for Nintendo consoles at the time. Finally, we would get the chance to play these legacy titles without having to hook up an older system. They were also fairly inexpensive to buy through the Wii’s online store. Most first party games were released through this system and even involved other systems such as the Sega Genesis, Turbografx 16, and Commodore 64. They then proceeded to release the virtual console on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. For some reason, this all stopped with the Nintendo Switch. They do have the NES and SNES Online, but you must have Nintendo Switch Online in order to play these games. You must also be able to connect to an internet connection every 7 days to continue to use them. The virtual console would give Nintendo the chance to sell the games separately without an online subscription. This would be hard to implement on the Switch currently because a lot of companies went and made their own collections of their games.

4. Achievement/Trophy System

Credit: www.playstationlifestyle.net

            It still amazes me that Nintendo has not implemented an achievement or trophy system into any of their consoles. Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam all of trophies or achievements built into their games and I believe that adds a lot of replay value. Most first party Nintendo games will have some sort of achievements already inserted into the game, so why not just add the format into the system as the whole. If a game is a multiplatform game, they already have to come up with trophies and achievements for the other systems and Nintendo already implements them into most of their games, it would not take a lot of work to add them in to whatever Nintendo is planning to do next. I am a huge fan of achievements in games. Whenever the sound or graphic goes across the screen, it gives me the feeling that I accomplished something, and I have to immediately go and check what I achieved.

5. More Perks for Their Online Service

This reasoning coincides perfectly with a better online infrastructure. Currently, you pay $20 to be able to utilize the Nintendo Switch online and their library of NES and SNES games, but it could be so much more. I would love for Nintendo to allow a free game every month like PS Plus or Xbox Games with Gold. The NES and SNES games are great, but I think it overwhelms people when they see how many games there are. If they could tie this in with a possible virtual console so that the developers and publishers get some amount of compensation, it could be a huge success. I doubt that we would ever see Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI on their library of NES and SNES online games. Square Enix may find it more enticing to allow people who join for that month to be able to play the game that is being given away. If Nintendo took the same approach as PlayStation and Xbox, they could easily charge $60 like their competitors. The only problem would be improving their online and adding these perks.

These are just a few of the perks I would like to see added to Nintendo’s next system or even implemented into the Switch’s future. I do not think the Nintendo Switch will struggle with the competition coming out with their more powerful machines. It will continue to be successful due to its portability and unique characters that only Nintendo can bring.


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The PlayStation 4 is easily Sony’s most profitable home console to date, so where does the Japanese giant go after winning the 8th generation of gaming? The obvious path to continued success would be to just stick to their strengths, which in Sony’s case is the production of high quality, story-driven single player exclusives that court a more mature audience. But is that all that PlayStation can exceed at, or is there still room for innovation and the potential to reach an even broader audience with their next console? Here are the top 5 things we want to see from the PlayStation 5:


1. PROMOTE MORE ALL AGES CONTENT

Sony has undoubtedly taken notice of the massive success that the Nintendo Switch is currently enjoying, and there are at least two lessons that can be learned from this. The first lesson is that all ages content is a viable path to profitability. While it is unlikely that any platform holder will achieve what Nintendo has in the family-friendly video game market, Sony should not cede this territory completely to Mario and his posse of cute and cuddly mascots. 


Nothing quite matches the pure endearment and nostalgia that gamers feel towards Nintendo’s stable of characters, but many forget just how deep Sony’s bench of kid-friendly properties really is. Ape Escape, PaRappa the Rapper, MediEvil, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, Little Big Planet, LocoRoco, and Patapon are just a few of the more whimsical franchises that could make a big comeback on the PlayStation 5. While some of these titles, such as Jak or Ratchet, are not not quite as innocent as Pikachu or Kirby, all of them fall under the general umbrella of being family-friendly. Sony could easily leverage the cross generational potential of these titles by appealing to both kids and their nostalgic parents. 


The biggest hurdle here isn’t making the games, but the company’s commitment to marketing them properly. Sony has in fact released several family-friendly first party titles on the PS4, such as Concrete Genie, the MediEvil Remake, Everybody’s Golf, Dreams, and Astro Bot Rescue Mission. It has been shown time and again that while Sony is willing to produce these games, they never seem to allocate much of their marketing dollars to any of these titles, which in turn forces almost all of them to fly under the radar. It may be true that these games will never reach the sales heights of God of War or The Last of Us, but Sony must have noticed that the recent Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy, which was a timed exclusive on PlayStation 4 and which features a character that is strongly associated with the PlayStation brand, has gone on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide. Clearly, the market is there.


2. PORTABLE DEVICES AND REMOTE PLAY

The second lesson that Sony can learn from the success of the Nintendo Switch is that people like to take their home console games on the go and are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a device that allows them to do so. To be clear, Sony is no stranger to the portable gaming space, as they have released two handheld consoles, the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation Vita. The Vita in particular shares many similarities with the Switch, suchas the ability to play console-quality video games outdoors as well as the ability to play on a home TV, via PlayStation TV. While these features are not quite as refined as those on the Switch, the Vita was far more ahead of its time than many realize. Unfortunately, the device was a financial flop for Sony, mostly as a result of its overpriced and proprietary memory cards and the company’s inability to effectively market the product. 


It is unlikely that Sony would attempt another handheld console with its own dedicated library of games, but a companion device built around remote play on the PlayStation 5 would be a fantastic option for those gamers who enjoy the versatility of the Switch, but who also prefer sort of games that are available on PlayStation. Remote play is already a feature that is available on the PlayStation 4, but the experience is unreliable to say the least. It is unclear which devices are best suited for this feature, and even those that work require gamers to take a DualShock 4 with them on the go. Couple this with unreliable wifi connections in public spaces, and the ability to jump into a game like Horizon Zero Dawn for fifteen minutes while on your break at work is fantasy for all but a very select few. Even for those who can connect, devices like smartphones or tablets, which are not build specifically with gaming in mind, are poor substitutes for something like the Nintendo Switch.
Rather than leaving the hardware side of remote play to the whims of third party manufacturers, I think the best option for Sony is to release their own dedicated handheld companion device for the PlayStation 5. Like the Switch, and specifically the Switch Lite, the screen and controls should be built into the device itself as a single unit to eliminate the need for any additional hardware. If at all possible, the device should have the ability to log into one account on the console remotely while allowing family members logged into a different account at home to use the console uninterrupted. 

While Sony has not made any public statements regarding plans to produce such a device, there are signs that they may already be considering something along these lines. Months ago, a patent filed by Sony for a Switch-like device leaked online and was met with widespread excitement from fans, hopefully signaling to Sony that commercial interest for a dedicated handheld device is there. Combine this with Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai, a company created with the specific purpose of developing streaming and remote play technology for video games, and Sony may very well be gearing up for some kind of third foray into the portable gaming market.


3. INNOVATIVE FEATURES THAT MATTER

Few consoles emerge from a generation without at least some gimmicky features or peripherals to their name, and the PlayStation brand is no exception. These experiments occasionally yield true consumer-pleasing features, such as the dual thumb-sticks on the original analog PlayStation controller (later refined to become the DualShock controller) or the PSone’s portable LCD screen, but more often than not end up as little more than cute but forgettable novelties, as is the case for the PocketStation, EyeToy, and many others. This is due in large part to the fact that the way in which players interact with their games has been iterated upon for decades and has arrived at a place in which more refinement just doesn’t seem necessary. The graphics have gotten better, the AI has gotten smarter, and quality of life features have improved, but the core of what it means to play a game is roughly the same now as it was at the launch of the NES, which renders many “new and unique” features tedious or annoying, both to players and to developers.


For the past few months, Sony Interactive Entertainment and PlayStation 5 lead architect Mark Cerny have been touting the new DualSense controller and its advanced haptic feedback technology as a major leap forward in player immersion, claiming that gamers will feel resistance in the trigger buttons when pulling back a bow, or that gamers will feel a noticeable difference when driving on a smooth surface rather than a muddy one. While this technology sounds promising, the most important factor here is whether or not developers will take advantage of these features. In recent memory, Sony has invested in PlayStation Move controllers, a finger track pad on the back of the PlayStation Vita, and both a touch pad and light bar on the DualShock 4. With the exception of the Move controllers, which have found new relevance with PlayStation VR, all of these features have gone underutilized by most developers (the touch pad is little more than a large rectangle-shaped button in the middle of the controller), which begs the question: what is the point of investing in these kinds of features?


None of this is to say that these features are inherently bad, or that Sony should be discouraged from pursuing them. To the contrary, the DualSense controller sounds quite interesting and has the potential to increase player immersion exactly as Mark Cerny has described. We as players are more than open to new and innovative features that can help create previously unknown gaming experiences, but the features have to actually accomplish that, not merely show potential in the abstract. The reality is that most developers design games for multiple platforms, and they generally cannot commit the time or dollars necessary to fully utilize the unique features of a single platform. This means that it will be up to Sony’s first party studios to realize the potential of the DualSense controller and any other unique features that the PS5 may have. It’s easy to see how the feel of the changing texture of the road can be used in the next Gran Turismo game, or how the tension of pulling back a bow can be used in something like The Last of Us. But matters are further complicated when we consider the inevitability of more Sony-produced games going to PC or other platforms, as we are now seeing with Horizon Zero Dawn, Death Stranding, and future installments of MLB The Show. How long will Sony’s first party studios really spend capitalizing on unique features once the PlayStation ecosystem expands to PC and beyond? Only time will tell. 


4. SEPARATE PLATINUM TROPHIES FROM MULTIPLAYER MODES

Long time gamers will know that there is a difference between beating a game and seeing everything that it has to offer. Most games offer much more content outside of the main campaign, including side quests, collectibles, and difficult enemies that can only be defeated after a player spends hours upon hours honing their skills. Trophy hunting is not for everyone, nor should it be, but there is something innately satisfying about extracting every bit of value from a particular gaming experience. Within the PlayStation ecosystem, a “platinum trophy” is the trophy that players earn only after every other trophy for that game has been unlocked. Earlier in this article, we went over how most of Sony’s first party games tend to be very story-driven single player titles. But many of these titles also feature additional multiplayer modes, which means that the game will include trophies tied to the multiplayer. As previously stated, a platinum trophy cannot be earned unless all of the trophies for that game are unlocked, which presents a whole host of problems for players.  


The most frustrating byproduct of tying trophies to multiplayer modes is that the ability to earn the platinum trophy for a game becomes entirely dependent on the existence of an online community which will inevitably dwindle over time. This puts a virtual timer on a given game, and makes unlocking platinum trophies near impossible for people who revisit these games, or visit them for the first time, years after their release. This is bad enough for online-only games like Warhawk, but at least in that case people went into the experience knowing that the game is entirely dependent on multiplayer. The same cannot not be said for The Last of Us, which is a game known primarily for its world, story, and characters, and yet requires the player to participate in approximately one hundred and sixty online matches to earn the platinum trophy. In practice this forces primarily single player gamers to sign up for PlayStation Plus just to have access to the necessary multiplayer matches. Not only is this frustrating for people who don’t like multiplayer, but they must now pay extra money just to have the ability to potentially unlock the platinum trophy for a game that is known almost entirely for its single player campaign. 
The simplest solution would be for Sony to mandate that all games with both a single player and multiplayer mode, whether they are from PlayStation Studios or third party, must separate the multiplayer trophies from single player ones. It’s actually not uncommon for a single game to have different sets of trophies, as downloadable content usually comes with its own trophies rather than adding to the trophy list of the base game. Multiplayer games could simply ship with this separation in place from the start, and maybe even include a second platinum for the multiplayer mode alone. This kind of feature may actually be coming, as Sony has already spoken about how consumers will have the option to download only single player or only multiplayer content of a particular title onto their console if they so choose. This is likely a memory-saving feature to allow for more space on the console’s solid state drive, but it does  indicate that Sony is aware of the difference in priority between single player gamers and multiplayer gamers. Hopefully that awareness will extend to the trophy system as well. 

5. LEGACY   

With digital game purchases on the rise, the further refinement of streaming technology, and even platform holders like Sony and Microsoft putting their first party titles on PC, the next generation of video game consoles may in fact be the last. While Sony is still likely to release a product called the PlayStation 6 sometime within the next ten years, the PlayStation 5 may be the company’s last traditional console, and as such, it should place a special emphasis on the legacy of the brand. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as through the revival of long dormant franchises or through legacy backwards compatibility. There are many gamers who grew up on the PlayStation 1 and 2, and who perhaps fell out of gaming during the PlayStation 3 and 4 era, that are now adults with young children of their own with whom they want to share their childhood games. The launch of the PlayStation 5 would be the perfect time to capitalize on this market, as older millennial gamers with misty-eyed memories of the good old days are primed and ready for a shot of nostalgia to the heart.   

Focusing on the past should not be done at the expense of creating new franchises, but there is no denying that the recent string of remakes of popular PlayStation 1 and 2 games is a strong indicator of what the audience wants. People seem to really love the Final Fantasy VII Remake, so why not bring back the Legend of Dragoon or Wild Arms? Everyone is hyped for the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 Remakes, so why not bring back Cool Boarders or Jet Moto? Call of Duty Warzone seems to be a hit, so why not bring back SOCOM U.S. Navy Seals? Tetris 99 came out of nowhere and people loved it, so how about a new Lumines or Fantavision game packed in free with every PS5? Or what about rebooting long dead, but cult classic franchises like The Getaway or Primal? 


Even if Sony isn’t willing to spend money on reviving some significant number of their old franchises, giving players the option of backwards compatibility would go a long way. It’s already been revealed that PS4 games will work on the PS5, but the mostly credible insider known as HipHopGamer has gone on record saying that the PS5 will feature full, enhanced backwards compatibility with all legacy consoles as well. In addition to this, we did see a few patents leak online a year or so ago that would indicate that Sony was seriously pursuing legacy content on the PS5. Will this be done through remasters? By putting legacy content on PlayStation Now? By allowing for some or all PlayStation 1, 2, and 3 discs to run on the PS5 console directly? We’ll just have to wait and see. The possibilities really are endless for Sony to capitalize on their legacy catalog, and there has never been a better time to get the gang back together again. 


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

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They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, if that is true then quarantine is the mother of creative solutions. Social distancing has made it so we cannot get together and play board games with extended family and friends. However, with the technology available, friends can still hang out together while maintaining social distancing. For school and work many of us have been getting acquainted with different video conferencing forums. While those of you in the business world have been using platforms such as Webex for years, it is new to many of us.

There are a few ways to approach gaming via video conferencing: where all players have a copy of the game, where one player has a copy, or if there are common components players can scavenge from other games.

With One Copy

DIY Tripod to display the game board. (4 cans used)

To make it so all players can “share” the game components there needs to be all open information. It generally is not possible for each player to have a private hand of cards. Whomever has the game needs to have a way to display a view of the game. One option is to use their phone while logged into the video conference. Then putting it on a tripod or holding it is place with a stack of books or cans. I found a buffer is needed between the metal can and the phone. The height needed depends on the size of the game.

Cooperative Games

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for two to four players. It pits a team of adventurers against an ever-sinking island in a quest to obtain four ancient artifacts and escape before the island sinks.

In Stop Thief player take on the roll of investigators trying to catch several thieves. They collect the reward money so they can retire. This game incorporates an app that provides sound clues to the location of the thief, different levels of difficulty in play as well as a cooperative mode.

Castle Panic places up to 6 players in a realm where all sorts of fantasy creatures are attempting to breach their castle. Players then work together to defend the castle from being taken by an army of orcs and trolls and goblins and their leaders. See the review here.

Competative Games:

Blurble is a game all about racing and talking.  So many of us love to talk and this gives us the chance to put that talking to good use. In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card.  See the review here.

Sushi Roll takes the popular game Sushi Go and instead of card drafting players draft dice. There is no hidden information in this game. So if there is only one copy as long as the other players can see their choices they could make their choices on their turn. See the review here.

Each Location With a Copy

When each location has a copy of a game it opens up more options. Players can each draw from a deck or they can set up a simple game so the board at each location is identical. Some publisher have also created special rules to make their game playable over video conference.

Exploding Kittens is a family favorite that is just plain ridiculous. The team at Exploding Kittens has come up with a special set of rules for playing over video chat, which they are calling Quarantined Kittens. See the rules here,and our review of Exploding Kittens here.

Zombie Dice is a push your luck dice game where you want to roll (eat) brains before getting your turn ending by the shotgun blasts. These are custom dice, so they wouldn’t be able to be substituted with plain dice. See then review here.

Roll For It!
Roll For It!

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play. See the review here.

Apples to Apples and Apples to Apples Jr. are found on most family’s game shelf. This game has a rotating judge with silly words and phrases. With this each location can have their own draw decks.

Quixx is a roll and write where each roll also opens up an option to take a number for all players. In this game the color of the dice is significant, so if you have six sided dice of the appropriate color you could scavenge for dice if need be.

Dice Games using Standard Dice

Yatzee is a classic, and this may be the perfect time for an oldie but goodie. Most people have 6 sided dice around, even if they have to borrow from other games. If everyone can scrape together 5 dice, they can play! The score sheets can be found online and printed or just written on blank paper.

Farkle is a simple push your luck dice game that uses six standard six sided dice. Just like Yatzee if you can find six dice you can play. The score sheet can also be found online.


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