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By: Jesse Stanley

  • Age Rating 7+ * (Note there is a NSFW edition that should not be played with children due to language and adult content)
  • Players: 2 – 5* (Can be played with up to nine people by adding a second deck)
  • 15 Minutes
  • Competitive
  • Buy Exploding Kittens here on Amazon

Exploding Kittens exploded into our lives in early 2015. The game became the most-funded project in Kickstarter history at that time, backed by the most people ever. More than 219,000 people showed their support to make this happen. The popularity of Matthew Inman and The Oatmeal certainly helped.

With all the buildup the expectations for this game have been rather high. When the announcement that the game had shipped came it wasn’t too long thereafter that people were posting photos of their spoils online, it was here, but was it good?

The Game

There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Tacocat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The gameplay is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple.

There are a variety of cards that make the game move along and add a layer of strategy to the game. You can use cards to skip your turn or force others to take two turns in a row. There are cards that allow you to steal card or peek at the deck. There are even some that allow you to reshuffle the deck. If you don’t like a card that your opponent has just played you can counter it with a Nope card, though if they respond by playing their own it becomes a Yup!

If you are unfortunate enough to draw an exploding kitten the only thing that can save you is a defuse card. After that is played you put the explosive feline back into the deck anywhere you like. You can do this in front of everyone or even bring the deck under the table to place it. One rather mean strategy is to place it right on top for the next player to draw.

The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. This feature makes games pretty quick and it was quite refreshing to know that the games were short and sweet.

Family Game Assessment

After playing the game several times now, it was a lot more fun than anticipated. The concept is rather simple, but the execution was nice. It is by no means a game with deep strategy, but that is what makes it so fun. It’s a game about exploding kittens. It isn’t meant to be serious, and the humorous nature of the cards really adds an air level of levity to the gaming table.

During the games it wasn’t uncommon for everyone at the table to cheer and laugh as kittens were revealed and either placed back in the deck in a clever way or took a player out. Overall this game is a good time and comes with a good recommendation so long as you aren’t taking it too seriously.

Expansions and Spin off Games

The team at Exploding kittens has been busy since the Kickstarter of the original Exploding Kittens hit the board game scene. Below are just some of the games and expansions they have put out since then. There are even more outside of the Exploding Kittens theme too!

The ease of the game makes it a great game for the age ranges that are indicated on the box and it plays well for groups of adults as well. The real test will be how much replay value it has. Given the short nature of the game it is a nice way to cleanse the palate between other longer more involved games.

  • Exploding Kittens Party Pack
  • Exploding Kittens Recipes for Disaster
  • Zombie Kittens
  • Exploding Minions
  • Exploding Kittens NSFW (Not Safe for Work)
  • Barking Kittens (expansion)
  • Imploding Kittens (expansion)
  • Streaking Kittens (expansion)


For some reason, this game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn. Pick it up for something additional to do during a night of gaming. It probably couldn’t support a game night on its own, but it is a fine addition to throw in while someone is running to grab and set up something else.

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By: Samantha Oestreicher, guest writer

Editor’s note: Samantha is a college math teacher who also writes a blog entitled, “Social Mathematics.” She offered to share some of her expertise with us here at Engaged Family Gaming and we couldn’t pass it up! Read on for some excellent examples of board games that teach math concepts without being all “teachy” about it!

There is a lot of pressure from the media and from peers to believe that math is painful. Sometimes adults try to dress up mathematics to make it look like“a game”. As a gamer, I have been really disappointed in these dressed up math practice games because they miss the point of what a game really is. Instead, they are loosely veiled attempts to manipulate kids to use math in a “fun” way.

All is not lost though, great games do exist that use mathematical thinking and math skills. The following is a list of fun games that can inspire mathematical thinking. I have compiled a list of seven wonderful board games for gaming families which can be enjoyed by parent and child alike which also include mathematical thinking.

Set 5+ (grouping/sorting)

[Set is an amazing card game! This is a game that your 6-year-old will be better at than you are. I’m not kidding; kids totally rock this game. This is a matching game that can be played solo or with any sized group. The rules are relatively simple. The cards each have a certain number of shapes on them of a particular color and pattern. A set is three cards which all have the same type of an attribute or miss-match an attribute. Perhaps a set is three cards all have ovals with a striped pattern on them but each card has a different number of shapes (1, 2, and 3) and different colored (purple, green and red). Pro tip: Sometimes there isn’t a set available in the cards on the table. When I play set with undergraduate math majors I ask them to prove to me why there isn’t a set. Challenging older kids to explain why is excellent mathematical practice! This game fits in your purse or stroller and is perfect for a quick distraction and only requires a small table (or floor) of space.

Rummikub 7+ (Numerals/grouping/relationships)

Rummikub is a 2-4 player classic game with lots of tiles to play with and sort. While Rummikub is also about color/number matching, it is more advanced than Set because you can re-organize the board. The matching rules are similar to Set, but now all the collections of tiles stay out on the table and you can steal from already created collections to make a new one. Worst comes to worst, the tiles are fun to play with and you can build things with them! This is a great game to play at home or at the end of the day on a vacation.

Connect 4 7+ (planning/pattern recognition/Loud pieces!)

Every family needs a noisy, clattering, pieces-get-everywhere kind of a game. Connect 4 is a childhood classic that supports geometric thinking, planning and pattern recognition. It is a two player game and great for two children to play together. Basically, Connect 4 is an advanced version of tic-tac-toe. I do not recommend taking this game out of your home as you will surely lose pieces. This is a great game to entertain the kids while you are finishing dinner or something.

20 Express 8+ (consecutive numbering/planning)

This game is great for parents to play with your kids! It’s a number game which focuses on consecutive ordering. The scoring may take parental involvement as it is a little weird at first sight. However, the cool part about this game is that everyone tries to organize the same numbers at the same time. So you, as a parent, can compare answers with the other players. “Oh, that was a good choice, I didn’t think to do it that way!” The only negative to 20 Express is that it obviously uses math and that may turn off some kids. This game is good for traveling as it doesn’t require a central table and any number of people can play at once. Each player just needs a pen and something to write on.

Ticket To Ride 8+ (counting/planning)

This game is really fun! It is a time commitment (maybe an hour once everyone knows the rules) and requires a big table. There are lots of little train pieces that you get to place on the board when you build railroad tracks between cities on the map. I don’t recommend this game if you have a cat or child who likes to jump on the table and mess up the board.

This 2-5 player game requires business optimization similar to operations research. There is no money, but you have to collect cards which include restrictions on where you are allowed to build. This game requires a longer attention, but is full of bright colors and will definitely be just as fun for the parents as the children!

Rush Hour 8+

Rush Hour is one player, portable, colorful, and mentally wonderful. The board is small and packed with vehicles which have set directions that they can move. The goal is to move the vehicles in a particular order to get the little red car out of the traffic jam. A negative is that every piece is important. Don’t lose them! This game is great for waiting rooms or car trips as it comes with its own board and it small enough to hold in a child’s hand or lap.

Sumoku 9+ (addition/multiplication)

Sumoku is a math-centric game for 1-8 players. Think of it as Scrabble/Bananagrams for numbers. You add to the existing tile layout based on a specific mathematical goal. For example, every row must add to a multiple of 3. This is a great game to support a young mathematical thinker because along with practicing basic computational skills, the player is also planning and matching. Unlike Bananagrams, there is no element of speed, so young players may take as long as necessary to check their math before they place their tiles. Like 20 Express, this game obviously uses mathematics. But, I believe Sumoku is interesting and dynamic enough to provide entertainment to the whole family. This game is easy to transport and requires a central table.

Final Thoughts

My recommendation is that, if you only buy one of these games, get Set. Then I would pick up Ticket to Ride. After that, your choices should depend on you and your children’s interests. And remember that your involvement always improves the quality of the game. Mathematical thinking requires self-reflection and the ability to collaborate. Challenge your kids to explain why they made a particular choice or ask them to help you with your move.

Happy Gaming!

For Additional Games to Support Learning

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

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Guest Post: Andy Robertson

Video games are often about playing the hero who saves the day. There’s nothing like scoring that winning goal in Rocket League or saving civilization from destruction in Call of Duty. 

However, my kids seem to enjoy them for a different reason. They love playing the bad guy. It’s something we were talking about over dinner when I started to realize just how many games let you do this.

Then, as well as the games where you have a choice to be good or bad there are those designed with the sole intention of you making other people’s lives a living hell. By the end of the meal I had half a dozen of these games scribbled on an envelope, so I thought I’d share them for you here. If you want the full list I pulled it together on the Family Video Game Database I run.

Sneaky Sasquatch – is an adventure game where you sneak around campsites and try to find food from coolers and picnic baskets without getting caught. There’s an ever-increasing list of things you can do and most of them focus on causing havok. The game even has a day-night cycle so you can go on night raids. It’s brilliant.

Rain On Your Parade is an upcoming game for Switch and PC where you quite literally have to rain on people’s happy days. “You are a cloud jerk,” says the trailer and that pretty much sums it up. As you travel across the world you unlock more methods of causing bedlam. Use thunder and lightning to scare people out of hiding and set things alight, tornados to suck up everything that gets in its path, rain explosive material that you can blow up and even entire meteors and much more.

Untitled Goose Game is perhaps the most famous bad-guy-game of recent years. You make your way around a small village terrorizing the locals. But this isn’t about blowing them up, it’s something much worse. Hiding their keys, stealing their toys, and generally getting under their skin. It’s dastardly in a brilliant way.

Among Us is the game of the moment. You enter a ship with a bunch of online comrades and set about fixing it up. Only, a couple of the crew are tasked with sabotaging the ship without the others noticing. By sabotaging I really mean killing the other crew members. If you suspect someone you can call a meeting. If the other players agree you can eject the culprit. There’s nothing quite like getting innocent crew members tossed into space when you are the Impostor.

Donut County is a game about many things. There’s a complex narrative with lots of characters. But at bottom, it’s a game about wrecking people’s worlds. You control a hole that sucks in anything big enough to swallow. The more things you grab the bigger you get. By the end of most levels, you have destroyed the lives and livelihoods of anyone in your path.

Andy Robertson runs the Family Video Game Database (taminggaming.com) and has written the book Taming Gaming, out in January.

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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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:


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.


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.


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. 


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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By: Keri Engel

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, families are finding themselves stuck at home and adopting new routines. As families juggle working from home and remote learning, many are struggling to keep children entertained and mentally challenged. While schools have been great at adapting on the fly it cannot be ignored that there are high school seniors who need to keep their brains active for college and kindergarteners who should be in school learning reading fluency. Through Continuity of Learning plans, it is the job of educators and parents to fill in these gaps in engaging ways and this is where digital games can help.

This is where the guide Learning with Digital Games: A Guide for Educators and Parents During the Covid-19 Crisis, written by myself and Ryan Schaaf, will be valuable.

The guide is broken up into three main categories: primary, intermediate, and secondary to ensure that the needs of all learners are met. Games are tagged based on subjects, skills, and how accessible the game is to a child. Parents can utilize the labels supported play, guided play, and independent play to plan out how and when to introduce their learner to the game.

Educators and parents see that learners are struggling with the motivation to complete classwork. It is difficult to remain dedicated to school work when surrounded by the comforts of home and the accessibility of distraction. One of the most prevalent distractions for children are video games and why shouldn’t they be? They’re colorful, they’re engaging, they provide challenges and tell stories. If learners can sink their teeth into something that is engaging and enriching then everyone wins.

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

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What better way to start a 2-week self-quarantine than with a bit of nostalgia? Growing up I was a HUGE fan of River City Ransom for the NES. I’ve missed a few American localizations of other titles in the series, but River City Girls was one that I really didn’t want to pass by.

Series mainstays, Kunio and Ricky (Alex and Jack in US titles), have been kidnapped and this time it’s up to their girlfriends, Misako and Kyoko, to rescue them. It’s a classic beat’em up with RPG elements such as purchasable items, tons of awesome unlockable moves, and leveling. RCG also has a killer soundtrack and plenty of easter eggs and nods to other old games in the genre tossed in for good measure.

I often found myself grinning at the girls’ antics as they pummel their way through several districts of River City in hopes of finding clues about what happened to their beloved boys. Along the way, they meet all sorts of quirky characters, bosses, and shop keepers. Misako and Kyoko both play a bit differently but are balanced, so playing one or the other purely comes down to preference.

The only downside of the game is the ending. It’s a bit unsatisfying and confusing to anyone who’s not SUPER into the series as a whole (including games not brought over to the US, something that’s only discovered by finding and defeating the game’s secret boss.) What IS nice is that you can play a New Game+, adding Kunio and Riki as playable characters.

If you’re a fan of old-school beat’em ups, River City Girls is certainly worth your attention. It looks great, plays great, and has plenty of nostalgia to keep you coming back for more.

Can Kid’s Play This Game?

The game is rated E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes, and Mild Blood. Use your best judgment here when it comes to the kids. The core of the game is centered around violence, though the blood only comes into play with some of the animated character portraits after a boss has been beaten to a pulp. The language is very mild, and the suggestive themes are pretty non-existent except for one or two obscure lines of dialogue. 

The Conclusion

River City Girls is available digitally from the Nintendo eShop, PlayStation Store, Xbox Live, Steam, GOG, and Humble Bundle for $29.99.

This review was written by Rob Kalajian, the founder of A Pawn’s Perspective.

A Steam key for River City Girls was provided free for review by WayForward

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Written by Mike Melkonian of CardboardConsole.com

Concrete Genie is currently available for PlayStation 4 (And PlayStation 5 via backward compatibility) and is playable on PSVR.

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. He must use the power of his imagination, as well as a magic paintbrush, to restore his hometown to its former glory.

Concrete Genie, by PixelOpus, follows in the tradition of games like Flower and Journey to create a unique and artistic experience. It may not be challenging in the way a satisfying game typically is. But, it provides the player with a gorgeous six hours of therapeutic play and deeply thematic moments of self-reflection.

Is Concrete Genie Good?

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 player’s liking) on the walls of Denska. He can then control them 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. In fact, Ash scaling the various walls and environments of Denska looks very similar to Nathan Drake’s animations in the Uncharted series. It is 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 sketchbook, and this collectathon will keep players engaged long after the main story is over.

Gameplay Critiques

Even though this is a game aimed at 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. 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.

Is Concrete Genie Ok for Children?

Concrete Genie was rated E10+ by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence. You play as a teenager with a magical paintbrush as he explores his hometown, paints fantastical creatures on the walls, and avoids bullies. Violence in this game is limited. The bullies are shown shoving people. The monsters are made of paint and ink so they don’t do any real damage. This is a safe game to play with even younger children as long as they aren’t scared by the monsters.

Can you play Concrete Genie on PS5?

Yes. You can play Concrete Genie on the PS5 via the backward compatibility feature on the console. There are some limitations with the backward compatibility that you can find on the PlayStation Website.


While the simplistic gameplay holds it back a bit, there is no denying the sheer amount of heart that went into crafting this game. It is truly beautiful, and at an affordable price no less! 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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By: James Pisano

So it finally happened.  Microsoft announced their next console during the Xbox E3 2019 Media Briefing.  For now, however, we only know it as Project Scarlett.  Phil Spencer did let us know what we can expect from the upcoming Xbox hardware on a technical level though.

Under the Hood

It’ll have an AMD chipset, with their new Navi graphics architecture and a Zen 2 CPU.  They promised to reduce or eliminate(?) load times, and it will contain a new generation of solid state hard drive, also acting as virtual ram, so this actually is possible.  Microsoft says will lead to a 40x improvement in load times over previous consoles, but that remains to be seen.

Overall, they said Project Scarlett would perform 4x faster than their most powerful current console, the Xbox One X.  They said we would see resolutions and framerates we have never seen before on consoles.

8k resolution, 120 frames per second were quoted, and those are certainly the best we’ve seen in the console market to date.  And we got a quick mention that it will be backwards compatibile across all current xbox consoles.

What Does it Mean Though?

It’s a lot of tech speak, and enough to make most parents’ heads spin. That’s why we’re here to explain what this all means to you. (We also have a list of tech definitions here.)

With a more powerful graphics chip and processor will allow the console to display the beautiful visuals that were promised.  That said, most of our current televisions will look beautiful. But, it sounds like this new console will be and to display resolutions up to 8k. That would be stunning… but impossible on our current televisions. As of the time of this writing, the cheapest 8k television is approximately $4,000. That price will almost certainly come way down by the time the console releases however.  

The solid state hard drive is going to be used to facilitate shorter load times which more engagement, and happier players.

They also shared that Project Scarlett would have total backwards compatability. That means that all the Xbox games you’ve bought so far will not be obsolete as they will play on the new console.

We’re excited for Project Scarlett, and we think you should be too.

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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By: Jeremy Davis

[amazon_link asins=’B07DDG73GD’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’engafamigami-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’52aa2083-e6ff-11e8-b9e1-9b1ab8f96258′]

Let’s just be up front.  Mega Man 11 is one of the most anticipated platforming games of this decade.  While the blue bomber has certainly fallen from the spotlight he held in the 90s his fan base has never stopped their cry for a revival of the franchise. They have been miserable since the untimely cancellation of Mega Man Universe and Mega Man Legends 3 back in 2011.  There have of course been a plethora of fan-made games to fill the void, Mega Man x Street Fighter (2012) and Mega Man Unlimited (2013) being personal favorites. But, the last official, Capcom-made, game in the franchise was Mega Man 10 in 2010.  

It’s been a long wait. So the question is, is does Mega Man 11 live up to its legacy? This hardcore Mega Man fan might be horribly biased, but for me, the answer is a resounding YES!

I know some of you are embittered fans still riding the disappointment of Mighty No 9. Let me assure them that I have played that too, and Mega Man 11 rights all of that game’s wrongs. True to form; Mega Man 11 is not a thinking man’s video game. Some people are disappointed by the lack of a deep and meaningful story, but I appreciate that Capcom kept it simple and stuck with the established formula. One of Mighty Number 9’s biggest downfalls was its overly self-important plotline.  Mega Man 11 gets you straight into the action with a plot line depth akin to Mega Man 7. Meaning that it is there, but only enough to keep the game moving forward. The game puts all its energy into what made Mega Man famous to begin with, tight controls, clever platforming, and of course the “run, jump, shoot” trifecta.

So with an established return to its classic form, what actually makes Mega Man 11 special? Let’s break it down into a couple questions:

Is Mega Man 11 challenging?  

Absolutely!  Not even taking Superhero mode account, Normal mode, is just great.  By no means is it a cake walk, and those who have played Mega Man 1, 2, and 3 or 9 and 10, “the traditionally hard games”,  will find that the challenges offered here are a new kind of gauntlet. Each level offers new gimmicks never seen before ranging from water that turns into acid baths. to flaming walls of fire that chase you through complex platforming sections. Each level has at least one sub-boss, sometimes several, and 11 has some of the longest levels seen in the classic Mega Man franchise.

If Mega Man 11 is so challenging is it accessible to newcomers and kids? 

It sure is!  For the first time ever Mega Man has a special newcomer mode, let’s call it easy mode. It takes the things that new gamers frequently struggle within Mega Man and puts a twist on them that not only alleviates the pain point but also balances it in a way that doesn’t feel awkward.  Most importantly spikes and pits are no longer instant kills. Spikes just deliver damage and falling in pits summons Beat, the robotic bird, to pick you up and save you. Even as a legacy hardcore gamer, I’ve found it to be kind of fun to play on newcomer mode just to speed run and see how fast I go.

Does Mega Man 11’s new look and feel fit?  

I struggled with this when the game was first announced and we saw the first screenshots.  However, after playing just a few minutes of even the demo I can promise that you will feel right at home as a returning player, and old school and new gamers will both be pleased with the beautiful backgrounds and creative, colorful, and clever stage designs.


What’s up with that new Gear System?  

I have mixed feelings here, mostly because I am a bit of a purist.  I have a lot of positive things to say. The ability to slow down what’s going on around you and the ability to crank up your power is a pretty sweet power.  I also appreciate that I almost never felt forced to use the abilities, and I even considered unmapping the buttons that trigger the abilities so I could repurpose them for one button sliding and weapon cycling.  My only real criticism is there are one or two places where you all but must use speed gear. For players who want to try and get through the game without it this its a little bit of a downer. Additionally, I don’t really see how the mechanics will fit in going forward. I hope if/when a Mega Man 12 comes to fruition it doesn’t get shoehorned in just to include it.

Mega Man 11 is just what we needed to reinvigorate the franchise.  It has a slew of alternative play modes, and achievements to unlock. There is plenty of replay value for those who enjoy being in the 100% club.  The robot masters are clever and unlike the disaster that was Mega Man 8’s voice acting, the acting here feels on point, without being over the top or falling short or too campy.

All that said, I wouldn’t be being 100% honest without mentioning a few qualms, but I’ll be first to say some of these might be just me, and I don’t think the average player is going to care.


  • One issue with Mega Man games is a lack of female representation.  In the whole history of the classic series, the number of female characters has been limited to just a handful.  Mega Man 9 was “generous” by giving us just one: Splash Woman. I had really hoped this time around it would have had a better split, dare I even dream of an even split.  I personally feel that Tundra Man and Bounce Man especially would have been great opportunities to have had female designs, though honestly there is no reason why any or all of them couldn’t be gender-swapped.  A really inspiring option would have been to go the route Shovel Knight took and just let you pick for each character, but alas not this go round.
  • Music for Mega Man games is usually a bright and shining example of some of the best music in gaming, but this time around it falls a little flat.  It’s not that its in anyway bad, but nothing about the soundtrack really sticks out. If you are able to get ahold of the download code for the instrumental soundtrack variants, I would encourage it, as they are better, but not enough to write home about.
  • They did change the door transitions.  If you are a newcomer to the series you won’t even notice this. But, It was something I had really hoped that they changed back after I played the demo.  Many of you won’t know what that means, which is all the better. It means this complaint doesn’t really mean anything to you. 
  • While Rush Coil and Rush Jet make a return in this game, they really don’t serve much purpose.  This felt odd considering they gave Rush’s abilities their own button.  I would have liked there to be more applications for the classic tools.
  • Finally my most petty complaint…  Tundra Man is awesome, but why did they name him Tundra Man???  Sure his level is an icy landscape, but he is a figure skater. There is nothing about him related to “tundra” outside being ice-themed.   My head-canon is that his name is Axel Man, but I suppose it doesn’t have the same ring to it. I have similar feelings about Torch Man, but they are not as hyperbolic…

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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We’re sharing tips for saving money as a gaming family in our newest guide! We will help you choose a gaming console, where and how to buy games, and we’ll even talk about accessories.

First, we talked about games and how to save money buying them. Then, in part two, we talked about consoles. 

This time we talk about some of the specific hardware options you have.


Table space is an issue when setting up multiple systems at home. Fortunately modern consoles and computers will work with any display with an HDMI port. In space constrained situations a monitor is a great alternative to a television. A small projector and blank wall also works for dark rooms.


Listening to someone playing games can be distracting. With several people in the same space noise quickly becomes an issue. During gaming sessions this means speakers get turned up and people talk louder. Fortunately, using headphones means speakers are unnecessary.

Windows PCs have separate headphone and microphone physical inputs. Some games have voice chat built-in or Steam has voice chat capabilities. Typically PC games default to “push to talk” mode, where a keyboard key must be held while talking.

Microsoft and PlayStation consoles both use headsets plugged into the controller. When connected the headphones can play game sounds and voice chat. A mix between game and voice is available in the console menus. With everyone wired for sound you are ready for “party chat”. Both the PlayStation and Xbox consoles offer group voice chat which works across games.

The Switch has a headphone jack on the console. Any headphones will work – no microphone required. Nintendo does not offer a system-wide voice chat service on the Switch. A smartphone app is required instead. You may want headphones with a mic however, as individual game developers can add voice chat to their games. Fortnite is one example of this.

Adding an inexpensive gaming headset to any device will cut down on noise. Even if the family isn’t playing the same game everyone can join party chat. It is rewarding to share in the moments of triumph or defeat as a group! And mobile phone headsets work with consoles if you aren’t ready for a dedicated gaming headset.

Bonus Xbox engaged family tip: With the free Xbox smartphone app you can join parties from your phone. No console required! A great way to keep an ear on your kids’ social gaming.

Controllers and Power

PC games will often support Xbox 360, Xbox One, and/or PlayStation 4 controllers. Games even show correct button prompts in game. Steam sells their own controller, which supports advanced customization. This makes it difficult to use for most people though..

PlayStation 4 controllers integrate a rechargeable battery. Controllers use a micro USB cable. The micro USB end can break off if handled roughly. Controllers also include a charging port on the bottom. Look for controller charging stands which use this bottom port.

Xbox One controllers use AA batteries or custom rechargeable battery packs. Using a micro USB cable the controller can charge some battery packs. These cables can break off if not handled with care. Externally charged AA batteries or battery packs are also available.

Switch Joy-Con controllers charge while attached to the Switch itself. Other charging stands are also available. The Switch itself and Switch Pro controller have integrated batteries. They both use the newer USB C standard to charge. Third party chargers have damaged Switch consoles and Nintendo does not cover this under warranty.


Best Console for the Family to Share

If you only buy one video game console for your family consider the Switch. The ability to play multiplayer games with the Joy-Con controllers saves money on accessories. There are many games available for Switch and the library is growing quickly. There are many titles with couch co-op support and innovative experiences such as the cardboard building Labo. Nintendo is also produces excellent family-friendly games exclusive to the Switch. Being able to take the system on the go means family trips can be a little easier too.

Example couch multiplayer family games exclusive to Switch consoles:

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe


Best Console for Multiple Gamer Families

The Xbox One is the best console for most families. Xbox Game Pass provides a decent library of titles both new and old. Backward Compatibility plays inexpensive original Xbox and Xbox 360 game discs. The Xbox Store gifting feature makes it easy to manage multiple accounts. Xbox One supports multiple external hard drives. Players can play on any console without worrying about saved game management. Some games even work on both Xbox and Windows 10. The downside of Xbox is the smaller pool of multiplayer opponents. For most families this is unlikely to be an issue.

Example multiplayer family games exclusive to Xbox One consoles:

Sea of Thieves


Forza Horizons 3: Hot Wheels Expansion

Best Console for Multiplayer Outside the Family

PlayStation 4 is the best choice for a console for those who want to play primarily multiplayer games with people outside the family. The larger player base of PlayStation means more people to play with. And PlayStation Now is moving to compete with Xbox  Game Pass. You must do more work to manage game purchases across multiple accounts however. Commit to each member of the family using a specific console however. Switching between consoles is a frustrating experience.

Example multiplayer family games exclusive to PlayStation 4 consoles:

LittleBigPlanet 3

100ft Robot Golf

MLB The Show 18

Wrap Up

Thanks for reading! Please share this article with anyone who needs help saving money on video games. We’re always happy to hear your feedback..

The video game marketplace is constantly changing. Check back for future updates to this guide.

Stay engaged and happy family gaming!

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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