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T for Teen

Publisher: 2K Games

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Reviewed for Xbox One also available for PS4


Most of the sports titles on the market today stand alone without any competition. The result if osten a stale environment with games making very small iterative changes with each passing year. NBA basketball is blessed to have two franchises  that are forced to push each other each year in order to innovate. The truth of the matter, though, is that EA Sports’ NBA Live series has not done well in previous years to compete with the 2K sports version and this year doesn’t look much better. The 2K basketball series has traditionally looked better, but this year it feels like comparing Lebron James to the starting point guard for a small high school. We can tell that the fundamentals are are all the same, but one executes on such a level that it doesn’t FEEL like the same sport.

In short? NBA2K16 is a masterclass in sports simulation and is a title I feel comfortable recommending to every NBA fan and even to people who are only casually interested in the NBA itself. It is, without question, the definitive NBA experience this year. It is feature rich, gorgeous, and is meticulous in its exploration of the NBA lifestyle.

The typical game modes are all here and are all excellent. You can play a quick game, you can be the GM for your favorite tea,. and you can obviously play online. But, the game mode that NBA2K16 will be remembered for is going to be the myCareer mode. Why? Because that is the game mode that turned a good basketball game into a “Spike Lee Joint.”

The myCareer mode does this by letting the player take on the role of a high school basketball phenom nicknamed Frequency Vibrations, Freq for short. You take the driver’s seat as he completes his high school career, is recruited to numerous top colleges, is drafted into the NBA and hopefully, ascends to greatness.

A tale of friendship, family, conflicted priorities is woven in between games using motion capture acting that was surprisingly good. The games are played at different levels with varied aesthetic styles. For example, the on screen scoreboard will look just like a standard high school scoreboard during your high school games.

I heaped all of this praise on the game and I haven’t even gotten to the on-the-court action. I’ll save some screen real estate here and just declare that it was sublime. I never really felt like there was much standing between me and making my player do what I wanted.

Family Gaming Assessment

Let’s start with the standard sports simulation disclosure. NBA 2k16 is designed to emulate the television experience so if you are ok with your child watching an NBA game on TV then this should be ok as well.

The myCareer mode does present some off the court material for consumption, but there is nothing to be concerned with here regarding language or violence.

Online play carries the same warnings as usual. The people who play online games are “awful” so make sure you take care to AT LEAST turn off the voice chat while they play.

Playability Assessment

NBA2K16 is not a simple game, but it isn’t insurmountable. A little bit of practice should give anyone familiar with the game of basketball a chance to get a handle on the controls. At the lower difficulties players should be able to compete with the AI teams without a lot of difficulty.


This is going to go down as a classic sports game so I would recommend this game to anyone with even a passing interest in the NBA.

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Developer: Harmonix

ESRB Rating: T

Reviewed for Xbox One, also available on PS4

Full disclosure: The reviewer is a member of the #rockbandroadcrew, and received the Band in a Box from Harmonix. The review is an opinion from the reviewer and may not be a shared opinion of the staff at EFG. Now that we got that out of the way, here we go.

Music games went away and it was the annualization of that genre that killed the excitement around it. This year, two very different companies return to the stake their claim on the genre this year: Harmonix and Activision. I have had the opportunity to play Harmonix’s Rock Band 4, which I am happy to announce, is a fresh, fun and welcome return to form for the franchise.

Your Band

Whether you are planning to flex your pipes, play the plastic guitar, or bang on the drums all day, each experience felt both intuitive and innovative. Guitarists will have the opportunity to play freestyle solos, that give them the opportunity to be creative in those moments, without the need to recreate the song’s actual solo. It should be mentioned that when freestyle solo is activated, you will not hear the original solo, so the song can sound different. This might upset diehard fans of that particular song, but like nearly every other feature in RB4, freestyle solo mode can be activated and deactivated in the in-song menu at any time.

Drummers will find fills to be a little more leading, which helps better keep with the song’s original sound.

And vocalists aren’t left out. A freestyle has also been added to High and Expert difficulties, so if singers want to improvise a bit (as long as it is on key), they are not going to lose points for doing so.

But is it what you want?

So, there is a lot of different ways a player can come to Rock Band 4. You may be like me, and have played every major Rock Band release, purchased a ton of songs, and still have your plastic axe the thrash on.

You may be new to the music game genre and have never played a game like this before. The most important thing to remember is that your experience will likely be colored by your interest in playing through the songs you have access to. For me, that was over 250 songs if you include all the new songs that are on the disc. If you are new to the game, you may only have 60 or so songs to play.

The Modes

The Band Tour mode is back with a few twists, offering some minor decisions that will decide what your experience with the mode is. You will come to a crossroads in the mode where one choice may lead to new, free gear, but less fans and the other option might give you more fans, but will lock you in to pre-determined setlists.

The flexibility of the mode allows for some replayability should you like to see what the experience is like if you should make a different choice, but the tour mode was, for me, an excuse to play a bunch of songs per venue to unlock new gear.

Also, there is Quickplay a “Play a Show” modes that allow for easy drop-in/drop out, song selection, and voting and, of course, high score leaderboards.

And voting is such a welcome new feature. The band member can choose the song they would like to play the most from five options and the game will randomly select one for the band. This fixes the fight over what to play next, and give everyone a chance at “their” song. If you don’t like what is listed, the fifth option is always See More, so you are not stuck.

Voting became a sort of fun mini-game while I played. My friends worked to choose any song that was sung by a female lead singer just to make me sing it.

(A short, stocky balding man singing Ironic by Alanis Morissette is really a thing to see.)

The DLC Scavenger Hunt

There is something I i don’t think anyone will find fun, and that is the slog to find all the DLC songs you own. You will have to systematically run through the alphabet to find each band, or song name Buy Injectable Steroids to check to see if you own it and if so, it will be listed as “purchased”. But here’s the kicker: some songs that you own will still be listed with a price. You will have to click into that song for the system to recognize that you own it, and then be prompted to download it. This process took the better part of two hours for me. In the end, it was a bit more frustrating than I think anyone should expect in 2015. That being said, I am certainly happy that Harmonix supported all of those old songs for this game.

The Verdict

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Rock Band 4 is not a great stand alone game if you look at it as just the songs on the discs and the price of entry. What the game is missing out of the box, it makes up for in support, whether for the old instruments you have in your basement, or the hundreds of DLC songs that have been available for various releases in the franchise. Rock Band 4 is a music platform, and to me, it is my favorite way to experience music. Alone, or with friends, Harmonix has made a stellar music game that music fans will be playing for years.

Stephen Haberman

@TheGeekyHusband on Twitter

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Publisher: Activision

Developer: Platinum Games

ESRB Rating: T for teen

Reviewed on Xbox One, also available for Xbox 360, PS4, and PS3

A review copy of the game was provided gratis by Activision to facilitate this review.


Transformers: Devastation is simultaneously the best and worst game I have played in a very long time. This might sound like I am conflicted, but I’m really not. These aren’t two forces pulling in separate directions and threatening to tear my enjoyment apart like an old axle. No. Instead these are two opposite forces that held me suspended in a warm pool of 80s nostalgia for every minute that I played this game. It was glorious and heart wrenchingly bad in equal parts; a perfect expression of the 80s.

Let me make one, rather large, disclosure before I get going on this review. I am one of the bigger Transformers fans on Earth. In fact, my love of Transformers has influenced my love of all things mecha. If it is a giant robot, then you can bet that I will love it. Some people might read that and question if I am the right man for the job. How could my Transformers bias not get in the way of a fair review?

That’s a good question, and this is the best answer I can give you: Transformers: Devastation was made for superfans. Every decision that Platinum Games made was laser focused on exciting people like me and making us buy this game and play it. The “average consumer” might not necessarily be drawn to this game in the same way. This makes me the perfect reviewer because, to be frank, I don’t know to many other people who would find value in this game other than the super fans.

At its core, Transformers: Devastation is a stylish action game in the vein of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. The difference here is that instead of over the top gore and violence Transformers expresses that action using cartoon robots battling each other in melee combat. There are guns involved, but they are largely an afterthought. Instead, we spend our time fighting using swords, axes, hammers and fists and forming interesting combos that can be extended by using a simple button press to transform into vehicle mode and crash into the enemy.

The game is, basically, an episode of the 80’s cartoon show extended and put into video game form. This includes things like several of the original voice actors, the original animation style, and even sound track beats that were reminiscent of the series. Saying that something is a “love letter” to fans is a rotten cliche but it works here. Playing this game turned me from a man in my mid thirties to an 8 year old in my pajamas watching Saturday morning cartoons.

This has all been glowing right? Where are the bad parts? What made it the worst game I had played in a while? Well, here they are. I am going to be short and to the point about them because if you are a superfan (like me) then they probably won’t matter).


  1. Difficulty – Some of the boss fights are mind numbingly difficult. This can be overcome by setting the difficulty lower, but when your third boss is Devastator you don’t really have much to do other than make it hard.
  2. Inventory Management? – The fact that the game has an inventory management system at all is a mystery, but it is very arcane. You get used to it after a while, but I can’t help but wish they left it out
  3. Repetition – Some of the environments are reused ad nauseum. Granted, I didn’t notice much because I was too busy enjoying punching robots.
  4. Short story – I am not criticizing the quality of the narrative. Its an episode of Transformers so I don’t expect much. With that said, I DO have something to say about the length of the game. I finished the story in about 7 hours or so. If you are someone that wants to replay sections to get higher scores, then it would extend the game. But, there just wasn’t enough time spent punching robots.


Family Gaming Assessment

This is an action game that involved melee combat and guns. With that said, the combat is 100% robot on robot. The city that the games takes place in has been “evacuated” so there aren’t any people at all.

If you would let your kids watch an episode of Transformers on TV then this will be more than fine.

Playability Assessment

The action in Transformers: Devastation is all based on time button presses being used to form combos. This rewards skilled players who can have command over the different buttons on the controller. You can just press one or two buttons though so “button mashing” on lower difficulty levels will work.

Some of the bosses are very difficult, but the checkpoint system is generous. If you or your child are easily frustrated though, then this is something to pay attention to.


If you are a Superfan then this is a must buy. Stop whatever you are doing and go buy the game right now.

If you are not? Then this is a game to look forward to if you really enjoy stylish action games like Bayonetta. Otherwise you can skip it without really missing anything. 


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Destiny, the newest title from Bungie, has been in the wild for a month now. Activision has announced that it was the best selling new game franchise in video game history. By all accounts it is a good game with even greater potential. Many of my regular readers will remember that I was pretty much all in on the game after I played the beta a few months ago.

But, in the intervening months something changed. I decided not to do it. I decided to opt out of Destiny for now in favor of waiting a year. I know. I know. It was a shock to me too at first. But, I am more than at peace with my decision.

I brought this up to a fan of the game the other day and they couldn’t wrap their mind around how I could change mine so swiftly. I was a little stunned too, but after some consideration I have two real reasons.

First, Activision and Bungie announced Destiny to be a franchise built from the ground up to be a “game-changer” over the next decade. In short, they are playing the long game with Destiny so I don’t feel like I need to do anything different. I am approaching this like I approach iPhones; jumping in right away isn’t always the best experience. I don’t see waiting a year for some content patches and game updates or even waiting a few years to jump on board for the (inevitable) Destiny 2 as a bad thing right now.

Second, this might just be my own stubbornness speaking, but Activision announced that the first expansion to the game would be released in December 2014 before the game was even released. For those of you playing at home that means the first expansion was planned for release a mere three months after the game was launched. We don’t know details regarding pricing yet, but being asked to buy an expansion every three months may as well be a subscription model. I’m just not sure that I am ready for that yet.

I won’t lie to you though. I had some “waiter’s remorse” when Twitter exploded with people playing the game. But, then I read some reviews on sites like Polygon and Game Informer and I felt that my decision to wait and see was justified.

What do you think? Did you jump in or did you decide to wait? Sound off in the comments.

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This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org. They are a site with similar goals to our own, but with a specific focus on teenagers  and the challenges involved in being a part of their gaming lives.


By: Courtney Holmes

Hyrule Warriors, Nintendo’s new game that marries The Legend of Zelda series with Dynasty Warriors, pits the player against massive hoards of enemies in a frantic fight to reclaim territory. When I say massive, I mean massive. It takes only a few minutes to defeat upwards of 500 baddies by yourself. This is a game that is more about brute force than clever puzzles, so if you are expecting another regular installment in the Zelda series, think again. The story may star Zelda cast members, but the gameplay is all Dynasty Warriors.

Some things worked for me, and other things didn’t. Teens who enjoy anime and mashing buttons might have fun with this game.

Hyrule Warriors is rated T for Teen for fantasy violence and suggestive themes. There is an enormous amount of fighting in this game, but there is no blood or gore. Instead of deaths, the game counts “KOs” (knock outs). When enemies are knocked out, they vanish in a puff of smoke, sometimes replaced by piles of money or other goods. When an ally is defeated, they are described as “fleeing” the battlefield. As for suggestive themes, some of the costumes are very revealing (see below).



When Hyrule Castle comes under attack from dark forces, Princess Zelda, Link, and Impa team up to reclaim their homeland. This involves the team traveling across Hyrule and picking up allies as they go, in an attempt to defeat the evil sorceress Cia and her manipulator, the Demon King Ganondorf. The two are attempting to take over the world by stealing the all-powerful Triforce, a magical MacGuffin of power, wisdom, and courage that plays a leading role in every Zelda game.

It’s a fairly straightforward plot (good vs. evil) with a little bit of time travel thrown in partway through. However, the story still manages to feel complex and bogged down with heavy-handed details. This isn’t helped by the fact that most of the story is unfolded in voice-over exposition, which is extremely dull.

Hyrule Warriors

That said, some good things come out of this game. For one, there are lots of playable female characters. Zelda, Impa, Lana, Agitha, Fi, and Midna are all able to lead military campaigns without ever having their strength or ability come into question.

More than anything else, Hyrule Warriors feels like a heartfelt, if bizarre, love letter to the original Zelda series. It takes the player on a lot of walks down memory lane, which were fun for me because I really like The Legend of Zelda. If I were not a huge Zelda fan, though, these details would have made the story incredibly inaccessible.

Hyrule Warriors makes constant references to situations and events from past games without stopping to explain what is going on. So, people who don’t know that The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has a giant moon falling out of the sky, or thatMidna is the former queen of the Twilight Realm who was usurped by the evil Zant will probably spend the entire game playing catch-up.

The part of the story that bothered me the most, however, was the sorceress Cia (a new character created just for this game). Although Cia was once good, she became evil after falling in love with Link and becoming insanely jealous. This allowed Ganondorf to manipulate her to his own ends.

No matter how you cut it, her role in the game is entirely dependent on men, and it’s really disappointing. Considering the huge number of playable female characters, I am frustrated that this central plot point is so lacking in meaningful female agency.

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Hyrule Warriors has lots of different ways to play, which is pretty awesome. The player can follow the main story with Legend Mode, or try to accomplish smaller goals in Challenge Mode and Adventure Mode. Every mode can be played co-op (max two players), which I loved. Co-op never felt like a competition, but rather an exercise in teamwork. My friend and I gave each other advice and hints and regularly came to one another’s rescue for the good of the mission. I also really liked how the game doesn’t use split-screen. Instead, player one uses the Wii U’s gamepad as his or her sole screen. It’s nice to see the gamepad getting some use, since it’s such a big feature of the Wii U.

The biggest thing missing, easily, was a tutorial mode. If players want to learn what button does what, they have to read a series of written instructions. I would havemuch preferred if the game had included a level or two to ease me into the fighting style. Even an optional tutorial would have been welcome. Players can expect to flounder around for a while before they get the hang of things.

Once I figured out what I was doing, the fighting itself was okay, but not particularly addicting or satisfying. This game is definitely a button-masher. While there are special combo moves for each character, I usually found myself using them because I was bored with hitting B rather than because it was necessary. That said, the graphics were great, and every time I found a new combo move, I did get a little excited to watch it unfold on the screen.

Lana fighting

Players can do a lot to customize their characters, which is nice motivation to collect stuff on the battlefield. Materials they pick up can be sold at the Bazaar in exchange for upgraded attacks, defenses, or assists. Plus, they can customize their weapons and buy experience points to upgrade their characters. Spending time in Adventure Mode is a good way to get upgrades they can use later in Legend Mode.

So, for the thorough gamer, there is certainly a lot of content in this game. Each level will take players between half an hour and an hour to complete, possibly longer if they repeatedly face defeat and have to start over from the last checkpoint. For teens having trouble tearing themselves away, you could try restricting them to one or two levels. These break up the plot nicely, like chapters in a book. And with a game this action-intense, it’s important to take breaks.

Lastly, several levels force the player to fight as Ganondorf, battling against the side of good. Playing as the bad guy is not unusual for Dynasty Warriors games, but it made me feel really uncomfortable to have to strike down armies of Gorons, who are really friendly and love to dance. Ganondorf was a fun avatar, but I would have much preferred playing with him in other play modes, attempting random challenges rather than fighting through the main story.



Hyrule Warriors is far from perfect. It takes the parts of Zelda that I like the least and leaves behind the parts I love the most. But it takes the Zelda franchise and attempts something new, which is certainly a welcome change. Players who have never played a Legend of Zelda game will probably have trouble understanding what’s going on. But if they love frantic battle sequences and mashing buttons on their controller, they probably won’t care anyway. If your kids do play this game, be sure to ask them what they think about the female playable characters and how they feel when they play as the antagonist. And if you’re not too scared, try picking up the Wii remote and playing with them. You’ll probably only really need one button anyway.

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Destiny, a multiplayer online first person shooter that will release later this year, held its open beta this past weekend. People came. They shot guns. They battles aliens and robots. They explored. They even did the Harlem Shake. So many people played that Activision is reporting that it was the largest beta of this console generation (over 4.6 million players took part in it)! We learned a LOT about Destiny and how it will play. I spent a lot of time in the beta. I did everything you could do and I have to say that I came away very impressed with the entire experience. It really feels like Bungie and Activision have something here.



I’m just going to get this out of the way. Destiny was gorgeous. I might have had a slightly different perspective since I was playing the game on the Xbox One, but it impressed me every single time it had the chance to do so. The level of detail Bungie was able to achieve in this post apocalyptic sci-fi world was phenomenal and we were only able to see Earth and the Moon. There are still several planets to visit in the full game and I am sure that Bungie has spared no effort in fully realizing their alien landscapes. If you like games where you can sit back and enjoy the scenery this should be high on your list.


The Family Factor

I won’t go so far as to say that Destiny is “kid friendly.” It has been rated T for Teen by the ESRB, but it earns every bit of that T rating with its intense action. All of the conflict resolution is done through gunplay. Its saving grace comes in the fact that, at least through the content in the beta, all of your enemies are irredeemable, monstrous, evil aliens who attack you on site. There are no moral choices here. You’ve got bad guys to deal with before they deal with you. It also doesn’t hurt that players turn into a glowing blue ball of energy when they die as opposed to falling over and laying their like a corpse.

At its peak the action is a roughly as intense as the final action sequence in The Avengers. Destiny is ever-so-slightly more intense as a result of the first person perspective. In the end, the decision to let your children watch you play is going to be a judgment call, but if you let them watch the Marvel films and other similar action titles, then it really comes down to your opinion on guns.

All content aside, this is a very challenging game. First person shooter games are incredibly difficult for inexperienced players to control. If this is the first time a player has had to use one stick to move and another to aim this will be a VERY difficult game to play. The developer includes some aim assistance to help players, but it isn’t really enough to make the game playable.

The MMO connection

One of my biggest questions going into the beta was about how much MMO was going to bleed into the game. MMO’s spiked in popularity in the last 5-6 years thanks to World of Warcraft and other games like it. But, that style of game is slowly losing its hold on the gaming audience. The long term success of the game hinges on how well they balance their shooter game play with the structure of an MMO. I came away from my experience pleasantly surprised.

Destiny is framed around a single narrative that revolves around a powerful being known as the Traveler. Players take on the role of Guardians who are led on a quest to help defend the Traveler and Earth’s last survivors. Bungie appears to have found a nice balance between pushing the framing narrative forward while still encouraging players to explore the lush worlds at their own pace.

The most interesting thing I discovered was that players can return to previously explored zones and look for glowing green beacons that will provide bite sized adventures for players to complete. As soon as you complete one another will spawn somewhere else on the map. This will continue infinitely and is a great way to relax while enjoying the social aspects of the game without the stress of the more intense strikes.

Playing Well With Others

Many online muliplayer games, like World of Warcraft, encourage players to communicate using chat channels. Players are constantly at risk of being bombarded by inappropriate content through these channels. Destiny safeguards its players by limiting their ability to communicate with anyone who is not on their “Fire Team.” This eliminated the biggest frustration that stems from playing other online shooters: other people. There are even options to mute voice chat entirely.

The best part about all of that is that players who chose not to use voice chat to communicate with others can still play with other people. They might have to get clever with their communication, but they will be able to group up and take on many of the challenges in the game.


I don’t regret my time with Destiny in the least. It was a very complete experience that avoided a lot of the frustrations that are common in other betas. Everything that I saw and did leads me to believe that Destiny will be a major player during this Holiday season and that this success will carry on for a very long time.

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Square Enix

ESRB – T for Teen

Reviewed on 3DS

Overall Review:

Bravely Default is the latest handheld game released by Square Enix and it represents a true return to form. It features turn based combat that left me reminiscing about the days of my youth playing Final Fantasy VI on my SNES. What’s better is that Bravely Default is able to bring back those fond memories through solid turn based combat while still leaving room for innovation and modern sensibilities.

We’re talking about a 3DS game here so you aren’t going to be seeing high end visuals, but I thought that Bravely Default had a beautiful look to it. The character models are adorable and the different cities each look distinct. I never felt like I was trudging through the same place repeatedly as often happens in other role playing games.

The story itself is not an area where the game sets itself apart. Each of the four main characters represents one of the standard role playing game tropes: a young farm boy, an innocent priestess, the traitorous daughter of the enemy general, and an amnesiac. These four are swept into a world hopping quest to awaken four crystals to help save the world against impossible odds. I’ll admit I groaned a bit as I discovered this, but it wasn’t jarring enough to make me put my 3DS down. In fact, I found the strict adherence to the standard RPG formula charming. It was like watching a high school performance of MacBeth. It wasn’t original. It lacked any real depth and true artistic merit. But, it was full of spirit and honesty. How can you complain about that? (Also, the amnesiac is named Ringabel. I found that brilliant enough to wash away all of my problems.)

Bravely Default may falter when it comes to its unoriginal story and characters, but it earns its praise through its innovative combat system. One the surface it appears to be standard turn based combat where characters line up on opposite sides of the screen, step forward, and swing at the air to hit each other. Things are made more interesting when you start to use the ”Brave” and “Default” options during combat. Using Brave mode allows you to borrow turns from the future and use them immediately. The Default option allows you to hold for a turn and store up points to be spent on powerful attacks. These two options have a huge impact on play. There is never a “wasted turn” since you can always simple play in Default to prepare for later. The ability to have your heavy damage characters attack four times in a row is huge since it means you can reach to potentially kill enemies more quickly. The ability to use Brave to easily handle random encounters is a godsend for people looking to build up experience points.

Beyond all that, what I loved the most about Bravely Default was that it respected my time. It gave me the ability to complete quests in small chunks, and gave me the ability to TURN OFF random encounters through a menu screen if all I wanted to do was travel somewhere. I used that option constantly throughout my playthrough.

The short answer: I am not sure I will play a better RPG this year.

Family Gaming Assessment:

There are three potential areas for concern regarding content here.

First, the violence is mild. This is a turn based role playing game where both hero and monster line up on opposite sides of the screen and take turns stepping forward to swing at each other. The damage dealt is represented by flashes of light and bouncing numbers. There are some story sequences where small amount of blood can be seen on weapons or staining someone’s shirt, but these are rare.

Second, the story takes place in a fantasy world where each town has a tavern or an inn. One can safely assume that any self respecting town in a fantasy story will have more than apple juice on the menu. As a result, there are some references to alcohol and drunkenness.

Third, the ESRB tells us that this game contains “Mild Suggestive Themes.” What they mean here is that several of the characters throughout the game make advances of a sexual nature towards other characters. None of this dialogue is vulgar. They do not talk about sex directly, but the idea of bringing someone into a bed, spending time in a bed, or other such comments is common. I am a grown man in my 30s and even I was left blushing at a few points. The language in some scenes borders on lecherous and it betrays the adorable aesthetic. Keep that in mind when deciding if the game is right for your child.

Playability Assessment:

Younger players who are not skilled readers will have a lot of difficulty. Most of the story sequences contain voiceovers, but the rest of the game is stuffed with text based menus. Players can, generally, take their time when making decisions so they don’t necessarily need to be fast, but they will need to be experienced readers.

Bravely Default is a very complex game. There are a number of systems and mechanics that players have to work with throughout the game to overcome challenges. The biggest, and arguably most complex, among these systems are the games “Jobs.” Each of the four main characters can change their job at any time and give themselves access to a different suite of powers. This provides a lot of options and versatility, but it takes a great deal of thought to balance development correctly. (Pro-tip: Make sure you have a White Mage to help with healing. I know that would probably go without saying, but my son tried to go without one and it wasn’t pretty.)


Bravely Default is the Final Fantasy game that we have been waiting YEARS for. If you are a fan of old school SNES RPGs, but are looking for something with a more modern look, then this is a must buy. 


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By: Lara Murray, staff writer

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB Rating: T (for Teens)

Available on the Wii U

Overall Review:

The Wonderful 101 is a colorful, action-packed romp that puts the player in control of a team of superheroes working together to fight against an invading swarm of aliens bent on taking over Earth. It’s a typical story with inspiration heavily derived from Japanese super sentai shows, but most families in the US will liken the game to the localized Power Ranger series, or the Pixar movie The Incredibles.  

Family Assessment:

If children already watch action shows where combative violence is prevalent, The Wonderful 101 shouldn’t be an issue. Most of the content is suitable for children to watch, with fully voiced characters that makes the game feel more like an after school cartoon.

The T rating for the game is due to a few mature instances, such as to alcohol by way of a hero called Wonder-Beer. Very mild nudity (comparable to a nude Barbie doll) is displayed during a few transformation sequences, as well as when a player loses—their character is defamed of their costume and cast out into a spotlight in their underwear on the Game Over screen. 

Playability Assessment:

There are three setting in single-player mode–Very Easy ,Easy, and Normal–that players can select from before each mission that affects how easy enemies are to defeat. Regardless of setting, the controls are the same: players use the touch screen on the game pad, or the analog stick on a controller or gamepad, to draw shapes that turn into attacks, such as a circle for a fist or a line for a sword.

The game can be unforgiving when moves aren’t input correctly by not executing the move, which halts progression with the missions that require proper execution of a move to continue. Young children with little to no basic grasp of shapes may not share the intended fun as compared to a child that possesses these cognitive skills, but may still find enjoyment watching the action unfold on the screen.

In multiplayer, a competitive co-operative mode, up to five players can play using one Game Pad and four Wii Remotes. Controls are the same as they are in single player mode, but it’s more difficult to draw commands with the Wii Remotes than it is to use the Game Pad’s touch screen. It’s also very difficult to follow what happens on the screen, as there is too much action happening at once to successfully keep track of your avatar.


As long as the reasons responsible for the game’s T rating are approved in your home, the Wonderful 101 is a great addition for a family that owns the Wii U. It’s a fun romp that children and teens can enjoy, whether they’re playing the game or watching someone play through the story. 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-In-Chief


ESRB Rating – T for Teen

June 25, 2013

Available on Nintendo 3DS

Overall Review:

Project X-Zone is quite possibly one of the most absurd games I have ever played. The game is, on the surface, a solid turn-based role-playing game. At its core is a dense ball of concentrated fan service the likes of which we have never seen. The game features characters from Capcom, Namco-Bandai, and Sega franchises and throws them into whirlwind plot that puts the entire universe at risk for reasons I still don’t understand.

Did I mention that it was also a lot of fun?

I struggled initially with how to put the exhilaration I felt while playing this game into words. At one point my army consisted of: Chun Li, Morrigan Le Fay, Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Ryu, Ken Masters, Frank West, and Hsien-Ko. (For those of you who don’t play games a lot: This is the video game equivalent of an episode of Game of Thrones featuring House, Ted Mosby, Sheldon, Walker Texas Ranger, Tommy the Green Ranger, and ALF.) Seeing some of my favorite characters in such a bizarre mash-up made me laugh openly as many of the characters were introduced.

I have always been a fan of turn-based strategy games. I don’t have the best reaction time so shooters and fighting games, while fun, are very hard. Turn-based games give me as long as I need to take to think out my next move. Project X Zone performs well enough here. The environments are interesting, and the ability to destroy objects adds an interesting level of exploration to the game play. I did have some issues with some of the more grueling fights. As the game went on some of the fights were so long that I would have to stop midway to take a break. This game is definitely NOT intended for people with short attention spans.

It was not without its weaknesses, but the crazy character lineup and cartoonish action do a good enough job making up for them.

Family Gaming Assessment:

The animation in this game is where it earns its T for Teen rating. The character models for the women are all HIGHLY sexualized. Many of them have cleavage spilling out all over the place. I’m a grown man and some of the character models made me feel a little uncomfortable especially since one of the main protagonists is a teenager. Morrigan also makes more than a few implied sexual comments. She never comes out says what she is implying, so it should go over the heads of littler kids, but the potential for understanding is always there. With all that said, younger kids wouldn’t be as impacted by this. Morrigan’s comments would probably go right over their heads, and the provocative clothes wouldn’t mean anything.

The violence is there, but it is nothing more intense than some Saturday morning cartoons. The only exceptions are that several of the characters use guns. If you are uncomfortable with your kids using guns in their games, then that is something to keep in mind here.

This game is the epitome of a T for Teen rated game. There is no one facet of the game that crosses the line into being completely inappropriate for younger kids, but it dances near the line long enough to make it questionable.

Playability Assessment:

This is a strategy game, so some of the game play will be too challenging for younger or more inexperienced players. The game plays out on a grid so I suppose a good analog would be a game like chess. If they hand handle the basic concepts there then the game should playable.

Once the different units engage, the action is resolved with simple two button combos: a direction on the circle pad and one of the face buttons. This is easy enough and the results are easy to see. Experimentation will net some interesting results.

There is voice acting, but the tracks are entirely in Japanese. Those of us who are native English speakers will have to rely on reading to understand what characters are saying and to navigate the menus. Early readers will probably struggle with this game.


I had a lot of fun while I was playing Project X Zone, but most of my appreciation was derived as a result of the characters themselves. I don’t know that people who aren’t fans of the characters to begin with would find it nearly as entertaining. As a result, I can’t really recommend this game for general audiences.  

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By: Charles Warden

Publisher: Gameloft

Rating: Teen

Release Date: December 2012

Reviewed for Android

Overall Review:

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

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

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

Family Gaming Assessment:

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

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

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

Playability Assessment:

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

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

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


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

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

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