Holiday Gift Guide: Top Kids Games

19 November, 2012 Play No comments
Holiday Gift Guide: Top Kids Games

Kids to together like ice cream and nuts, like peanut butter and jelly, like—well, you get the idea. Even though video games have reached far beyond the youth market, young people are far and away the most enthusiastic patrons of the pastime and there are still plenty of safe, fun games for them to enjoy. 

In fact, this list of 2012’s best games for kids shouldn’t exclusively be viewed as a collection of games that are for children; every game named is capable of ensnaring any player of any gender or age. The important thing is that they’re thematically safe and easy to learn. 

Epic Mickey 2: Power of Two (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Windows, Mac) – This sequel to 2012’s Epic Mickey for the Wii lets to players adventure side-by-side as Mickey Mouse and his compatriot, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. The duo team up to save the Cartoon Wasteland once more, and much like the first game, splashing paint or thinner on the scenery plays a big part in getting things done. 

Skylanders: Giants (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS) – It’s no surprise that 2011’s monster hit Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure received a sequel. As was the case in the first game, this action/adventure experience pairs up a digital experience with collectable plastic toys that become “real” in the game world. The merger is sure to continue to be a hit with kids. 

Super Mario Wii U (Wii U) – Kids love Mario games, and for good reason. Nintendo is launching the Wii U alongside its latest side-scrolling Mario platformer, and both look great. Four players can work through the game simultaneously, which should put an end to “I’M NEXT!” battles. 

Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita) – The Lego property and comic book heroes tend to fit together like, uh, Lego bricks. This open-world action/adventure game starting Batman and his pals (and enemies) is colorful, fun, and will delight young new fans and veterans alike. 

Scribblenauts Unlimited (Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Windows) – Scribblenauts Unlimited is more than a fun game with a great sense of humor. It’s also an opportunity to let kids practice creative problem solving. Players reach the goals outlined in each stage using  a magic notebook that can make almost any object come to life. 

Paper Mario Sticker Star (Nintendo 3DS) – The latest entry from the weird but wonderful Paper Mario game series combines action, platforming, and role-playing. Of course, there are battles to be fought—lots of them—which Mario accomplishes by collecting and utilizing stickers. The shinier, the better. 

Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 (Nintendo DS) – Pokemon lives. Pokemon Black Version 2/White Version 2 are direct follow-ups to Pokemon Black/White for the Nintendo DS. That equals a lot more exploration, a lot more story, and, needless to say, a lot more Pokemon-catching. 

Minecraft (Xbox 360, PC, iOS, Anrdoid) – Though Minecraft was released to a mainstream audience in late 2011, it has endured through 2012 as one of its most popular games. The world of Minecraft is as open-ended as a world can get. Players can choose to survive against enemies and hunger while they build shelters and forage for food, or they can simply build, build, build whatever their hearts desire. 

Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii) – Rhythm games that utilize licensed music (Guitar Hero/Rock Band) may have overstayed their welcome, but rhythm games that feature original, odd visuals and music are still thriving. Rhythm Heaven Fever for Wii is one of the best entries in the rhythm genre, as it features unique graphics and incredibly catchy tunes. It’s easy to play, but scoring a coveted “Perfect” on every stage is going to take hours of practice.

Kid Icarus: Uprising (Nintendo 3DS) – If you remember the original Kid Icarus for the NES, you might be a little old. But you can be any age to appreciate Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. It combines non-stop shooting and action with one of the funniest game scripts to hit gaming in a long time.

Holiday Gift Guide: Top 10 Toys

Holiday Gift Guide: Top 10 Toys

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

With winter comes another holiday season. And with another holiday season comes an opportunity to wade into the candy-colored plastic land that makes up the kids’ toy market. Some kids are very clear about what they want for Christmas, but offer up items that are difficult to obtain (fire-breathing ponies). Other children are shy about suggesting what they want, or they just can’t make up their minds. 

In either case, you don’t want to give them something uncool—that would burden your conscience for the rest of the season, wouldn’t it? Heck, that’s the reason why our very own Scott Steinberg has a blog at Sears Toy Shop where, as resident Toy Tech Expert, he saves himself untold embarrassment in his family’s eyes under the guise of helping other parents pick the perfect technology gifts for kiddos. Looking for a quick cheat sheet to the best the year has to offer? Check out his blog, or have a look below, to quickly get yourself up to speed on the top 10 best holiday toys for 2012.

Furby – Furby is back. Sorry. The little gremlin-thing with “A Mind of Its Own” was in huge demand back in the mid-‘90s, and Hasbro is hoping that 2013 will be the year that everyone starts speaking Furbish again. Furby’s personality will develop according to how you interact with it, and if all else fails, it’ll dance to your favorite songs. 

Wii U – Nintendo’s next video game console features a built-in tablet that changes how players interact with the game on the TV screen. Games can be switched to run off the tablet exclusively mid-play, so no more battles over the family TV. The Wii U is also launching with tons of games, including New Super Mario Bros. Wii U and Nintendoland, a Nintendo-themed collection of minigames.

LeapFrog LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet and LeapsterGS– If your kids aren’t quite at the iPad stage yet (maybe you’ve decided the time won’t be right until their fingers aren’t perpetually covered in jam), LeapFrog’s LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet is a safe, hardy alternative. Kids can use the LeapPad 2 to play with exclusive games and apps that are easy to download and use. Also check out the LeapsterGS – among the best new learning handhelds parents can find for kids today.

Kidz Bop Ultimate Hits and Musical Toys – The Kidz Bop kids are back, and “Ultimate Hits” ensures that everyone of all ages can enjoy today’s pop hits. Tracks on this collection include “Tik Tok,” “Party in the USA,” and “I Gotta Feeling.” Imperial Toy actually has a full line of musical gear that’ll help kids get the party started right, and quickly, from Mega Star microphones to Glimmerati electric guitars – definitely check them out this holiday season.

Razor Pocket Mod Electric Scooter – Kids love bikes, but they go absolutely bananas for small motorized vehicles. Razor’s Pocket Mod Electric Scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour and up to 10 miles on one charge. It comes in a variety of models and colors, and at $199.99 USD, it’s relatively affordable. 

LEGO Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle – This huge LEGO playset delivers what it promises: Ninjas, epic playtime, and enormous battles wherein a four-headed dragon takes center stage. An ideal gift for the young ninja or kunoichi in your life. 

Doodle Roll – Doodle Roll is essentially a tube of paper that’s easy to tear off, easy to unroll, and most importantly, easy to draw on. Doodle Roll is an inexpensive, mess-free and hassle-free way to promote your kids’ creativity. Crayons included. 

Micro Chargers Time Track – Tiny cars are fun. Tiny cars that zip around tracks at incomprehensible speeds are even better. Toy cars go careening around the Micro Chargers Time Track at crazy speeds. Race your opponent to the finish line! 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Secret Sewer Lair Playset – The Turtles have achieved relevancy again (it seems to go in and out with the phases of the moon). Help your kids celebrate with a TMNT “sewer” playset that’s almost as big as they are.

Monster High High School Play Set – Halloween is over, but the Monster High toy series remains popular. In fact, the Monster High School Play Set stands to be one of the hottest toys this holiday season. Your kids’ favorite Monster High dolls can hang out in the cafeteria, in the hall, and even in class—but who goes to school to study, right?

Don’t forget to check out other top picks like VTech’s Switch & Go Dinos (which morph between dinosaurs and vehicles – awesome!), Fisher Price’s Disney’s Jake and the Never Land Pirates Bucky Pirate ship and more either. The good news for parents? Dozens of great options exist for kids of all ages.

Best Wii U Games: A Review and Recap

13 November, 2012 Play No comments
Best Wii U Games: A Review and Recap

Nintendo has a long, proud history of providing top-quality video game consoles for adults and kids of all ages, dating back to the 1985 release of its defining Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The device wasn’t just the first such machine to command a millions-strong global following in the post-Atari 2600 world. It also helped save the industry from a crippling 1983 crash, single-handedly proved that video games weren’t a fad (actually a cultural question mark at the time), and came to define home gaming for an entire generation. Dozens of popular franchises established during this era – including Super Mario Bros., Metroid and The Legend of Zelda – are still going strong today. Poised at the launch of its latest console, the Wii U (powered by a tablet PC-like touchscreen controller, fully online-/media-enabled, and the first Nintendo system to support high-definition graphics), the company’s legacy bears remembering.

Case in point: Over the past two decades, the much-beloved Japanese giant has brought players a wealth of technological advancements, proving that both innovation and imagination is in its DNA. Granted, not all have been successful: Anyone remember migraine-inducing semi-portable the Virtual Boy or two-hit wonder R.O.B. the robot (essentially included with the NES to con retailers burned by the ’83 crash into thinking it was more high-tech novelty item than game)? But from the original Game Boy tagalong to the 3D graphics-enabled Nintendo 3DS handheld, seminal 16-bit system the Super Nintendo to groundbreaking motion-controlled outing the Wii, you have to applaud the manufacturer. While it’s been prone to both wildly successful and wildly bizarre experiments, its many phenomenal successes have helped drive the industry forward, and the company has never been shy about its commitment to raising the bar. Say what you will about the house that brought us Mario, Donkey Kong and the rest of the supporting cast of Super Smash Bros.: It’s seldom one to follow in the footsteps of competitors.

All of which, of course, brings us to the dawn of the Wii U – the first of the next round of next-generation consoles to arrive, and among its most promising and original. Aimed at taking gamers beyond what they can currently get from rivals the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, it’s also the first shot fired in what promises to be a long and lasting battle for living room domination. Designed to deliver eye-popping 1080p HD graphics; facilitate digital downloads of music, movies, games and more; and allow for differing play experiences on TV vs. tablet controller, hopes for the system currently run high. As the first new set-top video game system in six years, and the long-awaited sequel to the Wii – the bestselling console of its generation, and first to both offer gesture controls and reach near-ubiquitous mainstream awareness – it’s hard not to be excited. But the sweetest news of all surrounding the system may also be a point that many have missed. As the below games illustrate, despite Nintendo’s storied and proud history to date, for both the manufacturer and fans alike, the best may be very well yet to come.

WII U SYSTEMS

The Wii U is available in two configurations: Basic (includes 8GB internal storage) and Deluxe (offers 32GB internal storage + Nintendo Land video game, console stand and a cradle/stand for your GamePad). Systems are defined by a custom 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen-powered tablet GamePad controller which offers secondary perspectives on on-screen action, and lets you view videos separately from the TV. Features allow for gameplay viewing on both your television and the GamePad, and support for controlling your set using the tablet, with benefits also extending to wireless Internet connectivity, online multiplayer and multimedia downloads, and video chat or second-screen viewing experiences. Needless to say, it crams a lot of performance into one small package.

Nintendo Wii U (Basic) – Click Here for More

Nintendo Wii U (Deluxe) – Click Here for More

 

BEST WII U GAMES

Note that you can click the below links to learn more about all Wii U game options, and for online shopping deals.


 

 

 

 

 

 

New Super Mario Bros. U

Classic arcade fun for all ages: Run, jump and stomp on enemies’ heads while collecting coins, nabbing ability-enhancing power-ups and exploring the Mushroom Kingdom’s candy-colored cartoon world. Featuring favorite characters such as Mario, Toad and Luigi, it offers familiar fast-paced thrills that players of every skill level can enjoy, plus a new twist: The ability for GamePad users to try and assist or antagonize others enjoying simultaneous multiplayer challenges. Besides a raft of sweet features – e.g. bonuses like the Flying Squirrel suit, options to import your Mii virtual avatar into various challenges, and more – it’s also the first must-have title for the system. Blending nostalgia with new high-tech tricks, we’d be amazed if it also wasn’t the first bestseller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two

An original adventure pairing Mr. M-O-U-S-E himself with less well-known predecessor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, this gorgeously-appointed action-adventure sends you wandering through a world of forgotten Disney characters and backdrops. Wielding a magical paint brush and high-powered remote control, players must help the twin heroes solve tricky puzzles, overcome fiendish foes and explore an evolving storyline that changes based on your choices. Support for two-man cooperative (co-op) play lets friends and family get in on the excitement, and Wii U owners benefit especially, with the GamePad offering a second view on the action. As much a love letter to Disney’s creations as first-rate gaming experience, its rich storyline, engaging suite of challenges and atmospheric environs make the title a top draw this holiday season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assassin’s Creed III

Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, the latest in the multimillion-selling action-adventure series – wherein discerning adults play a historical hitman – puts you in the shoes of a lethal assassin. From the Battle of Bunker Hill to raging shipboard engagements and the streets of New York, you get a chance to rewrite history by cleverly stalking and eliminating targets, then making daring acrobatic escapes. Set in a living, breathing 3D world of haunting characters and locales, it’s designed to test both your wits and reflexes. The Wii U edition provides added benefits by putting a map of targets’ locations right at-hand, and offers touch commands for easy weapon switching when it’s time to do your patriotic duty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Among the most original puzzle games of the past decade, Scribblenauts Unlimited provides a clever approach to tackling challenges: With a touch of your finger, you can create objects and summon them on-screen to help hero Maxwell. Literally thousands of combinations are possible as you mix and match parts while moving through a seemingly hand-drawn, open-ended world designed to be traveled at your leisure. Inventions can also be shared online for friends to remix and pass along, making the title among the more creative options out there for kids and adults alike. Anyone who’s ever spent hours idly doodling in a notepad will understand its promise immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madden NFL 13

EA Sports’ line of popular athletic simulations – other options include FIFA Soccer 13, NHL 13, etc. – has been a longstanding hit with gamers of all ages. But even though, similar to its siblings, Madden NFL 13 is available (and highly recommended) on other systems, you haven’t seen virtual football like this before. Letting you take on the role of player or coach, and play in dazzling HD, the key upside here are touchscreen commands – you can use the GamePad to call plays, make substitutions and more in the most intuitive format yet seen on a gaming console. Backed by online connectivity, authentic game day presentation and commentary, and the same pigskin action millions know and love, it’s clearly among the year’s hottest new MVPs for sporting fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Enjoy 3D fighting games? Check out the latest in the long-running martial arts series, which amps up the action with a huge roster of brawlers who can kick, punch and flying uppercut their way through one-on-one, one-on-two, or two-on-two tag team battles. Over 50 bruisers to pick from, extensive multiplayer support (up to four can get in on the action) and loads of extra features – i.e. killer replay videos, numerous game modes, extensive practice options, and an arresting range of international stages to scrap on – add ample replay value. If you’re looking for head-to-head action with a bit of nuance, you’ll find its strategic showdowns demand approaching with a sense of gravity, even as a range of kooky costumes and gonzo characters reflect the title’s unwillingness to take itself too seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ZombiU

Outside of the Resident Evil series, horror-themed games typically aren’t the first thing you’d associate with Nintendo’s traditionally family-friendly systems. But UbiSoft hopes to challenge players’ thinking in this promising new survival horror outing custom-designed for the Wii U that pits you against legions of walking dead. Set in a London overrun by walking cadavers, your goal is simple: Stay alive. But that’s easier said than done when you have to keep glancing between your GamePad controller and the TV, or dealing with competing players in multiplayer modes that let evil-minded pals try and plague friends by becoming an adversarial Zombie Master.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Yes, the critically-acclaimed run-n-gun franchise is available on other systems such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; an obvious choice for first-person shooter fans; and for Mature audiences only. But if you’re a discerning adult looking for a Hollywood-style gun battle experience that’s sure to make the neighbors’ jaws drop, then pop this neo-futuristic firefight in and watch their eyes bug out of their head. Boasting branching storylines, multiplayer standoffs so immersive you’ll enjoy weeks’ worth of excitement from just these modes alone, and support for second-screen play (i.e. touchscreen controls for picking maps or loadouts), rest assured. For pure, white-knuckle thrills, they don’t make ‘em better than this – or more capable of keeping you glued to the screen, whichever (TV or GamePad) you prefer.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Mass Effect 3 (Role-Playing)

SiNG Party (Music)

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (Action-Adventure)

Pikmin 3 (Strategy)

Ben 10: Omniverse (Action)

NintendoLand (Arcade)

Sonic & All-Stars Racing (Racing)

007 Legends (Shooter)

Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 (Simulation)

Darksiders II (Action-Adventure)

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