Top 7 Awesome Video Game Reviews For Kids In the Adventure, Tactical/Puzzle Genre of 2013 and 2014
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1. Sonic: Lost World
Sonic the Hedgehog has been around for a long, long time. His presence has spanned multiple console generations, and will probably span a few more. But his latest adventures, made for the 3DS and Wii U, have taken quite a bit of criticism, and have had what can only be called a mixed reception from critics the world over. This brings up an idea that many may not agree with, but does have some validity.
Sonic: Lost World is the blue hedgehog’s first trip to the Wii U. After playing it, some have said that it lacks the pace of older Sonic games. This is true – Lost World doesn’t feel as break-neck as other Sonic games that have come in the past. But one would be remiss to not consider that the format of the game has necessarily had to change because of the new hardware, as well as the market in which it currently resides. Comparing Sonic: Lost World to older games in the franchise is necessary, sure, but taking into consideration the games that it is currently competing against is also important.
In Lost World, Sonic once again takes on Dr Eggman, who is trying to turn all things sweet and fluffy into a robotic army. But this time around Eggman is aided by the infernal Deadly Six, who grudgingly serve the mastermind. When they rise up against him, though, Sonic and Eggman must enter into an uneasy alliance to save the world.
So it’s pretty much the usual kind of plot for a Sonic game (with maybe that alliance being the biggest difference). But Sonic is hardly about plot; this is a platform game about interesting levels, enemies to bop and speed. The speed, as said before, is a little lacking, but the levels are wonderfully challenging and there are enemies aplenty. What really sets Lost World apart from previous Sonic titles is the combination of traditional 2D and 3D levels. These have been interspersed with gay abandon, so the player will often jump between different layout types while playing through any particular stage. This is probably why the game has a slower pace – the 3D sections can get a little tough at fast speeds.
Graphically, the game is pretty much what you’d expect from a Sonic title, although the colour palette has been toned down a bit. It’s still bright, but the eye-popping hues of previous titles aren’t quite there. The character designs and animations remain largely unchanged, although some of the Deadly Six characters don’t quite feel as though they fit into the world.
Another area in which Lost World lacks a little is in terms of controls. They feel just a little too twitchy, and Sonic will sometimes go exactly where you don’t want him to, if you’re not careful. Jumping, particularly in the 3D stages, can also get a little tricky, but a handy “lock on” mechanism for Sonic’s jump attacks can be used to make sure you go exactly where you need – provided there is an enemy nearby.
So, when all is said and done, does Sonic: Lost World live up to the other titles that have come before in this particular franchise? No, not really. But that doesn’t mean that it is a bad game, overall. In fact, Lost World is a rather competent 3D platformer, and will provide hours of fun and challenge. It still requires quick thinking and lightning reactions… which are things that also define the franchise.
2. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Despite one or two minor lows, one can pretty much safely say that Traveller’s Tale’s long running series of LEGO games have gone from strength to strength. From Star Wars and Indiana Jones, through Batman and Harry Potter, and even Pirates of the Caribbean, these games have poked fun at a whole bunch of well-loved properties. But it was LEGO City Undercover that truly defined the potential for open world activity for the series. That potential has been partially explored in the latest LEGO game, too – but it doesn’t need all that much freedom, because it’s crammed with LEGO version of Marvel Super Heroes, and that more than makes up for a little less running around.
Instead of following a particular movie franchise, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes takes on the world presented by the comics. That said, the characters all show very strong influences from the various movies that have been made. The result is a combination of influences… Spider-man, for example, looks more like the comic version (complete with the odd resting poses), while Hawkeye is undeniably influenced by the Avengers movie. There is even a LEGO version of Stan Lee that pops up in unlikely places from time to time.
As always, this particular title offers a wide roster of unlockable characters, whether heroes, villains or support characters. Most of the game’s attention is given to characters that have featured in films: Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Hulk and so on. There are so many characters available, though, that it is inevitable that even some of the comic publisher’s more obscure characters will also make an appearance. This is the largest roster of characters that Traveller’s Tales have fielded to date, but the incredible size of the Marvel universe makes that possible.
The game dynamics do not stray far from the LEGO staple. This game contains tons of platforming, lots of action and generally simple, location based puzzles – as well as lots of LEGO building to do. Each stage will also have numerous items and things to do that only specific characters can do. More accurately, only characters with specific power sets can do certain characters get “upgraded” as the game progresses. As an example, Iron Man cannot access certain things until he gets an upgraded suit, at which point he gets new abilities, and players can revisit completed levels with him to gain access to the previously inaccessible.
Sometimes the game is a little unclear, though, as to which characters can access which thing. For example, certain items are only accessible to “web slinging” characters, but Hawkeye’s rope arrows and Mr Fantastic’s “rubber” arms will do just fine.
This is one of the areas that indicates a lack of polish that creeps in to the whole affair. The game can sometimes be unclear as to what it expects from the player, and sometimes other poor design elements like mistimed dialogue creep in. They can be annoyances but, for the most part, they do not detract from the main aim of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: to have fun. And this title delivers fun in truck-loads. Whether it is the addictive action, experimenting with different characters or just chuckling at the irreverent lampooning that is a series staple, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes has it all. It provides a large playground and tons of activities with great LEGO versions of very popular characters. The franchise has generally improved the time and, despite a few minor quibbles, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes stands as one of the finest LEGO games ever made.
3. Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom
Child orientated games are an awkward review for most gaming journalists. That’s not to say they’re inferior to their more “mature” brethren, as games such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity have shown, but rather you’re dealing with a product that was never designed nor intended for you to play. This means that most of the usual rules are thrown out the window, and technical aspects such as control schemes and frame rate take a backseat in favour of vibrancy and fast-paced gameplay, all of which is designed to dazzle rather than immerse.
Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom marks the fourth entry in a series that has up until now been a handheld exclusive. The move to PS3 though has necessitated that the most unique feature of franchise, the augmented reality Pokémon-styled gameplay, has fallen away, and The Lost Kingdom debuts as an action platformer, the current genre of choice in the kid’s gaming market.
Problems abound for The Lost Kingdom right from the start though. Before even loading the opening screen the game slaps you with a compulsory 2.6 GB patch, a hefty update for a country still limited to low speed Internet. Once the game does finally deign to run The Lost Kingdom thrusts you into the role of Hiro, a boy transported to the realm of the Invizmals where he will aid in defeating a rampaging robot army. While the plot is never particularly important for a title aimed at children, even by the standards set by its contemporaries Invizimal’s story is particularly cringe-worthy, delivered in a style reminiscent of early ‘90s shows such as the original Power Rangers.
The game play of the title suffers as well, most noticeably due to poor controls and dodgy design decisions. The core mechanic revolves around Hiro’s ability to transform into 16 different Invizimals at will, all of which have a unique set of abilities that will allow the player to navigate the admittedly varied environments of the game. Being a platformer at heart, there’s plenty of running, climbing and swimming, but too often this turns into a trial as the game simply fails to respond to button presses at times. This isn’t helped at all by the lack of camera control, as The Lost Kingdom plays from a fixed perspective that will frequently see you sprinting headlong off cliffs and ledges. The game is extremely forgiving at least, both in movement and in combat, and any death will see you instantly transported to the last autosave, which the game provides in copious amounts.
The saving grace for the Lost Kingdom though lies in its visuals, despite the clunky environments and occasional frame rate drop. The world itself is bright and colourful, with an almost cartoonish style that should sit well with the game’s target audience. Likewise, each of the Invizimals are uniquely designed and generally well animated, with small touches and flourishes that should delight any child. Coupled with some surprisingly good voice acting and generally solid audio, The Lost Kingdom works hard to create a charming atmosphere that goes a long way to mitigating some of its more glaring flaws.
Ultimately, Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom is title that never really manages to capitalize on the potential that shines through every now and again. It’s a game meant for children, but clunky controls, lacklustre combat and questionable design mean that more often than not The Lost Kingdom disintegrates into a frustrating experience, and frankly there are better games out there for your kids to play.
4. Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton’s Robotic Revenge
Spongebob Square Pants is a name that oozes childishness and nonsensical cartoon humour that only kids would consume and the game follows along in that pattern. Not to say the game is not fun to play; its zany and energetic and good, easy fun.
The story begins when a boat accidentally drops batteries into the sea and they fall conveniently outside the Rust Bucket where antagonist, Plankton, runs his rather unsuccessful restaurant. Not wasting any time, his computer utilizes the batteries to build him and his plankton family a set of giant robots. Plankton then proceeds to the Krusty Krab in his giant robot, to his arch-nemesis Mr Krabs and proceeds to steal the safe that holds the Kraby-Pattie formula - Mr Krabs’ secret ingredient. Plankton also manages to get the location of the keys to the safe and heads out to obtain them. Spongebob and friends embark on an adventure through Bikini Bottom with the intention of getting the keys back before Plankton can, thereby foiling the luckless antagonists’ plans.
A spinning whirlpool transports players into their adventure with a choice of playing as the popular characters Spongebob, Patrick, Mr Krabs, Squidward or Sandy. Each playable character has a unique style of play, attack move set and flair but unfortunately it’s all really just the same. The difference is the uniqueness of their moves, animated so that it captures the personality of the characters, such as the acrobatic dive bomb for the tentacled Squidward or the painful Spongebob belly flop. Spongebob also utilizes his legendary karate foam-glove to smack foes around and it’s unfortunate that the other characters don’t have similar quirks to their attacks.
The game starts off slow enough for you to get an idea of how to play, which means breaking a number of wooden barrels here and there and facing basic, non-threatening robots. The control system isn’t complicated which means most of the time its repetitively pressing the same buttons to quickly dispense of enemies. The game does become harder as you progress and the enemies come at you faster, and do more to defeat you… which requires constant movement, button mashing and utilizing everything you can.
The game’s currency is sprockets, found through defeating enemies and breaking barrels; these sprockets can then be used to get and then upgrade various comical weapons called gizmos, one of which is called the Pickle Blaster – you can imagine the wild times. The enemies are easy enough to dispatch even as they grow in number and intensity – even boss battles are predictable but considering the game’s target audience, this will be a fun challenge. The game is somewhat forgiving in that the health bar is two-fold thereby giving you a chance for a comeback by way of the many health chests scattered around each level. Where the game kicks you down, though, is through the sprocket reset when you die. After breaking tons of barrels and belly flopping countless robots, collecting truckloads of sprockets and being ready to upgrade a gizmo, an unexpected death means that they reset back to zero.
The levels are true to the cartoon in terms of design and look, with variation between the three main stages, though it can be frustrating being unable to control the camera and have to rely on the in-game camera to rotate for you when it’s supposed to.
Overall the game can be quite fun and challenging and the humour is much like the cartoon. A fun way to unwind.
5. Angry Birds Star Wars
Angry Birds Star Wars is exactly what it is; angry Rebel birds and Jedi fowls launching themselves on primitive wooden catapults towards clone pigs and precariously balanced structures with conveniently placed T.N.T boxes… all happening in a distant planet in a galaxy far, far away. As one imagines such a scene, it’s easy to see the humour and fun that such a title can bring, as a Jedi birdie soars through the air and slashes his light-sabre at a conveniently placed box that causes the glass-and-wood structures to fall and crush the evil pigs all in one fell swoop. An enjoyable game indeed.
The first thing that popped up were the game play mechanics. They were slightly off on the controller and getting the right angle for the perfect shot required precise thumb action which can be off-putting to some. These shots become a regular thing if you are aiming for a perfect score, especially when progressing through to play the more difficult stages; expect many replays.
Progressing through the levels reveals new birds to hurtle through the air, offering new abilities from Light-Sabres to Force Push and more with each new fowl. The stages become more difficult as you progress further into the galaxy visiting well known areas including the Death Star. Each level has creatively designed puzzles, though in the end it does become somewhat repetitive and that might be a good thing for some.
The game does offer many other challenges and unlockables from bonus levels to hidden badges and Golden Droids, all adding to replay value but the game does appeal to its own and some may find that it’s not their cup of tea.
7. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
When Professor Layton and his assistants receive a message from a renowned archaeologist, that he has found a frozen, living mummy, the Professor travels to the frigid terrains of Froegland hoping to solve the mysterious puzzle. On his arrival, he finds that another mysterious group is also in search of the mummy and after some impressive deductions and puzzle solving, he finds the renowned archaeologist and the frozen mummy. It turns out the mummy is an emissary from an ancient civilization known as the Azran and it is time to pass on their ancient knowledge.
An intriguing storyline sets the path for a worldwide adventure that sees the Professor and his assistants visit various locations around the globe, in search of clues that would reveal the truth of the Azran civilization. Each area visited is aesthetically unique with fantastically designed sceneries that capture the various societies scattered around the fictional world that the story is set in; rustic fishing colonies, frozen cities, mushroom jungles and many other unique places are available for exploration. The integration of animated scenes that tell particular aspects of the story and the stereoscopic in-game graphics work well together, though it would have been great to have main events being told specifically in animated scenes while in-game exploration used the in-game graphics. This does not lessen the experience of the game however, even with the somewhat predictable storyline.
Game play involves the use of the touch screen for exploration and movement between areas. There is no use of the game buttons as everything relies on the touch pad, making the control system any easy system to use. This makes the focus of the game more on the storyline and the puzzles rather than button mashing or complicated button systems. This also allows further exploration of the 3D background that has hint coins and puzzles hidden within.
The puzzles are the main attraction in this title as everything revolves around them, whether it be the battles against the bad guys or a random stranger who is withholding information about an investigation and can only justify providing answers if a puzzle is solved. The puzzles are a brain-bending challenge and offer great variety, from riddles to logic to arithmetic. As the story progresses, the difficulties of the puzzles increases; these puzzles require more than just sliding panels and pressing buttons. Solving a puzzle gives you a score and if you can solve the puzzle without using hints, you gain a certain amount of Picarats, which is the score counter for the solved puzzles.
There are options to use hints should the puzzle be too difficult but the catch is that the amount of Picarats gained for that puzzle becomes less and it requires hint coins to claim hints. A series of mini-games are also available to play, unlocked through solving certain puzzles and speaking to particular squirrels to unlock. These include Dress Up, which sees Professor Layton and his young assistant Luke attempt to make suitable outfits for the ladies met during their travels, and Blooms and Shrooms, which is all about bringing gardens back to life. These fun little distractions don’t add anything to the main arc but they are fun.
This is the last Professor Layton title - it can be a fun, enjoyable experience with puzzles galore, a riveting storyline, quirky characters, assorted regions and some good ‘ol British-ness thrown in for a well-rounded title.
7. Just Dance 2014
If you are keen on becoming a top dancer with moves that rival even the finest stage performers out there, don’t play Just Dance 2014. There are other dancing games that can actually help you improve your dancing skills – Just Dance 2014 doesn’t fall in to that category. But if you’re less worried about looking like a pro and more concerned about having a blast, then you should most certainly consider this latest iteration in Ubisoft’s ever expanding Just Dance franchise.
If other dance games are the guys on the dance floor that everyone is impressed by, Just Dance 2014 is the drunk uncle dancing on a table with a lampshade on his head that everyone remembers. This game never gets to the point where it takes itself seriously and, as a result, it leads to players having a fantastic, fun-filled experience. The dance routines are often off-the-wall and even strange, where other games might try to emulate whatever is fashionable at the time. Ride your dance partner like a pony? Why not, says Just Dance 2014… as long as it is in the name of good, clean fun. And that’s the key here.
Just Dance 2014 is not about getting together with a bunch of other people and trying to out-dance them. It is about getting together with a bunch of other people and dancing like you’ve just had twenty tequila shooters, whether you actually have or not. It’s a game that will leave some feeling embarrassed at their zany antics, but what’s better than being part of an entire group feeling the same way in these situations? It’s the crazy party next door to the dance studio, and it knows it.
To this end – this maintenance of fun over anything else – Just Dance 2014 is a pretty forgiving game. Even if you are a buffoon with two left feet and the grace of an inebriated hippopotamus, you’ll be able to not only enjoy this game, but even progress through it. The game is very forgiving, raising some questions about its tracking and scoring systems. Particularly in the case of the latter, the game is pretty vague on how it assigns score to performances. But the only real concern about scoring is that you can unlock new levels, which needs to be done if you’re really going to enjoy that full, unbridled party experience.
In terms of presentation, this iteration sticks to that zany, crazy feel that has permeated the series for a while now. Dancers on screen wear a wide variety of crazy things, and the settings are equally strange at times. With 47 hits spanning almost 4 decades, Just Dance 2014 has something for almost everyone (who enjoys pop music, of course). Artists like Abba, Bob Marley, David Guetta, George Michael, Gloria Gaynor, Lady gaga, Nicki Minaj, Rhianna and Robie Williams provide the soundtrack for the dance party. The visuals add the spice, and the players – who certainly need to be comfortable enough with their egos to stand the risk of making themselves look really foolish in front of their friends – provide the fun.
It certainly is not everyone’s cup of tea – no dance game ever is. But even those that take their dancing titles seriously will find the whimsical nature, undemanding game dynamics and almost nonsensical approach of Just Dance 2014 to be outside of their taste range. However, as far as getting a party started goes, there is little that Just Dance 2014 doesn’t have to offer.
Sonic: Lost World
Developer: Sega Publisher: Nintendo Distributer: Core Group
Wii U - 3DS
It might not be the greatest Sonic game ever, but Lost World is a competent platformer none the less.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Developer: Traveller’s Tales Publisher: Warner Bros Distributer: Ster Kinekor
PC - XBOX 360 - X0 - PS3 - PS4 - Wii U - 3DS
Despite one or two minor unpolished elements, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is one of the finest games ever in this long running franchise.
Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom
Developer: Magenta Software Publisher: SCEE Distributer: Ster Kineor
While it will undoubtedly entertain your kids for a couple of days, The Lost Kingdom is game that never really rises above mediocre
Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton’s Robotic Revenge
Developer: Behaviour Interactive Publisher: Activision Distributer: Megarom
XBOX 360 - PS3 - Wii U - 3DS
Plakton finds the means to steal the Krabby Patty formula from Mr Krabbs and its up to Spongebob and friends to get it back.
Angry Birds Star Wars
Developer: Rovio Entertainment Publisher: Activision Distributer: Megarom
PC - XBOX 360 - X0 - PS3 - PS4 - Wii U
The Angry Birds make their big appearance as Jedi knights and Sith Lords, hurtling their way to the hordes of Clone Pigs.
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Developer: Level-5 Publisher: Nintendo of Europe Distributer: Core Group
Professor Layton and his assistants are called out to investigate a frozen mummy their discovery sends them across the world solving the greatest puzzle ever.
Just Dance 2014
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Distributer: Megarom
XBOX 360 - X0 - PS3 - PS4 - Wii U
The series has come a long way, but still hasn’t found a way to take itself seriously... and that may be a good thing.
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