Game & Dad

3 Game Demos to Try

This week my son and I tried out a couple of free demos for some games that are near or recently released. Demos are a great way to try some new games, and get some free entertainment at the same time.

Splatoon 2 Test Fire

As I mentioned in a previous posting we recently got a Nintendo Switch and we are enjoying it. Splatoon 2 is a game for the Switch that we are have been interested in trying out. Fortunately, last Saturday we had a chance to go hands on with the game in the first “test fire”

Splatoon is a multiplayer game where the object of the game is to cover the world in your team’s paint color. We did not play the first Splatoon because my son was too young to play the game. Now that he is 7 he can handle the more complex control schemes. The game is bright, colorful, and great for all ages.

My son and I found Splatoon 2 to be a fun experience. I always thought Splatoon was an easy “kids” game but there is actually some pretty deep mechanics and fun team play. Note this game does have online interactions so monitor your kid’s playtime if they are competing online.

Unfortunately, this demo does not seem to be available anymore. But if you are a Switch owner keep an eye out because there might be more free demos on the way.

Destiny 2 Beta

Destiny is a game for grown-ups, but its rated T so kids are ok to watch (it’s as violent as a Marvel Movie). This is a first-person space shootout adventure. If you haven’t played the first game it’s okay, everyone is getting a fresh start with this release. The setup for the game is that you are the a member of the last city on the planet, bad guys come to your town and steal your space powers and you need to fight to get them back.

The online beta will be open to everyone on XboxOne and PS4 this weekend. It contains two story missions and an online player vs player game mode. I have only played the missions so far and I would recommend checking it out. If you played the first Destiny this game feels very similar but it has some much-needed improvements to the story and gameplay.

Mass Effect Andromeda

Mass Effect released a few months ago to a lot of criticism for buggy controls and bad animation. The developers have addresses many of these concerns and are offering a free 10-hour demo to everyone on Xbox One and PS4. This is a mature rated title that is for after the kids go to sleep.

Mass Effect Andromeda is the fourth game in the franchise but this is a new story. The game is about exploring the Andromeda Galaxy, fighting bad space guys, and building relationships with crew mates on your ship.  I have only just started playing this game but I am having fun with it.  I am glad to see that the developers fixed the issues with the game and are giving away so much game time for free.

That about does it for me. We have a blast playing some free game demos this week. Are there any other games I missed? Let me know in the comments!

 

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What a Terrible Night to Have a Curse: Playing Castlevania 3 after watching the series

Castlevania

After watching the excellent Castlevania Netflix series I started playing Castlevania 3. The Netflix series is a prequel for Castlevania 3 and while the series is adult only, feel free to enjoy the game with the kids as the game does not have the level of violence.

 This is a game of patience

Castlevania 3 is breaks a few conventions of the franchise: you can switch between the protagonist Trevor Belmont and three other companions. Castlevania 3 offers different paths which means that at the end of certain levels the player picks which level to play next. These elements mix with the classic play scheme that the original is known for: fight through a level, kill a boss, etc.

Castlevania 3 is one of the most unforgiving games that I have ever played. Trevor Belmont controls like a stone and most of the companions have some pretty big drawbacks. There is no good way to attack oncoming enemies while climbing stairs. The game compounds this frustration by throwing enemies and projectiles while the character is traversing stairs. Another key frustration is the jumping is incredibly unforgiving. The game might be kid friendly, but the words that come out of your mouth after the 20th cheap death won’t be.

Its hard to play…literary

Another difficult thing about  Castlevania 3 is finding a way to play it. The only way to play this on a modern console is to download it on the Wii U and 3ds for 5 bucks. An original cartridge can be tricky because it has technology in it that makes it hard to play on modern clone consoles. Original carts go for about 40 bucks which pretty expensive. I would not go to great lengths to try this game unless you have some nostalgia for the game.

So what’s good about it?

The game has an impenetrable difficulty. If you do fight through you will find a game full of amazing pixel art and soundtrack.  It might sound crazy but these elements almost make the difficulty worth it. Despite my seemingly negative review, I do find parts of this game to be enjoyable. I do not think that most people will enjoy the game unless they are really into difficult NES games.

 The Netflix Series is amazing, the game is hard to recommend

The Netflix series takes the story from Castlevania 3 and modernizes it in a really cool way. Unfortunately, the source material does not hold up as well. I think that Castlevania 3 has some neat ideas but it gets bogged down with unforgiving controls, frustrating enemy placement, and bad platforming. If you want to play some retro Castlevania I recommend the first and fourth entries into the series.

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Nintendo Switch Recommendations

Nintendo Switch

Image from Nintendo

It’s a very exciting week at my house: after a few months of saving up money we have ordered a Nintendo Switch and it’s going to be here by Friday. The kids and I are definitely excited to play some Nintendo games like Mario Kart and Arms and I wanted to take a minute to recommend some other games that I am adding to my Switch library:

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe:

This is a port of the Mario Kart game for the Wii U but it includes extra characters and new game modes. What makes Mario Kart 8 on Switch so unique is a mode for younger kids that assists them with steering and controls. The addition of this mode really helps people who want to play Mario Kart but aren’t great at the basics of modern video games.

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove:

Shovel Knight is a cross between a bunch of classic NES games. It’s a retro-styled adventure full of platforming challenges and quirky characters. The Treasure Trove contains three separate Shovel Knight adventures with different protagonists and stories. Plus, the developer has promised more expansions coming free of charge.

Snake Pass:

Snake pass is a physics based platformer that has no enemies, the goal is to move a snake around a fun and colorful obstacle that has a similar style to Banjo-Kazooie. It’s non-violent and colorful but it has a steep learning curve. Younger players might struggle a bit, but the older kids should be fine for elementary aged kids.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst:

This is a 10-dollar budget friendly download that is similar to old Mega Man games. The difference with Mighty Gunvolt Burst is that all of the guns are fully customizable.  For 10 bucks, it’s a neat little platformer that scratches the itch for old school platforming.

ARMS:

This is a silly beat’em up that is similar to the boxing game on the original Wii Sports. Arms is bright and colorful and easy to pick up and play. My son has been really looking forward to playing this game (actually he won’t stop talking about it).

There are plenty of games to check out for the system and I will update the blog with more games as I discover them. Two quick notes: if you are purchasing a Switch bundle from GameStop make sure to get one with extra controllers because these damn things are really hard to find in stores right now. If you are looking to purchase extra controllers at a lower cost I recommend looking at the 8Bitdo NES 30 pro controller on Amazon. These controllers cost about 40 bucks and are getting pretty good reviews. I have one coming in the mail and I will post my impressions of the product once I get it.

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SNES Classic Announced and if you want one you better be quick:

Nintendo announced the SNES classic this week: it’s got 21 games, two controllers, and as much buzz as last year’s NES Classic. Re-sellers are guaranteeing preorders for up to 500 dollars (which has to be a scam). If you want one plan on camping outside of a store or two (good luck). Here are a few reasons why:

Almost all of Nintendo products seem to be critically oversold (right now).

Walk into any store and try to find any Nintendo products. The Switch, 3DS, and a bunch of the accessories seem to be in short supply. Nintendo is working to address these issues but so far it seems that stock is limited. I would expect this shortage to continue over the next few months.

Scalpers are all already planning to buy as many as they can.

As I stated before, there are already eBay listings for “guaranteed” preorders placed going for a lot of money. Nintendo has stated there will be more consoles released, but it will only be available until the end of 2017. This certainly means that the SNES classic will be bought up and sold by second party buyers. If you don’t find one by black Friday I would consider it a lost cause.

The SNES classic is bundled with an unreleased game.

Every collector will be after this console thanks to the addition of Star Fox 2. If you don’t know, Star Fox 2 is an unreleased game for the SNES that has achieved a legendary reputation among die-hard Nintendo collectors. The SNES classic is the only way to play the finished official version of this game. This means that in addition to scalpers, expect collectors to be hunting these down.

That’s just a few reasons the SNES classic will probably be as difficult to find as the NES classic. I remain optimistic that the mini system will be available to everyone that wants one, but honestly, I don’t think that will be the case. On a positive note, these titles are on other Nintendo platforms via their downloadable services. This might be a better option in the long run as it saves some space in the living room and you might already own one of the other systems.

If you plan on buying one, good luck! You will need it.

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From NPR: Yeah, this guy gets it!

I came across and article today on NPR written by Adam Frank that I wanted to share and talk. Adam Frank is a professor, scientist, blogger, and most importantly a gamer. Okay, most important is a bit of a stretch but for the purpose of this article it is the most important. His article discusses how much he loves the recently release Horizon Zero Dawn and why more adults should be gaming. The article can be viewed here.

For the Love of the Game

Adam describes his love of role playing games, a genre that is known for such hits as Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy, the hallmarks of a RPG include grand stories and character development. Clearly Adam James loves this style of game and Horizon has captured his attention. I agree with him…mostly.

Adam states that everyone should game, but holds other genres of games to some level of contempt. He calls platformers boring and repetitive and bemoans the difficult curve of playing shooters online. I am sure that these observations are in jest, but I don’t think casting these games negatively to mainstream audience that might not “get” games.

Play everything and anything

I did not touch an online shooter until I was in my 30’s. I was annoyed by online video game culture and I didn’t like losing every game I played. When I decided to try give online gaming I found a great group of people to share games with. I now feel silly for avoiding and entire style of game for real reason.  I play platformers, RPG’s, and racing games equally now. I am an omnivore of games media and I excel at none of them and love all of them. I have just as many small independent games as I do multi-million dollar epics. So, I say don’t just play what you know, play everything you can. It’s been a great experience for me to give new genres a try.

There has never been a better time for games. You can download games on your phone, computer, tablet for a few bucks or you can spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to play the best looking 300-hour epic fantasy adventure. Most important to me, play games with your friends and family share the old games you played as a kid with your kids (if you have them). Escapism in a game is as great as watching a movie or reading a book.

Wrapping it up (I swear)

Adam Frank’s article was fun and lively. I am glad to see that a 54-year-old intellectual standing up for the medium that I love and encouraging others to explore the world of gaming. The call of action should include a more inclusive message because he is defending his love of games but also making fun of the genres of games that he does not like. If you are interested in gaming for the first time, or if you are interested in picking up a controller for the first time in years I recommend jumping in head first and trying just about everything.

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Game and Dad Recommends: Dragon Quest Builders (PS 4, Vita)

 

          One of my favorite games of the past year is Dragon Quest Builders for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. The game combines elements of classic Dragon Quest games and crafting from modern favorites like Minecraft and Terraria. This combination makes a colorful adventure that is really fun to share with the kids. I would recommend this game for all ages, younger kids probably won’t be able to handle some of the complex crafting and combat. Read More

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Attack of the Clone (Console)

Clone Consoles

I have spent the last week jumping down a rabbit hole that I feel like sharing with you all. I spend way too long shopping around for clone systems.  I looked at YouTube videos, Reddit posts, and written reviews. Since I spent so much of my time on this I decided to write an article about it to justify the time wasted. Read More

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Videogame Content and Parental Controls

Polygon’s Colin Campbell posted a story on Tuesday the has peaked my interest. In the article “Are Video Games Harming You Kids?” Campbell talks about his thoughts on the subject and recommends some reading by Dr. Rachael Kowert, a research psychologist that written a few books on the subject. The article is worth a read and can be accessed here.

I am interested in reading up on this topic as I am concerned about what games my kids are playing and even I can’t keep up on everything that releases. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject I do encourage everyone to read up on the content in the media that kids are watching. This week I decided to include some sources for parents that are looking for resources to educate themselves on videogame content.

Entertainment Software Ratings Board https://www.esrb.org/   This is the industry group that is in charge of disclosing what kind of content there is in each game. It’s a good resource to research the content and see if it’s appropriate for your kids. Since this is an industry group it is pretty representative of what is in most games

Parental Controls on console. Did you know that most modern consoles have parental controls built in? You can set what features and content you want the kids to (see the individual webpages for more information)

For PlayStation 4

For Xbox One

For Nintendo 3ds

For Nintendo Switch  

 Commonsense Media  https://www.commonsensemedia.org. This website is a good tool to learn about the content in video games and movies.

This is not a complete list of the resources on the web, but it is a great start to educate yourself on the content that is in most of the popular media. There are a number of resources for academic, non-profit, and religious sources and I encourage every parent to take a look further into what their kids are playing.

 

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Alternatives for the NES Classic

Alternatives for the NES Classic

Image Credit : Nintendo

I (like most people) never got my hands on the NES Classic Edition. It was the subject of my first blog post and during the time of that post I was sure I would eventually be able pick one up.

 

Well a few weeks ago Nintendo proved me wrong. After only releasing a small number of units, the NES Classic Edition was completely sold out and ceased production. The only option to own one seemed to be to pay a lot of money in the resale market to get one. So instead of that I thought I would offer a few options for those who still want that retro fix.

 

  • Hook back up the Wii and download games from the virtual console. The original Wii had an amazing back catalog of classic games from a number of consoles. In some cases, this is the only legitimate way to play some very expensive games (like MUSHA for the Sega Genesis). The big drawback is that you don’t get to use the original controllers and some of the button mapping isn’t great.

 

  • Start collecting retro games, retro game collecting has become a pretty popular hobby in the gaming world. What is nice about retro game collecting is that you can pick which system and genre of games you want to collect. If might seem expensive, but if you considering the actual price you would pay for a NES Classic (about 200 dollars), you can get a pretty great collection for that price. An added benefit is that you can buy cartridges of licensed games that will probably never get a rerelease.

 

  • Look at some other plug and play systems. I bought the AT Games Sega Genesis instead. It’s nowhere near the quality of the NES Classic and the music in the games sounds really weird and out of pitch. My solution for this to turn down the TV volume and crank up some 90’s music and relive all that teenage angst that made 1993 so memorable. If you just want to play some old games quickly and easily then this is a good option.

 

I know that some on the internet talk about downloading emulators but It’s not something that I recommend for the most people because it a lot work to get running. If you really feel up to the task there are other sources for this information on the internet but I recommend really researching which emulator site you are downloading from.

 

It sucks that the NES Classic did not fulfill the demand that the of the market. I think that last thing that I could recommend for anyone is to pay the ridiculous prices in the secondary market. Maybe this year Nintendo will do a better job stocking the rumored SNES classic.

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Injustice 2 and Microtransactions

This week I am writing while waiting for Injustice 2 to release for my PS4. Injustice is not a game that I would recommend for kids but it does give me a chance to talk about micro transactions in games.

For those that don’t know, micro transactions are small in game items that can be bought with real world money. It’s a practice that has been pretty common in free-to-play mobile games and it’s been creeping into full priced games. Injustice 2 is full of micro transactions.

As a gamer, I don’t like the practice because I hate being reminded to pump money into a game I already bought. As a dad, I don’t want my kids charging my credit card for some in game items. If you let your kids play games on your phone or gaming console make sure that purchases are disabled so that kids aren’t running up your credit card bill.

Probably the grossest part of this business practice is that game developers spend money and time building in game systems that make people want to spend money on these items using social engineering that is commonly used in gambling machines.

I am still excited to play Injustice 2 because I have heard that it is a great game (again, not for the kids!). I just prefer games that spend resources on making games fun instead of addicting.

Recommendations

Zen Pinball 2- (PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita, PC, Wii U and mobile devices)

Zen Pinball is a virtual pinball machine. I love pinball but I don’t have the time or the funds to buy a table for my home. After downloading the game, you will have the option to demo different tables before you buy ( you will have to purchase each table separately).

I have tried this on PS4, Vita, iOS, and Fire Tablet. The only version that I cannot recommend is the Fire Tablet the game is unresponsive and slow.

 

Grow Home (PS4, Linux, PC)

Grow Home is a game that is about a robot climbing up a giant vine. It is bright, colorful, silly, and fun.

The challenge of the game comes from finding the right way to climb up the vine which some younger kids might get frustrated with, but I it’s fun to play together.

 

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