January, 2013


22
Jan 13

‘Disney Infinity’: the new family gaming experience set to take over living rooms this summer

If last year was about Skylanders Giants, Disney Infinity is sure to be at the top of every child’s wish list this summer. The new game – which combines collectible Disney characters with in-game, virtual ones – was unveiled at a Hollywood event last week and will be launched in the UK on June 28. It takes the movie tie-in game to the next level with two clever innovations. Andy Robertson got to try out both the toys and the game in LA after the event. Here’s what he thought…

Disney Infinity uses physical toys to access in-game characters in a similar fashion to Skylanders. But here, of course, they are the Disney characters we already know and love rather than the newcomer toy creations from Activision. Place these Disney characters on the game’s own Portal of Power (Infinity Base as they are calling it) and they instantly appear on the screen ready to play.

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The game will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS when it launches in June.

In addition to the collectable toys there are also a series of tokens. Some of these provide special objects while others offer character upgrades when they are placed underneath particular figures on the Infinity Base. The clever (or frustrating) thing is that you can’t just go out and buy these tokens as they are sold in ‘blind’ packs of two. Players will need to trade these with each other if they are to obtain the full set.

This is a double-edged sword. Certainly it offers families a lot of fun – who doesn’t like collecting things, right? But, it also adds another layer of expense to an already costly hobby. Provided parents see the additional figures and tokens as a ‘nice to have extra’ rather than essential, the value Disney Infinity offers is pretty good.

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The game comes in a Starter pack (£54.99-£64.99) that includes three figures, the Infinity base and three play-sets. This means that you can play the following three adventures that last around six hours each:

The Incredibles

Monsters University

Pirates of the Caribbean

 

The gameplay is more advanced and varied that Skylanders, offering not only platforming, fighting and shooting but also driving, city and ship management as well as less combative tasks around the Monsters University play-set.

In addition to these franchise specific experiences you can bring all your toys together for the ‘Toy Box’ mode. This grants players the ability to create their own challenges, landscape and scenery through a simple interface. Seeing Mr Incredible racing Sully or Captain Jack is a surprisingly entertaining prospect as these franchises are usually kept separate.

For families Disney Infinity certainly ticks the right boxes, and offers something distinct to Skylanders Giants. Its split screen gameplay will suite a wider demographic and avoid the annoyingly tethered feel of Activision’s game. Equally the online multiplayer (up to four friends) will suit older players who want to play or create with other people not in the same location.

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The first wave of Disney Infinity will just be the start however. By creating a more modular approach to movie tie-in games Disney Interactive can now release new franchises, figures and play-sets as the year progresses.

With the figures and starter box already being listed in the UK they are likely to appear on Amazon.com any day now. I’m using the following links to track them as I imagine getting in early will be the way to ensure you get the figures you want. Now I just need to get the kids to decide — easier said than done.

Here’s a run-down of the first figures that are starting to appear online, if Skylanders is anything to go by getting in early will be what the savvy parents will be doing:

Pirates of the Caribbean figures:

• Jack Sparrow (Included in the Starter Pack)

• Hector Barbossa (Included as Single Pack and Sidekicks Pack)

• Davy Jones (Single Pack)

The Incredibles figures:

• Mr. Incredible (Included in Starter Pack)

• Elastigirl (Included in Sidekicks Pack)

• Dash (Single Pack)

• Violet (Single Pack)

• Syndrome (Single Pack)

Monsters University figures:

• James P. Sullivan (Included in Starter Pack)

• Mike Wazowski (Included in Sidekicks Pack)


Andy Robertson (@GeekDadGamer) produces Family Gamer TV and the Family Gaming blog.


17
Jan 13

Just Magic: ‘Wonderbook: Book of Spells’ is a total page turner

I loved my pop up book when I was a kid – and would turn the pages until it was nearly falling to pieces. Things have certainly moved on a lot since then.

The Wonderbook takes the idea of a pop up book to the next level. It looks and feels like a regular book, but once it’s put in front of the PS3 Eye camera it’s completely transformed, with content bursting from each previously blank page.

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Book of Spells
is the first release in a series of games that will use the new book peripheral, and this one is specially for fans of the Harry Potter series. The premise is that it’s a spellbook found in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry 100 years before Harry joins as a member of Gryffindor.

It’s been developed with the collaboration of JK Rowling, author of the boy wizard series, and features a good bit of new content written by her especially for the game.

wonderbook-3

Players get the chance to learn and practice spells that Harry and co will be eventually using in their quest against the evil Lord Voldemort. These include skills such as shrinking, growing, and levitating – you might find yourself dropping the jar of eyeballs just to see them scatter all over the place. To do this, you make use of your movement sensitive Move control, which becomes a magic wand.

Although this is aimed at the seven-12 age bracket, mum and dad will love playing along. The novelty of actually seeing yourself in the game takes a long time to wear off – and little ones never seem to tire of waving to themselves in the TV screen. Be warned though, adult gamers may have to sit on their hands to stop themselves snatching the Move off younger players and showing them how to do it properly.

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Although this is essentially a one player game, it feels like the whole family can get in on the action – one person doing the spell, another turning the pages of the book – which looks so real on screen you can hardly believe it – and others shouting encouragement (or criticism!)

For Harry Potter fans – and even those who aren’t massively into the series of books and films – this is a great buy, scoring top marks for originality, look and the interactive factor. It’s a good investment too, as Sony have promised a steady stream of Wonderbook games, with ones already in development including BBC Walking with Dinosaurs, Diggs Nightcrawlers and some Disney titles. Story time will never be the same again.


11
Jan 13

All you need to know about Skylanders Giants

In the space of two years Skylanders has become one of the biggest video game franchises. Whether you’ve read about it in the press or picked up on playground chatter, it’s worth being one step ahead of the kids. Here are our top tips – brought to you by gaming expert Andy Robertson – on how to get ahead in the game without breaking the bank.

The basics

Skylanders is a video-game and toy franchise that uses figures to grant access to characters and areas in the videogame. A starter pack provides the game, a portal peripheral used to bring the toy characters to life in the game and three toy figures.

The Skylanders Giants videogame retails for £49.99 for a starter pack or £39.99 for a booster pack if you already own the original game. The figures sell for between £8 and £15. There are 40 or so toy figures available for each Skylanders game.

The novelty is that the game saves progress to the toy figures wirelessly via the portal. They can be taken on and off the portal at any stage to swap characters in the game. They are also compatible with any version of the game. So, for example, you can take your Wii figures to a friend’s house and use them on their Xbox version of Skylanders.

The toys

There are four different types of figures you can buy; each is distinguishable from its packaging. Series 1 figures (with a green base) are from Spyro’s Adventure. Series 2 figures (with an orange base) are reposed versions of the original figures re-released with Skylanders Giants. New light up Lightcore figures were released for Giants and illuminate when they are on the portal. Eight Giant and eight new normal figures were added to the collection for Giants.

The first game in the series, Skylanders: Spyros Adventure, supports all figures with green bases that were released with it. It also supports characters for Giants (with orange bases) that existed originally. Check packaging for compatibility.

The second game in the series, Skylanders Giants, supports all figures. Original green based figures bring all their upgrades with them into the new game and can upgrade to a higher level. Series 2 re-posed versions of the original figures also get a special Wow-Pow attack and the ability to switch upgrade paths at will. The light-up Lightcore figures get a special smart bomb attack when they join the game.

The video game

Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and Skylanders Giants both offer similar gameplay. This is a two-player simultaneous action adventure where you shoot and fight enemies and solve puzzles – quite similar to the Lego games although without the split screen.

Skylanders Giants offers more interactions from a wider set of figures. It also offers a difficulty level that enables young (or advanced) players to be accommodated and provides another reason to replay the game once it has been finished. The 360 and PS3 version of the original game has a very difficult final boss (also true but less so on the Wii).

Collecting

You can complete both Skylanders Giants and Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure with just the starter pack characters. Additional figures do extend gameplay by granting access to new characters and areas, but are a “nice to have” rather than necessity.

To be able to access every area in Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure you need one figure in each of the eight element groupings. The same figures can be used to access every area in Skylanders Giants although you also need one Giant to access other areas – which the game comes with.

You can identify which grouping a figure is in from its packaging and the materials of its base. You can also look on the bottom to find the element symbol, or check details in the game by pausing to access the menus.

The figures are not all available at the same time. Shops stock new models in groups with new waves of figures made available during the life of the game. Second hand figures often sell on eBay for much more than their retail price due to their rarity.

Certain figures are available in a limited edition “Legendary” variant that provides increased stats in the game. Some of these variants are only available from a particular retailler. Some are only available in a certain country. Additionally there are a large number of novelty figures that can be found at random at retail. Silver, Gold, Glow in the Dark and even Flock covered figures are much sought after although do not make a big difference in the game.

Saving money

The game contains video trailers for each toy character that are triggered as you play. These advertise new toys that players need to purchase if they want to use the character in the game. It is worth noting the above point that these are optional extras not required to complete the game.

You can use the portal from the first game with Skylanders Giants. To this end there is a Portal owner’s expansion pack that offers better value to returning players. Portals for Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure were battery powered for Wii and PS3, whereas for Giants they are wired. This is to enable the portal to draw more power for the light-up Lightcore figures.


Andy Robertson (@GeekDadGamer) produces Family Gamer TV and the Family Gaming blog.

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