Posts Tagged: GeekDadGamer

Sep 13

15 Top Autumn Family Gaming Highlights

Family Gaming Tips

Family Gaming Tips

With the children back at school and the weather turning autumnal the thoughts of families turn to inside pleasures. Not least of these are the great video-games we can play together as the nights draw in.

Here are my tips for family games just out that you shouldn’t miss this season.

Skylanders Swap Force The third iteration of the collectable toy figure game offers a new gimmick — mix and match characters. This refreshes the toy-line as well as the gameplay but will face still competition from Disney Infinity this year.

Beyblade Evolution 3DS The spinning top playground craze makes the jump to Nintendo’s 3D handheld in some style. Every battle is simulated in Beyblade Evolution and will match real world outcomes as players customise their spinning tops and use motions controls and augmented reality to play the game.

Lego Marvel Superheroes The next in the Lego games that offer a platforming and puzzle challenge. For co-operative two player fun go for the console version, or play on the move on 3DS or Vita. No Wii version this time round, does this mark a decline in support for Nintendo’s ground breaking hardware?

The Wonderful 101 An original title made exclusively for the Wii U that uses the tablet controller to command an army of super heroes. This PEGI 12 game offers the exuberance and thrills of older rated titles but in a more age appropriate package. It offers hours of fun for all the family in its five player multiplayer mode.

Minecraft Xbox, Xbox One Quite possible the most popular game of the moment for families. Here in Xbox form it not only offers value for money but an easy way to get started in the world of exploration and block building. With new updates coming thick and fast, this is a great way to game together as a family.

Knack PS4 A family launch title for Sony’s new PlayStation 4 hardware. Gaining visual and gameplay advantages from the extra horsepower Knack creates a loveable platform challenge that all the family will warm to.

Animal Crossing New Leaf 3DS The evolving world of Animal Crossing changes with the passing seasons in the real world because it is tied to the 3DS system clock. On 3DS the game not only gains a 3D look and feel but many more features and ways to play it. Families can share the same island, each with a different character, and work together to keep their neighbours happy and craft a perfect life.

Disney Infinity This offers not only another take on the toy-meets-video-game play that Skylanders popularised but also a chance to make your own games in the Toybox. Go for the next generation versions on 360/PS3/Wii U for all the features, while Wii and 3DS offer scaled down experiences.

Zelda Wind Waker HD A rerelease of a classic Zelda adventure on the Wii U. This cartoon style game has a tonne of depth and playability for families. Solve puzzles together and take turns to work through the different dungeons as you control young Link on his quest to save princess Zelda.

Super Mario 3D World Wii U This takes the 3DS Mario game and paints it large on the Wii U. Not only multiplayer but also a variety of new abilities and outfits await the famous plumber and his friends this season. The challenge is considerable and will keep you and the family entertained for many hours.

Forza 5 Xbox One The classic driving experience updated to not only keep dads and sons happy but the whole family. A whole host of driving aids in this version means that anyone can pick-up and play, whilst experts will still find the usual challenge they expect. On Xbox One it looks and feels (with the new controller) even better than ever.

Mario Kart 8 Wii U The same classic Mario racing game comes back with a twist. Anti-grav karts let you race on the wall and the ceiling. New characters and new vehicles also keep the competition fresh. Along with new visuals and controls on the Wii U this is an ideal way to get the family racing together this autumn.

Angry Birds Star Wars II iPad This may sounds like another derivative update for Angry Birds but actually this introduces new Telepod characters. Like Skylanders this uses the toys to unlock characters and content in the iPad game. Moving into the collectable toy-game market may make financial sense for Angry Birds, but we need to see how convincing this is in terms of gameplay when the game is released later this month.

WonderBook Book of Potions This follow up to Book of Spells is again written by J K Rowling no less and offers more interactive witch and wizard adventure. On PlayStation 3 you use the physical book peripheral to navigate and interact with the game. What starts as a simple story book experience soon has you concocting various potions and spells.

WonderBook Walking With Dinosaurs This uses the Wonderbook physical peripheral to enable players to excavate and piece together their own dinosaurs. Not only can you complete the various puzzles to find all the bones, but then watch them come to life on the page.

Andy Robertson (@GeekDadGamer) is a freelance Family Gaming expert for the BBC and produces Family Gamer TV.

Feb 13

Fifty-six new reasons to love ‘Skylanders’ as new game is in sight

As we recently told you, Skylanders has become one of the biggest video-games for families in a short space of time. With Disney hot on its heels with a similar game called Disney Infinity, Activision are about to unveil the next game in the Skylanders series: Skylanders: Swap Force.

The new game has an innovative set of 16 new toy figures that can be separated at the waist and mix and matched. By doing this the player not only created some odd looking creatures but also combines the figures’ different attacks and characteristics.


Swap Force


These Swap Force figures have the same tactile feel of the other Skylanders. Strong magnets hold them together and enable children to articulate the toys during play away from the game. A minor point until you see the new possibilities this creates for youngsters.

Because of this these new characters will be welcomed by players and parents alike. They epitomise the physical-virtual cross over that makes Skylanders such an interesting game to play. I spoke to Guha Bala, studio head for Skylanders Swap Force, and asked him to talk us through the new game:

Click here to see video




Likely to be less popular are characters returning for the third time, the Series three figures. These are reposed in a similar fashion to the Series two figures last year and offer a special Wow-Pow attack. The tension here is that players may have already purchased and invested time in the old versions of these toys and now have to decide whether to miss out on new powers or buy the figure again.

There are also eight more Light-Core Skylanders in Swap Force. These popular figures light up when you put them on the Portal and have a special smart bomb effect. Players will be interested to see which of the Skylanders characters get the light-up feature this year. If Swap Force mirror’s Giants approach here it is likely that some of the light-core characters will be selected from the 16 new Skylanders that are also being introduced this year.




Adding up the 16 Swap Force, 16 Series three, eight Light-Core and 16 new Skylanders this is quite a haul for those who feel the need to collect them all. Of course, as we highlighted previously, the key thing for parents to understand is that you only need to buy the starter pack to be able to complete the whole game.

This year however, there isn’t the option of reusing your existing Portal peripheral. The new Swap Force figures are only compatible with the new USB Swap Force Portal. Although the new Portal will support all the old Skylanders figures the Portals from Spyro’s Adventure and Giants won’t work with Swap Force.




There will no doubt be more to discover when the game is unveiled fully – something anticipated to be at the upcoming New York Toy Fair. We’ll report back with more details as they arise.

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

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.


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.


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.


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 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.

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).


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.

Dec 12

Essential video games for festive family fun this Christmas

There’s still time for some last minute Christmas shopping – and there should definitely be some room in Santa’s sack for at least one fun computer game. Mum and dad can join in too – and it sure beats a game of charades on December 25 after the presents have been opened and the turkey’s been polished off. But which one to choose? Andy Robertson, family gaming expert, lends a helping hand with his top ten family games of the season.

Nintento Land

Nintendo Land Wii U

Nintendo’s new console may seem similar to the original Wii, but Nintendo Land’s set of games is a case in point of how the new Game-pad controller makes a big difference. Playing with five people at the same time lets everyone get in on the fun. Whether playing hide and seek with Mario Chase, shooting aliens in Metroid Blast or hunting ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion this offers a substantial amount of family fun.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells

Wonderbook for PS3

What better way to spend Christmas than in the world of Harry Potter? Wonderbook: Book of Spells not only has new writing from J K Rowling but also creates a whole new way to play video games. Put the blank pages of its big blue book in front of the PS3 camera and they spring to life with all sorts of interactive creatures and pop-up elements. More games for the Wonderbook peripheral will also be out in the New Year.

Skylanders Giants

Skylanders Giants PS3, 360, Wii, Wii U, 3DS

This toy collecting craze, that also has videogame functions, is top of many children’s Christmas list for good reason. Skylanders Giants uses the toys to access special characters and levels in the video-game and saves progress back to the figure itself with no wires or buttons. You can even take your figure to a friend’s house and use it in their game no matter which console they have.

Clockwork Racers

Clockwork Racers iPad, iPhone

This simple racing game starts with players winding up their vehicles on the iPod Touch or iPhone touch screen before using them to race each other around a variety of courses displayed on a central iPad (or big screen via AppleTV). The novel play style and simple controls makes it great for gamers of any age, and there are plenty of levels to download to keep them entertained for hours.

Kinect Sesame Street TV

Kinect Sesame Street TV 360

This is the first of a new series of games for the 360’s hands-free Kinect controller that is aimed at pre-school players. The game uses a TV show style format with Sesame Street characters and then includes optional interactions. Because it continues even if the player gets things wrong this is well suited for the often overlooked younger gamers. More episodes will also be available to download in the New Year.

Paper Mario Sticker Stars

Paper Mario Sticker Stars 3DS

This is a Mario game with a difference — it’s a role play adventure rather than a platform game. This means things are slower paced and the story is much stronger –meaning it depends on much more than reaction times and button pressing. Paper Mario on 3DS is more a strategic and features a novel sticker-collection challenge, and it’s even better if played on the 3DS XL’s larger screens as the whole family can join in and suggest the best way forward.

Need for Speed Most Wanted

Need for Speed Most Wanted PS Vita, PS3, 360, PC

Racing games used to be about going round and round the same small track. Need for Speed Most Wanted changes all this with an open world to explore. This not only means that families can play the game at their own pace but can also plan their route from the start to the finish line. Most impressive is the Vita version that squeezes the full game onto Sony’s new handheld.

Mutant Mudds

Mutant Mudds 3DS eShop

This will have mum and dad reminiscing about the video-games of their youth while the kids enjoy the 3D platforming action. Mutant Mudds is an old school platform game with an innovative layered world that players navigate by jumping back and forth. Music and visuals are a nod to games from the Spectrum and Commodore era while at the same time looking bang up to date.

The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan PS3

This is a beautifully narrated modern-day fairytale on the PlayStation 3. Players navigate a black and white fantasy world by throwing paint to reveal the path ahead. This simple interaction leads them into a story about a little boy looking for his mother and the painting she hadn’t finished painting. The result is an emotional tale about the challenge of growing up — enjoyable and educational at the same time.

AppMates Cars 2 iPad

This driving game is controlled by placing a real plastic car on the iPad screen to explore the digital world of Pixar’s Cars films. The car is not only designed to ensure it doesn’t mark the screen but also offers a natural way for children to play. This tactile and engaging experience includes nice touches like car headlights on the screen in-front of the toy, day and night modes and new maps to download. It’s ideal for families with younger racers or Pixar fans.

Andy Robertson (@GeekDadGamer) produces Family Gamer TV and the Family Gaming blog. He is also editor of the Ask About Games site for Ukie.

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