Like many of you I'm a parent more than a game player – it's my children who play on the Wii and Nintendo DS. So I want good co-operative games that won't lead to squabbles, something with a bit of educational potential, and engaging characters to keep the kids hooked for a while. Not much to ask for, is it? Since video games are not cheap, I think it's fair to want your money's worth.
Disney Interactive Studios recently took ParentDish UK to America, giving us a first look at the video games they've got coming up for families.
So what have they got to offer us?
First up, and released in the next few weeks is the Toy Story 3 game. You might be forgiven for thinking that games released to coincide with a film are a simple piece of cash-in merchandise. But years of development and thought have gone into this one, which was made in close collaboration with Toy Story director John Lasseter, and features the voices of most of the original cast.
I spoke to the game's producer Jonathan Warner, who said that it was tested on over 60 groups of children, aged from six to 17, and the way in which they played was incorporated into the game: "If a child's getting stuck, the game adjusts itself and gets a little easier so they don't give up" The 'Toybox' element of the game has lots of potential for creativity, but above all it's just lots of fun. Younger children will enjoy the visuals, and will be able to play this from around age six.
Toy Story 3: The Video Game is released for all formats on 16th July. Watch out for a full review coming here soon.
Then later in the year, check out Tron Evolution,. Do you remember the classic '80's film, Tron, starring Jeff Bridges, about a man who gets trapped in a video game? There's a sequel due out at the end of this year. The game connects the story between the two films, so anyone who's played the game will see things they made happen in the film. It features cool cycle races, and is set in the Nineties, so expect lots of chrome and lycra bodysuits. Nostalgic parents in their forties will be buying this and kidding themselves that it's for their children.
For swashbucklers, there's Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned. For a game, this looks incredibly cinematic, as the action moves around a range of islands on a beautiful pirate ship. It's "inspired by" the original films, rather than featuring the same characters. The sword and gun action mean that this is most suited to the 12's and over. Players can choose to be "Legendary" or Dreaded" - and everybody I saw playing this preferred to be Dreaded. Coming to a teenage boy near you in 2011.
But the biggest release your kids will be after is Epic Mickey. As you can see from the screen shot here, the game's palette is surprisingly dark. I think I was expecting something bright like a Mario game from this Mickey Mouse title, but it's altogether much more subtle. Games experts (ie the kind of people who are usually very sniffy about family-friendly games) are already getting excited about this one.
This is one that all the family can play together. It's a platform game with a strong creative thread as players can change the landscape by using 'magic paint' to add to the world, or paint thinner to erase enemies.
Epic Mickey producer Warren Spector says: "This game centres around family relationships, as Mickey discovers a half-brother he never knew existed. I think children need a little darkness in their lives, and Disney has plenty of that. The game is also an education about Disney history - everything you see is taken from the archives. We went right back to the 1930's"
Due for release on Nintendo Wii format this Autumn, Epic Mickey looks suitable for players from around seven. But where I think it will really score is with the Grumpy Teen demographic, because of the dark colours and the retro look. If you've got a gamer in the family you want to impress, this one will do it. It's got echoes of childhood rather than being childish - a good fit for anyone on the cusp of change.
Other highlights from the Disney stable include: a singalong game featuring classic songs from Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid etc; new games based on established favourites like Cars and Club Penguin; and a Cluedo-style mystery solving game called Guilty Party. Better buy a bigger games shelf.
What video games do you and your family like to play? Leave a comment below
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