Skylanders: Superchargers is a healthy dose of vehicle racing, world exploration and puzzles, all mixed together in a whimsical package. The game also introduces Donkey Kong and Bowser as amiibo/Skylanders characters. Dog fights, car racing and surfing are all sure to keep you busy as you navigate this bright and strange world.
Abi: Out of all the amazing things that have happened in the video game world in the past few years, the introduction of "toys-to-life" gaming is by far one of my favorites. There's something so incredibly magical about being able to play on screen with toys you can also hold in your hand. Skylanders wasn't technically the first to do it, but they've certainly managed to enchant many young gamers around the world (and me) with their creative contributions to the genre.
Alex (left) and Abi (right) are supercharged! Guff
Alex: This is Mario Kart on a manic sugar high with some classic Zelda-like exploration mixed in for good measure. I loved the variety in races, the ridiculous vehicles and the bounty of characters. SuperChargers is a perfect game to play across age groups, whether you're a parent gaming with kids or maybe trying to get Grandma into the gaming world. It's unadulterated fun with a competitive twist, so definitely give it a go if you're curious.
After enjoying runaway success in Japan, Yo-Kai Watch is finally coming to us here in America. In this game for the 3DS, you play as a young child in a world plagued by Yo-Kai. What are Yo-Kai, you ask? They're the physical embodiments of everyday problems. For instance, Hungramps is an old man Yo-Kai who makes people feel hungry, and Cheeksqueek is a butt-shaped Yo-Kai who makes people fart. Throughout the game, you find and befriend various Yo-Kai, and can then call on them to battle other Yo-Kai to solve the city's problems.
Abi: Despite its huge popularity in Japan, I had never heard of the Yo-Kai franchise, so it was a lot of fun to meet these characters. It's tempting to draw a lot of comparisons between Yo-Kai Watch and Pokémon, but in reality Yo-Kai Watch offers some new mechanics and other details that really set it apart. For one, I love the idea that you don't capture the Yo-Kai; you try to befriend them and, if you're lucky, they agree to help you defeat enemies. This certainly seems like a more ethically sound way to present the monster collecting mechanic (as opposed to the whole "fight this monster until it's too weak to fight back and then capture it and force it to fight for you" thing that the Pokémon titles do). Beyond that, I loved the sense of humor that seems to be prevalent throughout the game and I'm very much looking forward to getting the game and exploring the expansive world.
Alex: Like Abi, I had never befriended any Yo-Kai monsters before. But I was immediately smitten by the game's charming graphics, adorable humor and engaging storyline. The game lends itself well to the 3DS graphics, giving Springdale a sense of depth. Befriending creatures feels warm and perhaps even more rewarding than trapping them in tiny balls, though comparisons to Pokémon are pretty tough to make despite that similarity. I'm planning on picking this one up as soon as I can.
The new Zelda game is a cooperative action-adventure game which requires three players to work together as little Links in order to solve puzzles and make their way through various dungeons. Each Link is a different color, and you can choose between different outfits that give you various abilities. It's thematically very similar to Four Swords except, you know, with three people instead of four. The 3DS game supports both online and local multiplayer gameplay.
Alex: The Zelda games are a prime candidate for co-op gaming, so Tri Force Heroes just feels right. Mixing up outfits is way fun for those who like apparel customization in games, and the graphics are top-notch for 3DS. This one will keep you up for hours.
Abi: I'm definitely a sucker for co-op games, so I was really looking forward to hearing more about Tri Force Heroes. The puzzles and dungeons are simple enough that even younger players should be able to grasp what's required of them and their teammates to move forward. As with most co-op games, there's some frustration with the lack of ability to communicate with your teammates, but that's par for the course. It makes for a truly cooperative experience filled with trial and error. (Well, more error than trial in our case, but it was our first time!)
The latest Guitar Hero game brings a lot of new details to the table. First (and perhaps most importantly), the guitar controller has been completely reimagined. Rather than the old model with five buttons all in a row, the new guitar controller features six buttons in two rows of three. Just like a real guitar (kinda)! Guitar Hero Live also features full motion video of both the audience and your bandmates to really make you feel like a rock star (again, kinda). It also introduces Guitar Hero TV, which is a 24-hour broadcast of music videos which you can play along with.
Alex: Another classic reimagined for current-gen gaming, Guitar Hero Live confidently brings the franchise into 2015 with plenty of welcome updates. I loved using the new guitar controller, since it really actually felt like an actual guitar (rather than that old plastic stick that felt like, well, a game controller). And having the audience react to my highs and lows felt weirdly inspiring! This is truly a live experience.
Abi:Guitar Hero Live offers a lot for observers, too ”” I can say this with some confidence as I was too chicken to show off my Guitar Hero-ism (or lack thereof). Watching the audience and band members react to Alex's performance never got old, and definitely heightened the performance aspect of the game. I personally found the FMV footage interesting and endearing ”” sure, it's a little cheesy, but so is pretending to play the guitar when in reality you're essentially just pushing buttons at the correct tempo. Guitar Hero Live is a refreshingly self-aware entry into the rhythm game catalog, and it's definitely on my list for the holiday season.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash brings some much needed Mario sportsmanship to the Wii U, offering players a wealth of multiplayer (and amiibo!) options. Plus, with the super size Mega Mushroom, characters can quadruple in size to beat out their opponents in massive style.
Abi:Mario Tennis has always been a perfect game to play with a group of friends, and this latest iteration is no exception (although I will miss the motion controls that convinced me that I have even a modicum of athletic ability). I'm really looking forward to the amiibo integration, and to learning more about how you can level your various amiibo characters up by playing with them.
Alex: I love Wario. I love supersize Wario even more. Ultra Smash is certainly the Mario Tennis we all know and love with some very welcome new features. The jump shot is crazy fun to throw at opponents, especially when you're towering over them like a crazy kaiju. Call your friends, invite them over and play all night.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a cooperative 3DS game that lets you play as your favorite Pokémon and solve various dungeon puzzles. This is a welcome mix-up in the Pokémon franchise that'll surely please old and new fans alike.
Abi: My favorite part about this game was the fact that dungeons are randomly generated each time you enter them. This is a great detail that I think will effectively keep the game from getting old. I also love the personality quiz that you take which determines what Pokémon you'll play as. Honestly, all I've ever wanted is for someone to tell me what Pokémon I would be in the event that I could be a Pokémon.
Alex & Abi game on, Guff
Alex: Playing as a Pokémon is surely a dream for many gamers, and this game delivers on that front in a big way. Cooperating with fellow monsters to solve dungeon puzzles is a blast, and reacquainting myself with old Pokémon buddies from childhood was a nostalgic treat.