There are so many video games and tech toys to choose among, it's hard to zero in on the ones that will be enjoyed after the holidays and inspire kids' imaginations. James Oppenheim of JamesGames.com reveals the top products for children of all ages.
Amazing hardware for students young and old, or ‘the pen is mightier …’
Whether you’re looking for a present for an elementary school or college student, there are products to make “learning” easier:
- Tag Reading System (Leapfrog $49.99): This unique reading system works with a pen-shaped device that kids can use to “read” individual words, paragraphs or even play games in specially encoded early-reader books. Many of the books are classics like “Olivia,” “Chicka,” “Chicka Boom, Boom,” “I Spy,” “Click,” “Clack,” “Moo: Cows That Type” and “The Little Engine That Could.”
- Pulse Pen(Lifescribe $149-$199):High school and college students will really appreciate this note-taking pen. It records the audio of lectures as you take notes and then lets you play them back by clicking on the notepad. It makes you a better note taker and keeps you from ever having one of those situations where the prof says there were five causes of the Civil War, but you only got three down in your notes!
Creativity games and thinking games
User-created content is the big buzz this year. You create something for others to use or view, kind of like YouTube for gamers:
- Little Big Planet(Sony $59.99): Playing video games is one thing, but with Little Big Planet you can actually design your own, without knowing how to program. If you did nothing but play through the amazing photorealistic levels, the game would be a lot of fun; but what makes this one of the most exciting games of the year is that with the items you collect as you play, you can design your own games and levels.
- You're in the Movies (Microsoft $69.99 including camera):This game puts you and three of your friends into hilarious parodies of classic film genres. Everything is done automatically using the Xbox 360, the bundled camera and the software. First you compete in fun activities in front of the camera. The program puts it all together and creates movies that you can share online.
Thinking games for the PC
I demonstrated the computer games today on HP’s new series of touch-sensitive computers, the Touchsmart computers (from $1,299).
- Spore (Electronic Arts $49.99): One of the few games to make the cover of Time magazine (when it was announced two years ago), this game by the creator of The Sims and SimCity takes you from amoeba to galactic civilization! Creatures, worlds and planets you create in your game are used by other players in their games. It is easy enough for all types of players to pick up and enjoy.
- More “serious” gamers looking for a bit of intergalactic gaming should look at Sins of a Solar Empire (Stardock $29.99). This game is like playing chess on the scale of “Star Wars” or “Star Trek.” Huge armadas of spaceships vie for control over vast galactic distances.
- On the other end of the spectrum ... The World of Goo (2DBoy.com $20) is a game anyone can pick up and play, and one of the most creative designs of the year. You have to rescue the goo-drops by building structures, out of goo, of course. Who knew goo could be so entertaining and thought-provoking?
Almost every major software company is producing music games this year. The important thing is to pick the game that is right for the person who is going to be playing it: They are not all alike. Some emphasize singing, dancing or playing. Some are designed for kids, others for hard-core players, and still others for casual karaoke players.
- Singing games:Singstar for the PS3 (Sony $59.99) and Lips for the Xbox 360 (Microsoft $69.99) are karaoke-style casual games that both feature expandable, downloadable content. Lips has a motion sensor built into the mic so it mixes dancing and singing. Both games feature original pop videos to sing along with.
- Dance games: The Wii is the platform of choice for dance games because of its motion-sensitive controllers. Younger dancers will go for All Star Cheerleader (THQ $39.99), Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 with Dance Mat (Konami $69.99) and games inspired by the Disney music shows like High School Musical 3: Senior Year($49.99) for get-up-and-dance fun.
Battle of the bands
- Rock Band II (Harmonix $189) and Guitar Hero 4 World Tour (Activision $189) both have impressive drum sets and great tunes. Which one is right for you? Get Guitar Hero for the great drum set and ability to record your own music. Get Rock Band II for the excellent drum lessons and for the no-fail party mode which makes everyone sound good. Rock Band II even has an optional device with a sound and smoke show that fires off when you’re playing great!
For more information and more high-tech gift ideas, visit JamesGames.com.
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