The Pixelkin Staff spent the weekend at PAX Prime looking at games and attending panels on a variety of topics related to family gaming. Here are the 10 best family games we saw at the show.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC
Release Date: To be announced
Chariot tasks two players to work together to push and pull a chariot bearing the remains of the dead king to an appropriate resting place. While the premise may sound dark and dreary, the art style and gameplay are bright and vibrant. Each player can attach a rope to the chariot and can reel in or let out the rope to maneuver the vehicle through the environment and over certain obstacles. It’s a great potential game for families because the players really need to talk to each other and strategize their actions to get the chariot to move in the right direction.
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Developed by Harmonix, the company that made the Rock Band and Dance Central games, Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved puts players in the role of a conductor. Featuring music and environments from the classic Disney film, as well as popular tunes from a variety of eras, Fantasia is unique in that it encourages players to gesticulate just like they were conducting a real orchestra. At certain points during the song, players also have the opportunity to manipulate the music through a motion-based mini-game, essentially guaranteeing that no two playthroughs of the same song would ever be exactly alike. Since two players can play cooperatively at the same time, it’s a great game for families to play together, and the music-manipulation aspect encourages young maestros to experiment with different sounds.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a top-down adventure and puzzle game with thrilling cooperative play. As usual, Lara Croft has tracked down a historical artifact with dangerous magical powers. She and fellow archaeologist Carter Bell are trapped in the Egyptian underworld with the gods Isis and Horus. The two archaeologists and the two Egyptian Gods each navigate differently. Lara and Carter can use grappling hooks and guns to get around, while Isis and Horus can generate magical shields and shoot lasers from their staffs. A typical puzzle-solving instance saw Isis or Horus using magic to activate moving platforms or other magical items, while Lara and Carter made it possible for the party to scale high walls.
The fighting isn’t graphic; the enemies are all creatures from the underworld, and while there is some mild blood, it’s not gratuitous in any way. There’s a single-player campaign mode where the player plays as Lara and navigates the puzzles and traps of the temple. Other players can join in at any time, making this one of our top choices for cooperative play.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Release Date: November 2014
The LittleBigPlanet games have always embraced cooperative play, and it looks like LittleBigPlanet 3 is no exception. With four characters to choose from, players can have a fresh experience playing through as each. It’s not clear yet what the campaign mode will look like, but so far the game maintains much of the charm that is intrinsic to the series. LittleBigPlanet 3 has levels where all four characters have to work together and other levels that work only with a single playable character. The multiple-character levels have puzzles that can be solved in a variety of ways. For example, Sackboy can climb a net to reach a higher platform, while the dog character Oddsock can jump from wall to wall to reach the same goal. These levels create a great sense of teamwork, while still being fun and low stress. Other levels in the game only work with one character, which is an exciting way to explore the skills of the unique characters in a way that is more reminiscent of the original LittleBigPlanet games.
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution is a fast-paced fighting game based on the popular Naruto anime series. The game features the series’ most beloved characters, rendered as they are in the anime, but with a touch of 3D flair. Players will fight each other in an exciting one-on-one battle using familiar moves; the fighting is bloodless, however, and characters never die. It’s fun to button-mash your way to victory in this one, and it’s a great option for younger kids who want to play fighting games but would rather not be exposed to intense violence, as well as those who are fans of the Naruto anime or manga.
Disney Infinity: Marvel Superheroes
Platforms: iOS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Disney Infinity: Marvel Superheroes is a great expansion of the Disney Infinity universe. Kids who like the Marvel superhero franchise, including the recent movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” will enjoy new characters and scenarios from the films, comics, and cartoons. For those who haven’t played the game, Disney Infinity mixes the physical and digital with special toy figurines, all of which have sensors that, when activated, will unlock that character and their scenarios. For instance, when you choose the Gamora figurine and place her on the board, you can play as Gamora in a familiar scene from Guardians of the Galaxy. Parents will rest easy knowing that the game has eliminated the more adult content, such as alcohol and extreme violence. The game can also be played co-op or with up to four players in “Toybox Mode.” The figurines are expensive, but they are sturdy enough to play with in the physical world.
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm: Curtain Call
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Theatrythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call is a rhythm game with fantasy role-playing elements, starring lots of familiar characters from the Final Fantasy franchise—a series that has spanned decades. While the original games can be fairly dark, Curtain Call takes a lighter approach, with “chibi” (cartoon-ized) character designs and cute aesthetics. Curtain Call can be played with the normal buttons or with a stylus. Players use tapping and sliding motions in time with the music in order to battle monsters and goblins. The game can be played with up to four players, each responsible for their own rhythm. It’s a simple and fun game to play co-op and a great homage to the original Final Fantasy games.
Adventure Time Game Wizard
Release Date: To be announced
In the latest Adventure Time video game by Cartoon Network, players can actually draw their own new game levels on graph paper and then use their iPad’s built-in camera to scan their handmade creations into the game. After their drawing is scanned in, players choose a familiar setting from the TV show (like the Candy Kingdom or the Grasslands) and the artwork overlays itself onto the player’s design. The creative, multi-media gameplay will enthrall most kids, and groups of kids will have fun taking a break from the screen and designing levels together on paper.
Costume Quest 2
Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Wii U
Release Date: October 2014
It’s been four years since Double Fine released the original Costume Quest, and the demo for its long-awaited sequel did not disappoint. In the game you play as Wren and Reynold, two twins who use magical Halloween costumes to battle bad guys and save the world from an evil, conniving dentist. The game’s humor is pitch perfect for kids and adults, and its gameplay mechanics are smooth and satisfying.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Platforms: Wii U
Release Date: December 2014
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker preserves all the great puzzle-solving from Super Mario 3D World, with a few interesting twists. The biggest difference is that Toad cannot jump, which since the 80s has been Mario’s most important and definitive move. This does just enough to differentiate Captain Toad’s gameplay from the main Super Mario series.
The PAX demo played like a series of mini games, which would be fun for families to trade off and share. And because it’s a Mario game, you can bet it will be clever, smooth, and kid-friendly.