roblox

Roblox Hires Online Safety Expert as Director of Digital Civility

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Fortnite is getting all the attention, but online free-to-play game Roblox is still one of the most popular gaming destinations for young people around the world, with an active user base in the millions. Much of that crowd is under 18. Roblox Corporation has made numerous steps to ensure online safety, a top concern for parents whose kids enjoy exploring virtual worlds.

The Roblox Corporation has recently hired British online safety expert Laura Higgins as its Director of Digital Civility (the staff page lists her as Online Safety Operations Manager). Higgins has 20 years of experience working with online safety and educational organizations like the South West Grid for Learning. Higgins will work to create a safe, fun, productive environment for players, as well as develop educational resources for parents.

“Because Roblox is rapidly growing into one of the most popular places for kids and teens to hang out and play online, we have a duty to make sure that when they use our platform they can explore their creativity freely and safely,” said Higgins. “We have an opportunity to engage with young people in a unique way, and I hope that by listening to them and giving them a voice, we can help shape their positive behaviors both online and offline. I am beyond delighted to be joining this world-class team of innovators, and I look forward to working with external partners around the world.”

Roblox’s new Digital Civility Initiative will work to improve programs for parents, enhance user experience, and extend Roblox’s educational work with schools.

Roblox originally launched on PC way back in 2006 as a building creation game using Lego-like blocks. It’s also available on mobile devices and Xbox One. The ESRB has rated the Xbox One version E10+ for Fantasy Violence.

new super mario bros

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Bounces Onto Switch

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Nintendo’s premiere Mario 2D sidescroller on Wii U has been re-released with new content on the Switch. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is available now. And arriving on Nintendo 3DS is another Mario remaster: Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey.

“After a strong 2018, both Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS add to their large and diverse libraries with two solid games starring Mario and friends,” said Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s Senior VP of Sales and Marketing. “Nintendo is giving fans on both platforms good options to kick off their entertainment in 2019.”

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe includes the original New Super Mario Bros. U and its more challenging sequel, New Super Luigi U, for a total of 164 levels.

Both games feature up to four player simultaneous local co-op. Players can choose between Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, and newcomers Nabbit and Toadette. Both Nabbit and Toadette are geared for younger gamers, offering an assist mode. Nabbit is un-phased by enemies and earns extra lives, while Toadette can turn into Peachette, letting her double jump, float, and bounce up from pitfalls.

Note that you’ll need additional controllers to play with three or four players.

The recently arrived Nintendo 3DS version of 2009’s Bower’s Inside Story features revamped graphics and gameplay. The new mode, Bowser’s Jr.’s Journey, puts Bowser’s kid in the limelight as he gathers an army and wrecks havoc. Bowser’s Inside Story is fully compatible with the Nintendo 2DS and 2DS XL.

Both games are rated E for Everyone.

splatoon 2

Choose Between Friends or Family in Splatoon 2 Frosty Fest

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Winter is coming and the new year approaches in the newest Splatfest event for Splatoon 2. The Frosty Fest Splatfest will run for only 48 hours next weekend, January 4-6, 2019.

Like previous Splatfests, the Frosty Fest begins by having everyone choose between two sides and battle it out for supremacy. Since the holidays are about spending time with friends and family, the Frosty Fest will force you to choose between them!

The Frosty Fest will blanket Inkopolis in festive, wintry decor. Inklings will also be able to shoot glitter-filled ink, which as a parent fills me with anxiety and dread.

The event will also add special seasonal hats, distributed via the Splatoon 2 News channel, beginning later this week. You can also redeem your My Nintendo Points for a Splatoon 2 Frosty Fest themed wallpaper, which showcases the new gear.

Note that to participate in the Splatfest and play online you’ll need a Nintendo Switch Online Membership. A free 7-day trial is available when you first sign up. Membership is $3.99 per month or $19.99 for a year. Discounted family memberships for up to eight accounts are also available. Membership provides access to online gameplay for all compatible games (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Super Mario Party, etc), as well as cloud saves and the NES virtual console.

Frosty Fest begins at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern on January 4, 2019. It ends at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern on Jan. 6, 2019. Splatoon 2 is available only on the Nintendo Switch.

pokemon let's go

Pixelkin’s 2018 Game of the Year

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This year had some truly remarkable games. Games like God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, Celeste, and Dragon Quest 11 reflected a rich diversity of gameplay experiences. For Pixelkin’s 2018 Game of the Year, we focused on the best games that were particularly well-suited for families.

Nintendo once again houses some of the best family-friendly gaming we can find. One game lovingly remade a childhood classic from two decades ago, updating it for modern audiences while adding in several noteworthy new features to introduce a whole new audience to one of the best family-friendly franchises in gaming.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and Let’s Go, Pikachu! is Pixelkin’s 2018 Game of the Year.

The brilliance of the original Pokémon Red and Blue, released in the US in 1998, is on full display. The Kanto region is recreated in the more modern 3D style of Pokémon X/Y and Sun and Moon. The light-hearted hero’s journey is fast and easy to jump into, beginning with choosing a new starter Pokémon. The partner Pokémon is a powerful combatant and a cute tagalong friend who, like Pikachu in the series, rides with me rather than in a Pokéball.

Pikachu (or Eevee) can also learn Secret Techniques, which replace the previous Hidden Machines. These moves help explore previously unreachable places, like Sea Skim to traverse water. No longer do I have to worry about including a water Pokémon or a flying Pokémon to get around the latter half of the game.

Pokémon Let’s Go is full of these little improvements and changes that modernize the two-decade old Pokémon gameplay. Other very welcome improvements include the ability to finally swap Pokémon in and out of my active party without having to go through the endless boxes of the Pokémon Center, actually seeing Pokémon out in the world so I can pick and choose my wild encounters, and renaming my Pokémon anytime I wish. I also loved taking out an additional Pokémon to walk around with me, or in the case of larger Pokémon like Rapidash, riding on them! Few moments are as charmingly nostalgic as charging across grassy fields while riding on Arcanine.

pokemon let's go

Catching wild Pokémon is the biggest change in gameplay, but it’s one I found satisfying and rewarding – not to mention kid-friendly. It works almost exactly like mobile AR game Pokémon GO. The Joy-Con motion controls work so well that I often used the kickstand when playing in handheld mode. Flicking the ball at a squirming Pokémon offers just enough interest to never get stale, while ‘battles’ never last more than 30 seconds.

For the first time in the series I actually want to run through dozens of wild Pokémon encounters, increasing my Catch Combo in the hopes for better stats and rare shiny Pokémon. And with Pokémon spawning directly on the world map, catching them has never been more fun or engaging. It makes the world come to life like never before and I hope all Pokémon games in the future utilize it.

The Pokémon series has always been kid-focused series (now enjoyed by countless 30-somethings) but what truly makes Pokémon: Let’s Go an excellent family game is the new co-op mode. Co-op is seamlessly integrated, allowing another local player to simply shake the other Joy-Con half and drop right in. The players have to stay within the same screen and the partner can’t interact with anything, but they do get to participate in combat and in catching wild Pokémon.

let's go

Few gameplay moments have been as rich as playing alongside my young daughter as we synchronized our Pokéball throwing and tag-teamed against the villainous Team Rocket. The intuitive co-op is definitely a feature I want to see in all future Pokémon games for the Nintendo Switch.

As a longtime fan of the series, Pokémon: Let’s Go lacks some of the more deep and complex gameplay features that Pokémon has cultivated in the last two decades, such as breeding and abilities. But it is an excellent modern remake of the original games, and the Pokémon GO-style catching is surprisingly engaging. The many modern improvements make journeying through Kanto more enjoyable than ever. With the new co-op mode, it’s easily the most kid-friendly game of the entire series, and a wonderful way to introduce the magic of Pokémon to a younger generation.