The Motherloot Blog: Product Reviews

Review: Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure

We were recently given the chance to try out “Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure”, a new game for the Xbox 360 Kinect. As we are big fans of the movies (oh, and our kids too), we were really looking forward to trying it out.

You first start by using the Kinect to create an avatar for each player. Instead of selecting your likeness like most other games, the game leverages the Kinect to scan you instead. What we thought was going to be an innovative and fun way to create a character, quickly turned into a long and frustrating experience. After patiently going through the multi-step process, we ended up with rather generic looking characters that had no obvious resemblance. Worse, the system struggled to “scan” our daughter at all. After 5 agonizing minutes of holding still, she had enough of the game and quit. Not the best first impression for a game aimed at her.

Once you survive the avatar creation process though, things pick up. You arrive at a Pixar-themed park where you roam about by jogging in place. The park is split into distinct areas based on the movies Up!, The Incredibles, Cars 2, Ratatouille, and Toy Story 3. The park itself doesn’t have anything in the way of activities or interactive features. It’s just a way to select the mission or challenge you’d like to play. Once you maneuver your avatar to the right location, a cutscene starts where another kid from the park starts a dialog with you and your imagination takes you into one of the Pixar movies. This is where the real action begins.

In each challenge, you take on the likeness of a character from the movie and team up with some of the more well-known personalities from the flicks. Most missions have the same basic premise and gameplay: You and your digital (or real-life) partner must rush through the environment and make it through numerous obstacles along the way. The visuals are undoubtedly the best part of the game. They are absolutely gorgeous and faithful to each film. You truly feel as if you are in a new scene from the movie, interacting with their unique characters and environment.

Unfortunately, the game is called Kinect Rush. Each challenge is a race to get through these beautiful surrounding as fast as you can. With this pressure, you don’t feel like you have any time to enjoy or appreciate what’s going on around you.

That leads us to the controls. This is a Kinect-only game so you are the controller. At times, this can be a real joy. Jumping, climbing, and holding on a wire as you slide down its length is fun and intuitive. Walking or running about, which you are doing the majority of the time, is another matter.

Getting momentum is easy enough, just swing your arms. Unfortunately, it’s getting your character to go where you want them to that’s the problem. To turn your character, you rotate your body just as you would change direction in real life. However, this does not translate when you’re in front of your TV, where you instinctively want to always face the action. I observed every member of the family trying to lean in the direction they wanted to go, which doesn’t work. At a recent family get-together we invited other members to give the game a try and, despite the on-screen instructions, they leaned instead of turned as well. Even when you do it right, the characters often turn at a snail’s pace. This really damages the experience.

The notable exception is the challenges for Cars. For these, you hold an imaginary steering wheel to drive through these fast-paced missions. Controlling the vehicles is natural and a blast. It’s just too bad that the rest of the game isn’t like this.

Despite these challenges with the game, your character never dies which definitely can help with the crying and tantrums that can ensue when your character is gone. If you are met with a particular challenge that you can’t complete, your character simply disappears and then reappears. For small kids, this is definitely a bonus feature.

Overall, Kinect Rush captures the mood of Pixar’s films through rich and beautifully detailed levels. However, with some exceptions, is hindered by frustrating controls.

Suggested Retail Price: $49.96

Website With More Information: Disney Pixar Adventure (Kinect Rush)

 

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

Review: New Carnival Games

One thing I remember as I kid is going to the 4H fair with my parents and being tempted by those enormous stuffed animals by the carnival games. You always saw them hanging, but you never saw anyone win one. That should have been my first clue that there was something fishy about the games.

Flash forward to when we got the first Carnival Games for Wii. The controls were difficult and some of the games nearly impossible. An accurate interpretation of those childhood memories, but for some reason, we just kept on playing. This sort of masochistic behavior is best left for therapy sessions.

So when the sequel, New Carnival Games: Return to the Midway arrived, we thought we were in for more tears and controller throwing. Fortunately for all involved, there have been improvements. Yes, some of the games are quite difficult, but these are balanced by others that are enjoyable to all ages

The overall concept to the game is the same as the first. You create a custom character, play games to earn tickets and virtual prizes, and then redeem tickets for crazy clothes for your character to wear. That’s all there is to it, but for a game aimed at younger kids the silly hats are enough motivation to keep on trying for those tickets.

You’ll play games of the same style you would expect to see at a fair: skeeball, make baskets in a moving hoop, bag tossing, and shooting targets. These are similar to what the first game offered, but the controls seemed a little easier and less frustrating this time around. What really sets this second game apart are the more unusual activities. The family favorite is the haunted house, when gives you a first-person perspective as you aim for and shoot targets on ghosts that pop up. The other would be the tractor pull which, being from Indiana, is something I’ve witnessed in person. This version has all the fun and none of the ear-bleeding.

Overall, the game is aimed at younger kids starting around first grade. Though older kids would enjoy most of the games the first few times, I don’t think it would hold their interest over the long term. If your kids enjoyed the first version of this game, the new one is certainly worth a try.

Suggested Retail Price: $37.99

Website For More Details: New Carnival Games

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers.

Review: Glory of Heracles for Nintendo DS

A new game based on the character Heracles from Greek mythology will be released this week and we were given a copy to put through the paces. If you long for the classic RPGs of your childhood or want your kids to have the same experience on an updated platform, this is your ticket.

Based around the plot that you’re an immortal hero who has lost his memory but is apparently Heracles, you met up with fellow immortals and make your way towards Mt. Olympus. There’s all the typical RPG elements that have been seen hundreds of times before. You lay the smack down on killer bugs, trees, and an endless supply of angry creatures. You get money to buy better equipment, experience and new skills to bring new levels of hurt upon those who stand in your way, and are thrown into a variety of mini-quests to keep the storyline moving.

There are two things that make this game really likable however. First of is the sense of humor. Right from the gun, there are layers of sarcastic and genuine comedy in the writing that will grab your attention and keep it. Even during the tutorials, which are oftentimes painful necessities of a game, the smart wit keeps things entertaining. There’s running jokes about hair, a gender-confused character, and even about the RPG genre itself. I’ve not seen this level of writing in this kind of game before, which is a good thing because you’ll spend a lot of time reading.

The second thing that struck me was the animation. I’ve come to expect the same generic kind of movement from characters in these classic RPGs. When you fall asleep, your character is merely rotated horizontal. When he attacks, a little stick moves up and down a few times and maybe the monster shakes. Not so in Heracles.

The anime-like movie intro is an impressive start, but it’s the detail of the in-game animation that really blows you away. The characters move fluidly. If they get up after a fall, it’s a complete and convincing movement. In battles, they wind up before bashing a crazy-eyed tree monster over the head. As the fights are the central point of the game, having monsters with unique and interesting animations keeps it fresh. As an added bonus, the humorous dialog appears even here with taunts from your characters and exclamations like “not my hair!”

Overall, the game is an entertaining one that moves along quick enough that your kids won’t become bored with monotony but challenging enough to keep them busy for a long time. The in-game tutorials are numerous, but short and spread out on a need-to-know basis which helps. Beginners can make use of the auto-mode where the game decides the next move in a fight. Advanced players however can take over the reins where they perform a variety of skill tests to make their attacks more effective. The animation makes it a joy on the eyes and the dialog, though many times over the kids’ heads, surely has enough to give them a good chuckle.

Suggested Retail Price: $27.99

Website for More Details: Glory of Heracles

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers.

Review: Swinxs Game Console

swinxsIf ever there was a family that was perfect to test out a new game console, then it would have to be our family. With the original Nintendo, the Wii, a Sony Playstation, and a Nintendo DS, we have tried all sorts of gaming platforms for ourselves and for our children.

The new Swinxs Game Console is different than those systems though. What makes it different? There is no television involved and no zoning out to a miniature screen. This game console is as close to a fun board game or an outdoor game as it can be, but has all of the splash of a fun gaming system with new games added all of the time.

Here is a breakdown of what parents will absolutely love about this gaming system.

-         The game console itself is lightweight and portable. It is intended for both indoor and outdoor play. The unit comes with a cord that can be used to add a two-prong (or three prong adapter, depending on your country) to charge in the wall and it can be hooked up to the computer to download new materials for the game console. It does not require additional batteries and requires nothing more than it being plugged into a wall for charging. The console has three buttons and that is it. It is easy to use and easy to set up because of the minimalist approach to the console. This unit is simple and makes it easy to store or to take when you travel somewhere. The only thing that a parent would need to keep track of is the wristbands which are brightly colored and easy to find.

-         There are no hidden and additional costs. Usually when you buy a gaming console you find that it requires additional materials or you constantly have to buy new games to keep it fresh. Just head to the Swinxs Games page and hook your USB cable into your computer to download new and free games. They are constantly updating it and there are no charges to update your system. You have to love that!

-         These games are not mind numbing  and require active play and interaction between friends and family members. Old school games like tag, hide-and-g0-seek, quizzing or trivia, and charades are implemented into this gaming system. The announcer adds humor to each game and the child interacts by waving his wristband over the unit to answer questions or to announce his presence in games like hide-and-go-seek or tag.

-         This would be the hit of every birthday party. Raise your hand if you lack the ambition to set up party games at birthday parties! I know I do! Put the Swinxs in the center of the room and give each child a wristband and let them enjoy the delights of this game inside or send the kids out to play in the backyard and never hear the words, “I’m bored!” again. It can be played solo or you can add up to ten players, although the unit itself comes with four bands and adding more kids would require the purchase of some extra bands.

I will admit though that my kids have yet to test my theories on this system. You will find ours neatly wrapped under the Christmas tree for them. Oh, to have had a camera as my husband and I slipped on our wrist bands and played some rounds of hide-and-go seek and charades late at night while the kids were sleeping…while drinking a little vino. Yes, that was like a little party in a box and kept us entertained for a good hour! Forget the kids, we now have a new date night activity!

In all seriousness, wee can’t wait to share this with them and we can’t wait to share this gaming system with one lucky reader this month.  Skip the mind-numbing games and zoned out gaming system. Get your children this one and watch these old school games come to life in a new way!

Website for More Details: Swinxs

Suggested Retail Price: $150.00

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers! After all, it’s only what we know you have come to expect from us!

Giveaway Results: Castle Knights Board Game

Castle Knights

Sorry! This giveaway is now closed! We would like to congratulate Karl (Commenter #11) on winning this great board game! Please check back each Tuesday for a new giveaway!

Christmas is just around the corner and nothing says Christmas like a beautifully wrapped board game underneath the tree. HABA has an expansive selection of games available, in a variety of play styles, sizes and age ranges.

Perhaps the best part about HABA’s games though, is that they grow with children. Most HABA games offer alternate play variations, so as children learn new skills, the game adapts with them. HABA also offers many cooperative games, perfect for families with young children. In these cooperative games, siblings aren’t playing against each other, they’re working with one another to accomplish a common goal. A great example of this type of game is Castle Knights.

The knights are racing to build the towers before King Duncan gets home! Players use a stretchy band, not their hands, to lift and build different castle towers shown on the picture cards. But watch the timer – you have to move quickly. Build a tower on each of the three levels before the King’s arrival. Cooperative game designed for 2-4 players ages 5 and up.

To enter this giveaway, head over to our review and read all about what this board game offers. Come back here and tell me why this would be the perfect holiday gift for your children. Entries will be taken through Tuesday (11/03) at 8PM EST. Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Fossil Fighters Nintendo DS Game

fossil-fightersI wanted to get my son’s thoughts on this game for nearly 2 weeks now but he’s been so busy playing it, I haven’t been able to get a good overview from him until now. I shouldn’t be surprised. It combines his favorite thing in the world, dinosaurs, with something he does every day with his sister… fighting.

Fossil Fighters is a new game for the DS where you can pretty much guess what it entails from the title. You play a boy (what? no girls?) who comes to an island to hunt for fossils which will turn into battle-ready dinosaurs, ready to tear your opponents dinos apart. Well, its not quite that exciting, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The gameplay consists of 4 main elements: the story, hunting for fossils, cleaning the fossils, and fighting. The story helps move things along and does a good job of introducing the other parts of the game as you come to them. New areas of the game open up as you progress allow you to explore and find new fossils. The fossil finding is dead simple. You have a radar that tells you where they are around you and you dig them up. The excitement is in finding new fossils that give you a new dinosaur makes existing ones more powerful.

My favorite part of the game is the cleaning. If you have kids who have always wanted to be paleontologists or archeologists, they’d love this. You have to chip away at the rock using a hammer and drill to uncover the bone within. The challenge is you must do this without damaging the fossil as well as complete the task within a set time limit. The less damage you do to the fossil, the more powerful your resulting dinosaur will be. This can be both rewarding and frustrating. Some rocks already have parts of the fossil showing, so you must be more careful in those areas. Some rocks resemble swiss cheese making the cleaning process feel like surgery. The DS is perfect for this task with the touchscreen. To top it off, your drill creates dust making it difficult to see what you’re doing so you blow on your DS to remove the dust making it great fun.

That brings us to the fighting. Battles crop up in many different ways, but most are when you dig something up and another fighter pops out of nowhere claiming it to be theirs. You break out your pack of dinos and take turns unleashing a variety of moves. There is actually a good amount of strategy involved as different types of dinos are strong or weak against other types. This affects which ones you bring with you to battle (you can only choose 3). Also, one of these does the main fighting at a time while the others serve supporting roles. If you win, your dinos get a little stronger. If you lose, you don’t lose your fossils or any similar dire consequences with lowers the frustration factor for kids. You simple end up back in town and you try the same thing again.

The downside of this game is that for being named after fighting, the fighting doesn’t seem to be the best part. The fights are repetitive and very easy for most of the game. It’s fun to try out new dinosaurs when you get them, but it’s the same routine over and over. Many times, the fighting gets in the way of the fun, which is a shame. The good thing is that the rest of the game is quite satisfying and its certainly not a game they will finish in a few days. There’s plenty of entertainment for the kids in this one.

Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

Website for More Details: Fossil Fighters Nintendo DS Game

Giveaway: Bedtime With Elmo DVD

bedtime-with-elmo-dvdIt’s bedtime on Sesame Street and like all little children, Elmo doesn’t want to go to sleep yet, he wants to play.  After all the 4th of July festivities this year, children across the country will be feeling the same way, and Sesame Workshop is ready to help!  The nighttime routine gets a little easier when Bedtime With Elmo debuts on DVD July 7 from Genius Products and Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street.

Here are some of their great tips for getting kids in bed…and keeping them in bed:

-Establish a Consistent and Positive Bedtime Routine
Help your child transition to bed by having predictable activities that take place at the same time each night, such as going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, getting into pajamas and reading stories. Children can be comforted by routine and benefit if their bedtime schedule is followed as regularly as possible.

-Quiet Playtime
Help your child wind down from the day by getting him into pajamas earlier than usual and engaging in relaxing activities like reading, playing a quiet game, doing a puzzle, or drawing together. Give him extra long cuddles before putting him to bed!

-Sharing Special Moments
Talk to your child about her day before going to sleep. Ask her to choose a favorite part of the day and discuss why it was special. Encourage her to think of something that she is looking forward to doing tomorrow as she falls asleep.

-Bedtime Stories
Help your child choose a favorite book at bedtime. After reading the story, ask him what he thinks his favorite character might do to get ready for bed. Talk about ways his bedtime routines might be similar or different. Remind him that everyone needs a good night’s sleep to feel rested and energized in the morning!

-Glimmer of Light
Help your child feel safe when sleeping in the dark by placing a small night light in his room or hallway. You can also let him keep a small flashlight under his pillow to help him feel safe. Talk to him about how he is feeling and let him know that while it is okay to be scared, reassure him that there is nothing to be afraid of in the dark and you are always close by if he needs you.

-Sweet Dreams
Provide your child with a quiet, cozy and comfortable bedroom for her to sleep in. Your child should look forward to sleeping in her room and feel safe and secure. Allow her to have her favorite blanket or stuffed animal nearby for comfort when going to bed. You can also set up a CD player to play soft calming music or lullabies as she falls asleep.

We are lucky enough to have three copies of Bedtime With Elmo to give away to three lucky winners on our site. Please leave a comment by Tuesday (07/07) at 8PM EST and tell me one tip/trick you use for getting your children in bed.

Review: Excitebots Trick Racing Nintendo Wii Game

excitebotsThough it launched on May 20th, we’ve been so busy playing the new game for the Wii called Excitebots: Trick Racing that we’ve had no time until now to write a review. Like MarioKart, Excitebots is a fun racing game played with an optional wheel controller. Excitebots is a lot different from other racers we own however.

First off, you’re not racing cars. Oh no, with a name like Excitebots, cars just wouldn’t do. You have your choice of a variety of giant robotic insects and similar creatures. Yup, you’re in complete control of things like a speeding metal lady bug, laying waste to all that oppose your polka-dotted fury.

Then come the tricks. In this game, finishing first is not the primary objective. As you tear around the outdoors in your grasshopper of destruction, you score points for a variety of crazy maneuvers. These are as simple as crashing into other bots or jumping hundreds of feet through the air, to flipping around bars with retractable arms and shaking a tambourine. Yes, I said shaking a tambourine.

On the tracks are special gifts you can unwrap. Inside are a variety of surprises that either help you gain an edge in the race or unlock an on-track mini game right in front of you. These include sports-related actions like knocking a soccer ball into a goal to the downright scary like throwing a pie into a freaky clown face. As silly as this all sounds, all of it is incredibly fun and satisfying (at least for a while).

The other major feature that makes this game fun is the sense of speed. When you hit your turbo, the world around your flying centipede literally becomes a blur. The developers have done a great job of using this technique to give you a real feeling of incredible speed without blasting your robo-spider forward so fast it’s uncontrollable. In fact, the game is very forgiving when you make mistakes. This is great for kids who are easily frustrated. Jump wrong off a cliff and heading towards a forest? Your bot can easily be steered back on course mid-air. Even when things go terribly wrong and your hummingbird of terror smashing into a million pieces, the game goes into slow mo and if you shake your wheel you are reassembled, put back on the track, and you get an extra speed boost to help you catch up.

At the core, all these tricks earn you stars. The more stars, the more tournaments you unlock. In addition, you can use stars to purchase new bots. Each bots is good at certain things, so it’s not just a change in looks when switching between a beetle and a bat. You can also buy new colors for your bots, which I didn’t find much value in. Do well enough and you’ll unlock a special outfit for your bot. I did find it amusing to race around in a mechanized insect wearing a top hat, but I’m not sure it worth more than a chuckle.

In order to add to the replay value, they’ve included several mini-games as well as the option to race online against players around the world. Unlike MarioKart where you get new challenges delivered all the time, the tracks and challenges will get repetitive after playing over and over.

All in all, the kids found it was high on fun and relatively low on frustration. Their interest did wane after a while, but they still get a kick over that lady bug.

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99 (with Wii Wheel) & $36.99 (without Wii Wheel)

Website for More Details: Excitebot: Trick Racing

All The Music Without the Work: slotRadio Player

slotradio-hi-resI am a music fanatic in a big way. It is rare that you will come into my home and music will not be playing and my car is never silent. I love my iPod, I am a huge fan of Pandora, and I blip my little heart out on Twitter.

Here is my other confession…I hate downloading music or anything that requires a lot of work. I wish songs would magically appear on my iPod so I didn’t have to put them on. That is why I was very excited to try the new slotRadio player and see what it was all about.

The slotRadio player is a little thicker than the iPod, but shorter. It has a screen that tells you what type of station you are on and comes with a little earbud set that is (gasp) actually comfortable. With the player is a teeny tiny memory card that is about the size of a baby’s pinky nail. On that little memory card is 1,000 songs arranged into different playlists that you can play depending on your mood and musical taste.

That is it.  You slip in the card and you listen to music. It is quite mind-blowing!

The pitfall with this system is that you may not actually like all of the music that is on your card. The player comes bundled with basically a sampler of music from all genres and when I first stuck it in and Lynrd Skynrd stared playing I was like, “Oh, heck no!”  We soon realized that the player gives you the option to switch to different stations and I was jamming to Fatboy Slim before you could say Funk Soul Brother.

The other pitfall for parents purchasing this player is that not all the songs come in radio edit version so that might be something to keep in mind if you don’t want your kid dropping some bombs around the dinner table.

The great thing about these players though is that this is a fabulously affordable way to listen to music without any downloading. You can buy a memory card with 1,000 songs on it for $40. That means you will pay $.04 per download and can choose the genre you absolutely love to listen to. The player itself is only $99 and comes with the 1,000 music sampler which is a great start to your collection.

Charging it can be done with a USB cable or even a little charger for your wall which makes even the charging easy for those who are not tech-savvy.

I would highly recommend this as an affordable option for parents who can’t afford the iPod prices or for your own parents who might be struggling with the downloading process.

Where will you see me rocking this player? It has become my new favorite thing to mow the lawn this year! I can’t wait to listen to the Workout Mix while tackling the yard!

Suggested Retail Price: $99 (Player & 1,000 loaded songs)

Website for More Details: slotRadio

Giveaway Results: Animal Planet Emergency Vets DS Game

animal-planet-emergency-vets-ds1

Thank you all for entering our contest.  We chose our winner randomly and would like to congratulate Commenter #57 (Oona B.) on winning this prize pack. Please check back each Tuesday for a brand new giveaway and thank you all for entering.

Today we have a great giveaway for a new DS game for kids called, “Animal Planet Emergency Vets” for the Nintendo DS. Kids who love animals and dream of becoming veterinarians now have a new, interactive way to play pretend.  Animal Planet, known as the authority on “all things animal” has partnered with Activision to create “Emergency Vets” for Nintendo DS!

Based on the popular Animal Planet series “Emergency Vets,” kids can play as an up-and-coming veterinarian that helps the other vets at the Alameda East Hospital perform veterinary procedures on a variety of different animals, like teeth cleaning, medicating and operating with the Nintendo DS stylus.  After performing successful procedures, players will have the opportunity to interact with each animal and see their reactions.

This game is rated “E” for everyone and retails for $29.99.

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment and tell me what your child says he/she wants to be when they grow up (and it is totally okay if it is not a veterinarian). Leave your comments by Tuesday (04/28) at 8PM EST to be entered to win. Only entries that follow the rules for entering will qualify to win.