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.

 

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!

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Nintendo Wii)

Animal CrossingWhen I heard we’d have a chance to test drive Animal Crossing: City Folk, I was excited. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Animal Crossing series and there are a lot of people who really enjoyed the previous titles. I had heard it was sort of like a simplified version of The Sims, which I was crazy about, so we sat down as a family and dove right in.

The basis of the game is you arrive in a town full of animal characters, make friends, and settle into daily life. Your first tasks are designed to familiarize yourself with how things work and to purchase your own home (complete with mortgage, of course). You get a part time job to help things along, but are quickly left to your own destiny. The game is completely open-ended and progresses in real time. When it is morning, it’s morning in the game. If you play at night it’s, wait for it… nighttime in the game! What’s also fun is the seasons in the game reflect those in real life as well, complete with changing leaves in fall and snow in winter.

Your daily activities are up to you, but they don’t vary all that much. They center largely around acquiring things you can sell for “bells”, which are the game’s currency, so that you can buy stuff. This stuff includes such things as outfits for your character and items for your home. Once you pay off that mortgage, you can add onto your home, making more room for more stuff. Not all that different than how we tend to live our own lives, huh?

There are several ways to acquire items that you can sell for money, I mean bells, in the game. You can fish, catch bugs, shake the dickens out of trees so they give up their fruit, or rip flowers out of your neighbors’ lawns under the cover of darkness, or in broad daylight (just because animals can talk doesn’t mean they’re smart). As for occupying your free time, you can talk to your animal friends, visit various attractions around town, or plant your own flowers, that you then have to water or they die. Special events occur once in a while and on real holidays which are always interesting. You can also dig for fossils, which for some reason feels more like digging up the remains of your animal neighbors’ victims, but maybe that’s just me.

But this game is called Animal Crossing: City Folk , so I was pumped to find I could just hop the bus to the city. Expecting a bustling metropolis of activity and excitement, I was sorely disappointed to find it’s just a town square with stores where you can (get this) buy more stuff! I realized then this game’s sole purpose appears to be promoting capitalism and materialism.

So as our character took the long ride home back to his lonely home, filled with material goods meant to fill some void in his virtual life, our son turns to me and says, “I’m bored”. So we searched for a more traditional form of entertainment with more wholesome values, dug through our stash of board games, and bust open Monopoly.

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Website for More Details: Amazon

Noodleboro Pizza Palace Listening Game

I recently posted about some of our favorite family board games and Hasbro contacted us to see if we would be interested in reviewing some of their products. They sent over some really great classic games like Operation, Trivial Pursuit, and the Cranium Family Edition.

Tucked in there though was a perfect game for our little children  called Noodleboro Pizza Palace that I had not heard of before. This game was a unique game that works on building listening skills through a fun preschool board game.

The concept is simple and straightforward. You can give your kids little plastic pizzas and then you have a deck of cards that you can draw from to pick your toppings for the pizza. Depending on the age of your child, you can pick as many or as few of toppings as you feel they can remember. The toppings you can choose from can be the traditional pizza toppings, but they can also be silly toppings (like a shoe) which is a surefire way to get your children giggling.

For the game, you show your child the cards you have drawn and then you flip them back over so they can’t see them. This is when they look through their box of toppings and find the toppings that you requested and have to remember what you said you wanted for toppings. Listening skills are the focus of the game so you are trying to see if they listened well enough to remember your topping requests.

There are other elements tucked into the game like a story that shows what can go wrong in a pizza palace if people don’t listen. There is also an audio disc that the children can listen to and build on the listening skills focus.

This game is geared towards children between the ages of three to six years old.

Thanks Hasbro for adding your great games to our family nights.  We truly believe board games are a great frugal way for families to enjoy time together and can’t wait to spend evenings incorporating your wonderful games in our collection.

Suggested Retail Price: $9.99

Website for More Information:Noodleboro Pizza Palace Listening Game

Rockin’ It Out With Wii Music

When our copy of Wii Music arrived, we were a bit skeptical. Based on the summary, the game lets you play a bunch of virtual musical instruments by waving around your Wii remote and pressing buttons. I’ll be honest and say that did not sound very satisfying on paper. However, after countless jam sessions, hand bell performances, symphonies, and music video recording, I can tell you that this game is incredible.

Unlike most games, there is no set path and there is no right or wrong way to experience Wii Music. The game is more of a tool to allow your kids (and you) to understand music theory and foster their musical creativity. This is not done through the sadistic exercises that piano teacher from your childhood employed. Rather, the game introduces you to the basic mechanics of the various instruments and underlying concepts of music and sets you on your way.

You start with about two dozen different instruments to try. As you progress through the additional lessons, games, and challenges offered, you unlock more. This process is extremely satisfying because of not only the sheer number the game offers in total (a whopping 60!), but also their variety and humor. This is a fantastic way to introduce you children to instruments they would never have the opportunity to experience otherwise. Sure, there are the expected standards like a drum set, piano, violin, trumpet and guitar, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Ever played the djembe or taiko drums? Rocked out with a shamisen or sitar? Maybe strummed a dandy on the jaw harp? Neither had I until Wii Music. For some real laughs, you can “play” a dog or cat suit (your Mii barks or meows while dress in full costume), lay down some dope beats with your DJ turntables or beat-boxing, or just go nuts as a cheerleader yelling and shaking your pom-poms. There is enough variety here to keep your family smiling for hours.

Getting to the actual music, the main mode is the “jam sessions” where you can choose your role in the band (melody, percussion, bass, etc) and play your heart out to dozens of songs from the elementary “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to some pop and rock classics like “Mr. Postman” or “Material Girl”. Your kids are not scored, graded, or judged like other music games like Guitar Hero. They are free to play however they like, in whatever style they like. They don’t have to worry about the notes they play, as the game does a surprisingly intelligent job of deciding that for them. To get a great performance, it’s all about the timing, rhythm, and the gusto with which they play.

The lessons mode does a fantastic job of gradually teaching them more advanced concepts of musical theory. It demonstrates how you can play the same song in different styles and how the mood of a song can change from start to finish. This serves as a great teaching tool and make the game more engaging by enabling your kids to play the same songs it an endless variety of ways. You can see what I mean in this video:

There are other modes such as music videos, hand bell performances, music quizzes (another great teaching tool), and our favorite, conductor. Conductor allows you to take control over a symphony or choir who follow your lead through a number of rousing classical numbers. Depending on the speed and tempo of your movements, the musicians will play faster, slower, louder, or softer. This is one mode that does score you and leads to some great competition. If you conduct with robot-like precision, you will not get as high of a score as you might think. You are awarded for creativity and the personality you inject into the performance.

Words can only go so far in describing what playing Wii Music is like, so check out this video and then get your copy!

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Website For More Details: Wii Music (Amazon)

Giveaway: Build-A-Bear Workshop Game for Nintendo Wii

Thank you to all who entered our giveaway! We are happy to announce that commenter #41, r. robinson, was the winner! Congratulations to their family!

“My daughter is a straight A student who greatly desires a Build a Bear. I have been unable to purchase this item for her. This game will be a great treat for her. Her grandparents are planning to buy her a Wii for Christmas and this game would be an awesome gift to find under the Christmas tree.”

Now that I am back from my vacation, I am so excited to start our weekly giveaways back up! Today we will be offering two luck winners a new family game for your Nintendo Wii.

The game is called Build-A-Bear Workshop for the Nintendo Wii, and it is a family-friendly game perfect for young children. The game is for children three and older, and will be released very soon!  It encourages multiple players, making it ideal for a birthday party or family game night. In the game, players create a stuffed friend, and then guide him through a series of fun and challenging games and obstacles. Build-A-Bear Workshop was released on the Nintendo DS in 2007 and received rave reviews, and the Wii version promises to be even better!

To enter, please leave a comment and share your favorite Nintendo Wii game that you play with your family. If you don’t have any games yet, please share why this one would make a good start to your collection. Please leave your comment here by 10/28 at 8PM EST to be included. One entry per person and US residents only. Thanks & good luck!!