The Motherloot Blog: Product Reviews

Review: Kellogg’s Super Mario Fruit Snacks

I just started a fun new job working with the Kellogg company as one of their Snackpicks Moms. Each month, beginning in July, I will be sharing fun ideas and tips for entertaining, fresh new recipe ideas, and fun ways to celebrate all of life’s little occasions for the Snackpicks website.

On occasion, I will also get the opportunity to share about new products the company is coming out with. Kellogg’s sent over to us a big box of goodies to try and they let us choose a favorite to share about with our readers. It was a bit like Christmas…and what mom wouldn’t want to extend her grocery shopping by a few days.  Oh yes, it was a great day!

Lucky for my son, one of those new products just happened to be Super Mario Fruit Snacks. To say that both kids were enthusiastic when I whipped out a box of these would be putting it mildly. As Mario & Luigi are demonstrating on the front of the package, there just might have been a little fist-pumping at the table for this fun new treat.

These are the perfect treat to tuck into your purse in the summertime instead of other snacks that can make a melted puddle in your beach bags and summer totes.

I am a Snackpicks mom and this sample was sent to me by Kellogg’s. 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.

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.

Pikmin Wii Game

pikminWe had the chance to review a rather interesting new game for the Wii called Pikmin recently. It’s a remake of a game that came out way back in 2001, so if your kids played that one, there’s not a lot different for them this time around.

The concept is simple: A little guy has crash landed on a planet and the parts of his ship are scattered everywhere. He’s about 2 inches high, so it’s not like he can just walk over and pick up the pieces. The environment is like something out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where a small rock is a mountain of an obstacle and simple bugs are monsters.

Luckily, you quickly find help in your quest, and it’s what this game is all about. There’s these little seed creatures that apparently think of you as their mother and will blindly follow you wherever you go. You direct them to create more creatures, tear down obstacles, and battle bugs on your hunt for parts of your ship. There are 3 different types that you can direct, each with their own capabilities and you have to figure out how to leverage them to gain access to different areas of the world.

The crux of the game is to figure out what needs to be done to find the next part of your ship. What makes that difficult is the time limit the game imposes on you. You have 30 game days to gather what you need before your air supply runs out and you apparently die some horrible death. Each day is about 15 minutes long, so you need to get whatever you plan on doing done in that amount of time.

This is what can make the game frustrating for kids who oftentimes just want to explore and have fun. If you really want to make progress, you’ll have to hit the ground running and solve puzzles as fast as you can. Otherwise, it will be impossible to complete it within the time given. If you do really screw up one of the days, you can go back to a previous day and try again, but it would have been nice if the game allowed more freedom for the kids just to do whatever they want. Furthermore, you don’t have much area to explore unless you do make progress, so you’ll get extremely tired of seeing the same blades of grass and flowers if you’re just looking to explore.

The kids did enjoy the fact how everything was giant and got a kick out of directing a mob of 100 creatures around (which really is fun for a while), but quickly grew frustrated when they couldn’t proceed past certain points in the time given. I think without the time limits, they would have been able to think about and try different tactics, but ever-present push to make progress all the time took some fun out of it. In the end, it’s a cute and unique concept, but younger kids will probably need assistance in the difficult parts or they’ll quickly abandon it.

Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

Website For More Details: Pikmin Wii Game

Hello Kitty Big City Dreams Nintendo DS Game

hello-kittyFor this review, I passed the torch on to a family of  some of my very favorite little girls, The Wegner Family! My daughter was a little too young for this product, but I always know I can count on my friend Michelle to help me in my time of need. To learn more about their family, please visit Michelle Wegner! A big thank you to Whitney & Maddie for helping us and sharing her perspective on this product.

For this review, both Maddie (10) and Whitney (8) helped out.  They both enjoy this game, so here’s what the experts have to say about it:

Tell Me about the Hello Kitty game.

Maddie: The game is pretty fun. It is fun because you get to play games and make friendship points (money) so you can buy stuff like clothes or a new room. You are Hello Kitty. So, when you play it Hello Kitty is the one who is walking around for you.

Whitney:  You can do lots of activities and you get to gets lots of friendship points by clicking on certain people.

What are the activities like?

Whitney: There are lots of activities.  There is a drawing pad where you get lots of friendship points.

Maddie: The camera snap one is very fun, it is hard though.  You go around on a boat and try to take pictures of animals.

Whitney: The best part of the camera snap game is that a duck follows you around and you can take lots of pictures of him, but sometimes he goes away.

What is your favorite activity in Hello Kitty?

Maddie: Jump rope

Whitney: Jump rope

Sounds like jump rope is the winner.  Why is it so fun?

Maddie: Because it’s easy.

Whitney: It’s easy because you keep on clicking the jump rope, then once you reach your goal, you get friendship points.  My highest is 53.

What don’t you like about the game?

Maddie: It’s kind of tricky at times. It’s sorta hard to figure out what to do.  I get stuck a lot.

Whitney: If you hit “save game” in the middle of a game, they won’t save the friendship points, the room you are in, or the design.  That’s pretty much it.

How old would you say you should be to play this game?

Maddie: 7-10

Whitney: 7-10  It would be too hard for a 6 year old, and it would be too “kid-ish” for an 11 year old.

Suggested Retail Price: $27.99

Website for More Details: Hello Kitty Big City Dreams Nintendo DS Game

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

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!!

Kirby Super Star Ultra

Up on the block this time is another great Nintendo DS game for kids called Kirby Super Star Ultra. Yeah, I think it needs some more adjectives on the end of it too, but I digress. This is actually an old game that’s been made new again with some new things thrown in just for the DS. The game is pretty straightforward. You’re this pink ball with red shoes that can jump and fly. That’s not very exciting, but there’s one more thing you can do that makes this game so interesting.

You see, Kirby has some serious lung power because he can suck up various creatures in his way and assume whatever special powers they have. That’s where the real action lies. Kirby can go from an unassuming huggable balloon to a sword-wielding, fire blowing, yo-yo throwing beast of destruction.

To make things even more fun, you can spit that creature back out. When you do, they’ve apparently had a change of heart while hanging out inside Kirby because they now follow you and help you out on your adventures. This is a great thing for beginners or younger kids because they can always have a little helper tagging along to make things a little easier on them.

And easy this game is. It’s not one long challenge that takes a 20-hour-straight marathon to complete. Instead, it takes a much more approachable path by splitting the game into 6 different adventures. The first is a gentle intro to help you learn the controls that can be finished in about 10 minutes. From there on, the difficultly and length of the games ramp up. There’s several unrelated mini-games that are mixed in for variety where you compete against yourself to continue to improve your best score.

From a parent’s point of view, this is a great game. All the characters are more cute than scary. There’s no graphic violence and the controls are pretty straightforward, though younger ones may need some help at first. If you have more than one DS, you can even join in and team up with them.

After daddy gave the game a test drive we handed it to our 6-year-old for his opinion before we wrote a review. That was over a week ago and we’ve been unable to tear him away from it since. He declared yesterday “this is my favorite game EVER“. That’s pretty impressive for a kid who’s the product of two gamer parents and has 7 video game systems at his disposal. Kids these days!

Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

Website For More Details: Kirby Super Star Ultra

Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir

Loved those “find the hidden objects” puzzles in Highlights magazine as a kid and want to introduce your own spawn to the glee of finding a needle in a haystack? Well hold onto your hat because we’ve got just the game to do it. Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir is a new game for the Nintendo DS that takes this concept and wraps it in a new package for today’s generation.

Million Heir’s story is simple, a rich guy has gone missing and it’s up to you to solve the mystery. Make no mistake, this is no Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew conspiracy that requires keen interrogation skills or psychic -like intuition to solve. All you need is a keen eye because you’ll be hunting the most irrelevant clues you’ve ever come across. Seriously, the hidden objects that you must find to unravel the clues have nothing to do with anything. Found that scalloped shell and bowling pin in the tool shed? Great! Now go find an alien in the garden (no, the alien isn’t even a suspect). That said, the nonsensical clues aren’t really the point. Hunting down these camouflaged objects is what it’s all about.

Maybe your kids will get a hold of this and think, hey, I’m tired of using my eyes, I’ll just click around randomly like I’m having a caffeine seizure and beat this silly little game! That might work for a while, but the game introduces a good mix of tools that you’ll have to use in later stages to find the clues such as flashlights for the dark and a super straw for blowing out fires. There’s also a healthy mix of puzzles and amusing mini-games to break up the repetitiveness.

Even though you visit each stage more than once, the items you have to find are different each time. Since there are dozens and dozens of hidden objects, but you only need find the handful on your list, you’ll find yourself taking mental notes that the knight is wielding a hammer for some odd reason for the next time you return. In addition, there is a good sense of humor mixed into the scenes that your kids might not catch but will certainly make us older folk giggle.

Despite the fact the game can be completed by a determined spy in a couple of evenings and the objects are always in the same place, the sheer number of things to find are plentiful enough to keep your kids coming back for more than once. The art is great and the mood music is exceptional, making it a treat for the senses. A wide range of ages would enjoy this game, though I would recommend being available when they’re struggling to understand what a halberd or obelisk even is, much less where it is hidden.

The game is available for just under $20 bucks. If your kids enjoy this series, there’s a number of previous Mystery Case File games that can be played on the computer.

Suggested Retail Price: $19.99

Website for More Details: Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir