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.

Giveaway Results: Vtech V.Reader (Valued at $59.99)

Sorry! This contest is now closed! We would like to congratulate Trica (Commenter #72) on winning this great giveaway! Check back here soon for another great giveaway and thank you all for entering!

Hurray for another giveaway! I am so excited to share this giveaway with you because I am such a fan of great reading tools and anything that can get your children excited about reading.

Today we are giving away a Vtech V.Reader that I have had the fun opportunity of sharing with my own family. If you want to learn more about what we thought about it, you can read our review of the V.Reader here.

Here is some information about the V.Reader that we will be giving away today:

Animated Storyteller:
Stories come to life through vivid animation, narration, character voices, graphics, sounds and music. Young children engage with stories by watching, reading and learning. They follow their favorite character’s voice, play reading games and use the story dictionary.

Downloadable Fun:
With a rich download library, more than 100 additional stories will be available via a download library located on the VTech Web site (www.vtechkids.com), including some free titles, more themes and avatars to customize their e-readers. V.Reader is compatible with a PC or Mac computer.

Track Progress:
Parents can join in on the fun and learning process with the features that include progress reports and reading certificates.

Lovable Characters:
Children’s favorite licensed characters come to life and help them learn with 11 software options (with more titles to be added in the near future).

Touch and Read System:
Kids have two play options – listen and follow along to the story as read by animated characters; or touch the screen and play reading games to learn each word or sentence.

Reading Skills:
Your child learns the necessary building blocks to grow into a fluent reader. V.Reader teaches reading comprehension, vocabulary, phonics and word building, along with a story dictionary that describes word definitions in a manner that’s easy for them to comprehend.

V.Reader will be available exclusively at Target June 20 and nationwide in August at all key retailers and online at www.vtechkids.com.

Today we are offering one lucky reader a VTech V.Reader (valued at $59.99) to encourage more fun reading this summer! There are three easy ways to enter…

Leave one comment for each item that you complete to enter:

  • First Entry: Leave a comment and let us know what feature you love on the new Vtech V.Reader or why this would make a great addition to your reading tools!
  • Additional Entry: Let us know you are a fan of MomAdvice and join the MomAdvice.com Fan Club today on Facebook.
  • Additional Entries: Subscribe to my feeds and never miss another thing on our site again! We have a landing page where it makes it easy to subscribe to our blogsFor each one you subscribe to, leave one additional comment.

One winner, chosen at random, will receive a VTech V.Reader. Please submit your entries by Tuesday (06/06)8PM EST.  Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Giveaway Results: Flip SlideHD Camera (Valued at $279.99)

Sorry, this giveaway is now closed! We would like to congratulate Kathie (Commenter #226) on winning this giveaway. Thank you all for entering and a huge Happy Mother’s Day to each of you!

We are kicking off another exciting Mother’s Day giveaway with a beautiful gift that will make taking video footage of your family and sharing it with your friends just a little bit easier!

I have been a longtime fan of the Flip Video company because they offer great video tools that are easy for moms to use and share video footage with their friends.  When the HD versions of the Flip came out, we could not believe the quality of the video footage that they offered for something so small that could be easily tucked in my purse. Although I have yet to see this new camera that we are giving away, I am sure if it is anything like the past products from their product line, it will be a fantastic new tool for sharing gorgeous videos of your family and friends.

Today we are giving away the newly released Flip SlideHD (valued at $279.99)!  This camera holds up to 12 hours of HD video and photos and has a 3 inch slide-up screen which makes it a virtual “video brag book.”As a simple point-and-shoot video camera with storage capabilities and wide screen that make it a virtual “brag book,” it makes a great Mother’s Day gift.

Best of all, the  SlideHD can also be personalized with any of the designed available at www.theflip.com so you can make the product fit your personality and design style. If it was me, I think I might go for the cheetah print or cherry blossoms as my design style. What mom wouldn’t love that?

I want to spoil you this Mother’s Day and would love for you to share what kind of Flip SlideHD camera you would pick!  I wanted to make this contest fun so there are a few ways that you can enter to win!

Leave one comment for each item that you complete to enter:

One winner, chosen at random, will receive a Flip SlideHD, in her design style choice, as a special Mother’s Day gift for herself and her family. Please submit your entries by Tuesday (05/04) at 8PM EST.  Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

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: HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web

HP Photosmart Touchsmart PrinterI was so excited to receive a new HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web to review and also to giveaway to our readers this month.

If you knew the kind of circumstances I had been working under, you would understand the necessity for a better appliance. The lights in our office would dim when we turned on our printer because of its low energy efficiency. I would hook the scanner up and rest it on the floor to scan a document, hunched over just trying to make the darn thing work. Couple that with a fax machine from 1980 that I found on eBay, and you can see an office that wasn’t operating at its quickest efficiency.

Cue the singing angels as I hook up the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web which is all three things in one. I have such high hopes for what this printer can deliver and how we can use it for our family. With a price tag of $399.99, it should do a lot of cool stuff for us… and in many ways it delivers. $399.99 worth of delivery though? I will let you be the judge of that!

Pros-

This printer can print extremely fast. When I say fast, I mean lightning speed.  I would say 33 pages per minute is one of the fastest home printers I have ever seen.  The pictures also print quickly and look amazing. Printing fast is not as important to me as the quality of the printing job and this printer delivers on both accounts.

Great printing options- I love that there are so many options for printing. The options include two-sided printing, a fast/economical print that looks as good as my old printer did for its best printing job, and paper-saving printing.

Separate Photo Tray- I love that there are two trays on this, one for your paper and one for your photos. It makes running two different types of jobs easy and seamless.

Fun Parent Features- As a mom, I love when appliances have me in mind. This printer has on the home screen links directly to Disney and Nick Jr for free coloring pages, activities, and recipes.  Other features include a relationship with Coupons.com for customized coupons for your local area, Google Maps,  and Snapfish so you can print photos straight from the printer from your Snapfish photo albums. You can visit the HP Creative Studio to get more printing ideas.

Space- Saver Extraordinaire- One of my favorite features is that this is such a space saver in my office. The fact that it is wireless means that I can put this printer anywhere in my office and it frees up precious space on my desk. It also saves me from having a separate fax machine and scanner.  I love the streamlined look of this appliance and I feel like I gained an extra desk in workspace for my office.

Picture Quality is Amazing- The photos that I printed with this printer look like they were printed professionally. I can’t tell you how handy it is to be able to update the pictures around our house with just the press of a button. The colors are vivid and absolutely beautiful. I printed 4×6 and 8×10 photos and both were sharp and clear and not a hint of a home printing job. I think this is one of the things that I am most impressed with.

Separate Ink Cartridges- I love that this printer takes separate ink cartridges so you only need to replace what actually needs replacing. The cartridges are moderately priced.  I have not used the printer long enough to determine how quickly this model goes through ink, but I am hoping that using some of the faster and lower quality printing modes will help keep the costs low on printing.

After printing just a few pictures and a few pages though, my colored ink cartridges are already nearing the halfway point while black is holding steady with very little used. This is a cost factor that you would need to consider when purchasing this printer. HP does offer an ink cartridge recycling program.

Energy Superstar- Hurray for Energy Star appliances. My lights are no longer dimming in my home. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it is not. My 1967 home thanks you for your energy efficiency!

Cons-

Buggy Setup- Despite the simple step-by-step wizard, we found the setup of the printer to be riddled with problems. Two reboots were required on Windows 7 and four on Vista before we were able to print the test page. Even after several hours, we were never able to send a photo for printing over the wireless connection.

Scanner Not Communicating- The feature I was most excited to use was the “Scan to PDF” function. Unfortunately, no amount of waiting ever produced anything scanned to PDF. It seems to hold in the scanning mode and never get past it. I can get around it by using a memory stick and sticking it into the printer to grab the scanned image and then plop it into my computer, but I wish I could do this wirelessly and without getting up to do it. This seems to be a common problem with these printers as a quick Google search yielded people with similar problems.

Touch Screen is Touchy- The images should be able to move like the iPhone, but it doesn’t move very easily. Likewise, selecting on the touch screen can take a few pushes before it actually registers.

Pricey- A fancy touchscreen and wireless connection directly to the Internet comes at a cost. Sure you can watch a full theatrical preview of the latest Disney movie on your printer, but is that worth the higher price?

Overall, this is an excellent printer and other than the setup and scanning bugs, I have had no problems at all with this.  It has made my life considerably easier over these last two weeks and we look forward to making this one of our most used appliances in our home!

Are You Too Techy for this Momma’s Review? Here are some technical specifics:

Technical Specifications

  • Print Specifications(11)
    • Print speeds of up to 33 pages per minute (ppm) black and up to 32 ppm color; 4 x 6-inch photos as fast as 18 seconds
  • Scan Specifications
    • 4800 x 9600-dpi optical resolution scanning(12)
    • 48-bit color scanning
  • Copy Specifications
    • Up to 33 copies-per-minute (cpm) in black and up to 32 cpm in color(11)
    • Up to 4800 x 1200 dpi black copying with 1200 scan dpi
    • Up to 4800 optimized dpi color copying
  • Fax specifications
    • Fax speed of up to 33.6 kbps
    • Up to 300 x 300 dpi in black and photo faxing and up to 200 x 200 dpi in color
  • Dimensions/Weight
    • 17.99 inches (w) x 19.33 inches (d) x 7.76 inches (h)
    • 16.53 lbs.
  • Support/Connectivity
    • Pictbridge
    • USB High-speed 2.0, 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Ethernet and Bluetooth
    • Microsoft® Windows Vista™ or XP SP1 or higher; Mac OS X v10.4, v10.5 or v10.6
    • Windows 7 ready. Some features may not be available.(13) For more information go to www.hp.com/go/windows7.
    • HP products are backed by HP Total Care—service options in and out of warranty plus access to 24/7 real-time award-wining chat support and e-mail response in about an hour.
    • Enhanced support services include an exclusive toll-free number featuring trained experts and one-year repair with “Next Business Day Turnaround,” including brand new units for the first 30 days after purchase. More information is available at www.hp.com/support.

Website for More Details: HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web

Suggested Retail Price: $399.99

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!