So, Christmas is almost upon us once again, and the likelihood of a family get together looms large on the festive horizon for all of us, regardless of faith, creed or beliefs… but how to keep the occasion festive, fun and memorable?
Spoons? It’s a Wonderful Life? EastEnders? Pass the Parcel? Carols Round The Ol’ Joanna? Blind Man’s Buff (stop it…)? Gone With the Wind? Musical Chairs? Chubby Bunnies (I said stop it!)? Miracle on Whatever Street? Sardines? Indiana Jones & The…? Balloon Relay?… Please! Stop! The! Horror!..
Erm no… the answer, in this modern day and age, is, of course, the correct selection of family video games which will appeal to, and be playable by, all ages, abilities and demographics.
But what to choose? Well, worry not, slightly nervous family host! For we are all too familiar with both video games and family days and as such we give you this gift of festive frivolity to make these special occasions all the more… well… special!
Our main criteria here is that the game appeal to, and be playable by, the widest possible selection of family members, with an additional emphasis on the ability for more than one person to play at a time and being eminently watchable / participatory. Remember that judicious use of “teams” in these situations can go a long way to making life much easier for the host!
To simplify matters we have broken the available games down into broad categories to assist you in catering for your particular type of family.
(Please remember to check if you are lacking any of the controllers required to get the most from the game before buying!)
Anyone not know how your basic quiz show works? Press your buzzer if you don’t… Gotcha! See, some games really are that simple to play! Of the available options the “Buzz!” series features not only perhaps the world’s most self explanatory controls and proceeds to (optionally) explain them before each round, but is also slick, funny, chaotic and varied. If you fancy some console quizzing but are not PS3 enabled then grab one of the “Scene It?” series (preferably “Scene It? Box Office Smash!” including the 4 Big Buttons Pads) for XBox 360 (A movie based quiz with it’s own controllers) instead, it’s not quite up there with “Buzz!”, but it’s certainly a strong game and won’t disappoint. Finally, if you are planning on deploying your Wii, then the game you’re looking for is going to be “Big Brain Academy” which is a surprisingly enjoyable challenge and really mixes things up with all manner of different puzzles & challenges.
Even the hardiest of gamers have been know to enjoy a warble and benefiting from a control scheme which is perhaps the easiest to use of all time… a microphone… this is definitely one that all generations can get the most out of. The PS3 dominates this category again with it’s “SingStar” offering. Again, if the PS3 is not an option, the XBox 360 provides strong competition in the form of “Lips” which, whilst not quite attaining the lofty sing along heights of SingStar, is again a very worthy alternative that you will not regret buying. Importantly these two options both feature the ability to buy tracks from their respective console’s marketplace, allowing you to tailor your singing experience to include all your favourite tracks. Finally the Wii has an excellent offering here too, in the form of the “We Sing” family of titles which stand head and shoulders above other all other Wii karaoke options.
The crown here still just about goes to “Wii Sports Resort“, with it’s excellent range of easy to control sporting challenges. This should be no surprise as Nintendo still retain the crown (despite having to “fix” their controllers with the “Motion Plus” add-on) for intuitive motion control despite increasingly polished efforts from both Microsoft and Sony. These efforts takes the form of “Sports Champions” for PS3 and the excellent “Kinect Sports” for the Xbox 360. Again, all of these are strong offerings which will not leave you wishing you’d bought more playing cards instead, they also serve the additional purpose of assisting you in burning off that extra mince pie, obviously with a view to eating another! The sight of Granny beating off all-comers in the Kendo style “Swordplay” mini-game or Uncle Joe furiously canoeing across the living room against his 6 year old nephews will be a festive memory to treasure for all involved, although these game may be better off waiting till well after lunch before embarking on…
If you favour street dance over archery then the dancing genre will clearly be your best choice, and with recent improvements in motion control from all 3 main parties this is an area where you really will be spoilt for choice, but fear not, we will not leave you scratching you head (or tapping your feet). The dance games you want to head for are Dance Central 2 for XBox 360 which has the most complete and best integrated experience, with Just Dance 3 on the Wii providing stiff competition whilst the dance situation over on the PS3 is perhaps slightly less clear with SingStar + Dance likely to be the best option today, although many feel it is pretty exacting and can cause frustration at times, you have been warned! But regardless of any of this seeing Dad busting some crazy moves to Nicki Minaj must surely be worth the price alone! “Know I got the ammo, that’s why I bulletproofed the Lambo” that’s right, you tell ‘em Dad!
Everyone has dreamt about being in their favourite band at some point, and these games give you the chance to be Hendrix, Bonham, Jett or Blackwell depending on what’s your thing. Here we thankfully have an easier task as the leaders in this genre are both cross platform. The question used to be “Rock Band or Guitar Hero?” but since Guitar Hero shut up shop your choice is even easier. Rock Band 3 all the way here, be that for XBox 360, Wii or PS3. Dependant on your platform you can again add to your available repertoire via your console’s online marketplace giving you the freedom to create a play-list suited to your audience (or alternatively the complete opposite if you are over-taken by a severe bout of Grinchdom! ). The real magic here is when you have multiple people in the band, which does end up costing a considerable amount in instrument purchases, although there is some availability of second hand instruments from most high-street game retailers and indeed online… equipping a full band’s worth of instruments for this is not an endeavour for the feint of wallet!
Of course the big three consoles and their tradition “Family Game” genres don’t have to be your only recourse, you could always go in a different direction, or augment your options with any number of other excellent family games. A few of our favourite alternatives are; Game Room, Marble Mixer, Air Hockey Gold and Uno for iPad, Wii Party, Raving Rabbids and Boom Blox for the Wii, Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Hasbro Family Game Night 3 for XBox 360 and Start The Party!, Kung Fu Rider and create for the PS3, all of which hit the right note in terms of both fun factor and approachability…
Anyway, whatever option(s) you choose we hope you have a highly enjoyable festive period and that all those you “fest” with do so too!
Oh, and please do share any top family games you’ve found with the rest of the newb community via our comments feature below, who knows how many family celebrations you may rescue from boredom and disaster!
- Richard “Rax” Burley