So someone decided to make a fake Lego Breaking Bad videogame trailer. Meth may be bad, but America is still great.
So someone decided to make a fake Lego Breaking Bad videogame trailer. Meth may be bad, but America is still great.
I don't remember my age at the time, but I was young—third or fourth grade, and I could see the entire neighborhood reflected in the glare of the wood-framed television in front of me. I was sitting alone on a bed of orange shag carpet, and the gathered crowd cheered behind me as I did what they had come to see: I flipped Pac-Man, hitting a score so high that the game reset it to zero. For a brief moment I was a hero, and video games would never be the same.
The title character of Disney's latest animated feature Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) has spent decades longing for that feeling. He has played the same game, Fix-It Felix, countless times for countless days, and he has never known the accolades of his neighbors or appreciation for a job well done. He has performed his duties without fail, and it has brought him nothing but long trips down and endless holes of mud to land in.
Ralph is a character in the Fix-It Felix video game, and during arcade hours he does what he was programmed to do: wreck it. Unfortunately for Ralph, the game is not about the glories of wreckage well done, but rather Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his impressive ability to fix the path of destruction that has been created.
Players maneuver Felix to mend an apartment building immediately after Ralph shows up to vandalize it for no apparent reason, although the judgmental socialites that live inside seems like a good one.
Wreck-It Ralph is a bad guy, and he is tired of it.
The problem with promising PR/Marketing folks that you'll review kid-related things for them within a certain timeframe is that there are kids involved. I'd told my daughter a couple of weeks ago that we'd play Kinectimals: Now With Bears together. Immediately upon doing so she entered what we parents of four-year-old hellion redheads call "a phase", which is a nice way of saying that she had the mood swings of a Gremlin 'round midnight. The Xbox Threat was made early, and adhered to: act up, and no Kinectimals for you. Needless to say, there was plenty of acting up.
This was bad news for the PR person, but good news for me, as I'd picked up a used copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Hooray, sloth and killing!
This is the second in a three-part series of Xbox 360 Kinect reviews. Part One is here.
The boy was skeptical, as was I: would the Kinect deliver on its controller-free promise?
The answer? Sorta.
First, I had to set the thing up. The Kinect requires that you have a certain amount of floor space; our couch protruded into the thing's optimal zone, so I had to do a bit of furniture re-arranging. Not a problem for me, so much as an inconvenience; I backed it up a foot, and moved the attached ottoman over to the right side to free up the space we'd need to jump, swing our arms, and run in place. (Those of you with a small TV room, or one with a ton of furniture, beware: you might need to do some serious remodeling.) Navigating via the Kinect requires you to use different gestures, kind of like Tom Cruise does with his various future computers in Minority Report. It takes a bit of getting used to, and for younger kids, this might be frustrating, especially as the menu navigation functions can differ from one game to the next. (One suggestion: use the voice control whenever possible.)
Full disclosure: when the folks at Edelman PR contacted me and offered to send me, for review purposes, an Xbox 360 with Kinect and the games "Kinectimals (Now With Bears)", "Kinect Sports: Season Two", and "Kinect: Disneyland", I actually hesitated.
Here was a can of hi-res worms I wasn't sure I wanted to open. We'd bought a Wii a couple of years ago, and I was more than happy with it. Not because it's a decent console, with fun motion-based controllers and a whole slew of games for younger kids. No, I was happy with the Wii because for the most part, it sits by the TV collecting dust. Every once in a while Lucas plays with it, but he's a bit of a jock, likes his outdoor time, and quickly becomes bored or frustrated with video games. Not the worst problem to have as a parent. Zoe is four, and her definition of "playing" video games usually involves waving at the screen and talking to the computer-generated characters. As for me, I've never been much of a gamer: I had a first generation Xbox, which I bought a year or so after Lucas was born. I figured that as a new dad I'd be hanging around the house a lot more, and video games seemed to be a good way to pass the time. (When I wasn't being a caring and commited father, of course.) My days as an Xbox gamer were short-lived: a few months after I bought it, the kid busted it. He found out that the eject button opened the tray, and tried to close it manually. By pushing straight down on it. Snap. A couple hundred bucks down the drain. I was bummed for a couple of days, but as it became apparent that fixing the thing was going to cost as much as it would to buy a new one, I found myself...not caring. I gave the busted console to a friend who wanted to use it for parts, sold a few of the games to a used CD store, and didn't think twice about it.
And so we lived as non-gamers, and were content. Then I got the offer from Edelman. It did take me a few minutes to reply. But I said yes, and told them that I'm not a gamer, and that I was going to be honest about my experiences with the Xbox, the Kinect, and the games. That's fine, they replied. It's what we're looking for.
"Gamer" is a weird way to self-identify. I occasionally describe myself as a surfer, but there's something to be said for that - I possess a set of physical skills and knowledge of the ocean that the average person does not, enabling me to participate in a very difficult, demanding, and even dangerous sport. But "gamer'? It's blissfully shameless - "I'm an adult who spends several hours a day sitting on my ass in front of the TV playing video games!" And make no mistake - the Xbox 360 is for the gamers. To get good at, say, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, you do in fact need to spend several hours sitting on your ass in front of the TV. As a guy with a fulltime day job, a few writing gigs, a blog to manage, oh, and a family, I do not have several hours a day to spare. The Wii was great, in that regard - the games are basic enough for both my 7-year-old son and decidedly non-gamer me.
The Kinect, however, was what set the hook. Looking like a dashboard-mounted projector, the motion-based controller proports to go one step beyond the handheld Wii controllers - as the ads say, YOU are the controller. Simple concept, enormously complex execution: you stand in front of the thing, and what you do - swing an imaginary golf club, throw an imaginary football, wave an imaginary wand - is translated right up there on the TV, in the game. I was intrigued - not for my own sake, or even Lucas', but for Zoe. At four, the Wii controllers and most of the games are a bit too complicated for her. But running in place? Jumping up and down? That she can do. Lucas, meanwhile, was skeptical. "You don't hold anything? You just act it out?" "That's what they say", I replied. "Hmmm", he said. "That sounds impossible."
This is the first of three posts I'll be doing about the Xbox 360. Next up: the kids put the Kinect through its paces. Finally, I try my hand at a couple of "grown-up" games, and ponder life as a new member of the Xbox Nation.
If you are of a certain age, you'll likely have a blast reliving your misspent youth in the arcade or your awkward pubescence fumbling alone with your joystick in front of the TV by playing Atari Greatest Hits: Volume 1, a collection of 50 classic (read: prehistoric) video games that you can play on the Nintendo DS.
That is assuming you can pry the DS away from your Pokemon/Mario-obsessed son's hands for a few minutes.
And a few minutes is really all you'll need.
My son and I visited your fine establishment the other night to take part in the birthday celebration for one of his friends. Although it was my son’s first visit, his friends had clearly been telling him about it because it was all he could talk about the entire day. He was so exited, in fact, that he chattered all the way from our house to your parking lot, and his little voice kept spiking upwards into excited mountains of squeak.
“Are we THERE yet, Daddy? Are we AL-most to Chuck E. CHEESE? How many more MI-nutes ‘til we GET to Chuck E. CHEESE? FIVE more minutes? My FRIEND is turning five today, but I’m al-READY five! Are we THERE yet? How many more MI-nutes? I can’t WAIT!”
Yep, his little friends really talked your joint up something good.
As you know, we're big believers in the power of the force and the lure of the brick. The two together? That's awesome squared. See, those math classes are paying off.
Needless to say, when the opportunity presented itself for me to review some LEGO Star Wars products I jumped at it. Insert "in less than 12 parsecs" quote here.
Ah, taking pictures with mall Santas. We approach this annual task with such high expectations, only to have them dashed. Exhibit A - my kids, from last year:
Exhibit B - Lucas, from 2005:
(Yes, Santa has a lazy eye. Lucas' terrified shrieks were, I think, justified.)
No doubt you've had similar experiences, and now we're giving a few lucky readers the chance to profit from their kids' fear and loathing of St. Nick. Send us your worst kids-with-Santa pics (again, if you're unsure what constitutes a Bad Santa Photo, please reference the above examples - or go here for some truly nightmarish pictures), and you may win some prizes from VTech Toys!* Third place will receive a Bugsby Reading System; second place will receive a Jungle Gym Giraffe, and the first place prize is a doozy: a VMotion console and - AND! - a Kidizoom camera!
Here's how to enter: go to our Worst Santa Photo Flickr Group, join, and post. You can only submit ONE photo, so make it a good/bad one. (And it goes without saying that your photo must be of YOUR kids, not some random pic you found on the Internet.) We'll accept photos until Monday, December 14th and announce the winners on Wednesday, December 16th. And we'll put up a link to the gallery here, so that everyone can share a sympathetic laugh.
*Jason here, disclosing that I do have a paid working relationship with VTech, as part of the company's VTech Voices team. For additional details, visit the VTech Voices Facebook page.
Look, I'm sorry this wasn't up on Monday. My family and I are having a rough week. To add insult to injury, the youngest boy and I are each running a fever, with the difference being that he has me to take care of him and I have you. Point goes to the kid. No offense.
This is the post where winners are announced. This is the post where the contest is explained. Don't confuse the two.
I'm only talking to the winners right now. My older boy was kind enough to draw your names out of a hat. There are three (3) winners of the Scooby Doo game and one (1) for the Family Fun Great Games Outdoor Fun, which, for the record, is not a catchy name. If you are one of the winners please contact DadCentric within the next week (by Wednesday, October 21st) with your mailing address. If you fail to do so a second name will be drawn out of those remaining to serve as your back-up. That last part could also be read by the losers. You see, I'm spreading hope.
Watch the video to make sure you read the right part of the previous paragraph.