Tag Archive: holiday


The Holiday Rush

Originally Published: December 21, 2009, on Lundberg.me and 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

I did this last year where I offered some last minute advice to help out people looking to pick up a couple of more items to stuff in the stockings or under the tree and due to positive feedback, we’re doing it one more time!

Now, if you’re looking for games for some little ones and don’t feel they’re ready for an over the top, alien shoot ’em up, or some action-adventure, sword wielding bloodbath, then here are a few E-rated games that will keep them happy till their birthday rolls around.

1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii – Nintendo Wii – Any older gamer will appreciate the nostalgia this game conjures up. Any young gamer will fall in love with the crazy characters, classic side-scrolling platforming gameplay, and the hours of exploration and fun it will provide. Just like every other great Mario Bros. game to ever come out. This Wii game has been flying off of store shelves this holiday season with good reason.


2. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – Nintendo DS –Another one of Nintendo’s powerhouse franchises with a new chapter in its long and storied history. What’s nice about this is that the kids can take this with them on the long car or plane ride you’re already dreading. At least it’ll keep the kids out of your hair as you prepare for departure delays or traffic due to the predicted bad weather. Not the longest or most in-depth in the Zelda series, it will more than do the job of distracting the little ones this holiday season.

3. A Boy and His Blob – Nintendo Wii – Rounding out the Nintendo dominance of kid-oriented games is a remake of a NES classic. A Boy and His Blob follows a young lad and his alien, shape-shifitng friend, who can help the boy in a plethora of ways by eating magical jellybeans. These jellybeans allow the blob to turn into a gun, a ladder, a trampoline, and many other useful items as you travel across these beautifully drawn 2.5 D worlds.

“But, Ray! My kid is in high school and I don’t think these childish games will work for him/her.” Never fear! There is plenty of T-rated games just waiting to be picked up.

1. Ghostbusters: The Video Game – All systems – The closest thing die-hards have seen to a third movie, this game picks up about three years after the end of the second movie and brings the story together better than any movie could have. With all the original voice cast returning to reprise their iconic 80s roles, ‘bustin’ has never felt so good.

2. Batman: Arkham Asylum – XBOX360, PS3 – One of the most critically acclaimed games of the year, Batman: Arkham Asylum is the initial offering of what looks to be a long series of new Batman games. With a free-flow combat system that flows like water and a plot worthy of a comic maxi-series, this game is a must have for any comic book fan.

3. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – PS3 – The SpikeTV Video Game Awards game of the year delivers on every front like no other game this year. Plot depth, tremendous characters that pull on your heart strings, probably the best looking game of the year, and flawless gameplay makes this a must have for any gamer’s collection if you have a PS3.

Now you’re wondering, “What about the games for Mommy and Daddy?” Well, there are plenty of M-rated games out there for long after the kiddies go to bed.

1. Madworld – Wii – It’s rare to see a phenomenal M-rated game on the Wii, but Sega’s Madworld delievers in ways I never thought a Wii game could. An unfathomable amount of gore and language brightens up the black and white world of “Jack”, a man tasked with winning a “Running Man”-esque game of death in a world that just screams “Sin City”. Either interacting with the entire environment to find new and interesting ways to kill your enemies, or just relying on the chainsaw on your right hand, you will have fun wreaking havoc in Madworld.

2. Assassin’s Creed 2 – XBOX360, PS3 – My pick for game of the year, Assassin’s Creed 2 expounds on the plot of the first game and trumps the action by leaps and bounds. A new free-flow combat system, being able to wield two weapons at once, poison, guns, and an entire economic system make what was once a repetitive, tedious chore to beat in AC1, makes AC2 one of the most unique mainstream gaming experiences of the year.

3. Halo 3: ODST – XBOX360 – My choice for first-person shooter of the year, any Halo fan needs to have this game. Aside from the amped up difficulty due to you acting as a lower class of trooper than Master Chief’s Spartan self, the film noir aspect of taking over every member of your squad at different moments as you unravel the mystery of the Covenant’s attack is one of the most immersive plot techniques I’ve seen in gaming in years.

Those are the games that will make everyone you know, no matter their age, happy. On this last list, are the games that leave everyone cringing and they will be returned. Guaranteed. Avoid these games at all costs Grandma!

1. Fairytale Fights – XBOX 360, PS3, PC – A nice concept that falls flat on its face. Living through some classic fairytale character’s stories with some bloody hack-‘n’-slash combat is a nice thought, but horrible gameplay, a poorly kept-together plot, and nothing really special about using these fabled characters from fairytale lore aside from the random weapons they find was really a disappointment.

2. TMNT: Smash-Up – Nintendo Wii – It uses the same engine as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but it lacks everything else. Only a handful of selectable characters, a miserable story mode, and controls that aren’t nearly as responsive as the Nintendo character counterpart. A bitter disappointment for any TMNT fan and another TMNT media project that doesn’t include the original theme music!

3. The Conduit – Nintendo Wii – This is probably one of the most hyped games of the year and instead should be considered as the worst first-person shooter of the year. Basically a remake of Perfect Dark from N64, but with some more high tech weapons and a looser plot. The graphics look like something from the Gamecube and the multiplayer, although probably one of the better ones for the Wii, is still subpar when compared with the multiplayer offered by games for the XBOX 360 and PS3.

Well folks, there it is. For all you last minute shoppers out there, those are some helpful hints. Thanks for reading my article and have a happy and safe holiday season.

-Ray Carsillo

Last Minute Shopping

Originally Published: December 17, 2008, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com)

The nights are growing shorter and so is your time to get that last solid present for under the tree. You know they want a video game, but which one? You don’t want to have it end up just as another trade-in at the local GameStop and most clerks at these places can’t tell their elbow from a Wiimote. Well have no fear, lucky reader. I am here to give you a list of last minute winners guaranteed to put a smile on their face.

Now, if you’re looking for games for some little ones and don’t feel they’re ready for an over the top, alien shoot ’em up, or some action-adventure, sword wielding bloodbath, then here are a few E-rated games that will keep them happy till their birthday rolls around.

1. Warioland: Shake It! – Nintendo Wii – This title reminds me of the old Super Mario World games for Super Nintendo. With some stellar cartoon cell-shaded graphics and a very forgiving life system, your child will love the cartoon antics of Wario when he catches fire or gets frozen as he goes searching for treasure over 30 unique stages. With at least three missions and secret treasures to find on each level, the replay value is strong for a children’s game and the race back to the beginning of the level is a great twist on the stage-ending mechanic. A great way to introduce your children into the classic platformer.


2. Ninja Town – Nintendo DS – Based on the popular Shawnimals plush toys, I admit I did not expect much from this game, but ended up being blown away. It easily deserves all the accolades it has won. This game is a great way to introduce kids into the RTS (real-time strategy) genre. With only one resource to maintain (your magical ninja cookies, of course) you do not have to worry about foraging constantly to create new dojo for your ninjas to become stronger and concentrate on pure strategy. Add in the ridiculously cute creatures that populate Ninja Town (that your kids might already be familiar with) and you have a winner whether they are looking to get into the RTS genre or simply hone their skills.

3. Lego: Batman – All systems – If your kids are fans of any of the other Lego based games, then this is a fine addition to the series. Star Wars is still the best, by far, but if your child has a predisposition towards the Gotham Guardian, this works on lots of levels. Warner Bros. opened the vault to help make this as authentic a Batman game as possible while still keeping it kid friendly. With the new movie just coming out on Blu-Ray, it could be a Caped Crusader Christmas.

“But, Ray! My kid is in high school and I don’t think these childish games will work for him/her.” Never fear! There is plenty of T-rated games just waiting to be picked up.

1. Prince of Persia – XBOX360, PS3, PC – The trilogy with the last prince was complete, so the fine folks at Ubisoft Montreal have started a new storyline with a new prince, a beautiful new world to traverse, and a fine looking mystical companion. The amazing new storyline plays out across an expansive world with new fighting mechanics and the same great wall jumping and acrobatics that made the series a breakthrough to begin with. This action/adventure gem is at the top of a lot of people’s lists for good reason so if you’re teen is into that kind of game, then this is a must pick-up.

2. Tales of Vesperia – XBOX360 – A Xbox exclusive, this one is for the more financially minded consumer. If your teen is a fan of RPGs (role-playing games), anime, or both, then this is great way to make them happy and to make sure they don’t go looking for another game for a while. With a minimum of 40-45 hours of gameplay before completion, this game will sit in the system for a while before they go looking for their next video game fix. The gameplay is solid, the storyline is compelling, and the characters are unforgettable. This will make a solid present under any tree.

3. Mirror’s Edge – XBOX360, PS3, PC – Another action/adventure game that deals with amazing acrobats, but this time you are in the head of a female urban free runner (those are the people that jump off and climb buildings for fun). The story takes place in a futuristic world where information is monitored and only the urban free runner can get the real information through. A sinister conspiracy is uncovered involving your family and things go for a crazy turn. Not a tremendously long game, this seems to be setting the table for something bigger (Do I smell a sequel?) and it is ridiculously fun leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Another strong showing for the action/adventure genre.

Now you’re wondering, “What about the games for Mommy and Daddy?” Well, there are plenty of M-rated games out there for long after the kiddies go to bed.

1. Left 4 Dead – XBOX360, PC – A gory, survival-horror game in a bright green case and tons of Christmas red blood splattering on the screen to represent the most wonderful time of the year. One of the best online multiplayer games to come out in years, this is a game you’ll want to play with a friend. The graphics aren’t as sharp as you would like, but this is truly a game focused on the gameplay. Hordes of zombies with little to no lag and never enough bullets to go around make this one of the best survival-horrors to come out in a long time.

2. Fable 2 – XBOX360 – The long awaited sequel to the revolutionary RPG. If you enjoyed the first one, then you have to have the second. Improved graphics, more choices and consequences, and all the RPG elements you’ve come to know and love make this a great 20-30 hour romp in the woods of Albion. You even get a dog this time around!

3. Fallout 3 – XBOX360, PS3, PC – This has truly been the year of the sequel and the biggest jump in terms of quality between titles is evident in this series. The year is 2277 and the U.S.A. is a nuclear wasteland. Your mission: survive. What makes this game memorable is learning how to survive. From constructing exploding teddy bears to locking in for a Matrix-like kill system; this game will consume your time well until it is safe to come out of your nuclear bunker.

Those are the games that will make everyone you know, no matter their age, happy. On this last list, are the games that leave everyone cringing and they will be returned. Guaranteed. Avoid these games at all costs Grandma!

1. Sam and Max: Season 1 – Nintendo Wii – It was a short-lived cartoon whose humor did not resonate with an audience. Now, I remember why. The series had an underground following on the PC, so it has been ported to the Wii for this holiday season and helps remind us why point and click adventures only work for the PC. I could not finish this game because it was just plain awful. Repeated, tired humor, with unresponsive controls makes this one of the worst games I’ve played in a while. If you are looking for a funny, point and click game, you might have better luck with Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.

2. Castlevania: Judgement – Nintendo Wii – People jumped for joy at the announcement of a Castlevania game for the Wii. Then they heard it would be a fighting game. Moans and groans echoed throughout the video game community, as people feared how Konami would screw this up. Well, there were more ways than I could count. The powers were cool, and the story was okay, but it gets repetitive much too quickly, even for a fighting game. The levels were nicely themed and had some cool hazards, but I would rather fight the zombies and monster fish that were hazards as bosses than against characters that haven’t been around in over a decade. It left me completely unsatisfied as I yearned for the classic side-scrolling that defined the series. Overall, this was a sad effort from Konami.

3. Resistance 2 – PS3 – I was really surprised at this one. The first game was amazing, it put the PS3 on the map, and was an instant hit. The second game looks like the folks at Insomniac Games saw what Epic was doing with Gears of War and they would steal as much as they could. You can no longer carry different types of weapons as you come across them, you can only carry two at a time. Very frustrating for when you need a shotgun against a certain type of enemy, but dropped it at the beginning of the level for a rifle because you did not know what you were going to be up against. It may make the game harder, but it also makes it more frustrating when I could carry eight weapons in the first game. The enemy A.I. is predictable and the bosses are too simple to be anything more than a nuisance. It becomes more of a chore to beat the levels than an enjoyable experience because it is the same wave after wave of enemy as you progress. No puzzles or choices or anything imaginative to mix it up. The graphics are much better, but the game lacks so much of the soul from the first installment that I had to put this on my “Do Not Buy” list.

Well folks, there it is. For all you last minute shoppers out there, those are some helpful hints. I tried my best to showcase games that I have not highlighted before, so this might be a good time to look in my archives if you still need more ideas. Thanks for reading my article and have a happy and safe holiday season.

-Ray Carsillo