Kris Abel’s Tech Life | Kris Abel’s Video Game Guide For Parents And Kids

Kris Abel’s Tech Life | Kris Abel’s Video Game Guide For Parents And KidsToday’s video game industry caters to all ages and all tastes and with a vertible explosion of game titles and systems, the task for parents to find the best titles suitable for their little ones can be a challenge. Today I offer an in-depth look at the best games for kids and pre-teens for each of the major video game systems and deliver a little-known tip about parental controls and how you can use them with video game ratings.Click here for my companion guide to party games for familiesESRB RatingsEvery game has a rating icon on its box identifying it as being appropriate for “E” for Everyone, “T” for teens, or “M” for Mature players (17 and up).The important thing to understand about these ratings is that they are not just a sticker on the box, but are programmed onto the game disc as well. This allows each of the major game systems – The Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 – to utilize parental controls allowing you to lock out games of a specific rating. (Tip – The original Xbox system also has this feature).As a parent you can set the parental controls of your video game system so that it will refuse to play “M”-rated games, so even if your kids do sneak a copy of “Manhunt” into your home, the video game system will refuse to play the disc and display an error message instead. Games For All SystemsHere is a list of recommended games for kids and those with big kids inside that are available for all of the major video game systems including the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3:Disney’s BoltBased on the Disney animated film, this is a fun, single-player adventure where you take on the roles of Bolt the Dog, using your super powers to smash through bad guys, and Penny the smart young girl who uses spy gadgetry to stealthily enter into temples and foil villainous plans. It is a well-designed, engaging game that surprised me for its high quality (Rated “E”).Suggested age – 10+The Lego GamesBatman Lego, Indiana Jones Lego, and the Star Wars Lego games are all highly-recommended adventures where you relive the blockbuster movies through Lego creations. Two players can work together to battle bad guys, overcome harrowing obstacles, and build Lego creations. Full of great humour and puzzling challenges (Rated “E”).Suggested age = 10+(Tip – Also available for the PlayStation 2)Sports GamesMost sports simulations are available for all systems and are rated “E”. Do to their complexity I suggest a minimum age of 10+Recommended hockey games include NHL 09 and NHL2K9For basketball fans there’s NBA Live 2009 All PlaySoccer is unquestionably ruled by FIFA Soccer 2009For the best in golf I suggest Tiger Woods 09And there is no better football game than Madden NFL 09Nintendo WiiWhat the Wii lacks in realistic graphics it makes up for with motion-guided controls. Of the three major video game systems it offers the largest and widest selection of games for kids and the whole family. In addition to being the least expensive console, the Wii comes packaged with a collection of Wii Sports titles including bowling, tennis, boxing, baseball, and golf that still remain among the most popular titles for the system. With an Internet connection you can surf the web, grab news and weather information, download mini-games, and more recently use selected titles to play with other players online. (Tip: The Wii can also play GameCube games and can display photos from your digital camera’s memory card).Recommended Accessories: Wii Remote And Nunchuck Controllers – The system comes packaged with just one set of controllers, to have more than one player involved you will need to purchase an extra set of controllers or two.Wii Points Cards – With these gift cards you can access the online shopping channel where you can spend points to purchase mini-games,Recommended Wii Games: Samba De AmigoThis is a music-based game where two players can shake their controllers like Maracas to the beat and rhythm of an eclectic Latin-themed music collection including Papa Loves Mambo, Bolero, Jump In The Line, and La Bamba. Players strike poses and perform fancy moves. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 7+Animal Crossing: City FolkPlayers take up residence in a virtual village where they maintain a house, interact with their neighbours and contribute to their town through fishing, gardening, bug collecting, and fossil hunting. It’s a world magically tied to our own through our clock and calendar, when its night in the real world, its night in the game, when its winter in our world, its winter in the game. New to the Wii version is the ability to play and chat with other players over the internet. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 8+Endless OceanA relaxing journey into our oceans, players choose any number of dive spots across a tropical island and then dive and swim to discover and interact with new species of underwater creatures including dolphins, whales, and penguins. A very simple game to play, but very rewarding, making it ideal for all ages including the very young. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 5+Read my review of Endless Ocean hereMario KartUp to four players can join together to race easy-to-steer go karts across a wacky series of tracks and courses. With the ability to send outrageous pranks and items of sabotage at each other, the game develops a teasing, back-and-forth interactivity that creates a party-like atmosphere. With an internet connection up to 16 players can play together online. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 7+Read my review of Mario Kart Wii hereCooking Mama Cook OffPlayers are guided through preparing over 300 recipes from over 10 countries, using the Wii Remote to mime the actions of slicing, chopping, rolling, and stirring. “Mama” who acts as your chef instructor is a bit of a wild and overzealous character making this a very entertaining experience. (Rated “E”)Suggested age 10+Rayman Ravving Rabbids TV PartyA hilarious party game where a group of kids are challenged to compete in a wild assortment of mini-games including dancing, boxing, and if you have the Balance Board from Wii Fit, even games that you can play with your butt. Yes, I said butt and that’s the kind of silliness and giggling the game indulges in. Good get-together fun. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 8+Harvest Moon Tree Of TranquilityKids take on the role of a famer, choosing a plot of land, tilling the earth, befriending the animals, performing daily tasks, and eventually taking on a wife or husband and building a family. I first heard about the Harvest Moon games when kids started e-mailing me about it eight years ago and was shocked that farming would prove to be so popular among such a young crowd. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 8+Super Mario GalaxyMario is back and flying through the universe to visit distant planets where he runs, jumps, and battles his way against dark enemies to return the universes stars to the sky. A very innovative game in the way Mario can walk around the 3D spheres of the planets, with gravity holding him down, making for some interesting puzzle designs. There’s a feature where a second player (ideally a parent) can play along in a supporting role, pointing their Wii remote to help kids collect power-ups and evade obstacles. (Rated “E”)Suggested Age – 8+Xbox 360With realistic, high-definition graphics and a robust online experience, the Xbox 360’s strength lies in games where players can meet and play with each other. Although most games are geared towards adult players, there is a healthy selection of games for kids and more recently games designed for families. The 360 can also double as a home entertainment system, playing and upconverting DVD movies and streaming digital videos, photos, and music from your home computer or laptop.The Xbox 360’s online store offers a wide variety of arcade games that will appeal to younger players including Frogger, Pac-Man, Uno, Hearts, and Feeding Frenzy amongst others.(Tip – you can connect a digital camera or MP3 player with a USB cable for slideshows and music playback)Recommended accessories: Xbox 360 Wireless Network Adaptor – With this add-on you can connect your console to the internet using your home Wi-Fi network.Xbox 360 Wireless Controller – The system comes with just one controller, so to allow others to play its best to pick up at least a second.Xbox Live Accessories – To enjoy Microsoft’s online content, players will need to subscribe to their Xbox Live service. You can buy a gift card that will offer this subscription as well as headsets for chatting online and “points” cards that will deliver virtual cash for use in the online store to buy arcade games and accessories.Recommended Xbox 360 Games: Viva Pinata: Trouble In ParadisePlayers tend to a garden of Pinata animals, learning to adjust their ecosystem to make them the most comfortable and happy so that they will breed and produce a wider variety of species animals. Offers deep gameplay and fantastic characters. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 8+Naruto: Rise of a NinjaThere are several games based on the popular Naruto animated television series, but this version of the Xbox 360 is by far the best, offering players the chance to follow little Naruto as he gains acceptance in his village by performing tasks such as delivering noodles, finding lost children, and taking lessons from his teachers on the ways of the Ninja. While there are several battles to be fought, half the fun is exploring and climbing the village’s intricate network or roofs and walkways. (Rated “T”)Suggested age – 10+Banjo Kazooie: Nuts And BoltsA lug of a bear with a crazy bird in his backpack, Banjo and Kazooie are two lovable characters who find themselves challenged to build vehicles and compete in a number of challenges against an awful witch and her unhappy cat. Although a bit complicated and confusing at times, the Lego-inspired construction (you can build trucks, hovercraft, boats, and helicopters) combined with the offbeat characters make it an engaging title for kids. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 10+PureDisney’s ATV racing simulation is a racing blast, offering impressive High Definition graphics and easy-to-master controls both for steering and for performing the aerial stunts as players launch themselves high into the air and strike daredevil poses. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 8+Read my review of Pure herePlayStation 3With High Definition graphics and a powerful cell processor, game worlds take on an impressive range of beauty and realistic physics on the PS3. The console also doubles as an ideal Blu-ray player and offers high-end features for audio and upconverting DVD playback. With an internet connection, players can connect to Sony’s free online service for a variety of interesting downloads and online store where arcade games and mini-games are available for purchase. The PS3 is an excellent home entertainment system with the option to stream video and music from your home computer. One of the system’s weaknesses, unfortunately, is a small selection of titles for young kids. (Tip – You can connect a PlayStation Portable for both remote play and to access online content for the portable device.)Recommended Accessories: PS3 Dual Shock Controller – The PS3 comes with just one controller, to allow others to play you’ll need more. This version comes with the ability to vibrate or “rumble” in reaction to scenes and elements within the games.PS3 Wireless Keypad – A clip-on device for the PS3 controller this adds both a keyboard and a trackpad, allowing players the ability to type and navigate Sony’s online network more easily. Recommended PS3 games: Little Big PlanetA charming platform game where kinds build their own worlds and join together to play through them. Adorable, intelligent, and ideal for parents to play with their children. With an internet connection, players can access the worlds created by other kids and share their own creativity.Suggested age – 7+Read my review of Little Big Planet hereRatchet & Clank: Future Tools Of DestructionThe wide-eyed Ratchet and his robot buddy embark on a galactic adventure of running and jumping through obstacles, battling bad guys with outrageous devices, and using novelty gadgets to solve puzzles and bypass challenging obstacles. Full of tongue-in-cheek humour and engaging characters. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 10+PureDisney’s ATV racing simulation is a racing blast, offering impressive High Definition graphics and easy-to-master controls both for steering and for performing the aerial stunts as players launch themselves high into the air and strike daredevil poses. (Rated “E”)Suggested age – 8+Read my review of Pure hereClick here for my companion guide to party games for families