January 8, 2010

Games for the Under 10 Set

Erik Kubik has this to say about modern gaming consoles and younger gamers...

I thought of this when I overheard a conversation between a customer and the sales staff at a local game store. Her complaint was about the violent games on the Xbox 360. Her son who looked about 10 wasn’t interested in the Wii, which she mentioned to the store employee. She asked if there were any learning games. I tried hard not to laugh as I watched her kids make facial expressions at the idea of “learning”—facial expressions that would have made Mario choke. The store associate fumbled and mentioned Rock Band was a learning game. She continued to ask about non-violent games and the employee pointed her to Forza for the 360.

Good learning games are few and far between on most consoles but there are some titles out there for those of you who aren’t about the killing and mayhem. I can easily name 20 titles on the Wii but let’s look at the 360/ps3 instead. I’ll try to focus on “good” games because too many games geared toward younger audiences tend to be poorly developed and cheaply made, and end up playing terribly.

There is the Lego Series with the long and creative list of Lego Star Wars, Lego Indiana Jones, and Lego Batman. The series will soon be joined by Lego Harry Potter. All of these games are fun; they are easy so younger gamers can pick them up quickly. Most of the games are 8 to 10 hours long and have co-op game play with a variety of extras that keep the game fresh. Parents love Legos! Kids love Legos! Most of the titles can be found on Goozex for 100-300 pts with plenty of copies available.

Another non-violent game genre is racing and there are plenty of titles for both systems. Two of my favorite exclusives are Forza Morotsport on the 360 and Motorstorm on the ps3. Both are decent games and are only 100 points. But there is also Dirt, PURE and Sega Revo Rally. Most racing games drop in value quickly so they can be picked up on the cheap.

Despite the suggestive lyrics and questionable clothing, there is always Rock Band or Guitar Hero. As most of us know, Rock Band and Guitar Hero are fun music games the whole family can get into, although parents of younger gamers may want to lean toward Lego Rock Band.

If racing or rocking out doesn’t suite your tastes, try an adventurous platformer or two. On the Wii and the Nintendo DS it’s all about Mario. The ps3 has the Ratchet and Clank series. The first game, Tools of Destruction, is only 450 points on Goozex; making it affordable. Although the games are rated Teen, most of the stuff in the game is mildly crude humor.

Sometimes you have to look beyond the popular titles. There are some movie tie-in games like Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda. They’re okay--just don’t expect the cream of the crop. Stay away from Spiderwick Chronicles! Its’ not even worth the paper the manual was printed on. There are also some puzzle games and some trivia games. There are family-friendly arcade games available on the PSN and Xbox Live that can be downloaded; such as classic Playstation titles like Crash Bandicoot, etc. All-in-all, there may not be a lot of learning games, but there are plenty of other fun games where the focus is not wading through pools of blood while getting hammered with F-bombs.