Game Review: Sing Party

Sing Party’s lack of sexy (or violent) videos makes it suitable for families and since the game doesn’t boo anyone off stage (no matter how tone deaf they might be), it’s fun for large groups. The music mix is a good one, too, with 50 songs blending recent hits and some older classics (i.e. it’s a safe bet this is the only time Frank Sinatra and Carly Rae Jepsen will appear together). It’s a title that’s likely to enjoy a presence at family get-togethers.

While Sing Party is hardly a bad karaoke/dance game, it ultimately feels like a missed opportunity, given the promise of the Wii U’s two-screen approach to gaming. Rather than using the Gamepad to display lyrics for all game modes, the game relies on the television screen for two of its three modes, giving it a very “me too” feeling. It’s a pivotal opportunity to differentiate itself that’s squandered. Also, the scoring system in the game’s sing and team modes isn’t well defined (not that this is a game that’s focused on sing-offs against friends). Given its high price, this is definitely a title you should rent before you buy to see if it’s for you.

Read more at Common Sense Media

Game Review: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

Ninja Gaiden 3 had plenty of shortcomings when it came out for other consoles and developer Team Ninja takes several steps to correct those in this revised version of the game for the Wii U. But Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is still far from perfect. The fight sequences are full of glorious overkill, which should please fans of blood-soaked fighting games, but its the reason to keep kids away. It’s fast-paced and never lets you catch your breath. Boss battles, though, are still extremely difficult — sometimes taking up to an hour to complete. And the other battles get a bit repetitive after a while, even as you gather more weapons in your arsenal.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: NFL Flick Quarterback

It may never be accused of being a deep game, but NFL Flick Quarterback is a supremely entertaining title that is sure to please. The objective is simple: Make increasingly accurate passes and trick shots to rise through the ranks. There’s very little strategy, but it also gives casual football fans a chance to play a licensed game featuring their favorite team without having to stress over calling the wrong play.

The visuals are fantastic. The trivia bits interspersed throughout the game are interesting. And none of the play modes is a clunker. It’s a terrific time waster — and we mean that in the kindest way possible.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: NFL Pro 2012

While the actual football game in NFL Pro 2012 is done quite well, the intrusive and obvious push to convince people to buy game credits overshadows the work of the development team. Locking out basic offensive plays (like a Hail Mary pass) in a relatively shallow playbook underscores the commercial nature of the game and is always jarring. And locking out teams once the player has picked one is a major annoyance (especially if you accidentally pick the wrong team during setup).

That’s a shame, since the game is good looking and, while not as deep as other NFL apps, still has its fun moments. The controls are a bit too complicated and sometimes sluggish, but nothing that’s unforgivable. Ultimately, though, the incessant nagging by the app becomes too overbearing and will likely chase away most players.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: Grand Theft Auto III

Let’s be very clear: Grand Theft Auto III is not — and will never be — a game for kids. The language, violence, and overt sexuality in it are entirely inappropriate for anyone under 17. Adult gamers who pick it up and enjoy action games that push the envelope will find it to be a captivating experience, however.

The game, now 10 years old, makes a very smooth transition to the iOS world, not changing its controversial gameplay, whose content sometimes overshadowed its groundbreaking achievements in the gaming world. The open world aspects of the game still shine through — and the details that made the original so compelling are here as well. The control structure is a little too complicated, though, since there are so many actions to choose from. It clutters the screen on an iPad and truly overwhelms an iPhone or iPod Touch. And the aiming system isn’t as advanced as newer titles by Rockstar. It would have been nice to see that updated a tad. Despite the flaws, it’s still a momentous game and one of the deepest in the app store catalog for mature gamers. For $5, it’s a steal.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: Battle Nations

After playing Battle Nations for a few minutes, you’ll quickly wish this wasn’t a free app. The game is fun, even with its hit-and-miss humor and extended narrative, but if you choose not to buy “nanopods” via in-app purchase (which can run up to $50), you’ll quickly get frustrated by how long it takes to get things done. It’s a frustrating financial play that comes at the expense of the game’s fun factor — and could have been avoided with a free and paid version of the app.

That’s a shame, since the game itself is put together well. Resource gathering is well-done and the battles are well-designed. Even the characters are fairly engaging (for the most part). And the inclusion of a multiplayer mode gives the game extra life once you grow tired of (or finish) the single player campaign.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

Activision has made billions of dollars off the Call of Duty franchise, but if more games were like Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, this is a series that would have died off long ago. The game is average, at best, blending the series’ shooter roots with a sci-fi/horror themed zombie mode. And while that’s a fun mix on consoles, it falls flat here, with less-than-inspiring gameplay, complicated controls, and no real sense of originality.

Diehard fans of the series might enjoy it, especially the multiplayer modes, but newcomers will wonder what all the hype is about.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: Blood & Glory

The gladiator setting of Blood & Glory (not to mention the app’s title) should be fair warning to parents that this is not a game for little kids. But for adults and older teens who play, this is a fairly well done fighting game. It attempts to tread the path blazed by Infinity Blade, though discards any semblance of story, reducing it to a series of fights.

This would be fine, except the game continually ramps up the difficulty, but your skills don’t advance at the same pace. This puts you in a position of essentially being forced to buy in-game credits to upgrade your skills or weapons (or suffer hours upon hours of defeats to slowly build the skills and earn the credits through gameplay). If you’re willing to spend the money (or walk away when you reach that point) it’s a fine choice. But if painting yourself into that corner is a frustration point, pick up a copy of Infinity Blade (or its recent sequel) instead.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: Tiny Tower

Tiny Tower is a darned cute game. Mixing old school pixilated art and smart gameplay mechanics, it is a very enjoyable simulation game that brings the original SimTower game to mind. The game smartly balances tending to the needs of its “Bitizens” and the economic aspects. But by utilizing the in-app purchase model, it hits problems.

While nothing goes haywire with the game if you choose not to spend real-world cash to buy in-game bux, the game will progress slowly, as finances don’t build up quickly naturally. It’s still possible to enjoy the game without spending real-world cash, but you’ll need to be patient — plan to close the app and come back to it when you get an alert.

Read more at Common Sense Media

App Review: Age of Zombies Anniversary

Barry Steakfries is one of those heroes you feel you should be rooting for, but you don’t always succeed. He tries hard to come up with one-liners in this time-traveling shooter, but they’re really not that funny, and the game ultimately feels somewhat paint by numbers: Get the weapon drop, kills lots of monsters, run to get breathing room, repeat. This edition is a nice visual improvement on its earlier version, and the game has a vocal fan base, but it’s clear to newcomers that developer Halfbrick was just figuring out to do with the character in this early appearance. (Thankfully, they made him mute and more likable in later games.)

Read more at Common Sense Media