LOS ANGELES –– At E3, where video game makers show off and hype their upcoming titles, it wasn’t all death, destruction, and dismemberment. Some of the biggest kid-centric titles — Activision’s Skylanders, Disney Infinity, Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart, and Civilization, among them — all introduced new installments.
But those megatitles weren’t the only family-friendly fare to be found on the show floor. Here are 10 games you might actually want your child to play — and maybe even play alongside them.
Some are available now, most will be out in time for the holidays, and a handful are slated to debut next spring. Keep your eyes peeled.
Sony PlayStation 4, PS3, PS Vita
In this mesmerizing game you control two characters simultaneously soaring through a series of shifting psychedelic landscapes. The souls belong to a bird and a fish who are in love but fated to be kept apart; using the right and left joysticks, you guide them through nine lifetimes, collecting bits of energy along the way. The more energy you collect, the closer the souls become. If you’ve played the game correctly, this $10 digital download ends with the souls joining together to form a beautiful dragon. Hypnotic, visually stunning, and with an amazing ambient soundtrack, Entwined is unlike any game you’ve ever seen.
Available: Now (for PS4), next month (PS3, Vita)
This is a first-person shooter with a lot of splatter but absolutely no gore. The reason? You’re firing globs of paint, not bullets. Working with a team of three other players on the Wii network, your goal is to cover every surface of your territory with your designated color, while an opposing team of four tries to mark the territory with its color. Need to move more quickly? Dive into a nearby pool of ink to transform your character into a squid, enabling it to swim underwater much faster than it can walk. Nintendo says a single-player version might be available at some point, but it’s making no promises.
Available: Next year
Little Big Planet 3
With its charming sock-monkey-style protagonist, creatively goofy environments, and customizable levels, the original Little Big Planet changed the platform-and-puzzle genre forever and for the better. The third installment in the popular series introduces three new characters, each with his (its?) own special skills. Oddsock can bound easily over walls, Swoop can fly, and Toggle can be either big and strong or small and speedy, depending on the situation. This cooperative multiplayer game requires all of their skills to overcome obstacles, defeat the evil Newton, and save the planet Bunkum.
Available: Next year
Xbox One, PS4, PC
Part illustrated story, part platform game, Never Alone tells the story of Nuna, a young member of Alaska’s Inupiat tribe, and her arctic fox companion as they traverse a frozen landscape to uncover the source of a never–ending blizzard. You can control either Nuna or the fox and toggle quickly between them, or enter two-player mode and control both. Narrated in the native Inupiat tongue with English subtitles, the story is taken from an old tribal folk tale. The $15 downloadable game is as beautiful to listen to as it is to watch.
Gladys is a hopeless romantic with anger management issues. Chuck is a sensitive jock who writes really bad poetry. They could be your neighbors, but only if you live in the virtual world of Sims 4, the latest in EA’s popular series. In addition to giving your Sims a smaller nose or broader shoulders, Sims 4 lets you assign them personality traits, which will determine how they react to different situations in the game. And if your Sims prove too dull (or they dance like President Barack Obama), you can bring other people’s Sims into your virtual world to liven things up.
This centuries-old folktale serves as the vehicle for a new kind of interactive storytelling. In this version of the narrative, a series of city-dwelling animals collaborate to make soup, whose primary ingredient is a stone. As a child follows the story on her iPad, the parent also interacts with it using her iPhone or iPod Touch — tipping the handheld device to make salt pour into the soup on the iPad, for example. Stone Soup is the first of what independent game designer Anna Lotko calls “storyloops” — interactive stories designed to be used on two devices, allowing a parent and child or two siblings to experience the story together. More stories and an Android version are planned.
So Many Me
Two things make this side-scrolling platform game unusual. The first is that it’s designed for Ouya, a $99 Android-based gaming system that plugs into your TV set. (Versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux will also be available.) The second thing is you get a lot of help solving puzzles from, well, other versions of you. Your in-game avatar, Filo, must save the world from a malevolent evil (of course) with the help of up to 10 identical clones, many of which turn into objects you can use to overcome obstacles. (Think Orphan Black meets Super Mario.) The tone is whimsical, and even the evil characters are kind of adorable.
Toto Temple Deluxe
The concept sounds completely ridiculous, even by the standards of video games. Four Pac-man-like characters compete to see who can carry a goat on his head the longest, while the other three do their best to ram into him and steal the animal for themselves. This platform game isn’t a side-scroller, but it offers multiple levels and a variety of combat environments. It also isn’t networkable, and there’s no single-player mode, so you’ll need to recruit some friends to help get your goat. (Correction: A single-player mode will be available when the title ships.) But it is stupidly fun. You’ll likely find yourself standing in front of the screen, yelling at your fellow goat stealers and jostling them in real life.
Shaman panda Jambee has been captured by an evil spirit, and now his mischievous son Juju must get him back, aided by his klutzy lizard sidekick, Peyo. Yes, it’s a platform game, designed by Flying Hog Studios, the creative team behind the decidedly less benign Shadow Warrior. Together, Juju and Peyo run, jump, tumble, and slither through a series of highly colorful landscapes to save the world from an ancient evil. (I did mention this was a platform game, right?) It’s cute, kid-friendly, and full of surprises.
Cave! Cave! Deus Videt
Windows, Mac OS, Linux
This visual novel guides you through the story of Hoodie, a misfit teenager visiting the Museo Nacional in Lisbon who disappears while staring at a painting by Hieronymous Bosch. And that doesn’t even begin to capture just how weird this title is. This is no Call of Duty or even Entwined; game-play, such as it is, consists mostly of choosing answers to questions posed by the characters. Along the way, though, you’ll learn a lot about the seminal Dutch surrealist and his work “The Temptation of St. Anthony.” Witty, with haunting music and an extremely spare visual style, Cave! is as strange and compelling as the painter’s own works.
Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.