As Thanksgiving approaches and winter looms, the holiday season is nearly upon us. It’s about that time of the year to compile your Christmas list, save up extra cash to buy presents for your loved ones and dive into the holiday shopping season craze.
For those looking to please gamers (who have probably already rushed out to get “Halo 4,” “Black Ops 2” and “Assassin’s Creed 3” on launch day), these titles offer a fresh and lighthearted gameplay experience.
Check out our list and hands-on preview of these family friendly games for the holidays.
‘Lego Lord of the Rings’ (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
“Lego Lord of the Rings” takes players through a mix of adventures that arise throughout the famous fictional trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, reimagining characters in the form of the famous blocks we all knew as a child. The game, which was just released earlier this week, includes scenarios from "The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of The King,” with dialogue directly from the film.
Gameplay begins when Aragorn the Ranger, Legolas the Elf and and Gimli the Dwarf must storm the fortress of while fighting off the orcs. Players have the option of switching between these three main characters throughout the campaign, and each one holds different strengths. For example, Legolas excels in missions that require archery, Gimli is adept at smashing obstacles, and Aragorn is a strong fighter.
Gamers must learn how to use these abilities to their advantage when solving puzzles. In certain instances, Legolas and Aragorn may throw the tiny Gimli to hit targets, which will usually spark a trigger or knock down a barrier that was insurmountable otherwise.
In classic Lego fashion, there are scenarios in which players must use the materials around them to build structures that will help them proceed through the level. A swarm of tiny blue balls will appear in the area in which the building materials are found. When approaching this area on the board and holding the B button, the Lego-based trio begins to fashion an item that will allow you to pass an obstacle. This could take the form of a structure players can climb to reach a high cliff.
“Lego Lord of the Rings” combines action-based platform gameplay with puzzle solving, creating an engaging and lighthearted video game experience. It’s this subtle element of puzzle strategy that makes a game such as “Lego Lord of the Rings” more appealing than straightforward platforms titles.
‘F1 Race Stars’ (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
“F1 Race Stars” takes the popular Formula One Racing franchise and does it Mario Kart style.
The game, which hit stores on Friday, features racetracks based in an area of the world where a F1 location actually exists. All of the drivers are based on real-life competitors, except for the female ones that were created for the game.
The courses feature tons of twists and turns, with some tracks containing such dramatic turns that the game appears to be sideways at certain points. Gamers can get certain power-ups and goodies by driving through boxes marked with question marks; a typical feature of most party-game driving titles.
In “F1 Race Stars,” players may get a red bubble, which will automatically locate the player in first place and slow him or her down. The yellow bubble zooms around the racetrack until it hits a target. Another extra that players may find when zipping around the course is a set of balloons that when popped will cover an opponent’s screen with bits of confetti. These power-ups can easily be deployed by using the A button during a race.
‘Harry Potter Kinect’ (Xbox 360)
“Harry Potter Kinect,” which was released in early October, explores various chapters of J.K. Rowling’s enchanting blockbuster story through motion-based gameplay. The game hits on various points throughout the series, from Harry’s experience playing Quidditch as a first year to Neville Longbottom’s sprint from Dementors in the last installment.
These aspects of the Harry Potter series are represented through a series of mini games rather than story-based gameplay. In one such mini game, players soar through the Hogwarts Quidditch field in search for the Snitch. To do this, gamers need to lean left and right to stay on the Snitch’s golden path.
But its not as easy as it sounds -- Slytherin competitors will try to knock you off your broomstick. They typically try to bump or strike you from the side, so be sure to punch them out of your way. Once you get close to the snitch, you will need to hover your hand over the elusive winged ball to capture it and end the game.
Another portion of the game takes place in the seventh installment of Harry Potter, when the trio descends into the depths of Gringotts to get into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. Riding in a rickety cart, players must once again sway back and forth to dodge gaps in the track and dangerous twists and turns. Obstacles also require players to jump and duck in order to stay on course.
But perhaps one of the most difficult stages in the game brings players back to Rowling’s third book, where Harry must fend off Dementors to guard his uncle Sirius Black. A swirling mass of the dangerous creatures can be seen above Harry, and as they swoop down to drain your character players must use magic to repel them. This can be done by simply raising your hand over the Dementor, but this becomes increasing difficult as more and more of them begin to emerge from the screen.
Check out the trailers below to get a peek at what these games have to offer.