Looking to connect with the kids in a virtual way, but still keep a foot in the “real world”? Check out these fun systems and games, perfect for rainy days, nights, or just hangin’ out.
This sleek, new, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean-powered micro-console started life as a Kickstarter campaign, got funded quickly, and hasn’t looked back since. There are more than 400 games available for OUYA, ranging from racing, to role-play, to action—every one of which you can try for free, which means never having to shell out good money for a not-so-good game. Some games stay free after the trial period, others you’ll have to buy. Aside from taking a long time for the initial setup, OUYA works flawlessly, and its open-source platform makes it easy to upgrade and add on later. Comes with a one Bluetooth wireless controller. Additional controllers (sold separately) are easy to pair to the console. $99.00. OUYA.tv
From the name, one might think that the 2DS would have preceded the 3DS, but it’s actually Nintendo’s latest and greatest handheld console. The new 2DS has dispensed with the 3DS’s hinge, which makes it harder to break. And its slight wedge shape gives it a tablet-like look and feel. The 2DS can play most DS games, all 3DS games (minus the 3D effect), including Pokemon X and Y and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. So if you’re a first-timer and are looking to jump into handhelds, this is a high-entertainment-value, relatively inexpensive way to go. Comes with an SD card, wall adapter, stylus, AR cards, and access to the Nintendo eShop. $129.99. nintendo.com
Pokemon have been around since 1996, and they seem to get better—and more popular—every year. The new Pokemon X and Pokemon Y keep the familiar role-play elements, leveling up, vast territory to explore, grand story line, and the fun of collecting cute little critters. But now there are more battles, more evolution, and tons more features. Start by picking a gender and then one of three starter Pokemon: Chespin (grass type), Fennekin (fire type), or Froakie (water type). As the game progresses, you’ll battle other trainers and Pokemon. For younger kids or those who just want to skip the battles and go right to the roleplaying, this is a series of mini-games, where players interact directly with the Pokemon—petting, giving treats and playing with them. Available in the 3DS/2DS shop for about $39.99. nintendo.com
Skylanders Swap Force
The Skylanders are invading again, but this time they’re coming apart at the seams. Skylanders Swap Force is the newest Skylanders game and the main feature is that you can create your own characters by swapping the tops and bottoms of existing ones. For example, if one of your characters has an arm cannon and tire feet but you’d rather have the tentacle feet from another character, you can make the switch. Small magnets keep the tops and bottoms of the new figures together during play, but easily pull apart whenever you want. Combining characteristics and creating new characters opens up new areas in the game. The 16 Swap Force characters create 250 combinations, 16 new Core characters, 8 LightCore characters, and more. And not to worry, all your old ones—including Giants—will work with Swap Force. $74.99 for starter packs, $14.99 for SWAP Force figures, and $9.99 for Core figures. skylanders.com
A final note: As we move into the Holiday season, be sure to check the Entertainment Software Rating Board (esrb.org) for reliable, bias-free ratings and game reviews.