Get a Head Start on the Holidays Thanks to Nintendo [Giveaway!]

My six-year-old and I recently attended an event at Nintendo to get a firsthand look at some of their best offerings for the holiday season. Not only did my daughter make her own Nintendo-themed holiday wish list, we are ecstatic to share an incredible prize back with Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival and her other top picks with one lucky reader!

Continue reading Get a Head Start on the Holidays Thanks to Nintendo [Giveaway!]

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

PAX – where Gamers go to Loot.

Walk the exhibition hall and the first thing thrown at you is every big name in the video game industry, and more. The hype is about new and upcoming games; the atmosphere is about promoting the most unreal gaming experience.

In between all the glitz and glory are the indie developers, stealing all the tweets. Part 2 of my PAX review is aimed squarely at the video games: the games planning to conquer the world… and the ones I predict will succeed.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

If the “geek shall inherit the Earth” then PAX is where they divvy up the loot.

As an expo, it is a huge opportunity to try new games, find new talent, and “mingle with your people.” Trust me—I have plenty of new finds to +1 your geek status.

But as a social hub? It’s a whole other level.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

6 Tips for Throwing a Video Game Playdate With ‘Yoshi’s Woolly World’

Having your friends over to play video games isn’t a new idea. If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you probably had some buddies over to check out the rad new Super Mario World or Sonic the Hedgehog. But “playing games together” back then was more your friends staring at the screen while you play, instead of playing together.

Thanks to the attention spent to co-op play in games like the upcoming Wii U title Yoshi’s Woolly World, video games now are more social than ever! Plan a perfect video game playdate for rainy day fun with the help of these six tips and Yoshi’s Woolly World. Continue reading 6 Tips for Throwing a Video Game Playdate With ‘Yoshi’s Woolly World’

7 Things You Should Know About ‘Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer’

If you or your kids loved decorating your house more than anything else in previous Animal Crossing games, you’re in luck! With Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, you can put your own style on the inside and outside of homes of over 300 villagers. You’ll also make a school, hospital, restaurants, and more to make your new town feel like your very own.

Before you pick up the game, now available for the Nintendo 3DS, here are seven things you should know. Continue reading 7 Things You Should Know About ‘Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer’

Create Your Own Mario Masterpiece With ‘Super Mario Maker’

Super Mario Maker Wii U Bundle © Nintendo
Super Mario Maker Wii U Bundle © Nintendo

You might not have known it, but you’ve been training for 30 years to design the most epic Super Mario level ever.

Or to beat it.

Super Mario Maker not only puts all of your game designer dreams to the test, it also challenges all of your Mario skills with a staggering amount of brilliant levels created by players around the world. Continue reading Create Your Own Mario Masterpiece With ‘Super Mario Maker’

‘Splatoon’ Free Demo Begins August 21

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

Haven’t had a chance to play Splatoon on the Wii U yet? This is your chance to get inked—for free! Splatoon is back as a “global testfire” (i.e. a free demo) during the dog days of summer.

Since launch, Nintendo has consistently been adding new, free content in game updates. New weapons, stages, and game modes have been keeping the game fresh, and a recently increased level cap adds even more fun for the dedicated Inklings out there.

Check out my review of Splatoon for more details about the game; so far it’s my family’s favorite game of the year.

Visit the Nintendo eShop to download the demo now! Free play is available from 3-5 PM PT on August 21-23.

E3: First Look at ‘Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer’

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

Fans of the Animal Crossing series will be ecstatic to get their hands on Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Instead of playing the role of Mayor in the latest game in the series, this time get ready for an entirely new experience as a home designer happily working at Nook’s Homes.

Lottie, a new character with the quirky personality you’d expect from Animal Crossing, is your guide to your new career as a home designer. You’re tasked with fulfilling your client’s decorating wishes, and thanks to the usability improvements to the game, it’s never been more fun to design a home in Animal Crossing.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

You don’t only take control of the look of the inside of a villager’s house; you get to decorate the exterior as well. The UI has been streamlined by taking full advantage of the touchscreen. Use the stylus to place a house, trees, plants, and items outside, and then further customize the color and look of the walls, roof, and more with just a few taps.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

Next, go inside to place furniture and decorate to your heart’s content. The leaf icons that made the items in your Animal Crossing inventory a mystery have been replaced with full-color icons, so it’s much easier to find the item you’re looking for. And there’s no need to stand in the exact right spot to place furniture: Just select it and drag it in place with the stylus. You can even rotate the object quickly with the stylus as well.

Add to that a search function that immediately finds all items related to your customer’s requested theme, and you’ll be decorating the house like a pro in no time.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

As you take jobs requested by the same 300+ villagers who populated Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you’ll unlock facilities in your town. You can even give your favorite villagers their own jobs in town at the school, hospital, and more.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer also introduces new amiibo card functionality. (A New Nintendo 3DS is not required to use this feature; an accessory to use the cards is also planned for release soon.) Pick up the card for your favorite villagers and special characters, like Isabelle or K.K. Slider, hold it to the screen, and you can fulfill their design requests as well. Cards have unlimited use and are sure to be another hot collector’s item from Nintendo.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer features many exciting UI improvements and fun new ways to experience the eccentric, familiar characters of Animal Crossing. The game is planned for release September 25, 2015.

GeekMom attended a preview event courtesy of Nintendo.

E3: Hands On With ‘Super Mario Maker’

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

Kids and grownups who have daydreamed of becoming a game designer can make that wish come true in Super Mario Maker, coming exclusively to Wii U. Turn the Gamepad into your level designer as you place pipes, power-ups, Koopas, Goombas, and more into your dream Super Mario level, and invite players worldwide to take on your one-of-a-kind challenge!

Players choose one of four styles for their custom levels: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. The style can be changed on the fly at any time when designing, and whichever style you choose isn’t limited to items or enemies from that game only. In fact, there are few rules at all when it comes to designing your level.

Instead of tucking away a mushroom power-up in a question block, hide a Koopa Troopa inside! Forget Bullet Bill; why not have your Bill Blaster fire invincible stars? Kids can pick up the intuitive UI within minutes to drag and drop enemies, platforms, coins, blocks, and more. Your imagination can be unleashed on your level almost without limit.

© Nintedo
© Nintendo

One of the few rules is that your level must be beatable in order to be shared worldwide. You have to be able to reach the goal pole yourself before the level can be uploaded. Uploaded levels will be moderated, and inappropriate content can be reported and removed, so you don’t have to worry about your kids accidentally seeing something they shouldn’t (as in certain words spelled out in coins).

You’ll also get the chance to try out other levels that have been designed by fellow Super Mario Maker players around the world. Find a favorite designer whose levels you can’t get enough of? Subscribe to him or her and you’ll know when they share a new challenge. You can even see the top-rated levels and search by difficulty to find a new favorite easily.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

Like many of Nintendo’s new games, Super Mario Maker will take advantage of the amiibo functionality to put those figures to good use. Tap your favorite amiibo to the GamePad, and take the reins of that character for an amusing run through your level.

Super Mario Maker accomplishes the difficult task of appealing to both the nostalgia of parents who grew up on Super Mario Bros. along with the Minecraft generation of kids who love to build as much as they do play. The game is currently slated for release September 11, 2015.

GeekMom attended a preview event courtesy of Nintendo.

‘Splatoon’ is a Blast For Squiddos of All Ages

Splatoon © Nintendo
Splatoon © Nintendo

It’s an all-out, all-ages turf war in Splatoon, exclusively on the Wii U! Every member of your family will love taking control of an Inkling to spray, splat, and roll their paint to claim their territory and battle it out with players worldwide. Splatoon is a completely family-friendly shooter that parents can feel good about while kids have a blast.

The goal of each Splatoon online battle is to cover as much of the ground with your paint color as possible. Players can also take aim at each other, but the objective of online play is to cover ground, not earn kills. Choose from a variety of weapons, including paint guns and rollers, and you’re on your way to earning points for your team of four players.

There’s no voice chat, which some veteran FPS might find dismaying, but it is a relief that your kids won’t be in danger of hearing words you rather they didn’t.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

As Inklings play in turf wars and earn levels and money, they can visit the quirky shops in Inkopolis to customize their characters. Clothes, shoes, headgear, and weapons not only give your Inkling just the right look you want, but also add to your stats and grant abilities to give you the edge in your next paint-filled battle.

Inkling Girl amiibo © Nintendo
Inkling Girl amiibo © Nintendo

Solo play is also an option. In Octo Valley, players must take on the dastardly Octarian army to save the Zapfish. Solo play is a great way to hone aiming and weapon skills, and take on some serious boss battles. You can also pick up the Splatoon amiibo figures for extra solo challenges to earn unique gear.

If it’s a family feud you’re in the mood for, head to the Battle Dojo for a one-on-one local battle. As one player focuses on the GamePad and the other on the TV, the goal of the Battle Dojo is to burst as many balloons as you can find. Tally up the total and one member of the family has bragging rights for the day.

Quick Game Tips

  • You may be immediately tempted to turn off the motion controls, but leave them on! The game is much more responsive in aiming with motion controls on.
  • Even the littlest of players can take part in online play and help the team. All they have to shoot is the ground, which most young players can handle. I can enjoy watching my kindergartner play and help the team, even if she isn’t the best at aiming yet. And then I demand my turn.
  • Shooting the walls helps get you where you’re going faster, but won’t count toward your point total.

If you’re not comfortable with your kids playing first-person shooters yet, this third-person shooter is a game you can rest easy about. With a goal to splatter paint on the pavement, not other people, it has a shooter feel without any worries of violence.

Pick up Splatoon now for another family-friendly multiplayer hit from Nintendo at a retail price of $59.99. Nintendo even plans to offer frequent game updates and events, giving you a lot of paint for your buck.

GeekMom received a promotional copy of the game and amiibo figure for review purposes.

Power Up Your Hairstyle with a ‘Super Mario’ Fire Flower Barrette

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Little gamer girls need something to power up their hairstyle, and what better way than with a fire flower from Super Mario Bros.? All you need is felt, a barrette, and glue to create an eye-catching, adorable hair clip in almost no time at all.

What You Need

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox
  • Barrette (alligator hair clip)
  • White, black, yellow, orange, and green felt
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or school glue (for young crafters)

Get Started!

Begin by cutting two leaf shapes out of the green felt. Hot glue the two leaves on the barrette.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Next, cut a small oval (about 2 inches in diameter) out of the orange felt. Cut a smaller oval out of the yellow felt, and glue that oval on top of the orange one.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Next, cut a smaller oval out of the white felt and glue it on the yellow oval.

This part can be tricky, so young crafters may need the help of a grownup to cut the small shapes. Cut two small black ovals for the eyes, and glue them on the white oval.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Finally, cut two small white ovals for the top of the eyes, and glue them on. Your barrette is complete!

‘Streetpass Mii Plaza,’ The Nintendo 3DS’s Best Kept Secret

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

I’ve had a Nintendo 3DS for a long time, but never realized that there were games hiding on the handheld console just waiting for me to discover. After hearing about a StreetPass Mii Plaza update last month, my first reaction was, “What is Mii Plaza? It’s already on my 3DS?”

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

My reaction now is to carry my 3DS everywhere I go in the small hope that StreetPass will encounter a new Mii.

So what is StreetPass Mii Plaza?

Your little Mii that resides on the 3DS has access to costumes, mini-games, and more in this recently updated game that comes with the system. As you encounter other Miis while your 3DS is out and about, those characters will join up with you in the Mii Plaza to give you puzzle pieces, go on a quest, and more.

The mini-games that it comes with are free, with “premium” games offered for the price of a smartphone app. If you enjoy quiet games like Animal Crossing and Fantasy Life, chances are you’ll love the premium games offered in StreetPass Mii Plaza.

Ultimate Angler © Nintendo
Ultimate Angler © Nintendo

Ultimate Angler, one of the new premium games that also debuted last month, is an amusing way to spend some time with the characters you’ve met over StreetPass. The Mii characters give you bait and you head out together to fish the deep sea. If there’s a large catch on your hook, your new friends will team up to help you reel it in. Put the fish in a custom aquarium, or let it go free. Along the way you’ll earn points and coins to upgrade your aquarium and fishing rod to catch an even bigger fish.

Flower Town is my other current pastime on StreetPass Mii Plaza. Visitors to your garden will help your flowers grow into beautiful blooms and unique new breeds. Grown plants can be sold or used for jobs offered by the florist in town. You’ll while away the hours upgrading your garden, harvesting seeds, and buying flower pots to get your garden just right.

If you’re discouraged by the use of the StreetPass feature to invite guests to your plaza because there aren’t many 3DS players in your area, you can visit your local Best Buy to take advantage of the Nintendo Zone. Airports and conventions are other fantastic spots for meeting other Miis. Or, if all else fails, you can spend Play Coins to call NPC Miis to help you fish, garden, fight, and more.

With just the free features, StreetPass Mii Plaza is a fantastic way to get even more bang for your buck for the New Nintendo 3DS. I hope our Miis cross paths one day!

GeekMom received promotional copies for review purposes.

‘Mario Party 10’: Ain’t No Party Like an Amiibo Party

© Nintendo
Mario Party 10 (amiibo Party) © Nintendo.

Shake up your next family game night with Mario Party 10, available March 20 for the first time on the Wii U! Up to five players can join in the fun, with someone even taking control of Bowser in the entertaining new Bowser Party mode.

Party On, Mario
Mario Party veterans will find plenty of familiar elements in the latest installment. You and your family and friends choose characters (up to four in the classic Mario Party mode) and roll dice to move around the board. Along the way, you’ll earn stars with lucky rolls and by winning the clever mini-games hidden around the board.

Mario Party 10
© Nintendo.

Many of the mini-games rely on luck rather than skill to win (it is Mario Party, after all), which works well for younger wielders of the Wiimote and occasionally frustrates older ones.

Note that players can only use the Wiimotes in Mario Party mode, so the GamePad isn’t a controller option for anyone playing. Neither are the Pro Controller or GameCube Adapter. So plan your Wiimote situation ahead of time, so no one is left out!

Party On, Bowser
A player can use the GamePad as a controller during the new Bowser Party mode.

Mario Party 10
© Nintendo.

Bowser chases Mario and friends around the board, as players race to capture the star waiting at the end. One person can play as Bowser in the mini-games, roaring and stomping and generally trying to ruin Mario’s day, or all players can play against Bowser in this amusing game mode.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo.

Oh, No, amiibo!
We were dismayed to find out that the Rosalina amiibo we’d leveled up previously in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U couldn’t be used in Mario Party 10 unless we erased the Smash data. As Rosalina isn’t a figure you can easily find in the store, buying a second amiibo for our daughter’s favorite character wasn’t an option, so erasing it was.

My daughter wasn’t terribly heartbroken, but it is unfortunate that only a single game’s data can be saved on the figure at a time.

Once that was taken care of, it was time to try out the new amiibo Party mode, which isn’t a bad option when there’s no one else around to play against. Play even more mini-games to customize your amiibo in game.

‘Cuz an Amiibo Party Don’t Stop
With over 70 minigames, several game modes that take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, and even bonus content you can buy with tokens you earn in game, Mario Party 10 is another family-friendly home run from Nintendo that offers hours and hours of play.

Mario Party 10 is out March 20, 2015, at a suggested retail price of $49.99 (or $59.99 with Mario amiibo bundle).

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a Clay-Ful Family Adventure

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

Animated. Clay-ful. Play-D’awwwww. There is no shortage of puns to describe Nintendo’s cute and whimsical release, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Another standout title for the Wii U, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse makes excellent use of the GamePad for a unique gaming experience in a colorful and memorable world—it’s just a shame that you spend so much time staring at the GamePad that you never really get to fully enjoy those colors in glorious HD.

A mysterious villain has stolen all of the colors from Dream Land, and with the help of Elline and Waddle Dee, Kirby must navigate through Pop Star and defeat monsters to save his home. With a swipe of the stylus on the GamePad screen, you can get Kirby started on his journey, drawing a rainbow path to scale tall walls, make a way through and around obstacles, and even attack (adorable) enemies.

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

It’s a unique way to play that was introduced in Kirby’s DS adventure, Canvas Curse, and drawing the rainbow rope adds a bit of a learning curve for players of all ages. Or, if you’ll forgive one more pun, it takes a while to learn the ropes. Kirby is controlled only with a tap or swipe of the stylus, not with the D-pad, so your brain may take a little bit of time to adjust. But it won’t take long, and you’ll appreciate the change of pace from your standard platformer.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
© Nintendo

Since you have to stare at the GamePad to plan the next move of the rainbow rope, the person controlling Kirby rarely looks at the big screen to appreciate the vibrant world of Dream Land. The clay effect is done so well that it’s a shame to see it only on the GamePad’s small screen.

Your partner, however, gets to enjoy it as they use the Wii controller to join in the fun. As Waddle Dee, the second player uses standard controls to help Kirby along the way. If your kids have trouble getting Kirby where he needs to go, controlling Waddle Dee instead can lead to much less irritation and a fun gaming experience for you and your kids together. (Up to three other players can join in.) There are no time limits, and Waddle Dee is instantly transported to Kirby’s side without penalty if he falls behind, making it ideal to play with younger kids.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a great break from the Skylanders and Lego games that you may typically play co-op as a family. It’s an adventure game that will get you thinking in new ways as you play with your kids, and it’s sure to provoke a few “awws!” along the way.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is available now for the Wii U for a suggested retail price of $39.99.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Dawn of the First Day: Majora’s Mask 3D Out for the New Nintendo 3DS

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has always been a unique game in the Zelda series. It’s a direct sequel to its predecessor, Ocarina of Time, and the game mechanic of getting tasks done in just three days is simultaneously compelling and maddening. The original release is the only Zelda game I gave up on midway through. So when The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3DS was announced for the New Nintendo 3DS with a remastered look and improved gameplay, I decided it was time to redeem myself.

Majora’s Mask 3D looks fantastic on the handheld system, and while the gameplay changes don’t make for an easy experience—it is a Zelda game, after all—the improvements all make this game more than worthy of a second chance.

Vivid greens and purples seem to leap off the screen thanks to the improved 3D of the New 3DS. This isn’t Hyrule; this is the darker world of Termina, where disaster from the sky must be averted within three days to complete your quest. The three day gameplay mechanic adds a sense of urgency to every task you undertake, and in the Nintendo 64 iteration, the repetitive cycle and limited ability to save is what ultimately caused me to give up.

In Majora’s Mask 3D, you can now save the game in the middle of the cycle, and gain the ability to travel between save points much earlier. (You can also jump to a specific time rather than standing around waiting.) This eliminates most of the frustration I felt the first time around, and updates the game for today’s players.

Majora's Mask 3D
© Nintendo


Majora’s Mask 3D also includes an upgraded Bomber’s Notebook to help you keep track of tasks you need to complete and townspeople to assist during your three days. It will even alert you to important events during the cycle so you don’t miss a necessary task. Add to that a new map and inventory system thanks to the touch screen, and you’ve got game improvements all around.

With all these changes, will I finally finish the game? Time will tell. Becoming a parent changed my gaming habits: I’ve gotten used to games I can pick up and turn off at any time, because I never know when that little voice will call for me. Majora’s Mask 3D can now be one of those games, but with so much to wrangle, it’s better played in long bouts. The New 3DS game might not be one of my Four in February, but I’m definitely impressed enough to keep at it.

Majora’s Mask 3D is available today for a suggested retail price of $39.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

6 Things You Should Know About the New Nintendo 3DS

© Nintendo
© Nintendo

On February 16, the New Nintendo 3DS XL hits store shelves for an updated take on the portable system. The New Nintendo 3DS XL (quite the mouthful) boasts improved processing power, better 3D than its predecessor, design improvements on the system itself, support for new technology like amiibo, and more.

With yet another take on the 3DS, you might be wondering to yourself if it’s worth it to pick up yet another portable gaming system from Nintendo. Whether you’re considering an upgrade to your existing DS or just curious about the features of the new one, here are 6 things you should know about the New Nintendo 3DS.

There are a lot of design improvements.

The buttons and more have been shifted around from the 3DS XL, but it’s a welcome change. With the volume up on the top screen, and the wireless slider moved entirely, you won’t find yourself fumbling and accidentally changing the volume on the system.

You also won’t accidentally remove the game cartridge when grabbing the DS, which I have done many times (when the game wasn’t saved, no less)—the game now slides in the front instead of on the hinge.

I’m also happy to see the start and select buttons back where I’d expect them to be, instead of in the middle, leaving the Home button much easier to find when your eyes are glued to the screen.

My only complaint? The stylus isn’t where I’m used to, either, so I find myself still fiddling with the right of the system to find it, only to remember it’s now moved to the front.

Overall, I’m a big fan of these changes. There are also new buttons with the system, the C stick (most likely used for camera control) and the ZL and ZR buttons.

And, in case you’re wondering, screen size and system size haven’t changed from the 3DS XL.

A power cord isn’t included in the box.

The New Nintendo 3DS does not come with a power charging cord (AC adapter). This was done as a cost-cutting strategy, as most gamers who buy the New 3DS already have a compatible 2DS/3DS adapter, but it leaves people who never owned a system in the lurch. Pick up the official AC adapter when you buy the system if you’re a newcomer to Nintendo.

It’s not a simple process to transfer games and data.

If you’re not new to the DS and you upgrade to the New 3DS, you’ll find that it’s not a simple process to transfer games you’ve purchased in the Nintendo eShop. It’s not like the iPhone App Store, for example; you can’t just re-download the games from the eShop. Follow the instructions on the Support site and on screen to make sure you don’t miss an important step when moving over your games and save data.

New 3DS and 3DS XL side by side during transfer. Photo: Kelly Knox
New 3DS and 3DS XL side by side during transfer. Photo: Kelly Knox

The 3D really does look better.

I was never a big fan of the 3D technology on the 3DS XL, but I have to admit that I’m impressed with the improvements on the New 3DS. “Face-tracking,” one of the touted new features, actually does a remarkable job of keeping the top screen in stable 3D. Majora’s Mask 3D looks gorgeous, and even older games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf look good. If 3D gaming is your thing, the New 3DS delivers.

Other notable new features include amiibo compatibility.

Along with the new controls and 3D face-tracking, the New Nintendo 3DS also includes new amiibo functionality for compatible games like Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. Improved processing and a better camera round out the list of notable new features for Nintendo’s latest handheld system.

It’s coming out this month.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL is available for $199.99. Launching in the U.S. on February 13 alongside The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, there are enough improvements to make the upgrade a consideration for casual and serious gamers alike.

Stay tuned to GeekMom for a closer look at Majora’s Mask 3D!

GeekMom received a promotional item for review purposes.

New Nintendo 3DS XL in Stores on February 13

All images courtesy © Nintendo
All images courtesy © Nintendo

Today’s Nintendo Direct released a slew of information about upcoming games and the New Nintendo 3DS XL coming to stores this spring. The new system, available in U.S. stores February 13 at a retail price of $199.99, comes in red, black, and two designs based on The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (GameStop exclusive).

What sets the New 3DS above the rest? From a press release from Nintendo this morning, features include:

New Nintendo 3DS XL offers a number of new enhancements designed to offer the smoothest and most engrossing portable gaming possible. New Nintendo 3DS XL features a wider range of controls with the addition of a C Stick and ZL/ZR buttons, super-stable 3D via face-tracking technology and built-in NFC functionality that allows for communication with amiibo figures.

Also on February 13, the remastered The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D hits U.S. store shelves.


Today’s Nintendo Direct also included tidbits about anticipated new releases like:

  • A new game in the Fire Emblem series
  • A line of amiibo featuring classic characters from the Super Mario series
  • The arrival of amiibo compatibility in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
  • Upcoming games for the DS and Wii U like Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (March 13, 2015), Splatoon (May 2015), Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (February 20, 2015), Mario Party 10 (March 20, 2015), and more

Check out the full video for all the details, and stay tuned to GeekMom for info and reviews for these family-friendly titles!

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Is Frenetic Family Fighting Fun

Super Smash Bros.
All images courtesy © Nintendo

Fan of Nintendo since childhood? Expert button masher when it comes to fighting games? Stop reading now and go get Super Smash Bros. for Wii U! But if you’re not a lifelong Nintendo fan or fighting game aficionado, keep reading to learn all about the frenzied fun in the latest installment in the Smash Bros. franchise.


Super Smash Bros.Super Smash Bros. pits over 40 of Nintendo’s famous (and some not-quite-famous) characters against each other in one epic fighting game. Mario, Luigi, Link, Pikachu, and even Sonic the Hedgehog join Little Mac (Punch Out!), Shulk (Xenoblade Chronicles), Captain Falcon (F-Zero), and more. Chances are if you have a beloved Nintendo character from years gone by, they’re in Super Smash Bros.

There are also characters to unlock, and you can even use your Mii to create a custom character with your preferred fighting style.


Up to 8 players can join in the fun thanks to the variety of compatible game controllers available. Not only do the standard GamePad and your old Wiimotes work, you can even drag your vintage GameCube controllers out of the closet and hook them up with the new GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii U.  You can even use your Nintendo 3DS if you have Super Smash Bros. for that system.

We have been using a mix of our vintage GameCube controllers and the new Super Smash Bros. Edition GameCube controllers along with the GamePad and Pro Controller. No single controller has the advantage, but the GameCube controllers do make it easier to remember which buttons are the attack and Smash buttons.

Start Smashing!

I haven’t cracked an instruction book open in years, but after trying to jump in to a three-player melee with no clue of how to play for the first time, we ended up flipping through it for the basic character moves. (The official web site also offers a robust How to Play section.) Once you get the hang of the controls, the fun really begins. Use your character’s unique moves to jump, punch, kick, and yes, smash your opponents off the stage to win.


You can also grab special items for big damage or to summon even more allies to join in the fray.

The game also includes a variety of challenges and mini-games to keep the fun going even if you don’t have anyone to play against. But if it’s a worthy opponent you’re looking for, you can always take on a new foe (or friend): the amiibo!



At launch, you can use 12 amiibo figures to fight with you or against you in Super Smash Bros. Once you tap the amiibo on the GamePad, the figure appears in game. Amiibo characters level up the more they battle and can be customized to your preferred fighting style.

Bottom Line

So what’s the verdict? “Intensely amazing!” declares my 10-year-old neighbor. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is chaotic, frenetic, button mashing, super smashing fun. There’s something for any level of fighting game mastery, from just button mashing to get through a round with friends to fighting for trophies, completing challenges, creating your own stages and Mii characters, and going online to battle.

That’s a lot to pack into one game. It’s so much that Nintendo released a thirty-minute video telling you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is available November 21, 2014, for a suggested retail price of $59.99. Various amiibo figures are also available for a suggested retail price of $12.99 each.

GeekMom received a promotional copy of the game, a Mario amiibo, GameCube controllers, and the adapter for review purposes.

Choose Your Own Adventure in Fantasy Life

© Nintendo / Level 5
All images © Nintendo / Level-5

Fantasy Life, out October 24 for the Nintendo 3DS, can perhaps best be described as a cross between Final Fantasy and Animal Crossing. The game is a blend of RPG and life simulation, giving you the opportunity to choose a Life (or class) that best suits your play style. If you prefer fighting, magic using, crafting, or gathering, there’s a Life for you.

With a title illustration by Amano Yoshitaka and music by Nobuo Uematsu, Final Fantasy fanatics might be tempted to pick the game up on that pedigree alone. While there is an overall quest with a standard RPG story line, you’re not in any rush to complete it, so the similarity to Final Fantasy pretty much ends there (give or take an airship). If you would like to merely stand in the blacksmith shop and work for two hours, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll level and complete tasks for your Life master all the same.


12 classes, or Lifes, are available in Fantasy Life. I chose Angler for my first Life, as I often enjoy gathering and crafting classes in games. After working my way through the first two chapters of the main quest by mostly dodging enemies, though, I decided to try a new Life. My days of being an Angler weren’t all that terribly exciting as they were, although Applefish did tremble at my expert prowess with a fishing pole. Okay, not really. Once I switched to Magician, though, I started progressing through the main storyline at a more enjoyable pace. But I keep eyeing the cooking Life…

If you switch your Life at any point in the game, you keep the skills you’ve already learned, so you have the opportunity to master all 12 Life classes in Fantasy Life. Sorry, Applefish, but you shall keep trembling. This gives the game a large amount of playability and bang for your buck, always a welcome feature when buying any video game.

fl-screen1The localization team deserves a special shout-out for the clever wordplay and jokes in the character dialogue, which couldn’t have been an easy task when translating the original Japanese release. More than once I’ve caught myself grinning at the in-game text, which is well-polished and flows well.

If you’re a lifelong JRPG fan, or the type of gamer who fishes and tailors more in games like EverQuest than you do hunt, Fantasy Life might be right up your alley. It’s a quiet, colorful game that even kids 10 and up can play, making it a great diversion on those long road trips you have coming up for the holidays.

Fantasy Life is available October 24, 2014, for the Nintendo 3Ds at a suggested retail price of $39.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Nintendo Launches “Play Nintendo” for Parents and Kids

All images © Nintendo
All images © Nintendo

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Wii U. In fact, as a mom I’m probably even more of a fan of Nintendo than I was as a kid—which I didn’t think was possible—thanks to the console being the most family-friendly of the “next gen” bunch. I’m happy to see with the launch of the new family web site Play Nintendo, the company is embracing their role as the best console for kids.

Kids will enjoy getting their hands on games, personality activities, trivia, tips, and gameplay videos and trailers, all in one very colorful spot.

Darn right I am.

I love that my five-year-old can easily watch videos of games she’s interested in without worrying about anything inappropriate popping up. (I will say that the Kirby-yourself game is a little disturbing, but she was quite entertained, so bravo.)

Even more impressive is the Parents section of the new site. Nintendo not only markets their recent releases—which is to be expected—but also includes reassurance about the benefits of gaming for kids. The site also includes a handy list of how-to’s for parents and grandparents who might not be game savvy. Not you fine geek parents reading this, of course, but the next time your mother-in-law asks for gift suggestions, you have a place to send her.

Hop on over to the Play Nintendo site if you’re a longtime fan like me or have a geek kid who’s a new fan. I’m know you’re dying to find out which Mario Kart 8 racer you are

Hack, Slash, Repeat: Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors
Princess Zelda saves herself in Hyrule Warriors. All images © Nintendo

Legend of Zelda games have never been known for unending hack-and-slash action, but that’s about to change with the non-stop sword swinging battles in Hyrule Warriors. Out September 26 from Nintendo and Dynasty Warriors developer Koei Tecmo, the Wii U game blends the franchises together for a Zelda experience unlike any other.

Hyrule WarriorsHyrule Warriors introduces new playable characters and villains, along with familiar faces from your favorite Zelda games. The story brings together the various Zelda heroes and timelines in a way that surprisingly makes sense. The sorceress Cia, influenced by a mysterious-but-predictable dark figure, has opened portals of time across Hyrule in her battle to take over the kingdom.

If you’ve never played a Dynasty Warriors game before and you’re expecting a typical Zelda game, jumping into Hyrule Warriors can feel chaotic and overwhelming. Seemingly unending waves of monsters fill the screen, along with pop-up dialogue from allies and enemies, mission objectives, and a flashing map that indicates the advancement of enemy forces. Your goal is to fulfill the mission objectives by capturing keeps and defeating bosses in the allotted time.

Along the way you’ll find staples from every Zelda game, such as arrows and boomerangs, giant boulders to blow up with bombs, and enemies like Stalfos. You’ll also hear tried-and-true sound effects (like opening a treasure chest) and background music inspired by the original Legend of Zelda theme.

These elements definitely give the game a Zelda feel, but at heart it is a Dynasty Warriors game. Repetitive button mashing to get through the hordes is broken up only by running through the map to get to the next objective.

Hyrule Warriors

The passable story and familiar characters are enough to keep you playing, though, especially if you’re a Zelda fan. You’ll finally get your chance to take control of Princess Zelda herself, along with Impa and Midna of Twilight Princess, and playing Link is just as fun as it always is. Along with the action you’ll also get to tweak character abilities, unlock new attack combos, and upgrade weapons.

You can also play in co-op mode, giving you and your family the chance to control Link and Zelda together. The game is rated T for Teen. There’s no blood flying through the air with all that action, but Cia’s costume is ridiculously skimpy, so you might want to check it out before inviting the youngest players in the house to take up the GamePad.

Hyrule Warriors is definitely a different take on the Zelda franchise. Once you get the hang of processing all of the information and action flying across the screen, it’s easy to find the fun in mowing down waves of enemies with Link and Zelda. If you’ve ever wanted to play a Zelda game without the hassle of solving puzzles, Hyrule Warriors is the game for you.

Hyrule Warriors is available September 26 on the Wii U for a suggested retail price of $59.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

PAX Prime: Hyrule Warriors Brings Zelda Fans Together

Link vs. Dark Link
Link takes on Dark Link at the PAX Prime event. All photos: Kelly Knox

PAX Prime in Seattle is a yearly gathering of some of the biggest video game fans. On Saturday night, Nintendo brought together hundreds of dedicated The Legend of Zelda fans in an event to celebrate the franchise and check out the new game, Hyrule Warriors, coming this fall.

Hyrule Warriors is a departure from the typical Zelda game. If you’ve ever played a Dynasty Warriors game, you’ll know what to expect, as the same team takes the helm to create a unique Zelda adventure. The action is bigger, louder, and more explosive, with the rare chance to take control of a Legend of Zelda character other than Link. That means you can not only play as Link, but also as some of your favorites from other games, including Zelda herself, Impa, Midna, and Fi, and some new characters introduced for this story. At the PAX Prime event, Zelda fans got their hands on Ganondorf, eager to take on the hordes of monsters threatening Hyrule.

Hyrule Warriors
Link takes control of Ganondorf.

Hundreds of Zelda aficionados arrived for the fan gathering event, with a large number of them in costume. It was easy to see how much these fans love The Legend of Zelda! Not only were they happy to share in their common fondness for the games, everyone in the room was buzzing about the exciting gameplay of Hyrule Warriors.

Hyrule Warriors will be released September 26, 2014—stay tuned to GeekMom for a full review! In the meantime, check out the happy fans celebrating The Legend of Zelda at this year’s PAX Prime.


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Mommy and Me Time With Pokemon XY

My son has all the best badges! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan
My son has all the best badges! \ Image: Dakster Sullivan

Pokemon XY reintroduced me to my love of the Pokemon world. Not to age myself, but I loved playing the original Pokemon Red on my Game Boy color when I was twelve years old. Over time though, I lost my love of Pokemon somewhere between my teenage years and my adult years. Thanks to a Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY, I’ve rediscovered my long-lost love of trying to “catch them all.”

In the past few months, my life has gotten not only complicated but stressful, and one day while looking for a way to relax, my younger brother brought over his old Game Boy Advance and his Pokemon games for me to play.


My love of Pokemon instantly came back to me like an old friend who had been away on vacation. I carefully changed the battery in the game console, blew it out to rid it of any dust, and then I sat down and got to work trying to catch them all.

A funny thing happened that day. Not only did I rediscover my love of Pokemon, but my 8-year-old son discovered his love as well. He was intrigued by the old Game Boy system and instantly wanted to play. Of course, he was a little disappointed when he asked if it would work with the iPad and I told him no <shaking my head>. Despite the fact that his newer Nintendo 3DS is fancier and has two back-lit screens, he was still excited to sit down and play on my old Game Boy Color and learn how to capture Pokemon of his own.

As I started to play, I remembered the fun I used to have playing video games. You see, as the years have gone by, the consoles have become more advanced and the graphics more realistic, causing me to get migraines from a few minutes of play…

With the video game trend growing in terms of graphics and realism, I was afraid I would be stuck playing my Game Boy Color for the rest of my life (or its life, whichever ended sooner). Then…I saw the light in the form of the Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon XY. With the gentle graphics in Pokemon XY and the non-3D effect of the 2DS, I’ve learned I can play for up to 45 minutes without any regret.

It didn’t take long before my son discovered my shiny new hardware and a few days later (and a lot of begging on his part), I downloaded the game onto his DS so we could play together.

I’ll admit that I was a little skittish giving my son his own Pokemon. After all, he doesn’t know the difference between the types, their unique powers, or how to level them up to defeat the gym leaders. I decided to put my fears and worries aside and let him find his own way. Turns out, that wasn’t such a bad idea, because the game pretty much taught him everything he needed to know. With the exception of choosing his first Pokemon because it was “cute,” he’s battled his way through more gym badges than I have and captured a nice array of Pokemon (in my defense, it’s my lack of time, not skill, that has allowed him to pass me in gym badges).

After playing for a few days, I realized a few differences in this Pokemon game versus the ones I grew up with.

The first difference I noticed was the ability to choose between a male or female lead character and whichever you chose to be, your companion will be the opposite. Something else I noticed was the inclusion of a few more friendly characters, mostly trainers your character’s age, to help you along the way. Each of them has a different reason for catching Pokemon, just like each player in the real world has a different reason for playing.

Pokemon XY also has a few new faces, including three new starter Pokemon. In case you’re wondering, my son chose Chespin and I chose Fennekin (whom I’ve nicknamed Fen). There’s also a wide range of game-version-specific Pokemon, and a few other features that the previous games I’ve played didn’t have, including fancy boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and five-star hotels.

The boutiques are special, because they sell a wide variety of fashions in which to dress your character up, and further personalize the game character to its real-world player. I didn’t think I would care too much about the fashions, but then I realized I could get everything from my hair cut, to contacts, to jeans, and t-shirts that reflected my own style instead of the boring default style the game developers give you.

The restaurants are also pretty neat to check out, as some of them only cater to special Pokemon types. Make sure you check them out when you run into them because some of the food provides special energy to you and your Pokemon.

Of course, no game is perfect and I found a couple of things particularly annoying.

First the gym leaders are sometimes easier to beat than the ordinary trainers you find on the paths to the city. I have four badges, and so far I have yet to lose to a gym leader in a battle. Actually, the further along I get in the game, the easier it seems to be to beat the gym leader. Kalos City is the exception, because before you can get to the gym leader you have to answer three quiz questions and beat three trainers. If you choose the wrong answer to the question, you have to retry the question and face another trainer until you get it right.

The second thing I found annoying was how many times I would talk to someone and they would say “here’s something to help you along your journey.” For players who get stuck, this is great. For those who prefer to battle their way to the top with minimum interference, this will hinder your experience. If you prefer to train your Pokemon the old fashion way, you know, through battles…talk when you want and skip around. There are times when talking to someone is required and most of the time, the game will clue you in.

In the beginning, I found the amount of cash you win from various trainers to be a little excessive. After visiting some of the boutiques for clothes, Pokemon gear, and other items, I realized the insane amounts of money you win is actually necessary if you want to purchase any of the upgrades.

There are a few other added bonuses to this game that I haven’t played with much, but seem like they would be fun for younger players. One of those features is Pokemon Amie, and it reminds me of Nintendogs for the DS. Basically this is the area where you get to play and feed your Pokemon like it was a virtual pet.

It’s been fun getting back into the Pokemon world and teaching my son everything I know about the game. And next to reading comics, it’s become one of our favorite ways to spend time together.

Overall, Pokemon XY has given me a way to relax and spend some quality time with my son. What more could a mom ask for in a game?

Pokemon XY is available for Nintendo DS consoles. Check your local game seller or Amazon for pricing and availability.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review sample. 

The Best Family Games at E3 2014

© Nintendo
Splatoon © Nintendo

E3 is typically about the Next Big Game from the usual publishers, like Ubisoft, Activision, and the rest. But E3 isn’t just Mortal Kombat X and Assassin’s Creed: Unitythere are family friendly games at this show, too! Here’s a quick roundup of some of the best video games coming out soon for families and kids featured at this year’s E3.

Nintendo came out swinging at this year’s E3, hoping to generate interest in a console that has disappointing sales and what seems to be a doomed, short shelf life. If this week’s announced lineup of upcoming games is any indication, though, the Wii U is going to be alive and kicking—at least in 2015.

Not only did Nintendo showcase Hyrule Warriors (a Legend of Zelda/Dynasty Warriors mash-up), and announce an untitled Legend of Zelda for the Wii U, Mario Party 10, Yoshi’s Wooly World, and Bayonetta 2, some games at the show were real standouts.


A third-person shooter developed by Nintendo, Splatoon is vibrant, unique, and immediately grabbed my attention. That’s no easy feat during a Legend of Zelda heavy show. The goal in this multi-player game is “to get your ink on as many places as possible and claim your turf.” Once you see it in action, you’ll want to dive into the messy fun. (Wii U, 2015)

Mario Maker

Make your own Super Mario Bros. levels with Mario Maker. What else do I have to say? Parents who played it as kids will dig the nostalgia, and kids (especially the ones who dream of being game designers) will love the challenge. You can even flip between the classic 8-Bit and a 3-D Mario world. (Wii U, 2015)

amiibo © Nintendo


Nintendo’s answer to Skylanders and Disney Infinity is amiibo. These figures come to life within the game—starting with Super Smash Bros.—and can fight for you or against you. Each figure can learn new stats and tactics the more you play. (Wii U, 2014)

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes

Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes © Disney

All of the fun of Disney Infinity in the Marvel Universe, and the Play Set stories are penned by Marvel vet Brian Michael Bendis? Sign me up. Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes includes more than 20 Marvel characters, including the Spider-Man play set, announced at E3. The Hulk also comes to the Playstation 4 as an exclusive. (Playstation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, 2014)

Skylanders Trap Team

Skylanders Trap Team is coming this fall, and GeekDad Andy Robertson got his hands on the game at E3. Swing by his YouTube channel to see the new game in action with characters revealed at E3. (All consoles, 2014)

Did any other family-friendly games at E3 stand out for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Mario Kart 8 Is a Wii U Must-Have

Mario Kart 8
Toad’s Wild Ride © Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 is the newest installment in the franchise, in stunning HD for the first time on the Wii U. Some games define a console, like Oblivion on the Xbox 360 and Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo. Mario Kart 8 has a good chance at being one of those iconic games for the Wii U, and at the very least a must-have for anyone with the console. It’s a high-energy, vivid, fast-paced game that players of all ages will love to play.

Mario Kart 8
© Nintendo

The game comes loaded with Mario Kart basics: your favorite Super Mario Bros. characters, crazy karts, items to toss at the other racers, and tracks inspired by Super Mario’s worlds. Sixteen tracks are “retro” tracks making a return from previous Mario Kart games, but updated with the newer features like hang gliders and anti-gravity racing. The anti-gravity tracks, new to Mario Kart 8, literally turn racing upside-down as Mario and pals glide along walls and drive on the ceiling. In addition to the 16 retro tracks, 16 new tracks take full advantage of the anti-gravity feature. The Electrodome in particular is a stunning and colorful track that you’ll want to play again and again.

As always, you can toss red shells, banana peels, and more at your opponents, turning their seemingly easy victory into a nail-biter with little warning. Mario Kart 8 has the power to end friendships. Or, in my case, end my five-year streak of not cussing in front of my daughter. The unpredictable nature of every race adds suspense and admittedly some frustration (curse you, blue spiny shell!) but that’s all part of the Mario Kart experience.

Once you’re tired of defeating everyone in your family, Mario Kart 8 also offers online competitive play with up to 12 other racers from around the world. Battle Mode also makes a return in online play, but on tracks rather than an open arena. There is no online voice chat when playing with others worldwide, so you don’t have to worry about someone else spewing obscenities at your children.

It all boils down to: Do you love Mario Kart games? Then you’ll love this one. Mario Kart 8 is one of the best titles for the Wii U, and if you own the console, I definitely recommend adding this one to your game collection for hours of entertainment.

Mario Kart 8 will be released on May 30 at a suggested retail price of $59.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Disneyland Meets Animal Crossing in Disney Magical World

Disney Magical World © Disney / Nintendo

Have you ever daydreamed about living in Disneyland? (Of course you have!) Thanks to the new Nintendo 3DS game Disney Magical World, you can almost make that dream come true.

In the game, you join your friends Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and more in Castleton, a city populated with more things to do than you can shake a magic wand at. With quests, clothing and furniture crafting, a café to run, collections, fishing, and more, Disney Magical World is an unending, immersive, and magical 3DS game that fans of Disney (kid or grownup) won’t be able to put down.

An open city to explore, fruit to pick, stores to shop at, visits from real life friends with StreetPass, and adorable citizens, it’s easy to draw a comparison to the Animal Crossing franchise. Disney Magical World shares some of the same happy-go-lucky vibe, but feels even more easygoing without crotchety villagers who make snarky comments if you don’t play after a while. Even running the café, for example, which could have been designed to make players feel rushed to meet customer demands, doesn’t have any negatives. If you run out of food, you simply get a cheer for a job well done, and you can make more whenever you feel like it.

Disney Magical World
© Disney / Nintendo

Materials for crafting clothes, furniture, café decorations, food, and wands can be collected in quests which take players to other magical worlds. Disney fans will be delighted to explore the worlds of Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, and Alice in Wonderland to earn stickers (the level system) and crafting materials.

Unfortunately for my preschool-age daughter, the game requires a lot of reading, with very few voiceovers to help her on her way. But we can happily play together, and I play the role of narrator for her Disney Magical World adventures.

My one complaint is the repetitive music, a necessary evil in this type of game, I suppose. After spending just a few minutes in Castleton I had to turn the sound off. My daughter loves it, however, so to each their own.

Disney Magical World includes over 60 classic Disney characters, an incredible amount of customization, and even themed decorations and recipes based on holidays and seasons. The 3DS game is almost a no-brainer for Disney fans.

Disney Magical World is available on the Nintendo 3DS on April 11, 2014, and retails for $29.99.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

Yoshi’s New Island? More Like Yoshi’s Cute Island

© Nintendo

Pastel colors, crayon-drawn backgrounds, and baby Mario Bros. populate Yoshi’s New Island, out today for the Nintendo 3DS. Yoshi’s New Island mixes game play elements that temper the challenge of a 2D platform game with forgiving features and enjoyable mini-games.

Yoshi’s New Island opens with the adorable origin story of Baby Mario and Baby Luigi. In fact, everything about Yoshi’s New Island is so adorable, I’m going to have to hit up the thesaurus for all the different ways to say “cute.”

The graphics are colorful and soft, although surprisingly pixelated, but it adds to the charm. This is one of the few games that I actually leave the volume up on the DS for, as the cheery music and the also-adorable-and-slightly-hilarious sound effects are worth hearing every time I play. (I swear Yoshi says “bum” when he lays an egg.)

As Yoshi travels across Egg Island to rescue Baby Luigi, he encounters familiar Super Mario Bros. foes like piranha plants and snifits. If any enemy happens to get their mitts on Yoshi, there are only a few precious seconds to grab Baby Mario before the bad guys do.

My five-year-old panicked a little each time Baby Mario started wailing, but otherwise enjoyed playing Yoshi’s New Island. She quickly got a handle on the game controls, although as the levels progressed past the first world, she often handed off the 3DS to get her through a jam. Lucky for her (and me), like Super Mario 3D World, Yoshi’s New Island includes the forgiving bonus of a special power-up if you fail a level so many times. It’s not an instant win. Yoshi must still navigate through the level from beginning to end, and he’s not invincible, but those power-ups definitely help.

Some levels also include mini-games where Yoshi transforms into things like a helicopter or jackhammer, mixing up game play to keep things interesting. And all levels include collecting flowers, stars, and red coins to add even more challenge for players who want to complete the game 100%.

Yoshi’s New Island is another fun platformer out from Nintendo this year. While I can’t speak for any nostalgia or throwbacks to the original SNES Yoshi’s Island (I didn’t play it), the 3DS game has all of the enjoyable elements of a Mario game with the added bonus of being irresistibly cute. Delightful. Dainty. Aww-inspiring? You get the idea.

Yoshi’s New Island is now available for the 3DS at a suggested retail price of $39.99.

GeekMom was provided with a promotional copy for review purposes.

Review: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

What do you get when you cross The Legend of Zelda with Paper Mario? An awesome video game with a hero that obtains really cool powers.

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is an indirect sequel to the Super Nintendo title: The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past.  The game follows Link to save the light and dark worlds from destruction. The cool thing about the two worlds is that they’re mirrors of each other, just one has a darker aspect to it (and the people are grouchier) and the other has a happier, lighter aspect to it. To get between the two worlds, Link uses a new power that allows him to turn into a living painting to slip through portals that takes him between the worlds.

Since this is my first Zelda game, it didn’t take long for me to get a little stuck, and the first major challenge I found in the game was one of the dungeons.

Dungeons are a new aspect to the games and proved to be almost an annoying challenge. I’ve read that some veteran Zelda players didn’t like this new addition, but to me, it’s one more puzzle to get through. I only wish there were more opportunities to save in the dungeons so if you die, you don’t have to struggle through another 20-minutes of play to get back to where you were.

The other challenge I faced was getting around and figuring out how to accomplish my missions. The only thing the game tells you is “Go here and get this.” It doesn’t tell you, “Ohh by the way, this symbol means this. Before you walk 30 minutes to get there you should stop here and get this.” Once I realized I was really on my own in this game, I started to get more creative on how to get things done.

Something I really liked about the game was that every 45 minutes, the system will alert you to how long you’ve been playing with a gentle “Hey, you’ve been playing quite a while. Why don’t you take a break?”

If you’ve never played a Legend of Zelda game before, here are a few tips to help you get through it:

Health: Keep an eye out for heart pieces. You start out with only three heart containers and as you progress, you find/earn heart pieces to gain more heart containers, thus have more health. Also, purchase a jar to hold fairies and potions. If you keep a fairy in a jar, you can be revived if you die.

Sword: Once you obtain your sword, if you push and hold B (the button your sword is assigned), it will light-up and do a super spin, which is useful when destroying plants/enemies around you.

Continue or Quit: If you die, don’t use the tempting “continue game” option, because you will lose all of your rented items and have to pay for them again. It’s easier and cheaper to just quit and pick back up at your last saved spot.

Pay attention to symbols and signs: There were times I was really frustrated and I had no idea how to get around an obstacle because I didn’t read every sign I came across. At one point, I’m pretty sure the game was throwing signs in my path as a way of yelling at me to pay closer attention.

Of course, even if you’ve played a Zelda game before, this one will throw you through a loop with the new “living painting” ability Link earns after defeating the first boss. My husband, a long time Zelda player, was watching over my shoulder one night, and when he saw me merge onto a wall to avoid an enemy, he freaked like I had just performed some unexpected feat of magic.

I’ve been playing the game for 2-months now, and I haven’t gotten to the “throw it out a window” level yet, but I’ve come close. I’ll admit that I’ve had to turn to a walk-through site a few times because even my husband couldn’t help me. As someone who went from playing Pokemon XY to this, it’s quite a change to get used to. There’s a lot more thinking and puzzle figuring out than I anticipated, and while it’s frustrating when I’m trying to work through it, I know I’m a better player for sticking with it and pushing forward.

Since I haven’t played any other Legend of Zelda games, I’m not sure if this one is better than any of the others. What I can tell you though, is as a first time Legend of Zelda player, I’m loving every minute of my game-play and hope to see more titles out for the DS consoles in the future.

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is available on Amazon or at  your local game retailer.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review sample. 

Monkey Around in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

© Nintendo

The newest installment in Nintendo’s Donkey Kong franchise hits game store shelves today. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U might look like a simple kid’s game, but don’t be fooled. The side-scrolling platformer harkens back to the days of the SNES when you were likely to throw your controller on the floor in frustration, but you’ll have so much fun that you’ll immediately pick it up to try again.

© NintendoDonkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze opens with Donkey Kong and his family enjoying a warm tropical day, when suddenly the Snowmads attack DK Island. The island quickly freezes over, and Donkey Kong has to fight to take his home back from the icy invaders. Along the way DK can join forces with Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong to put their valuable abilities to good use in some tight spots.

The controls are not immediately intuitive. Although there is a helpful pig in the beginning levels to explain some of the buttons (each time we played I had to re-learn what each of them did). I often found myself accidentally rolling off a platform or not remembering how to grab vines without mashing all of the buttons. Once I did, though, my daughter and I were off and running, jumping, and pounding.

The game’s challenges are tempered with multiplayer features that encourage family play-time together. The team-up between Donkey Kong and his cohorts works well, with an ability for DK to carry the other character on his back that is ideal for playing with a younger gamer. My five-year-old was ecstatic to play Dixie. Even when Donkey Kong was the one doing most of the heavy lifting (literally), she was happy to be perched on him without worrying about missing a platform or falling off the edge. And if we did get too far apart, the game transports the faraway character to the other without the loss of a life, which is always a welcome feature.

While Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze isn’t as carefree as games like Super Mario 3D World, it’s a vibrant, gratifying family game. Expect a lot of high-fives from your kids when you work together to finish a level or defeat a boss. Or, in my case, remember how to jump.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is available today for the Wii U at a retail price of $49.99.

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

Product Review: Wii Fit U and Wii Fit Meter

Image: Nintendo

My family’s first experience with the Nintendo consoles turned out to be a lot of fun. We tested the Wii U, Wii Fit U, and Wii Fit Meter. We loved the included games, and I ended up liking the Wii Fit Meter much more than I thought I would. One concern below, but overall: Yup! it’s a go.

From Wii Newbies…

We weren’t a Nintendo family. Not a single Nintendo platform in the house. We played our (numerous) games on other platforms.

So when I set out to review the Wii Fit U and Wii Fit Meter, I knew, going in, that Wii had a different philosophy, and was prepared for a bumpy transition.

Instead, we all found it pretty easy to figure out, especially the younger testers. The Wii U comes with a step-by-step setup guide that is clear and helpful, and the platform has a sleek profile. It also comes with new GamePad that allows for play and simultaneous TV watching, as well as a few other features I’ll discuss below. There was, in our case, a lengthy software update, but once we got through that, registering for the Wii U shop gave us a lot of download options*—and I’m excited about all the new games listed for 2014. I’m not the only one. Various members of the family are looking forward to playing a lot of Wii games together, from SuperMario World 3D to Legend of Zelda, Wind Walker (recently reviewed by GeekMom Cathe Post).

*NOTE: There’s a limited-time software trial: If you are interested in the Wii Fit U and already have a Wii U and a balance board, Nintendo is offering a free software trial through January 31, 2014. Best part? If you get and register a Wii Fit U Meter by that time, they say you can keep the Wii Fit U software “forever, at no additional charge.”

… To Wii U Converts

Image: Nintendo

More to the point, the multiplayer options of Wii Fit U mean that I can work out with my daughter—though actually, she calls it playing games, and so do I.

But these are games that get us both up and moving, and we’re having a lot of fun doing that together. It also means that I can get a workout even when the weather is horrible outside, or there’s no school or childcare. And I don’t have to join a gym for the winter. I’m looking forward to playing during the holidays, so I won’t have to do so much fitness catch-up once New Years Day rolls around and reminds me of Resolutions Past.

… Possibly More Than Converts

The whole Wii U setup has my imagination working overtime. I want Nintendo to partner with Dark Horse Comics for a River Tam fight workout, with Marvel for a Superhero challenge, and with Nickelodeon for an Avatar: The Last Airbender balance and motion practice. Seriously—Waterbending? Earthbending? TOTALLY perfect for this system. Nintendo- please get on this? I want to fight like River Tam. And to waterbend. Your system is perfect for that. Hook me up!

Highlights of  Wii Fit U

The Controllers – Balance Pad & Tablet:

What was most impressive for me was the interactivity of the balance pad, the tablet, and the Wii U—specifically all the different ways that Nintendo programmers have figured out how to game the balance pad and the controller. I love it. Luge? Fantastic. Yoga, so perfect. The way the balance pad works with step aerobics and Zumba? Really outstanding. So, Wii U? I’m sold. We’ve unlocked advanced features on a number of games so far, after only a few days, you’ve lured me in with your exergaming. A few things will need to change in our house, for instance, because we didn’t have a Wii before, we realized that we need a Wiimote to do some of the boxing and dance games, but those are coming.

Fit Meter:

photo1.jpgI expected to be annoyed with the Fit Meter—in part because it’s a puck roughly the size of an Oreo, and my friends have been showing off their sleek Fitbit wristbands, and in part because I didn’t want to have something clipped to me all the time. But you know what? The Fit Meter did exactly what it was supposed to do. Counted my steps. There were lots of them! The meter’s size wasn’t a problem. And the Fit Meter is much cheaper than a Fitbit wristband.

Syncing the Fit Meter and the Wii Fit U tablet and software is a little complicated. Because both the meter and the tablet transfer data by infrared signal, you must aim the head of the Fit Meter at a very small area at the top of the Wii U controller tablet. This is a little awkward the first few times (also counter-intuitive, as I was expecting to be able to just “dock” the puck to the base of the tablet, or have it sync in proximity). But it is doable, with practice.

The Games:

Our entire test group loves the games that came with the Wii Fit U download. If you have Wii Fit software already, Nintendo says there are nineteen new games in this version, including luge and climbing, plus a new dance mode.

The core building exercises are great—from luge to ski-jump—as are the obstacle courses and hula hooping. And it’s all exercise that gets counts on the Fit Meter.

My family in particular thinks the winter sports mentioned above are great fun. And I totally felt the effects of the core workout the next day.

Image: Nintendo

Then there’s the bit I was most excited about when I first saw the box: Wii U’s Yoga. This is a great video yoga trainer, both for basic moves, broken out into individual practices, and for longer sessions. One of the best parts, for me, is that the balance pad constantly tracks your center of gravity and visually helps you auto-adjust to perfect your balance. More than that, an option to “mirror” and self-assess lets the Wii yoga practitioner place an image of themselves on the screen next to the yoga instructor.  I am finding that tool very helpful for perfecting posture. The mirroring is done using the Wii U tablet’s built-in camera. Mirroring is an option, not a requirement—excellent flexibility on Nintendo’s part.

To sum up: just an all-around great application of software and hardware.

Looking Forward & One Hurdle

I can see where the Wii Fit U tools—the great gameware, the intuitive controls, the low-profile platform—could be amazing for anyone looking to work out at home, either in between tasks, or as a way to start a fitness routine in private. And especially for those looking to recover balance and strength after illness or injury. Back when the Wii first came out, years ago, this was some of the best buzz I heard about it. But I think there’s one item that’s holding Wii U back from becoming the go-to video fitness software of choice for lots of diverse audiences. And it’s a problem that’s been around since 2008.

That’s the in-game fitness assessment.

This is the only major hangup I have with an otherwise great platform-software-interface package. Unfortunately it impacts the usefulness of the Wii for the above groups. It’s not a deal-breaker for my test group, this time, because we’ve figured out a few ways to hack the assessment (below), but it is problematic.

In order to play any of the Wii Fit U games, you must take a fitness assessment. There’s no way to opt out of it. Even if your kid has a friend over who just wants to try a luge run with their own avatar. Fitness Assessment required. That’s problem one.

Problem two is that the algorithm that drives the fitness test is BMI-based. This results in some strange calculations if your weight/height ratio is off due to any number of things, including—amusingly—fitness indicators like muscle mass. Several family members and friends who are in reasonably good shape—including two runners with 5Ks under their belts, a weightlifter, and a weekend basketball player—were told that they fell outside BMI norms. Worse, when they were informed of this, their avatars immediately changed shape onscreen. This kind of body-shaming was not OK with me, and my test group questioned it too.

I know that Wii had some issues with the BMI ratings in the past, and it looks like this part has not changed. For someone who is dipping a toe in the workout waters, or who is getting back into it after an illness or injury, this kind of automated feedback could be discouraging, at the very least. In addition, the proposed optimum weight level for several of my test group members was much lower than what they were comfortable with as an optimum weight for their age and health. I can only hope that Wii uses their software upgrades to make the fitness tests—or at least the assessment responses—optional in the future, at the very minimum.

In addition, accuracy of the balance assessment varies. I fail the balance portion of the fitness assessment regularly, then go on to rack up “perfect posture, perfect balance” points in advanced Yoga. Who knows why.

Since the fitness tests are mandatory, not optional, some friends have helpfully provided suggestions for how to hack this most unfortunate portion of an otherwise great setup.

  • “You can avoid the judgmental bits by telling it you’re 8 feet tall when you make a profile.” (Jess, NYC – who got the trick from a Molly Wood podcast, circa 2008)

  • “You can make your clothing weigh 7lbs.” (R, DC)

  • “Don’t take weight recommendations from a computer. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy fitness level looks like for you.” (Andrea, NYC)

  • “BMI is used as a surrogate for whole-body fitness in many places (USAF, for example). I don’t agree with it. It’s a good first-look indicator, but then that means you should delve deeper and see if the heavier-than-you-like weight is fat or muscle.” (Patricia, CO)

  • “Skip the balance tests. There’s no reason to stick around with the assessor for longer than you have to.” (T – LA)

  • “Hack the scale by placing the balance board on thick carpet.” (Natalie, DE)

So, Overall Recommendation?

Image: Nintendo

An enormous thumbs up from our family and friends for the new Wii U and Wii Fit U. An additional thumbs up for the Wii Fit Meter.  One request that the fitness assessment become, at the very least, optional.

And, oh yes, an ongoing plea for a River Tam Fight Workout. The last one would be supergreat.

Buying Information

Wii U (box set with Legend of Zelda, Wind Walker), other options and prices available: around $300-350

Wii balance board: price varies

Wii Fit U Meter: around $19.99

Rating: E (Everyone) – Mild Cartoon Violence

Developer: Nintendo

*Reminder: If you are interested in the Wii Fit U and already have a Wii U and a balance board, Nintendo is offering a free software trial through January 31, 2014. Best part? If you get and register a Wii Fit U Meter by that time, you can keep the Wii Fit software forever, at no additional charge.

Nintendo plans to offer a Fitness Bundle, coming January 14. More information here.

GeekMom received items for review purposes.