Players Become A Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia: Music Evolved

Fantasia main
Copyright Disney

There is finally a new Fantasia fix for Disney fans, but it’s not a movie.

Harmonix, the company behind other interactive music and movement-base games like Rock Band and the Dance Central series, has joined with Disney Interactive Studios for Fantasia: Music Evolved, a new motion-controlled rhythm and music game inspired by Disney’s 1940 masterpiece Fantasia, and its sequel, Fantasia 2000.

With Fantasia: Music Evolved, the player takes on the role of a sorcerer’s apprentice, working to perform tasks and objectives set by Yen Sid, The Sorcerer.

This game is not a traditional dance game, as the gesture-based motion format allows players to manipulate environments and find hidden interactive secrets, and act as mixer and conductor on the songs. It focuses heavily on creativity and musical control, and players gain points with their musical accuracy. A plus for younger players, is there is no actual way to fail at a level or “lose” the game. The better the player, however, the more rewards, unlocked goodies, and points gained.

dancer
Players of the new Fantasia-based game rely on their creativity and musical timing. Image capture from Fantasia: Music Evolved official trailer. Copyright Disney.

The game also features a two-player mode, and unlocked gaming modes include a party mode, where players have access to all the game’s songs.

However, the shining star of this game is the music,  and the soundtrack to Fantasia: Music Evolved is quite extensive. It not only features some of the classical favorites by Vivaldi, Bach, Liszt and Mussorgsky, it includes new original music by award-wining game music composer Inon Zur. There are also more than 30 contemporary and classic rock hits from a diverse array of artists including Depeche Mode, Bruno Mars, Jimi Hendrix, Lorde, David Bowie, Avicii, The Who, The White Stripes, and several others. A bonus limited edition three-song bundle of additional music is also available with some purchases, and digital versions of the game offer remix expansion packs.

The game was released last month, and is currently available only on Xbox’s Kinect, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. There is also a soundtrack featuring the game’s original music and classical pieces performed by Zur. Renowned orchestras, such as London Symphony Orchestra, and other artists work have been collected together and are available on CD  or can be downloaded.

The game sells for around $59.99 for the Xbox One version, $49.99 for Kinect version, $49.99 for XBox 360, at retail venues including Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, and Gamestop. Cost is around $10 less on Amazon.

Those looking for a hefty story-line and heavily challenging skill levels might be disappointed. For those seeking a colorful, visually beautiful trip through mesmerizing worlds, accompanied by excellent music of several genres, this is a perfect afternoon gaming getaway for families.

eBay Simple Flow Makes Upgrading to Next-Gen Consoles a Cinch

This blog post was written as part of GeekMom’s collaboration with eBay.

The next-gen consoles are out, which means video game stores are accepting trade-ins on old systems. It’s tempting to go in on these deals, because a quick trade at the GameStop means less cash up front for your new Xbox One or Playstation 4. But resist the temptation! You can get a lot more for your console if you sell it online.

Our son really wants an Xbox One, so we’re looking to make some extra cash by offloading our Xbox 360. In the past, selling electronics on sites like eBay was pretty darn easy. Just snap some photos, grab some specs about your device from the web, and type up a description. But it’s even easier now, with the eBay Simple Flow interface. You just pick what device you’re selling and everything is pre-filled for you, including a stock photograph of your console.

It’s super easy, at this point, to just go through and add custom photographs and descriptions to your eBay listing. With all of the heavy lifting done for you, it’s just window dressing. I’d suggest taking a better lit photo of the device you’re selling than my husband did (see the video above), but honestly, you’ll probably sell your console regardless.

Some other tips for good listings?

  • Lighting is important for the photos, but a clean device and clean environment does a lot to show potential buyers that you take care of your belongings. Take five minutes to wipe the smudges from the screen and tidy up your set.
  • Identify the value of the device in the title or description. How much does it cost new? How much did you pay for it? The inherent savings can be very attractive for buyers.
  • Check current and completed listings to make sure that your Buy It Now price is competitive. And always consider starting your bid at $0.99. If the market is willing, the price will increase to where it should be.
  • Pack your item for shipping before you list it so you can list the package dimensions and weight in the listing. This way, you can advertise the absolute lowest shipping price. Or consider adding a bit to the Buy It Now and listing Free Shipping. Some people prefer this.
  • Don’t forget to ship early! As soon as the auction is over, get that package to the post office post-haste! Good feedback is invaluable, especially when you decide you’re ready to upgrade your other devices with the eBay Simple Flow interface.

Check out the video above where my husband goes through the process of listing our Xbox 360 in—no joke—five minutes, tops. And compared to the $50 or so we’d get trading it in at GameStop, eBay thinks we’ll fetch around $130. Not a bad down payment toward that new console, is it?

So if you’re hoping to snag a new console this holiday season, go sell your old devices now to get the best price using eBay’s Simple Flow.

Xbox SmartGlass Has Extra Goodies for Star Trek Fans

A peek at the "Star Trek" Xbox SmartGlass home page. Image: © Paramount Pictures.
A peek at the “Star Trek” Xbox SmartGlass home page. Image: © Paramount Pictures.

Can’t seem to get enough of Star Trek? If you were one of the many lined up at the theater this weekend for Star Trek Into Darkness, you may want to revisit J.J. Abrams’ last installment. And if you’ve got the Xbox 360 and a SmartGlass-enabled tablet or phone, the viewing session may take a little while.

Paramount just unleashed a bunch of behind-the-scenes content and other extras, as an exclusive for users with Xbox SmartGlass. Basically, you just need the Xbox 360 and a SmartGlass-enabled smartphone or tablet. The new perk turns that portable into a second screen, allowing viewers to boldly go where other viewers haven’t gone before.

Users can get the aforementioned behind-the-scenes goodies, as well as deleted scenes, concept art of the U.S.S. Enterprise and more, all time-synched with the film. There’s also a sneak peek at Star Trek Into Darkness, just in case you’re waiting for theater crowds to die down.

The Star Trek SmartGlass experience is available now, as an exclusive to the Xbox 360.

My Precious: Adventures with the Lego Lord of the Rings Video Game

Promotional screen shot from Warner Interactive/Lego

I have a serious love of Lego interactive games, and Lego Lord of the Rings was something I’d been waiting to try since they announced it this summer. Now in hand, my family has been busy playing the heck out of it. Unlike some games that ease you into the play, this game starts with a boss fight:  reliving the battle of Sauron from the movie introduction. Talk about epic!

As usual for Lego series video games, this is best when played with two players, although it can also be played by one person. As a mom, my love for two player mode is that it requires cooperation in order to solve the puzzles and complete the levels. Perfect family bonding time. Like similar Lego titles, you also can go through the adventures multiple times and re-play once you’ve unlocked characters and want to return in free play mode.

The cutscenes in Lego Lord of the Rings come directly from the movie with a few comic gags thrown in. My husband and I miss the silent pantomimed cutscenes from Lego Star Wars, but my daughter thinks the spoken dialog is the best thing ever. I guess Lego knows their audience. Speaking of which, there are very few surprises in terms of plot if you know the books and movie. That’s as you’d expect, since the plot is long and complicated enough as is. It doesn’t make it less challenging to know the basic goals of each scene. In some ways it enhances the experience. Continue reading My Precious: Adventures with the Lego Lord of the Rings Video Game

Star Wars Kinect "I'm Han Solo" Galactic Dance Off

Of all the things I nerd out over, and the list is a long one, Star Wars is at the top. This makes today a very special day because it marks the release of the Star Wars Kinect game and Xbox 360 styled like R2-D2 with a Threepio controller. I played the demo and thought it was great and now they’ve added something that takes it from great to amazing. There’s a Galactic Dance Off where you can dance along with Han to the mc chris parody “I’m Han Solo.” I’ve died and gone to nerd heaven.

I’m sure there are more than a few fanboys out there who are screaming and flailing at the idea of their favorite scruffy looking nerfherder getting his groove on with some Cloud City employees, but relax. Even a smuggler needs some down time and, really, what better song could they pick? The parody of Jason Derulo’s “Riding Solo” is so good to begin with that when you add in a dancing, animated Han Solo what’s not to love? They even have Lando take the floor half way through to show Han how it’s really done.

Is it cheesy? Heck, yes. Does it make any sense that they’d be dancing in Cloud City with random employees while R2-D2 and Threepio standby and Lobot plays DJ? Of course not. But that’s not the point. It’s impossible to watch this without smiling at the absurdity of it all. It’s like a little Easter egg just for fans that love anything and everything about Star Wars.

I know that I’m going to have a blast playing Star Wars Kinect even if there are some who feel that the whole dance off ruins everything. I think it’s awesome. If we survived Greedo shooting Han at the cantina and the existence of Jar-Jar Binks, then this one should be easy to manage. Now I’m off to pick up my game. See you on the dance floor, Solo.

Now that I have the game, I need to correct that the lyrics to this version of “I’m Han Solo” are not the same as those in the mc chris parody.

Getting Back Into The Groove

My Dragon Age Character (Image: Mandy Horetski)

Having a baby seems to disrupt things in your life, but that’s to be expected. But I didn’t expect some of the things that fell to the wayside. Now that my daughter is three years old, I’m finally getting back into a groove with some of the geeky pursuits I had put on the back burner.

I love video games. I have since my family got an NES in the mid-80’s for Christmas. Thankfully I married a man who loves video games as much as I do so we have nearly all the latest and greatest consoles. We are very well known at our local GameStop because we are always trading in games to get new ones.

But when my daughter was born, things changed. I had to decided to try and breastfeed her. It worked out well, but she nursed a lot which tied up one of my hands since it was being used to hold her. I learned how to surf the internet and play World of Warcraft one-handed, but it was impossible to play console games.

As my daughter got older, I considered playing console games again. But I thought a lot of them might be too scary for her to see. She also would grab at the controller and try to push the buttons. So I got out of the habit. I still used my Nintendo DS a lot and played quite a bit of World of Warcraft. But I was missing out on a lot of great games being released on the consoles.

Finally, I’m getting back into the groove. My daughter is old enough now that she can play with her toys while I’m playing a video game. The game that really got me back into wanting to play console games is Dragon Age: Origins. My best friend has been telling me how good this game is and finally I see how right she was. I don’t get a lot of time to play it, but it’s nice to be able to use my xBox 360 again and play a great game. I have Dragon Age 2 waiting for when I’m finished with the first game.

It’s just nice to be able to start to do some of the things I enjoyed before I was a parent. Is there anything you were interested in that it took you a while to get back into after you had kids?

Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Image: http://www.xbox.com/en-US/kinect

I love all things Disney. When given the choice between Las Vegas or Walt Disney World as a honeymoon destination, it took me about a second to decide on Disney. I’m counting the days until we can take my daughter to Walt Disney World for the first time, but that won’t be for a little under three years because we want to take her for her sixth birthday.

 

So when I heard about Kinect Disneyland Adventures for the xBox 360, I knew I had to have this game. While I haven’t been to Disneyland, I’ve read and seen TV specials about it. I hope that I will get to Disneyland someday. It is actually on my bucket list to visit every Disney park in the world.

My daughter, who is only three, is starting to know the Disney characters thanks to TV and movies. So when I fired this game up and got to talk to Mickey Mouse, she was so excited. In the game, one of the fun things you can do is run around the park and meet up with characters. You can give them hugs, take pictures with them, get autographs and more.

The characters will also send you on tasks. Most of the early tasks are to help you get around the game. You can run around the entire park but you can also access the menu to go to the parts of the park that you want. The tasks and riding the rides will give you the opportunity to get coins. You can uses these coins to buy things in the shops around the parks. Much like in real life, you can get clothes, autograph books, pins and more in the shops. You can use these in the game to outfit your avatar, interact more with the characters as well as help you with tasks.

As soon as I finished the beginning tasks, I headed straight to The Haunted Mansion, which is my favorite ride at Disney. The rides in Kinect Disneyland Adventures are mini-games. You are given instructions on what movements you will need to use for each game before you enter it. For The Haunted Mansion, you move through the mansion and you fight ghosts with a flashlight. With the way the mini-game is set up, it is like moving through the actual ride, especially since there is the Ghost Host talking in the background with lines from the ride as well.

Some of the mini-games are more enjoyable than others. My least favorite was It’s A Small World but it was mostly because it was a very active one. You are rowing around the world and stopping to do native dances on the way. I was pretty beat by the time I finished with it.

There are some buggy issues with this game that I’ve found. I haven’t been able to do the arm movement I need to with the characters to get their autograph and it takes a little to get walking when I’m out in the park. There was a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean where I had to row but also had to use my oars to whack alligators. I was doing more whacking than rowing, but it was more funny than anything because it really amused my husband and daughter.

All in all, I love this game. I really makes me feel like I’m in the actual park and the games are really fun to do. It does really make me want to plan a Disney vacation right now, but until my daughter is a little older I can get my Disney Parks fix through Kinect Disneyland Adventures. My daughter tried to play with me, but she didn’t really understand that she had to make special motions to move around. I do think that kids who are a bit older than she is would really enjoy this game. I would recommend it to anyone who loves Disney and wants to experience Disneyland in their own living room.

Note: I received a copy of this game for review purposes.

Skyrim, You Bore Me

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Game Studios

I am not a good console gamer. Sure, I play board games and card games and I have a wonderful time, but, put a controller in my hands and it’s all over. I’ve tried, really, because there’s nothing worse than being a geek who’s an inept gamer. I hear about the latest and greatest game that sounds amazing and is set in a universe I love, but when it comes out I know there’s no chance I’ll be able to enjoy it because I’ll be too busy getting fragged. That’s why I’m a Backseat Gamer. Continue reading Skyrim, You Bore Me

Skylanders: Co-op Game Time With the Kids

Skylanders Spyro's Adventure from Activision

If you’ve started to hear buzz building about a game called Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, it’s with good reason. Activision has come out with an innovative hybrid of toys and gaming that’s sure to delight a wide range of players.

Before it launched, I saw Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure in various stages of development at events like Toy Fair and Time to Play and was captivated by the concept. The video game comes packaged with a portal and three figurines. When you put a figurine on the portal – WHOOSH! – the digital version of the character appears in the game. But that’s not even the coolest part. All of the game data for that character is stored in the character itself, so if you take your figurine over to a friend’s house – WHOOSH! – your character is now playing in your friend’s game. When I realized I had a sample Gil Grunt figurine from Toy Fair and we had the Gil Grunt that came with the game, we tried playing with both at the same time, and we could! One had previously leveled up and we’d earned a pan hat, so we could even tell them apart on screen.

Skylanders screenshot: Activision

The big lingering question in my mind was if the game itself would be fun. Without great gameplay, all the cool tech would be for nothing. Fortunately, Skylanders doesn’t disappoint. Anyone remember Jak and Daxter? I used to spend ages playing that game. Skylanders reminds me of that variety of fantasy adventure, with lush environments and great character design. The story, written by Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen of Toy Story fame, is classic. An evil villain, Kaos, has banished the Skylanders heroes to Earth where they are frozen in the plastic form you have in front of you. With the Skylanders out of the way, he has wreaked all sorts of destruction on the Skylands. Fortunately, with the Portal of Power, you can send the Skylanders back to save the day.

You can play Skylanders in single player mode, but it’s a fabulous co-op game. While it’s being sold as a game for kids to play at each other’s houses, it’s also a great game for parents and kids to play together. It’s perfect for me to play with my daughter, a 6-year-old emerging gamer. She has a little trouble with the controls, especially navigating using the nunchuk joystick, but she’s getting better. The villains aren’t terribly difficult to defeat, and I can go ahead of her with weapons blazing while she hangs back to collect treasure.

Here’s the thing, though. Once you start enjoying Skylanders, you can go ahead and give Activision direct access to your bank account because you will want more of the toys. Certainly you’re going to need characters to cover all of the different Skylands elements, because there are parts of the game that you can only unlock with Skylanders of the correct element. This also gives the game replay value, because you can go back and play the parts of the game that you might have missed or couldn’t unlock earlier. The real reason you’ll want them, though, is that they are your game lives. When a Skylander gets killed in the game, it needs a rest and you have to take it off the portal or restart the chapter. If you have another Skylander to put on the portal – WHOOSH! – you’re back in the game right where you left off with full health. If you had 20 Skylanders, there’s no chapter you couldn’t beat.

We saw Puss in Boots over the weekend, and the best part of the movie was the Skylanders trailer that played before it. My daughter and I were practically jumping out of our seats with how much we needed the different characters.

I’m not sure who has more fun playing the game (probably me), but we both really enjoy playing together. And, not since Plants vs. Zombies has a game inspired fan art in our house. Here’s my daughter and I playing Skylanders with a nice glass of milk. It’s important to hydrate when you’re gaming.

Skylanders drawing courtesy of my 6-year-old.

Note: I was provided with a review copy of the Skylanders starter pack. All future Skylanders will be coming out of my pocket and Santa’s workshop.