Published on December 21st, 2011 | by Greg0
Gamer’s Gift Guide: Games of All Sorts + Toys!
Computer and console gamers already know what they want for the most part. They might want Skyrim or The Old Republic (which launched a bit rockily last night). They might want the first person shooters Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3. Younger gamers are harder to pin down- we vividly remember having some unfortunate holidays when a relative opted to buy a game that couldn’t have been more different from the one we wanted. It’s hard to go wrong with Mario, of course, on the 3DS or Wii. And we can’t help but feel compelled to mention the Kinect, despite the fairly limited library, it’s still a wonderful device and Dance Central 2 sets the bar high.
For everyone else, we definitely recommend some of this year’s best board games (and their electronic versions). From our favorites from early this year like Dixit, to one of the niftiest iPad board games (Cargo Runners), there was also the games we keep coming back to- City Square Off for the younger folks and Heavens of Olympus for the more strategic gamer. But there were a few last minute additions to our stockings- we received a few fun items pretty recently and couldn’t keep them to ourselves.
First, we’ve got Perplexus. At first glance, they seem like ideal coffee table puzzles- and the founder actually started off making 3D art designs. Basically, plastic globes with mazes span the inside, twisting and turning and brightly colored. A marble contained within challenges you to guide it around the tracks successfully. You simply get the ball onto one of the three numbered starting spots, and then twist and rotate slowly and carefully.
We received two different models- a larger one that is more challenging and a smaller, simpler version. But even the easy one was quite difficult- the ball would fall off the maze and force a complete restart, frustrating most adults that we handed it to. Kids had an easier time, it seemed, and loved the dexterity challenge. There are many interesting sections that require careful planning and steady hands. The Perplexus feel well-built, and bonus: they aren’t that expensive either, running about $20-$30 dollars. Our pick for stocking stuffers for older kids or adults who love a good puzzle.
For younger sorts, parents might want to make sure that they have a bit of extra room ready. Because when a kid (or any adult we’ve seen) gets their hand on the Lazer Stunt Chaser, they will need it. We haven’t had this much fun with a remote controlled vehicle in a long time- because instead of directly controlling this one, you simply point a light beam where you want the car to go. Of course, it wouldn’t be much fun if it was precise and perfect- the car will definitely move in that direction, and quickly, but doesn’t try to stop or even slow down. Instead, it zooms around and then back to the dot, following your choice of path. Some level of manual control is available with buttons on the back of the control, handy for the occasional collision correction, but largely an afterthought.
We liked the flip-over, dual-sided nature of the car, though the included “ramp” felt a bit cheap and didn’t work that well. Still, the battery life and speed were impressive, and pets seem to love it- alternately chasing the light and trying to avoid the car. Expect to spend a reasonable $40 or so for the Dragonfire model, available in two colors and widely in stores and online. Even after a few serious crashes, the Lazer Stunt Chaser kept turning around for more- we enjoy it immensely.