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Published on December 21st, 2011 | by Greg

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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.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.



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