This week in video games, July 24, 2017: Xbox Lab lets you personalize controllers

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      This week, new mobile releases to while away the summer. But first, the Xbox Design Lab has added features to make it even more fun to create your own Xbox One controller.

      Personalizing Xbox One controllers better than ever

      When Skylanders Imaginators came out last fall, my kids discovered how much joy comes from being able to create your own character. They created dozens of characters and then spent hours revising those characters, changing outfits and equipment and colours and catchphrases.

      There's just something amazing about being able to invest your creativity into something that you then get to play with and become.

      That's the appeal of the Xbox Design Lab, which gives gamers the opportunity to create truly personalized controllers for their Xbox One systems.

      First launched last summer, this summer the Xbox Design Lab added some new features that can become part of your personal controller, including new colours. rubber grips, and metallic finishes for D-pads and triggers.

      My two kids, aged 10 and 7, have created more than a dozen different controllers between them. That's the easy and fun part, because anyone can work on, save, and share a design.

      The real difficulty is in choosing which one you're going to order. My children still can't decide which of their designs they want to order. Decision-making is tough, especially when you're a kid.

      It costs a bit more to make your own controller, between $100 and $123 (depending on the extras you want), as opposed to $75 for a stock model.

      To get a premium personalized controller, it seems to be worth the extra expense. Now each kid has their own controller; no more fighting over them.

      New mobile games showcase creativity, camp

      Three new mobile games released in the past couple of months are great ways for you to spend some summer slack time.

      Slayaway Camp was developed in Comox, B.C., by Jason Kapalka and Blue Wizard Digital. Kapalka is the designer behind the puzzle games Bejeweled and Plants vs Zombies (back when he was part of Pop Cap, now a division of Electronic Arts), both of which took basic game concepts and put them into a new context. Slayaway Camp does the same thing, here taking the slide-to-escape a board mechanic and wrapping it in '80s-era horror-movie tropes. The campy effort literally gushes with pixellated blood, which you can disable if you've got a weak stomach. Available for Android, iOS, and on Steam.

      Coming from Vancouver's Rac7, Splitter Critters is another simple concept, but it's amazingly mind-bending in practice. The objective is to get groups of aliens, which are constantly on the move, to their spaceship so they can escape. You create a path for them by "slicing" the environment and shifting it along the seam you've created. Create a vertical cut and shift the ground down, for example, to help one of the cute little aliens get off a cliff. This game gets maddeningly difficult in a hurry but remains fun. Available for Android and iOS.

      Monument Valley 2 is the sequel to ustwo's delightful game that turns Escher art and the Penrose stairs into a stunning world to explore. The difference with the sequel is that the protagonist from the first game, Ro, is now a mother and is joined by her child in the impossible environments. Your job is to reunite them by manipulating the structures and paths they walk. This one is exclusive to iOS and it's so good you'll want to buy an iPad just so you can play it.