It’s a great time to be a kid who likes to play video games, because two of the best releases this fall were designed just for you. We’ll take a look at these, as well as some recently released games for older kids.
Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (Disney; PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated everyone 10+)
The Marvel Super Heroes play set launches Disney Infinity 2.0, the second generation of the toy-based video game franchise developed by Avalanche Software. The most significant change is the inclusion of a more robust role-playing element, so you can upgrade your characters the way you want. And because many superheroes can fly, that’s been added to the game too. All characters and Power Discs from the earlier Infinity play sets can be used in the 2.0 Toy Box. It’s great to play as these Marvel characters (other available play sets include Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy), but you’ll wish more time had been spent building out the gaming experiences—they’re entertaining, but they should be outstanding.
Skylanders: Trap Team (Activision; Android, iOS, Nintendo 3DS, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated everyone 10+)
There’s a new set of Skylanders to inhabit. These ones have the ability to capture bad guys in “traptanium”, and players can then play as these enemies. The traps, like the character toys, are organized by elemental type and can be purchased and collected. All toys from earlier games can be used in Trap Team, but you’ll need to acquire at least a couple of Trap Masters to take advantage of special areas that can only be accessed by the special characters. The new portal, with a slot to hold traps, also has a speaker. It’s priceless when the villains you’ve trapped start talking to you.
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS (Nintendo; 3DS; rated everyone 10+)
This is the first time Nintendo’s energetic fighting game has appeared on a handheld system. The cartoon battles take place in a range of Nintendo environments and feature the full cast of characters from the company’s roster, from Bowser to Zelda. And while you can play the full game on your own, it was built for up to four fighters; you can play against others on an ad hoc network of 3DS devices, or online. And when the Wii U version of the game comes out in November, you’ll be able to use your 3DS as a controller.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Warner Bros.; PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated mature)
Much more than a standard action adventure, Shadow of Mordor uses J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth setting to tell a unique story about a Ranger who becomes connected to a wraith and therefore unable to die. Combat is quick and fluid, and you get to upgrade Talion’s ranger skills as well as his wraith abilities as you progress through the game. The most compelling element of the game, though, is the “Nemesis” system, which makes the inhabitants of Mordor incredibly lifelike. The Orcs and Uruk each have their own memory and will respond to you depending on your history with them. If they kill you they get promoted, for example, and will make sure you know that the next time they see you. Succeeding in Shadow of Mordor requires not only that you be able to sneak and fight, but also that you strategically decide which soldiers and captains to go after. Because if you play it right, you can have them do your work for you.
The Evil Within (Bethesda; PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One; rated mature)
In recent survival-horror video games, there’s been something of a return to first principles. Many of them, like needing to manage limited resources and having movement restrictions, were established by Shinji Mikami in his Resident Evil games. The Evil Within is his attempt to reinvent the genre by adding a more robust combat system. But while the environments are varied and atmospheric, the game is limited by clichéd characters and unbalanced boss battles. There’s some ghastly, horrific stuff going on in The Evil Within, but there’s not enough substance in the game to support it.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (2K; PS3, Windows, Xbox 360; rated mature)
Set between the events of the first game (therefore a sequel) and the second (which explains the “pre”), this game takes place on Elpis, Pandora’s moon, which seems to be populated by Australians. The four playable characters, all of whom have appeared in other Borderlands games, are working for Handsome Jack, the villain of 2012’s Borderlands 2, here portrayed as something of a hero. The Pre-Sequel delivers more of the same crazy third-person-shooter action that fans have come to expect from the series. It doesn’t have quite the same magic as its predecessors, but the Aussie accents and low-gravity mayhem are plenty of fun.