So that time of year is upon us again. The nights draw in and TV bombards with endless adverts reminding you that the happiest day of the year is nearly upon us - Christmas Day! A day which since becoming a father is now filled with joy and happiness (replace joy with screaming and happiness with carnage). All that is left to do now is buy the presents...but what to get the Gamer in your life?
Well, look no further than this guide for a happy gaming Christmas. Let's start off with the easiest group of gamers...
Boys and games go together like Santa and mince pies. As long as your present isn't pink and doesn't feature magical ponies or bears with special powers in their tummies, chances are a boy will like it. If you still cannot think of anything, have you thought of these?
Hardware - Xbox 360
Microsoft's console may be starting to get a bit long in the tooth, but this machine still has a lot of life left in it. Add in a Kinect and you will keep the kids happy until way into 2013. With the basic 4GB Xbox starting at around £139, there are lots of Christmas bundles available from most retailers. Add in an Xbox live subscription and you have access to Online Gaming, Video streaming services and Music.
Games - Ben 10 Omniverse (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Wii; 3DS, DS)
Ben 10: Omniverse is the latest video game based on the hugely successful animated series, Ben 10. The brand-new game (based on the new show of the same name) spans two time periods between Young Ben Tennyson and Teen Ben Tennyson. Players can play as both Young and Teen Ben, switch forms between 13 playable alien heroes and fight in an assortment of action-packed levels throughout the subterranean alien city of Undertown.
Also the game introduces: Rook! – A brand new character to the series. Rook is an inexperienced Plumber (I wonder if is Italian?) ready to fight alongside Ben with his Proto-Tool (don't ask), a high tech multi-functional weapon that turns into a Blaster, Power Sword, Quantum Staff, or Grappler (you had to ask didn't you). You can play the single-player campaign or team up with a second player for co-op mode, where one player controls Ben and the other controls Rook. The game was released on the 30th Nov on almost every format.
Skylanders, what is it all about? Is it collectable figures? Is it a video game? Well to be honest, it is a bit of both. Using the Portal of Power, and connected to your console of choice, players can place a Skylander figure on to the Portal and the figure comes to life as the playable character in the game world.
Skylanders Giants builds on the success of its predecessor by introducing 16 new characters, now led by eight Giant Skylanders, who are twice the size of their comrades. That takes the currently available character figures up to 40.
Still confused as to how these little plastic deities turn into Video game heroes? Take a look at this video...
Girls love gaming. There I said it! So what kind of games would be good for a girl?. Well, lets put Call of Duty to one side as a maybe... From my own experiences with my two little gamers, girls like to jump, wiggle and spin. As we are in the age of the motion controlled console, girls can now be free to do this as part of their game. As my youngest little gamer, Boo, would also mention, it all has to fit into a bag or a purse.
Hardware - Nintendo 3DS XL
The DS was a huge success and although the 3DS saw a slower start, it has certainly picked up the pace. The release of the much larger 3DS XL has made this handheld shine even more. The new 90% larger screens are wonderful and a huge improvement over the original. Whilst the 3D technology is still there, more and more developers are focusing on making games better than using the 3D as a gimmick. With titles like Nintendogs & Cats, Cooking Mama and Animal Crossing (Coming in 2013), the 3DS is a great system for girls of all ages.
Also, buy a 3DS XL and register the console with Nintendo before January 15th and you can download a free game... click here for details
Games - Just Dance: Disney Party (Xbox 360 Kinect, Wii)
Take the successful Just Dance series and throw in 25 Disney songs from Film and TV and you have got yourself a Disney Dance Party. The songs range from classics from Cinderella, Mary Poppins, Jungle Book and Peter Pan, to more modern films like Tangled, High School Musical and Bolt. Also included are a selection of songs from several hit Disney TV shows like Hannah Montana and Phinneas and Ferb.
Just dance supports up to 4 players at once. Dances are performed in either solo dances or duets where each person has a different dance routine depending on which side of the screen you are on. Also included is "Just Create" mode where you can create your own dance videos for you to dance to. Well, believe me the little gamers have loved every second of this game and a full review is imminent.
Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure (3DS)
Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure - players can experience the enchanting worlds of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Ariel, Belle and Tiana, and use their magic to undo a spell that's been cast over the Princess Kingdoms. Girls of all ages will be able to play as an apprentice to the Fairy Godmother and explore each of the Princess worlds. Meet with familiar characters, such as Lumiere, Pascal, Flounder, Gus and others. All of them will help to guide the player through quests and progress though the game.
Players get to explore iconic locations such as the Beast's castle, Rapunzel's tower and Cinderella's ball. They can earn gems throughout the game to exchange for special items, like being able to customize their avatar and room in the Fairy Godmother's Castle in hundreds of different ways.
It's hard for for the under 4's, particularly if they have an older sibling. They want to play on the iPad's or Handhelds like their brother or sister, but are constantly monitored in case they smash it to pieces. So can these tiny terrors start to game? Thankfully the answer is yes and here is how...
Hardware - Leapfrog Leappad 2
Leapfrog designed the LeapPad around the desire children have to be like their parents. It allows the under 5's to have their own iPad essentially. Loaded with software including a virtual pet, a paint package and learning songs, there are plenty of things for your child to do immediately Also thrown in is an improved camera and a new front facing camera.
Using Leapster Learning software titles, Kids can play games featuring their favorite characters from film and TV. Parents can select titles that deal in specific subjects and they can also connect the LeapPad to a PC and download statistics of the child's performance in subjects and help highlight areas where they could do with more help.
My eldest (now known as Betsy Lou) has had the original LeapPad for a year and it goes with her everywhere.
Games - Brave (Leappad, Leappad 2)
Join Merida on this magical quest for LeapPad and Leapster Explorer! Discover what it means to be truly brave as you explore an amazing world of plants and animals. Experiment with science, deduce answers through trial and error and use what you learn to make predictions about the natural world as you relive Merida’s courageous story. To succeed, you can’t be afraid to fail!
Explore a natural world that’s true to science! Immerse yourself in flora and fauna that’s native to Merida’s forest!
What’s a saddle? Learn the common names for parts of plants and animals, then challenge yourself with more scientific terms. Discover 100+ facts about plants and animals, and use what you know to make predictions about habitats and life cycles. Play target practice with physics concepts. Take a crash course in force and gravity, then experiment for yourself by letting your arrows fly!
Disney Princesses (Leappad, Leappad 2)
Embark on a magical learning journey with Belle and Cinderella as you experience each of their beloved Disney stories in a pop-up book adventure! You'll see each princess in her world and discover secrets and surprises as you reveal new parts of her story.
Help the princesses through quests, and play curricular mini-games Learn about musical pitch as you help Lumiere welcome Belle to the castle. Build words as you prepare Cinderella for the ball.
With the Leapster Explorer and LeapPad Explorer the game dynamically adjusts the curriculum to the player's skill level so it's not too easy and not too hard.
Hardware - Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo's new console launched in the UK on the 30th Nov. It takes all the things that made the Wii great and brings it to the HD generation. The main feature this time around is not the motion controlled Wii-mote. It is the Wii U pad, which features its own 6.2" touch screen, which can either supplement or replicate the game play shown on the main display. When using the "Off TV Play" function, the controller can function as a standalone screen without the use of a television screen.
The controller features an accelerometer, gyroscope, camera, and dual analog sticks. These new features allow for a new level of interactivity and gameplay. With the Wii U comes the new Nintendo Network featuring Mii-verse, a intergrated social network application for the console. Miiverse is directly integrated into the Wii U's system menu and can also be integrated into games and it can be accessed at any time. It allows users to chat with one another through text as well as through video (using the Wii U Gamepad's inbuilt camera). Miiverse will also allow users to share their achievements in supported games.
Nintendo are brave to release a new console this close to Christmas. If they can replicate the success of the original Wii with the Wii U, then they will be on to another huge success.
Games - Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 is a leading-edge fitness game that will help you set and achieve your goals in an engaging and motivating fashion. Connect online with friends to compete and collaborate your way to fitness. With 125 different workouts and 215 moves, whether you’re looking for strength building, cardio, stretching, or relaxation, this game has you covered.
You can create a personalized fitness program lasting up to four weeks, tailored to your current fitness level and preferences. Set your own personal goals and workout frequency.
Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 brings a slew of new online features. With news feeds, online challenges, leaderboards, achievements and friend competitions, Your Shape sets a new technological standard in the Nintendo universe and leverages the unique features of the Wii U hardware.
Getting fit isn’t only about exercise. Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 includes a huge database over 150 recipes for all occasions enabling you to eat right, while eating well.
Dance Central 3 (Xbox 360 Kinect)
Not content with making the plastic guitar controller commonplace in home, with the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series'. Harmonix, launched Dance Central to coincide with launch of the Kinect. the first dance title to use the players full body movements in the game. Now after two successful games, the number 1 selling dance franchise for Kinect is back with brand new features, including a multiplayer party mode for up to 8 players.
Dance Central 3 features 40+ new tracks, from the disco grooves of the 70's to current chart-topping dance hits. Dance Central 3 delivers the most electrifying soundtrack yet. Featuring the authentic choreography Dance Central is known for, you'll learn favourite dance crazes from the past and master the hottest moves of today.
And finally Dad
Hardware - PlayStation Vitaout
Sony may be having mixed success with the PS Vita, but the truth is the Vita is perfect for the Gamer Dad in your family. The Vita offers not only PS3 quality gaming on a portable screen, but also retro gaming with access to PS One Classics and PSP back catalogue.
The Vita fits very well into the gaming Dad's life. It allows him to play the games he wants to play - without having to steal the TV away from the kids. With a great selection of new titles like Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, Assassins Creed III: Liberation, Little Big Planet and Need for Speed: Most Wanted available now, plus a great selection of different console bundles also available. You can pick up quite a bargain on the best piece of portable gaming hardware in years.
Games - Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC)
The Worlds biggest games franchise is back and it means business. Black Ops 2 is the best Call of Duty game since the original Modern Warfare. The single player game is a white knuckle ride through the near future of war.
As with all of the recent Call of Duty titles though, people come for the multiplayer. Black Ops 2 has all of the usual multiplayer features that allow the player to shoot his friends in the back. Zombies mode had been revamped and now has more structure and mission types.
This the most gun filled, action packed, thrill ride of the winter and would make any Dad's Christmas.
Need For Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
From the creators of the amazing Burnout Paradise, comes Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Most Wanted takes place in the vast city of Fairhaven. A place of commerce, beautiful landscapes and illegal street racing. Players take to the streets in a number of high powered sports cars, in order to take down the 10 most wanted racers and take the number 1 spot.
The amazing Autolog from Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is back as well. It is constantly recording information and sharing it, not only with your friends, but also between the different consoles. The PS Vita version is one of the best games on the system. It plays just like its bigger console cousins and the developer has made no compromises in terms of size and gameplay. The entire open world experience has been squeezed on to the Vita with only a small loss of visual quality. From my own experience with this game, it has re-ignited my long lost passion for racing games.
So there you have it, our guide to Christmas gamers. I hope it may help you to get the gift for your someone special that they truly want.
All that is left to say is....... Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!