Game publishers Activision announced it has teamed up with some of Europe’s top sports stars and entertainment personalities – including the UK’s very own Ben Collins (AKA ‘The Stig’) and former Formula 1 driver Max Chilton – who have designed seven customised Skylanders SuperChargers toys. The collaboration will see Activision donate the exclusive toys to Make-A-Wish, the world’s largest wish-granting organisation. The charity will auction off the models to the highest bidder, with the proceeds helping to support the many wishes that Make-A-Wish grants to children with life-threatening medical conditions around the world each year.
In addition to Ben and Max, well-known personalities from the racing world such as Timo Glock, as well as French TV presenter Joan Faggianelli, kitesurfing champion Gisela Pulido and popular YouTubers St3pny and TheKing77 have lent their talents to the project. Each have designed their very own SuperCharged car, either a Hot Streak or Crypt Crusher – two vehicles from the latest Skylanders game, Skylanders SuperChargers. The designs have been sprayed onto models of the cars for superfans to bid on and raise money for Make-A-Wish.
Jon Stettner, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish International, stated: “On behalf of my colleagues across Europe, I would like to thank Activision, and all the famous faces involved in the project, for this fantastic collaboration. We are thrilled with the unique vehicles that have been specially designed and the money raised will help us in our ongoing efforts to grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.”
Former ‘Stig’ from Top Gear, Ben Collins: “As soon as I heard about this Skylanders activity I had to take part. Being a huge fan of racing and cars, I think Skylanders SuperChargers is really cool and I’m enjoying playing the game! It’s a great idea to raise money for a highly deserving cause, like Make-A-Wish, and getting to customise my own SuperChargers car was awesome.”
British racing driver, Max Chilton: “I’m really excited to be working with Skylanders on this activity. I love racing in SuperChargers so getting to customise my own HotStreak vehicle was awesome! Make-A-Wish is a wonderful cause that does amazing work with children, so I’m proud to be supporting them with this campaign. My very own customised SuperCharger will be up for auction so make sure you look out for it – all proceeds will be going towards this incredibly deserving cause.”
Last year Nintendo phased out their Club Nintendo account system, with the plan to revamp and consolidate membership into one multi-platform application. Well now is the time to pre-register your interest in Nintendo's first smartphone app, by going to the Nintendo Account page and entering your Nintendo Network ID. You can even log in with a Facebook, Twitter or G+ account.
Creating an account won't be fully implemented into Nintendo's Wii U and 3DS systems until later this year, but creating an account now will allow players to sign up for Nintendo's smartphone app, Miitomo.
Once the account is set up and you've register your interest in the Miitomo app, you'll be notified as soon as the app launches in March. In addition, you can earn your first share of Platinum points for the My Nintendo reward scheme. This will be a similar reward scheme to the old Club Nintendo.
The name Miitomo gives a clue as to what you can do with this new communication app. Being able to create your own Mii character using your smartphones camera, or just browsing the many different facial features to create a better looking self, I'm sure this will make most users feel all nostalgic and want to turn on their old Wii for a quick game of Wii Sports.
Miitomo avatars are customisable with clothes and costumes, which can be aquired through spending Miitomo coins. The catch is that these are earned through playing games or using real life money (I hope the playing games is easy to earn coins!).
I've already signed up, so who's next?
The latest wave of Skylanders SuperChargers gives fans the opportunity to add 4 new characters, plus 3 new vehicles to their collection!
Splat (Power: Magic)
Splat is a feisty faun who is ready unleash her fury with maximum flare. Splat is your typical young faun female from a small quite village. At school, Splay and her school friends would play music, recite poems and paint pictures in honour of their great ancestor, Fluty Hoofdancer! Once old enough, Splat changed her interests in art to the art of war. Her techniques was honed practicing her fighting moves on Chompies causing trouble near the village river. The elders were not too impressed to hear that a young female was learning to fight, however, when a band of Drow attacked the village, whilst the other fauns cowered in fear, Splat unleashed her self taught fighting style and saved the village from annihilation. Following the act of courage, Splat has worked her way up to being a fully fledged member of the Skylanders.
Big Bubble Pop Fizz (Power: Magic)
Pop Fizz is back and equipped with his new weapon, the Big Bubble blaster! He's also got a few new power up his sleeve.
Lava Lance Eruptor (Power: Fire)
Eruptor is a molten mass of flaming metal, fired up to fight any evil with his newly fire-forged Lava Lance. All that's missing is a chariot of fire.
Thump Truck (Element: Earth)
This Land vehicle is Smash Hit's personal wrecking machine, brought to do one thing...create total destruction! A cement truck that has been heavily modified to have crunching iron jaws, a gravel exhaust port and armored steel plating.
Shield Striker (Element: Tech)
This Land vehicle is the ultimate weapon against enemies. It's heavily armored, surging with electricity and the signature vehicle of High Volt. Whilst not good for navigating speed bumps with it's low riding bumper, this high powered machine is sure to layeth the smack down on any enemy standing in it's way.
Splatter Splasher (Element: Magic)
This Sea voyager is the choice of new character Splat herself. A hyrdo powered speed craft, this boat also had special enchantments to interact with the sea below.
With Christmas round the corner, the toys-to-life video game scene seems like a crowded place. I've already had a go of one in the last few weeks, so now it's time to see what the series who started this craze has to offer.
You would think that after releasing their fifth entry in the series, the creative juices would be at an all time low. After my family's dealings with the amazing Trap Team, I was unsure whether the new Skylanders game would be able to top that. The name 'Superchargers' didn't fill me with much excitement to begin with and my initial thought this was a spin off kart racing game. The good news is that the developers didn't decide to go down that route. It's still the same Skylanders formula, however, the new feature of usable vehicles adds plenty of variety.
Vehicles comes in three different styles, there's air, land and sea. Unfortunately you only receive one of these vehicles in the starter pack, however, you can still complete the game without buying any extras (a pleasing statement for all parents I'm sure). Of course if you do intend to buy more vehicles for the kids, it will open up more of the game's content. There won't be any more elemental zones for this year's Skylanders, just racing areas of which there's 10 to explore, therefore, you'll need all 10 vehicles to do them.
Playing the main story involves both exploring the levels by foot and driving. It's worth noting that any of the Skylander characters you own can drive the vehicles, however, it's only the new Supercharger characters that can upgrade and modify them. This can be done by collecting in game currency, another new feature for this year's game. I'm pleased to say that the feature of car customisation attempts to reflect real world physics. So if you add parts for power that are heavy, this is of course going to reduce acceleration, however, having a light vehicle reduces grip in the corners.
With the ability for kids to fine tune their cars, it all adds up to a great experience when they intend to race against friends in the kart mode, a la Mario Kart style! And when your kids and their friends decide to stop fighting for first place, they can team up in co-op mode with one driving and the other firing a weapon.
The biggest draw for Skylanders, being the first in the toys-to-life genre, is that you have an extensive back catalogue of characters to use in every part of the game. Also, another positive for those money conscience parents is that you can use the Superchargers characters on any of the previous portals, unlike Swap Force and Trap Team. The reason for this is that Activision wanted to give customers the chance to download the software only, and then be able to buy the characters they specifically wanted. It's refreshingly to see loyalty being rewarded by video game publishers, which offers another advantage in favour of Skylanders this Christmas.
Unlike the various waves of characters released for previous versions, which will just change the pose and offer one new power, the Supercharger figures are being given a new upgrade tree. The biggest problem for me though is that we've chosen the PS4 version for our girls, when really I wanted to get the Wii U version. Nintendo have an exclusive deal with Skylanders where they are releasing special versions of Donkey Kong and Bowser, which will be usable in the game and as a Amiibo character.
Being the longest serving franchise in the toys-to-life market, Skylanders has a firm and invested fanbase they can rely on, however, they still have to be fresh enough to compete with other imitations. Superchargers could have been a step back in comparison to Trap Team, but I prefer to look at it as a side step. Skylanders Superchargers offers great value for money and the same awesome gameplay that my girls have become accustomed to.
Star Wars fans rejoice! The new Disney Infinity brings you all your favourite characters from the universe occupied by Jedi and Sith alike, plus some new playsets from the world of Disney (well only one so far!).
Disney Infinity 3.0 is another action-adventure sand box game, with an expanded version of the Toy Box mode (both online and offline). It's the third instalment in the series, hence the 3.0 in the title, which has a focus on the newly owned Disney franchise Star Wars. This is quite similar to 2.0 using the Marvel universe to push the game forward.
There will be 3 sets available for Star Wars. The first has a story taking place after Episode II: attack of the Clones, involving Anakin and Aksoka foiling a plan to recreate a droid army. The second is set during the classic Star Wars trilogy, with a story revolving around Luke and Leia battling it out with their father, Darth Vader. The third is centred around the story of the new film out soon, The Force Awakens, which that it's going to be released around the time the film hits the cinemas.
Another new playset comes from the world of Inside Out, where Riley falls asleep after watching a scary film, causing her dream the night to become something that resembles a nightmare for the emotions.
Interestingly, a new Marvel playset will be released soon that enables 4 player local co-op. I suspect this will be achieved by plugging two power bases into your console's USB ports.
And finally...there will be a Toy Box Takeover mode, which is a story created for Toy Box that allows players to combine all the Disney Infinity characters that have collected. The plot begins with the villain Syndrome (from The Incredibles) stealing Merlin's wand and uniting all the Disney bad guys. Cue the scene for you to use any character you like, whether it be Iron Man, Luke Skywalker or even Queen Else to stop them before the Toy Box is destroyed.
Who's the game aimed at?
I would say it's going to be a hit with both kids and adults, especially those who are Star Wars fanatics. I've had the opportunity to play a few of the Star Wars playsets, and I was really impressed with the recreation of famous planets and spaceships. It's easily the best star wars game to date for content, that is until the release of the new Battlefront.
What's the price?
A starter pack will set you back from as little as £46.00 and there's few to choose from. The basic set comes with the game, a power base, Twilight of the Republic playset and 2 Infinity characters (Anakin Skywalker & Ahsoka Tank). The second (which is the most expensive) contains what's listed above, plus Rise Against the Empire playset with the figures Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Boba Fett. If you already own a Disney Infinity base, you'll be pleased to hear that you can buy the standalone game for approximately £25.00, which leaves you free to choose the playset that's best for you.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is quite easily the best game of the series so far. The menus look great, the tools available in Toy Box mode are easy to use and given that you can use a vast amount of Infinity figures, it's probably the best time to start collecting. Bearing in mind that the new Star Wars film 'The Force Awakens' is due for release in December, Star Wars fever is likely to spill over into other mediums, which can only be good news for the sales figures of Disney Infinity this Christmas.
If you're looking for things to do this summer in Manchester, then you'll be pleased to hear that there is a gaming event over at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). Following the rise in popularity for retro gaming, MOSI have teamed up with the organisers of Play Expo to people a 2 week celebration of all things gaming. It's a great opportunity to reacquaint yourself with all the consoles you used to play as a kid, whilst also being able to introduce your children to names they've probably never heard of, such as Atari.
On the first floor of the main building, adjacent to the kids experiment area, is a room filled with consoles from Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation, Microsoft, Atari, plus many others that parents may recognise from their childhoods.
As a family, our favourite sections had to be the Minecraft area and the row consoles exhibiting Mario Kart through the ages. All the way from SNES to Wii. There are also rows of tables dedicated to Lego games, a Halo LAN party, 4 player Goldeneye, various Star Wars games and all the Tomb Raider games.
The event is in its final week and ends on August 9th. Sessions are available at £4.00 per person, or a family ticket can be obtained for £12.00. If you're a gaming enthusiast then you may wish you purchase an all day wrist band for £10.00. Adult only sessions take place in the evening from 7pm - 9pm on August 6th and 7th, so if you're looking to get some alone time, you better act quickly!
It's that time of the school year most parents dread! You know the one I'm talking about, when entertaining your child becomes a must whilst at home during half term.
Of course as good parents most days will be spent outside the house doing various activities, but what do usually do when you're having some down time? For me it's become a habit now to reach for a gadget, such as the tablet, and invariably I find myself asking which apps for kids are both fun and educational.
As an owner of the Kindle Fire HDX (highly recommended tablet for children), here are my top 5 apps from the Amazon App Store this half term:
1. Read with Biff, Chip & Kipper Levels 1-6
Each reading level is its own downloadable app, each containing 8 interactive eBooks. We use Oxford Reading Tree books at home with the girls, which has helped their development quite a lot. So it's a good marriage combining this brand with modern technology, such as touchscreens. The apps are currently listed at £1.49 on the Appstore.
2. Minecraft Pocket Edition
Don't think I'm including this app just because it's a video game. There's something educational to be had from building your own world in blocks (need I mention the 'L' word). It's one of those games that Elizabeth and Alison have found to be very creative. It's a bit pricey (£4.99), but there's hours of entertainment from this app. A worthy treat if your child has done there homework.
3. Dr. Panda's Supermarket
What the girls and I liked about this app is the mini-activities. This app is a great example of great development for the intended platform. The touchscreen controls are amazing and the user interface is nicely laid out for little ones. Even better is the fact that there are more Dr. Panda apps available to download. This app is a cheap and cheerful 99p.
4. Cbeebies Storytime
I'm sure most parents by now have downloaded the Cbeebies app on their mobile device. If you haven't, well you're missing out on a quality app for children. Due it's popularity, Cbeebies have released another app inspired by the bedtime hour story. All your child's favourite Cbeebies characters are here and best of all it's free to download.
5. Playtime with Dora the Explorer
I've included an app from Dora in this list because it's a great way for children to learn another language. Now the mini games in this app aren't too strenuous for most pre-schoolers, however, learning how to say various colours in Spanish is a great foundation to further learning.
I hope these apps serve you well during the school half-term, however, if you have any other apps to suggest, please feel free to add them in the comments section below. Hope you all have a great half-term!
Obviously this summer's blockbuster is sure to be Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, but why not spare a thought for last year's hit, Guardians of the Galaxy.
After watching and thoroughly enjoying many of the other Marvel movies released over the last few years, I was sceptical that Guardians of the Galaxy was even going to likeable. It was a film based on one of the more unknown comics from Marvel, and there were no big actors in the starring roles (voice over work from Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel don't count). However, the film somehow turns out to be one of the most fun films I've ever had the pleasure of watching with the family.
Alison and Elizabeth have talked more about this film than any other comic book adaptation we've seen. The highlight for them being at the end of the film when the tree-man 'Groot' is a little shrub in a plant pot, dancing to Jackson 5's 'I Want You Back'. It seems that the viewing public also enjoyed this, because soon you will be able to purchase the 'Dancing Groot' toy from most retailers and online outlets.
The soundtrack is also something worth talking about, as it's given a significant role in the film. The main character 'Peter Quill/Star Lord' played by Chris Pratt (also the voice of Emmet from The Lego Movie) is a human being that has lived the majority of his life in space, and in order to stay in touch with this side of his personality, he listens to a mix tape of various songs composed by his dead mother. The choice of songs are from the 60s and 70s, ones that have cultural references such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". It was such an enjoyable part of the film that I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack. It's now one of my most popular music choices whilst driving.
A word of caution though if you're planning on watching the film with youngsters, there are a few times in the film where profanities are used, however, they do occur towards the end of the film during all the action sequences. Still, it hasn't deterred me from letting the girls watch the film more than once, and it's also got them appreciating songs from a decade that deserves their attention in future.
If you've already seen Guardians of the Galaxy, let me know what your experiences were and whether you're just as excited for the eventual sequel in 2 years time.
Just when we thought that the market was already crowded with Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Nintendo's Amiibo, along comes LEGO to crash the party and ensure that your money will be put towards their toy based video game this Christmas.
At this stage there are only a few details about the starter pack and what franchises will feature in the game, but I was really excited to hear that you will need to build part of the portal where your Lego characters rest (how cool?). Also, one of my favourite movies of all time will have a level in the game, Back to the Future in case you didn't know!
You can pre-order the LEGO Dimensions starter at most game retailers and online websites. The starter pack will feature; the video game for your chosen platform, the LEGO 'toy pad', bricks to build the portal gateway, 3 LEGO mini figures (Gandalf, Batman and Wyldstyle) and the LEGO Batmobile vehicle. At this early stage, all this comes to an expensive £99.99, however, come Christmas time, who know's whether it will be sold out everywhere due to LEGO unprecedented popularity.
I've also seen levels for The LEGO Movie, Wizard of Oz and Ninjago (sure to be a popular one amongst boy gamers). In addition, there will be waves of expansion packs released on a regular basis, which will enable young gamers to prolong their enjoyment of a game that is sure to be a hit with everyone.
So if you're reading this post, what do you think of Lego's attempt to further muscle in on Skylanders dwindling territory? Are you going to pre-order the Dimensions starter pack?
I'm still kicking myself following Saturday night's big boxing match. I had said earlier in the week to friends that Mayweather would win on points, however, because I'm not a gambling man (or maybe it's just down to my lack enthusiasm for gambling) my pockets are not as rich as they could have been early Sunday morning.
You may ask then why am I writing a post about visiting a casino to watch a major sporting event? Well when I received the invitation to Grosvenor Casino in Didsbury, I was informed about all the additional entertainment you can enjoy besides roulette and blackjack.
Grosvenor Casinos is the biggest casino brand in the UK, with 3 of their 250 casinos right here in Manchester. Not only do the casinos offer all sorts of traditional games such as poker, but their venues also incorporate a modern day 'sports bar' kinda feel, albeit one that is open 24 hours a day. Oh and there's also live entertainment in the form of tribute acts.
So after a hectic day helping my wife prepare for her conference BlogOnMOSI, I made the decision to grab a couple of hours of sleep before rocking up to Grosvenor Casino around 11 o'clock (the fight wasn't scheduled to take place until 4:00 am!). After checking my coat into the secure cloak room, I ascended the escalators into the main casino area, which was full of people dressed to the nines.
Tucked away towards the back of the venue in the dedicated poker room, VIP attendees get the opportunity to watch the fight on a massive projector screen, however, even if you're not fortunate enough to have a ticket for this room, no need to worry as there are plenty of smaller screens dotted around the main casino floor.
Due to the popularity of the occasion, waiting times to grab a drink from the main bar was around 15 mins, however, if all you're after is a quickly pulled pint then you can find a mobile bar waiting to serve your needs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that craft beers were stocked, which if you know me is something that I enjoy very much.
Grosvenor Casino also caters for those customers wanting a sit down meal before starting their night, or maybe like me you needed a bite to eat late at night in order to keep going till the early of hours of the morning. With a gastrolounge inspired menu and a high end drinks list, Grosenvor Casinos have obviously given ample thought to the modern day restaurant goer. Whilst there on Saturday, I got to try delicious selection of burger sliders, BBQ ribs, crispy calamari, sweet potato fries and nachos.
With all the great hospitality on offer, it was no surprise that the hours soon passed and I was soon sitting down to the most lucrative boxing match in sporting history. Whilst I may have been lagging when the fight actually took place at 5:30 am, I had no regrets about attending Grosvenor Casino to see what they can offer even those are the most avid of gamblers.
Hopefully on my next visit (maybe at a more reasonable hour) I can sample one of their beginner sessions, which offers customers the chance to learn the basic rules at a fun pace and the ability to stand behind the table and pretend to be a dealer (no, not the one that sells illegal pharmaceuticals).