Family Video Games: Two to Try, One to Avoid

Filed under: Kids' Games, New In Pop Culture, Activities: Family Time, Gear Guides: Teens, Activities: Teens, Gear Guides: Tweens, Activities: Tweens, Gear Guides: Big Kids, Activities: Big Kids, Video Games, Family Time

If the kids are going to spend an afternoon in front of the Wii, you might as well join them.

Gaming is becoming an increasingly popular way for kids and parents to bond and get in some quality time together. But finding the right games can be difficult. You don't want to have to sit through "Karl the Koala's Alphabet Picnic Party." And you certainly don't want the kids anywhere near "Zombie Massacre 3: The Deathening."

Luckily, there are plenty of great middle-ground games out there. Here are two new titles that nicely fit the bill for true "family gaming" along with one that might seem appealing at first glance, but you may want to think twice about before playing.

Guilty Party (Disney Interactive, for Wii)
Here's what might you might get if the board game Clue mated with a Pixar movie. You've got a cast of charmingly eccentric detectives (all of whom are related, despite their varying ages and ethnicities) who band together to find their kidnapped mother -- and solve a slew of tangentially related mysteries along the way. Up to four players (aka "the whole family") can play cooperatively, working together to figure out whodunit. You'll all take turns running around a foreboding mansion or Orient Express-type train, examining clues and interrogating suspects -- and then compare notes to sort the relevant info from the red herrings.

The game looks great, plays great and, most pleasantly, has really wonderful writing. It's genuinely funny. And if your family has competitive leanings, there's a second set of rules for playing head-to-head in a race to see who can solve the crime first.

Disney Sing It! Family Hits (Disney Interactive, $40 to $50, for Wii and PS3)
Karaoke games are perfect for playing in groups, but although many of them are great fun -- "Karaoke Revolution," "Lips," "Guitar Hero," "Sing It!" -- the music selections are often less than family-friendly. There's nothing like the dread you feel while playing "Rock Band" and discovering how raunchy the lyrics to "My Sharona" are while singing it in front of your children.

And even if content isn't an issue, the generation gap often is: Kids can't sing along with '70s hits they've never heard, just as you might be at a loss with an all Jonas Brothers set list. With this collection of soundtrack songs from Disney films, you've got a much better shot at adults, kids and even teens being familiar with the tunes. Admittedly, not every song is a bona fide "hit" -- do you really know the theme to "A Bug's Life"? -- and talky bits of dialogue interrupt the singing on a bunch of the tunes, but for full-family karaoke fun, this is a safe bet.

Grease: The Official Video Game (505 Games, $40, for Wii)
The movie "Grease" holds a beloved place in the hearts of many of today's parents. We were kids when the musical first hit theaters and we grew up with the soundtrack. So the idea of a "Grease" video game has a certain automatic appeal.

However, before you choose this particular Wii disc for family game night, there are a few things you should consider. First of all, "Grease" is not a family film. Despite the fact that we were watching it with impunity when we were pre-teens or younger, the movie is risqué at its most tame moments and blatantly sexual at other times. This is why so many of the karaoke songs in this game are interrupted by moments of censorship -- blank spots in the vocals, mysterious asterisks hiding words in the written lyrics.

Maybe that doesn't bother you, but there's also the fact that the game is put together really poorly. You play in teams, with one member singing karaoke to boost the score of her teammate who is waggling her Wii remote in some sort of plot-based mini-game. Several of these mini-games are rhythm games that require you to swing the remote in ways that are meant to mimic dancing. Others, based around scenes from the movie, have you hooking plastic fish at the school carnival or tightening lug nuts on your hot rod. Is that the kind of grease you're looking for?

Related: Time to Swipe the Page: More iPad Picture Books
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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.