The latest from our Heart and Soul
We love the LEGO video games like The Pirates of the Caribbean and the Star Wars series; I think we own most of them (and are looking forward to adding to our collection the new Harry Potter Years 5-7 version we spotted at the Xbox Holiday Game Preview).
We were pleasantly surprised when LEGO ventured into films with Clutch Powers, a movie the whole family enjoyed. Now LEGO Star Wars fans can enjoy a new animated special LEGO Star Wars. The Padawan Menace available exclusively in Walmart stores on Blu-Ray and DVD September 16, 2011.
The stand-alone 22-minute original special is full of family-fun action and cheeky humour that viewers have come to expect from the LEGO Star Wars collaborations.
Synopsis from Twenty Century Fox:
A routine Jedi Academy field trip is turned into a rip-roaring comic adventure in LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace. Tour guide Master Yoda leads a group of rambunctious Jedi Younglings through Senate chambers when he senses a disturbance in the Force. Summoned to help save the Republic, he discovers that one of the Younglings secretly boarded his ship…and has a taste for adventure! Meanwhile, C-3PO and R2-D2 are put in charge of the boisterous group and find themselves in over their heads. As the evil Sith prepare to wreak havoc, it’s up to Yoda and the Droids to ensure that their young charges aren’t torn to bricks!
The LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace has some of your favourite characters and locations (like Mos Esley’s, and the Hoth Planet). Kids will love Darth Vadar’s unscheduled cameos and adults will enjoy some of the hidden humour (like the Darth Mall shopping center or the Las Vegas styled Welcome to Jabba’s sign).
The special features are as much fun to watch as the main feature:
- The Quest for R2-D2 and Bombad Bounty are funny short animation stories incorporating LEGO (though not as thoroughly as the main feature).
- Star Wars in 2 Minutes (part 1 and part 2) give you a quick snap shot of the main elements in the two saga’s: part 1 covers years 4 to 6, part 2 covers years 1 to 3. These are shot with stop motion using actual LEGO elements (versus animated elements with a child narrator taking you through the highlights. These are well done and very funny.
- The Clone Wars Animated Comics consists of a few animated segments following other aspects of The Clone Wars animated series.
The Blu-Ray/DVD combo set means we can watch a higher definition version at home and still enjoys the DVD version in the van on road trips. The included mini figure of young Han Solo is a nice extra too.
I remember Barbie when I was growing up. She could do anything. Sure she was attractive and had an unlimited wardrobe budget, which kind of helped (though I think my dolls were more the natural type -- insert birthday suit reference here). But clothes and looks aside, Barbie enabled me to act out dreams and fantasies like climbing a tall mountain and skydiving down, going camping in the wild wilderness, even robbing a bank (well, Barbie didn't always have to be good).
Barbie: Princess Charm School DVD
My 4-year old is a big fan of Barbie too, living her own future fantasies and dreams through her dolls, including being a princess. The latest Barbie direct to DVD movie was just released, Barbie: Princess Charm School ($19.99), perfect for back to school. The premise isn't new: Barbie lives an ordinary life only to discover she's actually a princess. I'll admit I've had fantasies about that scenario myself. Who hasn't? It's why people play the lottery right?
Barbie gets a chance to attend Princess Charm School, which I’m sure you can guess by the name is a school to teach soon-to-be princesses how to act and behave. My daughter loved the idea of going to school to learn to be a princess. You don’t seem much of the learning in school, the story focuses more on the mysterious death of the last royal family and the missing baby princess, which I’m sure you can guess is someone, you know (hint: her name starts with a B). Along with princesses, Princess Charm School has bad guys (or girls in this case, an evil teacher with a daughter she is grooming to take over the throne) and secrets. There was also a little bit of romance with a soon-to-be Prince and Barbie but it was only for a small segment and the romance was actually more of a friendship boy/girl crush which is just fine when you have a 4-year old watching.
The video quality is the same as previous movies and all three of my kids enjoyed the film, watching it two times in one day.
View the trailer to the Barbie: Princess Charm School DVD:
Barbie: Princess Charm School the App
If you’re looking to extend your Barbie Princess Charm School experience beyond the movie, Random House has also released the Barbie: Princess Charm School app ($4.99) for the iPad and iPhone. The app is a slightly animated version of the Golden Books story. The main premise of the movie is intact but your eagle eye child will undoubted noticed a few discrepancies. You can choose to interact with the story or just have it play through automatically. My 4-year old choose the interact mode which meant she controlled the story. She flipped the pages, replayed the audio, jumped to screens she wanted to see and tapped on words to hear them again. In the interactive mode there is also the option to answer questions about the story to be rewarded with prizes, virtual stickers your child can use to create her own picture. The questions were a combination of seek and find as well as seeing your child’s understanding of the story. My daughter loved colleting all her stickers. Each time to restart the story you can answer the same questions as part of the game but once you have the stickers the rewards are mainly audio.
The feature I like is the ability to record your own audio. So if grandma’s in town for a visit, she can record the story by reading the text on the page and save it. Next time your child listens to it, say after grandma’s gone back home, she can still hear her voice reading the story to her. And you can change the narration as many times as you like. Although we did enjoy playing with the app, especially after watching the movie, I did find the $4.99 a little pricey compared to other interactive apps out there. Perhaps that’s the Barbie price tag.
To get a better idea of what to expect in the app, you can view the trailer from Random House:
Barbie: Princess Charm School Toys
Of course no Barbie movie would be complete without Barbie toys. From the princess dolls and sprits to the pink horse drawn carriage, kids will be able to recreate their own Princess Charm School mystery. My girls have so many Barbies and Barbie-wanna-be dolls yet still they can always come up with a reason why they need more. The nice thing about the Princess Blare doll ($29.99) is that her dress is part of her, as in it can’t come off. Her dress transforms from her school uniform into her princess dress by a button at the back. I like the idea of the transformation but I can see the switch at the back breaking easily. It was already acting a little temperamental after a few days of play at our house but perhaps the kids were being too rough in turning it.
I love the Barbie Princess Charm School Royal Bed and Bath Play Set ($49.99). The set features the dorm room that magically transforms into a spa bathtub and princess tea set. We haven’t actually played with this set so I’m not sure if Barbie fits in all the pieces (like the tub or bed) but I do like that this play set folds up for play at a friends house or just for storage when play time is over.
We've had a chance to review a number of games from Thinkfun, like Rush Hour Jr, S'Match, Chocolate Fix. All 3 of these games are great single player games but Thinkfun also produces muli-player games for kids too. One such game we tried was Zingo.
Zingo is like a zany version of bingo (hmm, zany+bingo=Zingo? Okay maybe not but it sure is fun for kids).
Like bingo kids choose a card they want to play. They will try and find the matching image from the dealer. The dealer has a slider tool that contains all the matching tiles. The dealer slides the slider to reveal 2 picture titles. The first player to find a match calls it and places it on their card. The first person to fill their card yells 'Zingo' and wins the game.
So that's the bingo part of the game, finding matching picture tiles for your playing card. The zany part of Zingo is how excited the kids get at playing. What starts off as a subdued game at the beginning turns into a frenzy of yelling (calling the matching tile before another player).
There are 6 double-sided Zingo cards included in the game, allowing for 2 levels of play (green side means not that many duplicated images on the cards versus the red where kids will have a little more competition with each other to call the matching image first).
The tiles sometimes got stuck in the slider but only occasionally and all it meant was sometimes you would end up revealing extra tiles; this didn’t affect the game play at all.
The game is designed for non-readers and early readers but older siblings will enjoy the matching fun too. It is a great game that all 3 of my kids enjoyed playing together (not too easy for my oldest or too hard for my youngest). That can be hard to find in family games.
A warning: when you start playing Zingo be prepared to keep playing. After each game my kids wanted to play 'just one more game, please'. Sometimes if I could not play (as the dealer) they would take turns being the dealer just so they could play longer.
Beyond the fun of Zingo, you can also take the fun with you in Zingo To Go. I love the cute Zingo Zoomer Car kids shake to find a match. This is just too cute and is something I think I will have to get for summer road trips. For older kids there’s Zingo 123, where kids can practice number recognition. You can find a full list of available Zingo games here.
* Product was provided for the purpose of this review
Get ready to Zingo at your house. The folks at Thinkfun are offering two (2) EverhtingMom members their own copy of Zingo to play at home. To enter, simply tell us who would be playing Zingo in your house?
This contest is only open to EverythingMom members. Not a member? It’s quick and easy to join. Contest is open to Canadian and United States residents and ends June 1, 2010. Two (2) EverythingMom member will be randomly chosen after that.
My whole family is enamoured with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise: the ride at Disney, all of the movies (though we have yet to see the last film), even the themed hotel rooms at Disney World’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Now our love has extended into the gaming world to with the new LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean video game (available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Games for Windows – Live, and Wii).
The LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean video game isn’t the first in the video game arena but it’s the first family-oriented game. The past LEGO games like Star Wars and Batman (I think we own them all) are light-hearted and fun while still posing challenges for more experienced gamers.
Synopsis from Disney Interactive Studios:
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game is an action adventure game brining to life the Pirates of the Caribbean world and all its colourful characters in Lego brick form. Players will experience all the memorable scens from the first three films as well as those in the upcoming fourth film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Straner Tdes” in the humorous and quirky LEGO video game style.
Key features of the game that makes it so appealing for families:
Exploration – players can work their way through over 20 different levels, visiting scenes they’re familiar with from the movies. My kids loved seeing their favourite scenes. My son loved the games depiction of the Jack Sparrow scene where he’s on the Black Pearl, commanding a whole crew of himself.
Animated Sequences – As you complete goals, animated sequences with the LEGO themed Pirates of the Caribbean characters play. My daughter loved the scene of Jack fighting the kraken but with a toothbrush.
Two-Player Co-op - You can plan the game as a single player or as two players, working to achieve goals together. The split screen mode is great for family members who have different playing styles. My oldest likes to smash and explore versus my son who likes to fight and finish the level. The split level divides the screen in half should the two players get too far apart from each other in a scene; this enables the game to play to continue with little frustration (compared to the earlier LEGO games).
Family-Friendly Combat – okay, I admit that sounds like an oxymoron. Jack Sparrow and the cast of other characters use the weapons from the movie to attack and discover treasure. The characters weld swords and hammers and guns to blow things up but since they are LEGO characters there’s no gore or violence; characters explode into a pile of bricks that rebuild again for more game play.
Puzzles - Along with destroying things for money, players will be called to solve puzzles (repair machines to be able to start machinery, find 5 ships to build to earn a trophy). My kids loved these hidden elements to the game; solving puzzles to find secret entranes and getting extra rewards. Jack Sparrow also has a compass that you can check for other puzzles to solve. Pull it up and secrets tracks are revealed that players have to follow to get the reward.
Freeplay – There are certain tasks required to finish and unlock a level. Once unlocked you can replay that level in freeplay mode. This gives you access to all the characters you’ve collected throughout the game versus just the character you’re playing. This comes in handy since each character has unique abilities that can help you find new treasures or secrets to a level.
On-Going Fun – My son has played every level of the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean game but the game play is still fun. Some tricks he knows but others he’s still discovering. There are so many ways to extend the game play even if you’ve finished all 20 levels. My son still hasn’t achieved True Pirate status in all the levels or has found all the ships in the bottle, created all the minikits or even solved all of the secrets on Jack Sparrow’s compass. This gives him and the rest of the family something to work towards.
Characters – You’ll find your favourite characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie in the LEGO game version. I really love how the game developers have captured Jack Sparrows tipsy walk. My daughters love that there are female characters to play like Elizabeth Swan and the Mermaids.
We own many of the LEGO games (and have played them often) but I must admit the LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean version is by far my favourite for a number of reasons:
- It’s not as dark (by this I mean the screen colouring). Many of the Pirates of the Caribbean scenes happen outside in daylight making them great to play without difficulty seeing what you’re doing
- The way they’ve tied the game into the movie but not duplicating it. It’s enjoyable to see LEGO’s fun twist on scenes we’ve all scene in the movie. The character recreation is great too, right down to Jack’s swagger
- It incorporates game play we like from previous LEGO titles but ads new Pirates of the Caribbean twists like sword fighting and adventures under the water. Even the shark attacks if you venture in parts of water where no game play occurs are a great laugh
We’ve been playing on the Xbox 360 so it did take us some getting use to the controls (all of our other LEGO games are on the Wii). My husband prefers the Xbox version for it’s picture quality. Game play has been great fun on the TV but I would be eager to get a copy for the DS for family road trips this summer. I can already here the quiet car ride to Florida.
As soon as the nice weather appeared my two oldest kids pulled out their scooters and skateboards. Like all younger siblings, my 3-year-old wanted to be just like her older siblings and scooter too. The problem of course is finding one she can use. Most scooters we tried were either too big or too heavy to manage or too difficult to maneuver and control.
I love the look of the scooter with the bright coloured board (it comes in six vibrant colours), low and wide enough for little legs and feet. The foam handle is comfortable and easy to grip. The brake is a simple fender-style cover over the back wheel. Kids just need to press on this to slow down and stop.
It took a few tries to get the hang of pushing on the scooter and the first few times she fell over, but my daughter is resilient and these spills did not phase her. The scooter rides smoothly and silently thanks to the polyurethane wheels. The three-wheel design is ideal for young kids; they can focus on having fun versus trying to maintain balance and control (which can be problematic on a two-wheeled scooter).
I love the lean-and-steer design of the mini kick, as does my daughter. To take a corner or avoid an obstacle all she needs to do is lean the steering bar (leaning her body to the left caused her to lean the steering stick to the left so she would move left). It is so intuitive to the child's natural movement. The mini kick is so very light too. This is great when my daughter has to carry her mini kick up the stairs or across the street.
I expected my daughter would eventually get the hang of the mini kick. What I did not expect and what really surprised me was just how quickly she would master using it. Within days my 3-year-old daughter was scootering up and down hills, around corners, keeping up with her siblings, like she had been doing it for years. She scooters everywhere and loves it. I love the confidence, co-ordination and overall enthusiasm my daughter has gained from riding her mini kick.
Of course her 5-year-old brother loves it too; problem is my 3-year-old is very protective of her mini kick. Kickboard USA also has a maxi kick designed for older kids.
If I was to say there were any drawbacks to the mini kick, there would only be two and they're minor: 1) the t-bar handle on the mini kick is a fixed height so you are unable to adjust it if you have a larger child (moving to the maxi kick might be an option) and 2) the mini kick cannot collapse and fold away like some boards. This could be a storage issue for some people, but my daughter's mini kick just stores out of the way with the bikes.
Overall we love the mini kicks look and design and I'm excited to see what else Kickboard USA will be bringing to market.
* Product was provided for the purpose of this review
The amazing folks at Kickboard USA want to get your youngsters out and moving in the nice weather so they are giving one (1) EverythingMom member their own mini kick ($79.99 US). To enter tell us who you would like to give your mini kick to.
This contest is only open to EverythingMom members. Not a member? It’s quick and easy to join. Contest is open to Canadian and United States residents and ends May 22, 2010. One (1) EverythingMom member will be randomly chosen after that.