PLAY: Video game and other tech toy gift suggestions

Page 3 of 4' Tankbot

$35 to $40

Tankbots are miniature robots, shaped like futuristic little tanks. They can be controlled via a smartphone or tablet (you download a free app), and rampage across your desk (or floor, or any other flat surface). They recharge by plugging directly into a computer's USB port (via a folding appendage on the back that resembles a tail). Apps are available for iOS devices and Android devices.

The Tankbots have three settings - mode 1 is autonomous obstacle avoidance and maze navigation; mode 2 is free roaming rampage (with noise!); and mode 3 lets you control the tank via the iDeskPet universal remote control app. Navigating between modes is accomplished by a single mode button found on the back-top of the tank, and takes some getting used to.

Once accomplished these are pretty fun to play with, and can make for an enjoyable desk companion / work distraction. Controlling via the mobile app allowed me to control the Tankbot and harass my co-workers - what's better than that?

- Dan Hunt


$60 (Xbox, PS3, PC)

First-person action/stealth/RPG game Dishonored was one of 2012's most anticipated gaming titles, and it more or less justifies all the hype. Set in the dystopian steampunk city of Dunwall, the story follows Corvo Attano, the former Lord Protector turned unstoppable assassin, through a convoluted (though not entirely unpredictable) story, driven in part by player choices.

It's an immensely absorbing experience. The setting is madly atmospheric, the level design is consistently excellent, and the combat - while not the most varied - is engagingly fast-paced and gory. While many video games feature systems for player choice and morality, they all too often just present a "good" and "evil" option and let it go at that. Dishonored goes far beyond this, presenting the player with complicated, unsettling ethical dilemmas throughout. More importantly, however, it also allows for wildly different playstyles - missions can be accomplished either through stealth and subtlety or by wading straight into foes with sword and pistol. Either way is great fun.

This is not to say Dishonored is perfect - it feels a little short, the combat can get kind of same-y if you're into the violent approach, and, as the game heads for its climax, Corvo quickly becomes so powerful that it actually detracts from the tension a little. Nevertheless, these are quibbles - Dishonored is a wonderful gameplay experience, presented with oodles of style and panache, and set in a memorable original world. If you haven't played it yet, you absolutely should.

- Jon Gold

Guild Wars 2

$55 (Amazon)

If you haven't played a massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game lately, or if you are brand new to the genre, you can't miss with Guild Wars 2. The game has redefined what it means to have some fun in an MMO, with a very playable and enjoyable experience right from the beginning.

The basics are pretty much the same as in other fantasy MMOs - choose a character, a race and then enter the world and start fighting bad guys. But where other games like World of Warcraft limit your abilities depending on your character's class or race, Guild Wars 2 allows you to experiment with different fighting styles, based on the weapons you use. So, for example, a thief can be a "tank" like a warrior, as long as you can execute the right skills and moves. Everyone can be a healer, which makes group sessions easier to handle than having just one person be assigned to making sure everyone lives.

The "event" system within the game is also stellar - instead of waiting around or asking for people to do larger quests, the game itself institutes group gatherings, where anyone can just go and start participating - the more people that show up to fight, the more difficult the event becomes. You really do feel good playing with others, rather than sitting around waiting for a particular person or class to show up.

There's a lot more to enjoy with the game - see my earlier full review of the game here. The best part of all - once you pay for the game, there are no monthly subscription fees, and the company is doing a great job with offering free content updates as well (we figure that eventually, you'll have to pay for expansion packs).

- Keith Shaw

Lego Lord of the Rings


The game wizards at Travellers Tales have another winner with their latest Lego video game. This time, we visit the world of The Lord of the Rings, based on the three Peter Jackson movies (not the upcoming Hobbit movie, although were pretty sure a sequel will happen after Jackson finishes those three movies).

Having already tackled Batman, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter with Lego-based games, its no surprise how polished the Lord of the Rings game is. While much of the basic gameplay is intact, this game adds the additional element of using the actual voices from the movie (In Lego Batman 2, they used voices, but they were recorded specially for the game.) In this game, when Lego Gandalf says You shall not pass! and Fly, you fools!, its the voice of Ian McKellen from the movie. The addition of the voices from those films make it a lot more realistic than previous Lego versions - while a lot of the Lego humor is still there during some of the scenes, the impact and seriousness from the film is more prevalent in this game. For example, during the climactic scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Lego Boromir gets shot with a banana arrow, but he still succumbs to his wounds. While playing this game with my children, I worried more about their questions (after Gandalf falls fighting the Balrog, I had to remind them that Gandalf will be back later in the game) than in previous Lego games.

Fortunately, the gameplay is still very good - in Story mode youre basically re-creating scenes from the movies, along with specific players. In between Story missions, you can walk around Middle Earth and explore different areas and collect items. In fact, in this game, you can perform mini-quests that remind me more of a role-playing game than a Lego game. For example, there are spots where characters will ask you to find something - a person looking for their lost umbrella, or someone else looking for a hat that they left at Weathertop. During free play, you can find those items and then receive a reward for helping locate them. Rewards are either Red Bricks (which give you things like x2 studs, or quest finders, etc.) or plans for special weapons. If you have the plans (also hidden throughout the game), you can then go to a blacksmith and create the items with enough mithril bricks (which replace the regular gold bricks from other Lego games).

Most of the puzzles are easy enough for adults to accomplish, especially if youve played any of the Lego video games before. In some cases things can get pretty confusing, especially if you have a lot of characters on screen at the same time. During the mission where youre fighting the Cave Troll in the Mines of Moria, for example, there are eight different characters you can control (Frodo is out for the count during that one). It took a while before we figured out that you needed either Merry or Pippin to jump onto the top of the troll before Legolas could take it out with an arrow.

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