The Games Guru travels to the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Calif., to give you reports on the latest and greatest that’s happening in the gaming world.
BOYS’ LIFE E3 AWARDS
At this year’s E3, game developers got serious about kids games. You see, they think you’re as important as adult gamers. Looks like it’s going to be a very, very interesting year for games.
Here are the Boys’ Life E3 Awards. Drum roll, please!
Best New Hardware, Maybe Ever: Nintendo 3DS
Usually when you hear the phrase “marvel of modern technology,” it’s a cliche. But the 3DS gives you Mario, Zelda, Kirby, Kid Icarus and all your favorite Nintendo pals in a brand new dimension. Beyond playing games and movies in 3-D, it has a 3-D camera to take pictures of yourself. We want to have the 3DS now — right now.
Best Hardware for Active Kids and Parents: Kinect (Microsoft, Xbox 360)
Microsoft’s Kinect device will debut with more than a dozen games this fall. Most of them ask you to get up off the couch and jump around while playing. So if you’re into a bit of a workout while, say, whitewater rafting or playing football, Kinect is for you. Best games so far: Kinect Adventures and Child of Eden.
Best Game of the Show: Epic Mickey (Disney, Wii)
Epic Mickey will be one of the finest games ever made for the Wii. It will rival the best of Nintendo games, and you parents will love it, too. It’s so deep and beautiful you’ll want to play it over again. Plus, renowned gamemaker Warren Spector’s favorite magazine growing up was — you guessed it – Boys’ Life.
Best Kids MMO Ever: LEGO Universe (WBIE)
Speaking of deep, this is one deep game. You can make any world you want to with LEGO blocks, and every block ever made is in the game. It’s going to be updated every month with new quests and minigames. You won’t want to leave this game, but you probably should eventually, especially if you have homework to do.
Best Deal for Kids: Little Big Planet 2 (Sony, PS3)
Sackboy returns triumphantly. You’ll be able to make so many kinds of games with the tools inside, you’ll want to share them with all your friends. The game just may just might make you want to be a videogame developer when you grow up.
Best Sports Game: NHL Slapshot (EA, Wii)
This seemingly simple hockey game is so addicting, you won’t want to put down the hockey stick attachment that comes with the game. It takes you from PeeWee League to the NHL in a hilarious but oh-so-real career mode. Look for tips in an upcoming issue of Boys’ Life!
Best Puzzle Game: Guilty Party (Disney, Wii)
Just when you think they’ve run out of ideas for the Wii, out comes Guilty Party, which lets you solve what seems to be an endless array of mysteries. You’ll love interrogating the fascinating suspects, too. Keep your eyes out for this one in August.
Best Wii Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo)
Bang those tribal drums. Donkey Kong is back with a classic sidescroller that’s sure to have you playing in this lush universe for hours and hours. The story is fun, too. The animals have turned on Donkey Kong because they’re under a devious spell. Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong team up to restore order.
DAY 3: SURPRISES
The best thing about E3 is the surprises. You never quite know what’s going to happen.
Take Konami’s press conference. First, it was great to see hip-hop legend Russell Simmons talk about Def Jam Rapstar. But when Karaoke Revolution: Glee, a singing game, was introduced, the Powerhouse Choir of about 60 high school kids came on to belt out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
They brought down the house. The crowd of journalists went wild. It was such an emotional, riveting performance, I now want to play Glee (based on the TV show), which I otherwise might have overlooked. (That’s because I sing like a dying chicken.)
More 3D and Some Disney
In the Sony booth, I had a hands-on demo of the EyePet in 3D. Sure, you can virtually pet the little monkey-like creature. But you can also draw things and make them come alive. The developer drew a Batman logo with the PlayStation Move controller. It transformed into a 3D flying batwing, and the little guy hopped on to fly up into the stars.
At the Disney booth, Epic Mickey looked awesome. This reinvention of Mickey Mouse in a crazy cartoon world pays homage to the 80-year history of the mouse, all the way back to “Steamboat Willie” (Mickey’s debut movie). It’s beautifully detailed, and the gameplay is unique. You don’t fight anything. You just use paint or paint thinner to cover up or erase your enemies.
Disney seems to be on a roll as far as quality games go. Take Guilty Party for the Wii. Guilty Party lets you play detective and interrogate a large cast of wacky characters to see who committed a crime. It’s humorous, but it really makes you think. And the puzzles always change. The developer told me that you’ll never really repeat a puzzle. So the replay value here is immense.
On the show floor, the IndieCade is a place where people in college show off the games they’re experimenting with. One game, Maum, had you wearing a headset with sensors on it. It would actually read your brainwaves. Your “good vibes” let you make friends with Jack-O-Lantern people you encountered.
E3 is also about people meeting their videogame heroes. One guy lugged around his heavy PlayStation 3 and stood in line for a really long time, just to have it autographed. That’s a true fanboy!
DAY 2: THE LATEST FROM NINTENDO AND SONY
Forget what you know about video games because Nintendo just changed everything. And I mean everything.
Yesterday, Nintendo premiered their new 3DS, a handheld portable gaming machine that lets you play games in 3D—without the glasses.
I’ve seen it. I’ve played it. And it’s probably the most astounding piece of videogame hardware I’ve ever seen—and that includes the Wii and the original PlayStation. It’s looks like a true game changer.
It was so cool, director Steven Spielberg was in the Nintendo booth checking it out in a room full of hundreds of the new marvel. Outside, as many as 500 people waited in line to get their hands on it for a few minutes.
While there’s no release date for the mighty little machine, I don’t think it’ll be cheap. So start saving your nickels and dimes.
The 3DS scoop
Here’s what it is: The machine still has a touchscreen on the bottom. But the top screen is where the magic happens. There’s a 3.5-inch-wide screen that displays 3D games—and movies, too. I saw the trailer of “How to Train Your Dragon,” and it had real depth.
You can adjust the level of 3D to suit your taste with a slider control to the right of the screen. Or you can turn it off completely.
There was a version of Paper Mario in 3D that showed off the effect really well. Mario, his enemies and the blocks Mario jumped on and over were clearly in the foreground. In the upcoming PilotWings Resort game, I flew high in the sky and over a small town. I felt I could reach out and touch the clouds. And when I flew, it was slowly, so I never got dizzy from the 3D.
You have to look at the screen straight on, however. You won’t get the 3D from an angle. Some of my colleagues said they got a little dizzy when playing. But I’m sure Nintendo will deal with this as they ready the system for release.
In the coming months, I’ll see more gameplay and give you the complete scoop on how the 3DS stacks up to everyone else’s machines. Will there be a 3D PSP in your future, too? Stay tuned.
Speaking of the PSP, Sony showed us a camera for the device with a game called Invisimals. It’s a game in which you take the PSP around your real-life world and discover invisible creatures in places like your kitchen.
Sony was quite proud of its PlayStation Move controller, which will sell this fall for about $50. It does seem to be very precise and cool, but perhaps not as precise as Microsoft’s Kinect.
Sony had an update last week for the PS3 to make it 3D ready. But you have to buy a new TV and glasses to make it work. It looks very good, however. They’re going to collect all the old Sly Cooper games, put them on a disk and make it 3D.
Also, Little Big Planet 2 is going to rock your world. With the new tools on the disk, you’ll be able to make any kind of game—sports games, role-playing games, even real-time strategy games—all starring Sackboy and his cool pals.
And, if you have a PS3, check out Home, Sony’s virtual world. They’ve re-created their E3 booth in home and have added a lot of cool trailers and surprises. And it’s free, too.
DAY 1: INTRODUCING KINECT
E3 started on Sunday with Microsoft’s party for Kinect. For the intriguing Xbox 360 attachment that lets you control games with your hands, Microsoft spent millions on a very big show. They hired Cirque de Soleil to transform a basketball arena into something out of “Avatar.” And they made those of us in the audience wear these crazy white robes, too. It was really a cast of thousands.
Fun for the entire family
High above was a living room in a giant box. The room could spin all the way around, and inside was a family playing games from Kinect.
These games seem like graphically intense versions of the Wii minigames you’ve come to know and love. There were sports games, racing games, dancing games, virtual pet games and a kind of amusement park game, too. The family of four played together, running, jumping and giving each other high fives after every short game. “Fun for the entire family” was the phrase of the night.
The next morning, Microsoft’s honcho Don Mattrick said that Kinect would be released on Nov. 4 with 15 games available for it. Unfortunately, Microsoft wouldn’t say what the price would be, for the games or the device.
Aside from the casual games, Microsoft showed off how the big-time racing game Forza Motorsport would work with Kinect. You can walk around a sports car and check it out closely. And you can drive the car without a wheel just by placing your hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Then all you have to do is steer.
Kinect Adventures, Sports, Dance, Kinectimals
One of the cool casual games was Kinect Adventures. The minigame shown was a kind of roller coaster in which you had to jump in real life over obstacles in the game. It looks like quite a workout.
Kinect Sports has six games, kind of like Wii Sports. You have javelin throwing in which the javelin seems to go as high in an arc as a pass thrown by Peyton Manning. There’s soccer, too, and the very detailed crowd goes wild when you score a goal. It looks like you’ll be able to play all of these games on Xbox Live if you have a gold account.
If you liked Nintendogs, Microsoft has a graphically richer game called Kinectimals. They showed off a very cute tiger cub. You could pet it, call it (Kinect has a microphone) and make it roll over. There also looks to be a Sonic game coming this fall for Kinect as a launch title. But it wasn’t demo’d by Microsoft.
Later in the day, Electronic Arts showed off Kinect Dance Central, a dancing game that looks as if it lets uncoordinated nerds like me move like a hip-hop star—with practice. It also looks like quite a workout. (In non-Kinect news, EA also brought out Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana to talk about how intense the new Madden is. You’ll read more about Madden in BL soon.)
Kinect or not?
So should you buy Kinect? While it’s cool, I couldn’t help thinking I’ve played a lot of these games before on the Wii. Kinect refines the experience and lets you lose the controller. But you also wish Microsoft had come up with a completely new game that would cement Kinect’s place in the videogame world—and make you want to run out and buy it immediately.
You’ll want to consider Kinect, of course. (And you’ll read more about it in the magazine very soon.) But how much will it cost? That’s the big question. If it costs much more than $100, you might want to wait until there’s a sale. I’ll keep you posted.