With Christmas coming, I asked my oldest son, Matt, to share tips and reviews of current and older video games. He’s been knee deep in video games for quite a few years. With his expertise in buying and selling used and new games and equipment, I rely on his guidance when reviewing games for my younger kids, especially when attempting to understand why some games receive a certain rating.
This 3 part series focuses on older games which can be purchased for younger kids for $10 or less. Part 2 of the series will be published next Saturday. If you find his reviews helpful, and have questions for Matt, share that in the comments.
LEGO Racers(Nintendo 64)
Today, we will begin with Legos. Those things that you step on when your child leaves them lying around; they’re painful. Your feet will thank you for this game, which can be described as a poor man’s Mario Kart. Yet, this game manages to go beyond Mario Kart, and creates own little niche in the world.
Yes, LEGO Racers has wacky karts and exciting powerups, but at the same time, it has Legos. That makes all the difference. By collecting up to four white bricks while racing your custom-made karts, your collected powerup will change; for example, from a cannonball, to a grappling hook, to a lightning bolt, to rockets.
The tracks are well designed too, with many holding secret shortcuts. During each circuit of four tracks, you will compete against five computer-controlled opponents: four mooks, and one big bad, who viciously cheats his way to victory. Your mission is to beat him in order to unlock more Legos with which to build more karts. Just as a Lego game should be.
This game makes great use of the Lego license to create a game which is similar to Mario Kart, yet different enough that you won’t easily mistake them to be the same game. I specifically recommend the Nintendo 64 version because the PC version will probably not run on your computer, and the Playstation version has a lot of glitches. The Nintendo 64 version can be found for about $4.
NOTE: you will need a Nintendo 64 Controller Pak to save your game data.
Next up is a game I spent a lot of my childhood play – a 3D platformer starring a classic arcade character. No, not Space Invaders. Pac-Man: the pizza that has devoured many a dot in his quest to escape the infamous ghosts. Pac Man World 2 is, more or less, the arcade game re-imagined as an adventure.
You begin in the Pac-Village where the Ghosts have stolen items sacred to its residents: the Golden Fruit. As Pac-Man, you must recover them by running, jumping, rolling, and bouncing through well-designed 3D worlds, defeating rogue ghosts and other enemies along the way.
This game is good, clean fun, with numerous secrets and collectibles to discover, and many great tunes to listen to along the way. It’s easy to recommend to anyone. However, beware of an uncooperative camera, as is common with many 3D platformer games released around the same time as this game. Still, it’s extremely easy to look past this issue, especially with how much pure fun this game is.
As an extra bonus, included with the game are emulations of the original Pac-Man arcade games: Pac-Man, Mrs. Pac-Man, Pac-Man Jr., and the console port of the puzzle game Pac-Mania. This game is available on all consoles on the market at the time: the Playstation 2, the Gamecube, and the original Xbox. Your best bet is the Gamecube version, since the Nintendo Wii has basically perfect backwards compatibility, while the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 do not. No matter which version you choose, however, you will easily find it for under $5.
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets(Game Boy Color)
Finally, here’s a game based on the famous franchise of a wand-waving wizard, specifically the second story of a chamber of chosen. This version of the game is a turn-based RPG (role playing game), and the last game released for the 8-bit Game Boy Color.
Not only is it a good, if somewhat short, game, it’s also a good technical achievement for the Game Boy platform, with fancy effects aplenty. There are many spells to unlock, many secrets to discover, and many cards to collect. If only there was a map of Hogwarts in the game…
The game’s story, which is a direct sequel to the game based on the first book, follows the story of the movie, instead of the book. However it’s original enough to stand on its own merit. You control Harry Potter, who is quickly joined by Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, on a quest to discover what is wrong with Hogwarts this year. That’s all you need to know. A perfect game for the young Harry Potter fan.
Versions of the Harry Potter video game were released on the Playstation, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, Game Boy Advance, and Game Boy Color. However, the game varied by platforms. The games released for the first four were more or less the same, but the games released for the Game Boy Advance and Color were different from the consoles, and even different from each other. I recommend the Game Boy Color version because, even without the license, it would be a good game on its own merits. It’s also the best of the versions released. This game can be bought for about a dollar used, or about $15 if you want a brand new copy, and can be played on any Game Boy Color/Advance console.