By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
4 video games from 2015 that may be of interest to families
Kylo Ren figure for "Disney Infinity: 3.0." - photo by Deseret Connect
The Disney Infinity franchise was right in step with the release of the year's biggest movie, debuting a new playset based on "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on Dec. 18 the same day the film started raking in revenue at the box office.

It's an objective-based game with a low degree of difficulty, loads of creativity, beautiful visuals and adequate humor. The characters occupy a space somewhere between cartoonish and realistic, and the gameplay animations are fluid and advanced. It definitely skews toward a younger audience, but parents can enjoy jumping in on a game with their kids especially, in this case, if they are Star Wars fans.

"The Force Awakens" is a "playset," which is an accessory to the Disney Infinity 3.0 video game. It comes with two toy character figures, Finn and Rey, and a playset piece that unlocks new objectives and levels based on the hit movie.

The Disney Infinity game disc must be purchased with a starter pack, which retails for $64.99 and also includes the characters Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano, along with the "Twilight of the Republic" playset piece. Another Star Wars-themed playset, "Rise Against the Empire," is sold separately.

Playsets expand the Disney Infinity game by opening up new quests, settings and character options. The toy figures import characters into the game, and the new villain Kylo Ren and super pilot Poe Dameron are also available, sold separately for $13.99 each.

The game opens with the familiar "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ..." and the scrolling yellow exposition text. The first quest is to escape a star destroyer in a TIE fighter, and it's a little too easy.

The Star Wars playsets are not 100 percent faithful to the movies' storylines, but this one still begins with the blaster-carrying Finn and staff-wielding Rey meeting up on Jakku. The characters collect items and are sent on sometimes obscure missions, confronting bad guys here and there. Tasks include going on speeder test drives, target practice and finding treats for a depressed luggabeast. Each level has multiple missions, and they can sometimes overlap and get confusing. But the concept of the game is simple: Follow the arrow and complete the task.

There are multiple options for upgrading character skills and attributes along the way, which gives the game a longer shelf life even after all the objectives are met. For those who can't spend enough money on the game, there are "power disc" packs that import even more accessories. "The Force Awakens" pack allows gamers to use Poe's resistance jacket, the Resistance tactical strike, a quad jumper and Finn's stormtrooper costume.

Game: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" playset for Disney Infinity: 3.0

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, PC

Price: Playset sells for $34.99, character figures for $13.99, power disc packs for $9.99

ESRB rating: Everyone 10+ (cartoon violence)

'Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash'

"Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash" is yet another shot of nostalgia for Nintendo fans.

Since its launch in 2013, the Wii U console has revived franchises such as Mario Kart, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. with enhanced gameplay and a high-definition sheen. The tennis series featuring Mario, Yoshi and the familiar cast made its console debut on the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and was followed by versions for the Game Cube and Wii.

This new apple didn't fall far from the franchise tree. "Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash" doesn't offer a whole lot of innovative or unique gameplay content, but "Ultra Smash" is faster, flashier and a lot better looking than its N64 ancestor. The winning formula remains intact, and families can easily enjoy this simple and addictive game together with a wide range of ages.

The lovable lineup of characters is available to square off on clay, grass, hardcourt or hybrid surfaces in singles or doubles format, the latter allowing up to four players at a time. Other gameplay options include online play, mega battle (where the characters play at an enormous size), mega ball rally, knockout challenge and classic tennis. Each character comes with different attributes, such as speed or technique.

The wrinkles that make the game interesting include frequent power-up mushrooms, which give the character enormous size and strength, and a variety of chance shots that, if executed correctly, are tremendously effective. One of those is the ultra smash, hence the name.

Those whose knowledge of Nintendo games only goes back to the Wii may be surprised to learn that "Ultra Smash" is not motion-based. In other words, players won't be swinging a Wii remote around like a tennis racket. It would seem like a natural candidate for this format, but "Ultra Smash" sticks to buttons and direction pads.

The Mario characters are cute and kid-friendly, but there's always an element of mischief with them, and their style of tennis might be frowned upon at Wimbledon. One effective strategy is delivering a body shot by hitting the ball directly at an opponent. Characters are also allowed to taunt or intimidate before serves, but it's fairly mild and comic.

"Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash" is compatible with amiibos (separately sold plastic figures that provide different gameplay options), but the game is just fine without them. "Ultra Smash" can easily be picked up by young kids, but there's enough sophistication in technique to create competitive distance between novice and expert.

Game: "Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash"

Platform: Nintendo Wii U

Price: $49.99

ESRB rating: E for everyone

'FIFA 16'

You dont have to be a soccer fan to enjoy "FIFA 16."

Its a game for all, one that sits well with competitive sports fans and with the casual player who wants to spend quality time with the children. Using insanely realistic visuals, FIFA proves to be one of the most worthwhile franchises on any next generation console right now.

Playing soccer on "FIFA 16" is much like the regular game. Now there are realistic additions to each game that make it feel all the more like a professional game. Upon receiving the ball, players may take a bad first touch, sending the ball skewing out of bounds or into an opponents player. Passes arent direct or crisp all the time, which sometimes leads players to sending errant balls throughout the field. While this can be a fun yet frustrating aspect of every game, it makes it all the more realistic.

The different game modes are as youd expect from any recent FIFA game. Manager mode continues to be a fun experience for players, allowing them to spend a season as coach of a club team or an international side. The realistic approach to the transfer market making it so players will only sign with your team if you have built prestige incentivizes players to succeed on the field so they can win off the field, too.

The Ultimate Team feature, which allows users to form a team of professional players and compete against other online soccer enthusiasts, is back and just as good as previous years. Its a little tough getting started with this mode if you dont start building your team upon the games release, youll certainly have some problems but its all the more fun knowing youre competing against people online who also have a mind for soccer.

But, as explained earlier, "FIFA 16" is not a game just for the soccer fan. It provides a fun, lively experience for sports fans and family gamers alike.

And who knows, maybe it turns those families into soccer fans along the way.

Game: "FIFA 16"

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows

Price: $59.99

ESRB rating: E for everyone


The Super Bowl is nearly upon us, which is a perfect excuse to experience the Madden franchise.

This years version of the game comes sleek and full of improvements that help new Madden players get all the more familiar with the game. And though there are a couple of drawbacks, Madden is as strong as its ever been.

Each time you take the field, EAs fake broadcast television station hypes up the game, showing you the matchups and providing a fun gameday atmosphere.

The fun only continues when you take the field. One of the newer features to "Madden 16" comes from the quarterbacks and receivers. Now, receivers can catch the ball in different styles, such as Aggressive a catch where the receivers grab the ball out of the air, in case there are too many defenders around; or YAC meaning yards after catch which allows players to catch and run right after to pick up more yards. Each of these styles is unlocked with a click of the button, giving a player a chance to make those miracle catches or pick up some extra yards down the road.

Another improvement from years past comes with the penalties. Rather than hope you called a challenge at the right time, referees will review plays on purpose at a quicker speed than before. Its one of the highlights of this years game and totally works.

But the games load times are a little slow. Users will find themselves sitting around for minutes at a time waiting for game screens to load. While this can offer you some tips on how to play the game better, it ultimately becomes frustrating when youre eager to get on the field and see which of your buddies is the king of the gridiron.

Still, "Madden 16" offers a terrific game experience that sits well with general sports fans and football fans alike. If you dont mind sitting around during the wait times, youll certainly find ways to enjoy this edition of the football game.

Game: Madden 16

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows

Price: $59.99

ESRB rating: E for everyone
Sign up for our e-newsletters