China Toy Fair


Skylanders Swap Force Continues the Franchise’s Reputation

This week, The Toy Book got a chance to preview Activision Publishing Inc.’s upcoming Skylanders Swap Force video game and toys at an after-school event in New York City. The original entry in the series, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, pioneered the idea of video games that interact with real-world toys. Now comes Skylanders Swap Force, in which special action figures can be disassembled into top and bottom halves and then reassembled into new characters that are playable within the game.

Skylanders SWAP Force, Stink ChargeThe game itself is as visually rich and immersing as previous entries in the series (although Playstation 4 (PS4) version takes the experience to a whole new level, but more on that later). At the demo, kids and their parents got to preview the levels, “Rampant Ruins,” a creepy jungle graveyard, and, “Winter Keep,” in which the Skylanders heroes have to retrieve a special device called the Illuminator—all while dodging huge flying snowballs. Each level features mini-games that vary in play style, keeping things from ever getting too repetitive. At one point during “Winter Keep,” the game switches from more traditional combat to a race through the sky along “rainbow rails.” [Read more...]

Grand Theft Auto V from Rockstar Games Is Now Available

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Rockstar GamesGrand Theft Auto V is available worldwide for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, and also available for digital download from the PlayStation Network.

For the first time, players can jump in and out of the lives of three playable lead characters, experiencing all sides of the same story. Grand Theft Auto V offers players the freedom to explore the urban metropolis of Los Santos and the countryside of Blaine County, plan and execute a series of heists, and meet a vast array of characters. Players can also participate in a host of activities such as golf, arms trafficking, base jumping, and yoga.

 

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX Now Available for PlayStation 3

KingdomofHeartsSquare Enix, Inc.’s Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX has for the first time made it to the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system. Sora, Riku, and timeless Disney characters from Mickey to Goofy along with the entire Kingdom Hearts universe will now be at players’ fingertips in a brand-new high-definition format.

Key features include:

  • Packaged Deal – One disc provides gamers with three titles: Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, and HD remastered cinematics from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.
  • Graphics – The character models and facial features have been updated, and the background textures have been completely overhauled.
  • Improved Controls – Revamped camera controls and commands create a more seamless gameplay experience.
  • Adventure through Beloved Disney Worlds – Worlds include Agrabah (Aladdin), Atlantica (The Little Mermaid), Halloween Town (The Nightmare Before Christmas), Monstro (Pinnochio), Never Land (Peter Pan), Olympus Coliseum (Hercules), 100 Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh), and Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland).
  • New Content Kingdom Hearts Final Mix includes new weapons, items, Heartless enemies, abilities, synthesis recipes and Gummi ship missions
  • All-star voice cast – The roster includes Haley Joel Osment (Sora), Hayden Panettiere (Kairi), David Gallagher (Riku), Mandy Moore (Aerith), and Jesse McCartney (Roxas). 

EA Sports NHL 14 Now Available in Stores

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Electronic Arts Inc. has released EA Sports NHL 14 at retail stores throughout North America on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Powered by a generation of the best EA Sports technology, NHL 14 allows players to access the NHL Collision Physics, the all-new Enforcer Engine, and a new level of speed and control with the second season of the True Performance Skating engine.

Other new features and modes include One-Touch Dekes, Live in the Life Mode, NHL 94 Anniversary Mode, and Hocket Ultimate Team (HUT) and EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL) Online Seasons.

Check out the EA Sports NHL 14 launch trailer:

COMMENTARY: PlayStation 4, Early Games Have Something for Everyone

I am, at best, a casual video gamer. I played a lot of Nintendo and Sega when I was younger, but I haven’t been an active video game consumer since the PlayStation 2. Still, I like to keep up on what’s current, even if all the latest controllers vex me with their myriad of buttons, and what really interests me is whether I can download every game from my childhood. So when I was offered a chance to preview the upcoming PlayStation 4 (PS4) from Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (Sony), along with some games that will accompany the launch, I went after it the way Sega’s Altered Beast would have gone after a shiny blue orb released by the death of a two-headed white wolf – in other words, like it was pretty darned important.

PS4 for commentaryAbout the hardware: Along with the PS4 console looking more squared-off than its predecessor, changes have been made to the DualShock controllers that are intended to improve game play. The thumbsticks, for example, are more comfortable, and the trigger buttons are curved to accompany the index fingers better. More radical changes are the addition of a small touchpad—it’s utilized significantly in Sony’s Killzone: Shadow Fall game, which I demoed, but more on that later—and a Share button that allows players to send in-game images to social media sites including Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook.

Other hardware additions include a PlayStation Camera, which works in tandem with the DualShock controllers to let users interact with certain games by simply moving their controllers through the air. (More technical specifics on the PS4 can be found here.) [Read more...]

Activision’s Call of Duty and Eminem Come Together for Ultimate Fan Offer

Call-of-DutyActivistion’s most anticipated game, Call of Duty: Ghosts and music icon, Eminem’s new The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will both drop on November 5. In collaboration with GameStop, anyone who pre-orders Call of Duty: Ghosts at GameStop will get his or her copy at the launch, which will include a code to download a special edition of The Marshall Mathers LP 2, featuring the track “Survival” plus a bonus studio track for a discounted price.

The ongoing collaboration between Activision and Eminem will continue later this month with a music video trailer featuring “Survival” and Call of Duty: Ghosts, and will extend throughout the launch of the title. The offer is redeemable through Monday, November 19, 11:59 p.m. EST.

The news of this limited-time offer follows additional pre-order headlines from last week, in which Activision and GameStop revealed that gamers who pre-order Call of Duty: Ghosts at GameStop will receive a pack of content that includes the bonus classic Simon “Ghost” Riley multiplayer character. Made famous in the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the return of one of the most iconic characters in Call of Duty history as a playable multiplayer character is a first for the series and is a pre-order incentive only available at GameStop.

Call of Duty: Ghosts will release on Xbox 360 game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system, PC, and Wii U on November 5. The title will also release on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 later this year. Call of Duty: Ghosts is rated M for Mature by the ESRB.

 

Disney Infinity Launches New Custom Toy Boxes

CaveofWonders1-X2Disney Infinity fans can continue their adventures in the revolutionary Toy Box mode with five brand new custom Toy Boxes that are available now for download free of charge on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U.

The five free Toy Boxes available now for download are:

  • Cave of Wonders Race – Race through the Cave of Wonders and Aladdin’s Agrabah Castle. Compete against Cars characters or other players.
  • Super Sidescroll – Trigger the side scrolling camera to start, then jump and bash through a classic game level. 
  • ESPN Speedway – Rev those engines and race friends around the stadium loop, brake for a pit stop, and celebrate with a victory lap.
  • Hot Lava – Rope bridges are the only thing between players and flowing lava in this treacherous Toy Box.
  • Wrestling Arena – Want to become the Disney Infinity combat champ? Battle friends in two tricked out wrestling rings.

[Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Licensed NFL Games Bring All the Gridiron Action Home

It’s nearing September, which means the start of the 2013 to 2014 NFL season. Among the major American sports, professional football very easily rates near the top; however, unlike baseball or basketball, the NFL is only broadcast three days a week. This raises the question: What to do on those other days when the ol’ pigskin classic isn’t scheduled to be played? With a little help from the National Football League itself, we have your perfect solution: two officially-licensed NFL board games, plus one NFL video game super-sequel that just hit stores.

NFL GameDayThe first board game up is NFL Game Day from Fremont Die, in which two players (or two teams of players) take turns attempting to score points or stop the other team from scoring. The length of a football field is approximated on a neat magnetic board, and the game features magnetic pieces as well as cards for offensive, defensive, and special teams plays. For the most part, game play revolves around one side plunking down an offensive card, while the other side puts down a defensive card at the same time. Depending on which cards are played, the possibilities range from a five-yard gain to something much bigger, no gain to a huge loss in yardage, or even a turnover.

The game play mechanics are straightforward enough that even football novices can pick them up quickly; however, if you already fancy yourself an expert on football strategy, NFL Game Day has the bonus of effectively putting you in the head coach or offensive/defensive coordinator’s chair. At third-and-five, will you run for the first down, go for a short pass, or opt for the play-action? If you’re on the defensive side, do you play the pass or the run, or maybe even go for an all-out blitz?

NFL Rush ZoneA slightly different, but no less compelling football experience awaits NFL diehards and laypeople courtesy of NFL Rush Zone from Techno Source. Like NFL Game Day, it features a game board with customizable end zones for all 32 teams (and plastic uprights that don’t serve a practical purpose, but look pretty cool), but the game mechanics are dice-based rather than card-based. Each side rolls three dice representing a complete set of downs, but if the total of the defense’s dies is higher than the offense’s, it becomes fourth down and the latter must decide between punting, kicking a field goal, or going for the conversion.

If NFL Game Day represents the coach’s point-of-view, NFL Rush Zone is more like the spectator’s. The mechanics are such that despite being active participants, much of what happens on the field is left to chance; any series of downs can go really well or terribly wrong, and it’s difficult to strategize based on the random rolling of three die. Events will transpire as they will, and isn’t that exactly what watching an NFL game (or most any sporting event, for that matter) is like?

In the game I was playing, my hometown Miami Dolphins were marching on offense, but then my opponent (the Seattle Seahawks, for those who were wondering) got a defensive takeaway by rolling three of a kind. They subsequently scored a touchdown and won, at which point, like any true fan and viewer, I called for the Fins’ head coach to be fired and the team sold to parties based out of Los Angeles. Perhaps NFL Rush Zone represents football from the perspective of the team owner as well?

MaddenNFL25Actually, if any licensed NFL product lets users step into the luxury wing tips of their typical franchise owners, it’s most likely EA SportsMadden NFL 25, the latest installment in the video game franchise. It arrived on August 27 for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Playstation 3. New features include an “Owner Mode,” which lets gamers run the organization top to bottom, doing everything from selecting players to setting the prices of concessions, to upgrading the team’s stadium. It’s an intriguing form of escapism—running a corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Madden NFL 25 retains the more traditional game play mode in which users control avatars of their favorite players, and this time around, the simulated action has an unprecedented level of smoothness and detail.

With these licensed games, NFL fans should be able to get their fix well beyond the coming football season.

For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!

Disney Infinity Debuts at Toys “R” Us Stores Nationwide

disney-infinity-figurinesToys “R” Us stores and Toysrus.com officially launched Disney Infinity on August 18. Disney Interactive’s new video game platform will be available on the Xbox 360 system, the PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, Wii U, and iPad. The game integrates collectible figures featuring characters from The Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studios with a video game experience that allows the characters to interact together—for the first time ever. In the U.S., the Infinite Crystal Series figures will only be available at Toys “R” Us. The figures are an assortment of collectible figures that have enhanced in-game abilities, as well as power discs that unlock special in-game powers, gadgets, vehicles, and more.

Each Disney Infinity character figure will come to life and play together in a virtual Toy Box. In this mode, players can build and customize their own virtual world using their favorite characters, vehicles, settings, and accessories. The game also includes a Play Set mode, a story-driven experience that allows players to solve puzzles, battle enemies, and explore locations from Disney properties.

Disney Infinity launched with an initial line of 18 collectible interactive figures and 21 Power Discs, including those found only at Toys “R” Us. Toys “R” Us will offer the largest assortment of Disney Infinity products available, which includes the Lighting McQueen Infinite Crystal Series figure, and Mike’s Car Power Disc (Monster’s Inc.).

D3 Publisher Debuts Turbo: Super Stunt Squad Video Game

turbo-super-stunt-squad-400D3Publisher debuted Turbo: Super Stunt Squad, a new action game that features the characters from the upcoming DreamWorks Animation  film, Turbo, set to hit theaters July 17. Each playable character has its own signature street style and skills including jumps, drifts, slides, flip, and other super stunt moves. Key features of the game include multiple upgrade and unlock abilities, and larger than life courses, all of which vary depending on the game console used. Turbo: Super Stunt Squad is available for Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 entertainment systems.