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Jason Ross's Games Not to Give for Christmas and the Holidays

It's no surprise my list is populated with licensed titles.

My “Don't Gift!” list consists only of titles I've personally played this year, but more to the point, they're games that might just appeal to Christmas shoppers at first glance. In truth, most of the games I mention do have an audience who would enjoy them, but I believe the games don't have the universal appeal that would make them a great gift for most. Most of the games I chose are licensed titles, based on graphic novels, movies, famous characters, and even theme park rides for good reason: These are often the games of disputable quality where other games are unquestionably better.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a title that was ultimately disappointing to me, although I'm a fan of beat-em-ups and the Scott Pilgrim source material. In it, Scott, Ramona, Steven Stills, Kim, and an unlockable character brawl their way through thousands of generic characters. They battle through various locations most of which loosely resembles scenes from the graphic novels or movies. This is rather characteristic of the assorted beat-em-up brawlers out there, yes, but in Scott Pilgrim, in many cases, the boss difficulty is just too high initially. While there aren't a ton of stages, each one feels as though it lasts a little too long, and the lack of variety of enemies really begins to shine around the third or fourth stage. With several video game references in the Scott Pilgrim books and film, it would seem a licensed game would be a great idea, but in execution, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game just isn't much fun to play for very long. If you know a Scott Pilgrim fan, look to buy your friend something else from the franchise.

Disney Epic Mickey is likely the most well-known and most tempting title on my list. For a full load of information of my thoughts on the game, feel free to check out my review. That said, Disney Epic Mickey is a game that has received glowing reviews, as well. In fact, a quick look at Metacritic reveals scores that range from 90/100 to 40/100, with an average of 73. My point? Epic Mickey is a polarizing title that some gamers will love and some will hate. For me and several others, Epic Mickey just wasn't fun or entertaining: Stage design is bland, many Disney references were skewed to be nearly unrecognizable, and much of the game consists of fetch quests. Yet, for others, Disney Epic Mickey is a marvelous game of choices, with brilliant classic Disney theme park and cartoon stages, populated with nostalgic characters from the player's childhood. With such a wide variety of reactions to this individual title, Disney Epic Mickey could become a Christmas wildcard gift – one that might be wildly praised or one that could be this Christmas's worst gift for its receiver.

Toy Story Mania! is the only game on my brief list that was released last year. Yes, that's right, despite the release of Toy Story 3 at the big screen, and despite newer Toy Story 3-based games, I'm including Toy Story Mania! Why? Because the game is still widely available, because I played it this year, and because there could very well be many new Toy Story fans out there, born from witnessing the newest and most recent Pixar film. Toy Story Mania! is a game that doesn't manage to live up to classic midway-styled lightgun games. There's a few different themed games based more on carnival midway-styled games, where players shoot eggs, rings, or darts at various, non-Toy Story targets. Interspersed between these brief shooting rounds are various midway-styled mini-games. One, in particular, a cup-based version of the three-card monte, is positively insulting, as the objects on screen would probably lose a race with a snail. Other mini-games are better, granted, but Toy Story Mania! remains a cheap cash-in on the Toy Story: Midway Mania theme park ride. Skip this one for interested Toy Story fans, and instead check out the much better Toy Story 3 game, based on the movie.

Super Scribblenauts isn't my favorite game. It's a lot of people's favorite game, mostly because of Super Scribblenauts's potential. Super Scribblenauts isn't much more than an illustrated crossword puzzle, and an overtly simple one, at that. The game has likely received all the praise and accolades possible since its release, mostly because people like to see random monsters bump into each other or try to stump the game's word-input system. In reality, Super Scribblenauts has stage upon stage of boring objectives where players try to list out words that fit a category or two. The result is an un-Mad Libs-like lack of variety and creativity, except when players defy the inherent goals of the stages within. Super Scribblenauts isn't a very fun game to play, and probably won't be fun to many people over the age of say, ten or twelve, especially in comparison to many DS titles out there. Ignore the awards and move on to something else to give this Christmas. Oh, and that pic on the left? A version of "tasty baby," a summon I noted in my review.

Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles just isn't worth your time. It's a short, repetitive game with very little variety and meaningless story. There is a very limited two-player versus mode, too. Buy a different Naruto game. Just about any different Naruto game will do. I hear there's some great Naruto fighters available for the Wii. Consider one of them, or something on a different platform perhaps. Just, whatever you do, don't get the Naruto fan you know Naruto Shippuden: Dragon Blade Chronicles. It will be a mistake.

Now, don't misunderstand. A few of the games on this list can be enjoyable for the right audience. The point is simple: These games most likely won't appeal to just anyone who might, on a whim, consider playing them. I widely believe Christmas gift-givers would be better off considering a title in our Holiday Buyer's Guide for something that likely has a bit wider appeal than the games listed here. Of course, if someone requested one of these titles, that's a different story, but otherwise steer clear of these games this holiday season.




12/19/2010 at 11:45 PM

What a crappy filler article. Desperate for some hits PixlBit?

Nick DiMola Director

12/20/2010 at 12:01 AM

Yup, that's why we put up articles, fishing for hits. C'mon, I think you know better.

Matt McLennan Staff Alumnus

12/20/2010 at 12:18 AM

"What a crappy filler article. Desperate for some hits PixlBit?"

It's called an 'opinion'. You don't have to agree with it, but at least Jason wrote it some some respect to the games knowing that [i]some[/i] people like said games.

And no, PixlBit isn't IGN. PixlBit is video gamer run, we're not attached to a media outlet.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/20/2010 at 10:17 AM

What makes it so crappy? Decent grammar and punctuation? Well-reasoned purpose to actually help people give games during the holidays? It was probably the tasty baby. How could you not want to eat him up!?

Maybe it was the tasty baby. Anyway, Matto, I have a tip for you! It's actual html coding that works on the site's comments, so to italicize, you need to use <> around the i. Forum code is just a little different.


12/20/2010 at 10:14 PM

Jason - I'm sorry your opinions just suck, when I attempt to read your reviews I just cringe and stop.

Nick - I know you can do better ;). PixlBit had so much potential but you let it rot both in quality and originality and it just seems like you don't give a crap anymore besides making it slightly prettier. There is nothing that makes PixlBit stand out from the thousands of gaming sites. I'm sorry but PixlBit is a complete failure outside of you being a cheap ass and having an excuse to garner some free games in the form of review copies.

Matto - You're right, Pixlbit isn't IGN, it's worse.

Nick DiMola Director

12/21/2010 at 12:33 AM

First off, opinions can't really suck. You might not agree with them, but they are exactly what they are - an opinion.

As for PixlBit, I think it continues to grow and flourish with each passing day. Hits continue to climb, our readership continues to expand, and the features we offer will continue to expand with that. Perhaps it doesn't stand out from the thousands of gaming sites on the internet, but that doesn't mean I don't love it for what it is.

I'm sorry you feel it's a failure, but in my eyes, it's one of my greatest successes. I created it from scratch, maintain it daily, add to its content consistently, and have a variety of people who both contribute and appreciate the content that is posted on it. I can't say I know exactly what makes it a failure in your eyes, but as far as I can tell, it's quite the opposite.

I do suggest, though, if IGN is so much better, you frequent that site rather than troll this one.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/21/2010 at 12:45 AM

I was writing up a response to post, but Nick beat me to it. I figured I'd post anyway, just because:

First, I should say this: It's great you don't agree with my reviews. I welcome constructive criticism and dissenting opinions. I would love it if you spent the time commenting on the reviews with a thorough disagreement, representing a different perspective. So far, any time anyone has disagreed, it's because they read one or two lines out of context or hadn't even played the game I reviewed yet. So, by all means, disagree!

As far as Nick goes, I've met the man in person. The guy is passionate about video games. Before he even joined NWR, he had a collection of over 1000 games, none of which were review copies. He started PixlBit because he didn't want to stick to covering Nintendo games. He's spent months worth of time programming PixlBit, by himself. Not just spare time. At the going rate for website construction, I'd suppose he's done at least thousands of dollars worth of work that could've been put to elsewhere. It's not an attempt to score review copies, not by any means.

As for PixlBit itself? Is there anything that makes PixlBit stand out? Not especially. Sometimes we get pieces of news up first, before most other sites. We've been in existence for less than a year and a half, and already, there's over 250 reviews. There's been over 270 features. Our podcasts aren't consistently recorded, but between PixlTalk and PB&Jason, there's over 40, with one or two more coming from me before the year ends. By sheer numbers, we do beat out many small game websites. More than that, though, our reviews and editorial opinions (though you disagree with mine) aren't filtered. Just the other day, I gave an Atlus game, one of our top publishers who support our site with early review copies and press acceess, 1 out of 5 stars. That's low. It was a bad game. Nick supported the decision for the low score all the way, since the content of my review matched the score assigned. So why Pixlbit? Because Nick, Chessa, and everyone else here wants to be honest with you, and our readers. Because we've been there, time and time again, having played a terrible, but over-hyped game. Because we want to share what games we've had great experiences with, but even more, in applicable cases, we want to help you find ways to improve your gaming experiences, like with Donkey Kong Country Returns. We want to give you real opinion in our reviews, rather than just describe them.

We don't always live up to that, I know. Still, we try. The point is, PixlBit is something special because it's genuine, "home-grown," and imbued with passion whenever we can show it. It's clear that isn't for you. That's unfortunate. I don't discourage criticism of the site, but I do ask that you keep it from being personal. If you make personal attacks, I honestly don't know how your comments will be treated, nor do I know how Nick will respond. That's not my role to know. Regardless, I wanted to give you a full and fair response, both to represent PixlBit and challenge many of the ideas you suggest about Nick, which are cheap shots, especially when I know he's too busy celebrating the holidays to give a full response for a few days, though he definitely will be keeping an eye at things, in the event comments get a bit out of hand.


12/22/2010 at 02:07 PM

Hey Jason,

Liked the editorial. I have two comments. My wife refuses to accept a list of things that I want--she believes that if we REALLY know each other, the gifts to get should be obvious. So, as someone that is actively living in fear that I will receive 'Epic Mickey' instead of the Metroid: Other M, DQIX, or Professor Layton that I have been hinting at, I really wish your article had gone up soon enough to do some good. At this point, if I point it out and she has already purchased it--uh-oh! Also, I love the idea of this feature--again, my wife recognizes that most of the games on the 'should buy' list are games that I may already have (except this year). It would be great to steer her away from games that might catch her eye because they are 'cute' or known (the only time that worked in my favor was 'Pikmin'). So my second comment is that it might be nice if next year you solicited opinions from other contributors to the site in order to broaden the scope of those games that should not be purchased. You'd have to change the title of course...

I don't visit the site often, but always find something of interest when I do. Keep up the good work.

Jason Ross Senior Editor

12/22/2010 at 03:29 PM

We'll likely be doing it again next year. We wound up being so far behind with the Holiday Gift Guide that we didn't have time to organize this list, as well. I'm glad to hear you like the concept. Thanks!

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