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.