Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gifts you won't mind giving them (DS games review)

First let me hop on my soap box...  Now even though I consider myself to be a technophobe (my term meaning "geek", not to be confused with the term "nerd"), I am vary wary about my kids exposure to technology, especially at too young of an age. I decided that eight was a good age for a first hand held gaming device, and I came up with this age based on my experience as a teacher, and knowing my kids. The brain is tangled messes of neuron activity at ages 1, 4, 7, and 11, and these are critical brain development years when the brain is primed for new learning. Language develops from ages 1-2, and reading skills develop from ages 4-7, so books, pretend play, and different experiences are crucial-hand held games, not so much. (An easy explanation can be found here Family Education)

Sometimes the decision to buy the hand held unit is the easy part-there are so many games at so many different price levels, (nobody wants to dump $40 on a game that sits on a shelf) that I thought I might steer you toward a purchase that was both fun and educational, so I’ll get off my soapbox now and give you some of the best bets for DS games-some of my choices are also those by other Internet review sites, such as CNET reviews, and

My number one pick is Scribblenauts, and it’s the very first DS game I bought for my daughter three years ago-my son is now interested in it. The game won numerous awards for its creative approach to problem solving, and the awards are well deserved. The premise is similar to other games-Maxwell must collect game pieces (in this case the pieces are called "Starites") that are hidden among the different difficulty levels. However, in order to collect these pieces, he has to solve a series puzzles, and the puzzles are anything but ordinary. Maxwell is given dilemmas that start out easy (How can you get past a bee?) to more difficult (How can you exterminate ants without upsetting a hippie?), you type or write things that may help, and the game creates them. For example, type bee catcher for the first scenario and see what the game does with it. The game stimulates problem solving, encourages vocabulary development, and helps kids with their spelling, although your child won’t realize this at all.

The game did have some problems, and one is the reliance on some of the same objects to solve the problems, and there were some movement difficulties, so get the newest version, Super Scribblenauts, because it not only addresses all of the first games shortcomings, it now lets you add adjectives to things you ask the game to create (i.e. Exploding volcano, not just a volcano). The game will also create just about any non-trademarked object (with notable exceptions that keep the game kid friendly), and it really is one game that you yourself would enjoy. This game was number one on 

And if you want to solve puzzles and enjoy more of a story with your quest, then why not add one of the Professor Layton DS games to your gift bag. My son will be getting the latest version, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, although the other games play out in the same manner: Professor Layton and his apprentice Luke are trying to solve a mystery, but along the way there are smaller puzzles and riddles to be solved. The games are like interacting with a mini-movie, with added conversation and 3-D effects that really make it enjoyable. This game was number two on 

For older kids (10 and up) you can’t go wrong with any of the Zelda adventure games. The latest, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is said to be the series best, and again you are helping the main character, Link, problem solve. Take note that there is some swordplay with "bad guys" involved, although nothing I would consider too graphic. This game has made the top ten list on many gaming review sites, and it is also recommended on the site.

And then there are those games that are classics for fun like Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, and who doesn't love Mario? My daughter enjoys the DS Cooking Mama game that let’s you cook different recipes along with mama, and although I don’t think it’s particularly educational, sometimes a good game is great because it's fun to play.  Happy shopping!

All game screen shots were used for the sole purpose of review and fall under the fare use act of the copy write law.  The opinions expressed are my own and were done without compensation of any kind, including the receipt of any games for review.  And although was referred to and used as a resource, I do not agree with many of the games listed as top children's games on their site.


  1. Hi Susan!
    Wonderful review!My son is only 8.But good to know what is coming next:)He loves games of course like all boys.Cooking Mama game sounds just PERFECT!Hehe..:))
    Have a great day! xo

  2. I have a DS myself and really love it. I bought my daughter Cooking Mama and she thinks it's so much fun, even at her age!

  3. I have a DS myself. I don't really use it as much as my husband does though. Come to think of it we both haven't been doing much video game playing since my son was born. Anyway, these look like cool games for my nieces. They like to play their DS a lot.

  4. Yonca, I thought you might like the cooking game...

    blueviolet, I am the only one in the family now that doesn't have a hand held game, but I have my smart phone, so I guess that's an even trade.

    Mommy is Green, I am hoping that maybe Santa will give me one of these systems, but like you, I don't know when I would play with it.

  5. Thanks Susan for all the interesting reviews. My sons are big gamers here and I like some of those titles. My oldest is into the wild games. I like the adventure style ones for my two middle boys. Have a great weekend! We're hoping to get the tree up tomorrow.

  6. septembermom, your oldest would like any of the Zelda games because it's action/adventure alongside problem solving. (I know high school students who still remember the Zelda games fondly!)

  7. great review, I've kind of wanted one for myself, forget the kids!

    Can you believe I got a dog? I'm so happy though, I feel like the family is now complete. But there is a lot of extra crap that goes with it (pun intended). : )


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