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Our Holiday Gift Guide 2008




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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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The holidays are almost upon us and we plan to help you do your shopping with our guide to gifts and stocking stuffers which we consider worthwhile and useful. This is a work in progress, so check it out often, as we compile our recommendations, based on personal, and often esoteric choices by our own staff and critics. This is the only time of the year we allow ourselves to express opinions, in this guide to stuff we actually use and like.

Guitar Hero World Tour - Band Kit [Activision]

Even with the success of "Guitar Hero III" last year, this year's "World Tour Band Kit" must be acknowledged as the ultimate incarnation of the "Guitar Hero" franchise (while we reviewed the Wii version, it is also available for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3). For fans of classic rock music this is the opportunity to build a Band Career or engage in the 8-player "Battle of the Bands," which allows two full bands to compete head-to-head online. There are also the authentic rock venues, but the greatest innovation is that the Band Kit comes with a groovy redesigned guitar, an authentic electronic drum kit, and a microphone, as well as the Music Studio music creator that lets players compose, record, edit and share their own rock ‘n’ roll anthems. As we said last year, go ahead and unleash your inner Hendrix and Rock on!

» Buy it

Wii Fit [Nintendo]

Does anyone remember the days when video games were bad for you because they turned players into couch potatoes? Well, as everybody probably knows the Nintendo Wii Fit is in such great demand that shortages are forcing stores to limit the total number of Fit units that can be purchased. Imagine: a video game accessory that will make you work and sweat, and it's flying off the shelves even during a time of recession. And no wonder, since this is a genuine phenomenon, and so much better for you in so many ways than any talking Elmo doll. While it may seem like a system for people who are already fit or too young to know any better, the Fit is designed for everyone, young or old, fit or full of cupcakes, with more than 40 activities of differing tension and challenge level. Each player works towards his personal fitness goal, by choosing Strength Training, Aerobics, Yoga and Balance games. You can check your daily progress, set goals, and check your Wii Fit Age (measured by factoring the user's BMI reading, testing the user's center of gravity and conducting quick balance tests). Exercise (sorry, meant to say "Play") as much or as little as you wish. Please be warned that the Fit will allow up to eight family members to create their own profiles, and everyone can see each other's BMI progress. Better get fit fast.

» Buy it

Petz Rescue Wildlife Vet [Ubisoft]

The budding vet in you can play as a young doctor to all manner of animals: you are vet in a new animal clinic, and you start by taking care of pets. Then you can move on to local exotic baby animals, and even endangered species. Diseases are mysteries you need to work through diagnoses and treatment but you also get to build an eco-friendly sanctuary for marine animals and develop a relationship with dolphins. The challenge is to progress from neighborhood vet to one of the world's most prestigious NGOs.

» Buy it

Ener-G Horse Riders [Ubisoft]

Yes, you get to ride a horse, as Sue, a new rider who has just arrived at her uncle's horse farm. You need to nurture and train your horse before competing, and you must pay special attention to the relationship you build with your equine partner: the stronger your relationship, the better you'll do at racing. You get to choose your horse's characteristics, from the breed to the color -- and even its personality on a spectrum from shy and sensitive to happy and playful. Other missions include saving, taming and training wild horses, and creating your horse farm. As you progress you can unlock new training environments and find hidden paths.

» Buy it

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker [Square Enix]

The latest installment in the venerable RPG franchise, developed specifically for the Nintendo DS: the player assumes the role of a Monster Scout as he captures, trains and breeds a powerful team from more than 200 classic Dragon Quest creatures in order to become the best in the world.

» Buy it

Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings [Square Enix]

Developed specifically for the Nintendo DS, it features full Touch Screen functionality, allowing players to control massive armies, unleash special moves and activate Gambits, all with the use of the stylus. There are plenty of familiar monsters from across the spectrum of "Final Fantasy" games, including perennial favorites like Chocobos and Tonberries.

» Buy it

And now for something different...

Had enough of video games? Harking back to something simpler, a more fundamental family entertainment? Well, there are still board games based on all sorts of concepts. But two that can also be educational are "Mogul" and "Flashcar." "Mogul" will unleash your inner Donald Trump (hopefully without the bad hairdo) as it simulates real-world real estate business transactions and management, teaching the importance of analyzing deals, and the significance of cash and credit management. The concept behind "Flashcar" is to teach children addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, from basic to advanced mathematical concepts, by using the completive world of auto racing: while many variables change with auto racing, such as drivers, sponsors, car makes, etc. the car numbers remain constant and thus can be used in math equations, making the tedious flashcard ritual more engaging.

» Buy Mogul | Buy Flashcar



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