Holiday shopping time! It’s a little rough every year – agonizing over finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, wondering if you’ll be able to find that special thing in time. Of course, this year is a bit more difficult, since so many of our wallets are, well, emptier than usual. It’s times like this you want to know the money you spend is going to make your loved ones smile.

That’s why we’re here with our holiday shopping guide all this week. Each day carries a different theme, representing different sorts of people with great gifts sure to be winners. Just find the days that best match your giftees and buy with confidence. Happy holidays!

For an overview of our 2008 Buyer’s Guide, click here.

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Attention kids from age one to 92! These are the cutest, brightest and most lovable releases of 2008. Build towers, solve a mystery and brawl as only Mario can, and you and yours will be feeling younger and more wholesome in no time. We’re all adults here … but it doesn’t mean we have to game like ’em!

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Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

There are DS games where the touch-screen functionality feels like a gimmicky, tacked-on afterthought, and then there are games like Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Professor Layton is a fresh and charming new take on the old point-and-click (er, point-and-touch?) adventure that follows the intrepid, puzzle-solving Professor and his sidekick apprentice Luke as they unravel the secrets surrounding the quiet village of St. Mystere and the mysterious Golden Apple. The offbeat residents of St. Mystere do love their puzzles, and Luke and Layton will have to tackle one brain-teaser after another if they want to shed some light on the truth. Using the DS touch-screen and stylus comes naturally, whether it’s scribbling notes or prodding everything in sight to try and find yet another Hint Coin, but the real stars of the show are the puzzles: some of them are easy and straightforward, some are fiendishly clever, but they’re all tremendous fun. The biggest puzzle of all, though, is the enigma of St. Mystere – can you figure it out before Luke and Layton do?

Up next: Prepare to get gooey.

World of Goo (WiiWare, PC)

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There were two types of kids growing up: Those whose Legos came in shrink-wrapped, ready-to-assemble kits, and those whose collection filled a closetful of 15-gallon storage bins. The former meticulously prepared their pirate ships and Millennium Falcons for permanent display on bedroom bookshelves. The latter searched frantically for that one perfect piece to complete their structurally dubious creations, only to tear them apart minutes later with equal gusto.

Collectors, there are plenty of videogames for you, including, not coincidentally, the Lego [Insert Franchise Here] series. Now, thanks to the immeasurable talents of Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel, there’s a game for the builders out there. World of Goo lets you construct any number of gravity-defying structures to shuttle troupes of anthropomorphic tar-balls across dozens of impossibly weird levels. But the game’s true genius lies in the World of Goo Corporation, a giant goo-filled playground where you can build to your hearts content. Erecting the tallest Tower of Goo? you can is almost as satisfying as watching it come toppling to the ground. Even better, you’ll never get stuck looking for that one missing piece.

Up next: Spend some time with a money-grubbing raccoon.

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Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)

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Animal Crossing is one of those games you pick up with the intention of playing just for a few minutes, only to suddenly realize that several hours have gone by. It’s wonderfully easy to lose yourself in the relaxing lifestyle of fishing, chatting with neighbors, decorating your house and digging up fossils. Don’t think that your hardcore gamer nature will render you immune to its charms, either. Sure, it’s adorable to the point of being precious, but the addictive appeal of perfecting your town – not to mention using the game to send juvenile or dorky letters to your real-life Animal Crossing-playing pals – is undeniable.

Up next: It’s a small world, after all.

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LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

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Forget for a moment that LittleBigPlanet is a delightfully entertaining platformer, as charming as it is challenging. Forget that it’s not just a fun single-player experience, but also offers some of the best co-operative gameplay that doesn’t involve guns. Forget that its easy-to-use editing tools mean the only barrier between you and the level of your dreams is your own imagination. Forget that new content for the game, including user-created levels from all over the world, is readily available on the PlayStation Network. Forget all of that and give LittleBig Planet to the gamer on your list because it is condensed happiness, a doubleshot of joy. It is exuberantly and unabashedly playful, walking up to the grim realism adopted by most modern titles and giving it a great big hug. A celebration of the frog-catching, cookie munching, mattress-bouncing child in all of us, LittleBigPlanet is the kind of game that reminds us why we got into gaming in the first place.

Up next: Throw down with a hedgehog, a princess, and a mercenary.

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Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

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It’s probably best to let the arguments over whether or not Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a suitable “competition” title stay on internet message boards where they belong, but we will say this: Party games don’t come much better than this. It’s easy to pick up and play, its roster contains some of the most iconic videogame characters of all time, and really, where else are you going to find Link and Sonic exchanging blows with Solid Snake and Yoshi, all the while dodging the racecars from F-Zero? Tournament play, shmournament play – Brawl is a blast and one of the best games to play with friends that doesn’t require anyone to get up and sing. Unless of course you want to bust out with the DK Rap, that is.

For an overview of our 2008 Buyer’s Guide, click here.

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