Platforms: XBox One
The kids are home from school, the end of the lockdown seems a million miles away, and you are on a budget, they have ploughed through the games they own and are fast becoming bored.
Fear, not Xbox Game Pass will keep them entertained, with over 100 games, and 40+ suitable for all ages, you will find something to keep them amused, today lets look at six games to keep the kids happy during self-isolation.
1) Lego Worlds.
I Dreamed A Dream…
Lego is beloved the world over, and having the ability to play with unlimited pieces is a dream shared by builders old and new, however, for most people who are not millionaires or a direct descendent of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a dream is as far as this gets.
But that needn’t be true while owning an unlimited selection of physical bricks is out of reach for most people.
The entire lego universe is at your fingertips thanks to lego world, one of the most inventive and imaginative lego games to date, unleash your inner master builder and recreate the seven wonders of the world, feeling less inventive?
How about digging a pit and filling it full of LEGO cavemen and monkeys? The entire world is yours to command and explore.
Lego games have an ageless charm all of their own, their quirky cartoony style looks as good in 2020 as ever, having recently played the original Lego Star Wars (2005), I was amazed just how well its held up graphically when compared to modern lego titles, and while there have been refinements to the art style, the core gameplay mechanics and aesthetics have held up well.
Something For Everyone.
Gamers young and old will enjoy the simple quests which teach you how to use the powerful tools at your disposal as you sculpt the world around you.
Collectors will love scouring the galaxy for new Lego Minifigures to unlock and Lego bricks to add to your collection.
Once a Lego brick or Lego Minifigure is found and unlocked (with studs, an entirely in-game currency), you can spawn them in unlimited copies, your only limit is your imagination.
Lego Worlds is a great game for children. However, gamers of all ages and skill levels will enjoy letting their inner architect free, with some builds containing tens of thousands of parts.
Character customisation is a huge part of Lego Worlds, and with hundreds of Minifigure parts to unlock, you will never feel restricted by the massive amount of customisation possible.
Lego World offers two-person co-op, the Gameplay remains the same as when in single player, except now you can bring a buddy along, both local and online co-op is supported.
2) Rocket League.
There is no doubt that Rocket League was once the talk of the town, and while its trending success may have faded some over the years to newcomers like Fortnite and Apex Legends, let’s look how it’s doing in 2020.
5 Years Later.
In 2015 when Rocket League first launched it was like nothing else on the market, a groundbreaking combination of highspeed vehicular combat and football, it earned the affection of millions of players worldwide.
Five years later our love affair with Rocket League shows no sign of letting up, and with full crossplay having launched in 2019, it’s unlikely to lose that place in the heart of million until an eventual sequel dethrones it.
Why Is It So Good?
The formula for Rocket League’s success can be broken down into two core areas.
It’s Just Plain Fun.
There are serious games on the market that require memorising half a keyboard full of controls and dozens of combos.
Then there is Rocket League, which has one of the easiest control schemes in existence to learn, a few keybinds/controller buttons and you are set, the learning curve with rocket league unlike many eSport titles is entirely focused around timing and skill, and not the ability to memorise several dozen pages of combos, yes I am looking at you Tekken 7.
Rocket League allows anyone to jump in and have fun, even when you lose a match, the gorgeous aesthetic and fun mechanics make each match enjoyable.
Watching yourself improve match after match is a great confidence booster for children/non-gamers and Rocket League is a great gateway game to encourage non-gamers to step into our world.
A regular stream of limited-time modes and crossover events ensure the gameplay experience feel fresh, my personal favourite LTM is Heatseeker.
In this mode, even the slightest touch of the ball sends it rocketing towards your opponent’s goal.
However, time your shots carefully as every missed shot locks the ball on to your own goal!
In 2017 Psyonix announced Rocket League had sold over 10.5 million copies and while I am sure that was the lions share of sales, its continued success and high concurrent users signal its most likely sold a large amount since, yet without official numbers, we can only speculate on this point.
This income coupled with a thriving cosmetic scene has ensured that Rocket League is a cash cow that Psyonix does now wish to fade away, and despite what Reddit users would tell you, that is fantastic for gamers.
Continued cash flow, ensures the continued development of any game, publishers are businesses, and once game stops bringing in the green, its put out to pasture.
As long as microinstructions are non-predatory and offer no competitive edge, the more, the better.
Just because something exists doesn’t mean you have to buy it, and if someone else wants to spend their hard-earned money on a hat for their car, LET THEM, it’s good for the game. In the long run, its good for you, as the publisher has a vested interest in keeping its high earning properties updated and active.
If Rocket League had sold only a few copies in 2015, do you think Psyonix would have put so much time and money into full crossplay in 2019? almost four years after release? Of course not.
Always someone to play with.
Success brings success. It’s a fact that has followed humanity since the dawn of creation, Rocket League’s high concurrent player base ensures a continuous stream of new players, which in turn keeps the player base numbers looking appealing, which leads to further new players and the cycle continues,
Yes undoubtedly millions may have stopped playing over the years, but their leaving is neither felt or missed due to the constant influx of new players, in March 2020 the CCU on Steam hit an all-time high of 119,124, 4x its 2015 launch day total.
Very few games ever live long enough to match their launch CCU, let alone beat it 4x.
This fact is all the more amazing when you consider Rocket League is far more popular on consoles than PC, with the PC userbase long believed to be the second smallest, next to Switch that is itself is amazing.
March 2020 also had a record showing for consoles, with a combined PC/Console crossplay CCU of 550k players on March 25th.
While steam fanboys have cried an ocean of tears over Epic acquiring Rocket League, it’s a very hopeful sign of things to come.
Only fools could deny how popular Fortnite Battle Royale has become.
Epic knows how to handle a massive property, and while Psyonix has done an exceptional job so far, coupled with the vast resources of Epic, I am excited to see what comes next for Rocket League.
Worth A Play?
If you want a great Esport title that supports both online and local multiplayer you cannot go wrong with Rocket League, a great and non-violent game suitable for all ages.
3) JetPac: Refueled
Jetpac proves that gamers of the 1980s were either smarter than the gamers of 2020, or there is something wrong with every 1980s/1990s game ever made.
North, South, East, West, 4-way directional controls are not the best.
Jetpac Refuelled is a game with two major modes, the first of which is classic Jetpac from 1983, upon starting this mode I found myself quickly killed over and over, the total lack of diagonal controls to me felt as alien as trying to drive with my eyes closed, I just couldn’t get used to it.
For as long as I have been gaming (almost 30 years) games have offered a way to move diagonally, and my muscle memory is hardwired to expect it.
Could I have gotten used to it? Sure, I find I can adapt to almost any control scheme given time, but with Jetpac Refuelled sitting there looking all pretty and offering diagonal controls, why should I bother?
I have missed games like this, relics of a bygone era, the early 2000s had some truly fantastic 2D shooters, such as R-Type Delta one of the greatest games of the last 50 years, an underrated gem that deserves a remaster.
Jetpac Refuelled itself is no spring chicken, over 12 years old it’s hardly a new kid on the block.
Graphically speaking, Jetpac Refuelled is not cutting edge, its an Xbox 360 title, and that is ok, the Xbox 360 gave us some astonishingly fun games, one of which is Jetpac Refuelled, the controls are very simple and the gameplay loop east to grasp, the challenge is one of skill and reflexes, the earmarks of the 80s arcade titles.
I found it enjoyable and for me was a happy look back at the type of games I played as a child in the 90s, thanks to the remaster it looks a fair bit better than the games I played then and overall I don’t feel anyone would feel cheated giving this a go.
Worth a Play?
As its part of Xbox Game Pass and a small (500MB) download, I fully suggest everyone who has even the slightest bit of interest in arcade games to give it a try.
4) Viva Pinata.
Viva Piñata is fast approaching 15 years old and still holds up great in 2020. Kids especially will have no trouble being absorbed by the vibrant world and colourful characters that inhabit it.
The gameplay loop is straightforward and takes the form of a lite management simulation, with hints of the virtual pet craze of the 90s, slowly renovate your garden and make it more inviting to the Piñata creatures who wish to call it home.
I must confess to enjoying breeding worms, and then getting even more enjoyment as the bird-like creatures ate one in front of its worm family, who all gathered around to bask in the confetti and candy-filled remains of their beloved wormy.
Viva Piñata is gore, sex and violence-free and is a real pleasure for casual gamers of all ages, the perfect introduction game for non-gaming partners or for introducing a young child to console gaming.
When a game of 14 years old has this level of polish and stands up well in 2020, it makes me wonder how good a new Viva Piñata could be, and would we still be playing it in 2034?
Banjo-Kazooie, known more for its meme than being an actual franchise, Banjo & Kazooie truly are a second rate video game duo, a fact admitted by the characters during the third game in the series.
Mechanically the games are sound for their time, yet despite their quality come off as rip-offs of Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario, and Sonic the hedgehog.
I personally like to think the similarities were a parody by Rare, who are known for excellent mechanical quality, stunning visuals, as well as a wicked sense of humour, as a parody of mascot gaming, Banjo-Kazooie is ingenious.
Banjo-Kazooie: focuses on slapstick humour and cartoon network style insults, young children will love these games, with vibrant characters, all of whom have quirky personalities and abilities.
As an adult I didn’t laugh, so much as groan at the constant nicknames such as goggle face, feather butt etc., its very much the product of a late 90s Nicktoons generation of humour aimed at children.
Graphically these games look like relics in 2020, but I can appreciate how good they were in in 1998, having gamed heavily during that era, I cannot say they were anywhere as impressive as Crash Bandicoot for example, but for Nintendo 64 titles, they were pretty sweet!
Combat feels a mix between Spyro and Sonic the Hedgehog, with Kazooie lending her wings and beaks to compliment your rather basic roll and slap attacks as Banjo, the bear.
Banjo-Tooie: is more of the same, with a greater emphasis on collectables and a wider array of enemies and enhanced abilities.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts throws out almost everything from the prior games, even replacing its brand of humour with one that focuses on self-deprecation, I personally loved how Banjo was unfavourably compared to Mario, and the bizarre focus on collecting items and puzzle pieces was finally addressed in a humorous fashion.
The Gameplay this time, however, is mostly vehicle-based, and for me, it didn’t work, many games during the 2000s tried to reinvent themselves, Mario took up every sport under the sun for example, but unlike Mario, the shift in focus for Banjo-Kazooie didn’t pay off.
While its a decent vehicle action game and a whole lot prettier than the original Bango Kazooie games, it lacks the charm of its predecessors.
Banjo Kazooie are great games for the young and young at heart, full of late 90s nostalgia.
Young children won’t be put off by the dated visuals and will get a kick out of the cartoonish humour.
Tweens and teens who do not appreciate vintage console gaming may find the games unappealing.
The following Banjo-Kazooie games are available on Xbox Gamepass!
- Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
- Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts(2008)
6) Human: Fall Flat.
This game is one which to my shame sat unplayed for far too long, it simply never appealed to me, and honestly, it’s not a game I will personally play very much, as its not my cup of tea, but that being said I can recognise a good cup of tea, even if I won’t drink it!
Human Fall Flat is a surprisingly fun game with simplistic graphics and animations that add to the absurd genius of the fantastic Gameplay, and that absurdity is what makes Human Fall Flat stand out and truly shine.
It feels like you are partaking in a really low production value cartoon from the early 2000s Cartoon Network, and that look and feel is exactly what a semi-comical physics-based game needs, the ability to not take itself seriously.
Overall I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in puzzle or physics-based games.
Xbox Game Pass, an ever-growing catalogue of over 100 games that is a great way to try a whole smorgasbord of games, including day one access to all Microsoft first party titles, for just a few dollars a month.
Playstation Now, stream over 800 PS2, PS3 and PS4 games legally on your PC & PS4 with PSNow, a ground breaking cloud gaming console service for Playstation 4 and PC