Video Game Roundup: Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, Disney Universe, Skylanders

There are so many games coming out this holiday season, it's getting to be absolutely daunting to follow them all! Some hidden family-friendly gems are falling between the cracks, so let's catch up on three that are worth a look.

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

Two of PlayStation's most popular characters are back with a fun new multiplayer adventure that is perfect for up to four people. Just make sure you bring friends.

The Ratchet and Clank series has a gameplay style that should be familiar to anyone who has ever played a 3D platformer, and its humorous attitude is how the series sets itself apart from the crowd. All 4 One is no different, as cutscenes throughout the game will keep the atmosphere light and funny, even with the multitude of explosions raining down around you.

The game has you and up to three other friends going through a variety of levels as you defeat enemies with tons of crazy weapons, collecting bolts (used to upgrade those weapons), and solving puzzles together. The cooperative play is the star of the show as players have to work together to progress through the game's different environments. It may be easy for some advanced players, but it's still rewarding when everything goes according to plan.

Another way players can work together is by coordinating attacks on your different foes. Simultaneously attack the same baddies and you'll eventually be rewarded with a super attack that will decimate the opposition. Again, the game reinforces the fact that you need to cooperate to get further in the game.

The only problem we had was when our friends left and we were playing solo. All 4 One is meant to be played with friends, and having a computer-controlled buddy just isn't the same. Don't get me wrong: it's still a pretty fun game, but veteran gamers may find it too easy for their tastes, and having a friend to compare high scores with at the end of every level can keep things fresh whereas the single-player doesn't have that extra layer of teamwork and competition.

If you have a PlayStation 3 and some extra controllers, and if you've been looking for another good party game (Singstar and Dance Central are already tops in that category on the PS3), Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is a welcome addition to keep the gaming going into the wee hours.

Disney Universe

Disney Universe is one of these rare family-friendly gems that takes familiar characters and puts them into a solid game with no real surprises to behold. And that's a good thing! Sometimes video games can be guilty of over engineering or being too clever for their own good. In Disney Universe, the real stars of the show are the characters and locales, as they should be.

In Disney Universe, you can wear over 40 different costumes as you explore six different worlds. These costumes show the strength of the Disney and Pixar libraries as they span everyone from The Pirates of the Caribbean's Jack Sparrow to Mike from Monsters Inc, and everyone in between. (And they are adorable omg.)

The levels are also inspired by a variety of different Disney and Pixar movies. You are able to hop into any of the levels you want whenever you want, as long as you unlock them first. This allows you to go straight to your favorite environments (our favorites were the Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland levels) without having to go through anything too tedious.

As for the actual game, it's a pretty standard platformer where running, jumping and hitting things with other things make up the majority of how you'll interact with enemies in every level. As you collect more gold Mickey tokens, you are able to spend those on new costumes and unlocking other levels.

While the game may not be the most creative use of some great Disney and Pixar characters, it doesn't take itself too seriously or tries to do anything too complicated. This is the perfect family game as up to four people can play at the same time, and it's never tricky or too hard for the less experienced players in your group. All in all, our time in Disney Universe was a lot of fun, and we hope to see more of these adventures in the near future.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

While shopping for 3DS games this holiday season, be sure to give Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure serious consideration.

What appeared to be a gimmick, a game that works in tandem with a series of plastic action figures, is one of the system's finest titles, a colorful, addictive and well designed platform adventure featuring lots of enemies to pummel, items to collect and characters to play as.

The starter kit, which retails for $69.99, is a bit pricey compared to other 3DS fare, but there's plenty of stuff inside the box, including the game, three Skylanders (out of 32) and the Portal of Power.

Allow us to explain. The aforementioned Portal wirelessly communicates with Nintendo's 3DS. From there, you take one of these toys (the game comes with Dark Spyro, Stealth Elf and Ignitor), place it onto the glowing piece of plastic and the character instantly appears in the video game.

From there, you charge through a series of enjoyable stages, beating up enemies and gathering all sorts of collectibles to complete specific challenges while saving this virtual world from an evil Portal Master named Kaos.

What ensues is lots of platform jumping, destroying objects, locating secret shortcuts and exploring multiple paths.

Return to the hub world, and you can insert another Skylander into the game. In fact, you can store up to two warriors at any given time, and switch between them on the fly by touching the respective icons located on the touch screen, a 3DS exclusive.

Not magic, per se, just a brilliant use of the technology, backed by a smart marketing campaign where players can pick up additional Skylanders at retail stores, where Activision sells packs of three for $19.99. Suffice to say, you'll need to cough up a lot of dough to enjoy the full experience.

Naturally, you don't have to spend a penny more than the initial $69.99, but here's the thing. There's no denying that all of these characters look cool, and that's only the half of it. Each Skylander posseses unique attacks and abilities that prove useful against enemies, allowing them to experience levels in different ways. Slowly, the thought of picking up just one pack gets to you.

That, however, is a true testament not to the concept as a whole, but the actual game, which Vicarious Visions did a wonderful job designing. It's definitely one of the best looking and playing 3DS efforts to date, and we absolutely love the use of glasses free 3D, which doesn't hurt our eyes like games past. Finally, a third party showpiece for the hardware that speaks to Nintendo's vision.

With this in mind, we wholeheartedly recommend Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, whether you're a kid or, like us, kids at heart.

Originally published on Modojo by Chris Buffa

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