In this series, I have mentioned the importance of choosing appropriate games for your kids to enjoy. It’s my opinion that the bulk of the anti-video game debacle of the early Nineties could have been avoided if parents just paid a bit more attention to what their kids were doing..but I digress. Every parent should do his or her own due diligence to ensure that their children are playing games that are appropriate for their age. That applies to the game’s content as well as game play mechanics. I would hate to ruin my daughter’s opinion of a really fun game by presenting it to her at an age that would result in excessive frustration. Well folks, I did exactly that… I let my nostalgia guide me and chose a game for Mae and I to play together that was not only near impossible for her, but downright tough for me as well. You would think I’d have learned my lesson after Sam and Max when it comes to choosing games… All was not lost however, after failing spectacularly, we did find something to play together that fit our Daddy/Daughter gaming dynamic perfectly.
Animaniacs for the Sega Genesis was recommended by our local retro shop and appeared to be a comical side-scrolling romp through one of the best 4th wall breaking cartoons of my childhood. I thought Mae would enjoy it and considering the cartoon features three main characters, I thought some sort of multi-player would be available so we could play together. Now Animaniacs looks innocent enough, the first stage is even pretty easy. You push a box, you blow a kiss at a dog. Easy right? But no, this game has a secret. It doesn’t like you. Animaniacs wants you to fail. With only a little help, Mae cleared the first stage and we went on to a jungle themed movie set level. Great visuals abound and nice sounds chirp from the TV but our progress is slow…painfully slow. The three main characters are present but no multi-player is available (big let down), instead you swap between the characters on the fly and use their special abilities to progress. In addition to some really challenging platforming it also features well thought out puzzles. It was soon apparent that while this game was fun and has a lot of potential, this wouldn’t really be something that we could play together. Mae might not be able to take the controls again for a while, but she can happily watch on as her dad becomes joyfully frustrated with Animaniacs.
Luckily, shortly after our failed attempt at Animaniacs, a collection of roughly 50 Sega games went on sale on Amazon for a whopping $5. I quickly nabbed the pack and combed through the list to see what Mae and I might be able to enjoy together. I found an adorable arcade port of a game released back in 1984. Flicky is one of those games that is simple and easy to pick up but difficult to master, pretty much what I shoot for when searching for games that we can both enjoy. Brightly colored and fun, featuring a chickadee rescuing bird who dodges cats and lizards and throws potted plants and bar stools.
Levels are simple, move left or right to traverse various platforms to get the little chicks to follow you, lead them to the door and avoid obstacles. many of the stages can be completed in about a minute or less. Maybe a bit longer if you are 4 years old who’s intention is just flying all over the screen watching the chicks chase you. This game really cranks the cute up to 11. Some of the levels seem to take place in a child’s nursery with elephants on the walls. The music is light and catchy and the little chick catching mini-game is charming. We really enjoyed Flicky and bet that you and your little ones will too.
With Mother’s and Father’s day on the distant horizon, I wanted to see how some of you use gaming as a way to bond with your kids. What are your favorite games to play with your kids? What kind of limits do you have in place to balance gaming and other activities? I would love your feedback and (if OK with you) might feature some of it in a future piece, let me know in the comment section below or send me 140 characters on Twitter.