Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Gaming gifts and how to justify them

The world is in financial crisis, economies are wobbling, deficits are mounting (don’t worry, this isn’t a political rant)… but it’s also Christmas time – the season of gluttony, greed and gaming. The stores are crammed with eager shoppers, the shelves jam packed with the latest must-have accessories, gizmos – and, most importantly, games.

There are plenty of top new releases and peripherals lining the shelves ready for the Christmas spending spree. Sadly, the very nature of gaming means that many of these great gifts may be a little tricky to justify in these straitened times… so Megabits has decided to list a few of them and suggest how best to convince your loved ones that they won’t be wasting their money.

- Megabits of Gaming accepts no liability for these lame reasons proving unsuccessful.These are meant purely as a guide - and, to be honest, your loved ones probably don't love you enough anyhow!

KINECT (£130)
Top of the wish list must be Microsoft’s new motion controller. After much anticipation, Kinect is finally here and, it’s safe to say, has divided the gaming world. Megabits has run several articles in recent months looking at the technology and questioning how it can overcome some of its critics. We highlighted the main reasons why it could flounder and considered the unforgiving requirements when setting it up. But now its here, many gamers (most of the Megabits team included) are coming round to the idea of prancing about the place looking like an imbecile. So how can you possibly convince Santa to pop the oversized camera in your stocking? It’s got a hefty £130 price tag, so that’s certainly a stumbling block… but consider the bigger picture.

Your loved ones may be all the more willing to splash the cash if it were for health reasons, and judging from the feast of fitness-related games available at launch, Microsoft is confident this is its key selling point too. Fitness Evolved, Get Fit With Mel B, EA Sports Active 2 (with blood pressure counter) and countless dancing games are all but guaranteed to help you shed the pounds. And you’ll no doubt be piling them on at Christmas. In the grand scheme, you’ll also be taking the strain of your ailing economy and burgeoning health service in your bid to take a detour from the lonely path to obesity-ville. You could help your country fully emerge from the recession!

Alternatively, if you’re as skinny as a rake – or just too rotund to move – you could argue that its purchase (along with new cutesy game Kinectimals) is a great alternative to buying a pet for the kids and would save you money longterm.

The cuddly little virtual animal that bounds about your screen won’t foul your carpet, scratch your furniture or bite your neighbours. No trips to the store for petfood are necessary, there’s no risk of flees or mange and you certainly won’t have expensive vet bills. What’s more, when your children tire of the whimpering, you can chuck the critter back in the box and forget about it – which is often frowned about when you do it with the real thing!

Clearly, these are long shots but it’s surely worth a go for one of this year’s must-have accessories. Besides, the fact that camera allows voice chat (saving phone bills to friends and family) and voice control (so you don’t have to replace any lost – and often costly - TV remotes) make it a worthwhile investment, surely? Um, and controlling everything with arm gestures also makes you just like Tom Cruise in Minority Report too – a surefire hit with the ladies! Are we scraping the bottom of the barrel for reasons to purchase the thing? Nah.


Another year, another sequel. Both Black Ops and FIFA are fantastic games in their own right – check out our respective reviews here and here if you don’t believe us - but to the uninformed, how on earth can you justify craving a game you pretty much already own?

Be honest, besides a few graphical tweaks and game modes (Black Ops’ wager and contract matches, and customisation… and FIFA, with its new goalkeeping mode and improved passing), these full price releases do amount to little more than updates. Trying to convince your loved ones that these necessitate a purchase may be a little tricky.

For Black Ops, I’d suggest you play the value for money card… Sure you get a more substantial solo player mode than usual, the online modes have been beefed up and there are zombie levels – a real fan-favourite – but as you’ve no doubt read in our recent article (Is Black Ops menu the best ever?), there are plenty of little surprises on offer for the unsuspecting gamer too. Free yourself from your shackles on the main menu screen and you can wander round to a nearby computer console. Type in a code and voila, a bonus twin stick shooter game that would actually fare pretty well were it available to buy. Oh, and it lets you play with guns – which could get you locked up for a few decades were you to try and do so in reality. If your girlfriend doesn’t buy you Black Ops, you could instead end up in chokey!

Valid reasons for yet another FIFA purchase are perhaps a little tougher to come by… granted, it’s by far the best version to date and it looks and plays better than ever. But, as if you’re the owner of last year’s game, why do you need this one? It’s uber-realistic now, so perhaps you could suggest it would be a decent alternative to subscribing to an expensive satellite television package – you could just re-enact the matches whenever you want... and your friends and family can sit round and watch you as though they’re seeing the real thing.

INFLATABLE WII RACING KART (with free foot pump!) (£24.99)
You may have already seen the inflatable dingy (an essential additional to any self-respecting Kinect Adventures player!!) but here is the ultimate Wii accessory, the inflatable racing kart. Pump up this red and white speedster, carefully slot your Wiimote into the steering wheel and squeeze your ass into this luxurious add-on. Talk about immersive gaming… now, you can literally step into the shoes of Mario, Bowser and Toad as you hurtle round the Mario Kart track. Lean into each curve, bounce slightly after you jump a ramp – and get friends to spin you and your inflatable round and round as though you’ve hit a banana skin. It’s inspired and a must have accessory. Friends and family will think you’re barmy – but explain that it will actually encourage you to dust off your unused Wii console (probably one of the must-have gaming gifts you had to justify a year ago). To paraphrase Microsoft’s latest marketing slogan, it could also make you feel like “you’re the controller” – meaning they don’t have to part with £130 and buy you Kinect instead (see above).

ARCADE CABINET (from £2,249)
Ah, the ultimate boy toy. Of course you’ll have to play it pretty much 24/7 until it breaks to make its hefty price tag seem worthwhile, but its great for nostalgia. Megabits is already salivating over the coffee table that doubles as a games machine – but wouldn’t an actual upright arcade cabinet be far more cool? Sure, you can’t put your feet up on it or eat off it in front of the television but it sure makes a handy clothes horse when you’ve had your fill of the hundreds of classic games from yesteryear that are now at your fingertips. Just tell your other half that it’s a space-saving device... rather than loads of wires, peripherals and games boxes littering you home, this rather tasty looking unit requires far less floorspace! In effect, you’re not only getting an arcade cabinet but the gift of space!

It’s Pacman, star of the classic retro title of the same name, in the form of an oven glove so that your pinkies are protected while grabbing searing hot food. What a wonderful addition to the household that seamlessly combines two of Megabits’ favourite past-times. Yellow and made entirely of silicone, even one of the levels is replicated inside his mouth (you can see all the little pills and paths – genius). How should you convince others you need this classy kitchenware? Safety, safety, safety! ‘Nuff said.

Developed by Harmonix, this space-hungry set of plastic instruments continues to sell well, making fans of the games look like real rock gods! Forget your old, run of the mill control pads – grab the microphone, guitar or drum sticks and headbang along to your favourite tunes. Sure, it may take up most of your floor space – and it’s hardly inexpensive – but you could legitimately claim that it’s all part of appreciating music – and if you have kids, it’s far cheaper than buying them a noisy new trumpet and lessons.

Play in luxury with the “Ultimate Gaming Chair” – with its integrated speakers, vibration and “plush mimic leather upholstery”! There are plenty of these chairs about – some boast drinks holders, others have a place for the remote control... but this one looks the business. Sure, it may not exactly be an essential add-on, but what price can you put on comfort when playing your favourite FPS or racer? How should you justify this as a present? Just tell the gift-giver that it will put an almighty smile on your face and prevent back ache, saving costly chiropractic bills in the long term.

Don’t have the space for a full blown arcade cabinet? Then why not go miniature with Pinball Magic – the gadget that converts your iPhone into a pinball table? It doesn’t just look like the real thing (albeit tiny) but the flippers and ball launcher actually work too. Smaller, cheaper and less of an eyesore than the real thing, plus if family and friends get irritated by all the bells and blings as you play, you can pick it up and take it to another room. Everybody’s happy!

Concerned by all the shovelware that finds its way onto Ninendo’s Wii? Worry not, for while the games will be left untouched in their cases, you and your friends can still have plenty of fun building your very own Wii-mote. Good old LEGO means that there are literally thousands of permutations so you’ll (probably) never get bored either! Result: a great gift that breathes new life into your console.