Holiday Gift Guide 2012
Need help gift-buying for gamers this holiday season? Here are some items to look out for.
Mass Effect Cards
As a galaxy-saving, alien-bedding hero, Shepard probably doesn't have much time to play cards. If he did, though, he'd almost certainly be the first to say, "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite deck of playing cards in the galaxy." All of the aces and royal cards feature different characters; Miranda is Shepard's queen of spades, Jack is a jack, Joker is a joker…you get the idea.
Ever wondered what your family and friends would look like as 8-bit characters? Well, keep on wondering; donning these sunglasses won't make folks look like video game characters at all. It'll make a small portion of your own face look like something out of a retro game, but the people and places around you will just look darker. That's what sunglasses do.
Much like the characters in Spelunky that they're based on, these diminutive figurines are best kept away from fire, explosions, mammoths, and bottomless pits. If none of these potential hazards are prevalent in your home, Spelunky Minis will thrive there, and assuming you're not looking to them for companionship, they make great pets. That's assuming your blind box doesn't contain the snake.
Forever losing keys from your collection? Wish there were some way to keep your keys together so that losing one means you lose them all? The answer to your problems is staring you in the face: keychains. These ingenious little devices can hold not one, not two, but a whole bunch of keys; plus, they look good doing it. Available in three double-sided retro flavors.
The enjoyment that can be derived from toys is often proportionate to the quality of your imagination. For some, bedrooms and backyards can become battlegrounds beyond compare; for others, there are Skylanders. Give your imagination a rest with toys that, once placed on the portal of power, come to life inside a video game world that has already been imagined for you.
Operating on a guy with a red lightbulb for a nose apparently doesn't cut it anymore. Perhaps because his most obvious abnormality was the one thing you couldn't attack with a pair of tweezers? Regardless, nowadays you can perform surgical procedures on all sorts of licensed characters, and of course, no conversation about licensed products would be complete without Star Wars.
Donkey Kong Jenga
If you've ever played Jenga before, you can't help but have noticed that what the game really lacks is a compelling narrative featuring an antagonistic ape. Donkey Kong Jenga addresses this common complaint with the addition of Mario quadruplets who, as the game progresses, must climb to the top of the Jenga tower to rescue Pauline from the titular simian kidnapper.
When Bethesda inevitably releases its oft-rumored but unannounced Elder Scrolls kart racer, this super deformed Dragonborn will surely be one of the drivers on the starting grid. Modeled after Skyrim's protagonist, he comes complete with a detachable crash helmet and two weapon-themed choking hazards. He's also available unpainted for those of you who are artistically inclined.
Olly Moss Book
Remember that cool Resistance 3 box art that cleverly incorporated New York's skyline into the dental work of a Chimera skull? Olly Moss did that. He also put together this book titled Silhouettes from Popular Culture, which features exactly what you think it does. Images aren't labeled, and there are no answer pages at the back, so if you don't recognize someone, you're out of luck.
Which is more tragic, Tetris or Tekken? Which is sexier, Passage or Pac-Man? These are just a couple of the countless question-and-answer combos that you might debate with friends during a game of Metagame: Videogame Edition. Warning: In the states of California and New York, this game has been proven to cause intelligent discussion, learning, and podcasting.
Your Commander Shepard might look nothing like this one. He might have different hair, he almost certainly wears different armor, and he might be a she. This action figure comes with approximately 100 percent fewer customization options than the in-game character that it's based on, as well as a code that can be redeemed for some Mass Effect 3 in-game content.
Remember when every game of Monopoly used to be preceded by an argument about who got to play as the car and who would get stuck with the iron? Well, now you can argue about mechagnomes and flight path boots instead. World of Warcraft Monopoly is one of many themed sets available. Other video-game-themed sets include Nintendo, Street Fighter, and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Purportedly compatible with "thousands of games" on iOS and (most) Android devices, this boxy little Bluetooth controller works well with the kinds of games that were originally released on cartridges and cassette tapes. Assuming your touch-screen device's protective case of choice incorporates rainbow and faux wood motifs, the 8-bitty will look right at home alongside it.
Last year it was Skylanders figures; this year it's Minecraft Lego. Sold out everywhere, this diminutive Lego set is, at the time of writing, available only to those who are willing to pay around double the recommended retail price on eBay, or to put it another way, around 15 cents per tiny brick. There are definitely more impressive Lego sets and Minecraft items available for that sort of money.
Retro Duo Console
Looking to spend significantly less than $300 on a new Nintendo console this holiday season? Not hung up on what the word "new" really means? For just $50, you can get your hands on a RetroDuo console that functions as both an NES and an SNES. Back-of-the-box features include a power switch, air vents, two controller ports, and more! It comes with two controllers and zero games.
Like Monopoly, Risk is a game that's available in a myriad of different licensed flavors at this point. Unlike Monopoly, the different licenses have a significant impact on how Risk plays. This Halo Legendary Edition comes with a couple of two-player maps in addition to its oversized Halo ring map, for example. Other gaming editions of Risk include Metal Gear Solid and Starcraft.
No doubt engineered using science of some kind, these matching Aperture containment and carrying apparatuses are no longer reserved for test subjects. Available in orange and orange, they can be used to transport cake, potatoes, hopes and dreams, and even other, smaller containment and carrying apparatuses. Well, except for the small one; that's designed specifically for your iPad.
Given that their primary means of human interaction is to pursue you and then blow up, why you'd willingly invite a Minecraft creeper into your home is a mystery. Fortunately, this vinyl creeper is both inanimate and explosive-free, so it's relatively safe. Vinyl models of Steve and Diamond Steve are available at the same 6-inch scale, but only the creeper comes with a sweet diamond block.
Mini Portal Gun
Portal guns can be tricky to get a hold of; limited-edition life-size replicas sold out within 30 minutes of going on sale, new replicas won't be available until December, and real portal guns simply don't exist. Yet. These mini replicas, on the other hand, are available right now. They also cost less than the life-size ones and have the added benefit of making you feel like a giant.
Efforts to re-create Mario Kart in the real world have, to date, been hampered by a shortage of red shells, blue shells, bloopers, and mega mushrooms. This 1/8th-scale (huh?) RC Mario does absolutely nothing to rectify this unfortunate situation, but throw down some banana skins and pick up an RC Yoshi, and you can enjoy Nintendo-brand racing anywhere with a lot of floor space.
Balls don't usually cost over $100, but they also don't usually have robots inside them. Sphero does. It's a robot that you can drive around using an iOS or Android device. There are already a good number of different Sphero apps available, including a shooter that's played using the ball as a controller and a multiplayer game that uses its color-changing capabilities. Cats love it.
Far more comfortable than Minecraft outfits created with leather, gold, iron, or diamonds, this fleece jacket is perfect for those cold nights when you're stuck outside of your cave, cabin, or castle. There's not enough of that green lining for this to double as a crappy creeper Halloween costume when turned inside out, but get yourself a hat and a beard, and maybe you can go as Notch.
Flying RC helicopters isn't nearly as easy as those folks selling them at malls make it look, and the Black Swann is no exception. What differentiates this one from the competition, though, is that it incorporates a video camera. Learn to fly the Black Swann well, and you might be able to get some great footage; crash too badly, and the camera can serve as a black box.
If you've ever tried to check your email, your bank balance, or a game guide while playing on your computer, you know that sometimes one screen just isn't enough. This 16-inch monitor isn't one that you'll want to play games on, but it's powered by USB, it has a stand that supports it in both landscape and portrait orientations, and it's light enough that you can carry it around with your laptop.
M-3 Predator Replica
This weighty replica pistol from Mass Effect 3 is presumably crafted using rare space minerals that sell on Earth for around $40 a pound. How else it warrants a $400 price tag is a mystery. Yes, only 600 of them are being made, but for that money you might at least expect it to come with some sort of display stand. Or a holster. You get the gun and a USB charger for its LEDs, and that's it.
Street Fighter Chess
Capcom's Street Fighter series celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and in a bizarre coincidence, the game of chess has been around for ages as well. It makes perfect sense, then, that the two should come together in this limited-edition chess set. Ryu and M. Bison are the kings, Chun-Li and Juri are queens, and other favorites from the SF roster have roles as bishops, knights, and rooks.
Bored with fighting over the family TV when you want to play games? Looking for a solution that can double as an oversized lunchbox in a pinch? This mobile gaming environment has a built-in 15.5-inch LED 720p display and stereo speakers, and can accommodate an Xbox 360 or slim PlayStation 3. Larger "Vanguard" models with 19-inch displays and bigger price tags are also available.
Owning a new iPod Touch is a lot like owning an iPhone 5 with AT&T. You can use it to listen to music, to watch movies, to play games, and--assuming you're near a Wi-Fi spot--to download all manner of apps. It's not a phone, of course, but that just means there are no contracts, monthly fees, dropped calls, overage charges, or annoying ringtones to worry about. Also, it's available in pink.
Astro A50 Headset
If you game on multiple systems and have ever described yourself as an audiophile, these wireless headphones from Astro are for you. They're comfortable; they go for hours on a single charge; the mic is good; and the sound quality is excellent. They're also compatible with every system that you're likely to be playing games on, assuming you're not from the future. Or space.
Nintendo Wii U
In case you missed it, Nintendo launched a new console this holiday season. It looks like a regular Wii, and you can use the same Wii remote controllers with it, but it's a whole new thing. Buying the black rather than the white system is the way to go; not only does it look better, but for just $50 more, it comes with a game and significantly more internal memory for downloadable games and such.