It's that time of year again. Starting next week, the nation will be inundated by the holiday spirit, and you've got to start thinking about what to buy your friend, neighbor or significant other. If they're a gamer and you're not, the prospect might be tricky, so I thought I'd give you some suggestions to set you on the right path.
Since you don't want to reveal your forthcoming gift, I'm also including a subtle question to ask the giftee before you make your purchase to confirm that it is indeed the right game for them. I do this because I care.
Game: Call of Duty: Black Ops
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii
Leading Question: Is it just me or are there no good war games out right now?
Ideal Response: Oh man, I keep hearing about this "Black Ops" game, it's supposed to be really good!
The above response is really a best-case-scenario. If they're a hardcore gamer, they've definitely heard of "Call of Duty: Black Ops," and you're really just trying to find out if they already own it. If they don't own it, your next step is to determine if they're cool with really graphic, Vietnam-era violence. If so, you're golden! If now, see below.
Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns
Leading Question: Remember "Donkey Kong Country" on SNES? That rhino rocked.
Ideal Response: Yes! If only they'd make another one with the same gameplay but better graphics for the Wii.
If your friend has a Wii, the safest game you could possibly buy them this holiday season is "Donkey Kong Country Returns." First off, anyone born between 1975 and 1987 undoubtedly has a fondness for the franchise, and the new game plays almost exactly like the old one. It's also non-violent (unless you count stomping on cartoon crabs as violent), making it safe for all ages.
Game: Michael Jackson: The Experience
Leading Question: Are you planning on buying that new Michael Jackson album?
Ideal Response: Hell yeah! If only there was a game which allowed me to dance along to his classic songs, as well!
An unlikely response, but hey, we're talking "ideal" here. Although hardcore gamers are likely to be disappointed upon receiving a game like "Michael Jackson: The Experience," casual gamers are really going to like it. It's pretty forgiving, control-wise, and it features just about every one of MJ's big hits. If your friend hasn't touched their Wii since picking up "Wii Fit," "MJ: The Experience" might just bring them back into the fold.
Game: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Leading Question: How do you feel about stabbing people in Rome during the Italian Renaissance?
Ideal Response: That sounds appealing.
After asking the above question, any mention of their love of "Assassin's Creed 2" is a definite bonus, as "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" is the direct sequel to that game and plays a lot like an upgraded version. Brand new storyline, more missions, more abilities and they've thrown in multiplayer, as well. If you're getting the impression that your compatriot was not a big fan of "Assassin's Creed 2," "Brotherhood" is not the game for you, as the similarities are numerous.
Game: Disney Epic Mickey
Leading Question: Are you for or against the mischievous machinations of the world's most famous mouse?
Ideal Response: So long as you're talking about Mickey, I'm in! But if it's Fievel, screw you.
Mickey's popularity has waned in recent years, but if there was ever a game to bring him back to the forefront, "Epic Mickey" is that game. Directed by the enormously talented game designer, Warren Spector, "Epic Mickey" walks players through the early days of Disney, introducing them to characters that have since been forgotten. Did you know that, before Mickey, Walt Disney created Oswald the Rabbit to be his cartoon star? Fans of Disney history, young and old, will no doubt dig this clever platforming adventure game.
Bonus Pick For the Totally Clueless
If you're really not sure what to buy your game-loving pal, just find out what system they own and pick up a points card at a nearby retailer. You can buy points cards for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, and they can be spent on a ton of really solid downloadable titles. Most downloadable games cost somewhere between $10 and $15, so factor that in when you're considering how many points you should buy.