Undertale offers a new spin on retro RPG video games

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Undertale is a new 8bit RPG that's much different from the rest. In most games, you have to kill bosses and monsters to survive. In this game, it’s up to you whether you want to kill anyone, and depending on your choices, you can make friends that you would have lost, engage in secret fights, and much more. You have so many choices in the game that you can replay it over and over to achieve all the endings. But be careful, because even if you reset the game, some characters might have a vague memory of you.

The fighting style of Undertale is also unique. When an enemy attacks you, instead of automatically losing your health, you can dodge their attack by moving your “soul” across the screen to avoid being hit. Because of this, you don’t have to lose any damage throughout the battle.

Undertale starts by your character falling down a giant hole at the top of a mountain and waking up in a world full of monsters. They were all banished to live apart from society for the rest of their lives by humans who sealed them underground with a magic spell. The monsters have figured out that the only way to undo the spell is to have the power of seven souls, but since monsters’ souls disappear after they die, they’ve spent years killing the humans who fall into the underground to gain their souls. Because of this, most of them want to kill you so they can leave, but it’s up to you if you want to hurt them back, or show them that you both can find peace. Read the rest

Wink 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: What Kids Want

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It’s mid-December folks. Like a bullet train. White knuckle time. With parties in motion and merry children abound, it’s time to jump on the fast track with those holiday gifts. And Wink’s gift guide is your golden ticket. The fun stuff on this week’s list focuses on the kiddos in your life. (For grown-ups, check out Gareth Branwyn’s Picks and Cheapies But Goodies Under $20.)

Juxtabo Ages 6 and up $30 Buy on AmazonFull review and more images

Much like a colorful, 3D version of dominoes, Juxtabo has simple rules that allow children as young as six years old to play. The strategy encourages development of quick pattern recognition, but also flexibility as you plan, since the "board" changes with every turn… Juxtabo is the recipient of the 2015 Academics' Choice Brain Toy Award …avid puzzlers beware – Juxtabo just may prove addictive! – Chloe Quimby

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling (author) and Jim Kay (illustrator) (Arthur A. Levine Books) $24 Buy on AmazonFull review and more images

You may have read Harry Potter before, but you've never read it like this. Almost every page features some kind of full-color illustration by artist Jim Kay. Illustrations come in a wide variety of forms, ranging from small page ornamentations to whole page spreads. The full-page illustrations have a ton of detail and color and will likely make you stop mid-page to appreciate them. It never occurred to me that Harry Potter required illustrations, but after reading this it's clear why someone thought they would make for a good experience. Read the rest

Meet Yuna: the first Asian American girl to be the center of a doll line

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Our friends at Bigshot Toyworks are kickstarting a new line of dolls called Dream BIG Friends. I saw the prototypes at DCon in Pasadena a couple of weeks and they are beautiful.

After watching their own kids play, David Horvath and Sun Min (Award Winning Designers of Uglydoll) began a discussion with Klim Kozinevich (Creative Director of Bigshot Toyworks) and wondered; what if there was more? The worlds of princesses and pixies, fashion models and super heroes are all fantastic, but something was missing. The trio set out to create a unique personality in a small plastic body, focusing on aspirational, inspirational and imaginative play. Something that would encourage kids around the world to embrace what makes them who and what they are, inside and out. With all that in mind, Yuna was born!

Yuna is the very first doll in an all new line called Dream BIG Friends. She's also the first Asian American girl to be the center of a doll line! She loves science, travel, rockets, art, design, and Korean food. Her BIG dream is to run a company designing rockets that will one day take her to Mars. She'll be the first one to stand on the planet's surface, naturally. With your help, she’s sure to get there.

Today heralds the launch of a Kickstarter campaign for Dream BIG Friends, where you can invite Yuna and her cat Kamata into your home.

There have been many discussions about body types and unrealistic proportions and attitudes imposed through children's toys these days.

Read the rest

The Official ScratchJr Book: help your young kids learn to code

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You're probably familiar with Scratch, the introductory programming language that allows kids (and adults) to create interactive stories, games, and animations. Scratch doesn't require lines of code to write programs. Instead, you build programs by snapping together colored blocks. (My book, Maker Dad, has an introduction to Scratch that shows how to make retro-style video games).

Scratch is perfect for kids 8 and up. Recently, MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Lab announced the release of ScratchJr, an even simpler programming language for young children (ages 5-7) to create interactive stories and games. It's free and runs on iPads and Android tablets.

Mitchel Resnick, who runs MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, and Marina Umaschi Bers, a professor in the Computer Science Department at Tufts University, have a new book out called, The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code. The publisher sent me a copy, and it looks like a great way for parents to learn about ScratchJr so they can get their kids up to speed and let them go off on their own. With full color screenshots on every page, it provides a thorough overview of everything ScratchJr is capable of doing. Read the rest

Easy 1+2+3 projects from the pages of Make

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Back in 2004, when designer David Albertson and I were creating a prototype for the magazine that would become MAKE, one the things we came up with was an item called 1+2+3. It was a one-pager with instructions for making a simple project in three steps. We ended up incorporating 1+2+3s into every issue of MAKE. This book collects 69 fully-illustrated 1+2+3 projects (including several that I wrote and illustrated) from the pages of MAKE.

Have you ever wanted to make your own "dice popper" (as seen in the game Trouble)? This book will show you how. You'll also learn how to make a projector that shines an alien head on the wall, an amusing "wobbler" made from two coins, a box that makes a great "boing" sound effect, a light-up hoodie, a simple motor, a $5 smart phone projector, and many more projects. This is a great book to go through with your kids. I guarantee they will say "Let's make that!" at least a few times. Read the rest

Meet the 9-year-old "King of the $1 Record Bins"

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My son Lux, age 9, is an avid record collector. Unlike me, Lux has the patience to dig through the $1 bins wherever there is cheap vinyl to be had: thrift shops, garage sales, flea markets, record swaps, and of course record stores. (His favorite record shops in the San Francisco Bay Area are Mill Valley Music and Amoeba.) Veteran audio journalist and record collector Michael Fremer interviewed Lux for his site, Analog Planet. (Thanks, David Hyman!)

Below, Lux and I after Record Store Day 2015!

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The latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid is as fresh and humorous as books 1-9

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Diary keeper Greg Heffley can’t just endure middle school in peace. His helicopter mom is working on a petition to get people to stop using electronics for 48 hours. His new pet pig, who’s learned to walk on two legs, gets more house privileges than he does. And even more annoying, his Grandpa, who can’t pay his rent at Leisure Towers anymore, has moved into Greg’s bedroom, which means Greg now has to sleep on the floor of his baby brother’s room. Worst of all, Greg ends up on the school camping trip to Hardscrabble Farms, which lives up to its reputation for being the worse camp ever.

The just-released Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School is the tenth book in the series, and happily it’s just as fresh and humorous as its predecessors. In fact, I laughed so loud while sitting alone on the couch of our living room, I was worried someone would spy me and think I’d finally gone around the bend (why do I always feel this way when I’m laughing out loud by myself?). The theme is old school vs. new school, or old geezers’ ways of doing things versus progress, and whether or not you’ve read books 1-9, Old School is a fun read for any age.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney Harry N. Abrams 2015, 224 pages, 5.8 x 8.2 x 0.9 inches $8 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Animal Upon Animal – A super cute, fun kid's game that adults can also enjoy

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See more photos at Wink Fun.

Animal Upon Animal is a dice-rolling and stacking game where you take 7 animals and roll a die that determines how you take your turn and how you need to stack those pieces upon the animals that have come before.

It’s not quite as simple as just stacking. The die faces range from widening the base that starts with the big green alligator, to handing off pieces to other people who then have to stack them. Another face has players telling you which piece you’ll have to place on the remarkably unstable pile of animals growing in the middle of your table. The other faces are numbers of pieces that you can place. If you topple the tower, you have to take at most 2 of the pieces. First player to exhaust their set of animals wins.

While it’s marketed as a children’s game, and I’ve played it as such (my 3-year-old daughter destroyed me), I’ve also played it with adults, and it was just as fun. There’s a great equalizer in stacking games that tiny fingers turn out to be more dexterous than you’d think. The pieces are of the great quality that you would expect from HABA games but with enough curved edges to make them difficult to stack. – James Orr

Animal Upon Animal – A super cute, fun kid's game that adults can also enjoy

Animal Upon Animal HABA Ages 4 and up, 2-4 players $19 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Pie Face – If you get the wrong number, this slapstick comedy game will fling a faceful of whipped cream

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See more photos at Wink Fun.

A cream pie in the face! It’s an ageless slapstick comedy routine that is also the inspiration for Hasbro’s Pie Face Game. Thanks in part to a viral video that’s making its rounds on social media, this equally ageless game is destined to be a hit this holiday season. Pie Face is as easy as pie to setup and play, although clean-up will be required. To get started, players attach the purple Chin Rest and Splash Card Mask to the Pie Thrower base, which comprises two handles and a throwing arm in the shape of a hand. After setting the throwing arm in place, you add the pièce de résistance: a dollop of whipped cream from your kitchen.

The rules of the game dictate that the youngest player goes first. A numbered spinner determines how many times a player must turn the handles of the pie thrower. Each player then places his or her chin on the Chin Rest with face protruding through the opening in the splash card (which is thankfully made of laminated, washable plastic). A point is awarded for each successful click of the handle that does NOT result in the player getting a face full of whipped cream. If a player completes a turn without getting hit, the points double. For the faint of heart, partial turns are allowed. For example, if a player spins a 4, he or she may elect to turn the handle only 2 times. But, this strategy comes with a price: you can’t score double points. Read the rest

Juxtabo – Create patterns with colored chips for a fast-paced mental workout

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See more photos at Wink Fun.

Funnybone has yet another award-winning strategy game available for your enjoyment – Juxtabo. Much like a colorful, 3D version of dominoes, Juxtabo has simple rules that allow children as young as six years old to play. The strategy encourages development of quick pattern recognition, but also flexibility as you plan, since the “board” changes with every turn. Juxtabo allows up to four players to compete with one another. 

The playing pieces are two-sided chips, each side a different color, arranged in a 5x5 configuration. Players draw their own chips, as well as pattern cards. Players win pattern cards by creating that pattern on the board with chips in their hand. The catch? To stack a chip on the board, you must match the color facing down on your chip with the color facing up on the “board.” With a timer included, it's a fast-paced mental workout. 

 If the description alone doesn’t intrigue you, Juxtabo is the recipient of the 2015 Academics’ Choice Brain Toy Award (among others). That means this game has been approved by parents, educators, students and children, scientists and artists alike. The game comes highly recommended, of course, but avid puzzlers beware – Juxtabo just may prove addictive! – Chloe Quimby

Juxtabo Funnybone Toys Ages 6 and up, 1-4 players $30 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Pengoloo – An adorably designed memory and luck game for young players

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See more photos at Wink Fun.

Pengoloo is a fun game that encourages memory and color recognition. Young players will love the game design, with 12 adorable penguin characters and colored eggs (6 colors, 2 of each). The penguins are hollowed out wood pieces that sit on top of the eggs to hide them. Players take turns rolling two colored dice to determine what color they’re looking for. Then they pick up two penguins to see if the eggs underneath match the dice. You put matching penguins on your iceberg scoreboard; the winner is the first player to fill their iceberg (or whoever has the most after all the penguins have been picked). The game gets more fun as you try to memorize egg locations to gain an advantage.

Both kids and adults will enjoy Pengoloo. Kids get a kick out of the cute little penguins and the thrill of finding the right color egg. Even children who don’t fully grasp the memory aspects of the game will enjoy playing with the penguins. Adults will like playing a game without having to compensate for their child’s lack of skill; luck is just as important as memory and it’s entirely possible for your child to win just by picking up penguins at random. This makes the game enjoyable for children of all ages and skill levels.

The game is also well put together for something so simple: you get 12 penguins, 12 eggs, 4 scoring icebergs, and 2 dice in the box. Read the rest

There's no way the words "I'm bored" will be uttered in a house that has Unbored on hand

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See sample pages at Wink.

There's no way the words “I’m bored” will be uttered in a house that has the Unbored series on hand. Unbored: Adventure is the third action-inducing book by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen that inspires fun, innovation, and yes, real adventures. Split into four chapters (Adventure-ize, Adventures Close to Home, Urban Adventure, and Nature Adventure), these boredom-bashing pages show you how to make and hide a time capsule, build a kite, make a solar oven out of a pizza box, play after-dark outdoor games, “train your grownup” to let you climb a tree, learn survival science like purifying stream water with a bowl, plastic wrap and the sun, and loads more. There’s something wholesomely retro about Unbored, with its mostly outdoor projects, experiments, games, and old-fashioned fun. For more unboredness, make sure to check out the Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun and Unbored: Games.

Unbored Adventure: 70 Seriously Fun Activities for Kids and Families by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen Bloomsbury USA 2015, 176 pages, 6.4 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches (paperback) $12 Buy one on Amazon Read the rest

Big Bear little chair – each tall and skinny page in this kids' books is as stunning as the next

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The concept of Big Bear little chair is a common one: teaching kids to differentiate between large and small. We start off with “Big Bear, little chair,” move on to “Big Plant, little cocoon,” and carry on with this theme until the end, with “Big Snowstorm, little village, tiny bird,” and, “Big Bear, little bear.” What makes this simple book so compelling is the striking art by author and illustrator Lizi Boyd. The bold illustrations are dramatic yet whimsical, with a formal color scheme of black and white (and gray) that is playfully broken up with gumball red. Each tall and skinny page is as stunning as the next. Big Bear little chair makes me happy every time I open it up, and if my kids were still in their pre-school years this would definitely be a frequent read.

Big Bear little chair by Lizi Boyd Chronicle 2015, 32 pages, 6.3 x 12.3 x 0.3 inches $10 Buy one on Amazon Read the rest

Watch out for all things spooky in the Halloween version of Spot It!

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Ghosts, witches and werewolves! Trick, treat and boo! This special edition of Blue Orange Games’ Spot It! is perfect for the days leading up to Halloween. Like the original Spot It!, the circular cards have several different pictures and words printed in bright colors and easy-to-read fonts. Also like the original, the fast-moving game comes with a booklet explaining five different ways to play and is packaged in a sturdy tin. This is a great addition to the game shelf for both fans and novices alike. Happy Halloween! – Joel Neff

Halloween Spot It! by Blue Orange Ages 7 and up, 2-8 players $11 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

The best children's music compilation record and turntable!

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Most contemporary "kids music" sucks. However, my favorite reissue label Light In The Attic is releasing a killer children's vinyl compilation titled "This Record Belongs To______" that includes the likes of Shel Silverstein, Nina Simone, Donovan, Van Dyke Parks, Vashti Bunyan, Woody Guthrie, and many other musical greats, along with a storybook illustrated by the talented Jess Rotter. Read the rest

Watch child ruin magician's trick on television, and his return 20 years later

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What a twerp. Read the rest

Cheap(er) geocache containers

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There's a hidden world beneath your nose filled with 2,709,919 objects waiting to be found by those who are in the know. Using the Geocaching app my daughter and find little containers left by geocachers in all kinds of places around the country - even in little Arizona towns in the middle of nowhere. It's like belonging to a secret society.

So far we have only looked for geocache containers, but now we want to start leaving our own geocache containers for others to find. I ordered a Micro Snap Top Geocache Container 5-Pack for $5.75 on Amazon. They are watertight and include a paper log for people to fill out when they find it. [UPDATE: commenters alerted me that these are just centrifuge tubes and you can buy them for a lot less on Amazon. I canceled my order and got 50 tubes for $10.]

They are pretty tiny, so we are trying to figure out what kind of trinkets we can put in them. Perhaps a more experienced geocacher will let us know. Read the rest

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