Go ahead, have a second helping of stuffing and gravy—Just Dance 4 will keep it from going right to the hips! Feeling nostalgic, missing Ash and Pikachu? Fire up the action-adventure game Skylanders Giants for a battle fix. And dear, sweet Taylor Swift isn’t one to stay in that country music box—these days, she’s even experimenting with dubstep, and it’s clearly working. With 1.2 million copies sold in its first week, her new album, Red, has racked up more sales than any other record since Eminem’s 2002 The Eminem Show.
Red, Taylor Swift (Big Machine)
Red is Swift’s fourth studio album. Many of the 16 tracks have a love-related theme, clearly influenced by her past relationships. If anything, this has made her even more alluring and loved by the music industry. Her collaboration on this album with Max Martin, Ed Sheeran, and Shellback add to her mastery of a broader range of musical styles, which only cements her position as a pop diva. Definitely check out the pop chant-along “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the dubstep-inspired “I Knew You Were Trouble,” as well as the alternative country sounds in “All Too Well” and “Stay Stay Stay.” Red is a fabulous album that will continue to solidify Swift’s musical career.—Claire H., grade 10, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Just Dance 4 (Ubisoft)
With 43 tracks of party-pleasing music, Just Dance 4 is the latest installment in the Just Dance franchise. Balancing contemporary rock and pop with classic Barry White and Rick Astley provides listeners with hours of fun, as well as an awesome workout and fitness experience. Like other Just Dance games, you follow the figure on the screen while pictograms in the bottom-right corner tell you what the next move is, and the score bar at the top left lets you know your score. If you’ve never played this type of game, it might take you a turn or two to get the hang of things. The choreography is the most important part of the game with lots of arm and hip shaking. Sometimes, the motion sensor didn’t properly register the slower dance moves, but overall, the game is still a blast.
Dance Quests add extra challenges to each song and a few tracks are designed purely for multiplayer capability, like Dirty Dancing’s “Time of My Life” and Rocky Horror’s “The Time Warp.” There is also a Battle Mode feature in which players compete head to head in traditional dance-off style. The new Just Sweat mode allows you to get an intense workout by selecting a specific style like ’80s aerobics, Latin Dance, Cheerleading Bootcamp, or Kickboxing fight moves. Workouts range from 10 to 45 minutes and an on-screen calorie counter is included. This new component alone might be all the reason you need to get in shape in the comfort of your very own home. Rating: E for Everyone. Platform: PlayStation 3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360.—Geena G., grade 10, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Skylanders Giants (Activision)
Sylanders Giants, like the original Sylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, is a very kid-friendly action-adventure game that has added more depth and difficulty, and some new features. This is a very magical game for me since it’s essentially Pokemon come to life. The Skylanders Giants starter pack includes the game, the Portal of Power, and great Skylanders toys (four Giants—Tree Rex, Crusher, Bouncer, and Swarm). The 16-level main story also features Heroic Challenges, Arena Battles, and Skystones. Each Skylander controls one of the eight elements: water, air, tech, earth, magic, fire, undead, and life, using these to battle enemy monsters (very Pokemon-like). You can pick up accessories and powers as the game progresses. The point of the game is to build an arsenal of Skylanders that you can use at any time to battle the evil Kaos. The Giants were the “first” Skylanders and they possess powers and abilities necessary to save the world.
Skylanders Giants provides hours of entertainment since the variety of characters and added difficulty levels keep the action fresh as well as challenging. The negative side is that Activision will release 16 new characters over the next few months along with upgrades to the older characters. So if you want to keep up to date, you’ll have to spend more money, which is a bit of a bummer. Rated: E for Everyone. Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and 3DS.—Nick M., grade 9, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
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