Snow Days are back in Free Realms, and you can't turn around without bumping into someone with a tacky sweater. But in addition to the snowball fights and gift giving is a new mysterious merchant named Cargara. She's a snail who travels the world and randomly shows up to offer rare and discount marketplace items. Also, if your character inventory is out of control, you can manage it with the new banks. Everyone starts out with the basic bank, but you can unlock more spaces through the Marketplace. And My Little Pony fans who are mourning the loss of the online game can take heart in the fact that Ponyvale is still in the works!
Wizard101 and Pirate101
We're in the middle of the 12 days of the spiral, and one of my favorite events so far is the gingerbread decorating contest. Wizard101 fans can submit a picture of their best wizard-themed house, while Pirate101 fans can send in a picture of a gingerbread pirate ship, and winners receive 60,000 crowns. Wizard101 recently launched its dinosaur-themed Azteca and now has a new housing game called Food Fight on the Test Realm, a game dves plan to launch next year. Meanwhile, Pirate101 is working on adding a new PvP system, and the team has put in a basic practice system on the test realm. It will be exciting to see how it shapes up as it heads to the live servers.
Space Heroes Universe
Remember Little Space Heroes? It's got a new name now, but that's not all that's new. Since launch, there are many more games to play, lots of new items, and even some new party areas. While you're taking a break from battling, you can pop in to one of several theme parties, such as the squad party or garden party, and participate in some of the minigames to win coins and collect party pins for your journal. In addition, the game has sprouted a cartoon series, and you can get a look at the story behind the game as well as meet some of the main characters that you run into while playing.
This Nickelodeon title recently launched a big game update, and it included new warrior run games. One is called Epic Warrior Run; it's a new race course that challenges you to finish as quickly as possible. In the second course, Torch Frenzy, players have to not only complete it quickly but also collect as many torches as they can along the way. Winners can receive new "epic" warrior gear for their monkeys. The update also squashed several bugs. In addition, there's a holiday-themed maze in Clock Tower Square, and upon its completion, you can win various holiday items.
One of the grand dames of family-friendly MMOs, Club Penguin
is still as active as ever. The game had a recent refurbishing of several Club Penguin rooms, with plans to keep updating more down the road. The yearly holiday party is also right around the corner, beginning December 20th and running until January 2nd. And Club Penguin
is also starting the yearly Coins for Change event. This year, the studio is offering one million dollars to various causes, and players will vote on how to divide up the donation. The three general causes are to provide medical help, protect the earth, and build safe places. Within each one are several specific plans and goals, and it's a nice way of getting children to think about charity as well as gain an understanding of larger global issues.
I'm working on a hands-on for this MMO but wanted to add it in the roundup ahead of time. It's a colorful 3-D MMO by Ganz
, which also made Webkinz
. In Amazing World
, players play Zings -- plump, adorable little creatures that you can dress up in all sorts of outfits. The game is free-to-play, but players can purchase a membership and buy plush Zings to add to their collection, similar to the WebKinz
pets. From there, players can take on quests, participate in minigames, and decorate their homes, but what's stood out for me so far is the vibrant world that young players will enjoy exploring. I'll be covering this in a future article, but if you're looking for a fresh game to check out over the winter break, this one is worth the peek.
This past fall, Jumpstart
saw the arrival of a Madagascar-themed zone, complete with favorite characters from the film. Now that it's winter, you can watch them try to navigate the icy conditions or go ice skating with them. The Madagascar update brought several new games, but it also taught players about the actual animals from the movie as well as the history and art of Italy. Meanwhile, the Winter Wonderland area went live; there, players can ride a holiday train, turn into an elf, go on a holiday-themed scavenger hunt, and join in several holiday activities.
Super Hero Squad Online
The game recently crossed the four-million-player threshold, and with a constant stream of new heroes and activities, it's not slowing down anytime soon. New heroes like Havok and Avenging Rogue are available now, and there's a new American Dream hero that's back (but only for a few days more). In addition, five new challenges were recently added to the game, and of course, the holidays have arrived with all sorts of fun activities and decorations galore.
This roundup is far from complete, and there are a couple of older titles in particular that I'm currently exploring for the next MMO Family. If you don't see your favorite family-friendly MMO listed, please post it below or send me a tip!
The MMO Family column is devoted to common issues with families and gaming. Every other week, Karen looks at current trends and ways to balance family life and play. She also shares her impressions of MMO titles to highlight which ones are child-friendly and which ones offer great gaming experiences for young and old alike. You are welcome to send feedback or Wonka Bars to firstname.lastname@example.org.