Q. I have twin grandsons that are 14 and absolutely love playing video games. They're always playing games on their smartphones. Their parents are buying them a Wii U for Christmas and I want to have some games to give them as gifts, too. I just don't know what games are cool. I don't want to buy them any games they already have on their smartphones! Can you help me find some good games that are just for the Wii U?
-Roland, from Columbia, SD, listens to my national radio show on KSDN 930 AM.
A. Don't fret too much, Roland. Mobile gadgets and home consoles play very different games. So, it's almost impossible to mistakenly buy a game they already have on their gadget.
It's entirely possible to buy a bad game, though. With new games released every week, there are many more misses than there are hits on stores shelves. Since most games cost more than $50, you want to make sure your grandkids will enjoy them.
Two recently-released favorites are Assassin's Creed III and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Both involve amazingly-detailed graphics and hours upon hours of gameplay on the Wii U, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
However, both games are rated "Mature" and depict realistic war, killing and death. You'll definitely want to clear them with your grandsons' parents before you even think about buying them. I'd avoid them all together.
Click here for more information on the video game rating system and how you can test out games to make sure they're appropriate.
A safer buy would be Avengers: Battle For Earth. It's incredibly popular on the Xbox 360 and was recently released for the Wii U. Players assume the role of Spider-Man, Wolverine and other comic superheroes through motion gaming. Though there is some fighting game violence, it's very cartoony. That will be more age appropriate for younger teens. Plus, motion-gaming is a more interactive experience. If interactivity is a big selling point, check out Just Dance 4. It's available for all of the home systems and features 50 pop songs they can dance along with. Skylanders is another popular interactive game, though it's not a motion game. Instead, there are collectible toys that are teleported into the game. The latest version, Skylanders: Giants, adds new oversized figurines. Collecting all the Skylanders toys from both games can cost more than $1,000, but isn't necessarily required. Just know that it's a more long-term investment than most games.
The premier collect-them-all favorite, Pokemon, has new versions out for the Nintendo DS, too. However, Pokemon White and Black 2 have been out long enough that most kids who want it probably already have it.
As for the old standby Mario, he has a new game for the Wii U. New Super Mario Bros. U shows off most of what the Wii U is capable of. Other favorites like Sonic are making their way off of consoles and onto smartphones and tablets, though.
That's because mobile gadgets are replacing handheld gaming gadgets for many kids. You might want to look into buying them gift cards that can help them buy new mobile games. I'll show you how to do that in this tip.
The Wii U's stunning sales numbers show that games are still a hot ticket for the holidays. Here are three things to think about before you buy.
If you own my Time to Buy eguide, you'll know that right before the Super Bowl is the best time to buy an HDTV. With another epic NFL season almost in the books, February will be here before you know it!
That means it's time to start planning what you want in your next HDTV. Of course, I can show you what to look for in terms of picture quality and screen size in my buying guide.
Salespeople will push hard for you to buy a smart TV. These feature streaming video, apps and other Web-ready features. They're tempting buys, but they jack up the price by $200-$300, if not more.
You have a few different ways to have the same experience for less. Depending on your tech prowess and current equipment, you might not have to spend a dime!
The easiest option is a streaming video gadget. These tap into Web video from Netflix, YouTube and hundreds of other sites. Some even come with apps and games.
Your choices range from the $50 Roku LT to more expensive options from Apple and Google. See a full breakdown of the best choices in this helpful chart.
If you have an Xbox 360, Playstation 3 on a new Wii U, you've got most of these features built in. If you're in the market for a new gaming system, I can help you buy a winner.
Those are nice options, but you can have a similar experience by plugging into your laptop with an HDMI cable. Some tablets support HDMI or mini-HDMI, too - find out which ones in my tablet comparison charts.
You can buy adapters for smartphones that make them compatible. However, if your phone doesn't support an HDMI output, I wouldn't bother. For most setups, your smartphone is going to make a better universal remote.
These are all good plug-and-play options. However, if you've got an older computer sitting around and some time on your hands, you can turn it into a streaming gadget using XBMC.
This turns just about any computer - even thrifty programming computers like the Raspberry Pi - into a customizable streaming box. It can stream online media like a computer, along with local content, and has a beautiful layout.
However, it's mostly run by the computer-modding community, so it takes some effort to set up. XBMC's site has useful tips and tutorials, but it's an ambitious weekend project even for techies. I wouldn't recommend it to a rookie.
Baby, it's cold outside. Why not stay in with one of these DIY tech projects? They can be very rewarding - especially to your wallet.
Let's face it. Christmas shopping isn't always all that it's cracked up to be. It's a busy time of year and mistakes happen. But if you are the victim of horrible customer service and your complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears, Gripevine is the place for you.
Gripevine makes it easier and less stressful for your gripes to be heard. Forget about sending complaint emails that never get answered and phone calls that don't get returned.
This free service connects you to a complaint-resolution platform that contacts businesses' decision-makers on your behalf. This way, you can work directly with companies to resolve the conflict.
If that still doesn't work, you can share your gripe with your social networks and ask for their support. A public gripe often motivates companies to resolve your issue quickly.
Because Gripevine wants you to be as stress-free as possible, “The Gripevine Complaint Destresser,” an all-expense paid Las Vegas Getaway weekend for two at JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa in Las Vegas, is up for grabs in my 17th Great Giveaway. Be sure to enter today for your chance to win!