Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 9: Kid-Friendly Blu-rays, Books, and Board Games | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 9: Kid-Friendly Blu-rays, Books, and Board Games

Family Gifts from Disney, DC Comics, Quirk Books, Downtown Bookworks, Cryptozoic, ThinkFun, and More

Dec 11, 2019
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Welcome to Part 9 of Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2019. As a follow-up to our Toy Gift Guide, this one is centered on kid-friendly Blu-rays and DVDs, books and graphic novels, and board games.

Some of us at Under the Radar, including the two writers of this guide, have been parents for several years now and so with our Holiday Gift Guide each year we set out to write about some fun gifts for kids and parents. If you have kids (or are an uncle, aunt, godparent, etc.), perhaps you will find a perfect gift below.

In terms of our Holiday Gift Guide 2019 we have already posted a guide about video games and two drinks related guides, one for coffee, beer, and wine and another for cocktails. Then we posted part one of our collectibles guide. After that we posted part 5 of our 2019 guide, which was about technology. Part 6 was the first part of our DVD/Blu-ray guide. And then part 7 was about board games. Part 8 was about toys for kids. And stay tuned for more guides we'll be posting on music box sets and reissues, more collectibles, more DVDs/Blu-rays, and more books and graphic novels. And don't forget that Under the Radar print magazine subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

Blu-rays and DVDs:

Batman Beyond: The Complete Series Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $99.95

Batman: The Animated Series remains the gold standard for TV superhero cartoons 27 years after it debuted in 1992. In 1999, four years after Batman: The Animated Series left the air, it was followed up by Batman Beyond. The show takes place in a future Gotham City (2039 to be exact), when Bruce Wayne is in his 70s and has long since retired as Batman. In this city of flying cars and tall skyscrapers, 16-year-old high school student Terry McGinnis comes into Wayne's reclusive world and eventually becomes a new, high tech Batman, with Wayne guiding him remotely from the Batcave. Kevin Conroy, who played Batman in The Animated Series, reprised his role in Batman Beyond (and again later in Justice League and various other cartoons and video games). With Conroy recently playing Wayne in live action for the first time in the Batwoman TV show, in part 2 of the CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, playing a brutal older version from an alternate Earth, it's a good time to revisit Batman Beyond. The show lasted only three seasons, from 1991 to 2001, but won two Daytime Emmys. This Blu-ray box set collects all 52 episodes, with 41 of them remastered. It also includes the animated film Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker and two new special features celebrating Batman's 80th anniversary. The box set also includes a chrome Batman Beyond Funko Pop! figure and lenticular collector cards featuring original animation artwork from the show. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Cinderella Anniversary Edition Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $16.99

Cinderella turns 70 early next year. The enduring animated classic was released on February 15, 1950. At the time it was made Walt Disney Studios was actually on the verge of bankruptcy and over $4 million in debt. Some of Disney's recent films (such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi) had been box office bombs, which is crazy to imagine now, as they've all long since been considered iconic classics. Luckily Cinderella turned Disney's fortunes, being a box office hit and well liked by critics. It was given a well-received live action remake in 2015, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James as the glass slipper wearing future princess. But there's nothing like the artistry of the 1950 original. This new Anniversary Edition includes two hours of bonus features. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Dumbo Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $16.99

Some have bemoaned Disney's recent practice of remaking their animated classics as live action films, but at least Dumbo is a remake of a film from way back in 1941 and not one just released in the 1990s. It also should get points for adding new elements to the story, whereas the Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King remakes seemed more like scene-for-scene recreations. Tim Burton directed this new version, which is probably why it's one of the darker Disney films of late, despite still being rated PG. The set up is fairly depressing in fact, with Colin Farrell playing Holt Farrier, a veteran who lost his arm fighting in World War I and returns home after his wife has died, leaving him to take care of his two young children who have been travelling with the circus they grew up in (Holt and his wife were circus performers). Alas the circus, run by ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito), isn't doing well. Will a new baby elephant, forcefully taken from his mother, change their fortunes? Things literally take flight when Michael Keaton (as the ruthless entrepreneur and amusement park owner V. A. Vandevere) and Eva Green (as the French trapeze artist Colette Marchant, who rides Dumbo) enter the scene. At the very least, it was nice to see a reunion of Burton, Keaton, and DeVito 17 years after Batman Returns (and as an aside, wouldn't Eva Green be a great Catwoman?). Special features on the Blu-ray include deleted scenes, bloopers, and behind-the-scenes documentaries. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Lu Over the Wall Blu-ray/DVD (GKIDS/Shout! Factory)

RRP: $26.99 (Blu-ray)/$16.97 (DVD)

Lu Over the Wall is a curious children's film. Masaaki Yuasa directed the 2017 Japanese animated film, which bears the strong influence of Hayao Miyazaki's 2008 classic Ponyo, but also charts its own course. The film centers on Kai Ashimoto, a downtrodden middle schooler in the seaside community of Hinashi Town. He's a bit of a loner, but forms a band with his friends Kunio and Yūho. When rehearsing on an island just off the coast their music attracts a mermaid named Lu. The beats of their music allows Lu's fins to transform into legs and gets her dancing and doing magical things. She also starts singing with the band and causing a sensation. But some in the town don't trust the merfolk, fearing a curse will be brought upon them all. The film can be somewhat ridiculous at times, but gets away with it due to its Anime style. It may not rank among Japan's all-time greatest animated kids films (such as the Studio Ghibli films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away), but it has plenty of quirky charm and my six-year-old daughter, who is a big fan of My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and other Studio Ghibli films, greatly enjoyed it. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Mary Poppins Returns Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $19.00

Emily Blunt was perfectly cast as Mary Poppins in this sequel 54 years in the making, but set 25 years after the original film. The Banks kids from 1964's Mary Poppins have now grown into Ben Whishaw as Michael and Emily Mortimer as Jane, with the recently widowed Michael having two kids of his own now. Their magical former nanny returns in a time of crisis, floating in by umbrella of course, and what follows is a delightful adventure featuring musical numbers, Lin-Manuel Miranda as a cockney lamp-lighter, a journey into the an animated world of a priceless decorated bowl, and much more. Plus Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert in the original film, returns as a new character and dances up a storm despite being in his 90s. The Blu-ray includes over an hour of special features, including a deleted song, bloopers, deleted scenes, and a sing-along version of the film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Peanuts 70th Anniversary Holiday Collection Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $99.99

It's hard to enter the holiday season and not desire to watch some of the Peanuts holiday specials. In fact, they regular top the TV ratings on the night they are shown each year, despite most fans having already watched them time and time again. They have become that much of a tradition and also new generations of children discover the joy of watching Linus wait for The Great Pumpkin and so on. This is billed as Peanuts 70th Anniversary Holiday Collection, although we're talking about the 70th anniversary of Charles M. Schulz's comic strips, which hit that milestone next year, having debuted in 1950. The first TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, didn't premiere for another 15 years. That's included in this box set, along with 1966's It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and 1973's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Each disc also includes bonus specials and episodes, such as 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown and 1988's "The Mayflower Voyages" episode of the miniseries This Is America, Charlie Brown. While this far from a definitive collection (there are 45 Peanuts TV specials in all, going all the way up to 2011's Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown), but it covers Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas and the limited edition set comes packaged in Snoopy's iconic red doghouse, complete with a Snoopy figure. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

The Princess Bride Blu-ray/DVD (The Criterion Collection)

RRP: $39.95 (Blu-ray)/$29.95 (DVD)

"Inconceivable!" Yes it's true, The Princess Bride has come to The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray (and DVD). The endlessly quotable family film was a modest success upon its release in 1987, but has since become a classic (hence a Criterion release). Rob Reiner was following up Stand By Me when he directed the film, which was written by William Goldman and adapted from his own 1973 novel of the same name. The framing story, in which a boy played by Fred Savage is read a storybook by his grandpa (played by Peter Falk) was recently spoofed in Once Upon a Deadpool, the PG-13 version of Deadpool 2, with Savage reprising his role. The rest of the cast of The Princess Bride included Cary Elwes (who was a big fan of the book and always saw himself as Westley and thus was excited when he was cast in the role), Robin Wright (in only her second film role), Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Cook, Mel Smith, and, quite memorably, André the Giant. It's a romantic fairy tale about a sad princess kidnapped just before she is about to marry a king she doesn't love and the mysterious Man in Black who is trying to rescue her. It features duels and derring do, and revenge against six-fingered murderers ("My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!"). The Criterion release includes a new 4K digital restoration. Most of the special features come from previous editions, such as audio commentary from 1996 and archival interviews with the cast and crew. But there are some new documentaries and interviews, as well as an essay by author Sloane Crosley. Fans of the film will delight at this Blu-ray release, or you can expose a new generation to the film. "Have fun storming the castle!" By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Ralph Breaks the Internet Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $15.99

Ralph Breaks the Internet was perhaps a bit overshadowed by some other great 2018 animated movies, such as Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but it was a worthy sequel to 2012's Wreck It Ralph and made a bit more money than the original. It was also nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, but justly lost to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Ralph Breaks the Internet was also a great satire of the Internet, with lots of jokes only parents probably got. And then there was that loving and hilarious send-up of Disney Princesses. Special features on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, behind the scenes documentaries, and Easter eggs. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

Scooby-Doo Where Are You? The Complete Series Blu-ray (Warner Bros.)

RRP: $89.95

It can get exhausting when considering all the straight-to-video and direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo movies that have been made of the years, including a pretty good one featuring Batman, not to mention some of the live action movies and all the various TV series. Next year also sees the release of the new computer-animated theatrical film SCOOB!, which seems to be an origin story and had a promising first trailer. But it all started with Scooby-Doo Where Are You?, the original Saturday morning cartoon from Hanna-Barbera that first aired in 1969 and 1970 on CBS, returning in 1978 on ABC, with The New Scooby Doo Movies and other Scooby shows airing in between. I'm sure you know the premise: Scooby (a talking dog) and his four teenage friends (Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Shaggy Rogers) travel around in the Mystery Machine van, solving crimes and de-masking criminal ("And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"). This set collects all 41 episodes of Scooby-Doo Where Are You? on Blu-ray. It comes in a cool box that resembles a haunted house and also contains a little POP! Scooby-Doo keychain. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Sesame Street: 50 Years and Counting! DVD (Shout! Kids/Sesame Workshop)

RRP: $16.97 

Now celebrating its 50th season, Sesame Street is a show that most of us have been familiar with for our entire lives. This celebratory, two-disc release acts like a mixtape of everyone's favorite monsters, music, and memorable moments from the show's half-century existence. No matter which era of Sesame Street you grew up on, there's something here you'll remember yet may not have seen in decades. Disc one is a smattering of greatest hits, so to speak-fan-favorite songs and guest appearances ranging from R.E.M. to Janelle Monáe. Disc two is more of a historic look back at the series through its most famous segments, such as Snuffy turning from Big Bird's imaginary friend into a "real" creature, the marriage of Maria and Luis, and the heartbreaking passing of Mr. Hooper. You can pick up this DVD collection "for the kids," sure, but you're going to want to take the trip down memory lane alongside them. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

 

Toy Story 4 Blu-ray/DVD (Disney)

RRP: $16.99

They didn't need to make a Toy Story 4. 2010's Toy Story 3 was acclaimed by critics and fans as one of the best movies of the year (Quentin Tarantino even named it his #1 favorite movie of that year) and made more at the box office than the first two Toy Story movies combined, becoming the highest grossing animated movie ever (well, until Frozen came out four years later and Frozen's record has since been broken several times over). Thematically, it was also a perfect end to the series, with Andy growing up and leaving for college and eventually giving his toys to a new little girl, Bonnie. So some were skeptical when Toy Story 4 was announced, but director Josh Cooley pulled the film off very nicely, nearly reaching the heights of Toy Story 3 and naturally continuing the story with Bonnie, bringing back Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and introducing some delightful new characters, including homemade creation Forky (Tony Hale), Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), and Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). With the film's poignant ending, the question now arises, "do we really need a Toy Story 5?" Then again, if they keep making the films at this level of quality then why not? Special features include deleted scenes and various behind-the-scenes documentaries. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Books and Graphic Novels:

Art Baltazar and Franco: Superman of Smallville (DC Zoom)

RRP: $9.99

Superman's origin has been told many times over and in some versions his younger self goes by the name Superboy. Writers Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani (who just goes by Franco) have a new take on the Boy of Steel. Like the long-running TV series Smallville, Clark Kent still lives with his parents in Smallville, Kansas, but instead of high school he's in middle school. And unlike some childhood versions of the character, he goes by Superman rather than Superboy. It also features middle school versions of Clark's first love Lana Lang and his nemesis Lex Luthor. Baltazar, who also does the art, and Aureliani were also behind the beloved Eisner Award-winning DC Comics series Tiny Titans and fans of that will also appreciate Superman of Smallville. It's recommended for ages 8-13. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

James Diaz: Star Wars: A Merry Sithmas Pop-Up Book (Insight Kids)

RRP: $15.99

Star Wars: A Merry Sithmas Pop-Up Book isn't a traditional pop-up book that tells a story. Instead it's craftier. The Christmas-themed book has festive Star Wars characters-such as gingerbread versions of C3PO, Chewbacca, Princes Leia, and Han Solo or an Imperial Walker with a red nose, antlers, and Christmas lights-that you can either color or pop out and turn into a make-your-own pop-up book. It's recommended for future Jedis aged seven and up. As it says in the book, "Merry Hothmas!" By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Jennifer Hackett: DC Super Hero Science (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $12.99

Downtown Bookworks' excellent series of DC Comics kids books continues with Jennifer Hackett's DC Super Hero Science. As its title suggests, the book uses DC superheroes and villains to illustrate various scientific principles. Krypto the Superdog is featured in a section on whether dogs can talk. Hawkman is used to discuss how birds fly. How do Green Arrow's arrows fly? How can Martian Manhunter phase through walls and other solid objects? How hot is heat vision? How does The Flash run on water and can some animals do the same? This educational book is recommended for tweens. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Morris Katz: DC Super Heroes Who's Who (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $11.99

Downtown Bookworks' DC Comics board book series has a nice new addition in DC Super Heroes Who's Who. This book is recommended for babies and toddlers and it has a simple concept: each double page spread features a different superhero and when you lift the flap it reveals their secret identities. The book features The Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Shazam, Supergirl, Batgirl, Bumblebee, and the John Stewart version of Green Lantern. Trying to get a young kid into DC Comics? This would be a good place to start. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Kim Smith: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99

In the last few years Quirk have had a wonderful series of picture books based on classic movies and TV shows, all illustrated by Kim Smith. Previously she has done The X-Files, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They are kid-friendly takes, such as in The X-Files book Mulder and Scully are childhood best friends having a sleepover when a UFO crashes behind Scully's house and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy, Willow, and Xander are in elementary school and confront monsters in Buffy's closet (who turn out to be friendly).

The first book in the Pop Classics series was 2015's take on 1990's Home Alone. You probably already know the story: eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left home alone when his whole family goes to Paris for Christmas and he has to fend off two burglars known as The Wet Bandits (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Now Smith has turned her talents to adapting 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which like the original film was written by John Hughes and directed Chris Columbus. In the film and book, Kevin, now nine years old, accidentally gets on a plane to New York City when the rest of his family goes to Florida for Christmas and once again finds himself up against The Wet Bandits, who have escaped from jail. As implausible as the film's plot is, Smith's take is still delightful. We wouldn't advise she adapts Home Alone 3, however, as it featured all new characters and a new cast (including a teenaged Scarlett Johansson in one of her earliest roles) and was poorly received by critics. If Quirk are looking to do sequels to some of the other Pop Classics books we would humbly recommend Smith sets her sights on adapting Back to the Future Part II and Part III. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: The Karate Kid (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99 

This year also saw Quirk's Pop Classic series adapt the 1984 film The Karate Kid, which was written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John G. Avildsen. Once again Kim Smith illustrates. This story of a bullied boy who is trained in karate by a wise old Japanese man still resonates in storybook form. We're also excited that coming next May will be a Pop Classic version of Doctor Who, also from Smith, that features Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor and is entitled The Runaway TARDIS. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Marc Sumerak and JJ Harrison: Back to the Future Race Through Time (Insight Editions)

RRP: $29.99

The Back to the Future trilogy is an enduring classic. Even though no new films in the series have been made since 1990's Back to the Future Part III and creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have wisely said the films can never be rebooted or remade in their lifetimes, new generations of kids continue to discover the time traveling adventures of high schooler Marty McFly and his older scientist friend Doc Brown via their parents showing the films to them. Marc Sumerak and JJ Harrison's Back to the Future Race Through Time is aimed at younger readers, but would also appeal to Back to the Future fans of any age. It starts with a history of Hill Valley, the fictional California town where the movies take place, as written by Sumerak. The subsequent pages are Harrison's illustrated maps of Hill Valley in three different time periods: 1885 (from Back to the Future Part III), 1955 (from Back to the Future), and 2015 (from Back to the Future Part II), with trivia and fun facts about various locations on the maps. What makes the book unique is that it comes with a little wind up DeLorean time machine and each map has tracks that the car can travel along, grooves in the board book pages that the a fifth wheel underneath the car easily fits into. This DeLorean doesn't quite go up to the required 88 miles per hour, but the book is still fun nonetheless. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

Amy Wolfram and Yancey Lambat: DC Super Hero Girls: At Metropolis High (DC Zoom)

RRP: $9.99 

When the DC Super Hero Girls launched in 2015 with a toy line, graphic novels, an animated web series, and various straight-to-DVD animated movies, it was a breath of fresh air. Finally young girls and teen girls had their own action figure line, as well as dolls that weren't overly sexualized. They were strong female characters that didn't need their male counterparts to save the day and supported each other. They were great role models. But the web series and movies did sometimes feel a bit too much in the service of selling toys.

This year DC Super Hero Girls was relaunched with a new regular animated series on Cartoon Network and some corresponding new dolls. Lauren Faust, the creator of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, was behind the reboot and gave the characters a new energy and grounded the setting a bit more. Instead of the characters all attending Superhero High, a high school just for superheroes, they now go to Metropolis High, interacting with non-powered students and keeping their secret identities hidden. In the original version, Supergirl was a real goody two shoes, in the reboot she's a rebel who rides a skateboard and is into punk rock. DC Comics also have a new graphic novel tied to the reboot, DC Super Hero Girls: At Metropolis High. Amy Wolfram wrote the graphic novel and Yancey Lambat did the art. It starts with our heroines (Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Zatanna, and the Jessica Cruz version of Green Lantern) being forced to join after school clubs after being late for school one too many times. Meanwhile, Lena Luthor is out to prove that she's a better super villain than her older brother Lex. Lambat's artwork accurately matches the Cartoon Network show (which is now on Netflix too), but has its own verve. This would clearly appeal elementary and middle school kids who are fans of the series and the toys. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Board Games:

 

Catch the Moon (Bombyx)

RRP: $29.99

Here’s a kid-friendly game that looks like a piece of Dali-esque, surrealist art on the table. Players will take turns rolling the die, their results determining the manner in which they’ll have to place a ladder onto the pile sprouting from a cloud in the middle of the table. (Your ladder will either touch one other, two others, or need to be the tallest-reaching ladder in the stack.) Your Babel-like tower will fall, and fall often, and the ultimate prize will go to whoever made it fall the least number of times, or whoever sends it toppling over during an exciting, sudden death period. Easy enough for even young kids to understand but with a genuinely fun dexterity challenge to it, this is a game that even adults will be happy to play when their children dump the pieces out on the post-dinner table. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

Challenge of the Super Friends Card Game (Cryptozoic)

RRP: $15.00

For better or for worse, the Super Friends cartoon helped define the characters of DC Comics for a generation of children. The Hanna-Barbera production aired in various versions from 1973 to 1985 as part of ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup. While the show was somewhat simplistic, even compared to the Justice League comic books of the era, it was fun and colorful and kids simply didn’t care. 1978’s Challenge of the Super Friends take on the show featured the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman etc.) battling the evil Legion of Doom (Lex Luthor, Cheetah, Black Manta, etc.), whose flying headquarters emerged from the depths of a swamp. In part due to it featuring even more heroes and villains from the source material, Challenge of the Super Friends was a hit with young comic book fans and is one of the better iterations of the Super Friends cartoon and one of the best superhero cartoons of the era, even if Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series in the 1990s and Cartoon Network’s Justice League and Justice League Unlimited in the early 2000s would eventually eclipse Super Friends in terms of sophisticated storytelling and faithfulness to the comic books.

Forty-one years after the show first aired, Cryptozoic has now put out the Challenge of the Super Friends Card Game. Two to four players play at the same time, putting down their cards to see who can capture each super villain (including Captain Cold, Scarecrow, Sinestro, and Brainiac). You can play as Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, or Aquaman and call upon other heroes (such as Hawkman, Samurai, Apache Chief, The Flash, Green Lantern, and even the Wonder Twins) to aid in battle. But be warned, you could be transformed into a troll, trapped in a storybook, frozen in ice, possessed by brain creatures, or stuck in The Phantom Zone. The cards feature new artwork based on the classic series. Challenge of the Super Friends Card Game is recommended for ages 10 and up. It all adds up to plenty of nostalgic fun. By Mark Redern (Buy it here.)

DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth (Cryptozoic)

RRP: $45.00

Deck-building games once again get the DC Comics treatment from Cryptozoic. The company have produced various other DC deck-building games and expansion packs in the past, featuring the Justice League, Teen Titans, Batman, the Legion of Super Heroes, Teen Titans Go!, the New Gods, and even characters from Watchmen. DC Deck-Building Game: Rebirth centers on the Rebirth relaunch/redesign the DC Comics line went through in 2016 and 2017, continuing to the current continuity. You can play as various characters, including such mainstays as Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Superman, Aquaman, and Cyborg, as well as the more modern Green Lanterns characters Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. Players can either randomly be assigned a character or pick their favorite and play either competitively, cooperatively, or even solo. Game-play is perhaps a little too complex to fully get into briefly here, but there are over 240 game cards and you move around a board that features various iconic DC locations, including the Batcave, Arkham Asylum, the Daily Planet building, and S.T.A.R. Labs. You have to find the cards you need for your deck to help defeat the plans of various villains. Rebirth is recommended for ages 15+, so it’s not for the little ones. Existing Cryptozoic customers will be happy to know that Rebirth is compatible with all the company’s other DC Comics deck-building games, meaning you can mix and match characters as you please. By Mark Redern (Buy it here.)

Domino Maze (ThinkFun)

RRP: $29.99

There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from putting together a successful domino run, especially a complicated one. It’s a nice feeling when all the dominos perfectly fall in line. Combine that with logic puzzles and you have ThinkFun’s Domino Maze. It’s a one-player game recommended for eight year olds to adults. There are up to 60 challenges, ranging from beginner to expert, in which you have to work out how to place the dominos to maneuver around obstacles and hit the right targets in the correct order, including sometimes going up some clear plastic stairs included as part of the game. Domino Maze comes from the creators of Lazer Maze and Gravity Maze, with challenges created by Wei-Hwa Huang, who is billed as a “world famous puzzle creator.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Harry Potter Labyrinth (Ravensburger)

RRP: $34.99

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series may have ended in 2007 after a 10-year run of seven books, with the film adaptations wrapping up in 2011, but the world of wizards and Muggles lives on with the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play in London, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park attraction, the Fantastic Beasts prequel film series, and any number of toys and other merchandise. Add to the list Ravensburger’s Harry Potter Labyrinth game. In this variation of the popular Labyrinth board game, two to four players must navigate around a complex maze to find various residents of Hogwarts, including Harry, Ron, Hermione, Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, and even Harry’s owl Hedwig. It is predicted to take 20-30 minutes and is intended for ages 7-99, so Harry Potter fans of almost all ages can join in and pretend they are following the Marauder’s Map. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers (ThinkFun)

RRP: $29.99

Most widely reported alien abduction cases date back to the 1950s, although accounts of “mystery airships” date back to at least the 1890s, if not earlier. Over the years there have been many silly reports of cows being taken by UFOs, including a newspaper story told by a farmer in Kansas in 1897 that was later suggested to be an elaborate hoax, as the farmer belonged to a local liars’ club (who knew there was such a thing). You would think that if aliens are visiting this planet they would have more important and interesting things to do than mess with cows. One more entertaining distraction would be to play ThinkFun’s Invasion of the Cow Snatchers game. It’s a single player game for ages six and older. You control a UFO and have to move it around the two-tiered board, magnetically collecting cows in the bottom tier and avoiding obstacles, such as fences and barns. You have to collect all the cows first and then the bull. There are 60 different challenge cards to choose from, each with a different configuration for you to maneuver your UFO around. Invasion of the Cow Snatchers “promotes critical thinking, logical reasoning, and planning and solving.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Board Game (River Horse/Fun.com)

RRP: $49.99

Film history is littered with great movies that didn’t do as well at the box office on their initial release as they should’ve. Sometimes it’s down to bad timing or marketing, other times it’s more of a mystery why a film doesn’t connect with audiences. There are even instances where a classic film was originally rejected by many major critics as well. Some of these films found an audience on home media (VHS, DVD, etc.) or TV, others faded away into obscurity, beloved by only a select few. Jim Henson’s film Labyrinth is considered a fantasy classic now, but when it opened on June 27, 1986 it only made it to #6 on that weekend’s box office chart, dropping all the way down to #13 in its second weekend and eventually only making $12.9 million in America, just over half its $25 million budget. Thankfully the movie found a new life on VHS, with both stars David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly telling interviewers the following decade that they were still regularly recognized for Labyrinth by new generations of children just discovering the film. I can attest to this, it’s one of my six-year-old daughter’s favorite movies.

The plot of the film makes it very ripe for a board game adaptation. Jareth the Goblin King (Bowie) kidnaps Toby, the baby half-brother of Sarah Williams (Connelly), taking him to his castle at the center of a tricky labyrinth. Sarah has 13 hours to find her way through the maze or Toby will be turned into a goblin forever. Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Board Game, produced by River Horse, has the same premise. Play by yourself or with up to five players aged six or older, although it’s recommended for four players as it’s ideally a cooperative game. The beautifully designed game features lovely new illustrations on the character cards. You can play as Sarah, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, Ludo, or even Jareth and the game comes with well-crafted character pieces that can be painted if you so desire. This came would mainly appeal to fans of Labyrinth, young or old, of which there are now considerably more than in June 1986. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Heads Talk Tails Walk (ThinkFun)

RRP: $14.99

Heads Talk Tails Walk is a game of animal pantomime and silly noises for preschool ages and up. You’ll stack a pile of animal bodies – the “tails” of the title – in the center of the table or floor, and then surround it with a pile of face-down “head” tiles, then take turns flipping the heads over in hopes of finding a match. If your flipped tile doesn’t match – let’s say, you’ve suddenly stuck a chicken’s head onto a frog’s body – you’ll have to act out what your new, hybrid critter might walk and sound like. (In this situation, you’d get up and hop like a frog while clucking like a hen.) This colorful game is a great way for a little one to get their sillies out – the same can be said for their parents, for that matter. By Austin Trunick (Buy it here.)

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