Let's be honest, since gaming has become more 'mainstream', the industry has seen a marked increase in games for children - not just games that have a universal appeal, but games designed with children in mind. Barbie games, Babysitting Mama, games based off cartoons or toys, the list goes on into infinity.
But while gamers may rue the many, many brightly coloured titles that litter our local gaming shops and make Gorefest 19 so hard to find, by dismissing all these titles out of hand, you might be missing out on some great gaming experiences. Here's a list of five games that are (secretly) ridiculously fun to play as an adult.
Maybe the single most colourful game on this list, it took the Xbox 360 and turned it into a machine that distilled pure rainbows and happiness into a single candy-themed world. The premise is...different. Based off a (pretty atrocious) kid's TV show of the same name, you play a farmer who breeds and raises piñatas for parties, trying to maintain a balanced piñata eco-system while chasing away or taming evil piñatas, aiming to increase the value of your farm and collect rare piñatas, all while dressing them up, decorating and terraforming your farm, and hiring helpers with chocolate coins. The piñatas all have silly names that are just shy of being genuine puns, like fudgehogs, badgesicles and doenuts, and a lot of the characters from the show itself are in the game to offer advice and guidance.
Don't let the colours fool you, he's a stone cold killer
The first sign this might actually be an entertaining release is the fact it's made by Rare, of Banjo Kazooie, Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country fame. With that kind of pedigree, it should be a great game for any age group – and it is. Despite its eye-searing visuals and cutesy appearance, it's deep, engrossing and, if I'm honest, surprisingly challenging. The piñata eco-system they've built is the backbone of the game, and it really is amazing to see how your farm grows and changes as different species begin to migrate to your plot. Getting piñatas to stay in your farm is a puzzle at the best of times, and juggling piñatas so you can squeeze that last rare one into the farm is a lesson in organisation, and an even bigger lesson in how you get animals not to kill each other. The most surprising part of this game is how adult some of the writing is. The first time the garden shop-keeper said “Are you looking for something seedy? Oh I don't mean like that...” I almost spat my drink across the room. In spite of its kid's show origins, if you're a fan of the old breed of God Games – Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park – then you will feel right at home in Viva Piñata, whatever age you are.
Nerf Arena Blast
When I was a kid, my parents were pretty strict on age ratings. I remember vividly not being able to get GTA: San Andreas, a game rated 18 years and up in England, at the ripe old age of 17 and three quarters. Therefore, at the age of 12, there was no way I was going to be allowed to play Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena. In my eagerness to play, however, I discovered Nerf Arena Blast, billed as a “family-friendly shooter”, and brightly coloured enough for my parents to allow it. An Unreal clone in the truest sense, it was Unreal Tournament with nerf weaponry and a sense of 'cool' that was on par with replacing 's' with 'z'.
Granted, the graphics don't hold up so well...
So if Nerf Arena blast is just Unreal Tournament with Nerf guns, why not, as an adult, just play UT instead? Primarily because Nerf Arena Blast is Unreal Tournament, but with Nerf guns. Everything else was there – the bot AI is deadly on higher difficulties, the map design was mostly superb, and the new additions and game modes worked really well while still keeping the action frantic – but this had Nerf guns. If you need any other reason, then your childhood must have been a dull, lifeless place without fun or foam projectile blindness. I re-installed this recently, and not only found that it was as fun as ever, but that it still had a thriving modification community, pushing out entire conversions and new campaigns to this day. Nerf Arena Blast is Unreal Tournament, yes, but it's Unreal Tournament with a sense of humour, and for my money, it still beats out UT as a fun LAN shooter.