Welcome to the 2021 Home Entertainment & Pop Culture Holiday Gift Guide! This year we’ve got even more gift suggestions than ever before, with not just home video content, but also comic books, video games, tabletop games, and more!
For the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fan:
Middle-Earth: 31-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition – I mean, where do you even start with this incredible box set? I’ve seen many studios use the term “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” and more often than not the end result is something less than ultimate. But this set absolutely lives up to its moniker. Spread across a whopping 31 discs is the entirety of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth saga: The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy. But that’s not even close to being all you get. First of all, each of the six films comes with both their theatrical cuts and their extended cuts. Now, I love the extended cuts; half an hour extra seems excessive when each film is already three hours long, but I really think the extended cuts are the better versions of the films. But sometimes you want the more compact versions, so I love that the theatrical versions were included. I hate when I can only get one version of a movie I know there are multiple different versions of. Then, each film is also included in 4K Ultra HD as well as Blu-ray… and you get digital copies of both versions of each film as well. On top of that, you get a bonus disc with all-new extra features celebrating the LOTR trilogy’s 20th anniversary, a 64-page book, and seven double-sided art cards. The box set’s packaging is utterly fantastic; there are four different configurations you can transform it into, that change it from compact to display worthy, and it’s really neat. Even better, watching the films in 4K is a revelation; the movies have new life to them, with incredibly deep colors, razor sharp imagery, and strong contrasts and shadow delineation. The surround soundtracks are rich and full, and they’ll immerse you into Middle Earth even more than before. Honestly, if you’re a fan of the Middle Earth films — and who isn’t? — this is hands down the ULTIMATE home video collection.
Mad Max Anthology (4K Ultra HD) – This awesome new box set from Warner Bros. marks the first time that all four Mad Max films have been brought together in the premium 4K Ultra HD format. You get the original trilogy, but you also get the excellent Mad Max: Fury Road as well. This four-disc set sees each film upgraded to 4K Ultra HD, and the end results are quite good. The original films look better, although its not like they look brand new, seeing as how the films are around 35-40 years old. Nice, bright colors and sharp imagery are the highlights, while some natural film grain remains to give the films a cinematic feel. Mad Max: Fury Road, as the newest film from just a few years ago, looks utterly spectacular. The surround soundtracks give your rear speakers some good activity to play with, even if they’re not the most subtle mixes I’ve ever heard. The set doesn’t include much in the way of extra features, unfortunately, with just a few extras on Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. That is a disappointment for me, but the included digital copies for each film are a very welcome addition, so overall this is still a great way to get a terrific action/sci-fi franchise in your collection.
Thundarr the Barbarian: The Complete Series – Of all the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the ‘60s and ‘70s, Thundarr the Barbarian is probably my very favorite. In fact, thinking back on it now, I would bet that my lifelong fascination with post-apocalyptic and dystopic future movies began with my love of Thundarr as a kid. With those amazing Alex Toth production designs, the show was more than just your typical good buys versus bad guys sci-fi adventure. It gave us a glimpse of a dark, twisted future that absolutely blew my mind, but all in a kid-friendly way. It’s certainly the best looking Hanna-Barbera cartoon I’ve ever seen, though. Now, the entire show is available on DVD from the Warner Archive (www.warnerarchive.com). You get all 21 episodes of Thundarr, Ookla the ok, and Princess Ariel on four DVDs or three Blu-rays. Fantastic stuff!
The Labyrinth – Skybound is behind some of the biggest titles in comics, like The Walking Dead and Invincible, but they are starting to branch out, and The Labryinth is one of their newer titles. This gorgeous oversized hardcover (10 x 11 inches and 184 pages) is written and illustrated by Simon Stalenhag. Now, this isn’t an ordinary comic book. It’s presented in a coffee table book format, but it has a definite narrative to it, shared through large painted illustrations with paragraphs of text alongside them. There isn’t a word bubble to be found anywhere. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, and we see a dark and lonely world. In fact, if I have one minor complaint about the book, is that it’s maybe a little too dark, both tonally and in terms of the contrasts of the artwork. That said, the paintings are absolutely gorgeous and the story is compelling. Maybe not the cheeriest gift you can give, but for a reader of comics and sci-fi, they’ll definitely be excited to unwrap this one!
Valor & Villainy: Minions of Mordak – This awesome new board game from Skybound Games is one of the more impressive-looking tabletop games I’ve seen in a while. Inside the massive box, you will find a ton of cards, tiles, tokens, and more, all of which adds up to a really fun playing experience. This is a one-vs.-all game, meaning one person plays the bad guy, and everyone else teams up to defeat that player. I really like the design of the game; the player boards have slots for all the various tokens and markers, keeping everything neat and orderly. But the gameplay itself is a lot of fun; it’s an easy game to learn, not too complicated, but with a wide variety of gameplay mechanics. Even better, because it doesn’t have a ton of overdone pieces and parts, the price point is extremely affordable. I expect games that look like this to usually fall into the $80-$100 range, but you can get it on Skybound’s website for $30. Deal!
For the Horror Fan:
Supernatural: The Complete Series – One of my all-time favorite TV shows has come to an end, but now you can relive it from the very beginning. I’ve been a Supernatural fan since the very first episode aired (I watched it LIVE on TV!), and my fandom has never waned. Frankly, I’m stunned the show remained as good as it did; most series can’t go five seasons without a serious decline in quality, much less fifteen. However, I’ll say that as sad as I am to see the show go, it felt like a good time to come to an end. Of course, there’s no way to discuss the final episode without spoilers, but suffice it to say that I think most fans will be reaching for a hanky. This terrific (and chunky! Complete series Blu-ray collection from Warner Brothers includes every single episode of every season and an absolute treasure trove of extra features from every scene, including deleted scenes, multiple featurettes, interviews, gag reels, a retrospective episode, and so much more. It also includes digital copies of the entire series, which is wonderful. This set is an absolute must-have for any fan.
Art of the Walking Dead Universe – This gorgeous new hardcover book from Skybound is a Walking Dead fan’s dream. An oversized coffee table book, the tome collects artwork, production photos, storyboards, design drawings, promotional art, and much, much more from The Walking Dead TV show. It also includes Fear the Walking Dead and TWD: The World Beyond, but I’ll be honest, it’s about 90% dedicated to the flagship show. The book also comes with two covers: the main cover features a character montage that features some iconic imagery, and then there’s a Sykybound website exclusive featuring a human/zombie portrait of Darryl by comic book superstar David Finch. This four-pound behemoth weighs in at 240 pages, and it’s got enough text to keep things interesting, but the main focus is on the copious amounts of photos and artwork reproductions. Zombies may be ugly, but this book is a beauty!
Underworld: 4K Ultra HD Collection – The Underworld franchise is one of those film series that has had a much longer shelf life than it should have. The first film from 2003 featured Kate Beckinsale in head-to-toe black leather in the midst of a vampire/werewolf war. It was a moderate hit, but far from a blockbuster. Well, fast forward 18 years, and we’ve got a total of five Underworld flicks, with persistent rumors that a sixth one is coming. This new 4K Ultra HD collection includes all five movies on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and digital. Throughout the course of Underworld, Underworld Awakening, Underworld Evolution, Underworld: Blood Wars, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, we are immersed in an underworld where vampires and werewolves are constantly at war. Interestingly, Beckinsale stepped away from the franchise for the third entry before coming back for the next two. I had fun revisiting this franchise. I had only seen each of the films once; I liked them but they’re not huge favorites of mine, so watching them back to back definitely enhances the overall arc of the franchise. They’re still not quite masterpieces, but they are fun movies to throw on late at night when you want some mindless fantasy violence. The entire series has been remastered in 4K Ultra HD and are available in the premium format for the first time in this nice set. Housed in a sharp-looking box, you also get each film on Blu-ray and a digital copy of each movie. The 4K upgrade does some nice things for the films, even if they don’t look completely transformed. The biggest improvements are in terms of shadow details; these are films that are incredibly dark, and it’s nice to be able to better interpret what’s happening on screen. Color saturation isn’t a big factor, since some of the films are nearly monochromatic, but the picture looks really good overall. The surround soundtracks, meanwhile, really do a nice job of spreading the sounds and music out to all of your satellite speakers, giving a nicely immersive experience with occasional bursts of booming low end. For an Underworld fan, this box set is not to be missed!
For the Star Trek Fan:
Star Trek: The Original Series Steelbook Collection – I’m not always the biggest fan of repackaging existing material and throwing it out on the market for the holidays, but sometimes a repackaging is done so well, you just have to admire it. Such is the case with the new Star Trek: The Original Series Complete Collection on Blu-ray. The original series’ three seasons were originally released in complete season Blu-ray sets, then collected in a full series set. Now we get them in a sparkly new Steelbook collection that gives us all three seasons in one set, with each season in a beautifully designed steelbook case housing its multiple discs. Each steelbook has gorgeous artwork that represents the characters and events of the season. There isn’t any new content on the discs, although they are loaded with all of the original extra features from the original releases, giving you hours and hours of extras to pore through. Still, there are plenty of people out there who have never picked up the whole series on Blu-ray, and if you haven’t yet, this is definitely the way to do it.
Star Trek: Discovery: Seasons 1-3 – I wasn’t a fan of Star Trek: Discovery in the beginning, but I have since become a huge fan of the show. Season One took a while for me to come around to, but by the end of it, I was hooked. Season Two was terrific and Season Three just continued that trend. Each season focuses on a different central mystery, while still exploring space and time and coming up against various challenges, and I’ve found the entire series exciting and captivating, just like I want my Star Trek to be. This new collection collects the first three seasons, bringing you up to speed on the whole show so far just in time for the now-airing Season Four. There’s also a a nice collection of extra features (although no digital copies, unfortunately). This new set is available on either Blu-ray or DVD (although the Blu-ray version is the way to go for my money), and whether you’ve been watching the show on Paramount+ (or Netflix in Europe) or not, it’s worth picking up.
For the Superhero Fan:
Superman: The Complete Animated Series – On the heels of the Batman Animated Series in the early 1990s, which became a massive success and revolutionized animated television shows, DC and Warner decide to try the same approach with their other biggest superhero, Superman. Now, I’m a huge Superman fan, but back in the day, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this show. I found it a little less exciting than I would have liked, and it wasn’t Batman: TAS, which to my mind could not be topped. But in revisiting the show over the years, I’ve found it’s actually a terrific series. It really captures the true spirit of the character, with Superman being his upstanding, non-edgy, powerful self, not the grim and humorless Superman that Zack Snyder brought us in his DC live action movies. With great voice work by Tim Daly, Dana Delaney and Clancy Brown and a slew of terrific guest stars, the show is actually quite a bit of fun. Its a shame it didn’t run longer, but this new collection marks the first time you can get all 52 episodes in one set on Blu-ray (and digital!), and there are some nice extra features thrown in as well. Love it!
Smallville: The Complete Series – As a big Superman fan, I couldn’t be happier about this massive new box set collecting one of my favorite shows on Blu-ray in its entirety for the first time, Smallville: The Complete Series. This 42-disc box set collects all ten seasons on Blu-ray for the first time, and it’s an incredible viewing experience. Smallville focused on Clark Kent’s years as a teenager in Smallville, Kansas, along with his first love, Lana Lang, and his good-friend-turned-archnemesis Lex Luthor. Tom Welling is one of the definitive Clark Kents in my opinion, and Michael Rosenbaum delivers my favorite onscreen Lex Luthor ever. Over the course of ten seasons, we see Clark transform from a shy teenager to a true hero, all while only ever giving us a glimpse of him as Superman proper in the final episode. Like most great sci-fi shows, Smallville gave us great villain-of-the-week episodes while also delivering season-long mythology storylines that took us deeper into the Superman mythos. This set not only gives you the entire series, but it also includes all of the extra features from the original home video releases, equalling hours of extras to sort through. It’s truly a… SUPER set!
Superman & Lois: The Complete First Season – Even though I’m a huge Superman fan, for some reason I wasn’t all that interested in Superman & Lois when it debuted on TV last season. I think I found the trailers a little lackluster, and I basically skipped the show. But of course, when the review copies come in, I have to dive in, and I’m happy to report that I was completely wrong about this show. I really, really enjoyed Superman & Lois. In this version of the Man of Steel, he and Lois have two teenage sons: twins Jonathan and Jordan. Jonathan is the all-American good-looking quarterback, while Jordan is the broody, moody, troubled son. The show starts with the family moving back to Smallville so Clark can connect with his sons more as they come of age. Will they develop powers? I won’t spoil it, but I’ll say that I like the way the show handles it. Tyler Hoechlin is terrific as Clark/Superman, and Elizabeth Tulloch grew on me as Lois within the first two episodes. I also really like the relationship between the two brothers. Actually, I like all of the relationships on this show; they feel real. If Smallville was the pre-Metropolis Superman, this show is sort of the post-Metropolis Superman (but don’t worry, there’s still enough costumed action to keep fans interested.) And while the show isn’t a direct sequel to Smallville, taking place in a separate universe, there is some spiritual DNA that the shows share, and I like that. I love Superman, and I’m excited to see him get another high-quality TV series to carry on his legacy.
Invincible Ultimate Collection: Volumes 1-3 – I’ve been a fan of Invincible since the very first issue came out. I’ll be honest, it’s one of my absolute favorite comic book series of all time, maybe my favorite. Throughout the course of 150+ episodes, Robert Kirkman created one of the most dynamic, endearing, engaging, cliffhanger-filled, action-packed, funny, and emotional comic books of all time. In my mind, it’s literally perfect. Now, the series has been collected many different ways, but for my money, there’s no better version than the Invincible Ultimate Collections. Each of these oversized hardcover books collects about a dozen issues of the series, giving you a nice big chunk of story all in one sitting. Even better, each volume is packed with dozens and dozens of pages of extra material: sketches, promotional art, rough drawings, character designs, and more! It’s like a making-of documentary in comic book form. Each volume comes in around the 400-page mark, giving you a ton of bang for your buck and again… one of the best comic books of all time! There are 12 volumes total, but Skybound has the first three volumes on sale in a bundle at their website (store.skybound.com).
Invincible T-Shirt – I am in love with my Invincible T-Shirt! Featuring artwork by Ryan Ottley (the series artist on Invincible), this print-on-demand shirt from Skybound’s website is available in a wide range of colors and sizes. It features a strong image of Invincible with the words “Vaxxed and Feeling Invincible” on it. How cool is that?? Get yours now and show off to the world that you too are Invincible!
For the Anime Fan:
Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Complete Series – One of the most popular and influential anime series of all time has a new home video version out this week that will blow its fans away. Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Complete Series is a new 5-disc Blu-ray set that brings the beloved show to Blu-ray for the first time. And not only does it include all 26 episodes, but it also gives you two movies, Evangelion: Death and The End of Evangelion. But beyond that, this set also includes over five hours of bonus features, including animatics, music videos, and more. The show gained acclaim and fan fervor through its blend of hardcore sci-fi action (Attacking creatures! Mech suits! Human pilots!) and a human story that remains front and center and lets you get involved in the characters. I’d seen bits and pieces of it over the years, but being able to sit down and watch it from start to finish delivers a much more powerful experience, and I can see why people have taken to it so fervently. There is also a deluxe 11-disc set available, but the 5-disc version should be more than enough to satisfy most fans.
Robotech: Collector’s Edition – Over the years, I’ve tried multiple times to get into the whole Robotech saga. It’s been around since I was a kid, but I’ve never been able to fully embrace it. I think that’s largely because I’ve usually just stumbled across pieces of it here and there; taking in a Macross movie or catching a stray episode from time to time. Now, with the massive Robotech: Collector’s Edition box set, I was finally able to sit down and start watching the saga in chronological order. And now I get what people like about it so much! There was an incredibly ambitious scope to the project, as the series is split across three major storylines, with each one further escalating a complex story arc. And on an aesthetic level, there are amazing ship and robot designs. This massive box set includes all 85 remastered episodes on Blu-ray, with each of the. Three “seasons” in it’s own cool 4-or-5-disc case, plus over seven hours of bonus features. But then, there are also some physical goodies that any die-hard Robofan will drool over: you get an exclusive transforming Veritech figure (and let’s be honest, those are the coolest!), another exclusive action figure of Roy Fokker in his pilot uniform, and a set of four Military-style 3-inch patches, all housed in a cool box adorned with killer Robotech artwork. This one has to be seen to be believed!
Ultramega – Jame’s Harren’s hit comic series from Image Comics is collected in trade paperback form, and anyone who’s a fan of anime, manga, or kaijus will probably dig it a lot. The story is kind of hard to explain; suffice it to say that there are overtone of Ultraman to be found here and a healthy dose of kaiju (giant monsters) as well. But this is no kids show in comic form; instead, it’s like Ultraman by way of Hunter S. Thompson mixed with Pacific Rim as told by Quentin Tarantino. It’s pretty R-rated in terms of violence and gore, and it kicks things off with a bang and never lets up. This 208-page book collects the first four (giant-sized) issues of the hit series.
For the Classic Hollywood Fan:
Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Volume 2 – Columbia recently dropped the second volume of a massive box series that will please cinema fans immensely: The Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection, Volume 2. This multi-disc beauty that includes new 4K Ultra HD versions of six classic films from the Columbia vaults, all making their 4K debuts. The films included are: Anatomy of a Murder, Oliver!, Taxi Driver, Stripes, Sense and Sensibility, and The Social Network. The set includes a brand new 4K Ultra HD disc for each film, but also includes each film on Blu-ray, ensuring that all of the original extra features are included in this set. Each film has been restored and remastered in the Ultra HD format, and despite the age range of the films, by and large each one has been wonderfully revitalized in the new format. Taxi Driver, for example, looks better than I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve seen the film on both DVD and Blu-ray previously. Oliver and Sense and Sensibility both sparkle with bright new colors and improved clarity. Anatomy of a Murder is in black and white, but it showcases brilliant contrasts and excellent shadow delineation. The Social Network, as the newest film in the set, already looked pretty great, but seeing a David Fincher film in Ultra HD is the way you want to watch his movies. Technically speaking, you can’t beat the job Sony has done with these transfers. I can understand the complaints some people have had about the movie selection for these sets (maybe Taxi Driver fans and Oliver fans don’t share much of a Venn diagram), but most of the choices were drawn from a poll Sony took of movie watchers, so it does reflect what people want to some extent. Ultimately, it’s a nice mix of stone-cold cinema classics and newer classics that deserve a place in the movie pantheon. This is a terrific set overall, and I hope we’ll see another excellent set like continuing this series in the near future. Oh yeah, and it’d make a heck of a great holiday gift! RECOMMENDED!
Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection (4K Ultra HD) – So, at this point, getting a new Universal Classic Monsters Collection on home video has become sort of an annual event. In the last decade, we’ve had two different collections on DVD, two different collections on Blu-ray, and now we get a 4K Ultra HD collection. This is the more streamlined collection (and I would guess the main one we’ll get on 4K) featuring four of the most popular and well-loved of Uni’s classic monster films: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man. Each film has been remastered in 4K, and they’ve all been packaged together in a gorgeous box set with a wealth of extra features. It’s an 8-disc set that includes each movie both on a 4K disc as well as a Blu-ray Disc, and this time around you also get digital copies of each movie. The 4K u pgrade definitely makes a difference in the visual presentation of each film. While the films are in black and white so you don’t get the extra pop of colors, the grey tones are more subtle, the blacks are deeper, the shadow delineation is much stronger, and the overall image clarity is sharper than previous home video editions. The soundtracks are working with limited fidelity due to the age of the films, but I certainly don’t hear anything to complain about. If you’re a fan of the classic Universal monster series and don’t already own the Blu-ray collections (or want to have the films in hour digital library), this set is a must-have!
I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Series – Mill Creek brings us a long-awaited new set with the multi-disc box set I Dream of Jeannie: The Complete Series. Now, I Dream of Jeannie has been collected in a complete set box before, but this marks the first time it’s available on Blu-ray, which is no small thing. I grew up watching I Dream of Jeannie re-runs on television; I’ve seen every episode of the show, probably more than once, and I love it. It’s classic television that’s funny and clever and occasionally a little subtly naughty, and it still holds up some 50+ years after it aired on television. Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden were absolutely magical together on screen (pun very much intended) and I think this is a show that’s a lot of fun to revisit. This new 12-disc collection includes all five seasons of the hit show, and while the Blu-rays don’t exactly offer up real high definition, they do look better than the previous DVD releases. You also get some extra features, including the I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later TV movie, which is a really cool addition for completists. This is a great show and this is easily the best collection of the entire 139-episode run that’s been out yet.
Audrey Hepburn: 7-Movie Collection – So often, when studios collect a movie star’s films into one collection, it’s a hodgepodge of a few marquee titles and then a bunch of lesser-known films that are added as filler. But Audrey Hepburn had a surprisingly small filmography compared to some movie stars, and she spent a lot of that time making really good films. Thus, when you look at the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection, it’s an impressive roster of films considering they all come from one studio. This new Blu-ray collection gives you six heavyweights (with one lesser-known title thrown in): Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, Funny Face, Sabrina, War and Peace, and Paris When it Sizzles. I mean, the set would be worth it for Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, and Funny Face alone, but it really shines when you put all seven films together. Sabrina is an underrated classic, My Fair Lady is a beloved film, even War and Peace might not be the definitive film in the set, but it’s a terrific inclusion. Even better, this set includes digital copies of all seven movies, which is somewhat of a rarity for older, classic Hollywood films. I’m incredibly impressed with this set and it comes RECOMMENDED!
For the Whole Family:
Rankin Bass Original Christmas Specials Collection (Steelbook Edition) – With the fourth quarter upon is, the holiday offerings are hitting shelves, and this one is a perennial favorite. It’s been out on DVD and Blu-ray before, but this year we get the Rankin Bass Original Christmas Specials Collection housed in a nice steelbook case. I know there are a lot of steelbook collectors out there, so if you’re looking for a new one that will give you some good holiday offerings for the kids, this will kill two birds with one stone. This set includes five Christmas specials on four discs: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Cricket on the Hearth. With Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town being stone-cold stop-motion animation classics and Frosty the Snowman a 2-D animation classic, it’s hard to argue with the quality of these specials from yesteryear. The set also includes a nice handful of extra features such as making-of featurettes, animation tests, and commentary tracks. A perfect gift for the holiday season!
Josie & The Pussycats in Space: The Complete Series – There’s nothing I love better than when my childhood comes back to visit me, and this collection gives me a nice dose of that. Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space: The Complete Animated Series is out on DVD and Blu-ray and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. It’s available through the Warner Archive print-on-demand service (www.warnerarchive.com) and participating online retailers. Back to the show itself, the original spin-off from the Archie comics line is about an all-girl rock band who travel the world and get into zany adventures. This spin-off of a spin-off sees the group going into outer space, because why not? This two-disc set you gives you all 16 episodes of the short-lived series, but it gives you a great companion piece to go with the original series.
Exploding Minions – Based on the crazy popular card game Exploding Kittens, Universal has teamed up with the original game’s creators to bring us Exploding Minions, starring everyone’s favorite little yellow helpers from the Despicable Me movies, the Minions! Billed as a “family friendly party game” Exploding Minions is both incredibly simple and ridiculously fun. It’s a pretty simple set up. Everyone draws cards from the pile, and if you draw an exploding Minion card, you blow up and you’re out of the game. But there are tons of modifier cards that let you defuse bombs, rearrange cards in the deck, change cards, and much more. It’s kind of reminiscent of Uno in a way, but with funnier illustrations on the cards and much more chaos! While this is a great family game, I also had a lot of fun playing it with my friends.
Kim-Joy’s Magic Bakery – This is a fun family tabletop game that presents a different genre than usual: baking! Now, I didn’t know this, but Kim-Joy was apparently a popular finalist on The Great British Bake-Off. Now she has her own board game, and it’s a fun, lighthearted little adventure. The mechanics start off simple, as you combine different ingredients (on cards) to form baked goods. As you go through each of the ten rounds (or scenarios), things get progressively harder. It’s a cooperative game, so you and your fellow players are trying to make sure all your customers leave happy. The cards have cute and colorful illustrations, and the various customers are also pretty whimsical. Appropriate for ages 8 and up, this is another gam. That’s simple to learn but offers up a lot of twists and turns in the gameplay to keep things interesting and challenging for family members of all ages.
Pebble Rock Delivery Service – This board game is also listed as ages 8 and up, although it’s a little more complex than a few of the previous ones, just in terms of set up and space needed. This is a spread-out game, meaning the whole thing takes up a bunch of room; you’ll definitely need a nice clear table to play this one. Once set up, it’s pretty simple: players complete to complete the most deliveries in the rounds. As always, there are dice rolls and cards that will modify how easy or hard that is. The whole thing takes in the neighborhood of 45 minutes to an hour to play, so that level of commitment might lose some of the younger players. But it’s a well designed game, I like the circular board, and it can definitely be a lot of fun, plus, you get a lot of bang for your buck, as the game can be found in the neighborhood of $25, including at Skybound’s website.
For the Fashionistas in Your Life:
Sex & The City: The Complete Series + Movies – I know it’s easy to pick on Sex & The City if you’re a male film reviewer. Obviously, the show was geared more for a female audience, and it was quite successful in reaching them. But I always enjoyed the show, personally. It’s funny, it could be well-written, the cast had great chemistry, there were terrific guest stars… in short, it was always a lot of fun to watch. So if you’re looking someone to take cheap shots at the show and make jokes about Jimmy Choos, well, you’re in the wrong place. It’s been a while since we’ve had any new S&TC product (although there’s a revival series on the way next year), and while there’s nothing actually new in this set, it is by far the most complete collection for S&TC fans to date. Inside this 18-disc box set, you get all 96 episodes of the show (six seasons total) on Blu-ray, as well as the two theatrical films. To my knowledge, it’s the first time the entire series and both movies have been collected in one place on Blu-ray, which is definitely the preferred format for watching the show, in my opinion. In addition, there are over three hours of extra features; while they’re all previously released features, it’s nice that they weren’t ignored for this collection. If you’re a die-hard Sex & The City fan, this is the best way to own the whole shebang all in one place.
For the Video Gamer:
Fast & The Furious Spy Racers: Rise of SH1FT3R – I’ll admit that I don’t get much time to play video games these days, and because of that, I like games that are simple and can be played for a short period of time. I don’t need a 13-hour epic quest; I usually prefer just to fight in some Mortal Kombat for 20 minutes or play a quick football game. So I was excited to get a copy of Fast & The Furious: Rise of the Sh1ft3r because I love a good racing game, but I also am a huge Fast & Furious franchise fan. The game is available on Switch and PS4 (I played the Switch version), and I’m happy to say it’s exactly what I wanted, a mix of race car driving and spy gadgets. Here, you race with characters from the F&F: Spy Racers cartoon show, but you also have 15 spy weapons you can use to derail your opponents. It’s a lot of fun, and you can blow through a handful of races pretty quickly. The game has an online, multiplayer component as well, so you can challenge your friends. It’s not complex or overly time consuming, but I had fun playing it!
Gang Beasts – I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this game (available on Nintendo Switch, PS 4 or Xbox One), but I enjoyed the heck out of it! It’s a multiplayer party game where your jelly-like characters have ragdoll physics and then have to fight each other. Basically, picture two drunk bean bags going at it and you have some idea of what you’re in for. It’s chaotic, it’s silly, it’s colorful, it’s ridiculous, but above all, it’s fun. I don’t see how you could play this game and not have a smile on your face the whole time you play. There’s a number of different worlds and your characters are super customizable, so you can really make the game your own. The very first PC version of the game came out in 2014, so it’s been around for over seven years now; there’s definitely a reason it’s been popular for so long.
Ori: The Collection – This new Nintendo Switch game is actually two games in one (hence the “Collection” part of the title. On the single Switch cartridge, you get both Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Before I say anything else, I have to just praise both games for their incredible graphics. Apparently they use hand painted artwork, and the result is just stunning; I know I don’t play a lot of video games but these are legit some of the best looking games I’ve ever seen. Ultimately, the games are puzzle platforms, so the gameplay mechanics are nothing new, but it’s the visuals, the characters, the story, and even the amazing soundtracks that will suck you in and keep you coming back until you’ve powered through both games. Like I stated above, I prefer down and dirty, fast-paced games, but Ori definitely won me over! The package also includes six collectible art cards and downloadable soundtracks, which is a nice bonus. And getting two games for the price of one? Hard to argue with that!
Spritfarer – This game (available on Nintendo Switch and PS4) is a unique one. It’s called a “cozy management” game, and I have to admit, I had n idea what that meant. Turns out, in this game, you play Stella, a ferry master who transports dead souls. You build your boat first, and then you do things like farming, mining, fishing, harvesting, and cooking, all while helping transport spirits to the afterlife. It’s an odd premise, without a doubt. Now, I can say that I’m not really into management games, but I know they’re insanely popular. If you like them, this one’s unique concept, throwback visuals (that still feel fresh) and quality storytelling will hook you right in. The game also includes two DLC bonuses: the complete soundtrack, and a 96-page digital art book. Cool!
The 2021 Pop Culture Holiday Gift Guide!
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