In honor of the upcoming Olymipcs, we say, "Let the games begin!" Now, there's nothing wrong with all the miniaturized, magnetized board games we all grew up with, but (of course) there are all sorts of technologically advanced gaming systems to try out—and to let your kids play with, too. Here are a half dozen of our favorite ways to while the time away as we travel.
1. AppGear Foam Fighters
Why We Like It: Suction cup one of the two included planes to an Android or Apple smart device with a rear-facing camera, download the accompanying app, and you're ready for take-off! As you tilt your phone or tablet to steer, you'll be maneuvering the fighter through a whirlwind of simulated World War II dogfights. There's tons of gameplay to keep even the most active pilots busy. And with a Wi-Fi connection, multiple friends can join in an impromptu skirmish.
How Much: $10
Buy It: Visit WowWee.com.
2. Sifteo Cubes
Why We Like It: These cool wireless cubes are a fun, new kind of gaming. They're interactive, both in how you hold them and with each other. Tilt one to finagle an on-screen marble in the right direction, then line up another cube to get the marble onto a second screen. Over a dozen creative games promote language, logic, strategy, and spatial reasoning. The system comes with three cubes, others can be added for $45 each, or you can get the complete system off the bat for $249.
How Much: $149
Buy It: Visit Sifteo.com.
3. iPieces iPad Air Hockey
Why We Like It: Get the app on your iPad, grab these two special Parcheesi-like pieces, and it's time for some high-paced knock hockey action—no big, loud air-pumping table necessary. (You also won't have to go running around a bar/arcade looking for the disc your overzealous opponent wailed across the room.) Other games in this Pressman Toy series include a Fishing Game, Snakes & Ladders, and a kids' interactive multimedia adventure called Game of Goose.
How Much: $13
Buy It: Visit ThinkGeek.com.
4. PlayStation Vita Games
Which We Like Best: Gravity Rush lets you (as Kat, the game's heroine) shift the world's perspective by changing gravity, as you tilt the PS Vita. Attempt to save the world as you dodge enemy attacks by tapping the front screen or back panel. Little Deviants lets you rock crazy-but-lovable roly-poly blobs throughout a series of courses, skillfully caressing the handheld's rear touch panel. The cameras, microphone, and motion sensors also come into play in this wacky compilation of mini-games. Lastly, MLB 12: The Show is simply the most amazingly realistic handheld baseball game out there. Complementing the super graphics and tons of cool features is the ability to play on the Vita, save your exact spot in the game, then pick up the action back on your PS3 console at home—or conversely, console to handheld.
How Much: $30 to $40 each
Buy It: Visit PlayStation.com.
5. Sphero App-Controlled Wireless Robotic Ball
Why We Like It: At first glance, it's a simple-but-sophisticated ball you can remotely control with your smartphone. You can draw shapes on your screen that it follows on the floor, change its color, and even use your phone as a virtual putter to play mini-golf. Ah, but the some of Sphero's newer games turn the tables by having the ball become the controller. For instance, in Etch-o-matic, you twist and turn the ball to create old-school line drawings in a very fun and new-school way.
How Much: $130
Buy It: Visit Brookstone.com.
6. ION Audio iCade Mobile
Why We Like It: This controller connects wirelessly to your iPhone, allowing you to really get into your games, without getting your fingers in the way. Two AA batteries are all you need for access to over 100 compatible games. Not that there's anything wrong with touching your screen or sticking those little joysticks on there, but this is a more ergonomic, long-term solution for extended road trips and other monster sessions on-the-go.
How Much: $70
Buy It: Visit ThinkGeek.com.
Fodors.com Travel Technology Columnist Scott Tharler is an expert in gadgets, gambling, and travel. He's written four books, plus hundreds of mobile and wireless tips for Sony and PC World. In addition to his daily Discovery News gadget blog, you can find links to other gadget articles, social feeds and lists of his current favorite gadgets at about.me/gadgetfans.
Photo Credits: 1. WowWee Group Limited; 2. MODULE R; 3. Shopatron, Inc. and Pressman Toy Corporation; 4. Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC; 5. Orbotix; 6. ION AUDIO, LLC