Wild Earth Africa PC CD-ROM
Published by Xplosiv
Developed by Super X Studios
Release Date: 23rd March 2007
When I first came across Wild Earth Africa I thought it was going to be another Zoo Tycoon type of game. I was actually quite surprised then to find I was completely wrong. In fact, Wild Earth is unlike any other game I've played on the PC to date. It's not often I get to review a software title that's suitable for every family member, regardless of how young or old they are, and one that educates as well as entertains with equal success. Wild Earth Africa definitely gets the thumbs up from us then but what type of game is it?
Wild Earth Africa puts you in the role of a photo-journalist and gives you a variety of assignments in the Serengeti National Park. There are eight different locations to explore and 16 major African species to track down. These include elephants, giraffes, lions, zebras and cheetahs. You're not always on-foot as you'll also ride on a jeep and travel by helicopter in order to complete your missions. The missions have been designed to get progressively more difficult (although they never become unmanageable for younger gamers) and the learning curve is just right. At the end of each successful mission you'll see an article that contains plenty of information on the animals you've been following in the mission and it even includes a selection of photos that you've taken during the mission. As well as taking the missions and viewing articles you can manage your portfolio and create your own albums.
So what do these missions involve then? Well you're required to take a certain number of pictures but you can't just take any old pictures. You're given specific requirements and you'll need to adhere to them if you're to succeed in your mission. For instance you might be asked to take a picture of a giraffe drinking or an elephant charging. To add a certain degree of difficulty to the whole thing, certain objectives are time sensitive and if you don't take the opportunity to take the photo within a certain time frame you'll miss out. It's possible to fail a mission by not taking all of the required photos and should you fail you'll have to redo the mission. Thankfully you can save a mission at any point so you don't have to completely redo a mission if you haven't saved during the mission. It also means you can play the game for short periods, which is important if a young child with a short attention span is going to be playing the game.
The game plays in a very similar fashion to an FPS game. You'll play from a first-person perspective and move around with either the cursor keys or the 'WASD' keys that many FPS games use. Of course when you're aboard the helicopter you don't have to worry about moving around. The mouse wheel is used for zooming in on the animals and the left mouse button is used to take the photos. It's a very natural control scheme that even younger gamers shouldn't struggle with. Graphically the game is surprisingly good and yet it's not that demanding so most PC's should be able to run the game without any problems. The animals all look and move quite realistically.
Wild Earth Africa is subtitled and all the comments from your two companions Valerie and James are subtitled. However, it's not clear who is saying what as there are no character names or portraits to accompany the text and the subtitles are not colour-coded. This isn't much of a problem but it would have been good to know who is talking to you. The placement of the subtitles could have also been better. They're shown at the bottom of the screen and there are times when you're trying to focus on taking the required photos and you'll miss what's being said as the subtitles disappear after a short while. Had the text been placed at the top of the screen, next to the objectives which are also shown in text, it would have been easier to keep track of things. Otherwise there's no real cause for complaint. As we've just said objectives are shown in text. Tutorial messages are shown in text. You are notified visually if you're too close to an animal and a directional indicator appears on the bottom right of the screen to show you which direction you should be heading in.
There have been a few games in the past that have tried to incorporate educational values into the experience and most of these have come across as either being of little educational value or a poor gaming experience. Wild Earth Africa manages to succeed at being both an enjoyable game and informative enough to be a valid educational tool. It's entertaining enough to appeal to younger children and adults alike. The webpage article that is created when you take a mission is a nice touch and young children would see it as very rewarding, particularly as it uses the photos that have been taken during the mission. If you're looking for a game for that younger member of the family and you fancy something that will actually encourage them to use not only their reflexes but also their intelligence then Wild Earth Africa is too good an opportunity to pass up.
Wild Earth Africa is a great example of how educational software can be both entertaining and informative. Younger children will love it and even adults will be pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it is.