EA Playground Wii
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
The Wii has become the console of choice for people looking for mini-game collections to suit the whole family. The console itself even comes with quite a good mini-game collection in the shape of Wii Sports. EA Playground, in fairness, is a mini-game collection that's more aimed at your children rather than at the whole family. However there are some good games here and the game can be quite enjoyable for older players when played in short bursts.
EA Playground offers a choice of seven main mini-games. The games are Dodgeball, Tetherball, Paper Racers, Kicks, Slot Car Racing, Wall Ball and Dart Shootout. There are three modes in the game: Single Player, Multiplayer and Quick Play. In Single Player mode you'll compete with the children in the playground for stickers and marbles. Multiplayer allows you to play the game with three friends and Quick Play allows you to practice a game of your choice.
In Single Player you'll walk around the playground and challenge a child to their favourite game. Should you win, you'll get a sticker to put in your sticker book. You'll also get some marbles as a reward. Marbles are also scattered around the playground and are just waiting to be collected. The marbles act as currency in the game and allow you to purchase Super Stickers from the Sticker King. These Super Stickers give you special abilities for different games. After you've defeated a child once you can return to them to play a tougher version of the game in order to win more marbles from them. These tougher versions are actually quite difficult thanks to the AI being rather devious in how it plays the games.
When you first play the Single Player game you'll only have access to the small playground. After defeating a few children you'll have access to the bigger playground where the more talented children play and you can challenge these tougher opponents to their favourite game too. As well as the seven mini-games there are some other challenges that await you. You can take part in a bug hunt which requires you to capture a certain number of bugs in your net. Practice your Free Throws and try and do 15 in 30 seconds. There are also dribbling and high-five activities to participate in.
The quality of the main mini-games is actually quite good. All of the games just use the Wii remote and all of the controls are fairly intuitive. Paper Racers requires you to hold the remote in your hand as if it were a paper aeroplane. You'll mimic the throwing of the plane (whilst not letting go of course) and then once in flight you'll simply tilt and roll the remote to control the flight of the plane. Tetherball requires you to flick the remote upwards and then simply hit the ball from side to side (the game actually plays like Swingball without the tennis rackets). Wall Ball is essentially a squash variant where you and your opponent take it in turns attempting to hit the ball against a wall with the loser being the first one to fail to return the ball. Kicks is like a cross between volleyball and football with two players on each side. The main difference is that players can only use their heads and feet to hit the ball with and there is a football goal at either end of the court. Dodgeball (3-a-side) and Slot Car Racing are pretty much how you would expect them to be and both are pretty good. It's worth pointing out though that the AI can be rather aggressive in Slot Car Racing. Finally Dart Shootout is an on-rails shooter where you'll fire darts at targets, opponents and eventually a boss whilst using a shield to attempt to block any darts that are fired at you.
The game's presentation has been kept simple and is pleasingly colourful. The graphics are certainly nothing that's going to test the graphical power of the Wii but the look of the children, the playgrounds and the mini-games are all appropriate and will certainly appeal to younger gamers. Young deaf gamers will also be pleased that the game has no real speech. The children just use a type of gobbledegook and all of the conversations are shown in text with the speaker's name placed above the text. The game offers control and rules information which is all in text and the game manual also covers what needs to be done in each game.
With Christmas creeping ever closer the chances are that you'll be looking for a game that the whole family can enjoy. EA Playground certainly fits the bill if you have young children who will want games that are easy to learn and play. It's not a game that would keep older members of the family busy for too long but the mini-games are certainly quite enjoyable when played in short bursts and particularly when played against relatives and friends.