Itâ€™s a tough life being a little kid in a big playground. The supply and demand of glossy stickers and shiny marbles dominate your existence. Losing a game of wall ball in recess is a fate worth than death. Weâ€™ve all been there before but now we can relive it all again. EA Games has added Playground to the growing legion of mini-game based titles available for the Wii, and following the trend, the game features cutesy cartoon characters with giant heads and more sugar-coating than an episode of Care Bears.
You begin by first selecting your character from a variety of highly politically correct kiddies and giving them a name. I chose a Mexican lad and named him Gonad. The game really doesnâ€™t care. From here you are set loose in your school playground where there are four areas to explore: The Schoolyard, Goby Park, the Stadium and Rablewoods. However, these areas must be played in sequence with each area unlocking the next. Each one contains other rival kids and various activities according to where they are. Challenging them and winning earns you rewards (in the cool form of stickers or marbles) that allow you to compete in other games.
There are seven game types in EA Playground and each one has different kids across varying skills levels. Once you beat the toughest kids at their own games, you can take on the Sticker King to try and win the most coveted sticker of all! Yes, it was hard to contain myself but it is funny just how competitive you can get over a non-existent sticker book collection.
All of the games use just the Wii-mote which is great for multiplayer purposes. They are all fairly entertaining but two of them really stand out from the rest. In alphabetical order, the first game is Dart Shootout. With dart in the title I thought I was in for some serious carnage and bloody gore. But alas, the kids are using safe little foam dart guns. The gameplay works like a third person shooter and your Wii-mote is your cross-hair pointer, and you shoot with the B trigger. You can even hold up a shield by pressing A and is a lot of fun in short bursts.
The next game, and a personal favourite of mine, is Dodgeball. Just like in the real-life equivalent, two teams of kids line up against walls on opposite sides with a line of balls placed in the middle. On the signal, both teams rush toward the centre line and try and grab a ball before their opponent. From here the object of the game is to nail a member of the other team with a ball, thus eliminating them from the game. Flicking the controller sideways lets you dodge and holding the B trigger at the correct time lets you catch the ball. A successful catch however brings an eliminated team member back onto your side. It sounds pretty basic but is definitely one of the better mini-games in Playground. Every game has advanced controls such as fake throws or Power Attacks for the more serious gamers to master.
Moving on, there is the strangely titled Kicks game, which is a mix of volleyball and soccer. Potentially this game should have been the beeâ€™s knees but lacked any sense of rhyme or reason. In Kicks there are two two-man teams divided by a net with a goal on each side. One player in a team is the goalie and must defend his or her net. The other player is the striker who must try and get the ball into the opponentâ€™s net. Unfortunately the controls result in a mess of confusion as each player ends up waving their Wii-mote randomly in an effort to try and score or block a shot. Perhaps with more effort, some players might be able to perfect this game and figure out the controls. But if four grown men with too much beer canâ€™t do it then I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s worth trying.
Paper Racers is a different and entertaining game in the mixture. Holding your Wii-mote like you would an actual paper plane you must throw and navigate it down a corridor filled with various obstacles and power-ups. Tilting your Wii-mote left, right, up and down directs your plane, and pressing A can give you a speed boost that if timed correctly takes out a rival plane in your path. The first to the end of the corridor and out the window to freedom wins!
Slot Car Racing is the speed freaks mini-game. The track has multiple lanes and by flicking the controller you can switch to a lane either to your left or your right. Sometimes youâ€™ll want to take the inside lane when cornering but other times you will want to grab a speed bonus or special item and a quick wrist will determine the winner. Players can even drop thumb tacks or give opponent racers electric shocks when close enough. There is definitely a good sense of speed on the tracks but donâ€™t go expecting Gran Turismo here. Itâ€™s pretty much a case of holding down the A button and then trying not to blink.
Tetherball had to be one of the more boring activities in Playground. In fact weâ€™ll call it Tedious-ball from here on. To be fair though, itâ€™s hardly surprising as even Tedious-ball in real life is as about as much fun as gluing peanut shells back together with your own mucus. Smack a ball on a rope around a pole. Yeah. Whoop. We get it. Moving on.
Wall Ball is similar to Kicks but without a team-mate. You must smack the ball against the wall and hope that your opponent will miss it and therefore earn you a point. You can achieve this by either angling your shot away from them or by changing the power of your shots. There are fun special items to try and gather too such as Wall Warp which sends the ball into a warp that reappears at a random spot before shooting the ball back into play. Pretty cool fun but unfortunately only a two player game.
All of these mini-games are available in multiplayer depending on the number of players you want. Dodgeball, Kicks, Darts and Slotcars can be played with up to four and even extra AI players added in if wanted. Some of the other games like Tedious-ball and Wall Ball can only be played by two. All of the single player levels consist of one of these seven mini-games with varying difficulties or objectives in order to win.
Overall Playground is another fun mini-game collection for a younger audience. Definitely not mentally stimulating but the games will require a good level of reflexes and hand-eye co-ordination. I would say that kiddies will get plenty of enjoyable Wii-action here. Even the big kiddies should enjoy Dodgeball but just remember to attach those wrist-straps for when tempers start to flare.