EA Playground Review (Wii)

Since the release of the Wii last December we’ve all read the hype about the control system and how people of all ages are finally playing videogames. Sadly however its opened up a new niche market for games, games which are poorly designed and thought out and aimed at being played as a family rather than the hardcore gamer. Fantastic if you’re trying to impress your Gran, but not-so if you’re trying to sway your mate who has a PS3. EA Playground falls into that market.

We all long for initiative games to test out the control system and EA have tried to implement this with EA Playground but have fallen flat on there arse. Apparently we’re lead to believe by the press blurb that the game will take you back to your childhood and relive those memories of being a nipper again. Yeah if you’re living in America where basketball and dodge ball is played regularly because back when I was small and playing in the streets or on the playground we’d be swapping football stickers, Pokémon cards or kicking the shit out of each other!

EA Playground doesn’t feature any of the latter (although it features a sticker system of sorts of which I’ll talk about later on) but instead has seven different mini-games which all take advantage of the unique Wii control system. You’ve got Dodge Ball, Darts, Wall Ball, Slot Car Racing, Kicks, Paper Racers and Tetherball. Out of seven, only one or two are actually any good. Where most people will dive in to the multiplayer mode thanks to it allowing up to four people to play and since this is a family game you’ll be probably be doing just that.

Not as good as ‘real’ slot cars!
Flying paper aeroplanes is actually fun

First up is Slot Car Racing, which is a bit like the age old classic Scalectrix but duller. You take control of a dinky car and race it round a track whilst collecting powerups and boosting. You can change lanes by tilting the remote which can give you an advantage during a race and also knock other opponents to slow them down. There are a variety of tracks on offer and different sub-missions to carry out in the main game, but really this can get pretty dull. The opponents can be quite random too and you’ll either find it really difficult or fail to win or race ahead of the pack and never have any problems winning.

Dodge Ball is up next and the idea is to avoid the balls which are thrown at you. You need to race for the ball by using the D-Pad on the remote, then throw it and knock your opponents out. Swinging the remote to the left or right assists in dodging balls while you throw the ball with a quick flick of the wrist. The controls however are poor and it can be tricky to master at first. Worst still flicking to the left sometimes doesn’t work and you’ll end up rolling to the right and being caught out. It also suffers from you standing around with a ball looking threatening and waiting for the right moment to throw it which can get boring.

Tetherball doesn’t get much better, think Swingball (you perhaps had one in your garden) and you’ll get the idea. Smack a ball round a post until it wraps around the opponents head and kills them. Well we can all wish, especially when playing this but wrapping it round the pole will do. Serve the ball by flicking the remote then swing the remote to hit it at the appropriate time. Basically it sucks.

Kicks is like volleyball but with your feet and you need to try and score goals (sounds a lot like football) but it is again pretty poor while Wall Ball is requires you to hit a ball against a wall (no way?!) and try and get your opponent out. Again this is achieved by flicking your wrists to swing your hand. Nothing tricky, but again, not particularly interesting and innovative, one we’d rather give a miss.

Just look at the awful characters
Serve and just die

The final two games then are Darts which is self-explanatory and although slightly fun, is certainly not worth purchasing the game for. The best game of them all however is Paper Racers where you control a paper aeroplane tilting the remote to avoid obstacles and collect items. The control system is particularly good for this and although some of the variations can be difficult it certainly is family friendly and what we’d call different. And of course we can all remember chucking paper aeroplanes round the classroom and annoying the teacher!

Seven games is certainly not a lot of life-span and the developers have tried to combat this with a ‘Story’ Mode which sees you walking round a playground and other school locations battling it out against other children. You’ll collect marbles (how 1980’s) and be able to win stickers for your album which you need to build up (takes us back to the days of fighting over footie stickers!), but also use the marbles to purchase super stickers which unlock powerups in each game to make them easier. It adds some extra depth to the game with each game having variations and you being given different tasks, but it gets tedious and dull eventually. The control system is awful when walking; using the D-Pad to move was one of the silliest ideas ever!

You can play with friends, but why?
Watch the paintwork!

The music in the game is terrible and you’ll be finding the ‘off’ button on the menu after a few games while the graphics aren’t much better; washed out pastel coloured characters and surroundings and characters with poor animation and facial expressions. They’ve even slipped in Peter Crouch’s (England player) robotic dance when you win a game which is just dire. Worse still you can’t even play as your own created Wii characters which would have been nice!

You’ll have cracked the game apart after a few hours play (that is if you can put up with it) and there is certainly nothing that makes me want to return and have another game of Dodge ball. Family-fun maybe, but this is no Mario Party and certainly not one to crack open at Christmas. Do yourselves a favour and buy something decent, this is certainly no school-yard romance.

Top Game Moment:
Finding the off button.