Whee Wee Wii!

Vincent Avatar

outdoorfunfob_angle2 When someone gives you something regardless of whether it falls short of your expectations or not, it does not change the fact that it is a gift and you should smile and say, “Thank You.”

So, I want to say, “Thank You” to 47 Communications for providing me with an opportunity to play and review D3 Publisher’s Family Party: 30 Great Games Outdoor Fun for Nintendo Wii.

I also want to say that I am not a “gamer” so my ignorance might have been my greatest obstacle to fully enjoying the “family party.”

Believing that video games have the capacity to be serious educational tools is not breaking news. In fact, the notion of video games as learning tools have become legitimized to the point of having its own conference. This summer marked the second annual Game Education Summit.

The academic impact of a video game can be far reaching in terms of cognitive and physical skill development. However, in order to make a difference the game has to be played.

D3 Publisher’s Family Party: 30 Great Games Outdoor Fun has the potential to build critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as improve hand-eye coordination. But the prerequisite skills required to advance in the game might be set a little too high.

There are two general ways to play Family Party Outdoor Fun. Up to four players may choose to play in Challenge mode or Battle mode.  The former consists of six game areas. Three are immediately accessible (Muscle, Athletics, and Sports). Three are locked. I have yet to successfully complete the three accessible areas, so am unable to speak about the locked areas.

Floating Island_005 Each area in Challenge mode consists of four games and one mystery game which needs to be unlocked. Games like The Floating Island, the Obstacle Course 2, and Boat Race were initially engaging but quickly proved frustrating. For example in the Floating Island, the player’s objective is to reach the finish line by jumping on a series of floating platforms without falling into the water. The frustration was not the difficulty of the game but that there was no map to assist players with orienting themselves in the game environment. The finish line is not clearly visible on the playing field.

Why wasn’t a map provided to help players find the finish line? Though I understand their tracks are much more complex, Mario Kart (the only other racing game I am familiar enough with to use as a point of reference) provides a map for players to orientate themselves.

The lack of visibility also plagued The Pole Climb 2 game in the Athletics Area. The goal of the game is to avoid the caterpillars and other obstacles as you race to ascend the poles. If you are unable to keep up with the other players, your character disappears from the visual horizon of the game. You cannot see where you are to avoid the obstacles.

The screen in many of the games is divided into four separate smaller screens showing the progress of each of the players. Why wasn’t this done for the Pole Climb?

To frustrate matters even further, the remote is unresponsive.  You are instructed to hold A+B and move the Wii remote up and down vertically. My kids and I tried this (then different variations of this) with overwhelming failure.  We tried shaking the remote slowly, quickly, pressing A+B again and again with no success. I even went as far as changing the remote’s batteries and moving the Wii’s sensor bar thinking the signal wasn’t strong enough.

The Homerun Match and The Quarterback in the Sports Area also suffer from a lack of remote response.

Perhaps anticipating players’ frustrations with Challenge mode, Family Party Outdoor Fun’s Battle mode allows players to mix and match the available games into their own Challenges. Players may choose up to 10 games in a single self-created Challenge. The games they chose from are those accessible from the first three Areas. Not having made it far enough to unlock the remaining three areas, I do not know whether players are eventually able to mix and match the games from those Areas too.

screenshot_015_fnlFamily Party Outdoor Fun features some curious game ideas. Inner Clock 2 requires the player to estimate the amount of time closest to the one stated on the game’s clock. For example, if the game’s clock is 30 seconds, the player must wait as close to 30 seconds as possible before pressing “A.” The winner has the closest time to the one displayed.

Boxercise is another one. Like a game of Simon Says, players mimic the different jabs and punches thrown by the instructor. The player who does this most accurately wins. But right from the start the game moves too fast. And while it does provide a brightly drawn visual cue, it might have been helpful to have an audio cue as well. For example, if the instructor’s voice were heard saying, “Hook,” when the image of a hook came on screen.

Sadly, despite the interesting games and its potential for skill building Family Party Outdoor Fun demands too much from the novice player to encourage engagement. And the lack of remote response and unimaginative settings make the games frustrating instead of challenging.

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