The top five games in the worldwide Wii gaming chart include Wii Sports, Wii Fii, Mario Kart Wii and Wii Play as this piece is being uploaded in February 2009. Do you also see a couple of problems with that list? Not only are all the titles Nintendo ones, they’ve also been out for ages. Where are all the new games? Where are all the third-party developers? I’m dying for a killer title to come along and proudly announce itself as the next must-have game for Nintendo’s suddenly less-than-thrilling console.
I’m sad to say that SimAnimals is not that title. I’m also sad to say that it demonstrates a perfect example of how to take a good idea and give it a damn good kicking.
The basic premise of the game, aimed squarely at younger gamers, is perfectly sound. Take control of your own forest and encourage animals to build their homes there by playing with them, feeding them and generally giving them access to all the things they need to survive and prosper. The longer you play, the more animals and areas of the forest are unlocked, sustaining younger players’ interest. If you upset the animals, they’ll venture elsewhere. If you look after them all, you’ll soon have a forest teeming with life. As with any simulation game, this relies on putting in a few hours, but I’m sure younger gamers with a penchant for all things on four legs would find plenty of amusement here.
The multiple problems associated with the game have nothing to do with the premise, however. The game mechanics themselves are horrendous with clunky graphics and a truly dreadful control system. Control of the animals is via a floating armless hand which you move around the screen via the Wii remote. You can also select animals and scenery with the Wii remote and then place it back wherever you like and it’s used to pet animals to make them happy by pointing at the animal in question and shaking the remote. This doesn’t work well at all as younger gamers’ arms will hurt after having met tens of animals and it’s also unresponsive at times, which will lead to much frustration.
The Nunchuck is used to move around the screen but this is equally poor, with jerky movement and strange camera rotations proving a real bind. Younger gamers just won’t have the patience required to get to grips with this and I’m amazed that developers EA thought that this was an acceptable control mechanism.
As for those graphics, I’ve seen better on my GameCube. Jerky, at times, plain error-ridden animation is simply unacceptable from such a major publisher in this day and age, regardless of whether the title is aimed at children or not.
This is a decent game at heart, inexcusably marred by sloppy production and a control mechanism right out of the dark ages. Parents being badgered by their kids to buy it should stand firm. They’ll thank you for it in the long run.