|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Epicenter||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami / Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The early barnyard levels have you dealing with basic critters like sheep, pigs, horses, and goats who essentially wander around. They're easily avoided and not overly difficult to fence-in, which gives players a sporting chance to get acclimated to the gameplay before things get real crazy. As you progress to the nocturnal stage, the African plains, and the arctic, the animals you'll encounter become more exotic and troublesome to deal with.
Given the cute, kid-friendly aesthetic nature of the overall game design, it was momentarily shocking when animals began consuming one another several levels in. Of course this makes sense; the game features a mix of docile herbivores and aggressive carnivores. I believe howling wolves, who will give chase to anything tasty that passes in their field of view, were the first culprits, but other creatures followed suit. Alligators will quickly lunch forward to snap their jaws in hopes of a quick lunch. Bears, hyenas, and other predators will also take every opportunity to hunt down you or other creatures. Players will quickly learn a valuable lesson: when dangerous beasts roam free amongst the cute, cuddly varieties, all hell breaks loose. This plays into the strategy as well, since you can fence predators in with other animals they find tasty and let nature run its course. Hell, it saves you some time from having to jump into the pen and try to divide them yourself.
The variety of animals in the game is impressive, and many of them have unique traits (beyond a hunger for humans and other creatures) that translate directly into creating a greater challenge for the player who must deal with them. Once captured, kangaroos will frequently jump over fences, and elephants will simply smash through barriers if you tick them off. Lions will aggressively kill everything in sight and let out a loud roar which temporarily stuns players. Other animal traits are more entertaining. Skunks will spray green stink at you; camels spit; and monkeys with actually throw their poop (which ricochets off fences).
About halfway through the 50 levels found in adventure mode, some species from different geographic regions will begin to co-mingle in each level. This makes for some bizarre and challenging combinations to contend with where you'll have lions roaming around with polar bears and pigs rooting in mud next to alligators. Additionally, a co-op mode lets up to four players wrangle animals simultaneously; marathon play generates random levels; and four competitive mini-games offer a reasonable amount of content to explore besides the main game.
The bottom line is Critter Round-Up packs a lot of fun into a short period of time. The puzzle gameplay offers high replay value, and it's highly enjoyable in brief sessions in solo or multiplayer modes. It's certainly not the best WiiWare has to offer so far, but it's a good effort nonetheless.
CCC Staff Contributor