|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 23, 2007||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|
by D'Marcus Beatty
Although the Wii is selling like hotcakes, there is still a dearth of innovative or fresh titles for the system. A large number of the games that are coming out for Nintendo's latest console are either PlayStation ports with tacked on Wii controls or games that are trying to cash in on the casual gamer market with a minigame collection or a party game mix. EA Playground is the latest game to fit in the minigame collection category, with a title that adds a little to the Wii Sports formula, but still doesn't manage to be as fun or deep as Nintendo's packed in title.
EA Playground is set in a schoolyard. You play a new student and your goal is to basically play the other students in various games and earn marbles and stickers. You spend the game exploring the schoolyard and finding your next challenge, ultimately unlocking more of the schoolyard to explore. This is a nice addition to the Wii Sports minigame formula since Wii Sports transported you to each game as you chose them from the title screen. The ability to explore the schoolyard and to participate in activities beyond the simple minigames adds a little bit of immersiveness to the gameplay. However, for the most part, that is the sole advantage that EA Playground has over Wii Sports, as the rest of the game winds up feeling a little too simple. While EA was obviously shooting for a younger crowd with this title, they seem to have set the bar a little too low in some areas and a little too high in others.
As I stated earlier, the goal in EA Playground is to earn stickers to place in your scrapbook. Marbles are the currency of the playground and can generally be found simply by wandering the schoolyard. However, the majority of your marbles must be earned by challenging the other students to the various games that are available, which are dodgeball, kicks, slot car racing, tetherball, paper racers, wall ball, and dart shootout. Although the games are relatively fun, most of them lack the depth that you can get from Wii Sports. Dodgeball, which seems to be the highlight of the group since EA mentions it on the game's cover, is especially disappointing. The players are broken into teams of three and attempt to hit one another from across a dividing line. However, much of the game winds up with players staring at one another, waiting to catch or dodge the ball, which doesn't recreate the thrill of a youthful game of dodgeball. Slot car racing, on the other hand, is flat out boring, with the player controlling a slot car through eight or more rounds on a mini racetrack. Paper racers and dart shootout are probably the most fun in the bunch, with paper racers allowing you to control a paper airplane in a manner similar to WarioWare, guiding the airplane through obstacles to the finish line, and dart shootout is an FPS-lite game that allows you to fire your way through a shooting gallery.
As you perform well in each game and defeat the various characters, you earn marbles, which can be used to purchase stickers. The stickers give you new abilities in each game, so you might unlock a new car for slot racing, a new type of paper airplane for paper racers, or a power hit in tetherball. This increases the replay value of the game and gives you a reason to play each character multiple times as well, since each of the first four times you play a character they give you a different objective, such as surviving for a set amount of time in dodgeball or winning in a certain amount of time in tetherball.