|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Dreamcatcher||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Dreamcatcher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 22, 2009||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|
As one of LEGO's biggest toy competitors, Playmobil plays catch-up by throwing a new video-game offering into the ring. Does this latest mini-game compilation give budding gamers a valuable companion piece to their favorite plastic playthings, or is this merely another dent in the Wii's reputation for being a dumping ground for shovelware?
Playmobil Circus isn't an adventure, nor is it an ambitious undertaking. It's a barebones mini-game package with a couple of passable hits, but a poor presentation and lack of enthusiasm rob the experience of any real joy. There's no story, really, other than "the circus has come to town." Two children are outside playing when they spot a caravan of entertainers, and then you're presented with the options menu.
You can opt to play alone or with friends, but the game options are the same, regardless. You'll start off by playing through eight Circus School events, unlocking each mini-game for play in Showtime by placing high enough on the scoreboard. Once the mini-games are unlocked for Showtime, you can then put on your own show, playing through either four or eight events in a row to create your own evening of entertainment under the "big tent."
For a semi-budget ($30) title, it's a neat formula, but the presentation is very weak. The circus announcer speaks in a Sims-like gibberish that's more annoying than anything else, and the game just generally doesn't have a great lock on timing its attempts at humor.
It doesn't help that the gameplay isn't very fun, and in some cases it's downright painful. Simple minis, such as Bandleader, only require you to gesture with the Wii Remote either up and down or left and right, following arrow cues onscreen. Though the arrows appear onscreen in time with music, the mini-game itself is uneventful and unsatisfying. There's no feedback from the controller, and the level of interaction is insultingly basic.
Feed the Lion is another very simple mini, yet the idea is slightly more entertaining. Unfortunately, the execution just isn't there. The object is to hold a lollipop inside a lion's mouth as three images (slot-machine-style) randomly appear onscreen. Once the images match up, the lion will close his mouth and you'll have to remove the lollipop before he eats it. The longer you can hold the lollipop in his open mouth without it getting eaten, the more points you'll earn. However, making the lollipop move in and out of the lion's mouth requires heavy jerking gestures that just aren't any fun to execute.
Not all of the mini-games are duds, however, and one or two actually make fairly inspired use of the Wii controllers. Cow Trampoline is, by far, my favorite of the bunch, and not only is it funny to watch, it's mildly amusing to play through. With the Nunchuk's control stick, you move three circus trainers holding a trampoline. The idea is to get under a cow and fling him upward (by gesturing with the Wii Remote) each time he makes contact with the trampoline. Once the cow's up in the air high enough, a random collection of gems will appear onscreen, which you'll then need to color in by pointing at the screen with the remote. If you can fill all of the gems in before the cow starts to fall again, he'll perform a trick that earns you additional points. The event is a bit too long, and again, there's no rumble feedback from the controller, but it's definitely one of the few highlights of Playmobil Circus.