|System: Wii, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Super X Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-3||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The animal subjects of your photo excursions are quite varied, and you'll learn a lot about many of the different species throughout the game. You'll encounter plenty of lions, crocodiles, hippos, cheetahs, elephants, and giraffes, but there's also ostriches, leopards, bats, frogs, hyrax, warthogs, rhinoceros, wildebeests, and many other photogenic creatures lurking in the numerous habitats you'll trudge through. Each creature will react differently to your presence, and often you'll see them interacting with one another - in both friendly and non-friendly ways. Like in the human world, drama and conflicts in the wild kingdom make for some spectacular images.
Running around the underbrush like a fool while taking pictures of wary beasts left and right may sound a bit drab, but it's actually quite interesting at first. Often you'll be required to take a picture of a specific animal, but you'll also have to take them while they exhibit certain behaviors or engage in different activities. Seeking the animals out and setting up your shot is all part of the fun. Stand too far away, and you'll have trouble nailing the shot; but get too close, and you'll find yourself facing the business end of Mother Nature's charging, snarling finest. An on-screen meter tracks how much you've disturbed nature during your photographic pursuits. Ticking off the native creatures too frequently will lower the meter and eventually cause the mission to fail. Fortunately, taking successful photographs will bring it back up into the green zone, and it never really becomes much of an issue unless you're particularly careless.
Creatures and environments look good at a glance, but they don't hold up quite as well to closer inspection. Essentially, the graphics either seem a tad dated or the creature models behave a little strangely when you zoom in close. However, the game's target audience will likely care little, since the animals do sound and act as they would in the wild, and it's convincing enough. The two narrators are occasionally funny and they provide lots of interesting factoids about the animals, their behaviors, and their habitats. Parents should appreciate knowing their kids will be soaking in some good information from playing. Kids will love the gross-out fun of photographing large mounds of elephant poop and watching one giraffe chew on another's posterior.
Wild Earth offers a fascinating interactive romp through nature, but there are a few issues players will have to deal with on their adventures. You are free to explore wherever you please, but progressing from one grouping of photo assignments to the next during a mission requires you to be at a specific place to trigger the event. If you happen to miss the sweet spot, it's easy to end up wandering around for a lengthy time unsure of where to go next or what to do to move forward. That said, there's a little too much hand-holding in terms of the linear nature of each mission. You're basically stuck moving from one area to the next to snap pictures based on prompts from the narrators. Another problem occurs when the screen gets too clogged up with information. For example, at one point the bars of dialogue text cut off the lower third of the screen, the upper right chunk was primarily obscured by a recently snapped picture, and the upper left portion was blocked by an extremely long list of secondary photo objectives.
For an all ages title that clearly caters to younger players, Wild Earth: African Safari is substantially entertaining on the Wii. Taking pictures of anything you like in any way you choose is excellent. Just be sure not to step in any elephant droppings.
CCC Staff Contributor