Playmobil Circus Review for Nintendo Wii

Playmobil Circus Review for Nintendo Wii

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 screenshot

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.

Playmobil Circus screenshot

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.

Playmobil Circus screenshot

The game’s difficulty doesn’t jump around too much, but there is one event in particular that will likely prove near impossible for the 6-12-year-old audience the game seems to be aimed at. The controls for Spinning Plates are an inspired idea, but the scoring system is pretty unforgiving. You’ll use the analog stick to move your character around, gesture upward with the Wii Remote to toss plates atop sticks, and then spin the remote to get the plates going. It’s an interesting challenge but not realistically balanced for the game’s target age group.

Playmobil Circus screenshot

In addition to the events in Circus School, you’ll unlock an additional eight minis (encores) by scoring high in events during Showtime. A Plague of Rabbits is probably my personal favorite because of its simple use of the controllers, which offers players another unremarkable but moderately amusing bit of gameplay.

Ultimately, though, the package is very light on content, and the way in which the multiplayer is set up isn’t very inviting. When playing cooperatively, you can work together to score high in events. However, the versus multiplayer will force players to each take turns, dragging these ho-hum events out for a laboriously long time.

Tying these frugal trimmings together is a completely lackluster presentation that gives players only the bare minimum in terms of what the Wii can do. Textures are bland and blurry, and there’s plenty of unsightly shimmer as well. The framerate during gameplay is steady, though there usually isn’t enough activity onscreen to slow things down. Overall, the game looks cheap, and folks who enjoy the toy franchise aren’t getting any extras to keep them coming back. Other than the three main game modes, there are no unlockables or trinkets to fool around with, not even a museum to look at the various franchise-inspired models.

The sound and music are equally uninspired, with borrowed themes from the public domain and effects that don’t offer much in the way of feedback during gameplay. Most of the background music works well enough in support of the mini-game events, though that’s no great feat in a game based on circus life. As a whole, Playmobil Circus’ presentation is competent, yet dull and lifeless.

With the amazing success of LEGO in the video-game world, it’s no surprise to see Playmobil make an attempt to capitalize on the medium. The results here, however, are far less ambitious and enjoyable, and Playmobil Circus does nothing, really, to distinguish itself from the glut of other mini-game compilations already littered on the system. Though the price tag might seem like a bargain, fans of the franchise won’t be getting much for their dollar here. If you’re looking for mini-game fun, there are far better games to choose from; if you’re merely looking for more Playmobil-style enjoyment, your money’s likely better spent on the actual toys.

Nothing about the game’s visuals are ugly per se, but the game looks archaic due to an utter lack of ambition. 2.6 Control
There are issues with gesture recognition during some mini-games, though many of the events handle quite well. Unfortunately, there isn’t much here that can actually be labeled as “fun.” 2.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Tunes from the public domain, generic circus themes, dull sound effects. Not much to love here. 2.2

Play Value
With only a small selection of mini-game events and options, families aren’t likely to get much value out of Playmobil Circus.

2.4 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Play in the Playmobil universe, including characters, animals, and setting.
  • Play and unlock 16 different exciting and hilarious circus acts.
  • Perform in single-player or multiplayer through two different difficulty levels.

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