Space Camp Review for Nintendo Wii

Space Camp Review for Nintendo Wii

If a little-known publisher had put out Space Camp, it would be rather easy to dismiss the title as shovelware; it’s a collection of mini-games loosely woven together to form a story. With Activision at the helm, expectations rise a little.

Space Camp screenshot

The game is indeed an enjoyable experience, especially for kids, but there are more problems than there should be: the controls are a bit annoying, the mini-games are unoriginal and get repetitive, the difficulty could have used some fine-tuning, and we encountered a serious glitch that can completely ruin the end of the game. There’s really no need to buy Space Camp, though if you’re intent on picking up a Wii mini-game collection, you could do worse.

At the outset, you’re attending (guess) space camp to learn how to be an astronaut. When you’re allowed to get on a rocket, however, you push a button that sends you into space, and you land on the moon. To get back to Earth, you have to find enough fuel to fill the ship’s tanks. Your robot sidekick, ARP, provides guidance and gives you missions.

For the most part, the idea is to explore as much of the U.S.’s moon base as possible. To do this, you’ll need to find various tools to help you open the doors and storage lockers. Some of these tools you find scattered around, but others you have to make out of metal. You’ll find metal occasionally, but more often, you’ll have to dig up moon rocks (a simple process involving walking on the surface of the moon, finding rocks, and shaking the Wii-mote near them) and convert them.

Space Camp screenshot

When you use these tools, the mini-games come into play. For example, when you repair a broken connection, you play the most fun one, a game similar to Pipe Dream that involves directing electrical current to its receivers without hitting a circuit breaker (you swap the tiles, rather than placing new tiles as in Pipe Dream, though). To win another game, you have to shoot a ball of “data” at the core of a computer without hitting the protective shields that revolve around it. Occasionally there’ll be a meteor storm, and you’ll need to head to the base’s defense station to shoot at rocks (a direct rip-off of a scene in Dead Space, of course).

As the game world opens up, you’ll get closer and closer to your fuel goal, especially when you find solar-power generators, which contain lots of energy. You can also convert moon rocks directly to energy (a very slow process) and find it in piles of moon dust (an even slower one). Many of the lockers and doors are optional, and simply provide you with unlockables like new outfits.

Space Camp screenshot

Space Camp’s presentation certainly isn’t groundbreaking, but the character you customize, the humans and robots you interact with, and the world you explore all have their own personalities, and we didn’t notice a single graphical hiccup in our time with the game. As is typical for a kid-friendly Wii game, it’s a colorful visual experience, and even dangerous things are more cute than menacing. The sound works beautifully, with lots of voice acting, well-done sound effects, and soothing music that fits the space theme.

Overall, we found Space Camp fun. The story is a lot cleverer than most of what’s on the Wii these days, and most of the mini-games work well. The game saves constantly, so you never have to redo games you’ve already won, and when you fail a game, you’re given another chance immediately, without losing anything. There’s about a full work-day’s worth of material here, plus the option to play some of the games against friends.

The controls don’t fare so well, unfortunately. The game is designed to work without a Nunchuk, which is fine, but it can get irritating having to point at the screen and hold the A button whenever you want to move (which is pretty much always). Your character will often get stuck around corners, and the navigation problem gets about 100 times worse during a mini-game that requires you to drive a moon rover; it’s almost impossible to avoid the various obstacles, though you’re given enough time for the task that completing it isn’t really a problem. It would be really nice if those of us with Nunchuks could sub in the joystick for the point-and-click system.

Space Camp screenshot

Another problem is that the mini-games are unoriginal and get a bit repetitive. There’s a good deal of overlap with other recent Wii games, such as Six Flags Fun Park: basketball, light-gun-style shooting, collecting items by controlling a crane (similar to the arcade machines with stuffed animals), and even a take-off on the classic board game Operation. Also, you play many of the same games over and over, and it gets boring walking between the same few locations and digging up moon rocks all the time.

These issues probably won’t hurt the experience for a small, easily entertained child, but the game’s random difficulty fluctuations could send such a player into one serious temper tantrum. For the most part, the mini-games are easy enough that an experienced adult player can beat them on the first try, and that a child won’t get too frustrated. Every once in a while, though, you’ll come to some insanely difficult task without enough time to complete it. For example, before taking off for the moon, there’s a simulation of a cockpit that’s caught fire, and you have to put out the flames by aiming a water cannon without a reticule. It’s maddening trying to adjust your aim without a guide, and the animation is such that it’s hard to tell when you’ve put out a given section of the fire completely. Also, before we got the hang of the second meteor shower, we almost started crying, screaming, and pounding our fists on the floor ourselves.

The biggest problem we experienced was that we couldn’t get the game to end. Our last mission was to explore a new area and get the energy from nine solar generators. We did this and put the energy in the fuel tank, which put us close to the amount of fuel we needed to get home. Then, when we checked our mission screen, it said there were no missions available. Assuming the only thing left was to fill the tank, we converted our moon rocks to energy until we had enough, and the tank confirmed we’d deposited more than 100 percent of the needed fuel.

We were a little confused that after filling the tank, nothing else happened. Then, when we interacted with our robot companion, he gave us the mission to get the energy from the generators again. We double-checked and we had, in fact, already exploited all nine generators. Then we defended against another meteor attack, which the game called “The Second Wave” even though we’d already battled two waves. Then it took us back to the generator-finding mission. When we restarted the console, we came back to the same situation: full tank, all nine generators in the new area tapped, the game telling us we need to tap all nine generators in the new area in order to fill the tank. We’re still not sure how to get the poor little kid back to Earth.

Now, it says a lot about the poor state of mini-game collections on the Wii that a title with such a profound flaw isn’t the bottom of the barrel, but it’s true. Aside from these complaints, Space Camp does what it does well. There’s probably not much here you haven’t seen before, but there’s a cute story, reasonably interesting graphics, and games that, for the most part, work. Sad as it is, for these reasons, if you’re looking to invest in some mini-games, it might not be a terrible idea to include Space Camp on your list of contenders.

It’s no graphical powerhouse, but the visuals run smoothly and have a lot of personality. 3.0 Control
The game could have benefited from Nunchuk support; it’s annoying having to use the pointer to make the character walk. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
This is one of the game’s better aspects, with voice acting and unobtrusive, fitting music. 3.0

Play Value
3.0. There’s a full day’s worth of material here and lots of unlockables. However, it gets repetitive, and we encountered an apparent glitch that stopped us from beating the game.

3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • A secondary A.I. character in the form of a small robot named ARP follows the main character around, interfaces at certain times, and gives hints on what to do next if the player gets stuck.
  • Filled with fun, Wii-specific missions and a cool environment to explore, all wrapped up in an enjoyable, character-based adventure.
  • Wii-specific controls enable you to dig up space rocks, shake training simulators, and drill on the lunar surface with the Wii remote.
  • Compete against up to three friends in the robust mini-game tournament party mode.
  • Customize your character as a boy or girl, pick skin tone, and earn or find new space-suit pieces and other clothing to update your character’s appearance as the game progresses.

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