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Wonder World Amusement Park

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Coyote Console
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Party/ Action/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

It hit me halfway through Wonder World Amusement Park that the entire experience was the equivalent of playing a bad licensed game, in this case for a nonexistent movie. This joint is replete with the faults and foibles of the rushed, poorly thought-out games that have their original inspiration in a film, comic, or television show. Wonder World Amusement Park has some of the visual impact of a carnival, but instead of actually wandering through a simulated carnival, you're presented with a 360-degree view of several attractions that you can click on to play. This may have seemed like a better choice than just a series of mini-game icons available to select from a menu, but the feeling of the game ends up being static, with minimal interactivity outside the mini-games. If you come to the table expecting a mini-game collection you'll be fine, but the promotion for Wonder World Amusement Park gives the impression that there's more free roaming and exploration, an entire carnival to explore.

The best we can say is that the cuffs match the collar when it comes to the different themes of the carnival. The spooky section has spooky attractions, spooky music, and characters that are at least dressed in spooky attire. All the special areas must be opened up by playing in the generic area, which was a really poor choice from a design perspective. We should be able to mix and match and explore areas depending on our mood, but instead we're stuck plowing through each section to unlock subsequent areas. Considering there isn't anything to do in each area other than play a handful of mini-games, the ability to change scenery is critical to avoiding boredom. Without this, the player is left grinding on the same few mini-games to earn points necessary to move forward.


Gameplay:

Come to think of it, carnivals and state fairs have long been the "original" mini-game venue. Step right up, try your luck, and all that. It didn't hit me until after the fact that Wonder World Amusement Park is trying real hard to simulate the fun we've all had throwing bags at bottles or shooting targets in a shooting gallery. We all know that trying and accomplishing aren't the same thing, of course.

Consider the first few rounds of play, where players will make their decision on whether Wonder World Amusement Park is worth investing further time. You are launched into play with a handful of games to play, arrayed in front of you, plus a prize booth. The prizes cost a certain number of tokens that you'll earn (or lose) playing the various games. Each game has a cost to play, although some of the early games can be played at no charge. The control scheme is mostly the Wii-mote alone, but several games require the Nunchuk in combination. Each game is introduced by a rather rude hawker who pretty much puts you down, which is weird. The first games are very simple and derivative. A game where you attempt to catch frogs by positioning a hook above their open mouths, a game where you smash rodents with a hammer (that isn't Whack-A-Mole) as they pop out of holes, a shooting gallery, and a really annoying game where you try to slide a ring over a length of wire without touching the wire. Based on your success in these games, you'll hopefully earn tokens to use toward fabulous virtual prizes that aren't really functional in any way, or you can buy a ticket to visit the next area. You can't play any games in the next area until you satisfy certain conditions in the previous area, going back to the point about limiting players' freedom to explore.

Other areas of disappointment include a multiplayer mode that is often more turn-based, and doesn't create a fun, party atmosphere. The game is advertised as good for up to four players, but the bulk of the games available just don't hold up for a family gaming night. There is a character customization option that is as awkward as the general gameplay, allowing you to make someone that looks a bit like you, but never really like you. These are all pieces of gameplay that have been executed well in other titles, so it's hard to see "not-quite-there" as anything but a dismal failure. Not being able to make a mini-game quick and fun is mystifying at this point in gaming history.


Difficulty:

The game mentioned earlier where you move a ring down a length of wire is an example of poor choice in design. The Wii hardware is strangely not well equipped, or just poorly programmed, to execute in most of the games. The problem is that what should be brief and easy fun turns into a grind. The token system contributes to this, making seasoned gamers with good skills go back and replay the same games over and over again to earn tickets. There are many games (the Whack-A-Mole knockoff is a perfect example) where random button presses will typically earn you about the same point score as trying to actually play a precise game. Instead of relying on motion to accomplish most things in the game, there are lots of icons and guides on-screen that you need to line up and press buttons in time with to initiate actions. The ring game mentioned requires you to line up and overlay two patterns before you can move the ring down the wire without touching the wire. It's hard enough to move the ring and not touch the wire, but the additional challenge of overlaying the patterns before you can proceed feels completely gratuitous.

Game Mechanics:

The greatest irony of Wonder World Amusement Park is that in a milieu where motion controls should make for gaming perfection, the execution feels shoddy. Translating typical challenges like a ring toss, or the rodent smashing, to Wii should be a slam dunk. Instead it all feels muddy, imprecise, and poorly thought out. Switching between the Wii-mote and the Wii-mote + Nunchuk is a weird choice, since 80% of the games are playable without the Nunchuk. Finding a way to keep it consistent and simple would have been much better. In some cases, the execution seems to demand more hardware. If you think about it, hardware is often the defining feature of games at the fair or carnival. You might try a shooting gallery and have more fun because of how the gun feels or how the targets are arrayed. Not all bumper cars are created equal... There's a lack of depth in Wonder World Amusement Park that comes through in most aspects, but even carries over to the motion controls, where this game on this platform should be kicking butt! The shooting gallery as an example is Dullsville because many of the targets require more than one shot to destroy, and all the targets are teeny-tiny on the screen.

Average presentation and lack of interactivity coupled with half-baked multiplayer and poor control signs the death warrant for Wonder World Amusement Park in our book. There was an opportunity here, and the concept makes perfect sense. Mini-game collections can be really cool, and the platform lends itself to bringing out a physical dimension that isn't possible on other consoles. It seems improbable that someone could mess up a title like Wonder World Amusement Park on the Wii, but that's exactly what happened here.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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