EA Playground (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 25.11.2007 2

EA likes Wii, so it was no surprise to see them inspired by Wii Sports and create their own mini-game-fest sooner rather than later. However, when doing so they also decided that they’d like to give the DS a piece of the action as well and created a portable version of EA Playground while they were at it, so you can relive your childhood on the go. Unless your lunchtimes consisted of you pretending to be a Thundercat or Power Ranger or something. That’s not in here.

Taking place in a playground, surprisingly enough, EA Playground throws nine games to master at you. You run about between the few areas challenging other small children to their chosen games and try to collect or win enough marbles to buy stickers from the self-professed Sticker King. We’ve never heard of children paying out 200 marbles to somebody who beats them at a game of football, or 500 marbles being an acceptable exchange price for a sticker to put in an album, but c’est la vie. Perhaps we’re just not American enough. The games are certainly oriented more towards that side of the pond, with the likes of dodgeball in there.

The thing that immediately hits you with EA Playground DS is how lovely it looks. With the much smaller screens in play and sprite-based characters, the hideous character art style (seen in its full ‘glory’ on Wii) is disguised and made much more attractive. The look varies between games but manages to look good in all cases: a more ‘chunky’ style is displayed in games such as RC Racers and Trampoline, while the overworld and most of the other games have a cute and compact look with great little animations.

Screenshot for EA Playground on Nintendo DS

The next thing that will grab you is how little there is to do when it all comes down to it. Sadly, EA Playground is one of those games that pretty much shows you its entire hand of cards within the first half an hour of play; some areas on the map are locked initially, but they become available very swiftly if you have any degree of competence whatsoever, making all mini-games ready to play soon thereafter. Fair enough, you might say, it gives you the variety quickly, and that’s great considering it’s aimed at children primarily, who are famed for their short attention spans. It’s hard to not feel underwhelmed, though, when 25% of the game is completed within 40 minutes and the whole thing is over with around 4 hours of play time total.

A further problem is that the total play time stated above is mainly because of the way the difficulty ramps up ridiculously. You start out by only being able to play against one child on each mini-game and as you best them their superiors will be willing to play against you, bumping up the difficulty setting as they go. On the ‘easy’ and ‘normal’ settings these are fine, but on ‘hard’ things take a turn for the potentially frustrating. While we were able to take care of business on the hardest difficulty settings fairly easily (despite some excruciating annoyances with a blatantly cheating RC Racers when the hardest setting was reached) we could certainly appreciate that the games became much tougher, which is sure to cause nothing but rage in children. The sudden difficulty change just isn’t kid-friendly at all.

Screenshot for EA Playground on Nintendo DS

The length and later difficulty settings might be problems, but the games themselves don’t tend to do much wrong. They all range from decent to great, but they’re a bit shallow so it’s a shame there aren’t more available. Another letdown is that we can see British gamers being put off by the line-up and general way the game plays out, as it’s very American-geared; not a bad thing in itself, but something that means children over here probably aren’t going to identify with it very well. Rather than try to explain all the benefits and nuances of each game in detail, we’re going to summarise them all briefly.

Dodgeball requires you to smack the other teams’ members with balls to take them out of the game. We used the d-pad to move around and the stylus for aiming (by tapping in an ‘aim zone’ to chuck your ball-shaped ammo), though as with most of the games you can move about by using the stylus, too. One of the ‘decent’ category games.

RC Racers is probably the best game of the lot and is a nice little top-down racing Micro Machines clone. You drive about in your little car collecting weapons/boosts as you go to help yourself and hinder others. It’s a real kick up the posterior when you reach the hardest difficulty setting though, as it commits a cardinal sin of gaming: the AI blatantly begins to cheat. Your opponents all seem to magically acquire boost powers when you go into the optimum positions, for example.

Skate & Sketch is a basically a timed version of join the dots. You’ve got to link the circles in the right order before your skateboarding little guy comes out of the air or he’ll fall off and hurt himself. Alright.

Spitballs is a charming game where you spit paper balls at your chums. Nobody really liked the people that played this ‘game’ at school, did they? Use the stylus to seek out your foes and then ‘spit’ using the DS microphone, or do as we did and press the shoulder button. Pretty good.

Screenshot for EA Playground on Nintendo DS

Hopscotch fulfils the rhythm/memory game quota of the package and does it quite well. You get a few notes played at you, hit the right ones back on your go with the right timing. Basic and unoriginal, but alright.

Hoops is a simplistic basketball game where you grab balls, run into score multiplying spots and shoot. Good fun.

Kicks does for football what Hoops does for basketball. Very cut-down version of the game which calls for you to run around scooping up balls and shooting/slide-tackling with A depending on whether you have the ball or not. Pretty good, though we found ourselves hanging around the box and scooping up balls from attempted shots by our opponents and landing the goals ourselves rather than playing nicely…

Trampoline requires you to bounce on a trampoline and burst balloons. That’s all. We like it for the simplicity though, and the fact that you can bounce on your opponent’s head. That’s what we did most of the time. Also, you can jump so high you can fly into space. Good.

Bug Hunt plonks you in a field of butterflies and bees. Collect the butterflies, avoid the bees. Pretty nice.

EA Playground is a fairly decent attempt at a mini-game collection, but unfortunately it just doesn’t have the depth to be considered anything resembling an essential purchase. What’s there is fun, but the problems of length really hold it back – there are only so many times you’re going to want to play each game in single player mode, and for some reason multiplayer is only multi-card, meaning your opportunities to play it this way are, most likely, going to be limited.

Screenshot for EA Playground on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

The length is what really lets EA Playground down. The number of mini-games would have been forgivable if they had been made deeper, but as it is you can charge through them and see everything very quickly. What’s there is good fun while it lasts and the games are all fun in their own ways – but there’s just not enough there to justify it being a full price game.

Developer

EA Canada

Publisher

EA

Genre

Party

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

this is a full price game? wow, I thought it was a

Co-founder of the PDSLB - Pink DS Lite Buddies Fraz: Cheerios are made from fairy orgasms.

hmmm, can't edit the last post, but I forgot to say good review :Smilie

Co-founder of the PDSLB - Pink DS Lite Buddies Fraz: Cheerios are made from fairy orgasms.

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