Can't afford the hefty price tag attached to a wild rhino or a hairy gorilla? EA has the answer with the second SimAnimals package for Wii, taking us to the orange planes of Africa.
SimAnimals: Africa, if you hadn't guessed, is essentially a wild animal simulator taking you into the beautiful continent to befriend and look after beasts you wouldn't necessarily keep in a dingy cage in one corner of the living room. The Africa package comes with its own distinctive art style that isn’t actually that bad – on the cover or booklet. However in the game itself we’ve got poorly designed character models housed in bland and repetitive environments, with a sprinkle of rocks and trees from time to time.
The game takes on two distinct flavours: a 'God' mode where you're able to pick up and grab objects and animals in your environment, and an arguably more enjoyable feature where you can take control of your best-friend-pets – though to do so is a game of trial and error. Pick one of the wandering beasts with your Wii remote, pump it full of food and give it a stroke or two, again with your pointer and whirling nunchuck. Much like any other pet sim it'll love or hate your gifts, eventually becoming yours if you treat it well enough. Once you've befriended one of the eight different species you can explore the fairly limited lands and take part in some midly enjoyable mini-games, one of which that involves tossing a ring. Yep, tossing a ring with the ol' Wii remote.
The animals themselves are rather adorable, ranging from the default zebra to furious rhinos, speedy gazelles and snappy, snappy crocodiles. Whilst the selection is fairly varied they all handle in similar ways; think puppy or kitten wearing a giraffe costume. SimAnimals: Africa didn’t need to be all correct to the laws of nature, yet there really needed to be more variety in the animals' behaviours as an incentive to keep playing through. That said, they each have a distinctive move – elephants can water your plants and produce more fruit, whilst zebras can kick things about – but it’s still a very shallow affair.
Each animal bares its own stats, essential for levelling up and keeping players hooked – it's a good enough formula that works but aside from petting, feeding and the very limited mini games there really isn't much to keep you interested during the whole level boosting process.
SimAnimals: Africa doesn’t boast a long list of things to do and relies heavily on repetition and the ol' level building trick to get by. It would have been far better to have more mini-games or at least some specific goals to keep players engaged.
The game is ugly in how its been presented on the Wii but had some potential in the art style and direction. Fairly shoddy animation and ridiculously bland environments.
Tribal beats and various EA-styled jingles to compliment the mounds of action on screen. Not bad, nor contributes to the game much – but suitable nonetheless.
If repeating limited tasks over, and over, and over.... and over floats your animal simulator boat then it may just hold up, or else it'll be something for a weekend then into dust-collecting mode.
At the end of the day die-hard pet simulator fans will enjoy the game, young children might get a kick or two out of it for a little while but we can't see it sticking in the long haul. More mini-games and actual things to do really would have boosted its score considerably. There is potential to bring out something truly enjoyable and lasting, but SimAnimals: Africa isn’t the game to do that at its current state. It feels a lot like something whipped up after a brief chat in the staff kitchen: some good ideas rushed out into a very limited project.