It’s your first day as an animal wildlife photographer and it’s up to you to explore the wilderness of Animal Island (think savannahs and jungles of Africa). Become familiar with the wild animals on the island so you can take good photos of them. Now you can enjoy the thrill of a wildlife photo safari right in your room with Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition for Nintendo Wii.
First, choose a male or female photographer as your character and then meet up with your partner, a dopey looking robot who will drive your Jeep around the island as you search the savannah for signs of wildlife. Your robot partner also helps you get started and dispenses hints on how to take the best photos of the animals your editor has assigned for you to photograph that day. Your editor will give you assignments on what to photograph, so you’ll be taking snapshots of a giraffe eating, an animal with their young, or a picture of a sleeping lion cub!
Driving around in the Jeep is very similar to another popular photography game, Pokemon Snap on the N64. However, unlike Pokemon Snap, once you spot an animal here, you can actually get out of the Jeep and take pictures of animals on foot. When on foot, you must approach the animals very carefully as to not startle them. When you’ve been around the animals long enough, they’ll start to trust you more and you’ll be able to take closer shots of them. Sometimes you might need to use camouflage items to lure animals into getting close enough for a good shot. At the end of the day you can send your best photos to your editor and save your favorites in your photo album.
Play control is as easy as pointing and clicking the Wii remote just like you point and shoot a camera. When on foot, tilt the nunchuck stick ever so slightly to creep around the animals. And your dopey robot pal does a good job, at least 99 percent of the time, in explaining how to perform various actions and dealing with the wildlilfe. Speaking of the animals, the graphics and animations on the critters are very lifelike. Unfortunately, the background environment graphics aren’t nearly as inspired. Really, the only thing I truly hated about this game was a stupid mini-game you have to play every once in a while. Sometimes at night, hyenas come and you must scare them off with torches before they steal all your items. It’s frustrating because the pointing controls are hit or miss here and I never can win! Stupid hyenas!
But aside from those dumb hyenas, Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition is a pretty creative little game. Fans of photography and animal lovers will really enjoy it.
Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Violence. The violence comes in the form of animals hunting other prey, and you must take pictures of it at one point. But it’s no worse than what you might see on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. Reading skill is a must, as everything is text-based. Since you have to be patient, move slowly, and sometimes stay still for a long time when taking pictures of the animals, some youngsters might get bored and frustrated at the slower paced gameplay. And I think that hyena game will annoy kids, too. I didn’t like it, anyway.
But this game can also be considered educational as it teaches good photography techniques as well as facts about wild animals. Your photos are judged by how close the subject is, how centered it is in the frame, and if the animal is facing the camera. And when you send off pictures to your editor, you can then read facts about the animals you’ve photographed. You can even play a sound sample of their calls. Heck, even I learned a few things about animals while playing this game. For instance, I didn’t know giraffes made mooing sounds like a cow! Because apparently, they do in this game! So if your kids like watching shows like Go, Diego, Go!, or if they enjoy taking pictures and/or learning about wild animals, they’ll certainly enjoy getting some exposure to Animal Kingdom!