Clean, vivid visuals; serviceable multiplayer
Rather dull edutainment; a dearth of game modes
Wii’s library lacks for some genres, but family games is not one of them. Well documented are the number of games where 1-4 players can do tasks that are so simple that they would probably not pass for true gaming a generation ago, and nowhere are those games more prolific than on Nintendo’s motion-centric console. Nat Geo Challenge! Wild Life is yet another such family title, drawing from the well-worn trail of edutainment. Although the production values are fine enough, the game is pretty uninspired and will probably appeal only to the most rabid National Geographic trivia junkie.
Nat Geo Challenge! Wild Life is a family game with two primary modes: “Quiz Mode” and “Quest Mode.” Quiz mode is essentially trivia, with questions drawn from various regions. Players can choose from one of a handful of different categories, or do a mash-up of all the categories. Every cluster of five or so questions is presented in a different way: some are straight up multiple choice questions, some are true/false questions, some are multiple choice with diminished point rewards depending on how long it takes to answer, some are questions where players wager points ahead of time, and so on.
Screen is from Xbox 360 version.
Quiz mode is the real heart of the game, but it’s not that interesting. The chief problem is that it is interminably long: the shortest quiz allowed is 40 questions. That means a single round of questions can take 20-25 minutes. Whereas most family games are quick pick-up-and-play affairs with short minigames (thus allowing a person to drop out if the game is not their style), family members who sample this game are trapped until the round is over, which feels like forever.
Quest mode is an attempt to give the package something other than a trivia affair, but it’s also not very enticing. This mode is mostly about solving puzzles, whether they be slide puzzles or traditional piece puzzles. The images in question range from locations to animals, but they aren’t that exciting. This mode feels a bit like an add-on to try and pad out the game. Likewise, some of the game’s other extras, including (offline) leaderboards and “achievements,” are pretty much simple filler that add no real lasting playability to the game.
Screen is from Xbox 360 version.
The game’s presentation does little to eradicate the pervasive snooze factor in the overall package. The IR controls work fine but are little more than mouse substitutes, with no waggle or anything of that sort. The music is vintage elevator, with ethereal piano riffs that threaten to put to sleep the dangerous wildlife showcased in the game. The decided lack of dramatic tension in the score really undermines what could me a more interesting quiz game. More grating is the British-accented narrator, who repeats the same two or three lines over and over again, whether it be “success!” with a right answer or “uhh, er… no” with a wrong one. The visuals, to be fair, are clean and vivid, with some nice pictures of exotic world locales, but the clean look also feels a bit sterile, thanks to the ivory white backgrounds.
If there is ever a book to judge by its cover, it’s Nat Geo. The racially diverse array of twenty-somethings in faux outdoorsy outfits happily clutching Wii remotes is probably the first sign that this game is not meant to be a blockbuster. True to form, the actual game proves to be a vanilla affair that fairs to really capture the wonder that National Geographic movies and magazines so often create. This is a pretty lifeless game that, while perhaps appealing to the hardcore National Geographic reader, will probably not hold much value for the rest.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.