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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Player's Club: Guinness World Records: The Video Game and Wonder World Amusement Park

click to enlarge Wonder World Amusement Park
  • Wonder World Amusement Park

America’s got more Wiis than diabetes, but many critics and gamers regularly disparage the little white box. Their tremendous skepticism might seem like sour grapes, as if nontraditional gamers are trampling over their hallowed subculture, but it’s not entirely unwarranted. Despite a few great releases early in the year (No More Heroes, Boom Blox, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Okami), 2008 saw a painful dearth of high-quality traditional video games for the Wii.

There wasn’t much to appease gamers interested in the sort of long-form, story-based experiences that have typified gaming since the original Nintendo Entertainment System. That doesn’t mean the Wii had a light release schedule, though; there was a deluge of Wii titles in 2008, both technically minimized installments of multi-platform hits (Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Lego Batman), and mounds of carelessly produced rush jobs that have helped earn the system its bad reputation.

At first glance, Guinness World Records: The Video Game and Wonder World Amusement Park both look like the latter.

Each is a collection of mini games that often bear only slight relations to the overriding theme, and neither sport particularly impressive visuals. There’s also no Mii implementation; both games inexplicably offer up an assortment of pre-designed player avatars instead of letting the player use his or her own custom Mii. Even the most skeptical observer should be able to tell that Guinness World Records is superior to Wonder World, though. There’s greater variety to Guinness World Records’ mini games, a few of which (like the fingernail-growing contest) approach the endearing absurdity of Nintendo’s own WarioWare series.

Wonder World’s five theme park-themed levels repeatedly recycle games, with slight variations on classic fare such as Whack-a-Mole and shooting ranges. Guinness World Records also makes small use of the Wii’s Wi-Fi capability, offering leaderboards for each activity. No such luck with Wonder World. Guinness World Records’ bright cartoonish graphics contain a pleasant and slightly distinctive style, whereas Wonder World is blocky and fuzzy and would look mediocre even on the 12-year-old Nintendo 64. Guinness World Records is simply a better made game.

It’s not really all that fun, though. At least, not for me, a hollow old man who can’t let go of childish things. I play more video games than an AV room full of asthmatic 14-year-olds, and I had to force myself to spend more than 10 minutes with either of these. I quickly lost interest in Guinness World Records and the myriad ways in which it required me to wave my arms around really fast. Seriously, how could they make a game about the Guinness World Records and not include the fat twins on motorcycles? I simply didn’t enjoy either of these games, despite recognizing Guinness World Records as being somewhat well-made. I was planning to trash them, fully prepared to pounce with an uncharacteristically negative review. And then I went home for Christmas, and played the games alongside my family — the sort of people games like this are made for — and realized it would be wrong to savage either of them.  Guinness World Records: The Video Game simply doesn't have me in mind.

click to enlarge Fat twins on motorcycles (Photo courtesy 'Guiness Book of World Records')
  • Fat twins on motorcycles (Photo courtesy 'Guiness Book of World Records')

There’s a lot of distance between people who obsessively play or write about games, and those who only pick them up occasionally. Also, a child and an adult shouldn’t be expected to appreciate the same games. I look at Guinness World Records of Records and Wonder World Amusement Park and see a disappointment and an embarrassment, but my 60-year-old mother and 6-year-old nephew both had a blast playing them. They weren’t bothered by the repetition or the poor graphics. They just had fun facing off against each other and trying to get the best time or highest score. They don’t read reviews, but they know what they like, and both of these games passed muster.

That doesn’t excuse the developers of Wonder World for the obviously low production values, but it does make me think that, if you or your family are into vaguely motion-controlled mini games, these two titles will probably provide you with some degree of entertainment. Neither can touch Wii Sports or Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, but Guinness World Records, at least, is of comparable quality to the critically maligned but commercially successful Carnival Games.

Guinness World Records: The Video Game

Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older. Released on Nov. 11, 2008. Nintendo Wii. Developed by TT Games

Published by Warner Brothers.

Wonder World Amusement Park

Rated E for Everyone. Released on July 8, 2008. Nintendo Wii. Developed by Coyote Games. Published by Majesco.

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