EA Playground DS
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
EA Playground on the Wii was a good game for all members of the family, regardless of their age, to get together and enjoy some simple but fun mini-games. Here we have EA Playground for the Nintendo DS but whilst it's similar in a few ways, for the most part it's a different experience. In fact it's not much of a multiplayer experience at all unless the people you want to play against own both a Nintendo DS and a copy of the game. For this reason alone, the DS version of EA Playground isn't quite so appealing.
The modes on offer in EA Playground are Single Player, Quick Play and Multiplayer. It's not possible to play any games in Quick Play mode until you've unlocked them in the Single Player game and as we've just mentioned, Multiplayer isn't possible if you don't have a DS owning friend with their own copy of the game. The game does not support the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection service so online play isn't an option here.
When you first play the Single Player mode you'll be greeted by Connor, the Sticker King. He tells you that you can purchase Super Stickers from him to put in your sticker book. These Super Stickers give you special abilities for different games. However, you'll have to pay him with marbles and to earn these marbles you'll have to play games against other children and defeat them. You can also earn stickers by finding various forgotten items that are scattered around the play areas. Initially you'll only have access to a small playground but as you begin to earn stickers (from defeating the children at their games) you'll unlock other areas to explore.
There are nine mini-games in EA Playground. The games are all actually quite good and they certainly become quite challenging when you play the more difficult opponents. The games on offer are Kicks, Dodgeball, RC Racers, Skate & Sketch, Spitballs, Hopscotch, Hoops, Trampoline and Bug Hunt. In Kicks you'll compete against an AI opponent and you have to score as many goals as you can. The footballs are different colours with each ball having different properties that range from increasing your running speed to multiplying your score. Dodgeball is simply a 3-on-3 Dodgeball game. RC Racers is a top-down racing game that's spiced up by the use of weapons, such as a cherry bomb and electric zappers. In Skate & Sketch your character will perform tricks in a half pipe whilst you frantically join up the dots using the stylus. Spitballs is a shooting game where you have to blow into the microphone (or press the L or R button) on your DS to fire at your targets. Hoops is a basketball flavoured game where you have to pick up the ball and throw it at the basket as quickly as you can. There are various score multiplying zones from which you can throw the ball to increase your score. An AI opponent also competes against you at the same time. Trampoline is a game which requires you to bounce and pop balloons whilst trying to avoid the birds and outdo your opponent. Finally Bug Hunt is a game that requires you to catch as many butterflies and dragonflies as you can with different coloured butterflies being worth a different amount of points and the dragonfly being worth the most of all.
EA Playground won't cause deaf gamers any problems. The children make the odd noise but they certainly don't speak and all of the conversations are text only. The game's instructions are all given in text and you can choose to read them before playing a game by selecting the How to Play option. One of the games we haven't yet mentioned, Hopscotch, could have potentially caused a problem in that you have to play back a musical sequence in the same order and with the same timing that it was originally played. Thankfully there are coloured boxes that light up for each note, so for deaf gamers it literally becomes a case of just remembering the sequence in which the coloured boxes lit up. A gauge helps you get the timing right.
Whilst the DS version of EA Playground is aimed squarely at younger gamers, just like the Wii version of the game, it's fair to say that the game is more of a single-player experience. The reason for this is that few will have the opportunity to experience the multiplayer game because there is no single card multiplayer option. You are getting more games than in the Wii version and the games are slightly more challenging (you could argue that most younger children will find some of the harder challenges too difficult) than in the Wii version but it's a shame that more thought wasn't put into giving as many people as possible the opportunity to experience the multiplayer side of the game.