Reviewed: October 23, 2007
Released: September 18, 2007
As a father of three children aged 6, 5, and 3, I am always on the search for family-appropriate games to play with the kids. Over the past few years, we have played through all of the classic PlayStation-era Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games, as well as more recent classics like Lego Star Wars, Super Mario Sunshine, and Kameo. In all of that time, I – as the Dad – have been working behind the scenes to keep the kids in focus and keep the gameplay moving in the right direction.
But like any good father, the time has come to let go of the reins and let the kids go out on their own – and the Wii has been one of the best (second only to the DS) vehicles for letting the kids explore gaming on their own terms.
So when the Ubisoft’s newest Wii release, Cosmic Family, appeared in the GCM offices with it promise of educational gameplay for ages 4-8 – I was the first reviewer to strike. Naturally, as a thirty-five year old gamer, I was not going to be the best judge – so I took the game home to my children, and boy am I glad I did.
While Cosmic Family might not have much to offer the hardcore gamer, I know that all three of my kids are in love with the Big Brain Academy-style gameplay and endearing presentation. And if it were not for a few value-based downfalls, the game would be a sure-recommendation.
Cosmic Family tells the story of a family of earth-dwellers who somehow end up inside a rocket ship traveling through space. Throughout the coarse of the game, the player will use the Wii remote to point to specific objects within the living quarters, each of which reveals a new cutscene progressing the cartoonish storyline, and a challenging (by kid standards) minigame.
These mini-games tend to be variations on sorting, arranging, matching, or counting, and definitely have the vibe of games like Big Brain Academy and Brain Age – but for kids. Of the two-dozen mini-games offered, only a few were so difficult that my children needed assistance, and most of those posed problems based on time constraints or pacing that is a bit too quick.
One such level shows a scrolling background with a character strolling along a roadway, which has “potholes” that must be filled with corresponding a series of onscreen puzzle pieces. In the second and third tier of the level, the background begins scrolling so fast that it becomes a bit difficult to accurately pick the correct piece – even for an experienced gamer.
Still, the game features a bevy of rewarding tile sorting and jigsaw puzzle levels which really have the kids hooked. Couple this with the top-notch cartoon style presentation, and the Cosmic Family is a great experience for the 4-8 year olds in the home.
I did not expect much from Cosmic Family on the presentation end of things, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game has a very solid cartoon-like flair that looks a bit like PBS/Discovery’s Magic School Bus-meets-the classic 90’s era Squigglevision cartoons like Science Court.
The visuals are layered 2D objects and pre-rendered backgrounds. Much like the point-and-click adventures of old, some objects can be interactive, other are simply part of the background. The character animations in the load screens and cutscenes tend to be a bit choppy, but I have to believe that is more a result of the overall visual style than it is on any technical shortcomings.
While Cosmic Family does feature solid voice acting (which is especially helpful for the younger non-readers) and background music, the sound effects leave a bit to be desired. Still, the game gets its point across, and the kids do not know the difference.
Cosmic Family is definitely a great game for the 4-8 year olds out there, but it does have a few issues that really affect the overall value negatively; not the least of which is the full-priced MSRP of $49.99, which when compared to grade-A “whole family fun” titles like Wario Ware: Smooth Moves and the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy, makes it a bit hard to justify.
The second major issue is the game’s longevity; my six-year-old daughter officially “finished” the game in a little over an hour, and although she has been playing the selectable mini-games for about two weeks now, I have noticed her interest waning a bit. Compare that to the fact that Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, as well as our DS version of Wario Ware: Touched and even our old GBA game Wario Ware: Twisted are all three still in regular rotation in the house, many years after their release, and it indicates that Cosmic Family just doesn’t quite hit the benchmark set by those titles.
Like I said in the opening bit, my kids really dig Cosmic Family – at least for the time being. The game offers top-notch kid-friendly presentation and a solid selection of kid-level mini-games. And if it were not for the fact that Cosmic Family just does not offer the degree of depth or longevity of similarly priced grade-A titles, it would be a sure recommendation.
Give it a weeklong rental, and if the kids are still asking for more, go ahead and pick up a copy. And let those kids go off on their own. But make sure they wear the wrist strap, right?