Monday, May 29, 2006

Wild Earth Review

Wild Earth, developed and published by Super X Studios.
The Good: Unique premise, good animal models, believable environments, educational, end-of-safari newsletter featuring your photos
The Not So Good: Not exactly action packed
What say you? A safari photography simulation that’s actually quite enjoyable, especially for the youngsters: 6/8

Don’t you wish you could go back to a time when dinosaurs weren't just confined to zoos, with animals roaming around their natural habitat? Well, now you can, and without the annoying stench of Jim Carrey. In Wild Earth, you are a nature photographer, charged with scouring the African savanna, looking for huge piles of dung to take pictures of. You think I’m kidding, but that’s actually one of the tasks. Any game that involves pictures of feces must be awesome!

Since it takes place in nature, a game such as Wild Earth would hinge on believable animals and environments, and the game does not disappoint. All of the animals present in the game are realistically detailed in both appearance and behavior. Now, all of these actions are carefully scripted and not dynamic, but it’s still an authentic atmosphere. The environments aren’t too shabby either, and they serve as a convincing backdrop for the animals to frolic in. The animals look good from both close and far viewpoints, and the fact that a large number of different creatures are present in the game speaks volumes for the quality seen in the game. Wild Earth also features true to life sound effects of all the animals in the game, resulting in a genuine cacophony of noise. All of the instructions from your superiors are voiced, perfect for the younger players among us, and those who hate to read. The background music definitely has a nature documentary feel to it, and reminds me of the tunes heard at Sea World. On the whole, the quality of the sound and graphics of Wild Earth is very high, which is especially impressive for a small developer.

In Wild Earth, you roam various environments on missions to take pictures of animals. There are only eleven missions, but they last pretty long. Movement uses the classic WASD keys, and taking pictures is easy: just aim with your mouse and click. You have unlimited film so you can take as many pictures as you’d like. You are given a list of primary and secondary objectives throughout the game, which includes taking photos of animals doing various activities. The goals are obviously staged: your primary objective will usually happen in the next ten seconds or so. Some of the secondary, optional objectives are hard to find and sort of function like a treasure hunt, and they serve as a good diversion. You don’t need to successfully take pictures of every single objective, but you will need to complete around 75% of them in order to move on to the next level. Finding the next area to move to is made easy by the direction find, which indicates the location of the next objectives. You have free movement during the game and can move right up to the creatures, although they will notice your presence and the “impact meter” will tick down. If the meter is completely drained, you’ll need to restart the mission because you ruined everything. After you complete a mission, your actual pictures are featured in an article much like you’d find in a nature magazine.

Wild Earth is a very well done game. It features high-quality graphics with believable environments and realistic animals. The game is education, as it interjects your safari adventures with facts about the creatures you encounter. The game also features a newsletter at the conclusion of each mission, so that you can show off your picture taking skills. I had some fun playing the game, but I imagine that elementary school children with an interested in animals (which is pretty much all of them) would have a blast. I feel I have some expertise in this area because my wife is always telling me that I act like a 3rd grader. Wild Earth is simple to play, educational, and fun: pretty much everything you’d ask in a game such as this.