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Having catered for young girl gamers with their Imagine games (Imagine: Champion Rider DS) and young boys (Sam Power DS) Ubisoft here have a series of games aimed at young players with an environmental leaning. Planet Rescue: Endangered Island is the first game from their environmentally themed range. This geological challenge complements the animal care of Planet Rescue: Animal Emergency DS and aquatic clean up of Planet Rescue: Ocean Patrol DS with it's own range of minigames.
Minigames come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What unites the genre is the speed with which players can pickup the games and the relatively short time required to complete a level or two.
The Planet Rescue games are interesting because of their educational perspective. Time will tell how strong the market is for games that wear their environmental credentials on their sleeve. They are each packaged to champion a particular environmental cause.
The games themselves stay largely true to this, although each making their case through a varied experience. Like the Imagine range of games, these have been developed by different teams and therefore vary in quality of delivery. Rather than a built for purpose series, we have here a range of titles with a conveniently similar theme.
Planet Rescue: Endangered Island has you setting up an animal sanctuary on an island with various endangered species. By exploring the island and talking to the other staff and locals, players slowly discover animals that need looking after. They can then take them in to heal them, clean them and generally treat them like short term pets. Along the way you can also clean up the island itself, recycle waste and generally prepare the environment for the animal's reintroduction.
There are 12 different species to collect (so to speak) that are spread around the four different environments - forest, taiga, savannah and desert.
The do-gooding is rounded off with some assistance for the local economy. You aid their development of greener, more sustainable life styles, and encourage them to adopt more nature friendly habits. Things like saving water and recycling. This human interaction is extended by building a team to save the island and solve its mysteries.
Earnest youngsters will be attracted to the green credentials of these games. But happily, there is plenty to keep them entertained once the novelty of saving the planet has dulled (should that happen). Planet Rescue: Endangered Island (like the others in the series) does a good job though of linking together the various bits of gameplay into a coherent whole.
After discovering the island in good condition, then watching an unfolding disaster as an explosion of an off-shore oil rig endangers the fragile habitat, players are cleverly locked in to help.
The first time you then take an animal back to your sanctuary, get it better and reintroduce into the island is all the more satisfying. Although a little potted in terms of engaging with the wider issues of trade, aid and western consumerism, the game offers a great way to raise the more emotionally led issues around the environmental topic.
We really enjoyed being able to calculate our own carbon footprint. This took the playful improvement of distant lands and applied it to our own lives. It's a simple addition but a wise and important one.
The game is structured around a series of themed minigames. Although you can't save mid game, the ability to either pause, or save between these stages is more than enough. As these games last no more than five minutes, a session on the game can last as long or as short as you like. Most players should have a good ten to fifteen hours of game play before they have discovered all the animals.
Very young players will struggle initially with the level of reading required to follow the tasks, but with a little help from a sibling or parent they can play the majority of the minigames.
Intermediate players may appreciate the unusual topic matter, although the games them self will be quite familiar.
Experts are likely to balk at the slightly worthy subject matter that they may see as window dressing on a child friendly minigame collection.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: