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Cosmic Family demonstrates how to really cater for the super young gamer demographic on the Wii. Its combination of kids TV and simple video gaming fun is a casebook for more of the same.
Mini games 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.
Cosmic Family is unique because of its kids cartoon presentation and simple themed activities.Although other games make use of a cartoon aesthetic in their visuals, Cosmic Family is the first one I have come across that is actually hard to distinguish from a children's TV program. The narrator is a wonderfully malleable outsized pink elephant that sets the playful tone for the rest of the game.
A central story about a family aboard a space ship provides a background for the different ship based environments. Here, we get to interact with and explore every life aboard their spaceship home.
Activities are a mixture of drawing, puzzle completing, hide and seek and counting. This is interspersed with some entertaining video clips. Although a simple move, this movement between interaction and viewing relieves some of the video gaming tension for younger players. It also encourages them to get up and move around every once in a while as they dance along with the on screen characters and music.
The majority of the interactions are performed with the Wii-mote's point ability. Provided the players have the appropriate dexterity (or practice) they should find it a direct and simple way to play. Little touches in the interface make it easy for children to play - even down to the menu's using pictures rather than words. Selecting yes and no is achieved by clicking on the cat shaking its head on the red background or the cat nodding on the green background.
Players will be attracted to the game by its bright outsized cartoon visuals and story book characters. This playful approach is then extended through the experience with some solid storytelling and unfolding overarching tale. As we watch the clips and play the games we are all the time getting to know the different characters, and quickly building a bond with them as events unfold.
The broadcast-like nature of the game means that it does need a little longer to be played. There are more unskippable video clips and narrated segments than would normally be found in a video game. This makes Cosmic Family more suited for those afternoon TV slots than a quite go in between other activities.
This is an ideal game for the really young. Although those under four may find the Wii-mote pointing a bit too fiddly, provided they have parents or slightly older siblings on hand they can still enjoy the experience.
Slightly older children will be able to play the game unaided. They are also more likely to follow the story as it develops and spot the subtle background clues that open new video clips and games.
Older Intermediate and Expert players will feel a little out of the loop on this one. That is unless they have young children with whom to share the game.
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.
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