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Horrible Histories Ruthless Romans Wii Guide

05/08/2009 Family Family Gamer Guide
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Horrible Histories Ruthless Romans Nintendo Wii

Horrible Histories Ruthless Romans

Nintendo Wii


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Family Gamer (Wii)

After it's outing on the PC, Horrible Histories is tailored for the Wii and creates a well balanced experience. It sits alongside other educational Wii titles such as Cosmic Family or Dora the Explorer, but adds a bit more meat to the academic engagement.

It's one of those type of game genres...

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 relativley short time requried to complete a level or two..

But why is it any better than the others...

This adds the Horrible History educational and graphic novel style to a well designed set of minigames. These can be played in their own right, or used to drive other contests, such as the land grab Risk-esque game, or Gladiator fights.

Players play in the explorable Roman city as they work through a story and are challenged to mini-games, history quizes and gladiator battles. They are treated to a graphic novel style introduction voiced by Terry Deary himself and delivered with considerable success. The drama that made the books so engaging is found here in full theatrical form.

There is a nice balance between action and learning here. Although players need to be prepared to do a fare bit of reading, the prospect of less challenging fun is never far away and there is a genuine sense of achievement to progression.

The 25 mini games can be played alone as well, against the computer or with up to four friends. Each game picks up an activity with a Roman theme that usual involves a combination of reactions and Wii-mote gestures. The simplicity here works well, and although the Wii-mote pointing can be a little fiddly at times, the cartoon presentation and stop frame animation make it an enjoyable and really unique experience.

So what experience should I play this game for...

Many will be attracted to the game because of its licence. Horrible Histories are Terry Deary and Martin Brown's fresh take at engaging youngsters with that sometimes dry subject, history. Their selling point for the kids is that they don't sanitise any of the gruesome facts, in fact they celebrate them.

The game is a little tamer that the book in terms of its 'Horrible' content. There is the sense that its gruesome aspects become a little bit too near the bone when children are actually enacting them rather than reading about them. So, quite sensibly, the Wii game offers a slightly toned down and less shocking take on the realities of historic life.

And when can I take a break...

The minigames along take just a few minutes each, but playing the story game strings these together - along with the history quizes - to expand the time required. The campaign should engross players of most abilities for a good ten to fifteen hours. Players can save at any point making it easy to put down adn pick up.

This is a great game for who...

Very young players will find the amount of reading and momorisation required in the main story a little much to handle. Playing with an older sibling or parent though, the minigames are simple enough for even novice players to enjoy. These are by their nature often a little violent, but that violence is never depicted as being directed at people.

The game's cartoon style, along with some sensible direction means that players avoid any of the shocking realities of Roman life. Gladiator battles are obscured by Scooby Doo style clouds of dust, and mini-games that involve hitting or slashing are pitched against straw manikins rather than real people.

Older and intermediate players will enjoy both the challenge in the game itself, as well as the change to explore the Horrible Histories world they have enjoyed in print. These two don't directly tie in, but because of the shared subject matter still work well together.

Expert players may still find some fun here in the frantic minigames. The story adventure side may be a little tame and have too much memorising of historical facts to be seen as fun. Unless you want to be back at school, older players will find more of a genunine challenge with either the Wario Ware minigame collections of the adventuring in Fable 2.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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