Gwen on , , , 12 Apr 2011 10:25 am

In our house Anthony is the video editor. He puts in an incredible amount of work to make Aidan’s videos look and sound good. Thank you for staying up way too late Anthony, Aidan and I really appreciate it.


Anthony on , , , 07 Aug 2008 09:21 pm

Go Diego Go! Safari Rescue (Wii)

Based on Nickelodeon research with preschoolers and their families to determine how the platform’s motion-play capabilities are absorbed by younger children, Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue was designed with 13 intuitive Wii-centric motions that maximize the engineering of the Wii Remote for a preschooler. Taking on the role of Diego in a race across Africa, gamers stomp to scare away lions, jump with Baby Jaguar, paint stripes on zebras, climb up ladders and swim across the jungle river by mimicking those actions with the Wii Remote.” (from Metacritic)

After some research on the net, I decided that Safari Rescue was going to be the first game I tried to get Aidan to play on the Wii.  I mean, sure, he likes holding the Guitar Hero guitar and watching the notes scroll by, but he’s not really playing.

The set up

A mosquito lands on a magic wand, turning it into a magician.  The magician decides she doesn’t like elephants and turns them to stone.  Well, some of them.  Diego and Baby Jaguar have to find and use a magic drum that can turn the elephants back.


But, you know, we don’t have to really worry about characters’ motivation do we?  It creates some tension for the kids and gives them a goal.

The execution

The story and controls are explained by Diego in cut scenes.  The cut scenes are just like the TV show, with Diego addressing the audience directly.  The graphics are the same as you’d expect from the show and the character voice is identical too.  OF COURSE THAT MEANS HE’S CONSTANTLY SHOUTING! But somehow Diego’s not quite as grating as DORA!

Gameplay is a typical side-scrolling adventure.  Diego has to travel along the path, jumping over the occasional obstacle, retrieving the occasional object behind trees, rocks, bushes, and sundry other things.  There are platforms that boost him to other areas, trampolines, meerkat holes, zip lines, muddy hills, and other interesting devices to make it a bit more than a simple side-scroller.  Again, the graphics and sounds are essentially what you’d expect from the TV show.  Every once and a while you get interrupted by the backpack or the camera, or the occasional story-advancing cut-scene, but it’s pretty much get Diego from one end of the scene to the next.  There are tokens to collect along the way, and food for various animals, but there is no consequence to not collecting “enough” tokens.  Also, there is no “dying”.  If you fail to jump over some obstacles, Diego trips and mutters something (oops?) but keeps on going.  You can’t fall off ledges.  You can’t fall off swinging vines.  You can’t miss jumping on the swinging vines.

The crowning glory on the game is the control scheme.  You control Diego entirely with moving the Wiimote and a single button.  The Wiimote is held horizontally, and to get Diego to walk to the right, you tilt the Wiimote right.  Want to walk left?  Tilt it left.  Jump is pushing the button.  Which button?  Well, the “2” button (under your right thumb) works.  So does “1”.  I think even “A” works.

Climbing ladders is tilting the Wiimote left, then right, then left, then right, etc.  Getting things out of trees?  Push the button to climb the tree, and then shake the Wiimote.  Push over a rock?  Push the button to brace, then push the rock with the Wiimote.

The control scheme is just brilliant and a full realization of the potential of the Wii.

But it gets better.  The game also has a parental assist mode.  For some of the more “complicated” manoeuvres, a parent, sibling, or friend can perform the exact same motion as the main player with a second Wiimote.  This gets the child beyond parts that might be more difficult, but also brings in an element of teamwork and cooperation.

The reaction

The boy loves this game.  He’s able to follow the story line.  He’s able to perform all the control actions.  It’s not scary.  It’s not violent.  It’s not frustrating.  It’s Diego (for some reason, this is a plus for him, but a minus for the parents).

From an adult point of view, the tasks are repetitive and your focus will wander.  Not so Aidan.  He was thoroughly enjoying himself.  I’m not ashamed to say that he played for over an hour the first time.  We’ve limited his play time since then, though, to about 20 minutes once or twice a day.

The only other down side is that pressing on the “D” pad causes Diego to interrupt and give a little cut scene on how to move him using the Wiimote.  Given that the “D” pad is under the left-hand thumb, this can be very irritating as the toddler accidentally presses the pad again.  And again.  I wish there were some way to prevent the “helpful” cut scene from happening.  Also, the little graphic showing how to use the Wiimote shows a stylized person tilting the Wiimote back and forth.  Aidan tried to duplicate that motion identically and of course all it does is twitch Diego back and forth.  And back and forth.  It didn’t take a long time for Aidan to work it out, but it was a bit misleading.

The verdict

Wow, a home run with the first swing!  This game is absolutely awesome for the preschool set.  It features someone they’ve inevitably seen on the TV.  Gameplay is preschool-friendly, non-violent and non-frustrating.  The Wii’s control scheme is amazing.  It’s both interactive and physically active.  It’s probably not a game for kids much older than … oh 6 or so, but it’s perfect for the 3-6 crowd.

Anthony on , , , , , 06 Aug 2008 10:04 pm

This past weekend has been interesting in terms of seeing Aidan interact with technology.  First, while chatting with Grandma, she was getting him to move the mouse to various places on her face (her nose, her head, etc).  Now, I had never seen Aidan try to do this before — and he was doing it with very little problem.  Adding to the level of difficulty is that he was using a trackball !

The next day I was sitting on the sofa with my Eee and he crawled up on my lap.  On a whim, I tried to find some Flash game for him to play (since that’s where kids games seem to have gone) and found the incredible companion site to one of Aidan’s favourite shows (and ours):  Peep and the Big Wide World.  That site has a number of different games, some of which were easy for Aidan, some of which were harder.  His favourite game was one where you made Quack jump on one of three tubes of paint (each of a different colour) to squirt paint onto a fence.  The goal was to combine the primary colours to match the colour on the card that Chirp was holding up.  Aidan’s favourite part of the game was making Quack jump on a nearby hose, which causes water to go everywhere, cleaning up the fence and soaking Chirp in the process.  And, as any fan of the show knows, Chirp hates water.

That time, Aidan was using the touchpad on the little Eee.

*I* can’t use the trackpad reliably well.  Although I suspect it has something to do with the size of the pad compared to the size of my hands. :)

After a blog post from Kerry, I started in earnest looking for a real video game appropriate for Aidan.  I was originally thinking about the DS, what with it supposedly being a kid’s game system.  But then I was picking through the racks at the Superstore and saw some Wii games that might be appropriate too.  After picking some up … and putting them back, I headed home to do some research.

Video games for the pre-school crowd are just not *there*, you know?

But consistently one stood out, and on Monday Aidan and I wandered up to Toys R Us and purchased “Diego Safari Rescue” for the Wii.

I’ll write a real review of this soon, but suffice it to say that it’s gone over quite well.  And … Aidan’s conquered this control system too.

I continue to be astonished at what a different life Aidan is having (and will have) compared to what Gwen & I have had.

Anthony on , , , , 04 May 2008 10:14 pm

A few weeks ago, we bought an XBOX 360. That officially brings us into the Wii60 ranks that were predicted at the start of the latest “next generation” console war. It was a bit of a steep purchase, since we bought Rock Band along with it (and Burnout Paradise too, FWIW). Rock Band is largely responsible for the dearth of posting on this blog and LeftCoastMama. Gwen plays guitar, I play drums. Aidan sings. Yes, keep that visual in mind … in reality, it’s not nearly as bad as you think it might be.

A few days ago, you may heard of a small game released called “Grand Theft Auto IV“. The GTA series has become quite notorious for the amount of sex, drugs, and violence portrayed in the game. I had played the very first GTA game — a top-down game where you could steal cars, shoot people, and run over pedestrians. I don’t recall there being much (any?) sexual content in the first one. Even then, it was a fun, addictive game. You can actually download that game, legitimately, for free.

Fast forward a few years and now the forth edition of the game is out, to much hubbub. And yes, we did pick it up, and I’ve been playing it a few hours every night over the past week. It is as violent as you have heard. The language in it is as crude as you might expect in the back alleys of New York (the city on which the game’s Liberty City is based). There is sexual content. Stealing cars is commonplace. Running over pedestrians is easy and lacking of any serious consequence (but don’t run the tolls on any of the bridges!).

And yet this is a magnificent game. It is, by far, the best looking and best sounding game I’ve ever played. The attention to detail in the city is incredible. Every city block is different, and different neighbourhoods have their distinct feel. There are tonnes of cars and pedestrians on the roads — sometimes. In the middle of night, not so much. In the day time, lots. Traffic increases at rush hour. There are lots of taxis, and an incredible number of incompetent police cars. Pedestrians have lots to say (usually not of it very polite). There are 18 music stations you can tune into in whatever car you’re in, all with track lists numbering well over a dozen songs. You can watch TV. You can surf the net. You can bowl, play darts, play pool, go drinking, go to a cabaret, and participate in lots of other activities.

The city’s architecture is something to see. Towering skyscrapers, lots of impressively lit bridges. Tunnels. Parks. Slums. Construction. An airport with airplanes landing and taking off with regularity. A Statue of “Happiness”. A comprehensive subway system with 4 lines. The city is massive, and the game comes with both a street map and a subway map.

The sun rises and sets on Liberty City, and all light sources are a thing of wonder. Shadows fall as expected, and are nice and soft, not hard and ragged as in many other games. I will often find myself walking or driving along and lose myself in just looking at the game. You can find lots of screenshots on the net, but you could start here. Frankly, they don’t do the actual game justice.

On the otherhand, the game is quite violent and crude. The control system leaves a bit to be desired, and although each different type of car/truck/van/garbage truck/motorcycle drives differently, they’re all pretty twitchy when it comes to steering. Fighting and shooting isn’t particularly easy. The camera doesn’t help a whole lot when driving — it’s hard to see if you’re going to run into something or get T-boned at intersections.

Although this game is being set up as the biggest entertainment release (surpassing that of any other video game or movie) I wonder if a game without the history and notoriety that this one brings, without the sex and violence, and keeping with the visuals, sounds, voices, and storytelling would be as successful or more successful. Sadly, I don’t think so. And yet I can’t help but wonder if a superhero game (think Superman, Spiderman, or even something like Hellboy) would be able to function in this setting just as well. Or a suspense/mystery (think Phillip Marlow).

Still, despite the 18+ rating, it’s quite a compelling game. Liberty City keeps drawing me back in…