As grown men, it's particularly hard to review games like this. Obviously, EA Playground isn't meant for anyone over 8, and any childless adult seen purchasing it should probably be reported immediately to local authorities. No one in our office was jumping over themselves to brush away Halo 3 and The Orange Box to collect stickers and marbles. But somebody had to review it. And guess what? It surprised us.
Playground is exactly what it's supposed to be, and it's damn good at it to boot. Trucking around the safe confines of schoolyards and recess grounds opens up a wealth of gameplay in short, sweet digestible bursts. During single player, you'll progress at your own leisure while playing handfuls of extremely polished and competent minigames. Whether we were racing Slot Cars or playing Dodgeball, every game was unsurprisingly easy to get into, and difficult to put down.
Sure the controls are as basic as you'd expect, but they're also deeper than you'd think. And you'll figure that out the longer you play, by earning stickers as rewards and marbles to put towards unlocking new moves and areas. Because these aren't your average minigames, no no. They can be enjoyed for minutes at a time, played in groups, and some even require you to master up to eight different methods of control.
The simplistic motion controls work phenomenally, every move a breeze to pull off while registering every time. Tetherball and Paper (plane) Racers in particular were fun enough to get us all misty and nostalgic to the days of sunshine and juiceboxes. But then we remembered the booze to wedgie ratio and snapped right back into our 9 to 5 reality.
The only control issue we had was while controlling your character around the titular Playground in between the actual game. You have to run around with D-pad with no camera control, making collecting objects or manuvering in tight quarters a pain in the ass. But this is the sacrifice the game makes for allowing use of the Wii Remote alone, and luckily none of the gameplay is hindered.
We give EA Playground all the credit in the world for making a game perfectly suited for its intended audience. Single player offers a wonderful system of choices and rewards that give it a leg up over everything else on the Wii trying to be exactly like it. Cynical adults will write it off, and rightly so, but the fact that each of the well designed games offers multiplayer support could mean that Playground will be around much longer than we expected.