Publisher: Take-Two Interactive
Release Date: February 11, 2008
Anyone who has a five-year-old kid or a young niece or nephew has probably heard of Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego, who stars in the spin-off show, "Go, Diego, Go!" If not, I'll do my best to catch you up to speed, but Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue for the Wii is aimed solely at the younger demographic, and was not created with adults in mind, so please consider that before you decide to check it out.
"Go, Diego, Go!" airs on a frequent basis on the Nickelodeon channel and has been running for over three years, with quite a bit of success with the kindergarten crowd. The majority of the show takes place in the rain forest and has a heavy emphasis on animal life. Like its parent show, Dora the Explorer, it also involves some instruction in the Spanish language. The show is pretty educational for kids, but it manages to mix that with a fair amount of fun and excitement.
The problem with a lot of children's games, especially with licensed property, is that they're designed to be incredibly simple, but not necessarily fun. Developers seem to feel that if they dumb down the gameplay, it'll appeal to kids, but most kids are surprisingly discerning in what they'll spend their time with. One glance at the cartoons that succeed should be enough to prove the point, but time and again, developers don't seem to understand what it takes to make a proper children's game interesting, fun, and not too frustrating for its target demographic.
Thankfully, Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue manages to miss this pitfall entirely, blending together accessible controls with content that matches the source material quite well. It keeps the game entertaining with decent production values that just about any four- or five-year-old will enjoy.
The only way you can properly test these games is to put them in front of their target audience, so I recruited my girlfriend's four-year-old niece to check this out, since her room is pretty much filled with Dora and Diego toys and DVDs. She didn't have much trouble grasping the controls, and she became pretty engaged with the game, to the point that it was a little taxing to pry it away from her.
My own personal experience with Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue is also pretty positive. The control scheme is nice and simple, and it's definitely something that other developers could take into account, even in the creation of more adult-themed platforming titles. You only need to use two buttons on the Wiimote, and the actual movement is relegated to the motion controls, so you can move Diego simply by tilting the controller back and forth. It's surprisingly responsive, and I rarely had any issues with the Wiimote not recognizing the motion I was trying to perform. I could see some of the younger kids getting a bit too animated in their movements, which may cause some frustration when it comes to using the motion controls, but otherwise, the control scheme works really well.
The music is ripped straight from of the show, and the voice actor for Diego, Jake T. Austin, also provides the voice for the title character. Other characters from the show make small appearances, and the game also features the use of Diego's talking Rescue Pack. Children will easily identify the characters from the show, but unfortunately, the game doesn't make use of any animated clips for the cut scenes, instead opting to create still frames with spoken dialogue. That seems a bit cheap, but I suppose the budget was too tight to create new animation strictly for the game.
However, during gameplay, the characters all do a great job of representing their small-screen counterparts, and while the facial animations leave a little to be desired, Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue is visually solid. It's not a graphical powerhouse on the Nintendo Wii by any means, although it represents the show well enough and a slight edge is given to a component HD hook-up.
The story is a bit fanciful, even for a typical Diego plot. A mosquito has gained magical powers and is turning elephants into boulders, and Diego is tasked with changing these elephants back to their original forms. The gameplay is reminiscent of most 3-D platforming titles, with more of an emphasis on action over jumping and climbing.
Diego will have to traverse different African environments to complete his task, and there's even a small bit of collecting, like your typical platformer. His Rescue Pack comes into play mostly as a way to create various vehicles, and older players can think of him as a "Rush" type of accessory from the later Mega Man games. The actions not controlled by the buttons are delegated to motions as well, but they're all pretty distinct, and the on-screen tutorials are precise enough for young ones so they can get the hang of things easily enough.
Gaming parents, and even parents with young kids interested in gaming, should definitely consider picking up Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue for their tots. It's a solid, fun little title that'll definitely entertain the young ones for quite a few hours, and manages to be a little educational as well. It's definitely not a title for the older crowd, and the game is far too easy and simplistic to hold the attention of anyone in their teens, but the game definitely excels for the intended audience. If you have a young one in your home or immediate family, I'd suggest checking out Safari Rescue. If nothing else, it's a pretty solid primer to gaming in general, and it should help to kindle the fire of gaming for a new generation.