Developer: Ubisoft Barcelona
Release Date: September 18, 2007
Keeping in line with a steady stream of family-themed Wii games, Ubisoft released Cosmic Family, designed to be a pseudo-edutainment title for the young ones in your typical Wii family. At its heart, Cosmic Family is a collection of mini-games with a little bit of educational information thrown about, but it's also pretty short and doesn't hold a lot of interest for either kids or adults.
The game is completely geared toward kids, with the target age range being between four and eight. This makes it a bit tough to review for an adult, so keep in mind that some of my complaints may not be issues for a four-year-old.
Cosmic Family is set aboard a space ship, which has been divided into five different sections that you can explore to take on the various mini-games. The design has a cutesy, Saturday morning kids cartoon feel to it, with bright, colorful artwork, simple designs and a somewhat catchy sound, all of which combine to keep kids interested while they explore the various games. However, for those of us with more discerning eyes, it looks almost too simple for a home console release, appearing more akin to a portable game or even a Popcap or Webkinz aesthetic.
Granted, Cosmic Family is easy to get into, and it works well for the target audience. There's no reading involved, everything is voiced, and it's easy to find everything inside the menus to get started. There are about 24 mini-games to play through, but these feel less like the mini-games you might be used to from Mario Party, and something that resembles an activity book that you can pick up at the checkout lane of your local supermarket. There are a lot of puzzles that involve simply coloring in a picture or rearranging tiles to sort out a jumbled image. The controls aren't particularly great either; there's not much of the obvious motion control included, and instead you're using the face buttons on the Wiimote far more than it makes sense to. However, I can see the learning appeal for parents in some of the segments, which help to teach younger ones about counting and problem-solving, even if it might be easy for kids in the upper end of the targeted age group.
There is an actual story line involved with the events that you're participating in, but it's also pretty bare-bones, as you might suspect. The inhabitants of the space ship are a family from Earth that has somehow managed to get aboard the vessel as it travels off to parts unknown. Various objects within the ship are what you'll click to participate in the mini-games and advance the story. Everything is easy to spot and figure out, and with the mini-games, hardly any type of direction is needed to figure out the course of action, even for the younger players.
Visually, Cosmic Family doesn't really impress. I imagine the simplistic style is definitely intentional, but the core design doesn't do anything for me. It seems to want to emulate something from '80s cartoons, maybe even a bit of Canadian animation sensibilities (I can't think of a better way to put this), but it still doesn't look like something I'd expect from a full-fledged game.
The music is decent, but it's pretty quiet and obviously never takes the forefront. The voice acting, on the other hand, is definitely solid and should keep the younger ones interested and listening. It's not stilted or unbalanced, but easy to listen to and sounds like something you'd hear in a cartoon. It's not super polished, but better than some big-budget titles manage to produce.
Now that Cosmic Family can easily be purchased for around $20 and not the $50 that it debuted at, I'd suggest it for families who have younger kids but have difficulty finding age-appropriate games for their youngest ones to participate in. Granted, the Wii has tons of younger age-based games out there, but Cosmic Family skews to the youngest possible crowd, and the mini-games will most likely keep those youngsters occupied, at least for a short while.
There isn't a ton of content outside of the mini-game activities in Cosmic Family. There's no multiplayer, so households with multiple children will have to learn the fine art of sharing and taking turns, which is disappointing since it could have been a game that would be geared at keeping the entire family involved in the process. Keep in mind also that each mini-game is incredibly short, so it takes nearly no time at all to experience everything that the game has to offer. Kids are much more likely to go back to the mini-games just for fun, but there's not much in the way of score-building, or attempting to beat your best time again and again, which is typically par for the course when dealing with other mini-game compilations.
However, if you absolutely need something to keep the little ones busy, you can definitely pick up Cosmic Family on the cheap, and there's nothing to worry about when it comes to offensive content or overly difficult or obtuse controls. It's the perfect game to plop in front of a five-year-old for an hour or two, but don't expect to have your kids coming back to it down the road. Maybe give it a rental first, if possible, and see what the ultimate critic, your own kids, think about Cosmic Family.
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