Elmo’s A to Zoo Adventure for Wii has a built-in safety feature in that it has as one of its main stars, Elmo. He is one of the cutest, cuddliest and friendliest muppets of all. I mean, who doesn’t like Elmo? The game itself uses various animals to work on several linguistic areas for children: letter identification; letter matching (upper case with lower case); letter sounds; common letter combination’s (word families); rhyming; color identification; and simple shape identification.
When you first sign on, your child gets to chose one of four basic shapes to start a profile. These can be helpful as it allows for storage of information each time the game is played. At this point as well it allows for parental controls to be entered which allows the parents to set a timer on the number of times a game can be played. It also gives the option of a second controller to be included as well, which gives the parent or other players the opportunity to provide assistance to the first player.
The way the game itself works is that there are several individual mini games, each of which focuses on a different linguistic skill. You have the option of playing the whole game in sequence or of choosing to play the mini-games one at a time in whatever order you choose. The mini-games are divided into different sections of the zoo – the Jungle (which has 3 mini-games); the Wetlands, which has 4 mini-games); the Aquarium (which has 4 mini-games); the Arctic (which has 3 mini-games); and the Savanna (which has 3 mini-games). Most of the games involve matching sounds, rhyming, forming word groups or identifying letters or colors. Each game is played three times before ending and either moving on to the next one or giving you the choice as to where to go next. Before each game starts you are also treated to a brief discussion of the game by one of the three characters: Elmo, Zoe or Chris (the zoo keeper).
Let’s look at an example. In the Jungle one of the games in Parrot Talk which deals with identifying letters. In this scene there are two trees in the forefront with a vine stretched between them. In the center of the screen at the top is one of the letters of the alphabet. The name of the letter is pronounced and then parrots fly on to the screen and land on the vine. Each parrot then pronounces a name of a different letter. The player has to choose which parrot is saying the name of the letter that is up on the screen. Once the correct letter is chosen all the parrots fly off and then another letter is chosen and more parrots fly back on. This occurs until the correct letter has been chosen three times at which point the mini-game is ended. If the wrong letter is chosen Elmo tells you to try again. If the wrong letter keeps being chosen, after three tries the correct letter is circled to help the player get it right. All of the mini-games work with the same guidelines – three attempts with each one and assistance is provided if the wrong answer keeps being chosen.
The controls for the games are very simple which is appropriate considering the target age of the players. All you really need is the 2 button. To move the selected target on the screen you need to tilt the remote up and down, which moves it around. Once you have the answer highlighted that you want, you may either push the 2 button or jump in the air (this is for the children – I found it just as easy to raise the controller up). The game also comes with a Wii remote controller snuggie cover if you, which is red and looks like Elmo. This covers up all of the remote except for the few controls which are needed to play. The idea is good, to eliminate anything that might be distracting or too confusing to younger players.
All in all this game can be enjoyable for the younger set, especially for those who are just learning how to recognize letters and shapes and colors. Also it has Elmo! What more could you want. However for parents playing with their young children…you may just need to take a break after hours of playing because even Elmo, can become just a tad annoying after awhile. Elmo’s A to Zoo Adventure for Wii retails for $39.99 or $29.99 at Amazon.
The Good: Controls are very easy to use; the game itself is also not too complicated for younger children to be able to understand how to play; and it offers 17 different mini-games which allows for a good variety and avoidance of boredom through repetition; the graphics are very basic with little in the way of movement which may prevent distraction; the voices of Elmo and Zoe are the same ones from Sesame Street so the kids will recognize them.
The Bad: The Elmo control cover is a little too large for the Wii remote – I had to slide it down a little to line it up with the controls and it came off a few times during play; the sounds of the games are very repetitive, especially the speeches from the characters about how to play or to try again, which may be more pleasing to the kids than to the older people playing along (this can be remedied by having the kids play by themselves once they have the idea of how to play the game).