Wild Earth Africa, despite its obvious 'for kids' feel and appearance, is one of the more interesting games I've reviewed in some time. What makes it so interesting is how it doesn't fall foul of the usual mistakes made when developing a game for the younger end of the market. You won't find clunky controls, nor will you have to put up with an awful movie license that dictates what can happen in the story. This is a first-person photography game that in many ways teaches kids a few things about the animals that roam Africa, and at the same time is good fun to play.
It's simple stuff, so don't expect to be too absorbed while sneaking a go while little Timmy is doing his homework, but kids will (I've tested) find this sedate wildlife adventure rather exciting. As a new wildlife photographer your task is to take snaps of certain animals and items in the environment that are needed for the next issue of a wildlife magazine. You have some basic camera controls, but nothing a ten-year-old couldn't understand, making the hardest part of the job actually finding the animals in the first place.
This too, in truth, isn't too tricky, thanks to some easy to follow directions and plenty of help, but you get a good sense of trekking across the African landscape and getting that vital shot brings a great sense of achievement. All the complicated parts of the job are handled by the game, so there's no need to worry about naming and saving your photos, as a shot of some lions sleeping will automatically be named something rather descriptive. Once you've completed all the photography tasks you even get to see the snaps in the magazine, which is a nice touch.
The development budget on Wild Earth Africa clearly wasn't anything too colossal, but the visuals and overall presentation aren't too shabby. The game does have a rather washed out look to it, but the animals are nicely animated which helps make the illusion of being there all the more real. It's certainly pretty enough to keep a young child entertained and the rather vocal commentators often chirp in with some insightful facts about the animals. Who said games can't be fun and educational at the same time?
As great as Wild Earth Africa is for its target market, don't be fooled into thinking that it's anything more than a kids' title. It's fun, accessible, full of educational info and should keep young'ns happy for a good while. It also doubles as a way for kids to learn the ways of WASD and mouse controls, which should set them up nicely for the years of gaming they have ahead. It's a winning game on all fronts.