They moan a lot, in fact. Barely a minute goes by without the game alerting you to some complaint. Quick! The people want clothes. Quick! The people want herbs (whatever for?). Quick! The people want you to do a dance while juggling plates with your feet. Sometimes, you just want to slap your tax-generating people in the face, grab them by the scruff of the neck and shout: “Do it your bloody self!” Keeping everyone happy while expanding your influence into new islands can quickly become difficult because you’re managing so many things all at once. But this is good, in a way, because without this challenge Anno wouldn’t pose any.
What most impresses about Anno is how well developer Keen has repurposed PC Anno for the Wii without losing the essence of what makes the series what it is. Pointing and dragging is all you need to get by and it works. Pressing the B button brings up a radial menu, ala Halo Wars, that gets you to every building the game has to offer as quickly as you need it to. When bad things happen, like rat infestations and fires, pressing on a UI button hurtles the camera to the scene of the crime in a heartbeat, allowing you to deal with the threats the game poses quickly. It’s not until later in the game, when sea combat is introduced, that the ship-dragging starts to become fiddly and annoy.
And, really, for a Wii game, Anno looks great. Yes it’s cartooney, but the art style fits the tone perfectly, and the production values are excellent. The buildings are well animated and colourful, the sound effects are appropriately pleasant and the voice acting is, actually, well executed, if a tad cheesy. In short, bravo Keen. Bravo.
While the story mode only lasts about 10 hours or so, depending on the difficulty level, continuous play mode could theoretically keep you going forever. Here the shackles are off from the get go. Anno’s got a strange, inoffensive charm to it that makes it a pleasure to play, almost therapeutic. In fact, the only thing that prevents it from getting a truly great score is the lack of multiplayer.
Fans of economy management and resource gathering games on PC will probably find Anno’s Wii incarnation too dumbed down for their tastes. But Wii owners won’t find anything else like it on their console, and could do a hell of a lot worse. It’s well executed and breezy, but not without its flaws. Now, perhaps we should send a few copies to the government…