|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Epicenter||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami / Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
It's a safe bet Mother Nature never intended for her creatures to be rounded-up and sectioned-off from others of their kind, but building fences and barriers (both literally and figuratively) is something humans have grown adept at. We have an innate inclination towards possessing and otherwise utilizing our furry and not-so-furry counterparts. Other times the motivation to erect obstacles comes from a desire to keep unpleasant creatures at bay. Whether or not you like the idea of incarcerating numerous species of wild animals from around the globe in oddly and irregularly shaped cubicles of your own design, Epicenter's Critter Round-Up is a charming and addictive puzzler. It's good for short bursts of animal wrangling excitement and a few laughs to boot.
Critter Round-Up is the latest among WiiWare downloads and arguably one of the better mid-range offerings currently available through the new service. The game's concept is easy to grasp. All manner of wild critters have been turned loose inside a square playing field, and you're the poor schmuck who's been hired to deal with the mess. It's your job to quickly run around creating fences to separate and sort the animals by species. The critters don't necessarily have to be penned with others of their own species (it will earn your bonus points), but they can't co-exist in the same space with different species. The trick is that touching any animal - no matter how harmless they may be in real life- results in instant death. The animals themselves don't make the task any easier, since they roam about erratically and engage in other humorous behaviors that hamper your efforts.
Warm, cell-shaded graphics and endearing animal designs give the game a pleasant vibe. The mellow, quasi-indie guitar music is also a nice laid back accompaniment to the myriad sounds belted out by the animals. It partially counteracts the occasional stress you'll encounter when dealing with screens full of unfriendly creatures. The adorable animals contrast starkly against your strange-looking, chubby little guy who dons overalls, safari fatigues, and a fur-lined parka, among other suits. In each case, he carries a backpack full of a near-endless supply of fencing materials to throw down behind him. The tilted, bird's-eye view works well for keeping an eye on all the different animals as you fence them in, but the visual distance feels a bit far away. In some cases the animals are a little small or just too similar, and it can be hard to differentiate between a goat and a horse without moving closer to the screen. Critter Round-Up is not amazing game to look at, but it certainly has charm.
The game falters slightly with its controls; they're not always as responsive as they should be, and some of the maneuvers are awkward. Holding the Wii Remote on its side in the classic position, you'll move around with the d-pad, lay fence with the 1 button, and jump over fencing with the 2 button. Your movement is slowed slightly while laying fence which can prove dangerous when animals are close by. You can start creating fence anywhere, but once you begin laying it you can't stop until you've connected the loose end to another portion of fence. This creates a need to frequently double back on your own fencing in a hurry to stop laying it so you can then run like hell when there are too many dangerous creates rampaging about. It doesn't have a major negative impact on gameplay, but it is a source of mild frustration you'll notice more often when things get hectic. Also, destroying a portion of fence requires you to shake the controller.
Graciously, power-ups will sometimes fall out of the sky in the form of packages. This can save the day. When they're not eaten by animals before you can get them, these items bestow helpful abilities like invincibility or speed boosts. Other items include extra lives, food to bait animals with, and a squirt gun to shoo them away. However, using special items is a pain; you'll have to reach over and hit the minus button to engage them.