What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Neighborhood Games is a collection of short, family-friendly games based on real-world activities, such as horseshoes and lawn darts. Players unfamiliar with these backyard sports will have the opportunity to learn their rules while playing the game. Very mild cartoon violence takes place in water gun fights between kids set in a playful barnyard environment.
What's it about?
NEIGHBORHOOD GAMES is a collection of 24 quick and simple activities with roots in real-world backyard pastimes. The single-player mode features five categories of games, including lawn darts, bocce ball, basketball, horseshoes, and shuffleboard. Beat the computer in any game and you'll unlock a new variation (win in horseshoes, for example, and you'll be able to play battle horseshoes and, eventually, horseshoe herding). With each victory, players take home new clothes for their customizable avatars. Defeat the computer three times and you'll be declared a "Master" of that activity.
The five classic backyard games featured in solo play are also available in multiplayer, along with nine others: golf, tennis, football, water gun fights, remote control truck races, remote control plane flying, a slingshot challenge, a batting game, and a digital version of the branded backyard game Ladder Golf, which involves tossing balls connected by a rope at a three-rung ladder. Up to four players can take part in most of the games, with tournaments organized as either best-of-three matches or winner-moves-on competitions.
Is it any good?
The Wii has no shortage of backyard game compilations, but most of them are mediocre at best. At first glance, Neighborhood Games looks to stand out from the pack, offering a large and highly diverse collection of activities. What's more, it has a pleasant aesthetic targeted directly at children. The neighborhood settings are detailed and realistic (you can occasionally hear car alarms going off in the background and see moving vans driving along the street behind play areas), and the customizable, big-headed kid avatars animate and emote nicely.
Alas, the experience is scuttled by unresponsive motion controls -- an unfortunately common issue among Wii party games. The majority of games (lawn darts, bocce ball, horseshoes, Ladder Golf, and all of their variations) make use of an underhand tossing motion, but the software has a tendency to register wildly varying levels of movement; make what feels like three identical tossing motions and you'll likely wind up with three very different results. It can be extremely frustrating. Thankfully, some of the other activities -- including the slingshot challenge, water gun fights, and the batting game -- feature less irksome interfaces.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the diversity of games featured in this particular collection. Which stand out as your favorite and least favorite? Can you detect a pattern in the ones you like? Do you tend to gravitate toward games in which you excel, or that have accessible controls? Did your opinion of the real-world versions of these games affect how much you enjoyed their digital reproductions?