Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition Game Poster Image
Educational safari game has a strong conservation theme.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

This game focuses on taking pictures of animals and learning about them. It has themes of conservation (players snap pictures rather than remove animals from their habitat) and environmentalism. The editor to whom players send photos looks a bit mean and occasionally scolds when he doesn’t like a picture, but he never says anything much harsher than “it’s not good.”

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player’s young avatar -- which can be male or female, depending on player preference -- is an animal lover. The robot that drives the island jeep and provides instruction is a bit of a know-it-all, but helpful and well-intentioned. And the photo editor, though a little cranky and very businesslike, seems to be a decent enough man.

Ease of Play

Accessible controls let players use the Wii remote’s infrared eye to point at objects of interest, then use the nunchuk control stick to move the camera around. A quick tutorial at the start of the game explains all the basics.

Violence & Scariness

One scene involves a torch used to scare away hyenas.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition isn’t scary or violent and that it can actually teach kids quite a bit about animals. When photographed, each creature gets its own file in an animal encyclopedia. This file contains plenty of basic information about each animal's height, weight, and diet, trivial tidbits that explain what makes it unique in the animal kingdom, and even a recording of the sounds it makes. What’s more, the game features themes of conservation (animals are simply photographed rather than removed from their natural habitats) and environmentalism (players clean up debris as they drive around), and our avatar is never anything but courteous, kind, and caring.

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What's it about?

Unlike many animal-themed games, which have players capturing animals and putting them in zoos or keeping them as pets, ANIMAL KINGDOM: WILDLIFE EXPEDITION sees players taking photographs of creatures in their natural habitats on an island home to some of our planet’s most exotic and exciting species. Each day they set out to snap pictures of animals in different locations and engage in various activities, filing the best shots with a red-nosed editor back home, who judges the quality each image. Players can also read about each species’ traits in an animal file stuffed with interesting beast facts and find odd items that make their job easier, such as animal suits that allow them to blend in with the herd and get closer to their subjects.

Is it any good?

There’s not much to Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition, but what’s here ought to prove plenty of fun for animal-loving kids. The animals animate and behave fairly realistically, and it’s fun to earn their trust by inching a bit closer each day. Plus, the fun facts in the animal file are just the right length to relate a couple of bits of information you didn’t know about impalas and elephants without bogging down the action.

What you won’t get from the game is a lot of variation in play. Kids end up doing the much the same thing day after day, with the only excitement coming in the form of newly discovered animals and the occasional fresh item, like a squall machine that can change the weather to draw out particular kinds of animals. Thankfully, its bargain price of $29.99 means we can still give parents a green light to check out this fun and educational Wii game.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between observing animals in their natural habitats and capturing them for people to see in a zoo. How do you think captivity affects the animals? Do you think it is any less disruptive to view them in tour buses in the wild or in large, wilderness-like enclosures?

  • Families can also discuss the game’s animal files feature. Did it contain interesting information that you didn’t know prior to playing? Do you think this is an effective way to learn about animals? What might you learn from seeing an animal in person that you can’t in a game?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo Wii
  • Price: $29.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Natsume
  • Release date: September 30, 2009
  • Genre: Edutainment
  • ESRB rating: E for Mild Violence

For kids who love nature

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