A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a game that promotes the play experience found at the Build-A-Bear Workshop retail stores. While the game is fun to explore and offers 20 varied minigames that make good use of the Wii remote, the commercialism is insidious with each island you visit hosting a Build-a-Bear Store. Children play through a number of games and have to do well enough in each area to unlock another. The game also contains voice-over instructions through-out and reading is not required.
What's it about?
BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP: A FRIEND FUR ALL SEASONS is a Wii game that is duplicates and expands on the experience a child has when visiting a Build-a-Bear Workshop retail store. Players select to create one of eight furry friends, and once they land on the type of bear, kitty, dog, or turtle that they want to create, they then give it a heart, whisper a wish, dress it, and name it, much like it is done when visiting one of the retail Build-A-Bear stores. Once you have created your new friend, you sail off on the Friend Ship to four islands that represent the seasons of the year, and end at a party held on a fifth island. On each seasonal island, the player goes on an adventure of exploration and discovery to find treasure chests (that provide nifty accessories such as wands, sun-glasses, and books), help furry friends with tasks, and play minigames. You must win four minigames to gain a puzzle piece that will unlock the next island. As you do, you earn medals, the currency of this world, which you can use in the Build-a-Bear Workshop stores that are present on every island.
In addition to this Adventure Mode, you can revisit the minigames in the Playground mode. All 20 of the mini-games unlocked in the Adventure mode can be played singly or competitively with up to four players. Players can select how many and which of the games they wish to play and the game keeps score and provides a ranking at the end of the games.
Is it any good?
Build-a-Bear is a fun game for young kids. It makes good use of the Wii remote's movement-sensing capabilities in the minigames by having players move the remote in different ways to play each game, from aiming and throwing snowballs to pumping the remote up and down with both hands to simulate a pogo-stick race, or tilting it back and forth to guide ladybugs through an obstacle course. However, the difficulty of winning these minigames varies greatly – some are a synch, while others seem unbeatable.
While this game might seem to appeal to children as young as four, the controls used to move your animal around the island require sophisticated navigation skills. Instead of just tilting the remote in the direction you wish to move (as is done in the excellent Dora Saves the Snow Princess game), kids have to use the multi-directional pad while pushing the A button, something most preschoolers can't handle. This game is best for kids ages 5-7, but even at that age, some of the minigames will seem too hard. The good news is that you don't have to win every game to move on. Plus, even when a child loses a game, they will be encouraged to try again, and if they do, they can earn a different result -- providing replayability as children attempt the games again to unlock more Build-A-Bear accessories and clothing.
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