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Six Flags Fun Park

A repetitive mini-game adventure with a sense of humor
What's It All About:
I've played Rayman's Raving Rabbids frequently since its release, normally with friends, but it's got a major flaw, in the repetitive pace of the game, which requires you to return to the arena between the fun events, without much in the way of rewards for this interstitial action. Well, maybe it's a coincidence that Ubisoft, who brought us the manic Rabbids, has now delivered to us a port of the now-defunct Brash Entertainment's Six Flags Fun Park, a game similar in structure but different in content (which isn't for the best.)

In adventure mode, once you select your chubby, bug-eyed avatar (outfitting him or her from a limited selection of clothes and attributes) you are set loose in a Six Flags amusement park, with the traditional areas like Hurricane Harbor and Fright Fest, where you're handed some coins and are free to explore. As you wander the park, you can talk to people walking or hanging around and interact with just about anything that glows, but the key activities are exploring, completing quests suggested to you by the people you speak to and playing the games found throughout. The game is loaded with doodads and accessories to discover (along with some unlocking to be done to fully explore the park,) so you're definitely rewarded for being curious, though the value of that reward is certainly questionable (I did enjoy the mole suit though, and removing the awesome pumpkin head is out of the question.)

While exploring and questing will keep you busy, the games are the raison d'etre here. To play them costs tickets, which in turn cost coins, but both are easy to acquire, mainly by pulling up weeds, collecting trash and shaking things. There's over 40 games to take part in, but a lot of them are either too simple or too short to be much fun. One game, in which you use a fishing pole with a magnet to reel in sharks, was so simple I actually over-thought it and couldn't do anything until I realized it was just a matter of lowering the controller and pressing a button, not actually timing my motion. That said, the racing games tend to be fun, the sports games, while difficult, are enjoyable and the on-rails shooters in the space area are excellent replicas of similar rides at Disney and Universal parks (If Six Flags has such rides, I don't know, but if there's one like the Fright Fest version, which limits your sightline to the light attached to your gun, I'm going to have to make a trip to New Jersey this year.) There's a real carnival-game feel at work, complete with lame prizes that can be traded in later, which enhances the play, plus, though the games are variations on a set of themes, they aren't simply skinned for each area, so there's some variety in the action.

Though there's a lot to do in the game, it can get rather repetitive fulfilling quests, which frequently force you to run all over the park (especially with the load times between games,) so the sense of humor here helps keep you going. It's an odd title that asks you to dig in garbage cans for cash and prizes, and even rarer games follow the idea through to the natural conclusion, which sees you triumphantly emerge with garbage (and a hilariously disappointed look on your avatar's face.) The accessories you'll collect are exceedingly odd and the things people say are actually pretty funny at times, while the level of effort in even things like gravestone messages, with every stone in the Fright Fest cemetery readable, is impressive. On the other hand, some quests are just frustrating, like collecting items that are dispensed randomly by machines throughout the park (which means you get repeats) while other activities seem broken (despite being told to see the mayor about jobs, he just tells you to get lost.) So while you should have no complaints that you'll master the windy paths of the parks too quickly, coming up with the motivation to do so may be a problem.

There's a multiplayer mode available as well, allowing up to four friends to just play the minigames you otherwise spend so much time looking for (with the exception of nine you'll need to unlock.) You can set up a tournament of up to 10 games, which can be selected manually or randomly, and played by taking turns. With the many other minigame options out there for the Wii, this multiplayer mode would be strictly for younger players, thanks to the lack of challenge.

The controls are quite lacking, thanks mainly to the lack of a nunchuk in the scheme. Instead of using the thumbstick to move around the park, you click where you want your character to move, and he follows. One thing you'll notice and appreciate about the controls is a willingness to offer options (outside of a nunchuk it seems,) so instead of clicking again and again, you can just hold down the A button and he'll follow (showing another example of the game's humor, as the hand cursor walks on its fingers in front of you.) There's a lot of clicking to be done, along with a fair amount of motion work, like quick lifts to pull weeds or shaking side to side to explore garbage cans. This works fine and isn't too annoying in exploring, but in the games, it's not always perfect. In fact, any underhand "bowling" action feels like it fails to register one in every three tries. Plus, there are several shooting games and crane games that don't have crosshairs, so you're floating in space, using only previous attempts to shoot or grab to guide you. Perhaps if the Wii was 1-to-1 in movement, or the controls were tighter, this would work as realism, but instead it's frustrating. Overall, it feels like a nunchuk would have easily enhanced the controls, and would have made the on-rails shooter the video-game equivalent of the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disneyland.

The video quality offers the standard look expected of a non-Nintendo title, with the usual annoying aliasing around the characters and a distinct lack of detail (though the simplistic art design has a lot to do with that as well.) On the plus side, the frame rate is pretty consistent, even when there's a lot going on on-screen, and the on-rails shooter games are silky smooth.

The Dolby Pro Logic II audio won't blow anyone away, with unobtrusive music beds for each area of the park, though the sound effects are certainly effective. The characters in the game voice their on-screen dialogue boxes in what's called blabber (which you can turn off if so desired) but it doesn't hurt to have it on for variety in the sound.

And in the End...
If you have a kid and are already planning a trip to Six Flags, this is a solid pick-up, as this $25 game has a $30 kid's admission voucher in it (if you go before the end of 2009,) so it's basically like getting the game for free. Just be prepared to hear complaints from a soon-to-be bored child a few days after purchase. A few tweaks might have made this an a fun game, but as it stands it asks too much in terms of effort and returns too little in rewarding play. A rental will satisfy pre-teens, the morbidly curious, or those who want to play an amusing few rounds of a decent on-rails shooter between loading breaks.