Hubert the Teddy Bear: Winter Games
WiiWare | Teyon | 1 Player / 2-16 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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11th March 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
At the start of the game, players get to create their very own bear for their personal profiles via the Locker Room. There's a decent amount of customization available for you to make your character the way you'd like. You can adjust the skin colour, accessories such as hats, add-on's such as google, and you can even equip your bear with olympic-like outfits. You'll also be able to apply a name to your bear using the on-screen keyboard. The execution here is a little problematic, as the cursor will likely highlight 2 or even 3 letters at a time, requiring a lot more precision than need be. After applying a name for yourself, you can choose your personal skill level, which ranges from Child to Adult. Once this is done, you'll be ready to start playing!
From the game's central menu, you can tailor settings, jump right into an event, view high-scores or set up the game using one of three modes. In 1P Mode, you can play any of the events at your leisure and aim for high-scores to your heart's content. 2P Mode actually has you facing off against a friend competitively in each of the events via simultaneous play. Party Mode allows you to play with as many as 16 players and go through each of the mini-games aiming for the best overall score. While 16-player incorporation is commendable, the execution could have been a lot better. For one, you must play through all of the events, and you're not able to choose your own series of games. Rather than ranking players by the amount of presents they've collected, the game distributes points by their placement in each of the events (score-wise). The game would've benefited from a more robust party feel had players been ranked by the total number of presents they collected. This would've ensured that the players who tend to trail at the back of the pack could still catch up, but alas this is not the case. Additionally, the time limits on each of the events are too long and are simply not conducive to party play with large groups. Had the game allowed 2 people to play at once, wait times might have been easier to contend with. But with each player having to take their turn individually, it's quite likely that those waiting will get bored and even lose interest.
As for the individual mini-games, Winter Games obviously contains some events that are more enjoyable than others, but the game also has some peculiar design decisions that won't sit well with those who give this a go. Playing through a lot of the games, you can't help but feel that they could've been controlled a lot more simply; instead, some of the events feature controls that either don't feel right or just feel needlessly complicated. Parents in particular will find that the game isn't as accessible as other child-friendly games like Let's Catch and this is ultimately what pulls the package down. Let's consider each of the events in more detail to see why this is the case.
'Snow Fight' is one of the more fun games in the package. Bunnies will scurry across the screen and it's your job to knock down as many as you can. You basically drag your on-screen cursor using the Remote's pointer in conjunction with the A Button to aim at your target. Then, by holding the Z Button and swinging the Nunchuk, you'll throw a snowball. It's almost controlled like 'Bunnies are Addicted to Carrot Juice' from Rayman Raving Rabbids, except not as well-mapped. Even if the controls weren't all set to the Wii Remote on its own, holding the Z Button doesn't feel very natural at all and younger audiences may have a hard time getting used to it at first.
'Sledge Race' has you holding the Wii Remote on its side and to accelerate, you simply shake the controller in a scooping motion. A reindeer will stay in front, dropping presents for you to collect as you race along the track. Moving left and right is simply done with the tilt of the controller. This event is also one of the more enjoyable ones especially because you can play at your own pace - either normally, or at a fast speed. Definitely one of the better games to face a sibling or a friend in.
In 'Catch Bunny', you shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as fast as you can to try to catch up to the speedy bunny ahead of you. You jump by swinging both controllers upwards, and you duck underneath tree branches by pressing the Z Button on the Nunchuk. It's not as fun as other "shake-quickly" mini-games that have already been done on the Wii and the motions used for jumping feels a bit gimmicky. This one is mostly good for a few runs before it gets old.
In 'Snowballs', you need to dodge giant snowballs coming your way as you run up a hill. Movement is set to the Nunchuk's analog which should be easy enough to comprehend. You can plow through the snowballs using a charge ability by holding the A Button but it needs to be timed wisely as it's only a temporary action. Along the way, giant balls of ice will also roll down the hill, and these must be avoided. This event is kind of fun with 2 players and best of all, it's controlled really simply.
If you're expecting to play the 'Fishing' game with a pole and lure, you'll be sorely disappointed. With your bear standing on a wooden platform, you simply swipe at fish coming above the surface using the buttons indicated above their heads. 'Fishing' can be fun once or twice but it lacks substance to be worth playing over and over again.
A Simon Says-like mini-game awaits you in 'Play on icicles'. You have 7 tries to replicate the patterns as best as possible using the buttons shown on top of the icicles below and above your on-screen character. As many as 5 points are awarded for each entry, and you will earn more points if you have a steady rhythm. Other mini-game compilations have tried this formula and have had greater success with it, but this can be amusing to play from time to time (but it gets boring after a while).
Fancy some festive decorating? In 'Christmas tree', you pick up decorations from the basket on the left by aiming your cursor and selecting with A Button. A coloured spot will appear directly on the tree showing you exactly where the specific ornament belongs, and you'll earn points once they've been placed correctly. This event isn't anything really special but it's likely to strike a chord with children who typically enjoy doing this kind of activity in real-life.
The final event in the package is called 'Make a snowman' and it's pretty fun to play. Your character will build up a snowman in small steps, but only after you successfully input the commands shown to you on-screen. Sometimes you'll need to wave the Wii Remote from side-to-side, press the A Button repeatedly or draw lines using your cursor. It's something that a child can enjoy on occasion, but it's best if they're familiar with how to use the Wii Remote's pointer.
he game sports a festive-based soundtrack that loops and repeats constantly. It probably would've been better if the developers had more songs in the game, or spread out the existing ones more effectively. But even still, one can't help but notice that the festive theme doesn't have as much appeal as a generic wintery soundtrack. The music used on the Channel Menu for this game was actually quite soothing and it's a shame that more music of this nature wasn't represented in the game. Visually-speaking, the game looks decent but far from great. Although some of the character models look a bit rough, the biggest issue with the game's presentation is the inconsistent framerate. In some games, it'll work like a breeze (like in Sledge Race) but in other games and even on the Main Menu, the framerate is not smooth at all. Those of a younger demographic probably won't even mind, but more effort still could've been put into this avenue of the game.
Hubert the Teddy Bear: Winter Games is a mixed bag affair that does well in some aspects, but does poorly in other departments. The game doesn't look all that great, the game's Party Mode isn't incorporated as effectively for large groups, and some of the controls don't feel right or are needlessly complicated. At the same time, though, some of the events are pretty fun for a child to play, there's some good customization with the teddy bear characters, and there's a nice emphasis on high-scores as well. It's a decent package for what it is, and it is only $5 after all. It's recommended that you consider the major flaws of the game and if you still feel that your child/children might still enjoy it, give it a purchase, as it's quite likely that they will.
19/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Good number of events to play, controls are sometimes needlessly complicated, could've been more accessible for children
Presentation 6/10 - Inconsistent framerate, festive soundtrack isn't that effective, children probably won't mind the lack of strong visuals
Enjoyment 3/5 - Some of the events are fun to play with a sibling/parent/friend, Party Mode may make large groups antsy
Extra Content 4/5 - High scores for repeat play, not bad value for only $5, some events are fairly replayable, customizable characters
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)