WiiWare | Nintendo / SKIP | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 800 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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1st April 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
In this game, you take on the role of an adventurous sort who has pitched up a tent in some really foreign surroundings. Dressed appropriately with a nice blue winter parka, it's almost suggested that you're either performing an expedition or are looking to learn more about this frigid iceland for the sake of documentary. Whatever the case, you'll try to make yourself at home with the many penguins that call this place their home. Starting a new game, you'll first decide whether you'd like to use a generic human character or use your Mii to put yourself in the game. After a brief cutscene, you'll be introduced to a blue bird-like creature who will acts as your 'tour guide' as it were, giving you a run-down on how to take care of the penguins.
The game requires that you use both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to play. The Nunchuk's analog stick is used to control your character, while the D-Pad can be used to adjust the camera view. When it comes to interacting with your arctic-bound friends, pressing the C Button will get your character to grab onto a penguin. From there, you can spin them around or slide them along ice using the Nunchuk. You can also point at the screen to pet them, or jerk the Wii Remote upwards to carry them above your head. Periodically, the penguins will utter loud somewhat-awkward cries, and with the right timing, you can press the Z Button on the Nunchuk to mimic their call. This, along with the petting motion, causes them to become attracted to you -- and really that's what you're aiming for.
Each penguin will portray one of five different emotions depending on what mood they're in. Not only will it show in their faces, but also in the actions they perform as you get close to or further away from them. When they're cranky, for example, they'll use their fins to slap you across the face, while the more apprehensive penguins will try to slide away like fearful cockroaches if you get to close. If you're not careful, they can actually fall off the edge of the icy field so it's good to give them their space once in a while.
The iceland also has spots marked by a set of balloons that will take you to other areas where you'll find even more penguins. When you arrive at these secluded islands, you'll only have a limited time to lead 20 or more penguins to a designated area on the map. Once they enter this circular area, they will be unable to escape, as if an invisible force field were holding them back until you make your trip back to Snowpack Park. Seeing your park grow as if it were a tourist attraction is fun, but what makes the process even more enjoyable is interacting with each of the individual penguins and, what's more, making them fall in love with you.
Forming basic relationships with these NPC's can also be done through less conventional means. In front of the blue tent (your "home base" of sorts) are three scales you can place individual penguins on. The first two measure a penguin's weight and height as well as its gender, while the third will give you the penguin's personal name. Although I didn't bother using this feature that much, I liked the fact that you could actually change its name to give it a more personal touch. Another thing you can do to reach out to the penguins is dress them up. As you go exploring, you'll discover a series of accessories and other random trinkets that can actually be used to individualize penguins of your choice. These include musical instruments, flowers, masks, and other humorous items. It's a simple bonus that feels like it was thrown in there last second, but it does serve a valid purpose of adding some connection between the player and these NPC's.
The game revolves around a currency of Friendship Points which can be acquired simply by spending time with your newfound friends. This includes taking them for walks and caring for their emotional needs, just as you would with a typical pet. You'll earn a supply of points at the conclusion of each day's activities. Once the in-game clock strikes 12:00AM, you'll be awarded with bonus points depending on how much effort you put into bonding with the penguins that day. Friendship Points are very valuable for opening up additional areas, gaining access to penguin-scavenging events and signing up for mini-games. Ultimately, they help move gameplay along and prevent things from becoming too static.
Besides taking balloon trips to new locations, you also have a couple other activities to sign up for within the main area. This includes the ability to go ice fishing, something you can do early on in the game. By activating the metal fish sticks icon in the lower-left of the screen, you can pull out a custom radar that will spread out in opposite directions once you've found a good spot. Then you press the A Button to drill a big enough hole in the ground and quickly raise the Wii Remote upwards once you feel the line being tugged on. There are also two fishing logs where you can actually sit down and fish out into the icy waters surrounding the park, which are kind of nice as well.
Other key landmarks that offer some gameplay variety include photo-op stations where you can take a picture with a group of penguins. I thought it was kind of neat that for the first time I visited one of these areas, a series of U.F.O's showed up during a storm of shooting stars. As it turns out, one of these aircrafts wound up crashing into the ground below, creating a large crater. While later moments with these stations didn't measure up by comparison, they were still fun aspects to the game. It's just too bad you can't export screenshots outside of the game.
One final component to the game's design is the ability to play one of more than four mini-games. Some of these are set in the outdoor environment, while others are accessed by going inside an igloo and completing them in a separate area altogether. Mini-games include carrying a giant Tuna for as long as possible without having it taken away from you, completing a sensitive balancing puzzle, or participating in a pick-up basketball game where you throw your penguin friends at the hoop. Although they don't provide lasting enjoyment, they're still decent for what they are.
I've gone on about much of the game's structure, but there are still a good number of things to discover on your own. Beyond just unlockables, there are also new areas to explore as the park's boundaries expand. Sometimes, traversing the park in its entirety can get a bit cumbersome, especially during a slow walk where tons of penguins are taking their sweet time to follow you. Still, much like PROPE's Let's Catch, this game is not only fun to play, but it can also be relaxing.
Snowpack Park also does pretty well in the category of presentation. The visuals look very nice for a WiiWare title, and the music that plays is quite lovely. The whole package feels very charming, with a gentle touch of humor. There aren't any big issues to speak of, meaning that very little gets in the way of your enjoyment of this title.
SKIP's modest adventure title does a lot of things right. Even though there's not a lot of depth to it, it's still fun to play and quite unique in its own right. If you're in the mood for a new game to spend a weekend afternoon or a few days with, you'll find Snowpack Park to be a great romp while it lasts.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Multiple ways of taking care of your penguin friends, go searching for other penguins in isolated areas, Friendship Points move things along
Presentation 7/10 - Nice visuals, music is pleasant to listen to, charming look and feel, slight touch of humor like with the portrayal of different emotions
Enjoyment 4/5 - Light-hearted fun, can maintain a sense of connection between you and the penguins, walking with penguins can be cumbersome, relaxing
Extra Content 4/5 - Decent quality mini-games, photo-op stations and other surprises to discover, Mii support, neither lengthy nor deep
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)