3.. 2.. 1.. Blast Off to Space Camp!

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Image: ActivisionImage: Activision

Image: Activision

When I heard that there was a new Space Camp game for the Wii (it actually came out in early June), I was thrilled. I’ve always loved everything astronomy and space, and I adored the movie Space Camp as a kid. That was one movie that I saw over and over and over.

In any case, I’ve always wanted to go to Space Camp. Going in real life hasn’t happened yet, so I thought the game might be the next best thing. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect with the game, however. Was it going to be like the movie? Was it going to be like the camp? Or would be it completely different? In reality, there are probably some similarities to the real Space Camp, but a lot of differences. The box describes it best:

Welcome to Space Camp! You’ve been accepted into Space Camp, where you’ll get put to the ultimate test! Receive all the training and tools to become a real astronaut. Your newly acquired skills will come in handy, because during a training session, you get rocketed to the moon! With your faithful robotic sidekick, A.R.P., you will need to complete daring and dangerous lunar missions to refuel your spaceship and return home safely!

Despite all the exclamation points, it is a pretty fun game. It was obvious to me right from the start that a lot of work and research went into designing the game. It’s got a fun cartoony feel, and moving around and interacting with things is very intuitive. And at about $20, this game is a great value. There aren’t a lot of Wii games at that price, period, let alone games that appeal to grown ups.

“Space Camp is about fueling the desire to learn through galactic adventure and discovery,” said David Oxford, Activision Publishing. “This is the kind of fun a family can share together.”

Image: ActivisionImage: Activision

Image: Activision

This game was designed specifically for both the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS by Activision Publishing, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center was closely involved with the process. Something tells me that a few of the minigames would be a lot easier on the DS than on the Wii!

In the game, there is an overarching theme about training for space and earning patches, but the game itself is just a lot of minigames. Some of these games are a lot of fun, some not so fun. Some are near to impossible, some are incredibly easy. Not surprisingly, the ones that are almost impossible to do are the least fun.

The first thing I noticed about the game is that it required my Wii to update its system software. I guess it had been a while since we’d gotten a new game, but this one required the update. This was very easy to do, however, and did not take long.

Then I was on to play the game! There are four options from the main menu: Adventure, Multi-Player, Options and Credits. The only ones that you’ll really use are the first two. Multi-Player allows you to play up to four people on a few of the minigames. This is the best option if you have a group of people who want to play, or if you just want to play for a short time. Many of the minigames are much more fun with more than one person, so the Multi-Player option may eventually end up being used as much as the Adventure option in our house.

Image: ActivisionImage: Activision

Image: Activision

When you choose the Adventure option, if it is your first time playing, you’ll get to design a character. There are only a few options, such as gender and outfit, so everyone ends up looking pretty similar. You can save up to three characters at a time. You also get to name your character, but be sure to help your kids with this part if they aren’t sure what to do.

Once you name a character, you can’t change the name. You are able to delete characters, though, so if you have a family size of larger than three, you can take turns.

After you design your character, you get a tour of the training facility and get to talk to your leader. Then you’re off to start earning your training patches. You have to earn 12 patches to complete the training, but you only earn them a few at a time. While you’re exploring the facility, if you play any minigames before you’re asked to do so, you won’t get credit toward a patch. Once you complete the game at the right time, however, you earn a new patch.

The minigames that I found the most difficult were the lunar lander, the basketball game and the fire supression task. The first one took me about seven or eight tries to get it. The second one took about four or five. I still haven’t completed the fire supression task. The Wiimote isn’t very responsive in that game, and it sometimes locks up, which is an added challenge. Because of this, I haven’t earned all my patches and thus haven’t yet been able to experience the moon portion of the game. This brings me to the frustrating part of the game. If you are stuck on a minigame in the training portion, you can’t move on, other than to do the other games in that mission.

Once you complete the four training missions, you will then move on to the lunar missions. The skills you picked up in the training missions will help you complete the twenty lunar missions. I’m not sure what kind of replayability the Adventure mode has, but it certainly has a lot of playability the first time around.

There is one feature that I would change for the next edition, however. When a screen comes up where you need to click on the X or the check mark, those two options are very close together. It’s hard to be precise with the Wiimote, and it would be very easy to click the wrong one by accident.

When going back and forth between exploring the training center and playing the minigames in your training missions, there are fairly long pauses while waiting for things to load. This makes playing Space Camp take longer than it should and can be frustrating if you’re not the patient type.

Also, our Wii has crashed twice when playing the game, but it happened in between tasks so nothing was lost. I’m not sure if this was a problem with the system update, or with the game. But before playing this game, our Wii has never crashed, and it’s less than a year old.

One thing I love about Space Camp is that it isn’t just another fighting or exploring type of game. I’ve never seen another game quite like this one, so Activision gets big points for that. Also, when you’re exploring the training area, there are a variety of things to click on that give you real NASA and space facts.

My kids, aged 8 and 5, took to the game right away and have only had trouble on a few of the harder minigames.

Wired: You get to live out the fantasy of going into space and learn related skills. It’s a unique type of game, compared with what is out there. A huge value for the price. Fun for the whole family!

Tired: Some of the minigames are very difficult. Game transition is slow.

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