Let’s address the genetically-engineered pachyderm in Activision’s Science Papa lab right off the bat: If you’ve played Majesco’s Cooking Mama, you’ve basically played Science Papa, even though there’s no connection between the two games.
To draw a 1980s toy parallel, it’s Mighty Men & Monster Maker vs. Fashion Plates all over again.
Activision provided GeekDad with a copy of Science Papa for review purposes, and we found it engaging and fun, even if it lacks originality as far as the gameplay is concerned. You’re essentially faced with stringing together a series of mini-challenges within a given time frame to complete experiments, thus advancing you through the scientific ranks.
Things start off easy enough, with experiments comprised of only a few steps like stirring beakers (moving the Wiimote in a circular motion at the proper speed), scraping minerals (shaking it back and forth over specific areas), pouring test tubes (twisting), and pushing buttons. Get things done right, and you’re asked to take on tougher challenges like engraving circuit boards and adjusting microscopes. You’ll also buy more advanced equipment as the game progresses – we jumped at the blender first chance we got because, um, turns out I stink at “stirring,” as evidenced by the fact that I’ve managed to set salt water smoking.
As with many Wii family games in our house, it’s the head-to-head competition – mirrored in the solo game by competitions against computer rivals – that’s really entertaining for both players and spectators. It’s also got the added bonus of arming each player with bombs of various kinds that can be used to freeze up and confound the opponent. (There’s a certain joy in preventing your foe from getting his stuff out of the oven in time!)
I found myself tiring of the repetitive nature of the game after about a half-hour at a time, but my daughter was quickly addicted to trying to tackle the more advanced projects and taking on the villains.
As for Papa’s science, well…
“Explore chemistry, physics, paleontology, and biology,” the back of the package says. And according to the press release, Science Papa will “pull you into a wonderful world of science based on real-life elements and experiments, all designed to showcase how great science can be.”
From the standpoint of arousing a kid’s curiosity about those topics, I suppose there’s some inspiration to be found in the game. But the “based on real-life” claim is a real stretch: We’re breeding Dalmatian mice here, people. And one of the ingredients in the super-hot pepper recipe is gasoline. (Hence the game’s frequently-displayed “don’t try any of this without supervision” warning.) Plants sprout in minutes and several projects culminate with the placing of key elements into a box which closes, shudders, and spits out anything from cameras to bubble gum bombs.
Not that it’s entirely fanciful: You have to mix cleaning solutions for fossils, for instance, and there are plenty of actual compounds and chemicals referenced, but the speed of the game means you’re hardly focused on “Oh, I’m adding X to Y and that totally makes sense.” It’s much more “Stir this, cook that, shake those, and POOF!”
I also admit I like the inherent choices you have to make between striving for a perfectly-mixed ingredient or flawlessly-executed process and beating the clock: Balancing speed versus accuracy is always a good lesson.
Wired: Extremely intuitive gameplay.
Tired: Not a whole lot of variety in the game itself. Also, there’s no way to skip through the lame pre-showdown trash-talk between Papa and the Bad Guys.