Critter Round-Up is a cute, colorful puzzle game with a slightly misleading title. The eponymous critters have already been rounded up and fenced in by someone who thinks nothing of penning wolves in with sheep and goats. As a concerned citizen and prolific fence builder, your job is to separate the different species of animals into even smaller fenced-in areas. This simple task is complicated by your character's fragility and the presence of some feisty predators, but it never proves to be a very difficult challenge. This light, albeit limited, puzzle action, combined with a handful of simple and absurdly entertaining multiplayer minigames makes Critter Round-Up another reasonably fun item in the WiiWare catalog.
Each of the 50 levels in the Adventure mode presents you with a field full of animals. The cartoony beasts wander around aimlessly, waiting to be fenced in to smaller and smaller spaces. Once partitioned off by themselves or with other members of their species, they celebrate their confinement with a wacky dance. There are five different environments (farm, forest, savannah, outback, arctic), and each environment hosts a number of ecologically appropriate animals.
You play as man who firmly believes in bestial segregation and implements his new regime with fence-building skills that make John Henry seem lazy. Complicating things a bit is the fact that coming in contact with any animal--even chickens and meerkats--will cost you one of your few lives. Holding the remote sideways, you maneuver around with the D pad and press the 1 button to begin building. Once begun, you can only stop your mad building by connecting to another fence or by perishing. If you win by fencing all the animals off from each other, you'll see your score for that round, which you can maximize by completing the level quickly, using fences economically and penning all the animals of one type together in one enclosure.
If you don't like where you've laid a fence, you can destroy it by shaking the remote. This could be handy if you accidentally fence diverse animals in together, but it's usually easier to just build another fence inside the area. Or if you get lucky, one of them will be a predator and will soon eat the other animal, which won't affect your score much at all. Be careful, though, because predators are much more eager to eat you than other animals, and will often pursue you around the paddock. For all your quasimythical construction skill, you still move slower when fence building, so you'll have to be careful around the chompier critters. Even after mastering the art of quickly squaring off a fence in progress and jumping frantically, you'll still suffer from more than your fair share of mauling. Occasionally, wrapped gifts will descend from the heavens and provide you with a helpful item, such as speed shoes or an extra life. Adventure mode imposes no penalty for losing all your lives (you can just retry the level), but Marathon mode does not allow such do-overs and, as such, is your best bet for finding anything resembling difficulty.
There is a co-op challenge mode for two-player partitioning, but the real multiplayer fun is in the critter games. These are supersimple games that, when played with a couple of friends, can become enormously entertaining. In Snowball Soccer, you run around a field trying to maneuver snowballs into your own goal. The rudimentary controls only enable you to move, kick, and jump, which results in delightful chaotic imprecision. Predator Rampage challenges you to be the last one standing in a pen filled with lions, wolves, and the like. In Fence Trap, you are constantly moving and building fences while avoiding your opponents' fences, similar to the light cycles game in Tron. Only Chicken Catch fails to provide entertainment.
The art style, difficulty, and depth of Critter Round-Up is definitely aimed toward the younger set, so folks looking for a mature puzzler are advised to look elsewhere. If you have four Wii Remotes and a few friends to play with, the co-op challenges will provide at least as much entertainment as the main Adventure mode. At 1,000 Wii points ($10), Critter Round-Up is a good choice for light puzzle action and wacky multiplayer fun.