EA Playground Hands-On

This is what EA does at the playground, you know?


EA showed off the Wii version of EA Playground, its upcoming schoolyard-themed minigame collection, at its Summer Showcase today. We got in on a few four-player games of soccer, a paper-airplane race, and some slot-car racing.

First off was a two-on-two game of soccer. While the objective was to score points in your opponent's goal, we felt a heavy dash of volleyball in there because you had to constantly keep the ball in motion by constantly passing, blocking, or shooting the ball. Additionally, players never left their sides of the pitch.

Character movement was handled entirely by the game, leaving us to worry just about ball handling. Keeping with the pick-up-and-play vibe that the whole game gives off, the controls here were quite simple, using the B button to pass the ball to your teammate and using quick movements with the Wii Remote to shoot the ball at the other team. It felt simple, but there was a bit of nuance to it. On the offense, the timing and speed of your Wii Remote swing when shooting for the goal inform the speed and strength of your shot. We found that an unexpectedly slow, weak shot was potentially as effective as a bullet shot. On the defense, the players switched back and forth between blocker and goalie automatically. The blockers were able to leap up with a well-timed flick of the Wii Remote and bat the shot right out of the air. The action here was exaggerated and fast-paced. Although the strategy was light, we found it pretty engaging.

Next up was a split-screen four-player paper-airplane race, which in practice was highly reminiscent of the paper-airplane sequences in WarioWare: Smooth Moves. Holding the Wii Remote as you would a dart, we shook it forward, which launched the paper airplane toward its goal. In this case, the goal was at the end of a long, straight, school hallway littered with such obstacles as desks and chalkboards that we had to navigate by tilting the tip of the Wii Remote in the appropriate direction. There were boost spots that we could fly through, and because this is a race, you could lock on to other players that got in front of you, automatically boosting past them. The controls were floaty as you'd expect from a paper airplane, and we're curious to see how it feels when played on courses with more active obstacles.

Lastly, there was the slot-car race. It's may not technically be a real playground-friendly event, but who doesn't like slot cars? This was a split-screen game as well, where players jammed on the accelerator and snapped their cars from one lane to another. Players also dodged the cars of other players, aiming for power-ups and speed boosting strips of track. Though the action was fast and simple like the other games we saw, this was the most straightforward, requiring the least amount of subtlety.

Based on our short time with EA Playground, it seems as if the four-player game really plays to the game's biggest strength: Deliver accessible minigames that provide friendly, competitive action. EA Playground is currently set to arrive on the Wii on October 23. Look forward to more coverage soon.

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