Animal Genius on the DS was a bargain buy for us at only £3 for a used copy of the game. If you want to buy new, it's still pretty cheap at £7.99 from some online retailers. Some are charging as much as £24.99 but I really do think that's a bit much to pay for this relatively small game.
I've seen a couple of reviews slating this, but we've actually had quite a positive view of it so far. It's suitable for youngsters of three or four if you're playing the game with them, or for older kids aged up to around eight. Any older and though they might find the concept appealing, but I don't think they'll get much out of the limited content.
The aim of the game is to fill each of your five habitats with five different animals. Habitats include things like a woodland and an ocean. To earn each animal, you have to accumulate 25 points by playing one of the four mini games. There's a little maze game, which is quite crude but still fun. You get to be one of four different animals racing round the maze collecting a related object (ie the lion has to pounce on zebras) while avoiding a threat at the same time. The maze starts off easily, then get progressively harder until you get game over.
There's a scratch and see game where you get to scratch off a panel on the screen to reveal some of an animal. Then you get shown four option boxes with animal names in, and you have to select which animal you think you just saw underneath the scratch panel. After each one you get right, you get moved up a level, which means you're given less and less scratching time.
There's also a quiz type game called Creature Collector which is good for testing children's knowledge about animals. It asks them things like "which animals are mammals?" and the kids see different animals moving around on the screen and have to tap on all of the mammals to finish the round. They can have some success with trial and error and the process of elimination here, so they don't have to have a thorough animals knowledge to complete this.
The final mini game is Matchomatic which is probably my least favourite game on here, as the grandson finds it quite frustrating. They show you two pictures on the top screen of animal skins close up, and ask you to flick the correct animal from a choice below up to the matching skin. Firstly you need to have good aim with the stylus to do this, secondly you need to understand where the animal will land when you flick it upwards (bearing in mind there is a gap between the screens because of the hinge) and thirdly it's actually quite hard to know what some of the skins are. Even I didn't realise that the lizzard looking skin was actually some kind of fish at one point.
Kids will always get there in the end though, as they get some points no matter what. Being good at the game means you get your 25 points for a new animal really fast, but even if you're not great at it you'll still rack up 25 points in the end (takes no more than ten minutes I'd guess).
Once you've got 25 points, you have to do a quick-fire round of questions about the animal you're trying to win to earn that animal to put in it's habitat. This bit is not easy for a younger child to do and they will require assistance. Your average three or four year old won't know what nocturnal means let alone whether an animal is or not. So you'll need to help children under about seven years of age with that bit, especially as the questions have a time limit on them so you can't just use trial and error to get there in the end.
Also in the game are 'animal alerts' which happen randomly while you're playing. The player gets set a mini task which they have to go off and do before they can carry on playing. For example they might have to search through the five different habitats to find an animal who has wandered off into the wrong one.
This is a well designed game, despite it's slightly unclear age-appeal. It's too tricky for tots to do unaided but too easy for most over-eights. It's got good graphics and music though, and I really like that the computer speaks all questions and instructions in a clear American accent. Reading is an advantage but not a necessity to play this game. They read out each of the answer options in the games, while flashing up the words in turn as they do so, but just to help they also write the options in large, easy to read fonts. I think this will help some kids to improve their reading a little as well as their animal knowledge.
This is not the game of the century and it's definitely not worth more than £10 to buy - but it is good fun, easy to play, well designed and a little bit educational too. I've really enjoyed playing it with the grandson and think it's a must-buy for kids aged four to eight who like animals and enjoying playing games on a DS with an adult.
This review is for the game Animal Genius for the Nintendo DS and the game was developed by Big Blue Bubble and published by Ubisoft. The aim of the game is to go round five different levels and learn more about the animals in each area.
The game is educational, and is based around the five main levels, rain forest, arctic, sea, grasslands and woodlands. The problem however with educational software is that it is difficult to merge both educational value and fun value. This game doesn't really succeed in that aim either and isn't likely to appeal to most children for very long.
There is a lot of reading to be done in the game, as there is a lot of useful educational information that the game tries to impart. This is helped by the speech element of the game however, as a lot of the information is actually read out, which does make it easier to maintain the interest of children, who might have become bored if they had to read too much.
There are of course inter-active elements in the game, and it's not just an educational tool. There are quizzes which come up and also mini games such as mazes to complete. The mini games are quite entertaining, but there are only a handful of them, which is a little disappointing, as more of these would have made the game much more entertaining.
The controls in the game are easy to use, using both the stylus and the d-pad. Children should be able to find these controls easy to pick up, and the developers have tried to use some of the functions of the DS in the mini games, such as in the game where you have to use the stylus to scratch away part of an image to see what animal is underneath.
The graphics in the game are quite fun, quite arcadey and bright, to suit the intended audience of the game. The sound is used well, with a lot of speech to get information across, and also some perfectly adequate background music and sound effects.
Beyond that though, that's really the limitation of the game. Play a few mini games, learn a few new facts and then most children are likely to be quite bored. None of the games are interesting enough to want to come back to again and again, so this is a game that's likely to soon be sitting on the shelf collecting dust.
The game retails normally for 24.99 pounds, but at the time of writing the game is available from Amazon for 9.99 pounds. If you're happy with a second hand copy, these can be found for around five or six pounds on sites such as Amazon and eBay. The game is rated as 3+, so is suitable for children of nearly all ages.
Overall, I found this a very uninspiring game in general. It's suitable really for only the younger children, somewhere in the three to seven years old age range, and is unlikely to appeal to older children. There's not a great deal in this game to keep kids playing, but as an educational tool, it's possibly of interest for a few hours, so maybe worth a look if you can pick the game up cheaply.