Gaming

EA Playground is a forgotten gem and deserves to be remembered along with Wii Sports

Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features allow our individual contributors and contributors to give their opinions on hot topics and random things they’ve discussed. Today, on his 15th birthday, Jim defends a forgotten Wii classic…


If there’s one thing you can always rely on the Wii for, it’s family multiplayer. Gone are the days when you had to explain to an elderly relative what various triggers and button combinations do, instead you replaced your grandmother’s sherry with a plastic white rectangle, put her in front of the screen and watched her beat up seven shades of laughter. ha of an animated opponent in the boxing ring.

The simplicity of the console was its biggest selling point, and heck, it had the right games. Most of the third party games such as Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Music, and WarioWare Smooth Moves will always dominate those conversations, and rightly so – they were and still are incredibly fun. It will by no means be text saying: “hm, in fact, Wii Sports wasn’t all that,“because it would be a blatant lie – never be such a person. However, there is one game that is almost never mentioned in discussions of Wii family games, especially in the sports genre: EA Playground.

it was all about good natured fun with your dead eyes always staring avatar buddies

Let’s start right off the bat by saying I don’t believe a playground is a must better than Wii Sports. The playable avatars had cold dead eyes, the motion controls were a little twitchy, and the single-player mode was all about collecting stickers, marbles, or whatever the council of 40-year-olds considered the fashionable currency with the kids at the time.

But what I really believe is that this title has been well and truly dormant for the last 15 years and it’s time for someone to fix it.

The Wii had enough sports games to fill the memory bank three times. Aside from ports of NBA Live, Fifa, Virtua Tennis, and Tiger Woods’ PGA Tour (which has always seemed very out of place on a console), sports collections – your Wii Sports Resorts, Mario Sports Mixes – have been in the spotlight. the controls can really shine. These were games where the whole idea was to combine multiple sports, knowing that while some will be better than others, that’s okay because you can always move on to something else.

For EA Playground, however, the collection of games had no weak links. Of course, it’s hard to call any of the game modes “sports” in the same way as boxing or baseball, but were they competitive and challenging? If you could see the sweat I was making while playing this game in my youth, you would have no doubts.

The main Playground game contained seven different “sports” – yes, that’s right Seven ranging from ultra-sports (Wallball, Dodgeball, a strange hybrid of volleyball and football called Kicks) to games that are only suitable for the playground (paper airplane and radio-controlled racing). However, this range brought a certain low-stakes charm that was not found in other sports collections. You weren’t playing in a huge baseball stadium or against a team of dragons and mushrooms, it was all about good-natured fun with your dead-eyed avatar buddies.

While Wii Sports was aimed at bringing the thrill of the big game to the latest Nintendo console, Playground was a game for the little guys.

To the game’s credit, each of the sports in the Playground felt different, despite effectively reusing the same controls over and over again. What are the controls for Dodgeball? Well, you move the D-pad, then swing the remote to throw the ball. What about Kiks? Well, you move the D-pad, then swing the remote to hit the ball. Tetherball? It’s a little different: there’s no movement here, so forget the D-pad, just swing the remote to hit the ball. But it wasn’t the same games over and over again. There were different tricks that you had to learn to use for each of them, which amounted to a game that required some semblance of skill and practice. Don’t expect to carry the same agile, remote-swinging d-pad game from Dodgeball to Wallball. These AI kids will eat you alive.

Each mode’s identity was aided by a series of game-specific music tracks to differentiate between the relaxing of, say, Paper Racers and the intense combat of Dart Shootout, a foam dart FPS that was unaffiliated with Nerf™. Even though the soundtrack doesn’t have a single part that comes close to the effortless Wii Sports prowess that provides some of my favorite game tunes of all time, it helped Playground feel like you’re not doing the same thing over and over again.

Except, of course, you. This game had fantastic replay value. Imagine how you personally felt attacked every time Matt from Wii Sports beat you at tennis, now put that into story mode and you can imagine how intense the rivalry was. Yes, the single-player “campaign” had a strange amount of stickers that involved collecting stickers to improve your athletic performance (this elementary school seemed to let dope slip through), but providing an opponent in every sport meant you weren’t just going up against processor. It was personal.

Simply put, Playground reviews at the time were mixed, to put it mildly. They would improve a bit by the time the game was released on the DS, but the title was eventually dropped into the background. And why? Because it wasn’t Wii Sports.

But is the fact that the game is not another game enough to make you forget about it? It’s true, EA Playground isn’t Wii Sports – for one thing, avatars have legs – but it doesn’t necessarily try to be. While Wii Sports was about bringing the thrill of the big game to the newest Nintendo console, Playground was the game for the little guys, courtesy of this little independent label, Electronic Arts.

Yes, it may not reach the heights of some other console releases, but it deserves to be remembered along with them.

Do you have fond memories of EA Playground? Assumed it was a shovel and didn’t give it a chance? Let us know below.




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