Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

Spring 2010 Video Games
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $29.99
Inspired by Maurice Sendak's masterpiece children's book and the 2009 movie adaptation, this little gem of a videogame is an imaginative adventure that wonderfully captures some of that drowsy dreamland magic while taking its own creative liberties. Landing on the shoreline of the Wild Things' island, the mischievous Max, sweetly decked out in his wolf suit, begins a daring exploration that takes him through dangerous terrain to the Wild Things' village and adventures beyond.

Like in the book, there's not much dialogue--though Max and the ferocious but lovable Wild Things quickly form a charming friendship that continues through game's end. Game play draws largely on standard adventure platform gaming, with Max following one Wild Thing or another, roaming through treacherous environments filled with surprises. Crossing gulches, bashing through bramble, swinging on tree limbs, squeezing along narrow mountain ridges, climbing vine-covered cliffs and accomplishing other challenges, Max explores each intrepid landscape with building intrigue, physical feats, and required guile. Deeper into the story, he even gets to ride on a Wild Thing's shoulders and do some risky river rafting.

Collecting hidden objects such as skulls and fallen stars provides health boosts and power-ups, though this aspect isn't as mindlessly routine as in many other platform games. Here, certain items relate to each of the seven Wild Things and collecting enough of them results in unlocking features the Wild Things can use to help Max overcome obstacles.

True to platform-game action, Max has to defeat opponents to survive and to protect the Wild Things. But there's no blood and guts, no terrible violence, nothing offensive. Max simply swings his scepter (the Wild Things crown him king, remember) to swat down attacking fireflies, electrically-charged metallic wasps, and relentless spiders from the tar-like miasma.

But combat is not at the core of this heartfelt action-adventure game. And even the battles Max faces often pose some problem-solving twists such as having to figure out that fruit from the water trees helps to grow purple-fruit bushes whose fruit when smashed attracts the bad metallic wasps and makes them vulnerable. Max also learns that making the bird-like Wild Things sneeze provides loose feathers he can use for flying. And by taking a swat at a giant tree, he can induce a giant Wild Thing to shove it down for him. Throughout the game, Max and the Wild Things work together. It makes for a cozy odd-fellows bond that's the lifeblood of the story.

The Wii controls prove keen and clean in handling all of these challenges (remote and nunchuk required). And while Wii isn't known for amazing graphics, Max's adventures don't suffer much because the occasional blurriness and hazy environment strangely add to the dreamlike effect.

Overall, any kid (or adult) who loved Sendak's classic tale just might love letting the wild rumpus begin again-and it certainly does, like never before, in this fun and classy videogame.

Don Oldenburg   ©2010 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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