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Wii Fanboy Review: Critter Round-Up

Candace Savino

One of the stranger games that's currently offered on WiiWare is Critter Round-Up, or Saku Saku Animal Panic in Japan. Knowing that this was created by a relatively new developer, Epicenter Studios, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Never one to turn down the possibility of a good puzzle game, though, I bravely endeavored to corral these critters to the best of my abilities.

With another costly puzzle game lurking around the corner, would Critter Round-Up turn out to be worth the download? Keep reading to find out!


The concept behind Critter Round-Up isn't very complex. You take control of a fearless rancher, who's incredibly talented when it comes to building fences really fast. Putting your skills to good use, you must separate the animals in your pen so that different kinds of "critters" don't reside together. This doesn't mean that all animals belonging to the same species must be fenced in with each other; fortunately, you're allowed to split them up, otherwise the gameplay would have been a lot more tedious than it needed to be.

Of course, this would be much too simple without any obstacles involved. As it stands, though, the animals of Critter Round-Up want nothing more than to see you dead. Sure, some go about it more innocently than others, and some will only kill you when you accidentally touch them, but the song remains the same.

You're given three lives in each stage, and since touching the critters in any way, shape, or form will mean your death, many levels in the game can be quite challenging. While everything starts off innocently enough, it's not long before you're facing predators who'll eat you if they see you, bovids who'll try to ram into you, camels who'll spit at you, monkeys who'll throw things at you, skunks who'll spray you, and so on.

Such a large array of animals will force you to utilize different strategies in different pens. Your only real goal is to separate animals without losing all your lives, but you'll also be scored in your efforts, making you want to do the best job possible. Aside from clock use and the number of lives you have left when you finish, you'll also be given a critter score. The more animals of the same species that you have fenced in together, the higher your critter score will be. If you're the kind of gamer who always shoots for the best rank possible, this will add even more depth and strategy to your game. For example, you might have to separate animals early on to protect them from predators, but then later break the fences that lie between them to increase your score. If your main concern is just to beat the game, though, this might make Critter Round-Up seem a little easy on certain levels.

Yet there are still many other facets of this game that factor into how well you do, such as dealing with predators. Although carnivorous animals can and will eat other critters in your pen, this isn't always detrimental to your success. Sometimes you might have to lure a predator to a helpless creature in order to distract it while you build your fence. Your critter score drops when animals get eaten, but it's often a necessary evil when avoiding game overs. Every once in a while, such a strategy might even help your score. On one stage I didn't even move an inch as a few same-specied predators ate the other animals, thereby causing me to win, and yet I still managed to get the second highest "gold" rank.

That's not to say that Critter Round-Up isn't challenging, though. Especially as the levels progress and you're introduced to critters that are even bigger nuisances, it's likely that you'll be forced to retry many levels. The game also succeeds at keeping you on your toes at all times. For instance, once animals are fenced with only other animals of their kind, they won't bother you anymore. Critters that are still active, though, can mess up your completed work. Elephants might break down the fences of finished areas, for one, or kangaroos might hop into same-specied pens.

Despite the fact that these many gameplay elements combine to offer quite an alluring package, one of Critter Round-Up's biggest detriments is its brevity. The main mode includes fifty levels, but each one only takes about a minute or two to complete. Even if you factor in the time you'll spend dying and retrying stages, this only equates to a measly three hours. Unless you're hellbent on improving your previous ranks and scores, you probably won't feel the need to replay any levels, either.

Fortunately, the game has a few other tricks up its sleeve. It also includes Marathon Mode, which lets you and up to three others fence in critters until you die or quit. There's also Co-op Challenge Mode, which has twenty stages that were designed specifically with multiplayer in mind (this mode also supports up to four players). If you want, you can play co-op in Adventure Mode, too, but only with one other person.

Lastly, you can play with up to four people in the Critter Games, a set of four minigames: Snowball Soccer, Predator Rampage, Chicken Catch, and Fence Trap. None of them are time consuming by any means, but they can offer a nice distraction from the normal fencing activities. But while all these multiplayer options will tack extra hours onto your gameplay, it should be noted that this title only supports local multiplayer -- Critter Round-Up offers no online play.

Controls: You play by holding the Wiimote horizontally; this is the only given control scheme. Since the controls are rather basic, this scheme works well for Critter Round-Up. Breaking down fences involves waggle, however, which is just annoying, and reaching the + button to use items is often awkward.

Visuals: The cartoony visuals in this game are very basic, and are sure to leave you unimpressed. Still, the bright colored settings and cel-shaded animals really suit this silly title. The change of scenery every five levels is also appreciated, even though there are only five different backgrounds throughout Critter Round-Up.

Sound: There's something intrinsically pleasing about the music in this title. Even though the songs are very simple (and there aren't very many), they're perfect for the game's atmosphere and genre. As for the sound effects, they're at their best when they inform you about things that you're too busy to notice, such as an item falling onto the screen or an animal getting eaten.

Story: There is no story. You have no idea why the main character travels around the world to build fences and corral animals. A forced plot isn't really vital to one's enjoyment of this game, though.

Difficulty: Some stages are really easy, but as more animals are introduced and thrown in pens together, the game gets much, much harder.

Final Score: 7.5/10 -- The gameplay in Critter Round-Up is certainly fun and addicting, and it's loaded with a surprising amount of depth. Since it only takes about three hours to complete Adventure Mode, though, I'd be hard-pressed say that this title is worth 1000 Wii Points. The two things that add replayability to the game are its local multiplayer options and level ranks. So, if you can see yourself playing this with a buddy or think you'll be tempted to beat your past scores, you might find that Critter Round-Up is worth a purchase.

With the recent launch of WiiWare, we've been busy getting our time in with some of the titles available for download. Be sure to check out our reviews of Dr. Mario, Defend Your Castle, Star Soldier R, Pop, LostWinds, and TV Show King, as well as our early impressions of My Life as a King and its review here. Keep up to date with WiiWare by checking out our WiiWare category.

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