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Wild Earth Africa

Attenborough-'em-up

How do you make children enjoy, rather than feel insulted by, edutainment games? Well, getting them to take photos of elephant poo and urinating rhinos is not a bad start.

This Animal Planet-branded FPPS (first-person photography shooter) will make your child a better person in three ways: 1) education about the animal kingdom, such as why male lions are chauvinist pigs, 2) a vague sense of how photography works, and 3) a grasp of how to navigate an open 3D environment using the WASD keys and mouselook, thus making significant progress towards becoming an accomplished gamer in later life.

Zoom

For a kids' game, it's outstanding. It's rather one-note and the spartan graphics engine makes lions look a little too Plasticine-faced, but the openness of the world, the animation (a galloping herd of giraffe is a genuinely stunning sight) and the thought behind the situations you have to photograph are all remarkable.

Take a photo, whether for one of the specific objectives or just because it looks interesting, and the game will intuit a title and store it in a digital album: "nervous elephant" or "crocodile snapping", for instance. Meanwhile, a pair of invisible commentators sparkily share factoids about what you're shooting and, charmingly, at the end of each assignment, the photos you've taken will be used to illustrate an article in a fictional wildlife magazine. This caused an odd degree of pride in even this jaded hack, so it will surely enrapture the mind of a child.

Being, as I am, accustomed to a first-person perspective going hand in hand with extreme violence, the temptation to bother the animals unduly or repeatedly ram them with a jeep was too strong to resist. This leads both to failure of the task and a revelation of the game's limitations. It's the gentlest of things, intended to invite awe rather than interaction beyond movement. A refreshing lack of restriction or patronising behaviour makes it a fine offering for a pre‑teen, but please don't go thinking the score below is applicable to grown-ups.

The verdict

If your child doesn't enjoy this worthy game, disown them.

7.9

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