The National Geographic Society (or NGS in its short form) is the largest non-profit scientific and educational institute in the world, educating people in the likes of geography, archaeology, natural science, world culture and history. In order to further spread the word, NGS has released a video game in the form of National Geographic: Wildlife Quiz, combining education and fun. Unfortunately, this isn’t a winning combination.
As you can probably tell from the game’s title, National Geographic: Wildlife Quiz is an educational quiz presented in a similar style to that of Scene It? and Buzz, requiring players to answer wildlife related questions either on their own in single player or against up to three opponents in local multiplayer. Quite surprisingly, the game is one of the very few titles released in more recent times not to support Xbox Live multiplayer.
National Geographic: Wildlife Quiz contains three main game modes: Quiz, Quest and Stat Attax. Quiz mode requires players to select a category, how long they want the quiz to last and what difficulty as they earn points. Some rounds require players to bet 40, 60, 80 or 100 points – depending on how confident the player is at answering the next question correctly. Quest mode is quite similar to Quiz mode though each “level” only requires players to answer ten questions. Correctly answering seven or more of the questions allows players to progress – unlocking more of the game’s levels.
Finally, Stat Attax is a game mode that plays similarly to Top Trumps in which players receive a pack of cards containing some wildlife related stats. The attacking player selects a statistic on the designated card whilst the defending player selects one of the two cards in play. If the stat on the attacking card is higher than that on the defending card, the attacker obtains that card. However, if the stat is lower, the defending player becomes the attacking player. The winner is the player with the most cards when the amount of turns run out or when one player loses all of their cards. Both Quiz and Stat Attax are game modes that players are likely to play only once and not return to again (unless they are going after the achievements) whereas Quest mode will take some getting through – lasting approximately six or seven hours.
The game’s questions are split into four categories: Predators vs. Prey, Amazing Planet, Dangerous Encounters and Aquatic Life, with set difficulties available. As there isn’t any particular award for the difficulty setting, players are more than likely to set the difficulty to easy which brings up questions such as: “When hippos open their mouths as wide as they can it is called...” It’s questions such as these which truly indicate the game’s intended target audience, that of the casual market.
To provide a sense of variety within the game, there are a number of question types. This includes the multiple choice, true or false, anagrams and a type known as “What do you see” in which partial elements of an image are evident and players must answer what is shown. The variety is enough to keep players occupied for a good hour or so before things become quite tedious and it’s then that the title’s problems start to show.
The repetitive comments from the game’s narrator – deeming whether the player got the answer correct or not - can prove quite an annoyance at times, as can the game’s looping soundtrack. Nonetheless, National Geographic: Wildlife Quiz’s main problem is down to the game’s balance between education and fun which, regrettably, is tipped towards education. The amount of educational activities, videos and still images surpasses the fun elements evident within the game. Whilst the educational content is to a great standard – looking incredible in high definition and providing a suitable learning tool for children and adults alike - it doesn’t make for a very good videogame.
Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom as there is another feature of the game which has been well implemented and is further evidence that the game is aimed at the casual market, coming in the form of classic puzzles. These consist of jigsaws, sliders and squares, all of which range from very easy to more difficult. Each of these is quite relaxing, despite being up against a timer, and is a change in pace somewhat of normal play. The puzzles provide a significant amount of enjoyment, more so for the casual gamer, however, it’s a feature that players will play every so often. rather than in a single play.
On the whole, National Geographic: Wildlife Quiz is more of an educational resource than a video game, providing players with some incredible high-definition footage and interesting information, yet poor and quite tedious in terms of gameplay. Unless you’re thoroughly interested in wildlife, this is one to avoid.