Jeff Probst just snuffed my torch again. It's OK -- I'm not surprised. I expected that would happen, since this time around I was deliberately trying to do as little work around camp as possible. I thought that that would get me voted off the island pretty quickly, as no one ever likes the lazy lay-abouts. And, I was right. Now I'm gone. The tribe has spoken.
Maybe next season I'll work harder -- and next season's only a few menu clicks away, since this is all happening inside the new Survivor video game. You're familiar with the TV show, certainly -- it's the CBS mega-hit that first came onto the scene around a decade ago and has since helped redefine and transform the entire television landscape through the magic of "reality" shows. It's been going strong for over 20 seasons now, as twice a year a bunch of Americans meet up on some tropical beach somewhere, compete in physical challenges and, one by one, vote each other out of the game. The winner is the one person left standing at the end of it all -- and they walk away with a check for a cool million bucks.
At least, that's how the show does things. Events transpire a little differently here in Valcon Games' new video game adaptation of the Survivor concept. There's not any conspiring with other contestants to form alliances and determine who should get sent home next. There aren't any hidden immunity idols to find, or any other kind of game-changing elements beyond the constant progress of one challenge to the next. And, at the end of it all, if you survive the entire season and are declared the winner -- no million dollar prize. Instead you're unceremoniously awarded with something that looks like a golden monkey.
So this isn't going to be a very accurate re-creation of the Survivor experience, either way you go -- though there are two different versions to consider, on the DS and the Wii. This review will focus on the Wii version from this point forward, so if you want to keep on reading about the DS game instead please click right here
Survivor on Wii is all about the challenges. Whereas the show features elaborate physical competitions between the contestants as a way to introduce some action and emotion into what's otherwise a 39-day camping trip with a bunch of strangers, here on the Wii they're all you get -- none of the camp life, survival of the elements or interpersonal intrigue of voting people out is included. Challenges. Only challenges.
Which may be a bit disappointing for fans of the show who actually want to roleplay those other parts, but it's probably a good design decision for Wii -- Nintendo's motion-controlled home console is already host to countless other compilations of mini-games, so it's a proven strategy here. The game also includes support for the Wii Balance Board peripheral, so Wii Fit
owners who've lapsed out of their workout routines and retreated back to the couch for primetime TV viewing might find a bridge back to physical activity here.
Sadly, the challenges don't seem very inspired. Survivor's been on the air for over 10 years now, and there are literally hundreds of different game designs its producers have come up with for the contestants to compete in -- races, puzzles, mazes, weapon accuracy challenges. Tons of stuff. But this Wii game doesn't draw on any of that history at all, and instead offers a selection of the most generic and un-Survivor-ish game challenges possible.
Like parachute jumping. It's a fine video game activity, and using the Balance Board to get the positioning right as you aim for the target below works well enough. But it would be unfilmable as an actual Survivor event for the TV show -- they'd never do it. So it breaks the flavor of the product for it to be included.
Then there are things like the fishing challenge, where you have to kick man-eating piranhas out of the way while trying to spear food for yourself. Or the river race, where two contestants go head-to-head in a canoe race -- while an alligator tries to eat them both. Or the pole challenge, where two players try to outlast each other while balancing on tall poles in the water. That one's at least similar to some actual Survivor show challenges. Until birds begin attacking you. What's with all the crazed wildlife here, anyway?
So Survivor Wii works well enough as a generic Wii mini-game compilation, but it just doesn't ever really feel like Survivor should feel. Even good old Jeff Probst, fully voice acted with his actual voice, can't save it -- because the Tribal Councils he hosts all fall apart too. Nobody gets voted out. The winning player in a challenge just picks somebody from the other tribe to go home -- again, not like the show at all.
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