Wee Gamers Get Wii Game

Preschoolers now have a reason to ask their older siblings for the Wii controller. They've got their own game: "Go Diego Go!: Safari Rescue," from 2K Play.

In developing this new game for younger kids, 2K Play relied on extensive research conducted by Nickelodeon that studied how 2- to 6-year-olds "experience the new technologies offered by the Wii," explained Steve Lux, vice president of business development for 2K Play. The study helped 2K Play to "create an all-new play pattern that extends beyond current games," according to Lux.

The game incorporates 13 Wii-centric motions that are easily learned by preschoolers.

Kids join Diego, the star of Nick Jr.'s "Go, Diego, Go" television show, on an adventure that spans the continent of Africa. When a mean magician decides to wreak havoc on elephants and other African animals by changing them, Diego and his friends come to the rescue.

With the help of a special Magic Drum, Diego is able to undo the magic of the evil magician. Among other things, Diego replaces the zebras' stripes, brings stone elephants back to life and elongates the necks of shortened giraffes.

The game takes kids on six rescue missions at different locations, including the savannah, the plains and along a river bank. Played as a side-scrolling adventure, kids turn the Wii remote sideways and then tilt it to the right or left, depending on which way they want Diego to go. The more you tilt, the faster Diego will run through this world filled with trampolines that fling you to new locations, meerkat holes that send you sliding through the earth, and zipwires that let you soar over wide expanses. At each location, you help animals and collect special objects.

The game's very simple controls make it perfect for young children. For example, no timing is required to grab hold of a rope that is swinging -- you simply push the "2" button and Diego immediately appears on the rope. And once he's airborne, he can't fall and will just keep swinging until you hit the "2" button again.

But where this game really shines is with the 13 Wii-centric motions. To play, kids mimic real-life motions to make them happen on the screen. If you want to swim across a lake, you make a swimming motion with your arms. To help some water buffalo grow back horns that the magician has taken away, you hold the Wii remote in one hand as you place your hands on the sides of your head. Then you stretch out your arms and put them back on your head, repeating this motion until the horns have grown back.

You can also mimic digging, flapping your ears like an elephant, waddling like a hippo, playing a drum and much more.

When preschoolers are playing, the game offers parents or siblings a way to join in and help when needed. The feature, called Safari Guide Helper Option, lets a second player assist using a second remote.

For example, when kids are helping Diego blow up a hot air balloon by pumping their arms up and down, if someone joins in with a second remote, the speed of the pumping increases and fun animations appear.

In addition to rescuing animals, kids will also ride a variety of vehicles and animals in travel minigames where the object is to navigate around obstacles. These games can be played separate from the adventure with a friend in a two-person cooperative mode.

"Go Diego Go!: Safari Rescue" is a great Wii game for young children. The preschool-friendly controls are spot on and encourage kids to move while playing. In addition to just having fun, kids learn animal facts from Diego and his friends, and use logic to solve problems that occur in the game. Kids can't fail while playing, which makes this Wii game a wee gamer winner.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Best for ages 3 to 6
From 2K Play, www.2kgames.com/2kplay, $39.99, Nintendo Wii

Jinny Gudmundsen is the kid-tech columnist for the Gannett News Service and USA Today.com, and is also the editor of Computing with Kids Ezine.