Harvest Moon Animal Parade
17th Dec 2010 | 19:30
Harvest Moon titles have always been slow-paced, but this is ridiculous. Two years after its Japanese release, and over 12 months since its English-language debut, Animal Parade finally ambles over to the UK.
As with the disappointing port of GameCube's Magical Melody and the equally underwhelming Tree Of Tranquility, early impressions aren't great.
Using the same fixed camera as the last game and featuring many of the same characters as well as those irritating loads between every key location, familiarity starts to breed contempt. Yet after a sluggish opening, this Moon slowly starts to shine.
Getting started is a little easier than usual, the inhabitants of Harmonica Town giving you plenty of freebies.
There's an element of self-interest in their generosity - everyone's in a sulk at the Harvest Goddess abandoning them, and you're the sap who has to bring the place back to life by finding five elemental bells.
Naturally, this is accomplished through a lot of hard work. The game soon settles into that familiar, languid Moon rhythm - tending crops, caring for your animals, and lugging your hammer and axe to the mine and forest for ores and lumber.
As the name suggests, the bestiary has expanded, the local fauna including snakes, bears and - after the circus has visited - giraffes and elephants.
If they love you enough, you can even ride a few of these beasts. Given the size of the environment this is a godsend, not least because some of them unlock shortcuts.
Otherwise, it's the usual Moon mix of farming and socialising. Tree Of Tranquility's technical issues prevented us really connecting with its cast; here they seem more charismatic.
As ever, you'll need to find the right gifts to win their hearts but doing so feels worthwhile, partly because of the increased role family plays in the game.
Natsume keeps things simple when it comes to the controls. Motion controls are restricted to brisk shaking when you're charging up a tool, though we'd have appreciated pointer control to speed up item-swapping in menus.
Graphically, it's identical to the last game, while the tunes seem inoffensive enough until you discover they've wormed their way into your brain and are refusing to leave.
The best Moon on Wii, then? Not quite. This isn't Cube's backwards compatible A Wonderful Life, more A Pretty Good One. But if you can ope with the clunkiness this will keep you busy on cold winter nights.