Luv Me Buddies Wonderland is a game that aims to provide a challenging and fun experience for the youngest generation of gamers to enjoy with parents through educational activities. The game is bombarded with overly cute, lovable characters and a bright visual aesthetic apparently designed to hide what lies beneath the surface. Below this cheery setting is a game riddled with so many gameplay issues and bad basic design choices that it’ll easily frustrate any gamer and makes the game almost unplayable.
The game is just built around a series of mini games and as such doesn’t really have much of a story outside of meeting the heart-shaped-head inhabitants, helping them with their problems and providing them with ‘cuddles’. The characters provide you with descriptions of the games and a short introduction of themselves but really nothing more than that. Then again for the audience the game is aimed at, a deep story narrative isn’t really that important.
The overworld is made up of 8 different destinations including London, China and the Wild West with each home to a different heart-shaped buddy. Six of the locations contain five mini game scenarios while the other two areas have only three games, giving a total of 36 and while you may be thinking that’s a huge positive there are actually only around 15 different types with the others just being repeats with a different character or environment. The minigames include completing a series of puzzles, matching up pairs of cards, designing sets of armour for knights and playing Simon Says. While these concepts may sound ideal for a young children’s game the difficulty setting is rather steep. Throughout the game you are hit with strict time limits and are limited to only 3 lives per game. One hiccup in your puzzle building technique and it’s back to the start.
The main issue with the minigames is that there is a lack of objectives and goals. How many pairs of cards do you have to match up? How many suits of armour do you have to build? While you may think that you are making good progress there’s no way of telling if you’ve performed well enough to gain access to the next level. Failure will result in you having to replay the level but not before you are taken back to the world map and reminded of who this world buddy is, an unavoidable conversation that is triggered after every game played. Actually completing all of the games in one world offers nothing as well, there’s no fanfare, or congratulations at all to give the feeling that you’ve truly made progress, just the next location.
While this may be a Wii U title, every one of the mini games has to be played with the standard Wii remote as this game was initially intended as a WiiWare project. All of the games revolve around the same control setup of point and click, and none of the scenarios actually utilise the gamepad and there’s no off-TV play available. In fact all the pad is really used for is displaying a description of the currently selected game in the overworld. These descriptions are also only on the gamepad so you can’t really just put it to the side and forget about it without getting lost with what the game wants from you.
The multiplayer portion of the game is essentially the same as the single player mode except you can battle against up to four other players. Each of the minigames will once again have to be unlocked at each location. After this, players take it in turn to compete for the highest score. While this does offer a competitive edge a coop mode could have been a better choice to get some help through some of the more challenging scenarios.
In terms of visual appeal the game looks very charming, the heart-shaped-head inhabitants are unique, the hand-drawn backdrops are a perfect fit for them and there’s a good variety of both. It’s unfortunate that there’s not more to the characters as they are just static cardboard cut-outs that float around on the screen and lack any form of animation. The soundtrack is nice and varied with all of the songs having a calm and relaxed feel to them, and the only niggle with the music is that it doesn’t quite loop up correctly.
Luv Me Buddies Wonderland’s bright, colourful world and adorable little critters certainly have all of the visual qualities that appeals to young children. Unfortunately below the surface lie a mess of gameplay faults, an overall lack of direction and a deviously steep difficulty curve. If any of you parents out there do decide to get this game then it’s highly recommended that you sit down and play the game with your kids as it could easily frustrate younger players.
This review is based off a review code of Luv Me Buddies provided by O2 Games
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.