At first glance, EA Playground likely won't bear much similarity to any playground you've encountered. Vibrant green grass covers the ground, children with massive heads frolic on pristine play structures, and there's nary a scraped knee in sight. Thus, you encounter EA's vision of an idealized playground, one in which everything is controlled with button presses and wiggle waggles. The games available herein cover a wide range, from Dodgeball and Tetherball to Slot Car and Paper Airplane Racing. Some are generic, while some actually manage to capture a kind of fun that is indeed reminiscent of the game's namesake. These few standout games, along with the breadth of the other activities, make EA Playground a game worth a recess.
The game starts with that liberator of pent-up energies, that klaxon of freedom: the recess bell. You are loosed on a small playground area populated by frolicking children. There, you can challenge a few select children to a competition in the game of their choice. Each offers an initial challenge and three subsequent dares. Victory will earn you the currency to purchase power-ups, the right to challenge tougher competitors, and the freedom to access the three other playground areas. This currency (marbles) can be exchanged for power-up stickers offered by the playground don--The Sticker King. These stickers go in your sticker book alongside the golden stickers you earn the first time you best a new opponent. Collect 'em all, beat all the dares, and face off with the Sticker King for playground supremacy. Now how 'bout them games!
Dodgeball, the game EA sees fit to promote most heavily, isn't the strongest game in Playground but still manages to be fairly amusing. You can scurry around, roll dodge, throw, and catch. Hits can be scored strategically by throwing when an opponent is about to throw or has just thrown the ball, though an unlockable powered-up shot or random toss can score just as often. Computer opponents are merely passable and don't make for engaging foes. The real fun here is the heated multiplayer matches that can seesaw back and forth for quite some time, making victory all the sweeter.
Wall Ball pits you against an opponent as you take turns smacking a ball off a wall with your open palm. Any fun this game might have offered is compromised by the fact that you don't control your character's position; the only things you control are when and how high you smack the ball. The only thing you control is when and how high you smack the ball. There is a fun game in which you do this, but it's called Tetherball. Even power-ups scattered on the wall can't liven up this bland game, which is neither fun nor particularly challenging.
Kicks is a soccer-volleyball hybrid that pits teams of two against each other as they try to volley and kick the ball over the tennis-height net and into their opponent's goal. Footwork is out of your control, but you won't miss it because you'll be busy timing your passes, shots, defensive jumps, and diving saves. The power-up stickers unlock the full complement of power shots and defensive gambits, which really flesh out this game into something substantive and enjoyable. This is one of the best games in here.