Dodgeball rules and Electronic Arts knows it. That’s why the cover of “EA Playground” for the Wii proudly boasts, “Includes DODGEBALL.”

After seeing that, I couldn’t wait to get home and start hurling digital orbs — even though I was still nursing a sore elbow from a real dodgeball match.

In the game, players wave the Wii’s motion-sensitive remote to throw or to evade balls and press buttons to move on-screen players or activate special moves. The single- player mode is mildly entertaining, but the fun increases dramatically when others join in — waving remotes like crazy and talking trash.

As is turns out, dodgeball is just one of several minigames that make the E-rated “Playground” a good game for families and parties. Other winners include the dart shootout — a kid-friendly first-person shooter — and kicks — a combination of volleyball and soccer. Racing paper airplanes and slot cars are also fun, but tetherball and wall ball quickly get monotonous.

Each of the games uses only the Wii remote to issue commands — which keeps the minigames easy and engaging for players of all levels. For example, in the dart shootout, gamers aim by pointing the remote at the screen and fire by pulling the triggerlike B button. In paper-airplane racing, gamers twist and turn the remote to guide their on-screen aircraft through obstacles. Both of these require a bit of dexterity and thought, which makes them much more fun than wall ball and tetherball, which simply require waving the remote at the right time to slap an on-screen ball.

Gamers must play these minigames in the single- player mode to unlock them for multi-player competition. The single-player mode contains four areas — a schoolyard, a stadium, a forest and a park — where gamers encounter kids who are experts in the different minigames. Defeating them unlocks the minigames, and earns marbles and stickers. The marbles can be used to purchase upgrades. The stickers designate what games have been completed and what upgrades have been purchased.

This mode can be enjoyable, but the real fun in “Playground” lies in multi-player competition, where up to four gamers can go head-to-head.

There’s just no substitute for the interaction that occurs when real people get together to play a game like this.

Platform: Wii


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