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I should be blasting Nazis or snowboarding in the Rockies, but I’ve lost control of the Wii to my wife.

She’s hooked on "Animal Crossing: City Folk," Nintendo’s E-rated community simulation for kids and parents. She’s busy finding fossils, decorating her house and traveling to the city to chat with cows, cats and poodles.

The game is an expansion of the "Animal Crossing" games that have been popular on the handheld Nintendo DS. In fact, you can import characters from a DS to a Wii.

If you’re not importing a DS character, you create a new one. You also name the town you’ll live in. Each town can accommodate up to four characters.

You’ll need to buy a house and take a job working in a shop owned by a raccoon named Tom Nook. You’ll make money — "bells" — by working for Nook, digging up fossils, collecting shells, fishing, picking fruit and other activities. The money can be used to upgrade your house’s furnishings, design and buy new clothing or purchase other items.

Although you’ll play as a human, the village’s other denizens are animals. You can chat with them, do business with them and send letters and gifts to them.

And you can take the bus to the "city," which offers more shops and friends to interact with.

It’s all a lot like a kid-friendly version of "The Sims" with furry friends instead of people.

Moving your characters is handled by the nunchuck’s joystick, but most of the other controls are handled by a simple point-and-click interface using the motion-sensitive remote.

The easy interface, bright graphics and light game play make this game very accessible for children. However, some aspects of game play seem a little out of place for a kids’ title. For example, some of the activities need a little better explanation. Even my wife got frustrated when trying to accomplish some tasks for the first time. I suspect younger players might not be as patient.

In addition, the game unfolds in real time — which can lead to some very slow going. For example, the raccoon’s shop rotates its goods once a day. That means that if you need a shovel and one’s not for sale today, you’ll have to wait until you log on tomorrow to check again.

A big addition in "City Folk" is the ability to play with friends online. Since this is basically a kid-oriented game, players need to swap special codes before online interaction is possible.

Once they’re connected, friends can chat via the in-game keyboard or the new Wii Speak microphone, which is sold separately. Nintendo reps are very excited about Wii Speak’s possibilities. For example, they point out that military families separated by deployments can stay connected via with new gadget.

Once again, Nintendo seems to know how to hit the sweet spot for kids and parents.

Platform: WiiOn the Web:


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