It's not often that people get a chance to go to Africa, let alone become a Safari Park Ranger. Fortunately, Sega have released a game called Jambo! Safari which allows players to do both of these things, which is actually very considerate of them. It's a game that's clearly aimed at children though, as it hopes to teach them about the different environments and wildlife that's present in Africa.
There isn't really any kind of narrative to go along with the game as players simply take control of a rookie Park Ranger and have to perform various tasks that are assigned by personnel that are found in the various areas. By performing tasks, they are able to progress through to new areas and the game essentially develops by using this formula. There are a few characters that actually have names, but knowing them isn't really all that important. The structure of the game serves its purpose and encourages players to continue into new areas, but none of the mission briefs are overly engaging and some of them are actually quite weird. Why a small movie crew are filming in the middle of the desert is quite baffling, especially when a huge Rhinoceros is rampaging around next to them.
There are actually quite a lot of missions to do, but there aren't that many different varieties. They generally involve catching an animal or driving from a to b. The game does try to add some kind of purpose for the mission taking place, but as previously mentioned, it's rarely overly engaging. It's important to note though, that the animals are only captured for their safety, or other non-harmful reasons. Perhaps the Rangers needs to perform some research, relocate an animal or simply help nurse an injured animal back up to full fitness. Some missions do actually become a bit more challenging though, as they test the player's knowledge. For example, the head ranger will ask a player to capture an animal, but he will only offer a clue as to which animal needs to be captured. It's this aspect of the game which makes things much more about learning. In the interest of fairness though, while it's possible to fail missions, they generally get easier after each failure. Extra clues will be given, or time limits will be extended. It stops the game from becoming too tedious and repetitive and will give it a nice flow for children who aren't the best gamers, but still want to enjoy it.
The game features two difficulties and when playing on the harder one (designed for people over the age of 10), it can actually become challenging later on. Players will spend their entire time driving around in a four-wheeled vehicle of some sort. They each have their own different capabilities, so choosing the correct vehicle for each location is actually quite important. To capture animals, players must first initiate a rodeo loop, and then once they have the animal lined up, they can attempt to lasso it by gesturing with the Wii Remote. Then it becomes a game of tug-of-war, as the animal tries to escape the Ranger's clutches. It can become quite frustrating sometimes due to the obvious lack of manoeuvrability of the Ranger's vehicle and it's very hard to imagine a real Ranger capturing an animal in this kind of fashion. Some of the animals later on will actually make life very difficult, even trying to attack the Ranger's vehicle, so it means actually capturing animals can take considerable time and effort.The driving itself is actually quite interesting, as some parts of it work really well, and others just don't. Driving is performed by pressing the Z button, and breaking is performed by pressing C. Reverse is also performed using C, and this actually causes quite a bit of confusion. There's a really odd pause before entering into reverse which could be attempting to simulate a real car's gear shifting, but since it's a kids game, so it doesn't really make much sense. Drifting is fun, but the physics aren't overly accurate when it comes to the vehicle rolling. It looks exceedingly awkward, as the game attempts to auto-correct the car to land on its wheels, while also trying to keep a sense of realism. Switching to some of the other modes, like photography and using the rifle, is equally unrealistic, as the car literally just stops.
Graphically, the game is mixed-bag. Sometimes it looks like a really good simulation and sometimes it looks terrible. A computer graphics technique used to increase performance sees textures further away from the screen lowered in quality. This is perfectly fine, and it's common practice, but when using the camera, these low quality textures can visibly seen and it's very distracting. The draw distance also has some weird culling as some objects, like fences, only appear when the car is really close, while the actual draw distance for the level is quite good. The animations of some animals are spot on, but sometimes the animations seem to get stuck and they look very robotic.
There's actually quite a lot of replayability in Jambo! Safari. There are lots of different areas to explore, and they all have their own unique environmental feels, and of course, different animals. For those who don't wish to simply do the main missions, there are photography missions which can be undertaken whereby certain photographs have to be taken. There are also mini-games which can be performed on injured animals back at the enclosure, and of course there are party games which can be played with up to three other people. It's also possible to completely customise the player's Ranger, and their vehicle. Extra items can be obtained from completing missions or by finding pick-ups in the various areas. Various badges, trophies and certificates are also award for performing actions out in the field and it's only possible to become a true Park Ranger once all ten certicates have been collected.
Jambo! Safari is a great educational game for children as it helps them to learn about the various environments and animals that Park Rangers face when on Safari. It's probably not the most accurate simulation of their job though as it's difficult to see a Park Ranger single-handedly lassoing an Elephant while driving at high speeds, especially without even using tranquilisers. The game does have a lot of content and there are lots of mini-games, but it suffers from a lack of diversity in the actual tasks that need to be performed. There are also some really weird performance issues which can be quite distracting.