- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2009

Children get a taste of working for a living as they help save Earth in Help Wanted: 50 Wacky Jobs (from Hudson Entertainment for Wii, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $29.99).

A really wild story fuels this cornucopia of hands-on career choices as a player works through a nearly endless set of minigames while in a crisis of cataclysmic proportions.

It appears a meteor is heading straight for Earth. NORAD has been destroyed and the U.S. president, who is busy trying to coax a date out of his secretary, is not going to save the day. A pair of teens and a grumpy grandpa have seven days to stop the collision.

The best way to destroy the massive rock is by using a Transformowatch that turns its wearer into a powerful superhero.

The device, which is sold on the TV Shopping Network, can be bought for 5,000 points. Unfortunately, that many points don’t come cheap. To make the moola, the player picks a boy or girl avatar and tackles a wide range of jobs, 50 to be exact, that extensively use the Wii’s interactive controllers.

The player’s onscreen companion works six days a week — child labor laws obviously have been suspended during the crisis — and gets paid assembly-line-style wages for the number of tasks completed in a particular vocation.

The jobs range from farming (jerk the Wiimote when an icon lands over a meter to pull carrots), to delivering packages (use the Nunchuk to get through a maze of obstacles, including dogs) to aerial photographer (jump out of a plane and use the Wiimote like a steering wheel to float into position and take pictures when a frame turns green).

I excelled at catching tuna with a big net but not at sewing or yanking a tooth.

Sunday provides a day of rest — and a chance to spend those hard-earned wages. The player interacts with his clan and watches the Shopping Network. There, he can buy tools for his jobs, for example, a better fishing net or gloves to pull vegetables, or souvenirs as reminders of various careers. Most importantly, he can purchase uniforms to open new career choices, including a juggling clown, dental assistant and haunted-house extra.

Purchasing items also earns the player points — souvenirs offer big point totals — that allow a player to trade for defenses to break up the meteor, extra days to keep it away from Earth and the important Transformowatch.

The game’s art style is as over the top as its story. The colorful presentation, which could have been plucked from any Japanese cartoon for kids, mixes with comic-book-style cut scenes and dramatic pipe organ music.

In addition to the lengthy story mode, look for multiplayer action where a pair of workers compete in 15 of the jobs, and a practice session to hone skills away from the pressures of saving the planet.

Learning Time: It’s a pretty simple game, but important life lessons come to light amid the cartoony chaos. Players who work hard and continually return to jobs are rewarded with better wages and promotions. Also, time management skills are critical to preventing an impeding disaster, and, just as in real life, once a problem is solved (the meteor is destroyed) there’s another one waiting to challenge an individual, or in this case, the planet.

A decent supply of statistics tracks wages and the number of times a job is attempted, offering a basic lesson in career management and finances.

Finally, kids may even find a career they might want to pursue later in life. If farming or fighting fires don’t cut it, they can pretend to be an astronaut, sushi chef or kabuki actor and then scour the Internet with their parents to get a deeper look at their favorite job choices.

Age range: Tenacious tweens with a desire to succeed should apply here.

I spent about six hours with the game and am amazed at its addictive qualities. A week’s worth of work translates into about 20 minutes of actual game time, so it’s easy to digest, take a break and continue.

Every time I got bored with the jobs — nine are in rotation during a week — I was able to get a new group, or a character cut in to offer me a power up or cause a problem.

Final advice: Help Wanted: 50 Wacky Jobs is a great fit for the Wii and holds enough quirky charm and interactive action to make it worth a place on a family’s gaming shelf.

Joseph Szadkowski’s ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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