Based on both the book and the newly released movie, the game starts when young Max, a rambunctious boy dressed in a wolf costume, arrives at the island where the Wild Things live. For those unfamiliar with the book, the Wild Things are a group of big scary monsters who roar, gnash their teeth, roll their big yellow eyes, and show off their sharp claws. Max isn't afraid of these monsters; he faces them square on and roars back. Kids play this adventure game by guiding Max around an island and beyond as he befriends the Wild Things.
At first, the story is about Max gaining the Wild Things' respect by proving that he can be wild enough to be crowned King of All Wild Things. Later, the story is about solving the mystery of the island's impending destruction.
This is a typical action adventure game for kids with plenty of quests, platform puzzling, fighting, and collecting. It features a variety of environments to explore filled with ledges to scale, vines to climb, waterways to navigate, and expanses to fly. The collectibles are usually objects dear to the Wild Things like geodes or honeycombs, but also include falling stars that crash onto the island. Most of the enemies are darting insects or gooey shadow creatures which Max fights using his scepter.
When Max fights baddies, his health can get low. He increases his health by whacking lanterns or asking one of the Wild Things to heal him, which is shown as a charming video where the big huge monster gives Max a hug. Defeating enemies and finding collectibles can also translate into better health.
What makes this game fun for kids is that they get to explore this big, primal world with the monsters. When Max is exploring with the monster named Carol, Max gets to ride on Carol's head as they race over treacherous terrain. With trees falling down all around them and boulders hurtling toward them, players take control of Carol, deciding when to jump over or slide under logs, punch through shrubbery, and swerve to avoid obstacles. It is fast-paced and exhilarating.
With Douglas, a big feathered monster, if kids throw pollen at him, he will sneeze, leaving behind a pile of feathers. Kids can have Max pick up these feathers and then use them to help him fly over cliffs to soar to safety.
Also good are the three levels of difficulty and the frequent "savepoints." It is nice having unlimited lives while playing, so that you don't worry when you fall off a series of swinging branches or fail to correctly time your jumps between swirling logs.
Where the Wild Things Are is a linear game. While the world seems big, you are limited in your wanderings. For kids, this is good because you never feel lost. The platform puzzles do gradually get harder; but, with determination, they're doable. When you finish a chapter, you can return to your tent to play minigames with the monsters before proceeding on with the story.
Max is a complex character in this game. As in the book on which this game is based, Max is an angry child. He takes some of that anger out by whacking things. But this Max is also very much a hero. He wants to help this group of contentious monsters. However, Max says very little during the game. The monsters, which we know from the book are part of his imagination, do most of the talking for him. While true to the source material, Max's lack of communication is off-putting and inhibits the player's ability to form a strong emotional connection to Max. Nonetheless, the game is fascinating to explore.
While the Sendak's Caldecott Medal book is enjoyed by very young children, this is a game best played by children ages 10 and up because the platform puzzles seems treacherous and can be hard at times; Max is constantly fighting and destroying things; and the monsters, while basically friendly, can be provoked into swallowing Max whole. Eating Max is meant to be silly, and the game restarts before Max was swallowed; but younger children might not see the amusement.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.