I Spy Funhouse DS Review
Nintendo really opened up a gap in the market with their Brain Training games, educational games that are actually fun; edutainment some might say. They capitalized on this with other similar games, and plenty of other publishers followed suit, with the majority of games landing on a handheld format. Now Scholastic Press have jumped on the bandwagon, converting one of their children’s books, I Spy Funhouse, in to a game, but it’s a well populated marketplace, and it’s up against some seriously big hitters, does this really offer anything that the competition doesn’t?
The general premise of the game follows that of the book it’s based on, the player is trapped in a Funhouse, this predicament in itself raised at least one question in my mind, if the house is so much fun why are they locking you in? Anyhow, contradictory points aside, your only means of escape from this pleasure haven is to solve puzzles, the solution of each earning you a golden ticket, ten of which are required to open the thoughtlessly locked exit. That doesn’t sound so hard, does it? Solve ten puzzles and you’re out of there, until you realize there are only nine puzzles to solve. That’s not a problem though, there is more than one level to each problem, but you would have thought they’d give you at least ten puzzles to avoid repetition. As you’d probably imagine from the game’s ‘I Spy’ title the majority of the puzzles are observational, but they are different from your usual game of I Spy. Instead of being given a letter and having to find one particular object beginning with that letter, you are given a riddle and have to find all the objects named within the riddle on a picture. Sounds pretty straightforward, right, well you’d have thought so, but I must have searched some of these puzzles for hours without finding every object in every puzzle.
Personally I found this very frustrating, for the most part the objects aren’t too hard to spot, but there’s some that just don’t seem to be there. This game is supposedly designed for children, to help them improve their observational skills, and while I’m sure the objects are all actually there, making them so hard to find is going to be discouraging. This really isn’t a good thing for educational software, and whilst I realize my faculties may not be as sharp as a developing child I find it hard to believe this wouldn’t be frustrating to a child. Luckily though due to there being different levels to each puzzle it is possible to bypass the few items you may have problems with by just switching to a different puzzle and completing multiple levels. And there are different puzzles to be solved other than the observational ones, although these are in the minority. Out of the nine puzzles, six are observational leaving three that aren’t, these are also a bit more involving than just looking at a picture. The first of these other puzzles is a music box, which plays sounds that you have to remember and play back, it’s a simple memory test really, and pretty dull. The next puzzle is a sort of hoopla, you get a number of objects on the bottom screen which you have to fire up in to hoops on the top screen. Each hoop is a category and you have to fire the right kind of object in to the right hoop, so it’s a sort of association test, it’s also a timed test, and while the first of these are quite easy they do get challenging further on with moving hoops and shorter time limits.
The last of the puzzles is a sort of Tetris/columns type game, you get an ever rising group of symbols which must be cleared, this is done by touching three or more adjoining symbols that fall in to the same category. This also is a sort of association game as well as a timed challenge and like the hoopla game does get ridiculously hard after a lot of play. And that’s about it, once you get your ten gold tickets you’re out of the Funhouse, you can of course go back in and go for another ten tickets with ever rising difficulty levels, but would you want to? Personally I was bored stiff with it after escaping the Funhouse twice, and although it may have a little more appeal for a younger player it’s still not going to hold their interest for too long. Its educational value must also be called in to question, how much use is it going to be being able to find something hidden in a picture, or working out that an orange and pizza are both food items? Not much really.
Not much fun in this house
Really there is very little to recommend this game, the puzzles are either ridiculously hard or stupidly simple. And if you’re looking for something educational to play on your DS then you would be far better advised checking out any of Nintendo’s offerings in that department. I suppose if the little ones are a fan of the book it’s based on it may keep them quiet for a short while, but an empty cardboard box would probably do just as good a job.
… something beginning with ‘M’; a mediocre puzzle game.
4.5 out of 10