Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

I SPY Fun House

I SPY Fun House

Spring 2008 Video Games
Ages: 7 & Up
Price: $29.99
Gaming System: Nintendo DS
Based on the popular, brain-workout "I Spy" books, this game challenges you to search for objects, shapes or numbers that are cleverly embedded in complex pictures. One of the game's six splendid big images, for instance, is a busy, colorful picture of a carousel with painted ponies, and you have to find a hidden pretzel, a whale, a two, a shoe, a blue bow, etc. As with the book versions, there are always a few objects that seemingly take forever to find.

All of the pictures in this game relate to a carnival fun house, the premise being that you're captive inside a fun house until you've solved enough of the picture riddles and won enough mini-games to earn the 10 tickets needed to get out. Not that you'll be looking to get out since this is a captivating game. And with no hints or clues, it can be infuriating, exhilarating, and usually both. The mini-games are a pleasant distraction from image scouring. Not that these mini-games are terribly original, but they're good enough to spark that beat-'em urge. One is a Simon-clone called Listen-Up in which you try to replicate the order of sounds. Another is a nothing-special sorting game called Hoop Shot in which you slingshot various items into circles of like items. The can't-put-down game is a Tetrus-takeoff called Pop-n-Drop, which drops a mishmash of images into columns and you have to match three or more by colors, shapes or types to clear them before the columns fill up. All of the games get harder as you play.

The learning value? Inquisitiveness, persistence, visual recognition skills, maybe an appreciation for aesthetically pleasing images. Ironically, one drawback is that it's hard to beat the attractiveness of the low-tech "I Spy" books, which cost considerably less than the electronic versions. Another downside is that this game's otherwise impressive visuals appear on Nintendo DS's two small screens. They can't contain the entire picture at once and you have to scroll around to see it in parts. So, while all this is fun, it's also a bit cramped.

Don Oldenburg   ©2008 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Scholastic Interactive
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Electronics Stores

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