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

I SPY Universe

I SPY Universe

Spring 2011 Video Games
Ages: 6 & Up
Publisher: Scholastic Media
Price: $19.99
Gaming System: Nintendo DS

Our universe is in trouble because the sun is fading. And you posses a cosmic generator that can spark up the old star, but it's missing pieces that can only be found solving "I Spy" puzzles (36 riddles and 400 objects). Collect all the missing 36 pieces that you earn by solving the riddles, save the sun, win the game, simple as that!

At its core, this is an electronic version of the "I Spy" series of the popular find-the-objects books. You start with two planets, each with two picture puzzles in which items from a riddle are blended with dozens of other objects. The riddles are tried-and-true "I Spy" style, such as "I spy a yellow snake, a dolphin that's blue, three red snakes……one pink worm, and the largest spider of all, to make you squirm."

Easier said than done. A few of the objects, you find right away, but always there are those that take forever. Tap a found object with the stylus and it emits a little buzz and electric swirl on-screen and its text color changes in the riddle.

The game offers periodic hints if you need help. Along the way, six other brain-teasing mini puzzles pop up for a change-of-pace. And, as you finish riddles, other planets unlock other riddles and puzzles.

One heads-up to Scholastic: Either drop the superficial pretense of a storyline and just create 36 incredible "I Spy" puzzles, or make the 36 puzzles' content consistent with the context of racing through the universe. In this, the second "I Spy" game on Nintendo DS (the first was "I Spy Funhouse" in 2007), the random objects within each puzzle have little or no connection to space travel or planetary themes. The puzzle pictures look more like jam-packed toy boxes-filled with everything from hammers and train cars to dominos and numbers.

But for "I Spy" fans whose eyesight is up to finding tiny objects camouflaged in cluttered puzzles on small Nintendo DS screens, this game can be fun and addictive.

Don Oldenburg   ©2011 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.

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