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

I SPY Spooky Mansion

I SPY Spooky Mansion

Spring 2011 Video Games
Ages: 6 & Up
Publisher: Scholastic Media
Price: $29.99
Gaming System: Nintendo Wii

You're probably familiar with the concept of I Spy books and games: Players read or listen to a rhyme containing several objects cleverly hidden in a visually busy scene and then scour the scene to find each object. What you should know about Wii's I Spy Spooky Mansion is that it recreates that concept into a fascinating, smart and full-of-fun videogame that's better than any past I Spy title on the PC or handhelds.

This game looks, feels and plays 3D to those previous games' 2D. While the dark and ornate graphics are indeed spooky, parents need not worry much about youngsters getting the willies. Most of the attention here is on solving the rhyme-and-seek puzzles. And they are all-consuming and challenging.

No sooner have you stepped into a spooky mansion, the door locks behind you. Skelly the skeleton appears to tell you that the only way out is to solve all of the puzzles to reveal a secret message showing you the exit.

The puzzles take you through 12 rooms in the haunted house. In one puzzle, you're looking through three old drawers for all sorts of things-an egg, a jet, three beetles, a bee with an 'A', a car, a carrot, and more. Some of the objects are right in front of you, and usually the final few are difficult to find. Another level is a wonderfully rendered 3D graveyard where the search for items requires prowling the scene from almost all sides and above. There are riddles in the attic, in solarium, the kitchen, the portrait gallery, under the bed, even the bathroom!

A nice interactive touch is that some of the riddle object clues, when found, turn immediately into mini-games. A "net catching flies," for instance, becomes a mini-game requiring you to flick the Wii nunchuk just so to catch buzzing flies with a bug net. Other mini-games that put to use the Wii motion-detection technology include spinning plates, bobbing for apples, watering plants, throwing a yo-yo, turning a crank and repairing a circuit.

What's fun turn-about in this game is that just when you think you've solved enough visual riddles to escape, you find out you haven't. You have to revisit all of the rooms again at higher levels in search of completely different clues. In each new round, the mini-games get harder and the objects are harder to find. And while that's a good thing, giving the game more playability, one downside is that there are no hints or help. You're on your own with no easy way out!

Kids who love solving puzzles will love this game. Parents who love solving puzzle, think it helps teach problem-solving skills, and are concerned about their children becoming addicted to explosive, high-volume, fast-action videogames will also love this one.

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.

Look for this product at:
Scholastic Media
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers

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