I Spy Spooky Mansion (Wii)
Posted by Jim Cook, Nov 02, 2010 03:22
Reviewing games meant for children always reminds me of the three broad types I played back then. There were conventional games in the sense most readers would understand them to be (Mario, etc.), edutainment titles that at least had some educational value (such as Carmen Sandiego), and ’kids games’ that tried to be somewhere between those two ideals and failed at both. "I Spy Spooky Mansion" is in the third category, taking place in a Halloween-themed mansion with extremely basic puzzles that are joined by sections where players must wave the Wiimote around to complete tasks. I suppose this formula might work for the very youngest of children, but to be fair there are better and cheaper ways to educate or entertain them... and anyone much older than six years old is going to quickly grow tired of this game.
The mansion is divided into several rooms to explore, each with a series of objects strewn about it. You’ll hear a ’riddle’ (really just a list of items to find), then have to click each one to get them marked off the list. There are no penalties for being wrong, so you can just click away wildly until you find everything. That’s probably for the best, because the game sometimes has bizarre ideas about what counts; in one puzzle it listed "sugar" as an object, so I clicked the sugar I saw lying in a cup and nothing happened; it turns out I had to click the word ’sugar’ written on the cup itself... yet later puzzles written in similar fashion would use the reverse of that logic. So this means the puzzles are not only easy and short, but inconsistent and that’s a pretty bad thing to base your game around.
Some objects bring up a Wiimote-based mini-game in order for them to be fully counted as ’found.’ For example, if you want five apples from the sink then clicking on the sink will bring up a bobbing-for-apples event where you click on the apples as they rise, then you yank the Wiimote backward to pull them out. Or perhaps you’ll have to grind some food by turning the controller in a circle as if cranking a handle, or any of several other basic motion control events that lost their novelty shortly after the Wii’s launch four years ago. It got old quickly back then, and by now it’s just plain lazy; today’s Wii games need to use the controller in really interesting ways. Using them as the tail end of very short, simple puzzles isn’t the way to go and it really hurts any urge you’d have to keep playing.
Spooky Mansion’s presentation doesn’t make up for that. It’s competent, certainly well drawn and laid out, but it uses the same ’spooky but not really, in a kid-friendly way’ Halloween motifs seen time and time again. Basic voice acting doesn’t really help solve this, leaving you with something that looks and sounds decent but isn’t good enough at either to overcome just how basic the actual game is.
This leaves little to recommend I Spy Spooky Mansion. At $30 it plays like a cheap cash-in on the ’Wii casual’ craze far after a title like that would be remotely acceptable, and it has no real educational value. If you’re looking for something ’family friendly’ for your children, you have better options; titles like Puzzle Bots (PC) or The Amazing Brain Train (WiiWare) are more enjoyable and far less expensive, while if you’re okay with your kids playing a game that is merely fun for its own sake then there are honestly hundreds of choices across a wide variety of genres... perhaps the recent Costume Quest, interestingly enough sharing the Halloween theme, would be more appealing. Spooky Mansion on the other hand is a lazy game meant to cash in on basic Wiimote controls, and I have trouble recommending it to anyone at all.
Rating: 4.0, votes: 5