We still haven't found this guy yet?
When I received Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey, I first thought back to the days of my childhood when I used to love searching for this pin-striped traveler throughout some of the most extreme backgrounds. There was something enjoyable about seek and find books such as these or the I Spy picture books and I found myself drawn to the act of finding things as quickly as possible.
Next, I remembered a game on the NES that I’ve played before that wasn’t quite as stellar as the books themselves. Limited to “8-Bit” graphics, the game featured smaller scale searches that felt more like a videogame than a replica of the books. Thus, I couldn’t help but be swayed by the thought that the rendition on the Wii may not live up to my expectations. Is Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey a solid purchase for your Wii or should young gamers stick to the beloved book series?
Same Old, Same Old
After turning on the game and entering your name, the first thing you’re greeted with is a solid bit of voice acting as Wizard Whitebeard gives you a brief tutorial of the game’s rules. And, as you might expect, the rules are as simplistic as “seek and find”; players must search through each level attempting to find a number of objects as well as characters such as Waldo and Wenda as quickly as possible. Finally, after finding every character throughout the large pictures, the magical scroll allows them to advance to the next level.
The only gameplay alteration I could see was the aid of Woof, Waldo’s pet dog, who can give you a hint or two on some levels, acting as a hot/cold type of seek and find where he’ll begin barking faster and faster the closer you get to the desired item. Also, there are globes that you can find throughout your search that either help or hinder your searching abilities but the use of Wii motion controls to flick the Wii Remote, for instance, felt a little forced.
Time is a factor, obviously, as a gradually decreasing star meter on the bottom of the screen dictates the amount of stars you’ll receive after playing a level, but because you don’t lose if you run out of stars on a level, you can end up taking as much time as you need to find the objects without too much stress of being penalized. If you’re able to gain 5 stars on a level, Wizard Whitebeard will reward you with a “special gift as reward for the highest achievement.” However, as exciting as this may sound, I never actually received anything and soon realized that the gift is just the pride of having 5 stars on the map.
There are only 12 levels in the game but each level can be visited on three different occasions according to the person hosting the search. Aside from different items and people to find on each time you revisit a level, the only other difference I noticed was the person’s voice the player will hear once finding each or the items. Still, levels must be played through on three different occasions (throughout different parts of the game) in order to advance to the next world. Thus, there is a total of 36 searches in this game, each lasting around 5 minutes and totaling only a little over 3 hours of gameplay (including time in menus and time listening to tutorials/voice acting.
I was impressed with the approach to the game’s art style as it fully mimicked the pages from the beloved book series with small animations strewn throughout each picture. Also, seeking and finding was as enjoyable as the books themselves. However, with only the 12 pictures from the actual book contained within this game, $30 seems a bit pricey for around the length of one book, featuring only the additions of voice acting, a few animations, and a decent musical score. For instance, I peeked and found that Amazon has a Where’s Waldo: The Complete Collection for the same price as the game itself, and this collection actually features 6 books.
On a last note, there is a multiplayer mode in the game where two payers can battle to see who can find objects quicker than the other. In this literal tug-of-war match, players’ teams of “Waldo Watchers” pull a little harder according to the number of objects found. Globes find a little more use in these games as they can become the equalizers, either hindering or helping the lucky finder. Still, despite the solid multiplayer, I did not find it any more enticing to play than the main game itself, both of which are built around speed.
Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey is truly a splitting image of the book itself, featuring exact replicas of the fantastical scenes with a few animations strewn throughout. Also, the act of seeking and finding is brought over and solidly reproduced onto the Wii. However, it’s still difficult to recommend any gamer to buy the game new as they can find the same fun within the books themselves (without all the bells and whistles) and can actually buy 6 of these books for the price of this one game. I would have liked to see Ubisoft approach the title on a dual front, where gamers can either buy it in stores or online at a lower price as WiiWare; that way, gamers could buy it at a much more affordable price than the current one.