The game of "I spy" has been around for years, played by both kids and adults alike during family vacations, hanging out on a lazy Sunday afternoon or pretty much anytime the mood struck. Somewhere in time, the I Spy corporate brand was created and has since been used to churn out many books and games through the years that have entertained many folks. Recently, the folks at Gusto Games and Scholastic Press have brought back one of those original game titles with an updated version of I SPY Spooky Mansion
for the Wii that was originally released on PC way back in 1999.
While the latest incarnation follows the same premise of the original (you get trapped in a mansion by a skeleton and it makes you solve I Spy riddles and puzzles to escape), it adds a lot more depth to the game including several more rounds and puzzles to be solved, as well as integrating in the Wii motion controls. In the current version, the skeleton is named Skelly and he guides you around the mansion to each of the 12 areas to solve each I Spy riddle and locate the associated items, or solve the mini-game puzzle. The initial round of the game has you hitting 11 of the areas and finding pieces of a puzzle that you must solve to find out the next clue to escape.
Unfortunately, once you solve this and think you are on the way home, Skelly throws you a curve ball and has you hit all of the areas again, this time looking for mushrooms to make shrinking soup. This is the point where the game ends up being a bit repetitive as you try to find your way out of the mansion and end up scouring the place round after round. It seems like Skelly always comes up with a new excuse to keep you inside the mansion and make you slug your way through 11 of the 12 (the 12th area is always the “end” for each round) areas again to solve different I Spy riddles and mini-games. Although each area has fixed objects in it, the Gusto games does a pretty good job of changing it up from round to round so you never are looking for the same thing repeatedly. One positive is that the puzzle mini-games do get harder and more complex as you advance through the levels, and you do have to finish at least one mini-game per area in order to complete it. In total, there are 25 separate mini-games throughout the 12 areas of the Mansion. With each area having between one to three games, this ensures that it will not end up getting too repetitive by having to perform the same mini-game in each round.
One thing I did not like is that there does not appear to be any sort of hint or help system if you get stuck on a particular level or mini-game. This could lead to some very frustrating moments for the player as they aimlessly backtrack over an entire area trying to find one small object or complete a particularly challenging mini-game. I know we ran into a few riddles and puzzles that we simply couldn’t solve, so we ended up going to a different area and coming back with fresh eyes to track them down. We were pretty deep into the game and never came across any particular puzzle or riddle that we eventually couldn’t solve, but there was one tricky part in the attic that took us quite a while to track down.
While working my way through the game, there were a few things that I noticed that I thought might be of interest. One of which are the graphics (which are really good) and how they lend themselves to play this game on the biggest screen you have available. There are some cleverly hidden objects in each area that you may well miss if you have a small screen. You also have the ability to adjust the brightness in-game, which will make a room a lighter and easier to look about. There also is an in-game sensitivity adjustment if the Wii remote is struggling to select smaller objects. The game does support up to four person multiplayer, but we never actually went into that mode, as the four of us just sat around the TV in one room and pointed out to the person with the remote where one of the I Spy objects was located. How it works is that one person is the primary controller and the others support them during the puzzles and mini-games.
I SPY Spooky Mansion is a great game to challenge and entertain players of any age. My family and I played as a group on several occasion and we had a blast just trying to find the items and complete the mini games at each level. There may have even been a bit of trash-talking from the four-year-old when he finally spotted an elusive item that the rest of us couldn’t see. Despite there being a little bit of monotonous gameplay and a lack of a hint system, I think this would be a strong buy for any child or family that enjoys I Spy books and games.
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