Review: Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey (Nintendo Wii)

Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey
Developer: Ludia
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Release Date: 9/22/09

Remember Waldo? He’s the famous world traveller who looks like Harry Potter disguised as a barber pole or maybe Rick Steves cross-bred with a candy cane. He liked to hang out in large crowds with his dog Woof, his mentor Wizard Whitebeard, his platonic friend Wenda, and his photo-negative doppelganger Odlaw.

Waldo started out as Wally in the UK, became Willy in Norway, Charlie in France, and Effy in Israel. Why they would change the name from one English speaking country to another is beyond me, but Wally became Waldo in the US. (Perhaps American marketers were trying to pre-empt any Leave it to Beaver jokes.)

At any rate, he was a huge phenomenon in 1991, a year in which Waldo got his own NES game and cartoon show. (He was voiced by Townsend “The Tick” Coleman, and Brad Garrett played Wizard Whitebeard!) Waldo puzzles soon started showing up in the Sunday funnies and on the back of Quaker Life cereal.

But the question remains: does Where’s Waldo make for a good video game? Most of the folks who’ve played the NES, SNES and Genesis Waldo games would probably answer, “no”. Those games were terrible.

Will the unique controls of the Nintendo Wii finally make a Waldo game worth playing, or should Ludia have made a Magic Eye game instead?

1. Story
The story of Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey is a faithful translation of the source material. Wizard Whitebeard is set to help you to help Waldo to find twelve scrolls in order for Waldo to find the truth about himself. He might also have to save the world or stop Odlaw from doing something or another. There is a lot of talking going on in this game, but nothing I would refer to as a plot.

The basic story of Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey would be as follows: There are things that desperately need to be pointed at, and something bad might possibly happen if you don’t point at them.

2. Graphics
Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey, the Wii game, looks like Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey, Martin Handford’s book. The Nasty Nasties, the Gobbling Gluttons, the Battling Monks and company all look like they came straight from the source material.

The downside of this aspect is that all of the images are strictly 2d and mostly static. When a character speaks to you (as happens far too often) they often accomplish this task with what looks to be two or three frames worth of animation. Even in what could loosely be described as “cut-scenes” the animation more closely resembles a GIF file than a modern video game.

3. Sound/ Music
The music of this game is pleasant. One could describe it as “chill”, if one were accustomed to such vulgar parlance. The sound effects are fairly limited, as the majority of the game necessitates only three of them: one for a good click, one for a bad click, and one for “you already clicked that thing”.

The voice acting isn’t bad, especially graded on the video game curve for such things. The minor problem is that, at default settings, the voices are drowned out by the music. The major problem is that most of the dialogue is completely unnecessary. Waldo, Wenda and Whitebeard will talk at you all the time, but what really needs to be said? The bottom of the screen tells you what you need to find. You find it. Done.

As that great American Poet once wrote: When I say something, my lips are sealed. Say something once, why say it again?

4. Control / Gameplay
The game is split into twelve sections, each with three games. Each level contains a hunt for the scroll. For these you have to find Waldo, Wenda, and Whitebeard in order to gather your party. Then you have to click on a bunch of random stuff before you are allowed to click on that level’s scroll.

Why?

I dunno.

Maybe it is supposed to be fun.

Rather than jumping from one scroll to another, the game gives you other challenges in between. At times Wenda makes you show her where she too her photographs. Jeezalou, lady, you took a picture already; why do I have to show you where you were when you took it?

Other times, Odlaw will show up with an army of yellow and black striped monkeys, birds and iguanas. You will have to click on them.

Still, that challenge is more fun than when Woof makes you spot the differences between two images. I hate that dog.

Aside from just pointing and clicking, the game offers a few extras. During some modes, you can feed a bone to Woof and he will help you find the thing which you are seeking via a color coded game of warmer/cooler. Finding some items will provide a bonus where either a shower of coins can afford you extra time or a twinkling circle will form around the next item to find.

The game punishes you for clicking randomly on the screen too often by having birds attack your Wii-mote and requiring you to shake them off. (Thus fulfilling the random shaking requirement of all crappy Wii games.)

Then, there is two-player mode. You know that min-game in Wii Play wherein you are tasked with clicking on certain Miis? Compared to Where’s Waldo?, that game is Crisco Twister with every sexual fantasy you’ve ever had. Yes, “Find Mii” is a naked orgy of fun compared to the two-player mode of Waldo.

Why?

The reasons are various and sundry.

First, the screen is split. Sure, each player get his own screen, but he’ll need a new prescription for contact lenses after straining to find these tiny, tiny things. It wouldn’t be so bad if the game offered any sort of zoom. It doesn’t.

Second, there are weird little power-ups evocative of the ones from the maligned battles of Guitar Hero III. I hate them and they can’t be turned off.

Speaking of lack of options, the only options in Multiplayer mode are volume levels and difficulty selection. Both players must play at the same level, which stinks if you want to play adult versus kid. The game is always two players. The level you play is determined at random by the computer, and players are given no choice. Each game only consists of one round.

In lieu of a points or anything that makes sense, the score is kept track of via a tug of war at the bottom of the screen. Seriously? A tug of war?

Seriously?

5. Replayabilty
Beating a stage gives you a star rating. You can revisit levels after beating the game. There might be some incentive to get five star ratings for every part of every level.

I have no such inklings.

6. Balance
The objects of the early stages of Easy mode are hidden so poorly, Dora the Explorer wouldn’t ask for help finding them.

The harder levels I found myself screaming at my television that everything looks alike and I no longer cared to look for anything.

That’s a good balance, right?

7. Originality
Aside from Where’s Waldo?, The Great Waldo Search, Where’s Waldo at the Circus, and Where’s Waldo?: Exploring Geography, Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey is the only game of its type to star Waldo.

The only one I can think of offhand, that is.

8. Addictiveness
If you are love looking for things, spotting the differences between two pictures, and other games you might find on the back of a cereal box, you still won’t find this game addictive.

Why?

Load screens.

Constant load screens.

Constant and inexplicable load screens.

Constant and inexplicable load screens that routinely last 15 or 20 seconds.
So many load screens.

9. Appeal Factor
Waldo is still a well-known character, but I can’t imagine a lot of people paying to play a video game starring him. He ranks just below The Lockhorns and Fred Bassetin terms of things from the comics section I’d like to play as a Video Game.

10. Miscellaneous
Upon beating this game, we are treated to. . . AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE NEXT WALDO GAME!?

A crummy commercial!?

My god, it’s full of fail.

The Scores:

Story: Worthless
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Good
Originality: Awful
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal: Poor
Miscellaneous: Worthless

Final Score: Pretty Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Where”Ëœs Waldo? The Fantastic Journey arrives fifteen years after the character had any sort of relevance, and affords its players little to no fun. It suffers from awful loading times, repetitive gameplay, redundant dialogue and features nothing resembling a story. Sure, it’s a budget game. but you know, you could probably buy some Waldo books for pocket change at any number of garage sales.

I’m just saying.

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