Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey

October 26, 2009

Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey is a game about the difference between digital and analog. In the book, you have a list of characters, scenes, and objects to look for, all while enjoying the sights and scenery.

This isn’t the place for a deep discussion, but the point is important: Where’s Waldo? in video game form turns looking into Waldo into a pass/fail test with a timer, with access to future content in the game being relegated only to those who pass. The book does not do this; if you are tired of searching for something in one picture, you can simply pick any of the pictures from any of your books that you want. This is the smallest microcosm in existence that one can point to illustrate how poorly or awkwardly video games often attempt translate other mediums.

It’s clear that I’m on the side of the books, since that’s what I grew up with, but it must be admitted that there are some people who have a sort of preference for this thing.

The point is salient because the content of this game is solely based on the pictures in the book. The exact pictures are all here, but with a twist: Waldo is not in the same spot. In fact, he has more than one spot. That number is finite, but at least it’s more than one. When Martin Handford was creating his pictures of crowds, he stuck in Waldo as an afterthought, and Waldo then ended up becoming the public’s main interest. In software, it is surprising how easily and consistently Waldo looks like he naturally belongs where he belongs, even though he was stuck there randomly by the computer.

So far, so good, but the DS imposes limitations from which the game can’t escape. In every case, you must use the stylus to pore over the image. The entire image can’t be done justice in such a tiny screen, so you must scroll. Again, it just doesn’t seem as good as the real thing.

Each picture has three levels, and it’s odd to go back and look for things you’ve already seen the first time through. The “spot the difference” levels are quite challenging and a nice exception; they are actually pretty challenging, changes being extremely small and difficult to detect. The Odlaw levels, on the other hand, are extremely easy or difficult (usually the latter) because of the different color tones each level has. He places 15 animals, all which have yellow and black stripes, throughout the scenes, and they are tiny and don’t fit in as well as Waldo or Wenda do. I once found a monkey in the middle of some rocks and a snake just sticking out of the ground and jutting into the air at an awkward angle.

There is barely an ending to the game, and with the exception of some occasional animation of Handford’s work, there really is nothing here you can’t see elsewhere. It’s clear the game is designed for kids and Waldo-lovers, and if those kids would love the digital version of a Waldo activity book, there is plenty to do, especially with highly different difficulty levels. Otherwise, stick with the books.

ESRB: E for Everyone. Do the Waldo books offend you? It’s straight out of those.

Pros: You can turn the annoying voices off, cool to see animated art from the world of Waldo, easy to replay, doesn’t stick everything in the same spot every time

Cons: Software limitations become obvious quickly, practically no ending, either too easy or too hard

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.