I have to preface this review by saying that I’m a huge Where’s Waldo fan. Ever since I was in grade school, the thrill of finding some striped British dude amongst a rambunctious crowd was second to none.
Well, Waldo has been mysteriously absent from the video game scene for the past thirteen years. Can a simultaneous Wii, DS, and PC release suddenly make the old chap relevant again?
In a move that can only be expected by a book franchise turned into a game, as soon as you boot up The Fantastic Journey on the DS, you’re greeted with a very bare bones menu screen. “Solo Journey on Easy or Normal” and “Sound Options” are all you’re going to get.
My initial reaction to the game was underwhelming , but all of that changed when the game actually started. I was completely dumbfounded as at how authentic the entire in-game experience was. Scenes like the Water & Fire Monk War were more alive than ever, and not only does the game contain special intros for each picture, but a select amount of in-game sections are animated as well. Long story short, Waldo fans will love the amount of care that went into this title.
Ok so it looks pretty, but what do you actually DO in a Where’s Waldo game other than find Waldo? Well, each level starts out requiring you to find not only Waldo, but Wenda, and Wizard Whitebeard in the entirety of one giant scene. Considering most of them span 20+ screens, it can definitely get challenging. After seeking the trio out however, all you have to do is find various objects and characters in smaller sections (5 or so screens).
If you are able to spot various dog bones in the picture, Waldo’s dog Woof can point you in the right direction, automatically showing you the screen in which your subject is hidden. What I really like about this system is that you have to earn your tips, rather than simply cheat whenever you want.
A word of warning: don’t buy the official book with the sole intention of cheating! One of the first things I did is bust out my book, only to find that a lot of the objects are added into the game, and Waldo isn’t in any of the same spots. Foiled again, Ubisoft!
While the meat of the game is found in the standard mode, where The Fantastic Journey exceeds is diversity. It would be safe to assume that the only mode this title would have is a “seek and find”, but Ubisoft has succeeded in mixing things up a bit. In addition to the typical book series fare (finding the crew, and magic scrolls), you’ll get Wanda’s picture find, Woof’s “picture difference” game, and even Oddlaw, Waldo’s rival, will hijack your level from time to time.
Woof’s mode is very similar to the very popular tavern mini-game that presents you with two similar pictures, and tasks you with finding the subtle differences between them. Wanda’s game is a fairly unique take on the seek and find series, giving you photographs of certain sections that you have to find. In addition to these extra modes, Oddlaw will show up on occasion in the middle of a level, forcing you to find him or suffer the consequences of having to find extra mischievous Oddlaw themed animals (how cheeky!).
While the gameplay is fun, your money doesn’t go very far. I was able to complete the game 100% in around four hours, which isn’t particularly meaty for a $30 purchase. It was phenomenally disappointing to get all 180 stars, and receive nothing in return: not even an acknowledgment. In fact, one of the worst parts of the ending is that it includes a trailer for the next planned title: Where’s Waldo? In Hollywood, almost as if to taunt your lack of things to do post completion.
It’s a shame that The Fantastic Journey DS didn’t include any additional modes or an extra difficulty, because it really is a shining example of how to correctly resurrect an old property without selling out by way of shovelware. If you’re either a hardcore Where’s Waldo fan or a puzzle fanatic, you probably want to pick this one up: otherwise, wait for a price drop.
The Fantastic Journey looks and feels exactly like Martin Handford's signature books. Fans will be extremely delighted to see their favorite scenes come to life through various in-game animations.
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Waldo's Nintendo DS debut controls about as well as you'd expect for a seek and find game. Stylus precision is great, and you can conveniently scroll each picture with either the touch screen or d-pad.
While the music is fantastic and relevant to each level, you'll get sick of Wizard Whitebeard declaring the same three statements after successfully finding a clue.
Where's Waldo's worst vice is it's horrid replay value. It took me about 4 hours to achieve a perfect 100% completion rate, and after getting every single star, I wasn't even given a notfication. Also, the only difficulty choices are "easy" and "normal".
Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey looks and feels like an authentic piece of Waldo merchandise; not throwaway shovelware. Fans of the book series will definitely want to have a go at it, but everyone else should steer clear due to the title's short length.