I SPY: Fun House
Do you remember the innocent days of yore? The annual extravaganza that was the carnival dropping into town, every kid on the street pissing their pants in keen anticipation? Do you recall the fun house? A purpose-built den that was one of its star attractions featuring vibrant, showy colours; discordant, yet euphoric tunes; a myriad of amusing devices such as reflection-warping mirrors; and the allure of the unknown. You could say that I SPY: Fun House captures a snapshot of all this, fusing it with classic “I spy with my little eye” type search puzzles, but that’s giving it far too much credit. I spy no ‘fun’ house here.
There are ten interactive activities to participate in, six of which are based upon the popular children’s photographic book series (and hence the name of this game). Here, you are presented with a fun house themed photo littered with the usual junk you’d find in such a scene: swinging monkeys, scattered playing cards, majestic carousel horses and so forth. A riddle is given to you on one screen detailing what is needed to be found, and your job is to search the big picture displayed on the touch screen with your stylus to locate them all and claim your winning ticket. It sounds simple, but many of the objects are obscurely hidden in trademark I SPY fashion, meaning that you will need a keen, observant eye to distinguish say a slithering yellow snake from what appears at first glance to be mustard smeared onto a hot dog.
Despite the lack of an invigorating musical accompaniment, and the general lack of excitement to be had from searching the small screen of the DS for even smaller nuances, the touch screen interface works quite well, as if you were scanning a PDF document on your computer desktop. In small doses, this should keep young children – playing with their parents (due to the pin-point accuracy required to locate the tiny objects) – happy. Unfortunately, these six photo-hunts don’t last very long.
Seemingly tacked on, to fill a lazy void, are four minigames that bear no relation to anything remotely I SPY-ish. One has you listening to, and then copying, the order of a sequence of carnival-associated sounds; another is a Columns-based ripoff which is as bare-boned as a puzzle game can be (can’t even speed up the flow of time!); the other two involve flinging items from bottom to top, to match up pairs or groups of similar (although oddly non-carnival) things – the unfortunate characteristic which they all share is being extremely light on action, imagination and hence, all the emotions that one would associate with a real fun house.
So, we have ten mildly amusing activities, or more precisely, a brief set of photographic search hunts plus some tacky and pointless minigames. Having been a fan of Jean Marzollo’s and Walter Wick’s I SPY picture book series when I was younger, I am sorely disappointed at how their work has been blatantly rushed in this interactive translation, blackballing the tender, loving care which made the hardcopy volumes such worthwhile dreams to read through and explore. If you were enamoured as I was, lost in the imaginative scope of the I SPY world with fond memories abound, you would do no great disservice to the original authors should you decide to give this DS conversion of a photogenic hit, a miss.