The majority of Earth's population has tried to find Waldo of “Where's Waldo” fame at least once. Tracking the candy cane-striped globetrotter through dozens of crowded picture book crowd scenes was the '90s post popular sport.
Then, Waldo vanished. He traveled a bit, saw the world minus an audience. But he wasn't gone for good. Waldo has returned for a visit with Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey for the Nintendo DS. Just don't expect him to stick around long; the fun is over in a flash.
ESRB Rating: "E" (Everyone) with Comic Mischief and Animated Blood
The Basics: Find Waldo Yet Again
Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey is all about finding Waldo in about a dozen bustling crowd scenes, which really shouldn't surprise you. Granted, you won't always be saddled with the task of hunting down Waldo. You'll be asked to locate specific characters and creatures in the human sea, and Waldo's friends will appeal for help often. Waldo's girlfriend, Wenda, wants you to help her photograph certain scenes of the bedlam that usually surrounds Waldo. Whitebeard the Wizard needs you to find magic scrolls. Woof the dog loves to play “Spot the Difference” games that will drive you to tear your hair out. And the evil Odlaw is often afoot, scattering trouble with his swamp creatures.
There's lots to see—this is “Where's Waldo,” after all—but although Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey feels busy at first, it's over within a few hours. There isn't much variety in the gameplay, either: you'll be doing a lot of hunting and finding, and subjecting yourself to eyestrain. You probably shouldn't expect to explore the Mushroom Kingdom with Waldo, or the undersea ruins of Rapture, but some twists and surprises would have been nice. Moreover, the order of competition for the puzzles and games is very linear.
The Graphics: Nostalgic
You're required to find Waldo, his friends, and various knick-nacks through 12 of Martin Handford's famous drawings. Handford's crowded art is as charming as it was in the '90s, so it can be said that the graphics in Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey are a success. In fact, each visit to a new “world” (represented by a new crowd scene) is preceded with a quick, relevant Handford-style animation. Even the drawings themselves feature minimal animation, with moving characters peppered throughout. More animation would have been very welcome.
The game's music and sound effects are surprisingly enjoyable. Whitebeard isn't afraid of voicing his opinions of you either, though he doesn't go beyond “Well done!” and “Excellent!”
Conclusion: Travel With Care
Travelers, take heed. Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey isn't anywhere near as bad as the 8-bit Where's Waldo video game that haunted our childhoods way back when. In its own way, it's charming and fun—but don't expect to embark on a wild quest. Waldo is what he is, which makes him good company for a couple of hours, but not much longer.