Noddy: A Day in Toyland (Game Boy Advance) review
"As Noddy strolls through the scenic locations in the game—which often include town streets, houses and finally a foreboding goblin forest—he’ll sometimes encounter threats to his life meter. These villainous creatures are never all that frightening, with the possible exception of the zombies that suddenly pop out of the soil at inopportune moments."
Noddy is a little elf who somehow owns a spiffy red sports car and lives at the center of a quiet little village. When his friends have trouble, he’s the guy they call. Sometimes the kids have gone missing and their mother wants to find them so she can take them to a day at the beach, or maybe a prized crate is gone. Perhaps there’s a kite that needs assembled, only the pieces are missing. For these issues and more, there’s one solution: Noddy.
In Noddy: A Day in Toyland, young gamers will take on the role of the helpful little elf. They’ll do everything I mentioned above, and they’ll drive his car a lot. Between action sequences, they’ll see still frames accompanied by simple text. In essence, they’ll read through a short little book and participate in some simple stages in between.
It’s clear from the very start that whoever made the Noddy characters is in tune with how kids think. What little kid doesn’t want to drive a car at some point or another? What kid doesn’t like the idea of helping people and then going out to ice cream as a reward? These are universal values. If there’s a kid that doesn’t like cars and ice cream, I’ve yet to meet him or her. And the idea that you can help people and the world will be a better place is one that parents will be quick to enforce, so the game is definitely sending the right message. Is it fun, though?
For the most part, it is. At least, it should be for the youngsters. Noddy controls quite naturally, like any other hero that’s ever squashed a mushroom or run through a few speed loops. The direction pad moves him, the ‘A’ button jumps and anything else lets him use his weapon. When I say ‘weapon,’ what I really mean is ‘cupcake’ or ‘bag of goodies.’
As Noddy strolls through the scenic locations in the game—which often include town streets, houses and finally a foreboding goblin forest—he’ll sometimes encounter threats to his life meter. These villainous creatures are never all that frightening, with the possible exception of the zombies that suddenly pop out of the soil at inopportune moments. More common threats are monkeys or circus workers who walk around on their hands instead of their feet. Noddy also takes damage if he walks into the sharp side of a trolley cart. Otherwise, his world is pretty darn safe.
Even if it weren’t, there’s an abundance of life-restoring items littered throughout the streets, trails and ledges. Noddy has five slots on his meter and any time he runs into a foe, there’s a restorative item within a few inches. So for the most part, competent gamers will run through the game and barely take a hit, while younger ones may find the game challenging but far from impossible.
That’s true even of the car sequences, which deviate from the platform action and instead find Noddy driving from left to right. He still has to avoid taking damage, but now he must concern himself with stumps, rocks and various other roadblocks. Along the way—as in the side-scrolling scenes—he can collect coins. These serve no real purpose that I found, but they’re fun to snag just the same. They also force you to take risks. One might be perilously close to a rock, so you’ll take a turn you might otherwise avoid. Of course, there’s not much fear that you’ll have to restart; life replenishing orbs are just as common as they are anywhere else in the game. You could almost play without looking at the screen and still survive just fine.
That works well. It makes Noddy: A Day in Toyland feel almost exactly like a storybook, the sort of thing you’d read with your kids at night. Since the adventure is pretty easy, you can let kids have fun with Noddy or maybe even play it along with them on occasion. And it’s short, too, just like a storybook. It only lasts about a half-hour. Normally, I would consider its length an issue, but anyone who has kids knows that they like to fixate on a few favorite things and then play with them until they fall apart.
If you have kids of that nature, then Noddy: A Day in Toyland is an obvious purchase. It won’t long appeal to anyone over six or so, but it’s a good diversion for those in preschool or kindergarten. Generally polished visuals and some of the most chipper music I’ve ever heard in a game show that the developers know their target audience well, too. This wasn’t just slapped together overnight. If you have young children and $20 to spare, don’t hesitate to take this little adventure home. Anyone else should probably remember who the game was most certainly intended for and act accordingly.
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 22, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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