The Great Waldo Search (NES) review
"I understand the NES wasn't the most powerful system out there, but only five puzzles? Give me a break! A game of The Great Waldo Search is destined to end in mere minutes because there's so little to do. And after that? Well, you could play again on the exact same screens looking for the exact same things in different locations. Perhaps you could try the "expert" difficulty where the only noticeable different is that you can't collect clocks to give yourself more time on ANY of the puzzles. Or you can follow my lead and vow NEVER to play this horrible excuse for entertainment again."
Back in the day, it seemed like most everyone wanted to know where Waldo was. Even if he was a somewhat geeky dude with bizarre fashion sense, the guy knew how to succeed at being a fad, as hundreds of "puzzles" involving his presence were created. The goal in each one was simple -- to find Waldo. He would be in a crowded place containing hordes of people in each picture, so the challenge was to use one's powers of concentration to block out all those other things and find one innocuous person randomly placed on the page.
Not so strangely, there has only been one time in my life where I enjoyed myself with a "Where's Waldo?" book. Back when I was in college, one fine Saturday saw me hanging out at a party at my friends' house while all dosed up on acid. Somehow one of these books got into my hand and let me be the first to tell you that a good old-fashioned psychedelic mindtrip can make finding Waldo the most fun, challenging thing ever. Especially when you're in competition with one of your friends to find him on each page and she's not trippin' balls and, therefore, is finding him long before you each and every time while spewing a constant stream of trash talk in your direction. That whole experience tickled my funny bone (NOTE: laughing so hard that tears are coming out of your eyes does not make finding Waldo any easier).
So, to make a long story short, while "Where's Waldo?" wasn't my cup of tea, under certain circumstances I could find those books enjoyable. I'll likely never say that about The Great Waldo Search on the NES. To put it bluntly, this THQ game is one of the laziest attempts at entertainment in cartridge form I've ever experienced.
Derived from the Waldo book of the same title, The Great Waldo Search consists of a whopping five puzzles. In four of them, you have about a minute to find Waldo and some scroll belonging to a wizard in medieval-type places loaded with people and things that are so different in appearance than Waldo that he would stick out like a sore thumb if he often wasn't partially obscured by another character. To give you a large enough area to search in, each puzzle is a few screens wide, so you have to scroll to the left and right to find your quarry. THQ adds a few extras in these screens to give you something more to do than just click on Waldo and a scroll. By collecting small clocks, you give yourself more time to find things (great for getting a high score, as you get points for your leftover time). There also are little icons representing points you can collect and Waldo's dog also is hidden. Clicking on him takes you to a very lame mini-game where you control the pooch as it flies through the air collecting icons for points.
The fifth puzzle is the only one that I found remotely challenging.....but not in a fun way. This one contains nothing but Waldo clones and the scroll. There are no clocks, no point-scoring icons and no dog. You have to find the one Waldo on the screen who's missing one shoe and, as always, the scroll. The problem is that the dominant color of the scroll is white, which also is this puzzle's background color, so you essentially are searching for a tiny whitish object on a white background surrounded by 100 or so similar-looking people. It took me three or four tries before I could find that stupid thing in the alloted time and it likely will take three or four weeks before the Waldo-related nightmares cease.
In one aspect, this game is better than the book, as Waldo, the scroll and other items are randomly placed each time you play, so each time you boot it up, you won't get the exact same experience. In every other way, the book is superior. I understand the NES wasn't the most powerful system out there, but only five puzzles? Give me a break! A game of The Great Waldo Search is destined to end in mere minutes because there's so little to do. And after that? Well, you could play again on the exact same screens looking for the exact same things in different locations. Perhaps you could try the "expert" difficulty where the only noticeable different is that you can't collect clocks to give yourself more time on ANY of the puzzles. Or you can follow my lead and vow NEVER to play this horrible excuse for entertainment again.
The Great Waldo Search is just one more example of how game designers will look to make money off anything popular. That's led to vast numbers of poor games based on movies or TV shows glutting the market over the years and it also led to this game being made. If I was a real fan of the Waldo puzzles, I'd probably be offended a company would charge money for such a poor attempt to leech off their popularity. I don't even think this game would be made fun by acid, although I'll likely never test that theory, as much like shoplifting, trippin' is one of those things I just haven't done since the college days.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 10, 2009)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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