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Ultimate I Spy (Wii)

Rated: 3+.

Story: You've found a mysterious contraption. The only way to power it up is by solving riddles.

Gameplay: The game consists of a series of scenes, such as a science display in a classroom and a fish tank in a kid's bedroom. There are ten scenes and each one has four riddles to solve. Each riddle is essentially a selection of things to find by moving the camera angle around using the d-pad (or thumbstick) and then clicking on them. Some objects instigate a mini-game which needs to be completed to cross the entry off the list. These are mostly pretty basic affairs involving a bit of wiimote waggling.

Ten of the mini-games are slightly more involved and have a high score challenge separate from the main game.

Save System: It's possible to save progress and quit at any point. There's also an auto-save after the completion of each riddle.

Comments: You're probably not going to believe me but this game is brilliant.

I know it's called I Spy and sounds about as much fun as searching your lounge for a lost piece of LEGO. I know it's a budget game on the Wii. I know it gives the impression of being vaguely educational. I know all these things mean it should be rubbish. That doesn't matter. Ultimate I Spy is great.

What's hard to get across about the game is the fantastic design of the scenes. Items are so well hidden in plain sight that it's possible to still be discovering new objects even after half an hour of peering at a collection. Despite this, the scenes are beautifully arranged and never seem unfairly jumbled. Solving the riddles is a case of learning to shift focus between different levels of depth and detail and to question assumptions about everything from size to colour. Sometimes just working out what to find calls for lateral thinking. Each scene requires more concentration and brainwork than most games do in their entire length. It all goes to show just how lame and unimaginative the 'puzzles' are in things like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil.

Every session of Ultimate I Spy is a chance to discover and explore and slap yourself on the head for not spotting the 'obvious'. It'll give you a better mental workout than Brain Training. It seldom becomes frustrating, though, and it's always possible to progress with a little perseverance.

The game is ideally suited to the Wii since it's so easy to point at things using the wiimote. That said, it does feel like the developers' first experience of the hardware, thanks to the copious motion-sensing and rather excitable use of the wiimote speaker. For every inspired sound-effect and moment of enjoyable controller waggling, there are five pointless cranks to turn and twenty bizarre noises coming from your hand. This isn't a major problem but some of the mini-games can be quickly tiresome.

The real issue is the game's length. Play it in a determined fashion and you'll become used to the devious tricks employed by the designers, whistling through in around five hours. Theoretically, children will take much longer but they're liable to either ask for help or work together, so the time increase isn't as large as it might be. Nonetheless, the quality of what's on offer and the budget price ensure decent value for money. (There are also the high score challenges if they happen to take the kids' fancy.)

Overall, Ultimate I Spy is an excellent game. Your children may not be convinced initially but if you sit playing it in the lounge, anyone who passes by will be sucked in. Eventually, everyone in your entire household, no matter how young or old, will be staring at the screen, muttering to themselves as they look for 'four jacks, a hen, a bed; a fox on blocks and a marble that's red'.

Conclusion: Ties with House of the Dead: Overkill as the most fun I've had on Wii this year. Strange but true.

Graphics: Beautiful.

Length: Short.

Rating: 4/5.


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