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atari breakout
Written by  :  SomeRandomHEFan (168)
Written on  :  Oct 29, 2022
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars

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Summary

Somewhat improved, but still a run-of-the-mill edutainment game at its core

The Good

This game is part of the second batch of Humongous Entertainment's Blue's Clues games along with Blue's Treasure Hunt. Compared to the first batch, a few welcome improvements can be found in these games.

Notably, Steve lacks those bizarre fake scanlines that plagued the first two games. Though it's still obvious that you're looking at heavily compressed video footage, he no longer looks nearly as out of place as before. The rest of the visuals are fine as usual, with only a few spots featuring clearly visible dithering.

Furthermore, more effort was undertaken to ensure that characters sound like in the show. Though Tickety Tock and Mailbox aren't very prominent characters this time, they are now voiced by their actual voice actors from the show and sound like they should. With one exception, even extremely minor voice actors make a return. You'd be forgiven for not knowing that Bell and the three scales aren't original characters, seeing how they only showed up in a single episode, but all four of their voice actors reprise their roles here. (It probably helped that their episode was produced at around the same time as this game.)

And while I still can't call the music good, the selection has improved somewhat, thanks to the addition of a few reasonably lengthy tracks that work better in a game than much of what we saw before.

The Bad

But much like with the first batch, this activity collection is very much just a side dish that can't compete with the adventure game released along with it.

Once again, this is largely just a selection of six educational activities with a very basic hub connecting them. They certainly accomplish the educational part of edutainment, with the developers having clearly put some thought into different ways to teach preschool children the basics of math and somewhat related concepts such as reading tables or recognizing patterns. But the entertainment side of things falls a bit short, with most of the activities really not being all that fun to play and getting very repetitive quickly. Tink's activity is a bit better at this than the rest since it at least offers frequent changes to the environment and has some cute cutscenes showing the fruit of your labor. And most of the activities have dynamic difficulty levels, even if you can't adjust them manually. But even those things can't keep the game fresh for all that long.

As usual with Blue's Clues activity collections (and with their spiritual predecessors, the Big Thinkers series), there is also a meta activity of sorts here. Success in the normal activities rewards you with Blue dollars that you can use to purchase prizes. Once you have a full set, they'll be turned into a big prize and you'll get a cutscene in which you show it to Steve. It's a cute little reward that allows the game to at least convey a bit more of Steve's charm than Blue's ABC Time Activities, but it's not a whole lot. Thanks to certain activities awarding you a larger amount of Blue dollars for some achievements, grinding through the game to get all the big prizes can be a speedier process than last time if you know how (I found that Baby Bear's card game offers a pretty fast payout if you skip the dialog and animations), but it still becomes pretty boring after a while. Individual activities just don't stay interesting as long as the game expects you to keep playing them.

And once again, Steve is completely absent from the actual core of the game. Outside of these reward cutscenes, he's only present at the beginning and end. I can understand why this may have been a necessary move to fit the game on a single disc, but it is a fairly major flaw regardless, as he was always a major part of the show's appeal.

As for the one character that did get recast, it's Tink. They're again a very minor character from a single episode. And it's a somewhat older one, so it's not too surprising their original voice actor wasn't brought back. Unfortunately, they went with Roland Michel instead, a child voice actor who I already thought sounded weird in a bad way in Blue's Birthday Adventure. And I feel the same way here, in addition to the fact that his voice has little resemblance to the original.

I guess you could also consider it a flaw that Bell and the scales were redesigned, but I think that was an understandable move. Their original designs were rather photorealistic and wouldn't have translated well to a more limited color palette.

The Bottom Line

Just as last time, this is by no means a poorly made collection of activities. But it doesn't even compare to either of the series' adventure games. With it not really having a whole lot to offer beyond a bunch of activities that are primarily educational rather than entertaining as well as Steve's limited role, it just misses too much of what defined the series to be considered a decent adaption.

I think I can understand why these games exist and why they are the way they are. While the two adventure games may have captured a lot more of the series' essence, this came at a serious cost in file size and necessitated splitting them across two discs each. And some parents just weren't willing to pay extra for the higher manufacturing costs. So it made sense to also offer less ambitious titles like this as a more reasonably priced alternative. But this doesn't make it less unfortunate that this is all this game has to offer. It may still be serviceable for teaching children who are fans of the show the basics of math, but there's not much that actually makes it memorable.

Atari Black Friday