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Written by  :  SomeRandomHEFan (136)
Written on  :  Sep 09, 2021
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.71 Stars2.71 Stars2.71 Stars2.71 Stars2.71 Stars

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Summary

Bigger franchise, less substance.

The Good

A year ago, Humongous Entertainment tried to expand into the realm of conventional edutainment with the launch of Big Thinkers!. The series would prove to be dead on arrival, which they blamed on said industry's fiercely competitive nature. But evidently, this wasn't enough to discourage them. And so they armed themselves with a big license and launched a new offensive.

From a presentation standpoint, the developers actually did a solid job adapting the Blue's Clues franchise to the computer screen. The static visuals retain the look of the TV series reasonably well. Blue's Clues always had rather simple color schemes, so outside of a few sprites with obvious dithering or banding, the reduced color palette isn't all that apparent. The difference is more apparent in motion, thanks to the choppier animation, but it's not that extreme either. After all, the show's own animation, although much more fluid, was also pretty simplistic.

Steve is where the limitations of the technology become the most apparent. Incorporating live action footage into a game comes with many restrictions, especially when it all has to fit on a single CD. As such, Steve is only present in the game's opening cutscene as well as in a number of ending cutscenes, of which the game will randomly play one each time you leave, with more being added to the selection depending on your progress. The cutscenes themselves also suffer somewhat from a low frame rate as well as the inexplicable presence of fake scanlines. I don't know if they were meant to conceal the limited color palette, but they end up making Steve's footage stick out from the rest of the graphics in a bad way. Having said that, his acting itself is perfectly fine. It feels just like in the show. It's a shame that he has so little presence in the game.

The voice acting fares better. Most of the characters have their actual voice actors from the show and sound just like they should. Two notable exceptions are Tickety Tock and Mailbox. Their substitutes are actually capable actors who have personalities of their own, but they don't sound much like the people they were meant to replace.

The soundtrack was handled acceptably. All of it seems to have been taken directly from Nick Balaban and Michael Rubin's work from the show. Blue's Clues tended to reserve music for key moments, so it's mostly just brief cues from various episodes. They have a certain experimental charm to them thanks to their playful tone and large variety of instruments, but the short length holds them back. And there aren't all that many of them. The only vocal track present is the So Long Song, which plays during the credits. Unfortunately, it was edited rather poorly, with a clearly audible cut near the end.

The Bad

As for the gameplay itself, it's pretty reminiscent of Big Thinkers!. It's simply a collection of educational activities. There is technically a hub, but it's just a single screen with nothing to play around with, so it's even more minimalistic.

There are six normal activities, all of which focus on certain aspects of the alphabet. They don't really center on teaching children how to read whole words and sentences (that would be covered in more detail by a future installment), but more on individual letters and pronunciation. All of them offer some decent educational value, but I can't really say that they have much creativity put into them. They're all pretty straightforward affairs that get old rather quickly.

The gradually escalating difficulty most of them have helps keep them fresh a while longer, but unlike Big Thinkers!, you have no control over it. It seems to increase at a somewhat faster rate than in that series so long as you don't make mistakes, but this is still no excuse not to offer any way to manually adjust it. It's strange that Humongous never thought of giving any of the Blue's Clues activity collections this option, considering the adventure games have such a feature.

Much like Big Thinkers!, there is also a meta activity which you can interact with as a reward for success at the normal activities. This one features a number of texts you can complete with words you earned in order to generate an illustration depicting the story. It's not a bad effort, but Humongous already made similar activities in the past. It's a bit lacking for the game's only means of measuring progress outside of the ending cutscenes.

The Bottom Line

At first glance, it may sound easy to turn Blue's Clues into an edutainment game. After all, the series already had a strong focus on edutainment-style activities. And unlike on the TV screen, a real edutainment game can offer actual interactivity. But the show also had elaborate frameworks surrounding said activities. They played an important part in giving the series its soul and making it more than just a collection of activities.

This game doesn't really seem to understand that. While it may have some limited effort put into a framework of its own, it simply isn't enough to disguise that this is just a collection of simple educational activities. It's not badly made for what it is, but what it is is rather unambitious and bland. Humongous Entertainment would soon prove that they can make good games carrying the Blue's Clues license when they have the budget to do something more ambitious with it, but this game was clearly just a side effort.

If you're retro enough to want your children to play edutainment games from the 90s, there are plenty of better alternatives. Even Humongous Entertainment's own Big Thinkers! series has more substance to it. And if your children are fans of Blue's Clues, I suppose the game wouldn't be a terrible pick, but there are two other games from the company that I'd recommend over it in a heartbeat. We'll get to one of them next.

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