I Spy: Spooky Mansion

Yesterday, in apropos of nothing, Charmander got an idea into his head, and he voiced it all day long: “Tonight, Daddy and I are going to play I Spy!” For some people, this declaration would mean that they would be playing a game that consists of looking around the room, identifying something blue, and making the other person guess that same object over and over. In our house, it means a very specific video game. This one:

Celebrating 20 years... I think that's how long we'll be replaying this game...

It is as epic as it looks.

I should preface this by explaining that this game was actually purchased for Husbachu and me. As children, we both enjoyed the hidden picture puzzles within Highlights magazine, and knowing this, we found a new pastime in playing “Hidden Object Games” (AKA HOGs) together. Our general video game interests tend to lean towards single player games, so whenever we feel like we haven’t been bonding over a screen enough, we head over to Big Fish Games, download some demos, purchase the one that looks like it’ll probably last a decent amount of time longer than the hour preview you get, and then bask in a couple of nights of mutual eye strain. Anyways, one day it came to our attention that they were putting out a game on the Wii, and we were like, “Oh, boy! We can play this together without having to switch back and forth on the keyboard or poke over each other’s shoulders. Well, that Christmas (or maybe it was my birthday?) a friend wanted to get us this game, but he couldn’t find it, so he got us I Spy: Spooky Mansion instead.

It was slightly disappointing to discover it was a children’s game, but the silver lining there was that it would be perfectly fine to play it in front of Charmander, whom I believe was 3 when we first got it. If you’ve been paying attention to my previous posts, you’ll realize that “fine to play in front of Charmander” tends to lead to “this kid is OBSESSED with this game”. And he is. Occasionally. I don’t know what it is, but just every few months, he gets it in his head that we have to play through this game again. This evening, I believe it is the 5th playthrough that has begun.

A little background on this game: it’s based on a book! Head to any Barnes & Nobles around Halloween, and you’re bound to see it prominently displayed in the children’s section, with the slightly different title of I Spy Spooky Night. We took it out of the library once, and while I found it very charming, with its intricate miniature photo sets, the kids enjoy the simplified renderings of the video game version more. I can understand why: the game is more… user-friendly, as it were. In the book, there’s a lot of “find 32897452387439 of x item”, and by the time you find your 5th fahogogad, you can’t remember if you’re now seeing the 6th or if that was the one you found 2nd, and you can’t write in the book, so… yeah. The game keeps track of everything you find by coloring in the words in the dialogue box to match your hand cursor that you use to to point out the objects.

As barely seen in this bleary screenshot taken IRL

As barely seen in this bleary screenshot taken IRL

The dialogue box shrinks out of the way after introducing the puzzle to begin with, but can be summoned at will and also pops up upon a successful find. It’s also spoken out loud, so if your kid can’t really read, they can still play the game by themselves if they (and you) wanted.

The unfortunate thing about this game, the thing that makes Husbachu and I dread subsequent playthroughs, are the additional mini-games thrown in the mix. Modern HOG games are pretty big on having adventure-game puzzles to solve, intricate locks to pick, and riddles to reason through; so much so that the actual hidden object aspect is reduced. I think we played one once where there were only 3 hidden object puzzles to go through. While I Spy is primarily a hidden object game, there are mini-games within the puzzles themselves. Did I mention this game is on the Wii? That means that the mini-games are… motion control mini-games!!! Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! It is not enough to utilize the motion controls to easily point to objects on the screen. No, that’s not Wii-y enough. They had to throw in MORE.

I need to back up again and explain the game flow a bit clearer here: you’re trapped in a SPOOKY MANSION, and a skeleton named Skelly makes you go around the house solving puzzles, which, upon completion, earns you some kind of object from Skelly that’s supposed to get you out. Except, he’s totally dicking around playing a game with you, and you end up having to do every puzzle like, four times.

Don't be scared; it's not a real skeleton

Don’t be scared; it’s not a real skeleton.

Which means you have to do the delightful motion control games multiple times, too. Well, some of them. Honestly, most of them are pretty banal and, while they aren’t super responsive all the time, are easy enough to get through.

But.

Then.

Then, there is the plate spinning. Oh, the plate spinning. It starts simple enough. Spin one plate by frantically approximating a circle with your arm. Even if you’re terrible, it’s just one plate, and it’ll happen quick enough. Then, you need to spin 2 plates, and you need to get them to the same speed at the same time. It’s a little more annoying, but it’s doable.

But.

Then.

Then, you have to do 3 plates and IT IS NIGH IMPOSSIBLE!!! Every play-though, Charmander sits back and innocently watches as his parents make absolute fools of themselves swinging their arms off trying to get these plates to all spin at once. It’s pretty much enough of a work out for the rest of the year. Search Google for “I Spy Spooky Mansion plate spinning”. It’s page after page of people asking on every possible answer forum how this is supposed to be done. Every single person who has ever had to play this game on their child’s behalf has had to plead to the internet gods for salvation. But there is none. Because this is a test of a parents’ endurance. No FAQ can get you out of this. You must spin all the plates to get to the Ghost Machine, the final main puzzle of the game that rewards you with a game of hide-and-seek with a friendly ghost before you’re allowed to exit the manor. And you must get to the Ghost Machine, because if your kid is making you play this game, then their whole life revolves around the completion of the Ghost Machine. Charmander has this game myth in his head that if you complete the Ghost Machine and find the ghost, you get to play as him. I hope he spreads that rumor some day.

But.

For now.

For now, the plates have been spun, and the Ghost Machine completed. And tonight, the game has begun anew. It’s very likely that he’ll forget about playing the game after a few puzzles, and go back to other night time Screen Time events. But he always comes back.

The plates will have to spin again.

This playthrough, he is totally doing it all by himself. For real. I hope. *Sigh*.