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.



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.



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.


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*.


Saying “Hi!” to Kirby

This weekend, Charmander expanded his video game horizons. Well, it really began on Friday. I had stuff to do and I wanted the kids out of the way, so I granted them a bonus afternoon screen time session of watching some brain-rotting YouTube videos. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just put on some normal, wholesome, brain-rotting TV. Probably it was because that’s what the kids asked for. Specifically, they enjoy watching the videos of Zack Scott. I swear, I will go into detail some day about how and why, but the point is, this is whom they enjoy watching. (I was very relieved when, upon checking his Facebook page one day, that OTHER people also let their preschoolers watch him; he’s very popular with the 5 year old crowd. Just note that he keeps his videos’ ratings in line with the actual games’ ratings, so if he’s playing a “T” or “M” rated game or the like, the language will match. Always screen your “Let’s play” videos before letting your kids watch them). Anyways, I let them pull up the channel via our PS3 (because Charmander CAN do this himself), but with the caveat that they couldn’t watch a video of Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. Because I said so, that’s why. Squirtle noticed that there was a video with Kirby, and I OK’d watching that.

Well, Charmander was able to put some pieces together in his mind upon watching this playthrough of Kirby Triple Deluxe:

  1. This is a game for a system we own
  2. Mommy and Daddy are capable of buying games
  3. This game looks fun
  4. Mommy and Daddy should buy this game

At least, I figure that’s what went through his mind, because he asked. He hasn’t really asked for games to be bought before. Ok, well, that’s not entirely true. We’ve been in stores, and he’s asked for Wii U games, but we don’t have that system, and he’s asked for PvZ: Garden Warfare, but that requires an XBOX Live Gold account and always being online, which is not happening. But this is a game that he asked for without seeing the box. I said we’d talk to Daddy about it, which is a fancy way of saying “No, and I don’t want to talk about it right now”. I put him to bed later on, before Husbachu got home, and thought nothing else about it.

The next morning, I find Charmander sitting with a Wiimote in his hands playing the NES Kirby’s Adventure. Oh, good; we purchased that a long time ago on the Virtual Console, so it’s like it’s free at this point, which was why Husbachu fired it up for him.

If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.  Best slogan ever.

You eat that box art, Kirby. That’ll teach ’em.

He claims that if Charmander can beat the game, maybe in the distant future we can buy him Triple Deluxe. Maybe. Maybe he’ll have forgotten by then! We just don’t want to spend money on games for a child who will likely not be able to play through the game himself. It requires more manual dexterity than a tower defense game does. Case in point: he was too stressed to beat the bosses on his own. Husbachu did the classic battle against the tree for him, and I took care of the first onslaught of Meta Knight. He did play through the rest of the stages up through most of the second world, so that was pretty good, at least. Now I’m wondering if mine and Husbachu’s backseat gaming is causing Charmander to rely on us too much. Maybe he wouldn’t ask us to do it if we weren’t sitting there next to him looking so capable. Anyways, after I did the Meta Knight fight for him, he seemed to be getting whiny, and then I discovered he’d been playing video games for an hour without having breakfast or anything like that, so we had to stop and act like humans for a bit. Later that night, though… he wanted to watch game play videos of Triple Deluxe again.

What's pink and sucks?

Eat that… stuff in front of you… Kirby. Is it us? Are you eating us?

And then he wanted to watch it again the next night, and this night as well. Two weeks ago, for show and tell at his preschool, he brought along some Plants Vs Zombies K’Nex. The week before that? A plush PvZ Zombie. And some random time before that, he brought along those cut outs I mentioned making for him before. But this week, he brought along a big Kirby plush we’ve had sitting around for ages.

Is a new era dawning? Is our home life about to become entirely about a pink ball with feet that devours all that crosses his path and absorbs his foes’ powers? I don’t know for certain. He is still playing PvZ daily, probably because this month there’s a special “party” every day in PvZ2 that awards special prizes. It is kind of refreshing to see some real enthusiasm for SOMETHING THAT’S NOT PLANTS VS ZOMBIES. Not that he hasn’t had other interests this entire time. But this is a nice change of pace. And always remember: If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em. Thank you, Kirby.