All you adults out there, it’s time to get your sweaty paws off the Game Boy Color and let the kids have a go. Parents and children will recognise Arthur and his friends from the TV cartoon. This simple 2D game, Arthur’s Absolutely Fun Day, is aimed at 4 to 7-year-olds, but I gave it a test run in the name of gaming.
Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn, has given him a free pass to the WonderWorld Amusement Park. All he has to do is collect sixteen stars to put on the pass and he can go in. That’s hardly free, but oh well. Arthur has a variety of activities to do, each of which earns him a star as they are completed. All you have to do is help Arthur get his stars, as you play each of the games dotted around the town.
When starting the game there is a simple top-down view map of Arthur’s home town, Elwood City. Arthur’s smiling face appears as a cursor over the map, and you move him over a certain building or area. If there’s an activity for him to do a thought bubble appears with a relevant picture. You can select this activity, or move onto any of the others that take your fancy. It’s nice to see some flexibility in the interface, allowing you to do the games in any order.
The first activity I tried was shooting hoops in Arthur’s backyard. You can bounce the ball and make Arthur crouch as you consider the shot. Move Arthur closer and further away from the hoop and press the A button to shoot, but hold it down too long and the ball sails over the roof. Hold it too briefly and it bounces off the hoop. Luckily, one of Arthur’s friends is at hand to fetch the ball back to you. Once you have ten baskets the activity automatically stops and you see a star go on to your free pass. That means there are only fifteen more to get!
Next I tried flipping pancakes at Grandma Thora’s house. This is a top-down view of a griddle. Grandma’s ladle comes from the top of the screen and spoons pools of batter splash onto the griddle. Arthur, armed with his trusty spatula, has to flip the pancakes just as they bubble and then leave them to brown before piling them on to the plate. If you get the timing wrong though and they get burnt or not cooked enough, Grandma throws them away. Once you get into the swing of it, she ladles the batter on thick and fast, and you’re flipping and stacking like crazy. Ten perfect pancakes and the next star is yours.
Moving around the town, Arthur helps out at the library. The aim is to put the books on the shelf, putting similar colors together. This is done against the clock, but is reasonably easy.
There are ten activities, which can be done in any order, each with three levels of difficulty. The games become harder each time you repeat them. For instance, in the library you have less time to put the books back on subsequent attempts, or Grandma picks up the pace on the pancakes. You get one star for each game completed, so to get all sixteen on you your free pass you have to repeat at least some tasks. This adds a little bit of a challenge.
The little games have varying degrees of difficulty. The easiest being the berry picking, and the hardest is getting Arthur to pick up cans for recycling whilst on his skateboard. You have to line his hand up at exactly the right distance as he skates past and he’s not the niftiest of skaters.
One level takes you diving for hidden treasure. Arthur dons his snorkelling gear and takes to the water. This is nicely detailed with seaweed, fish and the like. There’s even a Game Boy hidden on the seabed. Now that is a cool find. Wonder if it still works?
Arthur’s other activities include helping out at the jellybean store. Put the colored beans in the jar of a corresponding color. He also has to deliver papers, throwing them onto the door mat as he cycles by. If he misses the mat though, it’s not counted. Next it’s onto the soap box derby, which is a first-over-the-finish-line type of affair. Sand and oil puddles on the track are thrown in to slow your progress. All in all, it’s a busy day for Arthur.
My personal favourite activity is the air hockey game. A top-down view with an arm at either end is the interface with you defending the goal. You can hit and block the shots and it’s the first person to score seven that wins. It’s excellent fun and Arthur’s mate Buster is pretty fly with the paddle, but still no match for me. ha ha! This is one of the more difficult levels and it took me"heh hem"a couple of attempts. The great thing about it is that it’ll remind all us big kids of Pong, which is not a bad thing.
The game as a whole is nicely presented, although I was a little disappointed that Arthur doesn’t utter one sound, not even a "yippee," on completing a level. You can ring the bell on his bike though, as he delivers the papers. I’d still would have liked a little more from Arthur’s performance. I just don’t feel that he put his heart into it.
The save function is quite a nice exercise in pattern recognition. When you save you have to remember the sequence that three character’s faces appear in the windows of the school bus.
My only other gripe occurs once you collect your sixteen stars you get free access to WonderWorld. It’s not exactly all fun at the fair here. Instead, there are some pretty lack lustre bonus games. There’s the dodgems, where you just drive around, bumping into each other. Then it’s on to the classic swing the big hammer to ding the bell so Arthur can show off his strength. Chuck the balls at the target and the clown gets dunked in water round out the fun, tee hee. In short, it’s not the winning, but activities that lead up to the park that make this game worth playing. Getting to the fair is more fun than the fair itself.
I’ve had my moan, it’s not perfect, but on the whole there’s enough to satisfy the age range it’s aimed at. I’m going to give Arthur and his chums four GiN gems because it’s good fun and there are some imaginative games included. Be warned though, the 6 to 7 year olds will work their way through it pretty quickly. The younger kids will find it a little more challenging, but can opt to repeat the easier games if they get frustrated.