Speaking as someone who's been there and done that, it always proves difficult to find games for younger children, particularly those who haven't really learnt to read yet. You need to find a game that's simple enough for them to understand without to much help, that also manages to hold their interest for extended periods of time. Over the years, plenty of kid's TV tie-in DS games have cropped up - from the likes of the stellar Peppa Pig: The Game, to the decent, but perhaps a bit complex Bob The Builder: Festival Of Fun, such games can ultimately be a bit of a gamble. Sometimes though, a gamble pays off, and Noddy In Toyland - one of the latest DS offerings from family publisher GSP - is one such game.
Now, being a child who grew up in the 90s, I thought I was fairly familiar with Noddy - I mean, who can forget the little man in the red and yellow car (ding ding ding dong); Big Ears and Tubby and Mr. Plod and all his special friends; it was only sixpence an adventure and he'd take you home again... Even if it wasn't a favourite show, we still knew all the lyrics to the theme tune - or so we thought, until we turned the game on. You see, this game isn't based on the Noddy of our childhood, but instead the new CG Channel 5 show, Noddy In Toyland, that's popular with the youth of today. And how different is it? Once we got over the injustice of a new theme tune (hey hey hey Noddy, Noddy, Noddy's on his way; hey hey hey Noddy, Noddy come on and shout hooray?!) it was time to pick ourselves up and carry on, even if the helicopters and monster trucks shown in the intro to the show are WRONG.
Offering a total of fifteen different stylus-controlled mini-games for a relatively modest £15 or so, Noddy In Toyland is pretty good value, especially given the uncanny ability of youngsters to play the same thing over and over and over again. Around two thirds of the games are likely to be fairly familiar to any child too - whether it's pairs, spot the difference or a jigsaw, kids should be able to work out what to do for the majority of the games without a lot of help. And with the added allure of Noddy and friends, if they're fans of the TV show, then they're sure to get their money's worth out of the title.
The games are divided into five themed categories - Music, Memory, Observation, Puzzle and Skill, depending on what's involved. Of the three Music games, two centre around listening, remembering and repeating the sounds and the order in which they were played, but the final game is more Guitar-Hero-esque, in that you have to tap the music notes as they move down the screen. The four Memory games are more a mixture, consisting of the instantly familiar game of pairs; a game where you need to remember Tessie's clothes to recreate her outfit on the bottom screen; and a couple of games in which you have to memorise the items shown on the top screen, before a few disappear - and you have to touch where those objects used to be. The Observation games have old favourites like Spot the Difference, Odd One Out, and matching Toyland characters to their shadows - along with playing a game of catch with Bumpy the dog. Jigsaws and sliding tiles games live under the Puzzle section, whereas Skill games involve steadily dismantling a pile of logs and navigating Noddy's car around a bunch of obstacles.
Each mini-game can be played on three different difficulties - shown by the number of bells, with one being easiest and three being the hardest - meaning that everyone should be able to find a difficulty they're happy with. That being said, a few of the games can be a bit too challenging even on the easiest difficulty, particularly in the case of the 'Music In The Air' game, where the music notes move down the screen fairly fast, and often in large groups which require fairly fast reactions and may be an issue for some kids.
While plenty of the mini-games, such as simple games of pairs, jigsaws or spot the difference are likely to be instantly familiar to Noddy In Toyland's intended audience, some of the more obscure games may pose a problem for those who haven't yet learned to read. The one game that caused the most issues for us was the 'What's Missing?' games, where you need to remember the positions of the items shown on the top screen before they disappear, and then tap the locations where the objects were before - it's not really all that obvious what you're meant to be doing if you can't read, which may pose a problem for some.
All in all, Noddy In Toyland is a pretty solid game for the audience likely to be catching his TV show on Channel 5 - up until they're about six years old, anyway, at which point it may prove too easy. While it's nothing more than a bunch of fairly standard mini-games with Noddy characters slapped on, Peppa Pig: The Game, Timmy Time and Postman Pat: Special Delivery Service all proved that at that age simple games featuring favourite and familiar characters go down a treat. And at a bargain price of £15-ish, you can't really go far wrong.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS