You may remember that way back at Christmas 2019 I got a Flips Nintendo DS game of The Adventure Series. My DS tends to live in a drawer at the back of the living room cupboard, in a plastic drawer unit full of old consoles. I think the last time I used it was on holiday a few years ago, as that’s generally the only time I dig it out.
Well, after rescheduling our holiday three times due to COVID restrictions we finally went away at the start of September. So, I dug out the DS, hunted for the charger, crossed my fingers that it would still charge up and work, and put the game in my backpack.
I apologise now for the photos of the gameplay – without buying additional software there’s no way to take screenshots on a DS so I had to take photos with my camera and hope for the best.
So is this a game or a book?
Although marketed as a game, this is more of an interactive reading experience.
The full text of all 8 books is included and in order to interact with the books you need to read them or at least skim through as I mostly did.
As an aside page one of the Island of Adventure book reads The Island of Adventure as first published in 1944 by Macmillans Children’s Books. However, the text is not as first published – it is updated. From looking at the first chapter the same updates have been made as in the 2001 Macmillan edition, which also seem to be the same in the 2006 Macmillan edition which has a cover that matches the one shown in the game.
The ‘interactive’ illustrations are found by tapping text which is in bold. For the first book these are the main characters – which oddly includes Mr Roy but not Aunt Polly or Uncle Jocelyn. The second adds Mrs Mannering but not Tassie, Button or Scar-Neck.
Name those characters!
The sounds are also found by tapping bolded words. They are mostly of Kiki’s noises (a couple of different squawks and other noises are repeated through the book), with some laughter, doors slamming or being knocked on etc. As you can’t tap on the top (or in this case the left) screen, interactive bits there are accessed by a ‘links’ button at the top of the right screen. If there’s more than one you get treasure chests to tap, the order correlating to the bold words on the other screen.
The three quizzes have five questions each and generally require you to have read the preceding chapters in order to know the answer. Of course I got 5/5 each time but on a second play-through I deliberately answered some wrong and found as long as you scored three or more you would get a puzzle piece. Two or less and you just had to repeat the quiz.
Once you have collected all 20 pieces you can exit the book and go to the puzzle page where you can assemble a scene from the book.
As a book
As a reading experience this isn’t great.
There are some nice touches, for example the smooth animation of the pages is accompanied by a pleasant and varying page-turning sound effect. Navigating through the book is easy as you can turn one page at a time, use the contents list accessible at the beginning of each chapter to move through the book or you can scroll across a bar at the bottom to jump back and forth. However you are reading it on two rather small screens (three inches on the diagonal) and while that didn’t strain my (reasonably) youthful eyesight, the fact that so little fits on a page means there are over 1,300 pages! My hardback edition has 327, the equivalent paperback 276.
I mean, who knew that reading on the DS was an actual thing? You can still buy 100 classic books for the DS if you fancy reading Dickens or Austin on two tiny screens… I’ll pass, though.
There are some full page illustrations but as they are split across two screens they are somewhat spoiled. There are also a few smaller illustrations of Kiki and, strangely, the empty tins they find on the island are shown a few times. The same tins, still open but full, are at the chapter headings for the first book, and appear randomly through the second. The second book also uses some ivy and spiderwebs, and one of the castle’s tapestries several times each.
Some illustrations are split where not much is happening, but others cut people in half!
The Amazon listing reads All new illustrations – over 100 new images created for Flips DS, though I can’t find anywhere that tells you who the artist was. I suspect they were created to try to match Tresilian’s style/colours on the covers of the 2006 Macmillan reprints (which have no internal illustrations).
As a game
The ‘game’ itself isn’t particularly inspiring either. The illustrations are a nice touch but there are not many – a few of the Isle of Gloom, the boat, Craggy Tops and so on accessed by tapping would have been nice. The sounds are amusing to begin with but many of the same ones are repeated quite often and don’t always match the context or description. For example something heavy falling over with a bang is represented by a rat-a-tat-tat. Sometimes the same noise appears three or four times on a single page.
I love a jigsaw puzzle but the one at the end was frustrating due to the game mechanics. All 20 pieces are in the rectangle to begin with so there is no room to move them around without stacking them on top of each other, and one which lands in the right place will drop down out of sight under anything already in that space. The illustration used for the first puzzle also has a lot of brown wall making it tricky to identify where the pieces went (they are rotatable for extra difficulty!). Turning my screen brightness all the way up helped, but even then there was a lot of trial and error.
Yay or nay
I’m not sure I would really recommend this for grown-ups. As above it doesn’t do particularly well as either a game or a book, though it’s interesting to have if you happen to still have a working DS. For children, though, especially reluctant readers, it might actually be enough to keep them engaged. Catherine Woolley who worked on the Flips series calls them edutainment (a word which, weirdly, my spell-checker accepts!) and explains that they were created to encourage children to read by adding fun elements.
I’ve just discovered there’s a Faraway Tree version, too, where you can Collect items and unlock bonus content as you read! – Spot the feathers, musical notes, mushrooms and flowers hidden within the pages and collect them all to unlock recipes and fun activities. This sounds a bit more fun than the Adventure books, but the 6 book collection includes 3 of the continuation books.
There’s also Cathy Cassidy books, Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl amongst a few others.
I’ve just added the Faraway Tree game to my Christmas/birthday list, and if I get it I’ll let you know (eventually) if it really is more fun.