The Faraway Tree on the Nintendo DS

Christmas 2020 I got a Nintendo DS game of the Adventure Series which I reviewed here. Although it wasn’t brilliant I think the DS games are interesting, and are a rare example of Blyton’s works being adapted as video games with the exception of Noddy who I think has had a couple.

So, I asked for the Faraway Tree version and got that for Christmas 2021. My DS has been out the cupboard and being used more often lately as Brodie got some second-hand games for his Christmas (Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Timmy the Sheep – sadly the Peppa Pig game didn’t work). Having waited until he was in bed I borrowed it back.

An interactive reading experience

Like the Adventure Series ‘game’ this is more of a fun way to read than an actual game. It is populated with many of the same interactive features, but also some new ones.

There are various pieces of text in bold which either opens an illustration of the character, or plays a sound effect. Much like with the Adventure Series game the often the same sound was used over and over (an owl hooted identically four times across two pages, or a chicken clucked identically for a sound described as a soft cluck and a loud one), though were was a reasonable variety over all. They were not very well spread out, though, even given the limit of needing the right sort of action on the page to require a sound. Sometimes there were dozens of pages with nothing then there would be several all very close together.

There were a few missed opportunities, I thought. There were some songs or tunes mentioned – so there were music notes that moved at the top/bottom of these pages but sadly no sound effects. The wisha-wisha-wisha was also pretty disappointing, rather a generic wish-whoosh which was just repeated every time.

The illustrations were much worse than the ones for the Adventure Series. I think the only positive things I could say was that they were not split awkwardly over two pages, and some had an interesting effect where there was movement in them. Time for a game of guess the character!

As below, the Angry Pixie opens his window.

In addition to these were some effects which were prompted just by turning the page. Water bubbles or splashes (with sounds) appeared whenever Dame Washalot or the Angry Pixie was hurling water about, leaves floated across the screen, and a couple of times a sprinkling of sand came across the right hand page and you had to wipe it off with the stylus. Having seen that in the second book I wondered why they hadn’t employed that for the water and leaves as well as it’s really quite fun.

The other interactive thing was collecting items. There were 64 mushrooms to collect in each of the three original books. They came in four different colours, with 16 of each. They were done in order, so first 16 red ones which unlocked the first piece of bonus content at the end, and so on. I think it would have been more fun if they were all different colours. Having done one colour per group they also ran out of ‘nice’ colours, having to resort to brown and grey. One plus point is that a few were actually hidden in the illustrations making them trickier to notice (at least if you were flicking through at speed like I was.)

The Elise Allen books had feathers to collect, I think 9 per set as those are shorter books. I only flicked through the first few pages of one but actually thought that it was better done – the illustrations matched those in the books and included the character profiles. It just seemed to be a better fit – the books being published in the same era the game was made.

The bonus content

While the Adventure Series books had a few quizzes, and then a puzzle at the end if you had collected all the pieces, these books have activities instead. Not gaming activities, which is what I expected.

No, instead, the first book allows you to unlock four baking recopies, the second four paper crafts, the third other making activities. The first Elise Allen book unlocks four felt-friend crafts.

I honestly think that’s a total scam. You play the game and unlock some very brief and uninspiring instructions which you then need to have various ingredients or materials to do. Even in 2009 you could easily find better instructions for free online.

A younger audience

Given that the books are for a younger audience than the Adventure Series books/game it’s not surprising that the game seems set up for a younger audience.

There’s what I’m going to call the previously cat at the beginning of each chapter – suggesting that it’s meant to be read in shorter chunks, either due to screen time limits or attention spans of younger children.

As above the illustrations were also of the very brightly-coloured and cartoony style to attract young audiences.

Honestly updated

Being based on a modern reprint the names (and presumably other things) are of course updated, but at least the game acknowledges that the text is from 2007 unlike the Adventure Series game which said ‘The Island of Adventure as published in 1944’!

Despite the various flaws in the game I will probably read at least some of the books to Brodie as I know he will enjoy tapping for the effects and collecting the mushrooms.


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