I have never understood the appeal of Waldo. It often feels like I must have missed the important origin story or something, because, no matter how many picture books they release, I have yet to care where Waldo is. All I know is that he has horrible fashion sense and loves large gatherings. He has no personality to speak of, which may be why he travels alone and blends in with the crowd. He may be a frequent flyer, but he's hardly the most interesting man in the world.
On paper the Where's Waldo series makes sense. The pages are huge and there's plenty of beautiful artwork to keep your imagination active. It's a thrill to carefully scan a page for several minutes, only to discover that our hero is standing right in front of a man kissing a goat. It's the kind of harmless fun that you expect from a children's book. Unfortunately, the fun and excitement of looking for Waldo doesn't translate to video games.
There are only so many ways you can make an 8-bit Where's Waldo game. You can turn this literary hero into a platforming superstar, perhaps basing the levels off of the various worlds he has visited in the books. Heck, maybe Waldo goes on an adventure inside of other video games. We can get to know the man behind the hat better than ever, something sorely missing from the Where's Waldo book series.
Of course, that's not the way the developers went. Instead THQ opted for a fairly traditional port of the book, which involves players using their cursor to find Waldo. That's right, you squint your eyes to make out the teeny tiny characters that make up the Where's Waldoverse. Because the Nintendo Entertainment System can only display so many colors and sprites on screen at the same time, the entire screen is a nonsensical mess of mismatching shapes. It looks more like a Jackson Pollock painting than Where's Waldo.
You start with only a few minutes on the clock, which is fine because it takes no more than five minutes to beat this game. For every wrong answer you are docked a few points, so it pays to be extra careful when making your final decision. There are three different difficulties which alter the size of the level and cursor. I'm sure the developers would argue that the game has endless replay because Waldo is constantly hiding in new locations. Sure, that's true. But the randomness of hiding spots doesn't magically make this 8-bit "action" game fun to play.
Occasionally the player is asked to do more than find Waldo. In the subway level you have to navigate a car through a series of mazes to not only find Waldo, but also locate his sunglasses. There's also somebody after you, which makes absolutely no sense to the rest of the story. Then again, very little about this game makes any sense. THQ doesn't even attempt to sew the game together with a story; you simply wander from a train station, through a forest, into a case, through the fairgrounds and into space. Sure, why not?
Non-existent story aside, Where's Waldo fails to be fun on any level. The controls aren't responsive enough for this type of game and the whole thing can be beat in less time than it took me to write this review. None of the levels are especially good looking and it's never clear why Waldo wants to go to the Moon in the first place. If anything, isn't that kind of a punishment? How is he going to get back? On the bright side, at least we know exactly where Waldo is at the end of the game.
It's hard to believe something this pointless came out of Bethesda Softworks, the same people that brought you Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. Where's Waldo? Hopefully in a landfill, because that's where this 8-bit piece of garbage belongs.