Freddi Fish 5: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove
We are big fans of Humongous games in our house. Pajama Sam, Spyfox, Putt Putt and Freddi Fish, amongst others, all come from this stable. All are vibrant, fun, animated adventures for kids, aimed predominantly at the younger audiences. This adventure is Freddi's fifth, and my youngest daughter, Clare, couldn't wait to go swimming.
The games aim to develop skills including logical and strategic thinking, reasoning and listening, recognition of colours, shapes, numbers and letters, and hypothesis formation and testing. All whilst being fun, which is what will make kids stay around. It's a tall order but the many awards won by these games are testament to how successful Humongous has been.
There is a comforting familiarity in all the games, which makes it easy to get underway. Just put in the cd, autoplay opens up the start screen, and the game can start straight away. It plays entirely from the cd, so parents are almost obsolete right from the start. Which is pretty much how they remain right throughout.
I played with Clare for a lot of this game, not because she needed me to, but because we both wanted to. At 8 years old she would certainly be in the top end of the target audience, and my input into what to do next was negligible. She was able to work her way through all the conundrums, with only the occasional nudge. She thought that the game was "just right" as far as the challenges were concerned.
As a fan of adventure games, I particularly enjoyed seeing her make notes about the tasks she had to complete, ticking them off as she finished them, and making little diagrams and maps of important places and information. As a consumer, I was pleased that the game seemed to live up to its goals. And as a parent, Freddi offers good family fun, and many bad jokes and puns long after the game is over.
Freddi and her friend Luther are off for a day at Coral Cove, but Mayor Marlin has ruled the cove off limits because of a seamonster with the magnificent name Xamfer Duncan Dogberry Valentine. Whilst the rest of the townsfolk are all for running the seamonster out of town, Freddi offers to try and find out what the monster wants, and hopefully have a happy ending. The townsfolk agree, but Freddi and Luther soon find out things won't be straightforward. Marge the Sarge won't let anyone into the cove, at least not without a signed permission note from Mayor Marlin. So Freddi must first find him.
Of course, when she eventually finds the mayor, she has already been asked by Musician Laren to find his missing bottle, and by Earl the Map Specialist to find his eyeglasses. She has also made (and tried to catch) garlic taffy, and been unsuccessful entering the barber shop. But the mayor can't sign the note until his latest makeover is finished, which requires the number three fin pick from ... the locked barber shop.
The game continues in this vein, but importantly never bogs down. The tasks are never so convoluted as to be discouraging. Completion will always be rewarded with a key bit of information to enable the player to keep progressing. If one task seems problematic, there are plenty of others to keep working at, and completing one of them usually provides the key piece of information to unlock that problematic one.
Freddi collects and is given items as she goes, never too many at one time, and using them is as simple as popping the bubble. Important items are not hidden, but you need to keep your eyes open. Helpfully, if you want to use it, the manual provides pictures of those things you should look out for. An in-game help system is also just a keypress away. There is no reading, so younger non-readers need not be put off, but subtitles can be turned on if you want them.
Your cursor tells you where you can go and what you can examine. Positioning your cursor over inventory items will result in Freddi telling you what it is. Saving and loading games is simple, and with save scenes being "pasted" in slots, identification of progress is obvious.
At times Freddi (or Luther) will share thoughts with you, providing ideas about what to do next. This was particularly noticeable when a puzzle was involved, and progress was stymied. At one stage, Luther/Clare was in a room with machines, and the task was to unlock a door. Clicking on the machines lead Luther to ponder that they might be involved someway in opening the door. After a bit if fiddling, with no progress, Clare clicked on a machine again, and Luther this time wondered whether there might be a code. A subsequent click elsewhere and Luther thought maybe colours might be important. Clare twigged, and the door was unlocked.
There are many areas to explore; all with numerous hotspots that do nothing more than activate a variety of amusing interludes. Click on a window, and you might get some crustacean window cleaners. Click on it again, and a squid might engage in some ink painting. No hotspot yields only one response, unless it's a critical part of the game, which means lots of time is spent on each screen just clicking to see what pleasurable thing happens next.
There is one place where you can play a variation on the game of Battleships, and you can play it as many times as you want. You can also buy a seemingly endless number of jokes, puns and knock-knocks from Rollo the Clownfish. At times, sorting out the seamonster mystery meant a lengthy sojourn in the back seat for me whilst we searched for more stuff to trade for yet another knock-knock.
We eventually dragged ourselves away and got to the end. The endgame provided probably the most challenging conundrum of the game, but Clare was well and truly warmed up by then so, though it resisted mightily, it ultimately crumbled before her deductive and detective skills. Things are put right, as they should be, and the mischievous perpetrator was last seen performing useful community service.
After a few more games of battleship, Clare was last seen putting the game cd in her walkman to listen to the 11 original music tracks.
A winner all round.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey with Clare 2001.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98/ME, Pentium 166, 32 Mb RAM, 4x CD-ROM, SVGA (640 x 480) 256 colours, 20MB hard drive space (for saves)