SNES A Day 203: The Great Waldo Search

Approximate Release Month: June 1993
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Radiance Software
Publisher: THQ

Short but not sweet, The Great Waldo Search does less than the bare minimum for a full-priced video game.

I loved the Where’s Waldo books as a child. They are a series of wonderfully illustrated picture books where the reader scours the pages to find Waldo and his various accouterments he has lost on his journey. He wears eye-catching red-and-white striped clothes, but he’s drawn quite small in between all sorts of visual cacophony.

Naturally, as a popular child-focused property in the early 1990s, Where’s Waldo received a video game adaptation. Everything you need to know about The Great Waldo Search is in this video.

Yes, I beat the game on both difficulty settings in 13 minutes.

That is a completely unacceptable amount of stuff to put into a product that you are selling for money. Five stages and two difficulty levels don’t fly, even with Waldo changing positions in each playthrough. The Great Waldo Search limits the player to only panning the screen left and right. The books make the reader feel like they were plopped in a vast world to explore. This game feels like you’re stuck in a hallway and feels confined and limiting as a result.

I get why the game has these limits. The graphics – especially the huge number of sprites and stuff in the level at once – is impressive. I’m sure the programmers developed technical whizz-bangery to make it work on the Super Nintendo’s hardware. Expanding the game’s scope might have been impossible. It’s still disappointing.

I’m just going to share some miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The controls are fine, and never once did I choose something with the cursor and not have it register. Some of the things you pick up are quite small, and you lose time if you select the wrong object, so that reliability is a boon.
  • There’s also a minigame where you play as Waldo’s dog and you collect bones while flying on a magic carpet. It is notable for possibly taking as long to complete as the actual level.
  • The higher difficulty adds little bonus objectives like “find the man with three legs.” This is the kind of fun easter egg-type joke that the books did so well. It’s a neat twist, but the answer is always on the screen you’re viewing when the challenge pops up. Also, I went back and checked and these don’t appear to be randomly placed, unlike Waldo and the scroll, which change places on replay.

The Great Waldo Search needs a great deal more to do in it. There’s not much I can say about a game that can be beaten twice in under fifteen minutes.

Next time: I’ve never been a fan of the Battletoads games, but maybe Battletoads in Battlemaniacs will be the one that wins me over.

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