The Famous Five: Kidnapped
Yes, I have read most of the Famous Five books. I've probably read 'em all because once upon a time I was an avid reader of all things Enid Blyton. Unfortunately that was longer ago than I care to remember, so it was a treat to sample this game, helped with more than a little nostalgia.
It's a typical Famous Five story involving a camping trip, a dark cave, some smugglers, and a disappearing friend, so fans of the books and TV show should feel right at home. It's the third adventure game in the Famous Five Series from NovaTrix, after Treasure Island and Silver Tower, and I believe there are now two more in the series.
The Famous Five: Kidnapped is a third person adventure game with the player taking control of Dick and George alternately; Anne, Julian and Timmy, of course, follow happily along according to the dictates of the story. As each scene changes the children will automatically chat amongst themselves to set the scene, although it is also possible to click on them and other characters to initiate comments or conversations. For conversations a short list of questions appears on screen. Select a question to ask it.
It's all point and click with a simple cursor that flashes when there is something to do or someone to talk to. Click on George or Dick to see their inventory where items can be identified and combined. You can also separate combined objects which is a good thing to remember. I didn't and it slowed me down for a while.
First there's Kirrin Cottage to explore to gather the necessities for the camping trip, then it's off on the adventure. The 2D graphics are excellent, clear, detailed and inviting, and so are the sound effects, sharpening the fun of exploration. The voices are also very good, very British as they should be, and relying on my hazy memory, the character portrayals fit just fine.
Of course there's more to do after gathering camping necessities, next build a fire, and then follow the story as it unfolds. With each new twist and turn there is a small obstacle to overcome meaning there are more items to find (or fix), and there are several helpful (and unhelpful) characters to meet and talk to.
The game play isn't too difficult as George, Dick, Anne and Julian (and maybe even Timmy) will have some good pointers as to what to do next, especially in the children's chatter on arriving at a new location. Often they won't leave a location until everything that needs to be done is over and done with.
This means that young players receive a lot of direction in the game, although it is let down somewhat because a few of the hotspots are extremely hard to find. In these instances it's necessary to 'sweep' the screen minutely with the cursor and watch carefully for it to flash because the objects of interest may not be obvious at all.
It would have worked better, especially for a children's game, if all of the active objects were more eye-catching as it's much more fun searching for useful or interesting things rather than simply watching for the cursor to flash. It is easy to miss a few things and in some instances this could cause a hold-up when that elusive object is a trigger to move the story along. A little more consistency in the mode of play would have helped too. For instance, sometimes clicking on the characters will elicit a comment but on other occasions there is no response at all. Once again this could potentially hold up play as it doesn't encourage clicking on the characters and what they have to say may be important. I did find one lapse in logic too, but not something that too many players will notice.
So The Famous Five: Kidnapped could have done with some refinement and, ideally, it might have been a little longer with a few more things to do, but it's still an engaging little game for younger players, especially as there are so few children's adventure games around. It's aimed at ages 7 and up and there is a mystery to solve that Famous Five aficionados should jump right into and enjoy.
The game behaved perfectly and installed easily in Win XP not even requiring compatibility mode. There are 12 save game slots, each identified with a small picture to remind young players which is which, and in the options screen subtitles can be switched off and on. The disk also contains a very good graduated hint file.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2006.
All rights reserved.
Win 95/98, Pentium 166 MHz (233 recommended), 16 MB RAM (32 recommended), 8 x CD ROM (16 x recommended), 7 MB free hard disk space.