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August 10, 2006

REVIEW: Stuart Little 3: Big Photo Adventure

Cross-posted on GameDAILY.

In reviewing Lego Star Wars a few weeks ago, I wrote about how my kids had begun to play more independently, instead of being more passive (or more accurately, intermittently active) consumers of the games we play together.

While they're still playing and enjoying Lego Star Wars (no surprise), my kids recently started playing another game that allows them the freedom to play by themselves - Stuart Little 3: Big Photo Adventure.

From the game's title alone, we can deduce the following:

  • The game features the beloved Stuart Little (duh), in his recurring role as mouse-living-among-humans-as-member-of-family. And apparently, there have been 2 previous Stuart Little games.
  • Something about photos, or the taking thereof. Correct. In this case, Stuart accidentally knocks big brother George's photo album into the fish tank, and the game revolves around Stuart's efforts to re-create every photo in the album. Along the way, Stuart has...
  • ...oh, you guessed it, huh? Well, you're right; a Big Adventure.
The interface in Stuart Little 3 is friendly and unintimidating, so just as in Lego Star Wars, my kids didn't have a moment's hesitation before plunging hip-deep into the Stuart Little pool.

From the outset, it is clear that Stuart Little 3 achieves a balance all too rare in licensed games for kids, in that it embraces the license without being too constrained by it. The game is true to the spirit, appearance and environments of the Stuart Little movies, yet it gives the young players enough freedom to feel that they are in charge of the adventure (as opposed to the unseen conductor of a train traveling on-rails). And speaking of that freedom, while there is a lot of open-ended, freeform gameplay, there is enough gentle guidance to make sure that the player doesn't feel lost or confused about what to do next.

Stuart Little 3: Big Photo Adventure achieves a delicate balance in another crucial area - difficulty. While it is easy enough for young kids to play by themselves, it is also just challenging enough to keep them interested for more than just a few minutes. As for the controls, they feel intuitive and solid.

The game also teaches a nice lesson about responsibility. Even though it was an accident, Stuart ruined George's project, so it's Stuart's responsibility to replace it. In addition, in order to get some of the people to agree to pose for Stuart's camera, he needs to help them by performing good deeds and fairly easy tasks.

There is an EyeToy component to the game, but although my kids have been playing the game for a while, it hasn't come up yet. From what I've read, though, we're not missing much, as it's more of an add-on gimmick than a central component of the game.

If you were looking for more in the way of in-game details, here you go, in the form of one big stream-of-consciousness mega-sentence......... right after I psych myself up for the task. Ready?


(* channels Veronica Corningstone before her first newscast as anchor, while Ron Burgundy was busy crying hysterically about his dog Baxter, who had just been punted off the bridge by Jack Black's biker character, after Ron tossed his delicious-but-too-filling burrito out of his car at him while singing about taking Baxter to foggy London town, causing Black to wipe out on his bike, after which he said "That's how I roll" ............ did people even say that in the '70s? *)

Where was I? Oh yeah, the little mouse kid. And by the way, that wasn't the mega-sentence from hell. This is:

You explore several different levels (backyard, park, basement, etc.), trying to find the objects of Stuart's (via George) photographic desire, pausing along the way to collect Snowbell-bribing cat snacks (without which that darn cat won't lift a paw to help you - what is it with cats, anyway?), as well as shiny blue and yellow blobs to charge the flash (without which you can't take the pictures), and you get to dress up in several outfits (photographer, fireman, Native American, etc.) with corresponding abilities (taking pictures, spraying water, shooting arrows, etc.), and although the races aren't so easy, you get to ride/drive a garage full of unlockable vehicles, including skateboard, BMX bike, scooter, roadster, tank, dune buggy, hovercraft, motorcycle, helicopter, blimp, sailboard, speaking of which, not only can you easily switch vehicles in the garage, but when you move from land to water (or vice-versa), the game auto-switches you to the appropriate vehicle, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fun mini-golf and skateboarding mini-games.

* passes out from prolonged oxygen deprivation * Maybe instead of channeling the lovely and talented Ms. Corningstone, I should have channeled this guy.

So I think I've made it pretty clear what I think, but if you still need me to bottom-line it for ya, here you go: Stuart Little 3: Big Photo Adventure is an out-freakin'-standing game for kids of all ages. Or to paraphrase the lovely and vacuous Brian Fantana, 100% of the time, it's fun EVERY time.


  • And the game is made from bits of real mouse, so you KNOW it's good.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:30 PM  

  • Great Odin's Raven!
    Well played.

    By Blogger Dan, at 4:04 PM  

  • Well you could knock me down with a feather...I automatically assumed that this game would be incredibly bad on principle alone. Instead, it sounds like just the opposite. Guess I'll have to pick it up at some point. Thanks!

    By Blogger WizarDru, at 5:38 AM  

  • If I may borrow from those old Publishers Clearinghouse commercials, "That's what I used to think!" And in fact, I should have mentioned that I was surprised the game was so good in the review.

    I also should have mentioned that I'm not that much of a fan of the Stuart Little movies, so I wasn't coming to this from the perspective of someone who loves the character, and thus, can't be accused of letting my affection for a mouse cloud my judgement.

    In addition, I hadn't heard much about the game (not exactly a big marketing push from Sega), but we tried it anyway, and lo and behold, it just worked.

    By Blogger Dan, at 8:41 AM  

  • This is a great game for kids, my 6 year nephew really loves it, but mostly he likes driving the cars around I must admit. He can can get into the adventure part when the grown ups get interested. In case your wondering the eyetoy stuff doesnt become apparent until you plug it in, but you're right these games are a bit of a novelty distraction. Great Review.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:06 PM  

  • Hey there, anonymous uncle of 6-year-old gamer.

    Thanks for the compliment, and for sharing the knowledge about the EyeToy.

    By Blogger Dan, at 6:37 PM  

  • I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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