A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adventure game is completely innocuous. There is no sexuality, no profanity, and, aside from one somewhat tense scene in which a bomb may or may not explode (if it does, players will hear a boom sound and see a picture of flames filling the screen), no violence. What’s more, heroes Frank and Joe are smart, likeable, and driven to unravel mysteries -- fine role models for kids, who will learn about historical places and figures as they travel with the Hardy brothers as they travel about Europe. That said, it’s best suited for slightly older children, if only because it can be difficult to figure out what to do and where to go next. A level of patience and tenacity is required, as well as good reading skills.
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What's it about?
From Her Interactive, makers of the splendid Nancy Drew point and click adventure games geared for girls, comes THE HARDY BOYS: TREASURE ON THE TRACKS, a detective game for the DS meant to draw young boys to a similar sort of interactive experience. Players take on the roles of the famous detective duo as they travel to historic locations around Europe by train, looking for clues that will hopefully reveal what happened to a treasure that has been missing since Russia’s royal Romanov family hid it nearly a century ago. Players advance the story by talking to characters and working through simple dialogue trees, exploring locations by moving the stylus around the screen to reveal clues and navigational icons, and solving a variety of contextual puzzles, such as finding pieces of a map and putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle, or locating objects of a similar nature in a painting.
Is it any good?
With its good-natured heroes, educational slant, and almost complete lack of any sort of content that could be deemed offensive, Treasure on the Tracks is the sort of game most parents will be able to get behind. What’s more, plenty of kids will be drawn to its intriguing mystery and challenging puzzles. Beware, however, that progress can be slow and frustrating. Despite a PDA that keeps track of items and tasks, we found that from the outset there were instances in which we simply didn’t know how to move the game forward. We were forced to revisit areas and carefully drag the stylus across everything on screen to try to reveal more items and clues. This style of play is common in PC-based point-and-click adventures, but may come off as plodding and frustrating to players used to the sort of fast-paced, instant gratification action found in most DS games. For the patient player, it’s good fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the history of the Hardy Boys. These fictitious heroes have been charming kids for more than 80 years in virtually all forms of media, from books and television shows to movies and video games. What is it about their personalities that has kept them relevant and audiences interested for so many years?
Families can also discuss the notion of slipping facts about historical places, people, and events into gameplay. Is it done well in this game? Did you feel like you came away knowing more about the real world? Can you think of other games that impart useful informational tidbits in a similar fashion?
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