A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that VTech InnoTab Software - I Spy Adventure includes both traditional I Spy activities as well as additional puzzle games. It's a departure from most VTech InnoTab cartridges that include an ebook with supporting games and photo activities. Each of the games has a set of easy and hard levels, but kids will need to successfully complete each level to proceed to a harder one. Early levels are likely to be very easy for older kids who may complain about being bored long before they hit a challenge. On more advanced levels, some kids may need help with the clues. The I Spy riddles stop providing visual clues on the harder levels, so kids may not understand what they're looking for. Some puzzle games expect knowledge certain kids may not have, such as that a dalmatian and a fire truck would be a pair. Editor's Note: This game's publisher, VTech, experienced a breach of parent and student data on November 14, 2015. Click here for more information.
What's it about?
VTECH INNOTAB SOFTWARE - I SPY ADVENTURE pairs traditional I Spy riddles with related puzzles that focus on logic, matching, memory, and visual discrimination (the ability to see similarities and differences). Kids can choose from four activities. The first is a set of 50 I Spy riddles in the familiar rhyming-clue format. Early riddles are easy, using only a couple of clues with pictures on-screen. As the riddles get harder, there are two to three objects, and the clues with pictures are off-screen but accessible. On the harder levels, there are no visual clues and the written clues are kept off-screen. You can use power-ups if you get stuck, but no help is available otherwise.
The puzzle games are three-fold: One asks kids to find the missing item in a pattern, one asks them to match like objects (ball and glove, tea and teapot), and one has kids group objects by like characteristics with a Venn diagram. All the puzzles increase in difficulty over time, and some can be quite tricky, especially when kids have to figure out what the objects have in common. The grouping game has hints in case kids can't figure out what the sorting rules are. Early games might require sorting balls vs. blocks, while later versions may expect them to recognize rhyming words or objects that start with the same letter sound. Sometimes, there are overlapping characteristics (these are all balls, these are all blocks, and these are the blocks and balls that are yellow). Kids can't progress until they complete the previous puzzle, and they can replay puzzles at any time. Each of the activities has about 50 levels.
Is it any good?
VTech InnoTab Software - I Spy Adventure is a refreshing change of pace from other VTech InnoTab cartridges, and it's great to see a puzzle-oriented game that isn't tied to consumer characters. The puzzles have a slow but steady progression in difficulty, perfect for kids who need that introduction to matching, grouping, and sorting. On the other hand, the inability to jump ahead to expert puzzles may turn off older kids quickly; it's tedious playing through super easy I Spy riddles that require little searching for kids on the high end of the age range. But their patience will be rewarded, as some of the most advanced puzzles require more than a quick glance from adults.
On higher levels, kids can earn power-ups to help solve puzzles, but if they use them up, they may be stranded without a solution. They won't be able to progress otherwise. Though not including a help option in most of the games will prevent impatient kids from giving in too easily, it also can lead to frustration if they truly can't find an answer. Thankfully, they can exit a level and restart it, thereby refreshing the power-up for use on a new hidden object. It's not an elegant solution, but it works. High marks to VTech for an engaging game that develops an important set of often overlooked skills while also reinforcing early literacy and number, letter, and color recognition. It's not perfect, but your kids might be fighting you for it nonetheless.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Platforms: InnoTab 2
- Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition
Math: grouping, patterns, sequences
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: logic, problem solving, solving puzzles
- Price: $24.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: VTech Electronics
- Release date: September 1, 2014
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Adventures, Numbers and letters
- ESRB rating: NR for No Description
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.