The best TV show deserved better
Remember when licensed games were all terrible? Purchasing a video game based on a beloved movie or character would, more often than not, be rewarded with the crushing disappointment of a poorly designed and hastily prepared cash-in. Eventually, licensors like Disney realized the damage to their reputations and gave talented studios the time and freedom to make spin-off games their way – even the Spider-Man and Star Wars games are good now.
But if you thought that disrespecting fans and the video game itself with trashy tie-ins was a thing of the past, I’m afraid I have to disabuse you. There is one community that still has to put up with this sort of thing on a regular basis, and that is children. It gives me no pleasure to report that the latest (and one of the most egregious) examples of slash-and-burn game licensing is Bluey: the video game — news that will infuriate preschoolers and parents, as well as the many adult fans (and, presumably, creators) of one of the best things on television.
Restart, Blue is an Australian animated show about a family of playful dogs who explore the mysteries, truths and foibles of life through play. Its seven-minute episodes are packed with layers of comedy, sentiment, visual invention and even philosophy. Blue is far from being the only great show aimed at young children, but the finesse of its animation, the brilliance of its jokes and its ability to address the whole family at once without compartmentalizing its messages intended for adults and children distinguish it. The creators of the series clearly believe that a seven-minute children’s cartoon can be a profound and brilliant work of art: why wouldn’t it be?
So how discouraging it is to discover this Bluey: the video game lacks respect for both his audience and his own media. It’s technically rudimentary, has very little content, minimal design and, worst of all for an adaptation of a show that constantly emphasizes the transformative power of imaginative play, it has no imagination at all.
Image: Artax Games/Pure and Simple Games
It’s a truism that no one sets out to make a bad game, and there’s evidence of some love for the hardware here at developer Artax and publisher Outright Games. The character selection screen is a nice riff on the TV show’s iconic credits sequence. All the original voices are here, as well as some of the wonderful music from the series, and it appears that many of the character animation elements and equipment were imported directly from the animators at Ludo Studio. At its core, the gameplay embraces the premise of the series: the whole family watches together. It is playable in four-player co-op, with players taking on the role of the four members of the Heeler family: Bluey, little sister Bingo, Chilli (mom), and Bandit (dad).
But the developers obviously had neither the budget nor the time to achieve anything with this raw material. This $40 PC and console game takes about an hour to play – maybe two or three if you want to find the latest collectible. It’s made up of four brief and perfunctory story episodes, four perfunctory mini-games, and the most basic fetch and transport gameplay imaginable. Bluey jumps clumsily, pushes and pulls objects, and picks up objects. That’s it.
A polished first impression also fades quickly, with problematic performance, abrupt transitions, makeshift physics, and blurry, low-res art elements ruining the look and feel of the game. It should be more fun to run cooperatively, but a camera that struggles to keep players in line of sight eliminates any chance of that happening.
There’s nothing wrong with simplicity, especially in a game aimed at very young people. But Bluey: the video game is so basic it’s barely there. Less thought has been given to it than much of the avalanche of Bluey pajamas, pens and playsets at your local supermarket. As a premium game aimed at preschoolers, it compares unfavorably with a host of rich and varied paid apps like Pok Pok, LingokidaeAnd Sago Mini Schoolwhich all have infinitely more educational, aesthetic, And Entertainment value. And as an adaptation of a sophisticated, humane, and hilarious work of art for people of all ages, it’s more than a disappointment. It is an insult.