Spot the Differences! is a new WiiWare entry from Sanuk Games, a developer whose focus on Nintendo consoles so far has largely been downloadable puzzlers. This release follows the same standard modus operandi as Cosmonaut's 5 Spots Party and Enjoy Gaming's Spot the Difference – look at two images side by side and identify differences, both large and small.
It's a simple concept, which makes the challenge of producing a stimulating experience a tough one, and Sanuk has included a decent amount of content to ensure that you’re not staring at the same photos too often. The game includes 160 scenes with 1600 differences to spot throughout as well as three difficulty levels. Pictures are split up into four categories: Landscapes, Pets, Playtime and Yummy. It may be the case that in a longer play session you will see the same image more than once, but typically the differences have changed and still provide a sufficient challenge. The game is easy to control; just point at either side of the scene and tap A when you spot a difference.
There are four different modes available with enough variables to keep you initially interested. The first three are all single player – Arcade, Time Attack, and the rather unimaginatively titled Select Scenes, and there are local leaderboards for each, which will encourage high score chasers to play multiple times. Arcade provides a somewhat spontaneous experience; aside from choosing a starting difficulty level, this mode presents one photo from each category and continues to increase the challenge in stages as you progress. You are required to find five differences per scene, with a timer on each pressuring you to find the answers, and if the clock runs out, the game is over. The higher the difficulty level, the less time you have per image, while nothing changes besides. As you progress through more pictures, the differences become more obscure, though at times the challenge can fluctuate wildly from easy to dastardly in an instant. To assist, you have limited hints that can earn more of by successfully spotting ten differences in a row. Be warned – clicking incorrectly not only costs you time, but also means that the quest for an extra hint will take longer. Select Scenes is more of the same as Arcade, but you choose and stay within one category instead of skipping around.
In Time Trial, there is one countdown to contend with, and your challenge is to collect as many points as possible within it. You only have one difference to spot per picture, and you do not have any hints at all. This can be a problem if you get stuck, as you’ll simply be staring at one image for minutes on end with no clue to help you progress. Difficulty selection once again only alters time allotted.
The multiplayer option has up to four compete in a race to highlight most differences without the use of hints. We suspect that even Stephen Hawking would struggle to figure out how the scoring works, but the general idea is the more spots the better, while selecting incorrect areas loses you points. This mode works quite well, and for those not used to this style of game it is probably the best way to play. Spotting the difference on your own may not be for everyone, but the multiplayer will provide an amusing diversion for families in particular.
One of the game's problems is the occasional occurrence of quirky moments that demand absolute pointer precision, especially given the general quality of some of the pictures; landscapes in particular come in a low resolution. In our playthrough, we encountered an image where the "difference" was that one small area of bricks was fuzzier than the other, which felt a bit cheap when, to start with, the images don’t always offer much clarity. Additionally, whatever the mode you’re playing, you’ll hear the same loop of elevator music again, and again, and again; it would have been nice to have some classical music or any variation at all for the sake of sanity. In terms of general presentation, the interface is decent but, overall, the package is quite bland.
Spot the Differences! offers varied modes, plenty of images and a reasonably fun multiplayer option, and its local leaderboards will give you incentive to try and beat your best scores. If you’re thinking of getting this game for young children, it is worth noting the plain, sombre interface and generally grown-up vibe of the presentation. Overall, this is a decent offering with a few potentially irritating flaws and a simple concept that may not keep you interested for long.