Review: Christmas Wonderland (DSiWare)

Cruel, cruel Santa…

Christmas is here, with endlessly looping festive songs on the radio, frazzled and angry shoppers seeking toys that are always out of stock, and themed downloads appearing on DSiWare. Christmas Wonderland has arrived: is it a land full of magic and goodwill, or a cheap resort with dogs dressed as reindeer?

Christmas Wonderland is primarily a hidden object game: a number of scenes have a range of festive-themed objects scattered haphazardly, and the task is to find every object from Santa’s checklist. There are also objects related to the 12 Days of Christmas, so finding golden rings and partridges – not in a pear tree, unfortunately – is a bonus task in each level. A common curse of hidden object games on the DSi or 3DS is squinting at low resolution images on a small screen, and this title does little to alleviate the problem. There is a hint option that’s available every 30 seconds or so that highlights areas where objects can be found, helping to avoid any DSi hurling incidents.

While most time is spent on these levels, some alternative and entirely optional puzzles appear occasionally to add some variety. Sliding blocks or placing puzzle pieces to form an image is pleasant enough, spot the difference suffers from the same issues as the hidden object stages, and there’s also a card-matching game on rare occasions: it’s like the bonus game in Super Mario Bros. 3, but without the pay-off.

There is a distinct lack of imagination throughout the whole title, unfortunately. The hidden-object scenes are a typical mix of stock photos of Santa workshops and festive scenes. There’s an attempt at a story, however, which generally revolves around Santa making deliveries, though insisting that random objects are ‘put away’ before moving on. Strangely, at one point Santa is delivering gifts to a toy store – is the message that capitalism is the real Santa? – but then goes back to delivering toys to two children in a rather large, expensive looking house. It’s unimportant, absolutely, but it’s also complete and utter nonsense.

As mentioned earlier, many images are fuzzy and blurry, so graphics aren’t exactly a strong point of this title. We often had to resort to blind and random tapping with the stylus, with the hint option offering the only respite. Sound is mediocre, with a limited selection of festive MIDI tracks looping endlessly. We should also mention that at 800 Points, this seems to be rather poorly priced.

Conclusion

The main saving grace for Christmas Wonderland is that it meets expectations as a hidden object title: each scene is appropriately themed with a gaggle of items to sift through. Simplicity isn’t always for the best, however, and low quality images on a small screen contribute to a frustrating experience. Beyond technical issues this title is uninspired, run-of-the-mill and over-priced. Definitely a case of "bah! Humbug!".

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