At a glance, Spot It! Mean Machines is simply a collection of grainy photographs of piles of junk. If you continue to explore this title, you'll find that your initial assessment was astute, but you will also find that it’s amazing how much fun can be had while staring at these still images. If you’re a fan of classic Spot It! or I-Spy books, or if you simply find pleasure in seeking out objects hidden among other objects, then this is the perfect pastime for you.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Spot It! Mean Machines is a hidden object puzzle game. The word “puzzle” is used lightly in this situation because all you’re really doing is looking at a static image and trying to find certain objects within said image. It’s not a ground-breaking concept in video gaming, and it’s definitely been done before, but that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. In fact, this type of game can be great in short sessions when you find yourself waiting for something to pass, or if you just want a relaxing way to unwind.
Almost as simple as the concept is the actual gameplay. The image containing hidden objects is displayed on the DSi’s touch screen while the list of items you must find is on top. By using either a stylus or the D-Pad and shoulder buttons, you can navigate across the image to seek out the necessary objects and zoom in and out, as well. Once you find the object that you’re looking for, simply tap it on the touch screen and it'll be removed from your list. The controls are tight and work like a charm, as can usually be expected with games as straightforward as this.
There are 20 objects to find in each stage, and every one that you must find will randomly appear in a list on your top screen. Each object that you are seeking is also accompanied by a timer. If you’re too slow in finding a particular item, it will lock in place on the list, and if the list fills up with locked objects, then it’s game over.
There are 10 stages in total which are progressively unlocked as you complete the preceding stages. Though you will always be pitted with the task of finding 20 objects, the great news is that you’re not always asked to seek out the same items. It's very possible for you to memorize the layout of a stage and know where the objects are, but this randomization adds a bit of challenge and replayability.
There's also a multiplayer mode available that has you and up to three friends seeking out objects in a pass-and-play fashion. The quicker you find your necessary objects, the higher your score will be, and the person with the highest score at the end is declared the winner. This multiplayer mode feels like an afterthought, but it can still be a fun way to challenge your friends or engage your family.
The only thing that really hinders Spot It! Mean Machines is the way the game looks. While it’s not bad enough to be game-breaking, the quality of many of the photos does seem to be low, and the images appear grainy on the DSi’s screen. If you play this game you’ll almost immediately notice that the funky midi soundtrack is VERY repetitive, but that can easily be ignored by simply muting your DSi altogether.
Spot It! Mean Machines falls into the “hidden object” genre of puzzles games, a category that isn’t especially lacking on the DSiWare shop. It isn’t an overly-ambitious title, and it’s not the prettiest looking game out there, but it still manages to be an entertaining way to spend some time. At the low price-point of just 200 points, any fans of hidden object games would be remiss to let this one go unspotted.