Monday, September 26, 2016

Plug n Play Game Corner: Bob the Builder: Project: Build It!

Bob the Builder! Can we play it?! Bob the Builder! Let's find out!


Game: Bob the Builder: Project: Build It!
Manufacturer: Jakks Pacific
Release Date: 2006
Genre: Puzzle

Bob the Builder was one of those kids TV shows that just missed my age bracket when I was a kid. I was about 9 when it first aired in the States, and by then, I was more interested in the Disney Channel and its Mickey Mouseworks repackaging: House of Mouse. ...You know? The Mickey cartoons they made before they decided that kids today were really into a mutant splice of Dexter's Laboratory and formless retro animation and every shot has to make it look like the characters' faces are melting? ...But I digress.

So, yeah, I was too old to get into Bob the Builder, and even though new episodes are still being produced, I have never seen a complete episode of the show to this day. All I know is that it's based around a construction worker who works with anthropomorphic construction vehicles and they fix stuff... and that's it. Just the standard British TV show where no matter what the setting or characters, 90% of the show is two people talking politely about daily routines featuring tea and pubs and getting the paper, all with a small grin permanently plastered on their faces. ...Seriously, watch your late night PBS channel. I can't be the only one who's noticed this.

And there's a living scarecrow and one of the vehicles is afraid of heights and has the catchphrase "Yeah, I think so..." and a blue-striped cat shows up sometimes and they recently sold the show to Mattel who made the show completely CGI and turned everyone into those Fisher Price Husky Helpers from the 70s for some reason, much to everyone's anger and disappointment.

But I understand it when a show you've grown up with gets a terrible redesign and revamp, so I feel your pain...

 And it's also one of those stop-motion TV shows that takes a profession seen as mundane and uneventful and tries to make an adventure out of it, which the UK seems to like to produce. ...Seriously, Bob the Builder, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam, why are you so focused on getting kids riled up for a life of drudgery and eventual obsolescence? Why can't you be more like American children's shows and give them something exciting like:

...Keep up the good work...

But, yes, I would be committing heresy if I said that the theme song wasn't one of the catchiest, most memorable songs in existence. The second the singer asks "Can we fix it?", it's impossible to refrain from shouting back "Yes we can!" It's like Cartman and "Come Sail Away"; once you start it, you can't stop until it's over! It's so catchy, President Obama can't help but sing along!

...And boy, is that joke going to be dated in a few months... I mean, more dated than it is now...

In fact, Britain loved it so much, it became a #1 hit in 2000, selling over a million copies! ...But then again, this is the UK, where they're so desperate for in-house talent that they'll let novelty songs like "Barbie Girl", "Axel F", and even "Teletubbies Say 'Eh-Oh'" spend weeks at #1, so I shouldn't be surprised. We in America had the Miami Vice theme song hit #1, but that was an instrumental back in the 80s! Today, we only have the finest hits top our charts, like:

 ...Oh yeah... that happened...

And before I stop rambling and actually get to the review, I just want to say I hope the United Kingdom and I didn't get off on the wrong foot. I love you guys, quirks and all! You gave us Doctor Who, The Weakest Link, Ellie Goulding, Elton John, Alan Moore, Alan Grant, Douglas Adams, H. G. Wells, Monty Python, Stuart Ashen, and, of course, the American Colonies to begin with, so I can't hate you. ...Even though you also gave us Teletubbies, Gordon Ramsay, and Film Brain, but that's besides the point! So please don't take anything I've said against you seriously and please don't send a legion of Daleks in my direction in revenge.

 ...Oh well, I tried.

So this is the Bob the Builder game. It's designed pretty simplistically, with 4 differently colored arrows surrounding Bob, whose hat serves as the confirmation button.

However, this makes it a little awkward to hold in the standard controller position, since with the button in the center and the arrow keys space so far apart, even with both hands on the controller, it's impossible for one hand to reach all arrow buttons and you end up alternating hands to reach across to the buttons you need. It's actually easier to put the console down and just push the buttons with one finger.

This game is brought to us by Jakks Pacific and HotGen, companies I briefly mentioned in my Bikini Bottom 500 review. And get used to seeing these names, because they're responsible for about 90% of all licensed, official Plug n Play games, from Atari compilations to home versions of TV game shows.

Jakks Pacific is a toy company headquartered in California, which pretty much makes every kind of toy under the sun for every company under the sun, ranging from Star Wars and DC Heroes action figures to Disney Princess playsets.

However, they're still active in the Plug n Play market, as they proudly display their recent Hero Portal and Star Wars/Walking Dead shooter games on their website.

HotGen is a slightly less prolific company based out of Croydon in the UK, but they're still active in both the toy and gaming markets, mainly collaborating with Jakks Pacific on their "Plug it in and Play" line.

Some of which they proudly display on their site, including said Bikini Bottom game.

On their own, they've mostly produced mobile games, including the To-Fu series, which I see has gotten pretty good reviews, so not too bad for them either.

So yes, these are the two game companies that basically co-rule the market when it comes to Plug n Play games and the names you'll probably see the most often on this blog. Is that a desirable crown to wear?

Well, seeing as how they've also produced Batman: Dark Tomorrow, I'd say it's better than a lot of other places they could be...

Anyway, as the game starts up, it gives its full title as "Bob the Builder: Project: Build It", meaning the game takes place during the second incarnation of the show, where Bob and friends work on building a community in Sunflower Valley and where the show took on a controversial "environmental" tone. ...And yes, I did just check Wikipedia for that.

And the first thing we hear is, of course, the show's theme song, done in a very well orchestrated 16-bit-style rock remix(which you can hear in its entirety at the end of the video.) Seriously, this game is almost worth buying just to hear the amazing job they did converting the show's theme to a Super Nintendo-esque digitized score! I could just leave the game on all day and listen to the music! ...But I have games to play, so moving on.

The game is actually a collection of six different mini-games, each of which can be played at any time:

Scrambler's Run
Roley's Bridges
Can We Hear It?
Sunflower Growing
Lofty's Tower
Bob's Rock Dig

Each one also has a difficulty choice of Normal, Hard, or Expert, but since this is one of those games where "Expert" means "Easy" to experienced gamers, I chose Expert across the board.

In Scrambler's Run, you control the ATV Scrambler, a new addition to the show at this point, in a horizontal scrolling game where the objective is to collect as many panes of glass as possible before the end of the level.

And right off the bat, you can see the amount of effort they put into the game's animation. It's not as good as Grand Puzzleventure, but it's about as good as Bikini Bottom 500, with digitized models for character sprites and a large FPS rate for character animations. I really don't plan this; it's just every licensed game I've pulled out of the box at random has had Mortal Kombat-level effort put into the character models!

In fact, this game sort of one-ups Bikini Bottom 500 by including digitized voice clips from the show's characters, as you hear when Scrambler shouts at the beginning of the level "After a while, crocodile!" I wish I could create gifs with sound, but until then, just check out the game or watch the video to notice the large amount of voice acting in this game! Again, it's not Puzzleventure-level(is that just my standard from now on?), but it's impressive they included it in a low-memory dedicated console that few people have even heard of.

So the game's target is pretty simple. Just get Scrambler through the level, collecting as many panes as possible by timing your jumps to jump off ramps and avoid obstacles... which aren't many.

All the hazards in the game are comprised of ramps and logs. The ramps you jump off of at the right moment to reach arcing lines of glass panes and the logs you either jump on or travel through, though most of the logs have panes of glass on top, so jumping on them is usually your best bet.

There are also puddles of water at certain points, but they don't seem to do anything, so I'm not including them as a hazard.

And, like Bikini Bottom 500, when Scrambler jumps off a ramp, by holding down any button, he can do a flip in mid-air, much to Bob's approval. Again, it doesn't seem to affect anything, it just looks cool. ...In fact, Bob's head is just floating around in the top left of the screen, either smiling, frowning, or giving the thumbs up after a successful flip. Maybe it's a feature they were going to do something with but they ran out of time and/or money, so it's just left as a way for kids to show off.

After about a minute, the level ends, and if you've collected enough glass panes, roughly 70, Bob finishes the ...tool greenhouse? ...Well, whatever it is, it's done and you feel good about yourself. NEXT!

The next game, Roley's Bridges, involves the player matching the correct shape to the highlighted area. Just push the correct color button on the controller, and if it's right, it'll go in.

Get them all right and Bob's friends cross the bridge to head to the next level.

Again, this is one of those games where you need to look at the controller, since the game lays the colors in a row onscreen as opposed to where they would be on the controller arrows. I guess it's set up this way to teach little kids color recognition and not mindless button pressing, but just organize the onscreen colors to match the arrow pattern on the controller. I'm pretty sure kids will recognize orange, blue, red, and green easily with that method...

And that's the whole game. Place 5 pieces on each of the 3 bridges and you've completed the game. NEXT!

The next game, Can We Hear It?, is a memory game akin to Simon, only we need to memorize the 3 sounds as opposed to colors. Simply tell Bob if each one is a drill, saw, wrench, or hammer to match the combination and build some furniture. And if you forgot the sequence, press Bob's helmet to hear it again.

And this game does what I just mentioned: They organize the onscreen arrows to match the controller, so we don't have to look down to know what we're pressing. Wouldn't teaching young kids how to associate buttons on the controller with onscreen actions be just as important as associating shapes or colors?

So after completing 4 pieces of furniture by matching 3 sounds each, we're told "Well done" before being booted back to the selection screen. NEXT!

Sunflower Growing, my personal favorite on this console, has us growing flowers by mashing the correct button as fast as we can to correspond with the action onscreen. Sun means turn on the solar panels, rain means run the watermill, wind means spin the wind turbine, and crows means call the scarecrow to scare them off. Hit the correct button fast enough and a sunflower will grow.

This is my favorite because it combines quick thinking with button mashing and helps exercise reflexes trying to press the right button under stress and a time limit. It's like those quick time events that everyone says they hate but I feel is a wake-up call after monotonous shooting and jumping. To each his own, but I did feel challenged with this game, which is more than I can say for anything else on here.

And the scarecrow scaring the crows by doing this dance and shouting "Get away, birds! Spud the super scarecrow is on the job!" did get a chuckle out of me.

A lot funnier than a few other scarecrows I know of...

So, after growing 5 sunflowers, they... jump off their stalks in celebration. ...I guess they were so happy to be given life, they didn't want anything to ruin it, so they ended themselves right then and there? ...Oh well. NEXT!

In Lofty's Tower, we need to help Lofty the crane stack blocks by placing them within the outlines to complete a tower. Apparently, this is some sort of therapy since Lofty is afraid of heights... even though he(UK)/she(US)'s not actually up high. It's like a kid being scared of holding their hand over their head... But whatever. Just match up the block with the outline and complete the assigned shape.

 In some cases, the tower is so high, that if you've completed one side but not the other, you need to either guess where the blocks need to fall or hold the down arrow at the same time as the other controls to see where the other outlines are. A little demanding for a game for young children...

 And what's interesting is that they incorporated a "falling" mechanic, so if a block is too near the edge, it will tilt and fall into the adjacent space. No point, just something I'm surprised they added.

The problem with this game is that it's the only one that seemingly never ends. I played it for about 10 minutes, much longer than any of the other games took me, and it just gives me a new tower to complete after each one. I guess I appreciate the variety and amount of puzzles this game contains, but in a console where all other games have a definite goal, why suddenly make this one infinite? Did they think this would be the killer app of the console, the one kids would want to play ad infinitium? Eventually, I gave up looking for an end screen and manually exited the game. If it turns out there is one, I'll play the console again until I reach it, but until then, I'm convinced this is the neverending level. Ohhh oh ohhh oh ohhh oh. NEXT!

And for the final game, and easily the most monotonous, we have Bob's Rock Dig. Crush the rocks to uncover the dinosaur. ...That's it. I thought this would end up being some sort of puzzle game, where if you matched 2 different colors side-by-side, they'd clear themselves out, but no, that's the entire goal of the game. Move Bob in the direction of a pile of rocks and he'll dig through it. The copper colored ones are the easiest to dig through, the tan slightly slower, and the brown the hardest. Repeat until all rocks are gone. ...Fun? Again, I feel like they wanted to do something with this game, but they ran out of time and pushed it out the door as an unfinished demo. And, after playing 5 other games that had some substance to them, what a disappointing way to finish off the console...

And that's what the Bob the Builder Plug n Play console has to offer. So with all said and done, time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the complete 16-bit remix of the Bob the Builder theme. ...Because it beats listening to their cover of Mambo No 5.

 Seriously, they did that...


Design: The console design is simplistic, but functional. I like that they included the colors and tools needed in a few of the minigames on the buttons and that the selection button is Bob's helmet, but overall, nothing to write home about.

Controls: The controls were fluid and responsive where they needed to be. I didn't detect any delays between pushing a button and the onscreen action occurring. I'm not a fan of layouts where the movement arrows are on the outer edges while the selection buttons are right in the middle, since that makes it difficult to control with both hands, but since the game's not about fast gameplay, it works fine.

Music & Sound: Again, we have some REALLY good sound and music in a Plug n Play game, nearly on par with the Grand Puzzleventure game. I'm impressed that they included voice clips from Bob, Scrambler, Lofty, and Spud, and they even created a game based around sound, which must have been hard to keep the clips audible and distinct while at the same time dealing with the storage limitations of a Plug n Play console. The fact they even kept the show's theme and remixed it into something worthy of 90s Nintendo goes to show how much love and effort somebody must have put into it. Admittedly, I would have liked more of it, but what they put in is really good.

Graphics: The graphics are fluid and varied, and much like the style of the Spongebob Bikini Bottom 500 game with its digitized sprite models. I can tell that these were designed either in clay or a 3D program before being scanned in and compressed to fit onto this console, when they could have easily gone the cheap route and designed flat pixel approximations for the game. There's a surprising amount of detail put into the characters turning, jumping, bouncing, and reacting, and, I know I've said this multiple times now, but for a game that few people are going to play, that's impressive. It's not as varied or prevalent as Grand Puzzleventure, but it's still fun to watch.

Gameplay: It's a game designed for the youngest audience we've had yet: Preschoolers who probably watched it on Nick Jr. or the BBC, depending on which country they live in, so the games are overly simplistic. Even at Expert difficulty, none of the games have much substance to attract older gamers and they're too short and easy to convince an older player to play the console in its entirety. That said, there is some variety to the games, especially with Scrambler's Run and Sunflower Growing, and I do feel that younger kids might have fun with the simplistic color, sound, and shape-matching games, especially when they're hearing a cartoon character they've watching on TV tell them "Great Job!" I never felt like my intelligence was being insulted, so younger kids will probably feel that they're learning and not being patronized while having fun. So while the gameplay's not for everyone, there is enough to keep it interesting and fun for your 5-year-old.

Replay Value: The games are too short and simple to have anything to come back to, and since nothing's unlocked by completing each game, there's no reason to play them over again. At least Puzzleventure had goals for each level and a puzzle to complete at the end, but here, I think only the youngest players would find enough to come back to, while older gamers just won't have the attention span to get through the whole game.


It gives just enough variety and effort to kick it to just above average. The graphics and sound are phenomenal, but as it's a game made for little kids, it's most likely only the very young will find something to come back to. Still, I did have some fun playing a few games and listening to the music and sounds, so there is some substance to it at least. So if you're a parent looking for something Bob the Builder-related to give to your young cartoon show fan, as well as keep them occupied for a few hours, this is a good gift to seek out. And when your kid is singing along with the theme song and asks "Can we fix it?", you can join in and shout out "Yes we can!" just for fun.


...Well, now I just feel like I'm spoiling you with these games with insanely good graphics and music and gameplay that's at least passable. I started this show to show you the entire spectrum, and yet most of the games so far have been far above average! So for the next Plug n Play game, I'm going to purposely look for a console that's mediocre... at best...'Til then...