Fireman Sam DS Review

When he hears the fire bell chime, Fireman Sam is there on time

Fireman Sam DS Review  Everybody Plays
11th December, 2012
Game Info // Fireman Sam
Fireman Sam Boxart
Publisher: Uacari
Developer: Avanquest
Players: 1
Online Multiplayer: None
Subtitles: No
Available On: DS
Genre: Mini-game

And so we're faced with another victim of the BBC's relentless massacre of childhood memories, with helpful Welsh firefighter Fireman Sam being the latest to take the fall from old-fashioned stop motion charm to "modern" CG. We guess change is inevitable, but sometimes things go too far - Dilys no longer looks like Eric Idle in drag, cheerful bus driver Trevor's moved on and poor Sam's face looks like it's been hit by the very vehicle he drives. Even so, these are all things we can deal with, especially as underneath it's animated exterior it's still pretty much the same show – he's still the helpful hero next door we remember – but the least they could have done was leave the theme tune intact. Fireman Sam doesn't need a Busted-alike to play him in.


Fireman Sam Screenshot

We remember Elvis for being a notoriously bad cook, although we don't remember him having a penchant for gardening...

Inevitable repercussions from getting older aside, Pontypandy's friendly fireman is still as popular as he ever was, and like many children's TV characters, that means he gets his own DS game. Here you'll find a pretty familar selection of fifteen mini-games, which are mostly variations on a theme of the games found in the company's other kids DS titles (such as Timmy Time, Noddy In Toyland and Fifi and the Flowertots), packed with old favourites like jigsaws, spot the difference and other kids favourites.

In an effort to make the game appeal to as wider audience as possible, each game can be played on one of three different difficulties – although, unfortunately, it doesn't go anywhere near far enough, as often the only noticeable difference between easy and hard is the number of mistakes you can make before it's game over (except in the case of jigsaws and sliding tiles, where it dictates the number of pieces you get).

Sadly, what this often results in is a game that's challenging enough for adults, yet alone the younger children the game's undoubtedly targeting. One of the best examples is Spot The Difference, where you need to compare the two pictures shown on the top and bottom screens of the DS, touching anything you think looks a bit suspect. The game itself is pretty decent with a fair few different pictures to play with, each of which has dozens of potential differences, meaning any repetition is kept to a minimum. But the main problem is, the differences you're looking for will be the same no matter what difficulty you're playing on. Playing on Easy, you'll get more "lives", which lets you get a few more choices "wrong", but we were expecting the differences to be a lot more obvious on Easy - like Sam having green hair, Elvis missing an arm, a whole fridge having disappeared; instead Sam's shirt was fractionally shorter, the fridge door was a slightly different shape and a small patch on the sofa had gone. We spent a while struggling to find some of the differences, so god knows how a smaller child would cope...


Fireman Sam Screenshot

It's not even worth attempting most games on hard, as the game ramps the difficulty up to insane levels. Multiply those notes by a million and you have an idea of what you're up against on hard.

Dilys' Supermarket is another game that suffers from a few small glitches, although not quite in the same way as the spot the difference. In this game, you needed to find the objects shown on the shopping list, which sounds simple enough, and could have made a pretty decent little game for kids learning to read. The problem is, many of the words on the list ranged from a bit on the vague side (such as 'jaws' for the jaws of life and a 'buzzer' we have yet to figure out), to downright wrong – a 'buoy' that was actually a life ring and a 'creek' that we can only assume is a car jack of some description. The pictures themselves aren't much better either, with a salami-like object actually turning out to be a 'case' – it's a puzzle in itself working out which picture goes with which word, and is likely to be enough to completely confuse younger children (and the adults that get roped into helping too).

Not all the games are bad though – for many children, the jigsaws are likely to be the highlight of the package thanks to their simplicity, and the sliding tiles games may well prove popular too, although it would be nice if you could pick which picture you wanted to play for each, rather than being stuck with a random one. The Patrol Sounds memory game, where you need to listen to and memorise a sequence of sounds before repeating them back is also pretty good, and Pontypandy Heroes, a familiar game of pairs will likely get a fair amount of play time too. The Fire Service game has you matching various shadows to a series of pictures, and Norman Calculates is a simple game of sudoku, using just 4 numbers on easy rising to the full 9 digits on hard.

In all, then, Fireman Sam is a bit of a weird one – they've obviously given some thought to their target audience, having three different difficulties to ensure everyone can play, but some of the mini-games don't really adjust themselves enough to work for the youngest of the young. The games themselves aren't that bad, but a few illogical decisions, dodgy translations (we assume) and cheap ways of increasing the difficulty let them down.
StarStarHalf starEmpty starEmpty star
Average
  • +
    Good selection of familiar mini-games like Jigsaws and Pairs
  • +
    Three difficulties should let everyone find one they're comfortable with
  • +
    Probably the sort of games children will play over and over
  • -
    Relies on text to explain the mini-games when most of its audience may not be confident readers
  • -
    Some of the mini-games may prove a bit difficult, even on easy
  • -
    The names of some of the items in Dilys' Supermarket are wrong
2.5/5
Parents! Looking for more info? Check out our quick parent's guide to Fireman Sam for all you need to know!
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