Games made specifically for children often seem to follow a very specific
pattern. Either they mimic more popular “core” gaming titles and do this
successfully, or they fail miserably. iCarly 2: iJoin the Click
for the Wii and DS falls into the latter category. While, surprisingly, the
first iCarly videogame outing was a
decent offering of quick and easy minigames, the sequel’s attempt at parroting
concepts popularized in MySims and Animal Crossing nosedives about as fast as
some of the live action show’s jokes. It's really a shame, especially when
the show's relatively talented cast and techno-ready world would have made for a
pretty interesting variation on these themes.
You’re the “New Kid” (yes, that’s what they actually call you), male or
female, who just happens to be in the same class as Carly and Sam. They
recognize you as a massive iCarly fan who seems much, much cooler than the rest,
and thus they invite you to take part in the mega-popular web series on a
regular basis. It’s a very convenient and tidy plot setup, thus I didn’t expect
much by way of story from this contrived adventure.
With all that settled, you’re free to roam the town before completing
objectives. Environments, characters, and even menus are reminiscent of the very
kid-centric MySims games, with a dash of Animal Crossing tossed in for good
measure. You have your own living space to decorate as you please, and much of
your time is spent gathering ornamental items such as furniture and decor to be
used to spruce up your place or the iCarly set. To do this, you need only
perform simple fetch quests, give advice, talk to people around the town, or
impress your cast-mates. Along the way you’ll also pick up different costumes,
which can range from the ridiculous (hula girl, disco guy) to practical and make
walking around town dressed as though it’s Halloween kind of interesting.
Aside from making rounds in the town digging up new items to add to your
inventory, every “week” you’ll receive an alert via the game’s smartphone to
return to the iCarly set and film the latest show. This involves completing one
of several minigames, which usually give vague directions and make little sense
until you actually get some time to get used to them. I found the one I had the
most fun with was actually a Peggle knock-off in which the directions made it
out to be a completely different-sounding game. Of course it didn’t run as
smoothly as Peggle, but the idea, setup, and even some of the sound effects were
Once you’ve gotten through a minigame, you’re ranked on your performance.
Then comes mixing the show to produce it. I found this to be a bit confusing,
unlocking segments and pieces to be used in the latest episode. These will be
played in the order you set them and involve the iCarly staff performing various
silly stunts, like Sam swinging from a jungle vine across the set. From there,
you’ll get a ratings report on how many viewers that episode had. There wasn’t
much to this part, but II found it frustrating to have to fiddle around with
things and guess rather than be given more clear cut instructions. I can only
imagine how children will feel, or parents of said children. Still, the
minigames and prospect of creating your own iCarly episode will likely excite
them and alleviate some of the monotony of collecting items and interacting with
Interaction is slow and boring, with a short animation accompanying the
acquisition of each new item, represented by a circle with a star in the middle
rather than the actual item. Searching lockers and other set-pieces for
salvageable decor proved boring as well, and failed to keep my attention for
very long. It didn’t much help that aside from the game’s stars like Carly and
her brethren, in-game dialogue is akin to Simlish in bland, mechanical voices.
This seemed very, very lazy to me and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out
why they couldn’t have at the very least given incidental characters some cheap
voice actors or removed “voices” at all if they were just going to be gibberish.
In addition, speaking to Carly and her friends proved very awkward at times.
Repeat interaction prompted several strange, out-of-context phrases that made
little sense to me, which I can only assume were lines of dialogue yanked from
the show: “Keep your soup in the toilet!” I imagine children will find this
amusing, but it only served to annoy me when I wanted a repeat of my next
objective, such as locating Freddy or what kinds of items I was looking for.
It's too bad using the smartphone menu proved slow and cumbersome, disappearing
when you are in motion and reappearing if you hover the Wii remote onscreen for
a bit. At the very least, traveling on foot is quick and efficient, though you
must refer to a map that you can’t keep on-screen and continue traveling with.
This is a mechanic I thought they did away with already, but for whatever reason
the developers chose not to allow players to quick travel or set waypoints. “iSuppose”
that would be asking too much.
Luckily, the town is neatly arranged into a small, workable area and finding
where you need to go isn’t too much of an issue...it’s just painfully boring.
And that’s not going to keep kids or adults playing. While we’re at it, neither
are the bland visuals or blocky bodies of your avatar and fellow iCarly
Fortunately, where the Wii version fails, as seems to be the case with most
titles ported straight to the little handheld that could, the DS iCarly 2 is
somewhat more decent. Since everything is scaled down to a much more manageable
and intimate format, it’s not as much of a hassle to try and navigate a “big”
overworld or spend so much time waiting for items to load. The smaller screens
are a much more appropriate home for this type of outing, but the same pacing
problems still plague the portable version, and that’s just nothing changing
systems can fix.
iCarly 2: iJoin the Click is an attempt at marketing the
more successful gaming mechanics of games like MySims or even Animal Crossing to
a younger set, only it muddles what makes those titles work in the first place:
accessibility, variety, and fun. I found none of these within the worlds in
either game, and it’s a shame because the
first title was a decent collection
of minigames and silliness based on the popular TV show that I thought children
and fans would absolutely love. I’m not sure why they dropped the ball here, but
I’m hoping that any other further attempts made go back to basics and touch back
on what made the tie-in a decent buy for your kids in the first place.