Firstly, it has to be said that it’s not entirely Spot the Differences! fault that it was the only mini in the whole wide world released this week, hence the collective disappointed groan from those of us who were hoping for a few more games and maybe something a little more on the interesting side even?
That’s not to say that somewhere out there a PSP-owning Spot the Difference fiend is in a state of total delirium right now, but the rest of us can be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed.
My heart did sink a little as I loaded the game up, I have to confess. Something about Spot the Difference games reminds me of the puzzle pages in the back of boring magazines that you read in the dentist’s waiting room.
Even so, it’s only fair to give Spot the Differences! every chance: there really have been very few duds among all the minis released so far, so the odds were high that Spot the Differences! could pull a shock result out of the bag. In the end that sadly didn’t happen.
If you’re thinking that there must be more to the gameplay than simply comparing two photos and spotting the differences, well sadly, there doesn’t appear to be! There are a couple of different modes that determine how many spots you have to make, or how the pictures you see are generated, but essentially, what you see is what you get.
As far as the gameplay mechanics go, it’s all very simple. From the main menu you can choose either Arcade or Custom mode. In Arcade mode there are four difficulty settings: Rookie, Amateur, Connoisseur and Expert, although Rookie is the only one that’s unlocked from the start. However, I’m not sure how many people will actually be able to stick with the game long enough to move up even as far as Amateur.
To get cracking with your spotting, simply select Arcade and you’ll be presented with the first two side-by-side pictures in a matter of seconds. The pictures are randomly generated from themes such as Pets and Sport.
Underneath the pictures you’ll see a trophy on the left next to your current score, and on the right a timer in the form of a green bar. When it reaches the end and turns orange, you’ve run out of time and it’s Game Over. In Rookie mode you have just 90 seconds to find all five differences, which isn’t much time at all. Simply keep finding all the differences in each picture to rack up points and eventually unlock the next level. And that’s about all there is to it.
You move around the photos using either the d-pad or the analog stick, and select the ‘difference’, by pressing X. If you get it right you will see a red ring appear, if not you’ll see a red cross and hear a buzzer. One thing that the game sorely needs is a zoom mode, as some of the details in the photos are so tiny they’re very difficult to see!
As you make your way through the photos the gameplay feels more irritating than compelling: you start to think, life is too short to be spending time counting the wrinkles on a pug’s face! After peering intently at two beach hut pictures and trying to count precisely how many fronds there were on each palm tree, I found that I didn’t really care enough to want to see the next photo. And it also has to be said that although the photos are generated randomly, you will start to see repeats fairly early on.
The difficulty setting also seems to be a little bit erratic. Some of the pictures are very easy and some are really difficult, even on Rookie. For example, try spotting the differences between hundreds of different coloured jelly beans! Headache central!
In Custom Game there are two modes: Time Attack and Select Scenes, which is initially locked. In Time Attack you have three minutes to find as many differences as you can, one difference at a time per photo. This part is actually quite fun, because of its rapid-fire nature. Select Scenes mode simply means that you choose which pictures you want to play with.
Overall, this is a very disappointing mini. It probably works great as a Flash game for filling in a couple of minutes at work, and there are bound to be some people who enjoy this type of game who will like it as a mini, but it just seems such a waste of the PSP’s processing power compared to the likes of Red Bull X- Fighters, Zombie Tycoon, Fieldrunners and Mahjongg Artifacts 2. It’s not the worst game ever, but there are much better minis available to spend your money on.