The Big Bumper Game of Puzzles Compendium appears fairly innocuous at first. You're presented with a seemingly quaint English village that looks a bit like one of those play mats you'd have as a kid, with oddly out of place sabre-toothed tigers on a sheep farm or some other such anachronisms. But then people start getting shot and you begin to notice the serious case of inbreeding that appears to have driven the inhabitants of Little Riddle absolutely mental.
Some of the citizens share disturbingly similar looks: the station master, the butcher and the police inspector all share enough similarities that it looks like they've been spunked out by the same brother and sister set up. As do the doctor, the baker and the antique dealer. The only seemingly unique character is the hotel owner but he's just Basil Fawlty's slightly more annoying cousin - so not that unique at all really.
Perhaps it doesn't help that every single character is voiced by the same person, a certain Tom Dussek, who does do an admirable job of making the characters sound different-ish but his narrator voice really begins to grate after a few puzzles. Especially with his amazingly annoying application of alliteration.
Anyway, if you've read Wez's family friendly and fun review of the first two episodes (this is going to be of all six episodes as one inglorious package) then you'll know roughly what Blue Toad is about. The Blue Toad detective agency is staffed by an odd mix of mute characters who, upon arriving at the town of Little Riddle, are immediately charged with trying to solve a few mysteries, figure out who is going around murdering bit part characters and try not to get annoyed with the general ineptitude of everyone they meet.
By 'they' I mean you. You meet them and they've all got some problem that only you, being a super sleuth, can sort out for them. Only it doesn't really come down to any real detective work. You're not Batman-ing it up here; instead you're solving problems - maths problems, follow the curly lines to the end problems, rearranging patterns problems, a bit of sudoku here and there and other such things you'd expect to find in the 'take a break' section of an incredibly conservative newspaper or a puzzle book you'd find in a dentist's waiting room. Wordsearches also feature.
Now while a lot of these work when you're sitting there with paper to scrawl on they really don't work that well when all you have is a controller and a TV screen. It doesn't matter how big your television is, either, it's still too confusing to follow a wiggly line with your eyes. It's fine on paper when you can follow the line to the end easily enough with your finger, but the only way to do it without giving yourself a pulsing migraine would be to get your greasy fingers all over your television.
The mental arithmetic problems might have been okay if my brain hadn't been addled by years of neglect in this aspect. And you're timed on all these irritating puzzles. There is a time limit to complete the puzzles in; do it quicker than you're supposed to and you get a gold medal and the narrator calls you smug. Complete it after that and the narrator basically calls you an idiot. Fail at the observation tests, because the story chugs along at an annoyingly slow rate and you've been staring off into the middle distance and not paying due attention, then the narrator and the game unjustly calls you a loser. Heck if you don't press X to advance to the next screen soon enough you get berated also. Basically it feels like the game doesn't really like you very much.
Yes it's supposed to be jokey and jovial, but it just felt rather rude. Especially as the serious lack of anything fun in the game doesn't entertain and watching dust dance in the sunlight between the curtains becomes a much more interesting distraction.
There are 12 puzzles in each episode and no skip button to get through the more insipid conversations with whatever voice Dussek is putting on at the time. Though you can replay scenes by just pressing the square button, don't do it. I did and had to sit through the same conversation I'd just heard and that just subtracted even more fun from the no fun I was already having.
Perhaps it would be okay to check out one episode to see if you like it but it really feels like there isn't much point getting all of them. By the time you reach the last episode you don't care any more. People get killed and the puzzles you do don't seem to relate to any of the detective work you think you might really need to solve cases as the mystery of who stole from Lady Snobbish's manor, nor does rearranging biscuits with letters on them to reveal the relationship between two of the characters in Little Riddle.
And then there's the complete lack of replay value. The puzzles don't change after you complete a game and require the exact same solutions if you accidentally pick something to try again in the puzzle compendium menu. But is it any fun in multi-player? Well it lessens the number of puzzles you have to complete and it's quite good fun watching someone tear their hair out over the latest brain numbing conundrum. But imagining that the whole family will want to sit down and try to eke out some fun is completely ridiculous.
Anyway in the end, after the credits, it's revealed that in actual fact you're a bit rubbish and didn't really work out who was behind it all at all, rendering the whole six episodes completely and utterly pointless.