Barney’s Hide and Seek Game

I decided a while ago that two things were going to happen with this site. One, I wasn’t going to intentionally avoid any games. Those that aren’t natively in English or excellently translated; a necessary exception. Everything else was fair game. Two, I wasn’t going to bust up kids’ games for cheap laughs. (Okay, I wasn’t going to bust them up anymore.) What’s the point?  “Comedians” bashing old games on the Internet has already been done to death.

"Mmmmm! Billy, your brains taste scrumptious!" *sluuuuuurp*
“Mmmmm! Billy, your brains taste scrumptious!” *sluuuuuurp*

So yes, this is going to be a serious review of Barney’s Hide and Seek Game. Well, as serious as I can be about the subject. Now I came to the party both too late and too early for Barney, (too late to watch it, too early to have spawn of my own) so I don’t know the basic premise. In the game, you’ll control Barney himself as he plays a game of hide and seek with his wee friends. Gameplay consists of moving Barney through the stages, looking for five poorly-hidden children and five wrapped presents. Your goal is to collect all ten in each of the four levels.

The D-Pad moves Barney left to right through the stages. Every button, including Start, are all used to trigger the same action command. By default, this orders Barney to blow a kiss (awww…) In contextual situations, it will make Barney jump, or activate objects in the level. As you pass by items you can interact with, authentic Barney voice samples will announce them (such as “I see a bunny!” or “We can ride on the log!”). Pressing any button at this point triggers a little burst of sparkly magic from Barney’s hand – sparkly magic, you see, means that Barney can still be interacting with things while standing frozen in place, and the animators can take a late lunch.

Most things your magic can activate are just simple events to make the world come alive. A rabbit eats a carrot and hops away. Flowers bloom. A raccoon picks up a piece of trash and places in a smiling garbage can. The only times the magic really matters is when you fire some next to a present, or next to a hiding child. The present gets added to your scavenger hunt tally. The child crawls out, receives a creepy hug from the plush dinosaur, and a reminder of how much Barney loves them. Granted, it’s not as creepy in context as Moonwalker.

Graphics are expectedly cute and cartoony. Barney’s character is large and his expressions detailed. There’s a bit too much repetition within the worlds, but I suppose it’s fair to say they invite exploration. Each of the levels also maintains a unique theme, with different objects to activate. Music is clean, and mostly traditional kids’ riffs like “The Farmer in the Dell.” The real stars are the voice samples. Game Barney is voiced by the actual actor, and all his clips are replayed relatively clearly. The sheer number of them is surprising, and they range from game instructions, to identifying nearby objects, to a simple “Dum de dum” kind of walking tune and assorted giggles. Barney talks A LOT, which is excellent for the character and trying to replicate a TV show. About the only flaw is that lines were recorded with split verbs and nouns, so you’ll hear a noticeable lag as Barney says things like “I see a… butterfly!”

I guess the major problem I have is that the game is WAY too easy. [“It’s a kid’s game, dumbass!” – a reader] Now hear me out. Yes, it’s a kids’ game. But I don’t know why developers got the idea that games for children needed to be so simple and so boring that they were barely games at all. I’ll guess the audience for this game is about 3-5 years old. When I was 4, I was playing Pitfall. There’s videos on YouTube of 5 year old kids who are better at Guitar Hero than I ever will be. Unless this game’s going for the cutthroat 1-2 year old gaming demographic, then it’s too fucking easy. What do I mean? Well, how about the fact that the game plays itself?

Really, I'm not even in the room right now.
Really, I’m not even in the room right now.

No, I’m serious. Turn the game on, don’t touch the controller. In about two seconds, Barney will dance and maybe instruct you to press a button when you get near a present. In four seconds, he’ll start walking himself to that level’s exit. I thought this was the attract mode, because I kept pressing buttons to get myself out of this and into the game. But this is the game! At any point, you can hold a direction to take over and guide Barney yourself, or press a button for magic (though he’ll still walk on his own). You’ll have get involved to deploy magic because Barney won’t automatically find the tykes. Otherwise, kick back and let Barney handle all the difficult level-navigating for you! Just don’t make the mistake of leaving the game unattended, because you’ll have to march that fucker right back to where you left off. And remember that you can’t press Start to pause, because Start is just the same as every other button, and results only in Barney blowing you a kiss after meandering into two levels later. Kiss my black ass, Barney.

Should you actually decide to play, you’ll encounter more “gimmies” like a stoplight at the edge of platforms you could fall off of. Disregard the warning, and Barney holds up a stop sign and says “We should wait ’til it’s safe!” Disregard that? Well, you can’t, because Barney ain’t moving until the platform shows up. About the hardest part of the entire show is learning that hills that rise beyond the top of the screen can be scaled by using balloons or jumps, and often must be explored to find hidden kids. Or learning where the exit is, since it’s never marked. The level simply stops scrolling and tallies your score when you hit the edge.

Not that any of this matters, because the game doesn’t appear to change based on your performance. Find all five objects and all five kids in a level, and Barney will announce “Faaaantastic!” Find just one, and you’ll still have done a “Great Job!” Find none at all? Barney just awkwardly becomes interested in an object off-screen and hurriedly exits stage right. Nothing negative. No encouragement to try harder, or a reminder of what the goal you didn’t even come close to completing is. You absolutely can’t lose the game, because that might crush a young gamer’s self-esteem. So why play?

I can imagine a two-year-old sitting in front of the TV, watching Barney move on his own, and legitimately thinking they’re playing the game. If that’s something that a parent thought was worth $60, well, I almost wouldn’t be surprised. The game is nothing more than an artistically sharp, colorful distraction for toddlers. Anyone any amount of years older won’t find substance backing the game up, challenge, or educational value. And despite being a platformer with levels that extend beyond the screen and objects to learn to interact with, this isn’t a great introduction to the mechanics of video games. Those interactive picture books they advertised for the PC seem like much better deals, and games that might actually teach a kid something.


The Good

Colorful. Barney talks, and he loves you.

The Bad

Really, nothing happens. You can literally win even if you never touch the controller. Straightforward, but lameass title. It’s not even a Hide and Seek Adventure?


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2 thoughts on “Barney’s Hide and Seek Game

  1. Seems like a pretty licentious usage of a half-star rating. But I’m sure you have a consistent set of criteria. What you’re saying is you can’t imagine the game being any the worse in any respect?

    1. We used to have a 1-100 scale, but switched to stars because that was what came with this template. 1-100 gave more nuance, but also opened up issues as to why X game was one point lower than Y game. After doing this for 15 years, I can definitely say I’m not a fan of scores, and there’s no perfect system.

      But yes, 1/2 star refers to something I couldn’t imagine being any worse. If Where’s Waldo for the NES is the gold standard, this maybe could have converted to a full star (I don’t remember what the original numerical score was). Still, even reading it now, I can only think of ways the game could have been better.

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