Bluey: “Dad, can we play a game?”
Bandit: “Yes, as long as I don’t have to move any part of my body, or say any words from my mouth.”
I am coming to Bluey: The Videogame as a long-time fan of the series. I have a two-year-old son for real life, and we have watched every episode of the three available seasons of Bluey, possibly upwards of ten, maybe even twenty times each. We know phrases, lines, locations, characters – at this point we could probably have Bluey as our Mastermind specialist subject. And win.
So coming into Bluey: The Videogame was a big deal in our household. Possibly more so for me than my son. Bluey is of such Emmy-winning quality, so funny, touching, and well put together, that it has managed to transcend children’s TV into public and adult awareness, whether you have kids or not. Something only a handful of properties achieve – we’re talking Teletubbies, Peppa Pig, or Spongebob, and arguably Bluey is a lot better written than all of those.
A Bluey videogame always had a fairly stellar legacy to live up to, and a high bar to achieve. We want quality, we want hilarity, we want memorable lines. We want the show in videogame form. But we also want a celebration of all things that have been in the show already. Does Artax and Outright Games’ first-ever Bluey game manage to fulfill these somewhat lofty expectations? Let’s take a look.
But That’s What Makes Them Heroes – They Go Anyway!
Bluey: The Videogame is a kind of sandbox of four locations from the show, and it’s framed as if it were four episodes. Waking up and starting off a game of Keepy Uppy, Bluey, Bingo, Bandit and Chilli find an old photo of Bandit as a boy when the balloon goes astray. On the back is a treasure map drawn by Bandit and his brothers Rad and Stripe. Over the course of four episodes the family roams the Heeler House, visits the playground and plays Ground is Lava with Muffin and Stripe, has Uncle Rad over to play Chattermax chase, and then eventually after some Magic Xylophone, pays a visit to the Creek with Grandad to unearth the treasure. The beach is the final ‘reward’ location, but there’s no story there.
It’s a nice and passable narrative with lots of callbacks to episodes fans will know and love, lots of secrets, toys and items to find, and four proper minigames to play. However because of this callback nature, and the reliance on Bandit’s history with his brothers, it does come off quite unoriginal. The more hyper fan will get something from it, as it’s yet more Bluey, but I’m not sure it added that much. It fails to have enough of the adult-aimed jokes, or the flavour of Bluey outside her love of games.
Bluey: The Videogame is also very short. Four episodes go by in almost the same span of time as they would on the show, which is sub-40 minutes. And while they can all be extended by kids finding collectibles, stickers and incessantly playing Keepy Uppy, it does start to wear thin quickly. The immediate family is well-represented, although with the fairly huge exception of Nanny Heeler. It’s maybe the friends side of the equation that gets completely abandoned. Where are Chloe, Mackensie, Rusty, and their huge ensemble of friends? Where’s Doreen, or Calypso and the school? It raises the point that the choice of locations, while all lovely, is very curtailed.
I think going in I expected something along the lines of the South Park or Spongebob games – recreating the town in its entirety. These characters are missing because their respective locations are missing. It would have been great to visit Bluey’s preschool and play with her friends, and they could have all been at the playground anyway. Where’s Muffin’s house and the pool, where’s the park where Shadowlands is played, or where Turtleboy waits, and I can meet other dads for a soy latte and banana bread? The issue is that there is a stark lack of content here, and it shows in what you immediately notice is missing.
Making Up Games Is More Important Than You Think
The most important part of Bluey, the quintessential part of her entire character and the premise of the show, is games. Bluey is a game creator, forever incessantly inventing games for her and Bingo and her friends to play together. From simple things like just sliding in the mud, to Keepy Uppy, from turning the trampoline into a salad spinner, to Hide and Seek. This is the most important thing that a game about Bluey has to get right, otherwise it fundamentally fails. It’s a game, and it needs to be about games.
Thankfully, Outright Games and Artax have understood Bluey at the pitch-perfect level. From the first moments waking up in Mum and Dad’s room in the Heeler house, a quick tutorial shows you the ropes, but most importantly Bluey immediately turns it into a game – collecting up the stuffed animals and putting them back in the zoo. Everyone gets involved, and it’s a joy as a fan to suddenly hear all their voices and mannerisms have been captured perfectly as well. Well-known games from the show become mini-games in their own right, but it’s that ‘feel’ of the show that is the important thing captured.
For the most part, the game is a sandbox, just full of references, recognisable characters, toys, areas, lines, and things to find. Outside of the episodes, playtime will be extended a few hours by you and the kids you bought this for (you did buy this for your kids, right?) just trying to collect all the stickers from every location and completing a sticker book. And while that will keep kids going for a while, there needs to be a tangible reward to keep them coming back, and justifying that £40 price tag. Most things you do earn a star, and three stars earn a hat of some description for the dress-up basket, that can be swapped out at any time. You can play as any of the family, and change their hat whenever the feeling takes you.
But that’s it. It’s just some thirty odd hats. My two-year-old had no interest in that beyond the first funny one, and I don’t think it’ll last older kids that long either. What would have been much better would have been full costumes and skins – Where’s the grannies costumes, the ninjas, doctors, fairy queens and such etc? It would have been so much fun to have bandit be a Sheepdog, and a horse, or hop in the little car as Bingo and Bluey grannies.
It’s Called A Tactical Wee
What Artax and Outright Games have done really well is capture the feel of the show – the games, quips, and all. Things look right and feel right. There would have been nothing worse than everyone moving wrong or sounding wrong. Nothing looks like a knock-off, low quality, or unofficial. It all looks good. However, it doesn’t manage to translate quite enough of the side of the show that makes jokes for adults or is about parenting, but it’s a kid’s game. It nails the sandbox nature of what kids who want a Bluey game think they want – to be able to explore the massive Heeler house and a few other locales. But it doesn’t offer all that much more beyond that point – there are far fewer locations than I initially thought I was getting.
For a first Bluey videogame, it is successful enough and scratches an itch. But it’s not going to feel like a classic. For that this needed to go further, a lot further – it needed to feature a longer story, with many more well-known locations. It needed to do what the South Park games did with South Park and make virtually the entire neighborhood explorable. It needed activities that had a runtime of a dozen hours or more, not a bare couple. I do appreciate kids will replay the four episodes probably half a dozen times (we’ve done that and more with the show) and that does mean there’s replayability, but I would expect replayability when the runtime of the main game is barely 2+ hours.
For Bluey fans it’s a no-brainer, and my kid enjoyed it immensely. It never does anything particularly memorable or of the same quality as the show and it is very short, but it’s a great sandbox for kids to explore and replay, and it achieves something wonderful in capturing the ‘feel’ of the show.
Bluey: The Videogame is available now for PlayStation 5 (review platform), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.
Developers: Artax Games
Publisher: Outright Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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