Hugo's Jungle Island 1

Reviewed by: David & Steven Reitter, send e-mail
Published by: ITE Media ApS, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95 or higher, Pentium computer, 64MB RAM, VGA video or higher, 16-bit color, mouse, sound card
MSRP: $14.95

Interactive Television Entertainment (ITE ApS) was founded in 1988 in Copenhagen, and in 1990 the interactive TV show "Hugo the TV Troll" appeared for the first time on Danish television. Since then, the company has been actively producing interactive kids TV entertainment for markets in Europe and South America. Hugo the Troll shows are currently aired from Denmark to Venezuela (who knew?). In 1998, ITE founded the company ITE Media ApS, which develops games based on the characters from the interactive TV shows. Today, the games are sold on PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Game Boy (not GBA), Set Top Boxes based on the Open TV standard and Internet portals.

We always read the backstory of these games whenever we receive them for review. We always hope for something different even though we know it's true that kids always respond positively to the age-old challenge of a quest to rescue the abductee, defeat the abductor, all while making alliances with various travelers and coping with all manner of obstacles. The story then, is also almost always secondary to the splashes of color, the nature of the action, the appeal of the characters and the imagery presented by the game designers.

Hugo's Jungle Island 1 doesn't disappoint on the story or imagery side of things. Scylla the wicked witch (who looks suspiciously like Disney's Cruella DeVille) has abducted Hugolina (Hugo's wife) and their three children (Rit, Rat and Rut), hiding them on Volcano Island. Scylla has ganged up with a nasty crocodile (Don Kroco) the fearsome tyrant of Jungle Island. Hugo quickly teams up with two friends (Jean Paul the monkey, Fernando the toucan). The player (6-12 years old as recommended) has to help Hugo rescue the wife and kids.

Flying around in the HugoCopter is fun for kids - any vehicle a kid can control fairly easily is bound to be a hit. The HugoCopter is the main mode of travel throughout the game. There are six phases or challenges in the game, the funniest of which is retrieving all your bananas from some irritating monkeys, while armed only with a wet fish. It's really quite hilarious. There's also a memory challenge (the player has to match up animals in a tropical forest) which proved to be the most popular quest for our 6 year old game tester. The Secret of the Inca Pyramid challenge was the hit for our 10 year old game tester.

The Follow the Monkey challenge was extremely difficult particularly by the time our young gamers reached the third and fourth round. A mistake forces a restart at the first round. The vine climbing section worked well but did not prove to be particularly interesting for our testers. But the Inca Pyramid climb was exactly the opposite - lots of dangers, lots of 'battles' and lots of mean stuff from Scylla and Don Kroco.

Cons: There are no instructions indicating that you need to hit the space bar to start a game. The game screen says "get ready" and then you wait and wait, then start hitting buttons until you clue in to which one works. Not a great way to start off novice 6 year old gamers. It's impossible for most 6 and many 7 year olds to handle the four arrow keys and space bar simultaneously as required in one of the sections. We disagree with the age range listed for the game (6-12 years) - 7-9 years seems more realistic.

Pros: Colorful action and good looking, appealing characters. The Hugo franchise has been very popular in Scandinavia and the game represents the best part of all the creative efforts that go into ITE's products. The more difficult and challenging parts of the game will serve to stretch very young minds in creative and stimulating ways. Lots of fun. Eight of the ITE game titles are supported by full online game engines, allowing kids to play with their peers around the world, in a kid-safe environment. Note that Denmark is a little more liberal than some other countries (Canada and the U.S. for instance?). Recommended.

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