Kingfisher, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-7534-6721-3
Puzzle Gamebook, 2011
Now this is an interesting one. It’s a “virtual puzzle tour” that introduces you to the desktop version of Google Earth. That’s the desktop version, not the browser version, by the way, which isn’t specified here. Understandable, as Google Earth has changed since 2011. However, this one still works very well today, so there’s no need to panic or demand a refund.
What this one does is pretty much what it says on the cover – you will use Google Earth to travel to the destination specified on each dual-spread, and have fun exploring the place using Google Earth. You start at London, zooming in at the Tower of London, and go to other interesting landmarks that way. Along the way, you will have to scrutinize the illustration on each spread and do some scavenger hunt. There is a bit of a disconnect between the Google Earth element and the scavenger hunt element, but still, it allows for some interesting vicarious globe-trotting around the world. At the very least, playing this one gets you to actually fiddle with Google Earth, and it’s a pretty interesting experience. Of course, nothing beats traveling first class to these locations, but we can’t all drop whatever we are doing and do that now, can we?
Unfortunately, the scavenger hunt part is rather lackluster. William Ings’s illustration is pretty nice to look at, but some of the aspects of the scavenger hunt are iffy. You have to look for an object that is out of place because it comes from another era, for example, and the one in a scene with a shipwreck at the Great Barrier Reef is an old model of the telephone. But if this is an old shipwreck we are talking about, who’s to say that the phone is out of place? In a scene depicting the Himalayas, you are asked to search for a souvenir that is worn at the head. There are many people in the scene wearing something on the head, so which one is the one specified by the clue? If you are giving this one to a very inquisitive child, be prepared to answer some questions about why it has to be this and not that.
The Great Global Puzzle Challenge with Google Earth is an interesting hands-on experience, but it’s a pity that the content doesn’t seem to be as well thought out as it should have been.