Puzzle books come in all shapes and sizes and while I wasn’t so very fond of picture books or those types of books in general, I did love the I Spy puzzle books. There were a ton of those “Seek and Find” type books back in the day, from Where’s Waldo to ones based off of famous Disney movies (I totally had the Little Mermaid one, too) and everything in between. I remember liking the I Spy genre, though, because the pictures and setting for each book were so creative and artsy. My brothers and I had a ton of fun going through new books together and competing to see who could find the objects the quickest or who could find the most objects in a certain page. We’d go through the books so often that we’d remember which things to “spy” and could find them right off the bat. In short, this was something for me and my younger brothers to bond over, particularly when I could read, but they were still too young to recognize all the words. So many hours spent in fond companionship!
If you read my review of the horror anthology, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, you probably noted that I’ve always been something of a horror fanatic. So, naturally, my favorite book from this series was I Spy Spooky Night, which was set in a derelict and perhaps even haunted house. It was spooky and had a macabre feel to it, but not overly so that it would frighten small children. The pictures and puzzles really brought the spooky theme to life and, of course, my favorite puzzle was the one of the library with dusty, cob-web ridden spines. More often than not, you’d be challenged to “spy” creepy crawlies, like spiders, snakes and bugs to even nastier things like eyeballs and other dismembered body parts. As a little girl, this was right up my alley!Luckily for me, when I was younger, computers were really starting to become the norm in households. We didn’t have reliable internet, so I’d content myself with playing games – and I Spy just happened to make several computer game versions of their books, one of which was called Spooky Mansion. You bet your ass I got that game and I spent HOURS playing through the different puzzles. In the game, you’d get a map piece for every puzzle you solve and, after your collect all the map pieces, you’d find your way out of the mansion. To make things even more interesting, there were three different ways to escape the mansion. What I enjoyed about the games, though, was the different types of puzzles. Rather than just a straightforward “I Spy” like in the books, they had puzzles that could be played in the dark, using a flashlight to spy things, as well as a puzzle in which you use a magnifying glass to find objects hidden in butterfly wings. It was a ton of fun and, even now, I have fond memories of playing it with family and friends.
I loved it so much even, that when a Wii version of I Spy Spooky Mansion was released, I immediately bought it, wanting to relive fun times. Unfortunately, the difficulty level of the puzzles was significantly reduced and it wasn’t just because I was older. My little cousins in kindergarten were breezing through the puzzles with hardly any problem. Moreover, the controls for the game were super wonky. I’ve never been a big fan of the Wii, but that game was a big flop, even for Wii standards.
Overall, though, this is a series of books I look back on with fond memories. I hope that they continue to stay kid’s favorites and that my own children might be able to enjoy them one day.