At times, it seems like making a video game based on a series of books is defeating all sorts of purposes all at once. Sure, it helps in encouraging people to read, but if the game is good, it'll likely just make them want to play more video games. If the game is bad, it'll probably make people think that the book series it was based on isn't really worth picking up. On top of that, several non-licensed games also require a good amount of reading and critical thinking, meaning that literacy isn't absent from gaming in the first place. In the case of The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks for the Nintendo DS, however, the gameplay and story work together well enough to make the game fun to play while not turning players against the books on which it was based.
As might be expected from a game based on a series of mystery novels, The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks is a text heavy point-and-click adventure game. The gameplay, for the most part, includes scouring trains and European locations for clues about a lost treasure and items that can be used to help in finding the treasure. For the most part, this works well, though there are points when the touch screen controls are so sensitive that it becomes frustrating. It also can be a bit unclear what is to be done next in some parts of the game, but this issue is alleviated by a built in hints system.
There are also several puzzles and minigames littered throughout the main adventure. Some of these are standard point-and-click adventure fare, where items found earlier must be applied to new items and situations. Others, however, are liberally borrowed from other popular games, including Picross, Cooking Mama, and standbys like Simon. None of these minigames or puzzles are very difficult, but they help to break up the constant stream of train cars to rummage through.
Since The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks depends largely on story, the game's writing also has to be taken into account, and it is fairly well done. Though it seems at times to be shoving a mythologized Russian history course down the throats of gamers, it is interesting enough to keep the game going. The characters are also well defined, with each of them having their own accents, mannerisms, and distinct personalities.
The story of The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks is mostly delivered by text boxes, but comic book style graphics keep the game's presentation from becoming dull. Each character is represented by a set of pleasantly done drawings, and several cutscenes animate comic panels, complete with dialogue boxes, for an effect similar to a motion comic. The stylized character art clashes a little with the more realistic look of the locations that you have to explore, but not to a distracting degree. Music is also used to create a sense of drama and suspense in the game, creating atmosphere in cutscenes and standard gameplay. However, the songs tend to be very similar to one another, making them start to run together as the game goes on.
Though there aren't really any extras in The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks, the game itself is satisfying enough to stand alone. It isn't very long, as it can be completed in under ten hours, but in the time that it takes to finish the game, it tells a full story with good gameplay variety. If it were any longer, it would have run the risk of making players want to find ways to kill the other characters and their dialogue boxes with clues to the lost treasure's location rather than keeping them on track to find the treasure.
As a whole, The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks is a pleasant adventure game with an interesting, if not always plausible, story. If you're looking for a not-too-difficult adventure game to kill a few hours or a game for a younger fan of the Hardy Boys books, this game will be well suited to your purposes.
Stay with MyGamer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mygamernews