The odds are, if you have little ones in the house, you'll be way too familiar with Cbeebies offerings, from undersea animal adventurers the Octonauts, everyone's favourite sheep Timmy and of course, bedtime hour favourite, In The Night Garden. But between all the plinky plonks, Octopods and Mr Tumble's many guises and escapades, there's a little knight, always on a quest to do things right. Together with his dragon companions, his sister's questionable magic talents and enough sweet jam tarts to make Jamie Oliver faint, Mike the Knight is always on the lookout for heroic adventures. And now, thanks to the folks at GSP, you can join him on his latest quest, in their latest 3DS mini-game collection, Mike the Knight and the Great Gallop.
In a nice twist, there's even a story here too. In the land of Glendragon, Great Gallop Day comes but once a year - a spring festival, where flowers bloom and fun and games are to be had. Everyone's favourite newbie knight, Mike, has had to step in and cover for his absent dad, tasked with leading the way in the titular Great Gallop in his stead. What follows is a cutesy little adventure involving jam tarts, troublesome Vikings and a handful of spell-related mishaps, as it falls to you to help young Mikey see the celebration goes off without too many hitches. With a short, fully-voiced story mode that may as well have been lifted from the TV show, interspersed with some simple mini-games, it's the perfect way to keep your littlest ones entertained this summer.
Boasting nine different mini-games in total, all tied into the story, Mike the Knight and the Great Gallop isn't exactly the lengthiest game in existence, but, for an audience that tends to know what they like, and wants it again and again (how many times can they watch a single film in one day? Four? Five? What's your high score?), that's unlikely to be an issue. Running the gamut from pairs, connect four and Bejeweled-esque match three, to games that involve bouncing barrels of Vikings from one side of the screen to the other, or shooting arrows at targets, there's a surprising amount of variety going on, all created with the young audience in mind - simple controls, multiple difficulty levels and not much in the way of time limits. We should probably note, however, that the selection of mini-games here is pretty much identical to those found in other GSP games, such as Thomas & Friends: Steaming Around Sodor and Fireman Sam: To The Rescue, albeit dressed up in a Mike the Knight theme instead - which may or may not matter, depending on the child in question.
As an example of one of the more unusual games on offer, one such game sees unreliable castle wizard Evie casting a spell to speed Mike's letter to his father - but instead ends up sending the post box mental, with letters flying here, there and everywhere. As always, it falls to our little Knight to found up the air mail via a little mini-game - on the back of his noble stead Galahad and armed with a butterfly net, you need to press up and down on the D-Pad to extend his net and catch the letters as they zoom past from right to left. Essentially high-score based, the game only ends when you miss five letters in total. Whether that's within seconds or hundreds of caught letters later, Mike the Knight and the Great Gallop doesn't judge, as any score, even zero, will earn you a well done - it's impossible to fail any of the mini-games.
One of the nicest touches is how the mini-games themselves are often themed to the story. For example, we're not really sure why Vikings have a taste for jam tarts - other than because jam tarts are pretty darn tasty anyway - but these little sweet treats are a key part of the Great Gallop Day celebrations, and one of the game's mini-games. Standing in for his 'too busy adventuring' father, Mike takes a sack of jam tarts to the river bank outside of town; or it would be a sack of tarts, had he not lost them all on the way down, leaving a trail of the pastries in his wake. Leading straight to town, it doesn't take much for those meddling Vikings to gatecrash the Gallop Day celebrations - but seemingly, they're a bit dense and Mike manages to lure them into some barrels. All that remains is to bounce the barrel-ised Norsemen back to the boats from whence they came, via a quick little mini-game. Essentially, barrel-bound Vikings appear from the left, and you need to move Mike left and right to play a game of keepy-uppy with the troublemakers, bouncing them into their boat on the right.
Of course, that doesn't undo all the chaos they caused in town, scattering jam tarts, horseshoes and bells all over the place (Vikings are very selective with their raping and pillaging, don't you know), which sets the scene for another mini-game. Between them, Mike and Evie set about sorting the mess out in what is perhaps the Mike the Knight and the Great Gallop's trickiest game. Essentially, horseshoes, 'jam tarts' (which look more like fairy cakes) and bells move down three conveyor belts at random, and you have to jostle the trio of Mrs Piecrust the baker, the blacksmith and the town crier into the right positions to catch their favoured items. Requiring some fairly nimble fingerwork and planning skills, it may be a little beyond some of the youngest Mike the Knight fans - although, as with all the mini-games included, there's no way to fail out, and the game simply ends with a 'well done!' once you miss five items, whatever your score.
Given how hit and miss games for the youngest age groups are, the folks behind Mike the Knight and the Great Gallop have done a commendable job in creating a nice, accessible mini-game collection for those who may struggle with the 3DS' bigger games. With a fully-voiced story mode that follows a very TV show-esque tale, multiple difficulty settings and a decent selection of games, it could well be one of those games they play over and over.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS