At this point, it’s almost impossible not to have heard of Bluey and the rest of the Heeler family. Since 2018, the Australian show Bluey has delivered books, three seasons, a stage play, all kinds of toys, and now a video game with Bluey: The Videogame by Artax Games and Outright Games.
Bluey has become so popular that its fandom has transcended beyond just little kids whose parents want something for them to be distracted with for a little bit. It is even entertaining for those who don’t have kids, like me, because of their messages about family, acceptance, and portrayal of topics younger audience shows never portray. It also does a great job of portraying a modern family. All four members, Bluey, Bingo, her younger sister, Bandit, her dad, and Chilli, her mom, are all competent but not without their limitations. But has the quality that many fans have come to expect been carried over to this new form?
Like many episodes, Bluey: The Videogame starts off with a brief premise that quickly divulges into a deeper story. This time, the kids are deciding what to do for their holiday. During a play session turned spring-cleaning, they find a piece of a treasure map from Bandit’s childhood that he made with his two brothers. The girls’ curiosity gets the best of them after hearing Bandit’s story and the mystery of what they could find. So, the Heeler family goes on a multi-episode journey through well-known locations with other members of the extended Heeler family to get the other two pieces of the map and find the treasure.
Bluey episodes, even the lesser beloved ones, are full of life lessons for both kids and adults. That is the biggest failure of Bluey: The Videogame. There are some here and there, but none of the four episodes are treated like actual episodes. It’s more like every episode is a means to unlock the next minigame. It’s not until later in this short game that a lesson is finally brought up. Even then, it’s more blatant than any other Bluey episode has been. It seems clear that this was missing that magic touch Joe Brumm normally brings to the table.
Even then, the minigames that do get unlocked are never fun. They’re frustrating, confusing messes that easily glitch out. For instance, the Floor is Lava minigame that gets unlocked during episode 2. Playing with 2D characters in a 3D environment can easily be confusing, especially for young audiences. When you need precise landing to “survive,” it can quickly get annoying. This same minigame glitched out a lot for me while trying to get the achievement for winning it five times. Bandit would get stuck on an obstacle while hopping around like he was on fire, trying to return to a safe spot. Then there is Chattermax Chase, where you can easily get frozen in a loop if characters keep grabbing Chattermax, the furby-like doll in the Bluey universe.
For everything else, the controls don’t feel good. As mentioned, you’re playing 2D characters that feel poorly ripped from the TV show and placed in 3D environments to explore. This could have added depth and better direction to exploring the environments from the show, but it just causes headaches instead. Numerous times, Bandit would grab objects that weren’t the target because they were near the objective. Again, keeping young kids in mind, this can quickly cause frustration or confusion because they’re doing what the game is telling them to do, but the game isn’t responding in kind.
But at least it does an okay job teaching its players the basics of gaming. It’s hand-holdy in the same way the show is about how to approach life, but with mechanics that many other games will have players do like completing objectives, following waypoints, competing against other players, gathering collectibles, leveling, and more. All of these core gaming mechanics are introduced in ways that are easy for even young kids to understand or to watch out for. In that way, it’s a good introduction to gaming for parents who want to get their kids into their hobbies.
Speaking of the characters, unfortunately, they are poorly animated. You’d think that a game using the Bluey show as a baseline could use the same puppetting animation style the show does (Check out the episode Puppets for a behind-the-scenes look at the end). But the character models regularly clip out or look so roughly animated for the facial animations. It just looks like a rough job to cash in on the IP while it is still hot or while fans are clamoring for more Bluey while waiting for the 24-minute episode. This carries on to the voice work, too.
Then, there is the voice acting. There are new lines recorded for the adults, but they just feel so piecemeal. They don’t sound at all naturally read. It’s more like they gave the voice actors a bullet-point list of things to say, had them read them, and then scattered them throughout the game. Even lines ripped from the show don’t sound coherent when heard in this game. The tone will shift mid-sentence, creating a Frankenstein sentence from two completely different sources. It just sounds so unbelievably rough.
At best, the Heeler household is the only good thing from the source material realized here. It may be the one actual enjoyable thing for anyone to find here. Exploring the house and finding all kinds of easter eggs and collectibles from the show is genuinely cool, especially since it is one complete house. There is nothing cut off or split by loading screens. It just would be nice if the rest of the game and other environments got the same care that the Heeler house got when it was added.
With the source material being so well known for its quality, it’s a shame Bluey: The Videogame is nowhere near as good in writing, gameplay, animation, or anything for that matter. Even with the target audience being young gamers or parents wanting their kids to try something they are familiar with, it’s hard to see many people finding joy here. At best, it’s fun to explore the Heeler house. Beyond that, it could be a good introduction to gaming for young kids as it teaches simple game mechanics fairly well. For anything else, you may just want to put reruns on for the 20th time of the show for more Bluey enjoyment.
Bluey: The Videogame is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC
Bluey: The Videogame
With the source material being so well known for its quality, it’s a shame Bluey: The Videogame is nowhere near as good in writing, gameplay, animation, or anything for that matter. Even with the target audience being young gamers or parents wanting their kids to try something they are familiar with, it’s hard to see many people finding joy here.