Charlotte's Web
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-12-02 Nintendo DS Platform E (Everyone) SEGA / Backbone Entertainment

I'm sure everyone will probably know what Charlotte's Web is all about. I didn't (keep in mind I was born and brought up in a non-English speaking country), so I did some research to learn a little about the story.

For those like me who are not aware of it, Charlotte's Web was originally a children's book by E. B. White, and was first published in 1952. It tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a spider named Charlotte. Charlotte basically helps Wilbur make people realize that he is special - thus preventing him from being eaten - by helping him spelling words on her web.

Charlotte's Web allows you to play Wilbur the pig, embarking on a main adventure composed of several tasks to find the letters that compose different phrases, so that Wilbur can then place on the web, but with the option to complete other side quests. These include find the missing ducklings or spider eggs in a given level.

But just because it's a children-oriented game, don't think the game is without challenge. Some of the stages are actually complicated, and the solution isn't always obvious, and there are plenty of obstacles such as breakable platforms, thorns, birds, rats, water with moving rafts and a mad farmer chasing you. It was easy sailing until I eventually got stuck on a tree in level 7, and it seems to me this is a level design fault, because Wilbur just can't jump that far and there doesn't seem to be any way around it.

The core of the game centers around Adventure Mode. Here you play as Wilbur on side-scrolling adventure where you explore the different areas described in the book, including Zuckerman's Barn, a Junkyard, the Countryside and the County Fair. Memorable characters from the book make their appearance: Charlotte and Gussy who need help finding their hatchlings, and Fern who is even a playable character in a virtual pet mode of sorts. As Fern, you can take care of Wilbur by feeding, bathing, petting him or brushing his teeth, all by using the stylus. Fern acts as a checkpoint and health recovery tool for Wilbur.

The game is packed with several other fun mini-games, which are hidden throughout the different levels and represented as icons. These mini-games can be played by up to four players with the Nintendo DS's wi-fi support.

Web Words is already unlocked from the start. It's a Bookworm type of game where you have to make words using letters that are touching each other. You have a set timer for spelling as many words as possible so you can advance a level. The timer gets faster as levels go by. It's a lot of fun, and I play it a lot.

Another favorite of mine is Apple Masher. In this game you help Mrs. Zuckerman make applesauce to fill one jar at a time, before the timer runs out. The timer is the cute little mouse eating an apple. If he eats the whole thing, time's up. To make applesauce, you tap the good apples twice, cutting them in quarters, and avoid the rotten apples.

In Bale-Out, Wilbur is trapped in a maze with hay bales and apple baskets blocking his way. The hay can be moved around with the stylus and the apple baskets can be "juiced" into an empty bottle to open a passage. Some of the mazes require a little thinking, since you have to move things in a specific order.

Other games you can find are:

  • Aeronauts, where you must land your baby spider safely avoiding birds, bugs and branches;
  • Webbing Crashers, where you play as Charlotte shooting spider webs at birds and bugs to defend her web;
  • Water Fun, a water balloon war;
  • Bumper Cars, where you and three AI or other players via wireless battle to collect the rings;
  • Ring Toss, a popular carnival game where you aim the rings at the bottles;
  • Spree Ball, in which you launch a ball into the numbered holes;
  • Bounce, where you use the stylus to draw webs for items to bounce on safely out of the screen.

Completing levels in Adventure Mode unlocks pages in the story book, where you can find still images from the movie and read the story. All these collectibles and mini-games give the game a lot of replay value.

Charlotte's Web features high-quality movie stills and sharp graphics alongside with the cartoony gameplay look. The music and sound effects are excellent, and I particularly like Wilbur's voice, he's so adorable. And you must take a minute to see the idle animation, now that's some serious pig dancing!

Just because Charlotte's Web is aimed at younger gamers, it doesn't mean everyone else won't enjoy it. I certainly did.

Special thanks to Kate Isenberg and SEGA of America for providing a copy of this title.