The Carmen Sandiego series was a staple of 90's adventure and puzzle-solving gaming, so the chance to return to those heady days on the DS was one we didn't want to miss. Unfortunately, while the new iteration preserves some aspects of the PC originals, it fails to maintain the charm that was the most notable characteristic of the series. The characters are not engaging and the dialogue dull, with some occasional sexual innuendo that seems wildly out of place in a game aimed at children. This is compounded by the various characters feeling very close to racial caricatures, both of which undercut the attempts to position the game as semi-educational.
The graphics are clean and clear, but they lack flair. Everything looks nice enough, presented in classic Carmen Sandiego style, with good delineation between background and foreground objects. Characters stand out from pretty backgrounds in what is essentially the exact same visual style of the original games, as well as the cartoons some readers may fondly remember. Everything looks exactly as you'd expect in a puzzle game for kids — which makes the more "adult" dialogue stand out even more.
In previous Carmen Sandiego games, the integration of the information about the places and people you meet in the game with the puzzles was a fairly important part of the gameplay, but here it just feels tacked on, more like an afterthought than a genuine attempt to include an educational aspect. In fact, there's almost no reason to read any of the tiny amounts of text describing where you're headed.
We might have been a little less concerned about this if the core game wasn't so weak. There aren’t all that many puzzles in the game and the only challenging ones are those that require trial and error because you aren’t given enough information. This is compounded by the puzzles being uninteresting, mostly consisting of stabbing the stylus at every object on the screen until you access them in the order the game wants you to. This ranges from trying to work out which book on a shelf is the correct one to tapping every item in a lab in a desperate attempt to determine which ones have been arbitrarily set as usable.