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Designed for "children ages 4 through 8", Where's Waldo at the Circus is a computer video game that immerses the player in a rich interactive environment complete with music, sound, and animation. A team of educators assisted with the game design, and the exercises within it conform to the guidelines of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the California Department of Education.
The game is introduced by Waldo himself asking the player to type in his or her name. Once that is done, the player is off to the Big Top to meet Wizard Whitebeard, who gives options of hearing the story behind the game or jumping right in.
Ringmaster Piccalilli has lost his magic golden whistle, and without it the circus can't go on. Piccalilli asks the player to aid in its recovery. First the player has to find Waldo, who will help with the search.
The detailed virtual "Where's Waldo?" spreads page are four times the size of the screen and fully scrollable, packed with point-and-click characters and activity. The player can spend explore and enjoy the many hidden trigger spots, or just seek out Waldo right away. Once he's found, the story continues.
Along the bottom of the screen there are access buttons to Wizard Whitebeard, who holds the activity checklist, Senor Piccalilli, who returns the player to the main storyline, and the "Quit" icon.
Aside from spotting Waldo, the game has many mini-games and puzzles; including identifying and matching shapes, placing band members in order by height and by instrument pitch, and more.
By proceeding through the game's environments and activities collecting clues along the way, the player eventually enters the Wizard's Den, where he can assemble the evidence he's collected, review it with help from Waldo and the Wizard, identify the culprit and retrieve the whistle.
All of the features in the game are designed for variable outcomes, with everything from the actual thief to Waldo's location in each screen being randomly determined each time through. This allows the player to play multiple times without repeating the past experience.