IGN Review of Barbie: Island Princess
When last we saw Barbie come to the DS, she was starring in
a side-scrolling platformer based on her latest direct-to-DVD movie. This time around, the theme's the same – as Barbie as The Island Princess is once again a game adaptation of a film – but the genre's totally different. There's no more platforming adventure here. Now, it's nothing but mini-games.
A dozen different mini-game designs, packaged together in a video-focused presentation that follows along the same plot of Barbie's Island Princess DVD movie and features several clips drawn directly from it. That part's impressive – you don't see a lot of video on the DS, and the scenes presented here make the transition fairly well. What's not so satisfactory is the fact that they seem to move along so quickly from one to the next.
Barbie as The Island Princess flies right by. It's separated into four chapters, opening with Barbie's adventures on her tropical island home and ending with her winning the hand of a handsome prince in marriage, but the chapters take only minutes to complete. Each one offers up three mini-games, only lasting a few minutes apiece and all fairly simple to achieve a high score on, so the journey from start to finish should run for only about an hour for most players. Young ladies – the target audience at whom Island Princess is directed – will probably enjoy the relative lack of challenge. But it also means that they'll have seen all there is to see in the span of a couple of car rides.
The mini-games are all presented well, each of them containing one simple gameplay concept and executing it with basic controls. It's a relief that the controls all function properly in every design, too, because many other mini-game collection packages like this on the DS have been plagued by faulty touch screen implementation, or other issues. Barbie as The Island Princess gets the stylus control right – but it's not used for every game.
Many of the games employ a more traditional D-Pad and buttons control scheme instead of using the touch screen, like the fishing mini-game seen in the screenshot above and to the right. It works well – in that example, the D-Pad directs the basket left and right, and pressing up and down either accelerates or stalls the container's progress back up to the surface. But at first sight you'd probably would have guessed that the game would use dragging motions on the touch screen to achieve that same goal. It's not a bad non-inclusion. It's just different than what you'd expect.
And what you'd expect does end up happening in games like the one seen above and to the left, which is a tracing game that tasks you to draw the outline of a shape on the touch screen using the stylus. You'll also get a stargazing "draw the constellation" mini-game that has you playing connect-the-dots between groups of stars, a simple knock-off of Elite Beat Agents that has you tapping circles on the screen to keep the beat while Barbie dances in the royal ballroom, a pattern-memorizing version of the classic lights-and-sound game Simon and more.
All together, the full set of twelve different mini-games offers a diverse array of styles of play, and the game is fun while it lasts. The problem goes back to overall length, then. The game offers a small set of unlockable extras which extend the experience a bit, but these are mostly new dresses, shoes and accessories for Barbie's Dress Up Mode – a diversion that represents an extra couple of minutes' worth of interest at best. The camera's viewpoint is so zoomed out there, in fact, that's it difficult to see any visible change at all when Barbie puts on a new pair of high heels or a flashy necklace. Not much of a reward if you can't see it show up as it should.
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