Rumor has it that the Bratz brand is done. That, as the result of some legal action stemming from the rival Barbie franchise, the popular girl's doll line has been forced to shut down as of the end of '08. If that's actually the case, then Bratz: Girlz Really Rock!
could very well be the last Bratz video game we'll ever see. Which is a shame -- not because we really wanted to see more Bratz games, mind you, but because this one is just not quite the kind of swan song that any brand (or band) would want to go out on.
Bratz: Girlz Really Rock! finds the pretty pre-teen quartet of Cloe, Yasmin, Sasha and Jade off to spend their summer at a performance-focused music camp, Camp Starshine. There, they'll learn more about the music industry, fashion design and, of course, boys, all the while striving to prepare for the end-of-summer show where their all-girls band could be declared the most rockin' in the land. How will they achieve these many aims? Through successful completion of mini-games, of course.
Right from the start, it's all about the mini-games in Bratz: Girlz Really Rock! -- the girls miss the bus that's heading to camp, so they decide instead to take a plane there and skydive onto the property. That's the first mini-game. On arrival, they change out of their flight suits and into some finer fashions, after which they decide to practice their music. Second mini-game, right there.
The whole design plays out in that same way, with free-roaming, camp-exploring sequences serving as little more than the means to progress from one mini-game challenge to the next. It wouldn't be so bad, except that there aren't that many minis.
The skydiving is one, where you guide one of the girls through the air and try to pass through rings and strike poses during your plummet down to the earth below. The music practice is another, and plays out like a very simple take on rhythm designs like Donkey Konga
-- but only with two buttons to press. (The same game design is used three times, as the basis for the guitar, keyboard and dancing games. There's very little difference between them.)
After that, you're left with just mini-golf and the various fashion-focused activities. I know, the common components of every kid's summer camp memories, right? The mini-golf is especially out of place, as walking into that building on the campground will magically transport you across the world to a seaside resort or carousel-filled carnival, where you'll play a few holes of mediocre mini-golf with average controls. The fashion games at least make sense, and keep things in the context of the Bratz brand.
And it's there where Bratz: Girlz Really Rock! manages to find just a bit of footing. The clothing design, hair styling and fashion photo shoot activities all come together to offer a fair amount of depth and content, and they can be satisfying to play -- because the work you create is immediately applied to your characters in the main game. If you design a polka-dotted skirt with a purple stripe and a star sticker on it, it'll jump to being displayed on your active Bratz girl. If you change her hair style or paint her face up with some crazy pattern of make-up, that'll appear right away too.
Were the entire game more focused on these kinds of activities, things that actually make sense under the Bratz brand umbrella, the whole experience could have been better. But when you muddy the waters with nonsensical additions like skydiving, you lose a lot of your focus.
©2009-02-05, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved