IGN Review of Disney's Hannah Montana
It's hard to live a double life. Miley Stewart, a teenaged girl living in Malibu, California, does just that - she's secretly a famous pop star named Hannah Montana. Mysterious strangers threaten to reveal the truth behind Miley's dual identities in this first video game adaptation of the Disney Channel series, which takes the form of a classic genre - the point-and-click adventure. This particular adventure won't go down as a classic, as it's over far too quickly, but what is here is a faithful and fun take on the Hannah Montana show.
"I know your little secret Miley, or should I say Hannah Montana!" Miley awakens one morning to find a mysterious note making just that claim. "It's too bad you have no clue who I am or else you would be able to stop me from exposing your secret to Malibu... And the world!"
Not wanting to become a victim of identity theft, Miley sets off on a quest to track down whoever wrote the threatening note. Malibu's host to five explorable environments, each of which play a role in this title's three episodes. Starting from her beachside home, Miley will have to navigate her school, the oceanfront boardwalk, the local shopping mall and a concert stadium looking for people. Lots of people. People from the TV show.
Nearly every major and minor star of the series is represented here, from Miley's quirky family and friends to a security guard who speaks about himself in third-person. This focus on being true to the source material is a definite positive for established fans of the franchise, but players with no prior knowledge of Hannah's world may get a bit lost. "Let's go talk to Kelly!" OK, sure - which one was Kelly again?
Most of the NPCs (non-player characters) are links in conversation chains, each person offering some small bit of information to help Miley solve her mystery before directing her to the next individual to talk to. Some of the show's primary players have a more robust role, though, as roadblocks. Jackson (Miley's brother), Oliver (Miley's best guy friend), and Amber and Ashley (Miley's pampered, spoiled, self-absorbed rich girl archenemies) all stand in the way of progress at several points in each episode - players have to engage them in mandatory conversations and pick the right responses to their questions to get them to move out of the way.
This is where a unique utilization of the touch screen comes in. Rather than simply selecting statements with a tap or button press, players must draw a pattern on the screen using the stylus. The same patterns are used to open closed doors in the game world, too - in fact, everything in Hannah Montana is stylus-activated.
Movement through each environment is controlled by tapping the screen in the place that Miley should move to. Starting a conversation with an NPC is triggered by tapping them. There's a whole lot of tapping going on, and that may leave players feeling tapped out. It's admirable that the design tries to breathe some life into otherwise mundane activities like scrolling through text bubbles and walking between rooms, but they still come off as commonplace. And tap-controlled movement can be frustrating to handle - developing a regular rhythm of taps at the edge of the screen will send Miley walking well, but players may find themselves wishing that the good old D-Pad was turned on instead.
The stylus is used too for one last purpose - gadgets. NPCs will often task Miley with finding lost items, and two tools, the magnifying glass and flashlight, are employed in this practice. Both function the same way, as players drag either the revealing lens or bright circle of illumination around the screen to search for hidden icons.
But there are only two tools. And only three episodes. It's hard to find much fault with what's here, it's just that there's not much here to find fault with. Hannah Montana's debut game suffers from a lack of depth. The environments and activities are fun, but ultimately get repetitive. The fetch quests are fine, but ultimately get old. Players will be left wanting more, which is good, but they won't find more, which is bad.
What can't be faulted at all is Hannah Montana's signature style. The graphics, sound and overall presentation of this title are spectacular, a great representation of the Disney Channel property. The TV show is done in live action, but developer DC Studios makes the right call here in not trying to replicate that look - rather, cartoon characterizations of Miley and her friends populate the colorful, well-crafted game spaces. Hannah Montana being a show about a singer, you'd expect a solid soundtrack in the game - this too is delivered. Rocking guitar riffs and popular Hannah hits, sans lyrics, play over the adventure and keep the energy up. A fashion-focused extra gameplay mode makes sure that the clothes-happy aspect of Hannah's personality isn't forgotten, as players can gather new garments throughout the story mode and design outfits for a 3D-modeled Hannah in her home's secret wardrobe room.
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