IGN Review of Disney Princess: Magical Jewels
Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella, and Jasmine, and Belle. Even Ariel, the little mermaid from under the sea. Individually, each of these characters has captured the hearts of young Disney movie fans – either as the love interest of a dashing hero, or as the leading woman herself in one of the studio's several hit animated films. But, individually, their timeliness might only last as long as that of the feature they first appeared in. That's a problem, because even the youngest of these women (Jasmine, from 1992's
Aladdin) has already been around for over a decade and a half, and the target audience Disney's hoping to reach is well under the age of 15. The company needed a way to keep its classic characters current, and relevant to a new generation of potential fans who weren't yet born when these women were first seen on the silver screen – enter the Disney Princess brand.
And enter Disney Princess: Magical Jewels, the latest game to bear that brand, now arriving on the Nintendo DS. This game, which capitalizes on the packaged marketing that brought all six of the princess characters together into common stories and adventures, functions well as an introduction to the crossover concept and does a good job at presenting several previously separate Disney worlds as one cohesive whole. Like the Kingdom Hearts series, Disney Princess proposes that each princess lives in her own realm, normally unconnected to any other. But when the legendary Magical Jewels are stolen from the Kingdom of Kindness by a wicked ice queen, a green-skinned, fairy-like creature named Spryte has to track down the scattered gems – and journeys from one distinct realm to the next, always enlisting the help of the local princess she finds living there.
So Spryte ends up being the main character of Magical Jewels, and guiding her flight is how you play the game. The stylus directs her where to go, with full freedom to explore every area and track down the many gem shards left lying around. But Spryte can't collect the shards, or any other items, herself. The accompanying princess has to do that part.
There's always one of the leading ladies tagging along on foot as Spryte soars about, and the stylus is used to control them as well – touching them and then dragging away, along the screen, motivates them to move in the direction of the drag at a casual pace. Spryte actually animates by connecting herself to the current princess with a trail of stars while you do this, making it appear as if Snow White, Cinderella and the rest have no capacity to move on their own – they simply have to be tugged along, like dead weight.
It's an upsetting aspect of the interface, because the lack of direct control takes away from the independent appeal of the princesses – these are strong, role model characters for young girls, but all they can do in the game is wave and twirl their dresses. Seriously – the B Button makes them wave, and the A Button makes them spin in place to show off the dress they're wearing. It's cute, sure. But the best representation of the characters? Certainly not.
The princesses' home worlds get a more robust portrayal, as each of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Belle get to adventure through five visually distinct sections of their own homes, for a total of 25 different levels and something north of 75 individual stages comprising those. That's a lot of territory to cover. It's all pretty much the same structure of Spryte flying around to explore the area, then going back and grabbing the current princess to drag her along collecting the items she found and knocked into the open along the way, but the sheer volume of stages is redeeming.
And Magical Jewels is topped off with three mini-game designs, two of which, unfortunately, are the only places you'll see Ariel and Jasmine in the game. Ariel's game is a building a bridge of bubbles, wherein you try to create a string of bubbles bigger than Sebastian's by tapping on clams. It's simple, and very easy to win – you'll triumph just by continuously tapping for thirty seconds or so. Jasmine's design gives you the briefest glimpse of the Cave of Wonders in Agrabah, as you fly around on a magic carpet collecting lamps. It's simple, and very brief to play – it'll only last a handful of seconds before you're done.
The last mini-game plays into the core adventure, and is the highest-energy part of the whole package, as Spryte races against the Ice Queen, flying vertically up as the two DS screens create one tall display, collecting shards and hearts to fill a meter that will banish the villain once it's full. But this, too, ends up feeling limited and repetitive, as you'll play it again and again, banishing the queen again and again in the very same way, multiple times throughout the jewel-reclaiming adventure.
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