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Julie Saves the Eagles

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: ImaginEngine Corp.
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Adventure/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Julie Saves the Eagles is a game based on the American Girls series. Basically this game is based on the American Girl line of dolls. These dolls are sold with books that explain the dolls' characters: all girls that grew up in America during different time periods. Of course, a big draw for these dolls is the learning and enrichment experience that comes from the stories about ordinary girls in America. This is also probably a refreshing option for parents bombarded by pretty, sparkly dolls with tiny skirts and a shop-or-die attitude. Hey, I'm not big on dolls, but concept isn't too bad.

I came in with low expectations, and I was surprised to find pretty nice visuals in this game. All characters and backgrounds are pre-rendered and sometimes mixed with live footage, but they have a soft look to them, rather than a quick-and-dirty render you'd expect in a rushed or cheaply done game. Set in 1970's San Francisco, there's lots of detail that looks fairly accurate. It's colorful, but still has a bit of grittiness that you'd expect to see in the old city. Characters are all unique and look appropriate to the time period as well. Everyone has an idle animation or two and there are birds and other things moving around in most areas. The problem is, the individual area maps are very small, so there's not much to explore.

Julie Saves the Eagles has an upbeat and pleasant soundtrack. There's a 70's theme to the loading music, but you'll only hear that when you start the game. There really are only 2 more tracks for the mini-games, but they are pretty well done. While you explore the map, there's usually only environmental sounds, which sound realistic and blend in nicely, but run on a very short loop. Sound effects for opening or using items are realistic and fit well with the rest of the game. Nothing sounds cartoony or repetitive, which is a welcome surprise.

All the dialogue in this game is voiced by actors. Someone must have told them they were reading to (very young) children because these people take their time in pronouncing every syllable in every word and placing careful emphasis on key words. This makes dialogue slow (and a little dull) at times, but for what they are, the lines are delivered with fairly decent emotion. A number of different accents also add variety.


Julie Saves the Eagles puts you in the shoes of Julie Albright. Her story is set in the 1970's in San Francisco. She spends her time talking to people around town and hanging out with her friend Ivy. Along the way, there are plenty of things thrown in for their educational value. For example, at one point she goes to the library to research traditional Chinese medicine in order to help a man with a stomach ache. Later, she asks everyone (and I mean everyone) in town where San Bruno mountain is. By the time someone in the game finally tells you, it will probably be marked indelibly in your mind.

I hate to nitpick, but if you're supposed to be learning from these games, details and facts are important. One of the first people you interact with is a street musician selling balloons. He says they're Blue Whale balloons, but they're clearly colorful cartoon Orcas. Ok, ok, I've revealed myself as a cetacean enthusiast, and a nerd, it's out there. But it does say something for doing your own fact checking on what you find in this game.

Julie also says some pretty silly things and repeats moot points so much that it might sound like this game is aimed at a much younger crowd than the 8 years and up that's recommended on the box. For example, at one point she acquires a dollar bill. When you look at it or show it to people, Julie excitedly points out, "This is a brand new dollar bill!" or, "Wow, this dollar bill looks brand new!" It's pretty hilarious that she just has way too much to say on this kind of thing. Yes, Julie, it is new. Now where is your mother?

Well, characters don't quite say the dark and sarcastic things that I was thinking while playing the game, but then it is a kids' game (so parents, be relieved). They do say some mildly funny things every once in a while. When Julie remarks about the amount of fish that the fishmonger has out for display, he quips back that they don't call it a fish store for nothing. For the most part, however, no one says anything particularly rude to Julie or gets too irritated with her incessant questioning. Everyone's a mild-mannered, upright citizen, though you could infer things about the peace-loving kite salesman. No, no, nevermind. I assure you, the game is completely innocent.

As far as general gameplay, you get clues as to what you are supposed to do next as you talk to people. But sometimes the people you rely on to get you past a roadblock give you misleading clues. Ivy simply tells you the wrong thing sometimes. Just when you think you have the game figured out, you find out you can't rely on the people designated to give you advice. No, when you get stuck, it's usually a matter of talking to everyone and mousing over everything to see if you missed something new. There just weren't many sections of the game where you actually could actually use your head to progress. It's a little frustrating, but then a little frustration is par for the course in these point-and-click types of games.


Predictably, Julie Saves the Eagles is not a difficult game. But it doesn't rely on logic and problem-solving as much as it could. It's often simply a matter of looking at everything over and over and talking to people again and again. The mini-games could be considered the hardest parts of the game, simply because they require some thought and action. But then they're entirely optional to finishing the game and don't really have goals anyway.

The rest of the game is a matter of reading and listening to dialogue, and following dead-end clues that don't always pertain to the objective you're trying to complete. It's not difficult, but it gets annoying pretty fast.

For the very young or those who don't play many games, there are some game mechanics problems that may pose problems. Basically Julie gets stuck on certain objects or people, and it may be difficult to figure out what's happening.

Game Mechanics:

Julie Saves the Eagles is a basic point-and-click linear adventure game. You move Julie around by clicking the area you want to go to. You talk to people by clicking over them. Actually, it's not that easy, as Julie gets stuck on signs, buildings and invisible walls, and when she runs into her friend Ivy. Sometimes she can't talk or interact with things until she walks up to a specific location in front of them, so if you have something in your way, you'll have to carefully navigate Julie to the right location. This is an annoyance for the average gamer, but it could be a major hindrance to people who aren't used to working around game problems like this. Thankfully, moving between areas of the city is simple and easy. Click on the bus symbol and you'll instantly be dropped off to where you need to go.

The Diary feature is a convenient extra. Julie takes her own notes about what has she has learned and puts them in her Diary. You can type your own additional notes alongside hers as well. That means, aside from the poor clues you're given, it's pretty easy to pick up and play from where you left off. It also provides you with a recap of what you've seen and done.

Mini-games are pretty simple, and play fairly well, but there are only two of them. Then there's the problem of motivation. There simply aren't any goals or rewards for playing them and you can't play against a friend.

Julie Saves the Eagles is actually, and I'm amazed to be saying this, not that bad. It presents small snippets of educational facts, and I can see this game having a place in the classroom, much the way Carmen Sandiego games did during my days in school. Unfortunately it's very short, and is held back by generally poor clues and game mechanics. Fans of the dolls will probably enjoy this as a short diversion, but it probably won't please many more people outside that audience.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP/Vista, Pentium III 800 MB, 512 MB RAM, 32 MB DirectX compatible video card, DirectX compatible sound card, 4X CD-ROM drive

Test System:

Windows XP, 3.20 GigaHertz Intel Pentium 4, 1 GB Ram, RADEON X850, Creative SB Audigy 2 ZS

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