Barbie as The Island Princess
is a collection of 28 mini-games and a few extras like the dressing room and the playable videos. There's a trailer for the Barbie as The Island Princess
show as well that kids can watch again and again. Mini-games have some intrinsic fun value and when you add the multiplayer component, it isn't hard to see how kids will enjoy Barbie as The Island Princess
. There are gaps in the fun as some mini-games are more fun than others, but that's true of even the best mini-game collections. The way things work here is that Barbie
works through specific locations and unlocks new ones by succeeding in the mini-games. Depending on how well she scores in a mini-game, she can earn roses - gathering a specific number will unlock the new location. Only a handful of locations are available, so you can imagine there are about four to five mini-games per location. As the game opens up, you can return to any of the previous locations and try to improve your score or just play a mini-game for fun. The single-player experience isn't nearly as much fun as multiplayer, especially since some of the mini-games really require cooperative gameplay. The CPU player is usually pretty clueless, which works in your favor as you try to compete for points in the single-player games.
The mini-games in Barbie as The Island Princess alternate between a few simple styles. The developers are to be commended for actually making an effort to utilize the Wii controls. Many games are simple enough that the only effort required is moving the Control Pad or the analog stick on the Nunchuk. Others require a combination of both controls and two or three distinct actions. In the latter case, the only gripe is that kids aren't likely to absorb the instructions before the game starts and end up flailing around. The manual includes instructions on how to play each mini-game, so parents or kids can fill in the blanks quickly if they miss the on-screen instructions. As an example of poor design, the on-screen instructions don't include a "Ready to play?" option, they just disappear when the mini-game loads and you are off to the races. This makes things harder than necessary. Luckily, the mechanics for most of the mini-games are simple enough that kids can succeed by swinging the Wii-mote or stabbing at buttons experimentally. Barbie as The Island Princess seems to do a lot of carrying items from one place to another or grabbing falling items. She also enjoys mazes, tracing shapes, and matching colors. Themes like sewing, waiting on tables, cooking, and making floral arrangements will no doubt create a new generation of girls well on their way to being liberated women... Okay, the mini-games are themed along the lines of what Barbie enjoys doing, and who can fault her? Games like the one that involves serving tea and cakes are actually the most interesting. You'll run up to a table, press the (A) button to take an order and then see a visual list of the items that patron wants. Running over to the serving table, you collect the items in the proper order and then return to serve the happy patron. This is a competitive game that doesn't require any motion controls. A good example of one that does use motion is the game where Barbie is working on a factory line (not kidding) sorting jewels, crabs, and seaweed. Shaking the Wii-mote is what you do when a jewel comes down the line, and shaking the Nunchuk pushes the crabs and seaweed off the line. Not sure how we feel about Barbie pulling a Laverne & Shirley, but it makes for a fun game. Let's hope Barbie is making union wages...