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Build-A-Bear Workshop

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: The Game Factory
Developer: Neko Entertainment
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Themed

Graphics & Sound:

There is nothing more satisfying than to realize that a corporation has created yet another well crafted way to relieve you of your hard earned money. Build-A-Bear: Workshop is out to kill your wallet. To accomplish this, they employed the worst of wallet assassins. Those little large-eyed things that live in your home, and eat your food, are compelled to stare at you through those same big eyes and request the game about the stuffed animals you have already paid to have assembled for you in store. If you ask me, selling unfinished stuffed animals that are completed at the store to save on shipping and apparently manufacturing, is like Starbucks charging $5 for $.25 cup of coffee.

The game looks really good, with several different play areas and games keeping it from having a static look and feel. The animations are well done and overall, the entire game shows more polish than I expected a marketing game to have. The game is also good about keeping the look and feel for the characters over all of the games, instead of falling back on general likeness, as some games do.

The sound does happen to fall into the "so repetitive I had to turn it off to make it through" category. There are no voiceovers to worry about. There are however a myriad of cute sounds that accompany your stuffed pets as you play. None of this is remarkable, nor should it be by design.


Build-A-Bear: Workshop starts off, where else, but in the workshop. Just like walking into the shop, there are many selections for your "bear." I say "bear" because it is Build-A-Bear, but it has all kinds of stuffed animals for your character selection. And, what would the Build-A-Bear experience be if you didn't actually build the bear? Just as this process psychologically builds bonds with a stuffed animal in real life, it worked very well on the DS experience as well. Choose your character, fill it with fluff, give it a heart, name it and off you go.

There are six different areas for you to engage in activities with your Build-A-Bear. Each one of these areas has two to three different activities to do. Things like food preparation, dancing education, play ground, hygene, shopping and dressing up for photo sessions are included. There are also mini-games to compete in. Anyone around Build-A-Bear knows that it isn't just about the bond with the bear, it is all about the accessorizing. It is no different here boasting a hundred different clothing accessories you can use to customize your character in thousands of ways. So how do you pay for all of these items? By earning buttons. You can do this through activities and mini-games.

Through the multiplayer functionality, you can not only play games together, but you can also trade clothing, accessories and pictures.


Build-A-Bear: Workshop is an intense, edge of your seat ride that will have your thumbs bleeding and your jaw aching from the teeth-clenching ride. OK, so maybe not so much. It is a game based around collections and activity over skill or challenge. This makes the game extremely easy for the youngest of player to get into and find something they can do and enjoy, without the usual skill-based push for completion. The only skill level or difficulty is that there are a few intuitive leaps they ask the player to make without explaining the core functionality. The cooking game is an example of where things were easy enough for you to get, especially if you have played similar games like Cooking Mama (or so I hear), such that that kids who have not seen these mechanics were confused. My 9-year-old daughter had no issue, but the 6-year-old niece did with direction. Once they were shown however, there was no longer an issue.

Game Mechanics:

Build-A-Bear: Workshop does what it does fairly well. There are interesting activities to keep kids interested. There was definitely plenty of cuteness to go around. The biggest concern that I had about what the game was is that it is actually nothing more than a collection of already done mechanics strung together into the theme of Build-A-Bear. Sure, you have the actual build-a-bear and the process of its birth, if you will. You could have created a game about that and that alone, added more actual clothing and character content and it would have sold just the same. You could have kept the trade ability, and basically had a paper-doll game. Kids would have still loved it. They decided to add an economy and that meant earning, and so in came the mini-games. My point is that you could have had the experience without the overdone cooking and stylus tracing games.

The game boasts that it is a relationship simulator, and I can see that on many levels, the design is done well enough to mimic the growth of your bear, and your relationship. I would say though that in the true definition of relationship simulation, the A.I. involved in behavioral simulation is obviously not found on this small of a disk.

If you have a young player or someone who loves paper-doll style games, this is a great choice to pick up. It is very simple, so make sure that your player falls into the above groups, which most kids do. I hate to genderize, but this a stereotypical girls game from start to finish and mine loved it. I had to answer a few questions and it was a little simple, but they were entertained for hours.

-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Nintendo DS Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends Sony PlayStation 2 Godzilla Unleashed

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