Monday, September 19, 2005

VG REVIEW: Girl games

Buena Vista Games,
for Game Boy Advance,
rated E for Every­one, $29.99
RATING: One star

Buena Vista Games,
for Game Boy Advance,
rated E, $29.99
RATING: Two stars

Buena Vista Games,
for Game Boy Advance,
rated E, $29.99.
RATING: Three stars

Every once in awhile, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and try something new

It was with that mantra in mind that I attempted to plow my way through three new Game Boy Advance games: "Lizzie McGuire 3: Homecoming Havoc," "That’s So Raven 2: Supernatural Style" and "Kim Possible 3: Team Possi­ble.

These are all licensed games based on popular Dis­ney TV shows. More to the point, these are games de­signed, like the shows, to ap­peal to elementary school-age girls. Not exactly the demo­graphic most video game de­velopers cater to.

Unfortunately, the rule of thumb is that most licensed games, particularly those aimed at young girls, stink on ice, and except for one pleas­ant surprise, these games fol­low that rule like lemmings to the cliff.

For starters, let’s take a look at "Lizzie McGuire." Imagine you created a "WarioWare" rip-off but took out all the creativity, humor and chal­lenge. You’d end up with something like this.

Like "WarioWare," "Lizzie McGuire" is a collection of minigames grouped together that must be completed with­ in a short time. The difference is that whereas "Wario’s" games show a surreal inven­tiveness and ingenuity, "Lizzie McGuire" games are simplifi­ed to the point that it’s hard to imagine a 5-year-old not get­ting bored with this.

How bad can it possibly be? Well, one minigame involves walking Lizzie across the screen from left to right. That’s it. Other levels fare little better. And the lack of challenge is further under­scored by the fact that you can earn collectable cards that give you a pass on any games you might have lost.

Compounding the problem is the fact that "Lizzie McGuire" looks and plays like it was designed for a 10-year-old console, and not the GBA. If the gameplay it­ self weren’t enough, the stilt­ed animation and repetitive soundtrack are enough to make "Lizzie McGuire" one of the worst games I’ve played this year.

"That’s So Raven 2" fares a little better than "Lizzie McGuire," but then, it would almost have to. The plot in­volves Raven having to get tickets to a big show in order to take out her boyfriend for a night on the town. Or not; I was never quite sure.

Anyway, as Raven, you traipse through the malls and school halls, avoiding bullies and rent-a-cops and collecting fashion coins and other odd­ball items.

Basically, this is a low-rent platform game that doesn’t grate on the nerves as "Lizzie McGuire" does but never real­ly offers any challenge or in­terest.

What’s more, the innate sexism of the game (Raven never seems to care about anything more than boys and clothes) put me off quickly. I don’t know whether the show is as narrow-minded as this game, but based on what I see here, I plan on keeping my daughter as far away from it as I can.

Just when I was about to despair and head back to my little comfort zone, I popped in "Kim Possible 3." Surprise, surprise. Here’s a licensed game that, while not offering much in the way of originali­ty, is a pleasant enough diver­sion to be worthy of recom­mendation.

The catch here is that you not only play titular teenage super-spy Kim but also her sidekick, Ron. In order to get through the various levels, you’ll have to switch back and forth between the two leads. Kim, for example, can swing across chasms using her grappling gun, while Ron can un­lock doors with the help of his pet mole rat Rufus

Yes, it’s been done before, but "Kim Possible" manages to pull it off with finesse. While other aspects of the game might be lacking (the enemies, in particular, barely put up a fight), the sense of exploration within these rath­er large environments is pal­pable and enjoyable.

"Kim Possible" proves that licensed games don’t have to be horrible. It proves that games for young girls don’t have to be insipid or revolve around shopping. It’s a point that most developers would do well to take note of. Perhaps it’s time they started to venture out of their own com­fort zones as well.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005


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