Very often when a video game is released on any console that is directly tied to another media property, such as a movie release, there is a worry about the quality of said game. Was the game developed as an independent property made to compliment the movie, or is it just a tie in? Was the game just made to take advantage of the movie and hopefully bolster sales? Could this game stand on it’s own without the intellectual property and still be a quality game?
Too often video game tie ins are used as just another way to bolster the financial coffers of the company who owns the rights, often at the expense of the unsuspecting parent walking through the aisles of a store looking for a game to pick up for their child. They’ll see a familiar face or a well known brand and snap that one up. They know their child likes it so they will surely like this game too.
I’ll give developer Little Orbit some credit. Barbie and her Sisters Puppy Rescue has all the building blocks of what could have been a seriously great game, despite the fact that it’s just a game using the Barbie liscense. It’s obvious that the game was only made to take advantage of the timing of the latest direct to video Barbie movie. The game was released just one week after the movie (Barbie & Her Sisters in The Great Puppy Adventure) on which it’s loosely based. Even from watching the trailer for the movie you can hear the shared theme music.
It’s clear however that if the developers had more time they could have fleshed out Barbie and her Sisters Puppy Rescue into a great game.
Barbie and her Sisters Puppy Rescue is a game of mini-games. Now this isn’t in the traditional sense of a Mario Party game but moreso they are games that take the place of real world actions. You’ll have to press certain buttons at the right time when you do things like training or grooming your puppy. And while these mini games are passable in their own right (remembering that this game is aimed at children) there isn’t enough variety to give the game much replayability.
Every time you rescue a puppy the first thing that happens if you check its teeth. You fill in cavities through one mini-game and scrape off plaque with another. That’s fine, but you do this with EVERY puppy you rescue and it gets very old very fast. Similarly the training mini-games (which there are only two varieties if I’m not mistaken) and grooming mini-games (again just two) hurt the urge to keep collecting puppies.
A much wider variety of mini-games would have seriously made the game more enjoyable.
Perhaps the best part of the game is the actual act of seeking out and rescuing the puppies. Much of the time it’s merely going to a target on the map and finding the puppy, but on occasion there is another maze mini-game to draw the puppy to you. These aren’t overall that exciting, but it’s really the only part of the game with any real freedom.
As you complete these tasks as well as successfully graduate a puppy and they are adopted out you will earn “bones” which you can use to buy additional kennel space as well as items to spruce up the temporary homes for the puppy. That’s it. One of the downsides is that the items you purchase for the homes last for one puppy. You’ll have to buy them again for the next pup, which seems silly. The items are said to increase the puppy’s recovery time after tasks. Similiar to a mobile game after you interact with a puppy there is a cooling down period. But instead of a mobile game where you pay out real world cash to cut down the wait, you can do the same with items.
Though the wait times are usually only a few minutes anyway and you can pass the time looking for another puppy. So the items really don’t serve that much purpose other than making your kennels look nice.
It also bears noting that the developers really put a lot of effort into the city environment. As a fan of urban planning and of the GTA series, I was very much impressed at the detail and efforts taken by the developers. Whereas this is something that could have easily been overlooked and neglected it really shines as a high point in the game. The city is filled with not only other people and cyclists but also is complete with bike paths, transit shelters, street signs and a lot of other notable elements. The only notable negative with the city is that, unlike the GTA series, you can’t click or interact with anything in the city. It looks amazing but that’s about it.
One thing that I thought was neat in the game which is another small added element is that Barbie will occasionally get texts from people. These are just small thank you texts from people she supposedly helped in the past and then send her photos of the puppies she rescued. The photos are real life pictures too. This doesn’t do anything in the game but is neat.
Overall I really feel that this game fell victim to the rushed timing of not only keeping the title relevant to the movie from which it was borne, but also to the pressure of getting it to market before the holiday season. While I’m sure that no one at Little Orbit or Mattel thought that this little game was going to win any gaming awards, with a little more time and effort this could have been a surprisingly deep game.
But what do I know? I’m not a eight year old girl who watches the Barbie movies and shows on Netflix. I’m sure my daughter will love the game though. Look forward to reading her own mini review of the game when she plays it herself after Christmas.