Barbie Explorer

Year: 2001
Platform: PlayStation
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: RuneCraft
Genre: Adventure
Review Date: 3/8/02
Rating: ***

After playing "Secret Agent Barbie" and thoroughly enjoying it, I decided to check out "Barbie Explorer" for Sony PlayStation. When Barbie learns about an ancient mystical mirror, she decides to take a break from being a newspaper reporter in order to travel the globe as a treasure hunter. Armed with only her keen fashion sense, Barbie travels to Africa, Egypt, Tibet, and Babylon in search of magical relics.

The game is essentially "Crash Bandicoot" with some elements borrowed from the "Tomb Raider" series. Barbie walks, runs, jumps, rolls, climbs, and swings her way down a single path, collecting gems and avoiding hazards along the way. Much like Lara Croft, Barbie wears her hair in a long braid and has a different outfit for each location. In fact, the two are nearly indistinguishable except that Barbie wears a hat (probably a legal decision rather than an artistic one). "Barbie Explorer" is technically and artistically much better than "Secret Agent Barbie", although I'm not sure if it's fair to compare games from different platforms. The 3D graphics are beautiful, and Barbie's character model and animations are excellent. Her moves are fluid and natural looking, and she looks how you would expect Barbie to look. This is a serious improvement over the unattractive and huge breasted abomination that was in "Secret Agent Barbie." The music and sound effects are nice, and the FMV sequences are very well done. A great looking production all around.

Unfortunately, the game is surprisingly difficult to play due to awkward controls, constantly shifting camera angles, and poor collision detection. Maneuvering Barbie is a chore, and jumping is an exercise in pain and suffering. This is made worse by the fact that the 3D engine often slows down to an unbearable crawl. Oddly enough, Barbie seems to share the same problems that Lara Croft has with jumping, and many times refuses to jump at all (resulting in numerous "instant death" scenarios). Sadly, what could and should be a fun and relaxing gaming experience quickly turns into an infuriating one. The game also has a super-cheap ending that's guaranteed to make you angry.