Barbie In The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Year: 2006
Platform: PlayStation2, PC
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Blue Monkey Studios
Genre: Adventure
Review Date: 12/22/07
Rating: *

Until now I've found a certain amount of campy entertainment value in Barbie's various video game adventures, but "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" offers nothing but a hefty dose of tedium and some truly creepy dancing girls. In its defense, the game is intended for the 5-9 year old age group, but even they might find it offensively shallow and boring - especially given kids' attention spans. Everything in the game is spelled out in explicit detail with annoying narration that never seems to end. Everything, that is, except for the premise. Just what is going on in this game? All we get is a short disjointed movie trailer that shows a wicked old woman trapping Princess Genevieve (Barbie) and her eleven sisters inside of a magical realm. Who is she and what's her motivation? More exposition is provided by Barbie, the dashing Prince Derek, his annoying parrot Skooch, and some weird golden statues. Apparently the evil woman has poisoned the King, and it's up to the twelve princesses to find a magical vial of elixir to cure him. Only with the elixir, and the girls' fervent love of dancing, can the kingdom be saved.

As you try and track down the elixir, you also have to enchant all of the princesses' dancing slippers. Afterall, only enchanted slippers have the power to return to the real world. After you enchant a pair of slippers, you have to set up a dance routine for a princess to perform, which is very disturbing to watch. This is one of many activities, or chores, that you have to complete, which offer no challenge or plot progression. They're merely time wasters - or perhaps this is a reward mechanism? The elements that do progress the plot involve Barbie collecting gems, finding keys, and avoiding or jumping over obstacles. The game controls in these platform areas are sloppy and it's surprisingly difficult to gauge your jumping correctly. Fortunately, Barbie can't die (or even get hurt), so you simply respawn in the same place with an encouraging "you're doing great, let's try again!" speech whenever you fail. The perspective is awkward and the camera is rather fussy, which induces motion sickness after about twenty minutes.

Production wise the game looks pretty good, but the character models are plain and unattractive. The motion captured dancing moves are well done but some of them are uncomfortably provocative - especially when you see a six year old computer animated girl performing what looks like a bump and grind lap dance. The voiceover work is that same sickeningly sweet tone that you expect from Barbie, and listening to it makes you want to scream. Barbie, Derek, and the game narrator do a fine job, but the other princesses are grating and sound either forced, fake, or flat, making them even more difficult to listen to. Barbie and the narrator never seem to shut up, always telling you what to do and giving ridiculous amounts of praise and encouragement. Are young girls' egos really that fragile?!?

The level design is simple and colorful, and the various areas are small and quick to navigate. Unfortunately, gameplay is disrupted by unreasonably long and frequent loading times. This, along with the tedious gameplay and saccharine presentation, made me abandon my quest after only two hours. I clearly don't intersect the target demographic of this game at all, and I frankly found it rather uncomfortable and disturbing. Just what is the message of this game, and what do young girls get out of what is effectively a dance simulator? What is this mystical power known as "dancing" and what allure does it have for the female of the species? After each girl performs her little number, she raves in ecstasy about how good it feels. This notion is completely alien to me, and perhaps to men in general. Maybe it all boils down to gender specific base animal instincts of courtship and mating, which makes the theme of the game even creepier. All I know is that after playing it for a while, I felt the desperate need to inflict pain and suffering in the latest "King Of Fighters" game.