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Strawberry Shortcake: Strawberryland Games Review

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Developer: The Game Factory Publisher: The Game Factory
Release Date: October 17, 2006 Also On: None

To be honest, I’ve never been intimately familiar with the Strawberry Shortcake franchise. In actuality, until this game came out, I thought it was an old franchise that had long since met its end, leaving the only vestige of it that I know anything about an Atari 2600 game based on the property that I found a couple years ago when I rediscovered my family’s old Atari system.

But there is good reason for me not to have been intimately familiar with her, as her franchise, from what I can figure from what I’ve been told and from playing this game, is one that is aimed at young girls, something I have never been. And believe me when I say that when I opened the game’s box for the first time and got a whiff of the strawberry scent that The Game Factory had somehow put on the manual and the game card, I thought I was in for a game that would be an absolute insult to me as a gamer. However, I am pleased to say that this game exceeded my expectations in terms of quality.

Graphically, this game is what you’d expect. There’s no pushing of the boundaries of the DS’s graphical capabilities to be found here, and the graphics are girly and “cute”. However, considering the franchise that this game is licensed off of, I must concede that this graphical style is totally appropriate, even if it wouldn’t be my first choice for graphical style.

There’s not much detail to the graphics to the most part, but I have no idea what the animation style of the cartoon or DVD series or whatever this game is based off of look like, so I am going to give The Game Factory the benefit of the doubt and assume that the graphics emulate what they are meant to emulate competently. From a functionality standpoint, the graphics certainly do everything they need to, and an audience as young as the one this game is intended for won’t care about much more than that anyway.

So far as the sound is concerned, what few sound effects there are in this game are okay, although not spectacular. They get the job done. On the musical front, this game has roughly three musical themes that I can pick out. All of them fit the environment and atmosphere of this type of game well, and are very upbeat and even semi-addictive. So, for all intents and purposes, I have no major complaints in terms of sound quality.

However, this game commits a sin with the sound that, although pardonable, is still significant. I was warned before I received this game that the target audience was young girls three to seven years of age. Well, the last time I checked, most three year olds don’t know how to read. And yet, how do the instruction prompts play out? In text boxes. I realize that The Game Factory doesn’t use voice acting that much, but it is my opinion that for a game like this, the instructions should be spoken. Actually, the ideal would probably be to have the text boxes and have a voice read them to the child to help the child learn to read, but at the very least the instructions should be voice-oriented rather than text-oriented. Well, that’s enough of that rant, and I’m not going to penalize the game’s score too much on account of it. I just wanted to make sure that you parents out there were warned about this.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Sure, the aesthetic qualities of the game are decent, but a game aimed at young girls is going to be simple, easy, and short-lived.” From the point of view of the target audience, you would be correct only on the first of these three accusations. Everything in this game is simple enough that a person within the upper end of the target audience will understand what they are supposed to be doing, and many of the things are certainly easy enough that a very young girl could understand them. I say this, however, with one caveat, namely, the aforementioned problem of the lack of vocal instructions meaning that those in the youngest age group will have to have the instructions explained to them by a parent. Once such an explanation has taken place, however, most young children should be able to pick up on at least the basics and be able to have a good time even if they don’t win.

There are six games, as well as a couple non-game activities, that can be played in this game. Three of the games are called “Game Day Races”, and these are the three that are lengthier and have more of a feel of real games. There are also three “Berry Cherry Games” that function more as mini-games and diversions. Since each of them is different, I feel the need to address each one individually, but I will try to keep my comments on each brief.

The Game Day Races are the games that the plot of the game revolve around. Your objective in each is to beat Peppermint Fizz’s time in each of the levels. Yes, that’s right, there’s multiple levels in each. The first Game Day Race is called the Licorice Leap. Your objective in this game is to get your pet across the lake to a flag as quickly as possible by placing pieces of licorice in the water for it to jump to. You have a choice of a dog or a cat to use for this game, but it doesn’t matter which one you choose. This game is fairly easy to understand, and it’s not much deeper than what I just described except that Peppermint Fizz, the “bad guy” has some tricks up her sleeve to try to delay your pet.

The second Game Day Race is called Berry Boarding. Basically, it’s a simplistic form of downhill snowboarding. Like the Licorice Leap, this game is fairly simple to understand. You dodge obstacles, use the touch screen to try to pull off stunts off ramps, and try to get to the bottom as fast as you can. Once again, there are some obstacles set up by Peppermint Fizz to slow you down, but the game remains fairly simple to comprehend nonetheless. I would complain though that the touch screen isn’t as responsive as I would like when the stunt circle comes up for stunts though.

I should mention that this game has an option for you to link two DS systems together and race each other via multi-card play. Although I cannot imagine why they couldn’t have used single-card multi-player, or had some of the other games be multi-player, the fact that they took the time to add in any multi-player element is nice, even if it is something that most players of this game will be hard pressed to ever have opportunity to use.

The third Game Day Race is the Balloon Race. In this game, you try to set up balloons using the touch screen and them jump between them to get to a flag at the top of the course. This is easily the most complex of the three, especially when Peppermint Fizz starts dropping things to burst the balloons you set up, and might be a bit beyond the abilities of the youngest people at which this game is aimed even to comprehend, let alone win at.

That is the primary problem with these three games. The first two are easy enough to understand, but the difficulty curve is, in my opinion, a bit steep for games aimed at young kids. I didn’t even find the earliest levels to be super-easy to get the top time in, so I have a hard time thinking that those in the age range this game is aimed at could reasonably be expected to at all. While this challenge would make the game more entertaining for an older audience, and add replay value as players tried to beat the times, I see a youngster more quickly becoming frustrated with it than being driven to do ever better at it, and most older gamers will, expectedly, not be interested in playing a “little kids’ game”.

However, all is not lost, since, for the youngest of the players, there are the Berry Cherry Games. The first, called Berry Tap, might as well be called Whack-A-Strawberry, because that’s exactly what it is. Various berries come up out of holes, and you whack the strawberries with the touch screen, trying to get 10 of them in the thirty-second time limit. Easy to understand and easy to play, it’s perfect for even the youngest Strawberry Shortcake fan. And it’s lengthy too. When I played it, I got to level 32 before I lost because the difficulty curve rises quite slowly, which is perfectly appropriate for a game aimed at this age level.

The second Berry Cherry Game is called Berry Bounce. Slightly more complicated than Berry Tap, this game gives you a set number of various types of berries and has you trying to tap all of them within the time limit. Tapping a berry in that list makes its icon disappear from the list, while tapping a berry not in that list makes another icon get added. Yet, although it’s more complex than Berry Tap, it is still easy to understand, and probably can help young children learn to match icons with each other, so it is slightly in the realm of edutainment, albeit very slightly. Once again, the difficulty curve doesn’t rise too fast.

The final Berry Cherry Game is Berry Tiles. Essentially, you have sixteen tiles each with a berry icon on them, and you have to switch them by stepping on them with your pet in an effort to make all sixteen icons show the same berry. This one is more difficult than Berry Tap and Berry Bounce and could take some more time for the youngest players to get used to, but it isn’t overly difficult either.

In addition to these six games, there is a Balloon Ride where you simply get in a balloon and move it up, down, left and right, on a set of screens that scrolls horizontally only, which is a bit of a disappointment. The real disappointment here though is that the only thing you can do here of any consequence is try to tap certain clouds and collect the items that they leave. Other than that, there is no point to this mode at all.

There’s also a dessert booth where you can use tickets earned in the games to buy power-ups to use in the Game Day Races. You can choose to buy these power-ups outright, or you can make them yourself, which involves short cooking mini-games that are very easy to understand and that would likely entertain the youngest players of this game a bit.

What then is the conclusion of the matter? This game is loaded with replay value since it will take you a while to beat all the best times in each of the three Game Day Races, and games like Berry Tap and Berry Bounce might become addictive for the youngest players. It is for that reason that, to my shock and amazement, I am actually going to recommend that if your child is a fan of this franchise, you should strongly consider buying this game for them, and if you do, and you can get around the youngster-based graphics, you should even consider trying out this game yourself.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.5
Written by Martin Review Guide