Developer: Barking Lizards
Release Date: October 13, 2008
Going strictly by the cover art, it's difficult to figure out what the latest Bratz-themed DS title is even about, and I was really hoping that it would at least be a musical rhythm game as opposed to a series of mini-games, like other Bratz titles on various systems. Well, it's safe to say that I was pretty disappointed because that's pretty much what Bratz: Girlz Really Rock is all about. Having played a couple of these games, it's starting to feel a little formulaic to me, and while I realize that the title is definitely not aimed at either my age or demographic, I can still tell when a game is fun, and Bratz: Girlz Really Rock isn't fun at all.
If, somehow, you're not even familiar with what a "Bratz" is, I'll get you up to speed with my limited knowledge on the subject. Bratz is a popular toy line with a heavy emphasis on fashion and pop culture, and its target audience is adolescent girls; the toys have a cutesy, big-eyed design meant to appeal to current youth and animation styles in the U.S. There have been a feature film, numerous animated shows and movies, and quite a few games based on the license. There's even a spin-off line involving similarly styled animals, which has seen some limited success. I can see the appeal to young girls, and I'm all for giving them toys that they can relate too, but the heavy emphasis on clothing and fashion seems a little hollow. I won't preach on it, though, since I know most children's toys are generally meant to be pretty shallow, and what the heck, it's all just supposed to be fun anyway, right?
With that said, the licensed games tend to be about as far removed from fun as you can get. The only decent one I remember was Bratz: The Movie for the Wii, and even then, it was only something that I could play for short sessions. This newest title, Girlz Really Rock, definitely falls into that lackluster category, with various gameplay mechanics that are mixed with fashion, music, and a gotta-catch-'em-all (clothes!) mentality as it relates to the world of Bratz. There are some different environments and gameplay mechanics at work here, and while they do a pretty decent job of combining that stuff with decking out your character and her home in different fashions and styles, actually playing the game feels a bit boring and more like a chore, but you have to do this if you want to unlock the various accessories.
Girlz Really Rock features four playable Bratz characters, all of whom you'll switch between at various points within the main story. As the game begins, you'll get accustomed to some of the basic mechanics, which boil down to a series of fetch quests within the Bratz world, such as speaking to a certain boy or girl, or gathering up and buying different clothes or accessories. Along with these small quests, you'll be introduced to the mini-game mechanic, but the variety and challenge here is pretty small. I've seen much better mini-game compilations on the DS, and while the title is geared toward younger kids, I can't really see anyone in that pre-teen range having much difficulty getting past any of the challenges. All of these events and quests are building up to a talent competition within the Bratz world. You'll also need to earn a bit of cash along the way, which can be done by designing certain items and fashions and turning around and selling them to a virtual storefront of sorts in the game. The design portion is one of the more interesting aspects of the title, and while it's still limited, I can appreciate the idea of getting kids interested in doing something artistic.
Visually, Girlz Really Rock is not a pretty game. Aside from some interior scenes, it mostly goes for a 3-D art style, but the 3-D work is all low-quality stuff. The DS isn't quite known for pumping out engaging 3-D visuals anyway, so why they wouldn't opt to go with a better-looking 2-D scheme is beyond me. The end result is blocky textures, characters, and an overall lack of detail that undermines the title's fashion and creation aspect. The music, likewise, is pretty poor in quality and sound, with some simple upbeat pop tunes that aren't really reminiscent of anything current. The music does little else than annoy the player over an extended period of time, so you'll want to mute the sound quickly enough. There's no spoken dialogue in the game, but that's probably a blessing in disguise.
Control-wise, you can opt to use the stylus or the control pad, which is nice to see that the option is at least given here. I preferred using the stylus, as it made navigating the menus far more manageable, and when it comes to actually trying to design logos, clothing, artwork, make-up and so on, it's definitely the easiest tool at your disposal. There's not much in the way of twitch skill needed in the game, so they can't really mess up the controls too much. There's no need to jump from platform to platform, or to aim or rotate the camera, so the controls are basic enough that a young one could pick up the game and play with little to no issues.
When you take everything into consideration, Bratz: Girlz Really Rock for the DS just isn't that fun to play. Since I don't have a major appreciation of the license, the appeal of dressing up, putting on make-up and designing clothes definitely didn't do anything for me. Girls who are already fans of the license will get more enjoyment out of this than I did, but at the same time, the mini-games are mostly tedious tasks that take away from the design element. Since you have to complete the mini-games in order to unlock content, they're a necessary evil that could lessen any fun that fans may have with the title. Combine that with some lackluster visuals and sound, and there's little here that's going to bring back players again and again. If you're a die-hard fan, then you're probably planning on checking out Girlz Really Rock anyway, but I would heartily suggest that you wait for it to hit the bargain bin before you spend any cash on it. There's nothing here that we haven't already seen in previous Bratz titles, and it certainly won't appeal to newcomers.