Publisher: Take-Two Interactive
Developer: High Voltage Soft.
Release Date: October 27, 2008
If you have a kid or happen to like children's television programming (cough) , then you know who Dora is. Our little bilingual adventurer is now in Wii-form, along with Boots the monkey, in the most literal title definition ever, Dora Saves the Snow Princess. With your help, Dora must help save the snow princess. It can't get much simpler than that. Well, maybe it could …. You see, as we're shown in the game, the snow princess comes across a magical gem and smiles into it. She wants to bring snow to the forest (as one would expect from her royal title), but an evil witch captures her and wants the snow to melt. Maybe it was a long and harsh winter, or the witch suffers from seasonal anxiety disorder. We really don't know. Now you can help Dora … that's right, save the snow princess!
The game follows the spirit of the television show, maybe with a little less along the teaching route. The nice thing is that kids will immediately gravitate toward the game, since it uses the same voice talent, nearly identical graphics and similar sounds. The transition from television to game is done pretty well. Obviously the game is geared for the preschool level, but I like how interactive it makes things. I can imagine that this would be a great way for parents and kids to play together using a familiar ground. It would also teach valuable Wii gaming skills because who wants a kid who shies away from video games? Not in this house ….
For the most part, as Dora travels around the landscape, courtesy of destination points provided by Map, most of the puzzles will involve selecting the right object to get through a certain area. For example, one of the first obstacles encountered is a frozen pond, and Backpack will ask you which item you'll need. Sure, it's easy for you and me, but again, I think this is a great way to encourage lateral logic skills at an early age. In this case, Backpack asked if I should use a flashlight, a tennis racket, or ice skates. As a side note, I love how things take on literal and proper noun status in the Dora world. A backpack named Backpack, and a map named Map? Awesome. The only thing I've never understood was a monkey named Boots. Sure, he's wearing boots, but why wouldn't we just call him Monkey instead? These are the kinds of philosophical questions that keep me up at night.
Other challenges within Dora Saves the Snow Princess will encourage the player to perform certain moves with the Wii Remote to get to the next section. One part had me "shoveling" snow out of the way from a ladder. Once the snow was removed, I then had another action to climb the ladder. Examples are displayed in the corner of the screen to show you the right move, and a progress indicator shows how well you're doing, but honestly, you can just flail aimlessly for the most part and still have it work. Again, this is geared toward preschool kids, so I can cut them a bit of slack for that.
The graphics are right on par with the cartoon show, and that can be taken a few different ways. On the one hand, the bright color palette and simple design will be familiar and easy to understand. On the other hand, it's also extremely repetitive. You can only pass so many snow-covered trees and icy locations before it gets old. Maybe the evil witch had the right idea with trying to melt all that snow.
The actions with Dora and Boots are fun, and again, the level of interaction will be great for kids. You can make Dora move where you want her to, jump, swing across icy vines and ice skate. If nothing else, it makes the show come that much more alive for young players.
Additionally, quite possibly the most notable performer from the show also makes an appearance. Of course, I'm talking about Swiper. For those who don't know, Swiper (get ready for it) swipes things. He's a sneaky fox that has a bit of a kleptomaniac streak. The best part is that when he comes on-screen, both Dora and the viewers at home chastise him with the chant, "Swiper, no swiping!" Eventually he sighs, gives up his stolen treasure and pops off. Good stuff.
Since this game is geared more as a single-player adventure, there really aren't any multiplayer features, save for ability for a parent or other child to use a second Wii Remote to help with some of the on-screen actions. That's actually a nice feature, though it may defeat some of the intended purposes of learning certain Wii Remote moves. Near the end of the game, you can also play with a second person in a race to collect tokens. It's no Mario Kart, but it does add some friendly competition to an already interactive title.
All in all, Dora Saves the Snow Princess is a great game for kids. You can't really fail at any of the challenges, as you're encouraged to try again. You get to control a world-famous cartoon celebrity and her monkey companion, you get to fight against evil and rescue wintery royalty, and you get to yell at a thieving fox. Personally, I feel the repetition gets old, but as my friends with children will attest, kids can and do watch the same show or movie over and over and over. If Dora happens to be on their list, they'll love this game.