Imagine this conversation back in 1991 in the school yard as exciteable school children:
A: Hey, wanna come over to play some NES after school?
B: Sure! What we gonna play?
A: How about we go on a glamorous quest full of magic, fun and adventure?
At this stage, I bet your salivating, licking your lips thinking perhaps some Zelda 2 or Gauntlet 2 or in fact Cheetahmen, right? Well, imagine the disappointment when you get round your friends house, and he pulls a copy of Barbie, on the NES. It’s good that Nintendo were trying to cater for girl gamers, but for your average male gamer used to stomping on goombas, whipping bats and shooting ducks, its not the usual game for a usual gamer. So how does the game fare up since its release in these fair shores in 1992?
The game starts as all good games start, with “Once upon a dream”, and we all know quality games like this and Day Dreamin’ Davey starts with dreaming. The premise of the game is that Barbie falls asleep, dreaming of such exciting activities as lunch as the soda shop, swimming at the beach and *yawn* meeting Ken at the party tomorrow. She drifts off and your transported to the first level of the game – where your greeted by the sight of balls. Lots, and lots, of balls. And thus begins one the finest scrollers on the NES…*ahem*
This game is about as simple as you can get – you go from the left hand side of the screen, scrolling to the right and not stopping, jumping on platforms as you go. You are assisted by simple controls, A to jump, jumping with an arched knee as though there’s no gravity, and B to throw your fearsome weapon of….balls. Zelda had his sword, Mario has his jump, and Barbie has her balls. I’m still unsure as to whether there is some deep seated innuendo or hidden meanings in this game, but to an 8 year old girl playing the game would they notice balls and make tenuous links? Well nevertheless the enemies you encounter in the game range from beach balls scrolling across the screen, tennis balls hit at you and clothes flying over the screen, so in essence its a question of timing and dodging. What makes this even more difficult is the lack of ducking, but at least its not a game where pressing Up to jump, so it does have some redeeming features. So you get to the right hand side of the screen and you get…the next screen, and thus continue.
So you collect the B for Barbies for more points dodging balls, jumping on platforms, dodging upward squirting fountains, so its not the most difficult of games but no one was expecting this to be, was they? You can call the help of animals along the way, in the first level a cat that you throw your ball at and it attacks the boss, in this instance something remaining hidden behind curtains. You’ll also seek assistance from dolphins and other such creatures to aid you in your glamorous quest, trying your hardest not to lose your health bar. Well, you say “health bar”, but more as a dream “Z” meter. You start with 5 Z’s, and if you lose all of them, your treated to the most quirkiest continue game screen you’ll ever find. Should you choose to go back to sleep, you’ll start off at the start of the level with no points. Should you wake up, then, erm, you wake up, and you go right back to the start. Its not quite the frantic paced music and countdown on Street Fighter 2. But without any passwords to help your progress, or a battery back-up memory then it’s the best you’ll get, though it was common back in the day to sit in front of your TV playing the game straight through without any breaks. Its how we rolled, not today with auto-saves and checkpoints. The kids today don’t know stamina unless they’ve played this with one life. Take that Contra.
The levels are as as girly as can be, with you scrolling through malls, through fountains, gallerias and other such treats. The water levels later in the game is reminiscent of the Turtles water stages (just without the dreaded electric purple plants), and the underwater Mario stages where you control Barbie as she dreams she is a mermaid and swim past the jellyfish and fishies. The bosses are challenging for those young enough who are lucky enough to play this, but not quite the difficulty of Contra that gamers may expect, nor have the luxury of upgrading any items you have to defeat the boss any easier. Just you, some balls, and an animal if your lucky.
So aside from the VGA style purple and blue colours, and the simplistic controls, what else does this charming game have? Well, its playable. It may sound strange for a game exclusively aimed at girls to have a playability factor, but once you get used to shooting balls at creatures, at invisible clothes men and at water creatures, it actually resembles a half decent game. There splenty of male-centric games that played worse than this. The music is typical 8-bit fluff which suits the style of game, is jaunty and upbeat, but the sound effects, for example when you jump can start to jar after a while. However its not terrible enough to turn it off and put on a Less Than Jake CD, or whatever the youth of today listen to.
So all in all, being a non-Barbie fan will this convert me, to purchase Ken and obtain that exquisite Malibu House to house them in? Well, no. For a NES game, its very standard, but very, very pink. And very very dull. It was nice that this game catered for the girl contigence, but I don’t think this would have done much to convert those girl gamers who play this to become hardcore Nintendo fans. The fish flopping and water upskirts do little for the guy gamers so I wouldn’t expect this in every gamers collection. To be honest, it was the one aspect of the game that stopped me completing it. The pastel colours start affecting your eyes for a while so who knows what treats are in store for the later levels, maybe going to a prom, or seeing even more pictures of Ken selling milk for 10c and soda for 5c? Though don’t go believing the description of this being a glamorous quest full of fun magic and adventure, you might try to sue Mattel for breaching the Trades Descriptions Act. If you want that I’d suggest starting with something much more magical like Festers Quest…
Rating – 2 out of 5