- Format: 3DS (version reviewed), PS3, PC, Wii U
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Little Orbit
- Developer: Torus Games
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.littleorbit.com/barbie—her-sisters-puppy-rescue.html
- Game code provided by the publisher
Have you ever watched Barbie: Life In The Dreamhouse? Probably not, if you’re not particularly young or you don’t have kids yourself. It’s a shocking TV series, in that it’s actually really good. It’s smart, witty, polished, well-made, and basically the polar opposite of what you might expect from a Barbie offshoot. Barbie & Her Sisters Puppy Rescue is… not.
Having the words ‘Barbie’ and ‘Puppy’ together in the game title should, to be honest, be a pretty good indication of the quality you are (or are not) looking at here. There is a story, of sorts. Barbie and – you guessed it – her sisters have set themselves up as a band of puppy hunters. Ironically perhaps, if you’ve ever watched Dog The Bounty Hunter, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how this works.
Dog and his small army of family members cruise around Hawaii, chasing down small-time crooks who have jumped bail. Once caught and cuffed in front of the cameras, the miscreant will be punished further by being subjected to some Life Advice from Dog, who will invariably call them “brother” and usually talk about how he used to misbehave but turned his life around. What Barbie does is almost exactly the same.
Just like Dog and his team, Barbie and her crew have a small building that works as their base of operations. When on the lookout for a new target, Barbie will explore town on her bicycle (and you’re free to go where you like to an extent, a la GTA). Just like Dog, Barbie will have little to no info on where exactly her next catch will be. Just like Dog, she uses her wits and intel from others (a combination of NPC info and the giant pink arrow often stuck to her feet) to narrow down the search. Just like Dog, her targets are not in plain sight, and are usually quite difficult to find. But also just like Dog, once she has her target cornered, there’s no getting away for them.
The puppy you find will usually, for some odd reason, have ended up in the sewer. Rescuing the stinky canine here is done via a minigame where you lead it through a small maze, by shining a light in front of it for it to follow. For this to work of course, Barbie must have X-ray vision and some sort of torch that can shine straight through solid objects yet concentrate its beam precisely where she wants it. Not even Dog has magic powers and futuristic technology like that.
Wherever it is you’ve rescued the puppy from, the next step is taking it back to base. Just like Dog, Barbie wants to give the creature she’s captured a second chance at life once they’ve spent sufficient time incarcerated. Incarceration here however doesn’t mean jail or prison, but the medical and beauty facilities back at base. Through the magic of minigames, you’ll clean up and ensure the health of each puppy you bring back. The most disturbing of these games is surely the one where you eradicate fleas. In and of itself the minigame is dull yet irritating, as you need to time the drops to land on the fleas which will change position now and again much to the frustration of younger gamers. It’s quite a disturbing experience, though. Not necessarily because the relative size of the fleas means that they appear to have mutated and grown at an alarming rate. It’s more that the anonymous liquid that you drop directly onto them makes them disappear instantly, some sort of cross between napalm and a magic spell.
With a puppy safely rescued and cleaned up, it’s time to throw it in a kennel. The idea is that you can then engage with the puppy still further with grooming and training. However, activities with puppies have cooldowns. Cooldowns! There are thankfully no microtransactions (which is exactly what this nonsense is designed to promote), but there’s also no quick and easy way to reduce or skip these waiting times. You can hold multiple puppies at once, but even at the best case you’ll quickly run into the situation where all of your puppies need to “rest”. So back into town with you.
We can only speak for the 3DS version, but the frame rate is atrocious. This is countered for Barbie fans by the novelty of taking her for a cycle round town, and even getting off to access places the bike can’t get to – but not for long. It’s not a very big town and there’s really not anything in the way of optional activities. You can’t even knock people over with your bike! Rubbish! Worse than all of the above, not even the scripted activities can be relied upon to provide consistent work (we hesitate to say ‘entertainment’). It doesn’t take long for the idea of discovering the location of the next puppy yourself to backfire horribly, with a bored child finding their already limited attention span stretched so far that it snaps while trying to find the next dog hidden away somewhere in the bland and lifeless town.
There are piles of Barbie games that have been released and quickly forgotten across the years, and this is unfortunately destined to join them. If you have a child into Barbie, spend the thirty quid or so you’re expected to pay for this on a play set or a couple of dolls. Or you could, we suppose, pick this up at a discount and use it to prepare your child for the joys of Dog The Bounty Hunter.