[2 March 2005]
Consider this round two of The Kiddie Video Game Reviews. Perhaps you caught my previous review of Lizzie McGuire 2: Lizzie Diaries and know that in that piece I discussed how even though I may be a bit out of the loop when it comes to all of Disney’s hottest teen franchises, that didn’t mean these games were necessarily good or even challenging by any standards. Alas, this has often been the case with video games spun from various movies, cartoons, and TV shows. All too often these are made more with monetary returns in mind rather than stimulating any type of video gamer’s synapses. So it is again with That’s So Raven from Disney Interactive.
I’ve only caught bits of this show myself, never having sat down and watched a full episode. This would primarily be because I’m 32 years old and not the target demographic for the show, and my own kid is only six months old and is more interested in watching Baby Einstein videos, which do happen to stimulate the learning process. But that’s neither here nor there, really. If you’re not down with the show either, the basic premise is that Raven is a teenage girl with psychic powers that she tries to use for the good of her friends and family, but more often than not gets into wacky hijinks that get herself into ironic trouble which leads her to learn an important lesson at the end of every show. It’s kind of like Saved by the Bell minus any “threatening” sex appeal. After all, Raven is a Disney creation.
So in That’s So Raven the game, you of course get to control Raven in four “episodes” taken straight from the show. But like the previous Lizzie Diaries, That’s So Raven quickly boils down to a game of light challenges and boring repetition. In fact, this game is so repetitious that once you’ve played the first episode, you can pretty much put the game down, as the other three are just mild variations of the first. Again, this title comes off as nothing else but mere product, nothing more than That’s So Raven slapped on a game box without much thought going into the whole thing.
For most of the game, Raven is either running around her high school or the mall trying to pick up a set number of items to allow her to advance to the next level, or attempting to finish secondary goals by collecting items for other characters. So basically those two settings are revamped throughout the 20 levels of this game over and over ad nauseam. The most frustrating thing here is that you can hold a button down to make Raven run, and that’s all you need. Oh sure, she comes with an arsenal of weapons such as her purse that she swings, perfume that she sprays, or bottled water that she can drop, but in the end all she needs to do is run. So run, Raven, run!
Her formidable enemies are just as annoying as the play mechanics. Get ready to dodge countless geeks with A/V carts, cheerleaders and popular girls throwing various items, hall monitors patrolling the high school, the principal, and even a stinky kid with a green cloud following him around that will slow Raven down for about five seconds if she comes into contact with him. And that’s about it. Over and over again as you work through the same malls and high school. It might be all right if the AI in this game was challenging in any way, but for the most part the A/V geeks and hall monitors are in a set pattern, and other characters will just statically stand there throwing things at you. Oh, did I mention the janitors buffing the floors? You’ll have to easily walk around them as well.
As far as Raven’s psychic powers go, they aren’t even utilized. She just has a vision at the beginning of every segment and that’s it. Perhaps giving her some variation on Spider-Man’s spider-sense would have been cool, but obviously the developers knew this thing wasn’t going to be in the least bit challenging. I guess the big thrill is that completing certain tasks allows the player to unlock stills from the show’s episodes. Hoo-rah. Again, I’m wondering what kid will find much enjoyment beyond the initial 20 minutes. I suppose the hardcore Raven fans will eat it up, but parents beware: this is really nothing but a cash cow.
It would be nice to see some kids’ games developed under these franchises that were actually fun and challenging. And I really don’t think it’s just the “old gamer”, the seasoned vet, if you will, that’s complaining here. If I was ten years old and got this game, I’d undoubtedly be just as disappointed. Kids really do deserve more than just product thrown at them. We demand more as adult gamers, and kids shouldn’t be taken advantage of with silly tossed-off titles like That’s So Raven. Even at 30 dollars this game is a rip-off. So for all those parents who are worried about violence and sex in the video games, you might just as well be equally worried about the ones with an E rating for lack of value and/or fun. It’d be nice to see Disney get off its lazy ass and really produce something stellar for the GBA.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/thats-so-raven/