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Dora The Explorer: Journey To The Purple Planet on PS2 is another well judged young person's game from developers 2K. Well signposted, engaging missions and child voiced characters mean that this game stands head and shoulders above other build for pre-schooler games.
Platforming games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
Dora The Explorer: Journey To The Purple Planet offers a simple explorable world staring the characters fot the Nickelodeon TV show. It is unique because it manages to keep the controls simple enough for young players whilst not 'dumbing down' the platforming action. Into the mix, parents will appreciate the various educational aspects. From the interwoven Spanish vocab to various memorisation, navigation and counting tasks, Dora The Explorer: Journey To The Purple Planet doesn't miss a chance to turn play into learning.
Whilst Dora the Explorer: Dora Rescues the Snow Princess Wii and Go Diego Go: African Adventure Wii offer simpler controls and less problematic two dimensional platforming, Dora the Exploere on PS2 manages to increase the complexity without putting off young players. Although the analgoue stick controls are a little trickier than the simple tilting mechanic with the Wii-mote, and the PS2 controller is a little more daunting for tiny hands, the PS2 version does enough to simplifiy things keep young minds engaged. For example, everything apart from movement is controlled by a single 'action' button which removes the paniced thumbling for the corresponding Playstation button symbol.
The game itself takes the form of a platform adventure. Players work their way through various areas collecting jewels and completing tasks to progress. Along the way they meet a variety of animals who help or hinder them - all of which are voice by children, somethign my kids really appreciated.
The game is narrated by Dora herself and well paced throughout. The Map and Rucksack characters from the TV show make a cnsiderable contribution to fleshing out the overarching story. The Map in particular does a great job at signposting the various stages invovled in each level - cross the Wobbly Bridge, mind the Icky Sticky Sand, jump the Crocodile River and find the Tall Mountain.
The main game revolves around running, jumping and exporation - as with any good platform experience. These are punctuated by various special items (bushes, logs and the like) that need to be searched for extra gems. Each level also has variour rope swining, mud sliding and creature hoping aspects that provide a bit more variety.
Young players will soon be in shreiks of laughter and delight as they work their way through each level. Taking turn to navigate each item on the map, our two were able to play the game without too much intervention from Dad. What they did want however was to show me each of their successes, which led to some great conversations about the ins and outs of river crossings, icky sticky sand and rocket ship rides.
To complete a whole map will take most young players around an hour, although they can save once they have completed a particular sub-section. This means that if time is limited, a section of the game can be played in around 15-20 minutes.
Young players who have conquored the Dora and Diego games on the Wii will find these a great next step. The controls are a little too complex for kids under three, unless they have really advanced hand eye co-ordination, or a willing older helper. The game does feature mild themes such as placating dangerous animals, and foiling jewel theives - but unless a child is very sesnitive to this they are unlikely to cause concern.
Intermediates and older players will find they can quickly progress through the game. Although those that have played the Lego Star Wars, Batman and Indie games may find the lack of co-operative play a little frustrating, the high quality presentation should be enough to keep their interest. Some may also find the game a little to easy to complete - something that reflects its focus on younger players.
Experts will want to look elsewhere for their platforming fun unless they have younger siblings to entertain. For them, Mario Galaxy Wii may be a better bet.
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