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Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves the Snow Princess is one of the first games we've played that delivers to its intended pre-schooler demographic, and in some style. Like Go Diego Go - Safari Rescue Wii the game delivers age appropriate controls, and plenty of kiddie excitement in a very friendly package. All wrapped up in a familiar franchise to those that catch Nickelodeon.
Platform 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 Saves the Snow Princess is largely unique because of its controls. It makes the excellent choice to ditch the usual D-Pad left right controls and opts instead for holding the Wii-mote sideways and tilting. This not only reduces the number of buttons but also seems to be a scheme that is instantly understandable by children. (Well ours seem to get it with no prompting.)
At various stages through the platforming levels the game introduces some Wario Ware: Smooth Moves Wii minigames. Here the player has to perform a particular action to progress. Again some intelligent decisions have been made about the controls. The fiddley Wii-mote pointing mechanic has been completely ignored. Instead, they have employed a range of gestures and motions. The result is a varied experience with child friendly controls.
The icing on the cake is the ability for an adult to pick up a second Wii-mote and assist with the minigames. This also works well if a younger sibling wants to join in the action. The two layers then work together to complete each task, with the original player controlling the platform running, jump, sliding and tunneling.
The game is also well signposted. It makes clear to all watching what the task in hand is and the various way points that need to be achieved. A bit of repetition and getting players to pick their next target (such as the Broken Bridge or Ice Slide) means that when they get their the excitement is palpable.
Young players will be attracted to the game because of the Dora the Explorer franchise. Happily though, there is plenty of substance behind the brand. Players are soon involved in the plot and egging each other on as they progress through the various platforms. The game cleverly introduces a wide variety of encounters, be they ice patches, holes, ladders, flying horses or just snow heaps. Each one presents a simple dilemma and a different experience before the platforming can continue.
The variety of the levels, and the quality of each encounter create an experience that is a genuinely magical extension to the television program. Something that works regardless of the familiarity with said show.
As with other platform games, it is made up of levels. You can save at any point, although you may loose a little progress if you do this between check points. Sessions can last anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour or two. Most youngsters should get a good twenty hours from the game before they have seen it all.
Young players a exceptionally well served by this game. The characters, franchise, graphics, sounds and controls all work together to provide an experience tailored to them. The usual awkward elements, such as timed jumps, the fear of the character dying and the fiddley Wii-mote pointing have all been left behind to leave a slipstreamed game.
Intermediate parents and siblings can have a lot of fun here playing with younger family members. The ability to grab a second controller and help them progress is a nice touch, but just as much fun is the various bits of advice and questions that the game throws up.
Expert gamers are not the target audience here, and really need a young friend to see why this game is worth its entry price. They will be better served by more hardcore adventures such as Zelda: The Twighlight Princess Wii.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: