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Barbie's Race 'n Ride
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Mattel
Publisher:  Mattel
Features:  Dual Shock
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
O.K. Letís see a show of hands out there. How many of you out there were expecting a game on par with the Final Fantasy series in terms of game play and graphics? Hmmm...

Not too many of you were expecting Barbie Gear Solid? Well you were right. Is the Barbie Franchise full of low quality, uninteresting games for anyone with half a brain? Well yes and no, Barbie is obviously geared towards young girls and Barbie Collectors. I think even collectors would be hard pressed not to burst out laughing at the sub-Resident Evil (1) voice acting. Some of my favorite voice-overs include "Ohhhh, loook! BUNNIES!" and "Ohhh arenít they adoooooorable?"

The game play itself is as lame as the Malibu Barbie Camper is hot pink. There are only 2 of the 8 PSX buttons used besides the directional controls. X is used to make your horse jump over obstacles, if you donít jump over the obstacles your horse will just stop and you get to try again. No incredibly bloody bails to be found in this title. The Square button is used to stop to initiate the "interactive" part of the game. I say interactive with tongue firmly in cheek because most of the events consist of highlighting a cute little animal (such as bunnies and lambs) and then it does 1 of 2 animations.

Thatís not to say that there arenít mini games galore in this but they are so laughably simple that you finish most on the first try. There was one mini game that I didnít finish on the first try, you had to get the bunny from the rabbit hole on the top of the hill to itís home on the bottom of the hill. Not getting the bunny home on the first try shook my confidence as a gamer and I was considering selling my PSX, and never picking up a controller again.

So, you ask, howís the level design? Well to put it frankly, it is terrible! There are 4 "trails" you can choose from. Mountain, Beach, Forest, and Meadow are the levels to choose from. They all consist of the same elements, ride you horse for awhile, go around or jump over obstacles, press the square button to initiate the parade of bunnies and mini games.

There are some of the bells and whistles included that are on par with other racing games out there. There are "night tracks" and "backward tracks" included in the game. Unfortunately, itís just when you complete the first half of the level, Barbie says, "Oh, itís getting dark letís turn back." On the way back you get different mini games and interactive bits.

So if you finish one track and all the others are basically the same why bother continuing? Well, Iím glad you asked! There is a "secret" ranch that you can access by completing all the levels. Barbie is kind enough to tell you about the "secret level" in the opening FMV, so you canít really say that itís THAT big of a secret.

Thatís just the ride part of Race ní Ride, but what about the race? The race is just 2D sprites that are on a split screen. You push up on the directional pad to go fast and press X to jump over logs and fences. Your opponent is another Barbie star like Skipper or Tiffany. If you miss a jump you lose, but you basically canít lose.

Now that Iíve had a chance to rip this game to shreds let me take time to be fair to Mattel Media, developers of Barbie R ní R. I have a friend in the biz who worked on a few Barbie titles back in the 16 bit day. Apparently, Mattel is the main cause of the cloying lameness of the game. The developer would have some idea that would make the game challenging for gamers and Mattel would say something like "Well, thatís a good idea but could you take out the fun part and make Barbie interact with bunnies?" Well, it seems that Mattel has the perfect game by itís own standards. But I think that even a 4-year-old girl wouldnít be entertained by this title for long.

John Cooper

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