Reviewed by Stan, Posted on 2010-07-05


Developer: Imagineering Publisher: Hi-Tech Expressions
Release Date: 1991 Also On: DOS

This game is rather surprising. Now, at first glance it should be clear Barbie was made for little girls. So, of course, the game play isn't going to be as deep and stellar as Pool of Radiance, no offense to women out there. A game based on a little girl's dream doll doesn't exactly scream complexity. That was, however, until I actually played it. Though not the most spectacular game out there, Barbie manages to catch my attention.

Graphically, Barbie has some strong and weak points. The story screens are awesome. The majority of the backgrounds, however, are flat buildings filling up space. Too much pink at times, but they tend to even this out as the game progresses. Barbie herself has one of the most perfect animations for an 8-Bit sprite I've ever seen. I mean, if I saw her in front of me, I'd say this is how she'd move. The majority of the enemies and obstacles you encounter, though sometimes odd, are all designed enough that you can tell what you're looking at. Some of the bosses, like the giant ice cream sundae, are pretty cool. In general, Barbie, I have to admit, really does deliver in the graphics department. There is some slowdown during certain segments, but no major complaints. The awesome ending was a welcome relief from an era of 'Congratulations' screens.

As for the music and sound, nothing in Barbie really stands out as an incredible track, but they definitely create an atmosphere best described as 'a little girl playing with Barbie and imagining various adventures'. The music, I feel, fits the levels, and for "boss" music they simply speed up the level tracks. The sound effects are nothing new, however, and you'll recognize the majority from games such as Bart Vs. The Space Mutants. Wasn't too impressed, but they weren't out of place or anything. I thought the between-scene music was pretty interesting though, has this weird dreamy thing going on.

In Barbie, your goal is to reach Ken for an awesome date in dreamland. You take her through the mall to get her dress, the ocean (as a mermaid) to get her necklace, and the soda shop to get her shoes to tie it all together for the big night, if you know what I mean. Various creatures and obstacles stand in her way. Barbie moves and jumps as you'd expect, but she also has a unique form of "attack" that consists of different types of 'charms' as per the game manual's description. They look like little diamonds, and when you throw them at helpful creatures you can make them move or perform some sort of action that removes an obstacle or retrieves an item. There are a variety of icons to collect for life (registered as Z's since she's sleeping), points and so forth. Every so many levels you face a boss and then move on to the next stage. Overall, pretty basic, but Barbie does have some cool things in the details. Check it out first:

The first thing I noticed is the multitude of hidden rooms and items. There are magical bubbles that create a rotating barrier around Barbie, rooms with extra Z's to increase her Z bar, and so forth. It really packs a lot of secrets in a game you'd assume would be superficial. You have to mess around with the controls to find some of them. The bosses aren't all as easy as you'd think either. The sundae of doom is actually kind of difficult at first and the final boss, the juke box, is pretty beast. As it chucks notes you have to get a series of three coins spread across the room to spin. Took me a little time to figure out what I had to do, and once I did I'll tell you if I was a little girl playing this I'd probably call Barbie a bitch. It's not impossible, but it's not easy. Lots of things like this and the variety of designs and ideas in Barbie made it stand out much more than I expected. My only complaint would be some of the mermaid stage seemed incomplete in its design.

I have to say, for something you'd expect to be little more than an 'educational' title at best, Barbie really managed to do a number of cool things, scared though I am to admit that. The variety in the levels, ideas, little tricks to most of the bosses, hidden items, etc. really gave it a lot more depth than I expected, enough that it can almost stand up to more advanced 'boy' games from the era. It's still much easier than the usual platformer, but for what it is I have to say I find Barbie pretty creative in a number of ways. Definitely not easy to make a platformer out of a doll in the first place.

Must I? Yes, I have to admit, I've played Barbie several times. The first time to get the feel for it, the second time to actually try to complete it, and, sigh, I must say it took me some practice. I played this roughly six times. There are some really tricky segments I took for granted. Plus, I actually, can I say this, had fun trying to find the secrets once I realized there were a number of them. My only problem is that once you know how the game is arranged, aside from some moderately difficult parts, it's essentially a breeze to run through. Still, I did play it a number of times, and I have to say I wouldn't necessarily mind doing it again, it does have that 'beat my high score' thing going for it too. Damn it.

Overall, Barbie is much more interesting than you'd probably think. The pink, cute label art displaying the classic doll in 90s regalia doesn't stare you down as something with any sort of depth, but once you actually start to play it you find there's quite a bit going on in this little platformer. There's a lot of variety, tons of secrets, some areas that take a bit of practice, bosses that will sometimes actually get your blood moving, and some surprisingly awesome story screens (in terms of design, mind you) to tie it all together. Sure, it's not the greatest platformer, but for something made for little girls, it really manages to stand out in a unique way I can't say I've really seen anywhere else. Hardcore gamers may actually, honestly and truly, get something out of Barbie, and not in the ambiguously perverted way.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.9
Written by Stan Review Guide

Reviewed by Stan