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Bratz 4 Real

For: DS
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What. Ever

Product: Bratz 4 Real | Developer: Barking Lizards | Publisher: THQ | Format: DS | Genre: Film/ TV tie- in, Party/ mini- games | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Bratz 4 Real DS, thumbnail 1
It was excellent. There were tears, drama, reversals, outrage, and finally justice. Everybody was praying for the same thing: the maximum sentence, to be served as painfully as possible. The brief period when it looked though the accused had got away with it, the outcry was deafening, just as the eventual celebrations were exultant. Even Saddam Hussein had more supporters.

Yep, Paris Hilton's imprisonment was one of the highlights of 2007.

It was a warning to every young lady who swans about squandering inherited wealth on pointless goods made by children in sweatshops: society is no longer willing to tolerate your kind.

Alas, for every tearful heiress sulking through iron bars, there are a million things like Bratz, a doll franchise that has gained sufficient popularity since its arrival in 2001 to have spawned a Disney movie and, from that, this game. The word 'brat' used to be an insult. What's next? Gitz?

The opening moments of THQ's Bratz 4 Real confirm every prejudice you might have about the franchise. The four members of an astonishingly vacuous friendship group – Cloe (sic), Sasha, Jade and Yasmin – are about to enter the jungle of secondary education, and so they set off to buy some clothes by navigating to two separate shops in the mall area of the game's three-part map.

Once this is done and you all retreat to your hideout, a long cut-scene, half film footage and half in-game, sets up the game's premise: after following separate interests at the beginning of term, the girls quickly lose touch. Two years later, after a bizarre combination of events lands them all in detention, they realise that the culture of cliques is responsible for their estrangement, and resolve to bring informal segregation to an end.

The bulk of what follows entails running errands for people who are themselves fixed to the spot. You can't teleport from place to place, so you have to trek mindlessly back and forth. There's nothing to be worked out, no enemies to conquer; nothing, that is, you might expect to find in a game. Essentially, it's fetch.

You control whichever girl you happen to be controlling (you can swap) by leading them about with the stylus, much like in Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. Pulsating circles appear around non player characters and malleable objects when you get close to them, and through four icons at each corner of the screen you can access inventory, map, objective, and status screens, meaning that you never need resort to pressing a button.

The whole game takes place in a 3D environment, with characters dotted all around. It looks like an open, sandbox game at first glance, but in reality your interactions are very limited.

For instance, speaking to characters other than your three fellow brats or those directly involved in whatever errand you happen to be doing prompts them to intone a single line of dialogue, over and over again if repeatedly prodded.

Your lack of choice is constantly evident. When Theo the Jock sends you to fetch him a can of Glacier Dew, only one machine vends it, and it's the only drink available from the machine. Lack of choice isn't itself a damnable crime, of course, but when the single path available is so utterly tedious, you can't help but resent the lack of shortcuts or alternatives.

What choice the game contains consists in your ability to buy clothes and customise them with the design interface in your hideout. This is the only part of the game that meets any kind of minimum expectation, as you can apply the designs you create to the brats and then send them fully adorned back into the world.

Nine unlockable single- or two-player mini-games, a bizarre dream sequence in which the Bratz assume super powers, and a scant virtual pet component are embellishments that pull off the rare trick of outdoing the game they've been brought in to embellish, but they don't come close to salvaging it. Amongst the mini-games is an over-used Dance Dance Revolution rhythm-action clone, whilst the little dog you can acquire is just another nagging dependent.

The overwhelming impression Bratz 4 Real gives is of a game that's been released before it should have. In place of a real soundtrack, for instance, there's whistling silence, overlaid in places with a magnificently annoying tune. There's the skeleton of a real game, like a flowchart on a drawing board, but no real substance.

There are some nice ideas at play, in particular where it attempts to break down the social barriers that beset children in secondary education, but as a game it's far too vacuous to recommend.
 
Bratz 4 Real
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 1 December 2007
Although Bratz 4 Real has a few nice ideas, the main game is far too derivative and tedious to convincingly justify its existence
 
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