Having a bi of a camp day, are we Mike?
Okay, okay, we know what you're probably thinking already from the title alone. 'Cheap rubbish cynically aimed at the pre-teen girl market'. We'd excuse you for thinking this with some of the content that you can find on the market nowadays. Hear us out on this one, though - it's actually one of the nicest surprises we've had all year. On the gameplay front, anyway.
Every so often, something shows up that makes you realise that there is actually some truth to the phrase 'never judge a book by its cover'. Princess On Ice is one of these cases. That's not to say it's a AAA title that you should all be rushing out to buy by any stretch of the imagination, merely that it is much better than the low expectations you could easily garner by peering at its box art. The game features a typically girl-based tale about a group of young lasses who all want to become the Princess On Ice (i.e. become really good at skating around ice rinks). Your task is to pick one of the girls to guide to glory by making them prance about with the aid of your trusty stylus. Plus, you get to buy them new costumes between games, because that's what girls like to have in every single game aimed towards them.
Now, all of this still probably has the majority of you preparing to plug your ears and duct tape your eyes shut at the prospect of the game ever coming near you, but hang on a second. Princess On Ice distinguishes itself from other child-targeting simplistic games by partially nicking off with the gameplay mechanics of DS music champion Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents. To move about the rink players tap on numbered snowflakes that appear around the screen in ascending order, timing taps in accordance with outlines that enclose around the snowflakes - hit it bang on as the outline matches the snowflake and you get the full amount of points, do it a little early or late and you get some points, miss completely and it's nil poi. You don't want to be getting the latter too often or you'll fail the level - to win you've got to impress the judges by keeping a 'heat gauge' above a certain point. In a nice touch, the judges are present on the top screen and show you exactly what they think of your performance with drumming fingers, sleeping and ecstatic grins. Not all at once.
You've also got moves to perform that are labelled as 'special', but to be honest they're all used in every single level at some point so we're not too sure they warrant the adjective. Firstly you've got steps, performed by tapping a rapid succession of shapes that dash along the screen before they disappear. Secondly, there are spins - predictably, you spin a circle in the middle of the screen for that one. Finally, jumps are executed by tapping three large shapes that slide onto the screen in the order in which they appear repeatedly. You're awarded an 'excellent', 'good' or 'bad' depending on how well you do with these special moves, and these all play a role in deciding how many points you earn at the end of it all to spend on pretty new dresses (none of which serve any purpose aside aesthetic ones). Before each level the player must choose which special moves they want to use in the upcoming performance - one jump, one step and one spin of varying difficulty levels. If you're bad at jumps but superb at spins, you can pick an easy version of the former and a more advanced form of the latter. Each of the characters has their own specialist move-type in which they learn techniques more rapidly.
Yes, it all sounds quite basic, and it is - that's why it works. We can overlook the rather poor cut scenes in favour of the tap-happy but fun gameplay, the quite-nice visuals and the decent soundtrack that consists of classical music such as Pachelbel's Canon. Lamentably, though, there must come a downside, and it's a severe enough one to make us take a great big pair of scissors to the review score. There just isn't enough there - a single play through of Princess On Ice will last only a maximum of an hour's continuous play for just about anybody who's held a stylus before. You can play again as a different character, but the differences are so minute that it's frankly not worth it, and while the gameplay might be fun, it just isn't challenging enough to make you want to come back for seconds. You can trade accessory bits and bobs wirelessly with friends to complete the set and have skate-offs with them, but ultimately it doesn't make up for the lack of substance to the main story mode.
It's a childified Ouendan-a-like, so that's an instant plus. Adds its own twist on things with the dance aspect and pulls it off well. There's no real time for it to get repetitive, which is both a good and a bad thing.
The backgrounds and sprites in the cut scenes aren't much to look at, but the 3D character models are good and well-animated.
A decent collection of classical music makes up the sound track and fits well with the game.
This really lets Princess On Ice down. A full run through of the single player more than likely isn't going to last anybody but the least experienced players more than an hour. The multiplayer hardly compensates for this.
Another average kid's game, we're afraid. This one's a particular shame, though, as it's actually got some good gameplay behind it - it's just too short to be recommended, and doesn't deserve any higher than the most average of marks because it's held back by the length issues. We can't believe that we want a children's game aimed at girls to be longer, but in this case, we do. Keep on with the music games for kids, though, developers, they're far more interesting than others aimed at that age group.
Having a bi of a camp day, are we Mike?
i can see everyone geting this. everyone.
Doesn't look too bad actually. Looks like a solid title for the young girl audience.