The way children play is changing. I know I sound like some millennial-hating “expert,” but it’s a fact -every year, children are spending more and more time on technology. I think this is excellent (in moderation), as research shows that playing educational games actually helps children learn much faster than, say, talking to Dora through the television.
Also -if you ask me, there’s not much difference between watching TV for an hour, and playing on the iPad for an hour. At least the iPad is quiet, haha.
As I was saying -the way children play is changing. They’re spending more time online, and less time playing with dolls, which means that big brands like Mattel need to ensure their apps are entertaining, child-friendly and parent-OK.
I think it also helps to build brand loyalty from a young age, and I’m sure the sneaky advertising helps, too. 😉
Today I’ll be reviewing three Barbie apps -Sparkle Blast, Barbie Fashionistas and Barbie Life- but there are plenty more out there on the market. I have personally tried all of them, and then proceeded to delete all of them.*
*That’s not to say they’re not very good. It’s just that I don’t like playing games on my phone.
But first -look how cute my iPhone screen is! I changed the icons using an app called ‘CocoPPa.’ Basically, you have two icons for the same app -one of them is the ‘pretty’ one, and one is the default. When you click on the pretty one, you are redirected to safari, and then to the default app. So the ‘pretty’ app doesn’t have any data, it’s just there for show.
Yes, the redirecting is annoying, but frankly, it looks cute so I’m willing to put up with it.
Out of all the games I tried, Sparkle Blast was my favourite. I quite enjoyed it. The levels were challenging and fun -but after playing it for a while, I got bored and deleted it. As I said, I’m not one to keep games on my phone. I prefer to use my spare time to practise kanji or write stories.
The concept of ‘Sparkle Blast’ is not original and is very similar to other match ’em up games. Basically, you have to match up the gems to get to the special gem -see here, it’s the dog bone. Collect 12 dog bones and you’ve completed the level! This particular one took me three tries to finally pass.
As you play, Barbie moves around and says encouraging things like ‘Yeah!’ and ‘Woo-hoo!’ while fast music plays. I liked the music; her talking, not so much. I learnt to tune it out after a while.
As you keep playing, you will unlock different clothes for Barbie, different friends (eg: Harper and Teresa) and new locations. The first location is Malibu, the next location is a city, and the next is…Well, I didn’t get any further than that.
It’s fun. The graphics are nice. The colours are nice. I like the whole concept, and the unlockable fashions is a fun twist on this classic game. If you’ve got a spare moment, I’d suggest giving it a go. It’s definitely not a ‘children only’ game, some of the levels get quite difficult.
The biggest issue for me is that this game requires Wi-Fi to play, which is annoying, because this is exactly the kind of game you want to play at the bus stop, at school, while waiting in line… You know, all the places where you don’t have access to Wi-Fi.
The Barbie Fashionistas app first came out in 2009, with the first wave of Fashionistas. It was very basic, I think you just swapped the outfits around. Upon the arrival of the Swappin’ Styles Fashionistas, a new app was launched and the old one was removed from the App Store. This one was pretty similar but used the new fashions.
This app then evolved into the Fashionistas app we know today.
This app has two functions -dress up, and designing. I remember the ‘designing’ section was stuck on ‘coming soon!’ for absolutely agggess. Perhaps a year?
This here is the ‘dress up’ section. Each time a new wave of Fashionistas came out, this section was updated -although it seems to not have been updated in awhile… It doesn’t matter which doll you choose, you can change everything later on.
Basically, this app contains pretty much every item of Fashionistas clothing since 2011. Including fashion packs. You can swipe on the shirt and it will change to a different one, swipe on the skirt and it will change, etc.. It’s very simple and there are endless combinations. You can also change the colour of an individual item.
Oh -certain fashions also have special features. For example, if you have a pair of special pants, you can change them to shorts with the same pattern. If you remember, certain Fashionistas in 2012 were sold with human-sized rings that doubled as barbie-sized bags.
If you hold the ring up to the iPhone, the fashion will change (ie; the pants into shorts). Of course, you can just use your fingers -but that’s not as fun, is it?
This here is the ‘designing’ section. You can choose whatever base you like -a dress, a top, a skirt, etc. I chose a dress. You can then select the colour or pattern, and add decals. If you want to unlock more colours and decals, you have to pay real money.
Now, here’s the part that’s really creative! You can then go back to the ‘dress up’ section and try on the outfit you designed! As you can see, it leaves much to be desired, but at the end of the day, it’s a free mobile app. You get what you pay for!
If you particularly like an outfit, you can choose to save it to camera roll against a cute background. It’ll be random every time -sometimes a city, sometimes a photoshoot, sometimes a magazine, etc.
I don’t enjoy this app nowadays, I think dress-up games are boring -but when I was 11 or 12 years old, this thing was amazing. I literally spent hours choosing what fashions I wanted my pretend dolls to wear. My camera roll would be full of outfits, it was crazy.
The idea is cute and inventive, I love the sheer number of fashions you can choose from, and I love how they were actually sold in stores. I love the whole ‘ring’ concept (even though the rings aren’t even sold anymore…), I think that was a great strategy to get more people to download the app.
I suppose the one downfall is that often it takes ages to scroll through the fashions if you are looking for something in particular. This game is intended for children 7-12, I’d say.
Finally, Barbie Life! This is basically your all-in-one ‘lifestyle’ app. It’s got games, it’s got videos, everything a fashionable Barbie girl could want!
The overall design of this app is very, very good. You can tell a lot of money went into developing it. However, I think the layout could be improved somewhat? It seemed a little difficult to navigate.
There’s heaps of videos to choose from. I know lots of children aren’t allowed on YouTube*, so this is a good way for those children to access Barbie videos.
*Or, at least, I wasn’t. But I suppose, with the addition of ‘YouTube Kids’ the times are definitely a’changing.
This game is basically Crossy Road, Barbie style. There’s lots of games to choose from -I didn’t bother to play them all, but the ones that I did play were just as high-quality as the games available on the desktop.
Yay for puzzles! One thing I found was that some games opened an external tab, but it wasn’t a major issue for me.
This app has everything. Sooo many games. Lots of videos. It’s interactive and very aesthetically pleasing. The colours are soothing and it’s very modern. Very fresh; it really shows that the Barbie brand is really listening to consumers and identifying changes in the external environment (ie: changing technology).
However, I did delete it afterwards. As I said, I don’t play games, and I’ve already seen all the videos, so it wasn’t useful for me. But for an 8 year old girl? I bet she’d love it.