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Polka Dot Dora

// review by Matt

¡Hola! Me llamo Matt. See how much I've learned in such a short time? Educational games are the best. You should know by now that I'm pretty odd, you've had long enough to figure this out. I play games directed towards kids just as much as I play the latest adult-orientated crime thrillers, visceral shooters, and the surreal Japanese obscurities. I generally play everything, so it's no surprise that Dora the Explorer: Swiper's Big Adventure can sit next to Fallout 3 in my household. Games don't need VaultTec's Assisted Targeting System to be absolutely smashing, and they don't need rooftop chases with wanted felons—sometimes all I'm after is a bit of stupidly easy, pointless time-wasting that can only be provided by games designed for children.

It's not really that embarrassing a truth to let out. I mean, it's not as if playing them makes me regress into childhood. Just kidding! POOEY BUM-BUM LOL

Swiper's Big Adventure is an awfully charming game, and it keeps me happy for a moment or two. It would probably keep your son/daughter/kidnapped child celebrity quiet for perhaps a couple of hours. I personally can't stand more than about thirty minutes of it, but that's because any videogame bores the hell out of me within minutes unless I have Puffy AmiYumi pumping through my PC speakers whilst I'm playing.

Most excellently, Swiper's Big Adventure has been built entirely in good ol' Flash. The greatest advantage Flash has, over any other content delivery method, is the high-quality vector artwork. And high quality vector artwork is what SBA definitely has, combined with some brilliant lip-syncing, too. I mean, visually, this game is pretty much a high scorer. There may be a few rasterized backgrounds here and there, but the interface and characters are so smooth you couldn't even scrape butter with them.

If you take into account the other Dora the Explorer games on the PC, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS, you can instantly see the difference. Instead of pixelated screen captures from the cartoon, we have living and breathing characters that even blink and contain follow-through animation (what is also referred to as secondary animation—clothes that move as they move, hair that moves and background animation). Backgrounds themselves are layered and parallaxed, resulting in that beautiful effect we know and love from the classic 16-bit anthropomorphic platformers we all grew up with. But we can paint a beautiful painting of a giant turd—it's still a turd, right? You can dress a turd up in shimmering clothes but... it's still Link: Faces of Evil, right?

Like the majority of children's educational games, the game is controlled by clicking the correct answer or the ideal outcome—and there is a platforming section too, that control-wise resembles a slower Muramasa: The Demon Blade without the combat scenes. It's a weird association to make, but it strikes me as slightly similar. The gameplay is a mix of simple puzzle and simple platformer—it definitely wins no awards for originality. Given the way games for kids have regressed over the years, this is every bit as easy as you'd imagine it to be, as well. It's not even challenging, barely a patch on the classic movie tie-in games like Lion King or Aladdin for the Genesis. I think that when I was a kid, I was more welcoming to harder games and had the patience to keep playing against increasingly vile odds.

So that makes it pretty clear—you're not going to get any enjoyment out of this game if you're, well, a serious gamer. You wouldn't expect to, so I guess the point didn't even need to be made. Swiper's Big Adventure never tries to apply any sort of challenge toward the player. Whereas on harder difficulties, Lazy Town: Champions (which has practically nothing to do with the actual TV show) may offer a slight challenge to an adult gamer, Swiper's Big Adventure doesn't. It's just too easy. I honestly believe that a child would feel cheated by this game.

The platforming sections are dull, slow, and occasionally laggy. The jumping isn't accurate enough. Despite this, it's the easiest platformer you'll never play, without a doubt. You can all but violently hump enemies and you'll take absolutely no damage. It's easier than it really should be. As for puzzles, you're not even penalised for wrong answers. Instead, the game highlights the correct answer for you. If that isn't patronizing, then what the hell is? You can have as many attempts as you want, and everything that implies it is timed actually isn't. There is no freedom to make mistakes, or rather, there is a total lack of "disaster" should you make any.

You know what happens if you fail in The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis? The zoombinis are lost, LOST! And here it's just a reassuring tap on the head and the correct answer highlighted. Dora, I hate you.

This is not a game for teaching kids anything—it's just something with the name Dora the Explorer slapped on it, vaguely based on an existing episode. This is a shame, because the graphics have been worked on by people who clearly know the cartoon's style perfectly. Presentation is top-notch, unlike the rest of this package.

Speed-running this game isn't a good idea. Puzzles, when rushed, cause the gameplay to freeze. Not all that suprising given that the game was coded entirely in action-script, but it is as annoying as Dora's Explorer Girls when you've progressed to the last area of the world, and your hard work is ruined. I say hard work, but it's only holding right and pressing the space bar then, on occasion, picking the correct answer. If you're skint, you can also play the game online at the Nick Jr. site, should you feel inexplicably driven to do so. This removes all need to own the game in a physical medium, or even to pay for it, as by its very nature, it's just a shockwave game for kids.

Go listen to some J-Pop or something.

Should you play this?

You can play this game by clicking here.


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