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CONSOLE: Game Boy Color DEVELOPER: Planet Interactive PUBLISHER: Ubisoft
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 6, 2000 GENRE: Adventure
// review by SoyBomb

Stand up against forced girl labour.

I've played some really lousy games in my time, but "Playmobil: Laura" is in a category all on its own. First of all, let me say right off the bat that I know this is a kid's game, and I should not expect much out of it. On the other hand, I am a gamer, and I feel that no game should be off limits to me. After playing all the way through Playmobil: Laura, I felt that this game was far too condescending, even for the intended younger audience. The world within which the game is set is far too saccharine, the gameplay is pretty mundane, and frankly, I think there are a few child labour laws violated here as well. This is not your average title, and it scares me a little.

You play the role of Laura, an apparently easily amused girl who skips along her merry way all day and enjoys talking to all the locals without feeling self-conscious about the fact that she has no nose. Wait a second -- EVERYBODY seems to be missing a nose! Who are these people? So the game is either set in a leper colony, or just on the outskirts of Chernobyl. Laura lives with her wacky family: there's her father who will not be seen without a top hat or porno mustache; her ditzy mother who is most often seen spinning around in her room, modeling jewelry in front of the mirror, rather than tending to her crying baby, Christine; the rocking fireworks-frenzied grandfather who was stuffed in the attic in an attempt to conserve money instead of shipping him to a retirement home; Rosie, the maid only cleans the kitchen; your baby sister, Christine, who demands all sorts of stuff in a brief period of time; and let's not forget the cat, Felix, who occasionally steals the items you need and demands other knick-knacks in exchange. I guess I could call Laura the brainwashed one, because she ends up running errands around town for the family because the parents are too lazy or stupid to do these things themselves. Hell, even the maid gives you tasks that really should be in her job description. Fire that woman and get someone who actually works hard for the money.

Now why the hell are you doing all these jobs? There's no motivation! Oh wait, actually, there is, but it doesn't make any sense. See, her grandfather gave Laura this fancy golden medallion (well, actually, she found it while rummaging in the attic, but you just can't say no to a girl in a damn fine pink hat). However, lo and behold, the jewels on it aren't lighting up like they used to. In order to get the jewels refurbished, Laura must perform good deeds for a bunch of people. I don't know how that works, but I also don't understand magic. Once the medallion is functioning again, she can unlock the door to a fairy world and save them from an evil spell. By coincidence, the door is in some tree in town, so at least we don't have to walk too far (and nobody had to design a second area to travel in). This is messed up, but if people will believe that a stuffed purple dinosaur can come to life, sing a few songs, get peanut butter in his mouth, and then revert back to stuffed form when an adult arrives, then this story also seems plausible.

So let's take a look at Laura's première assignment, just to illustrate how asinine everything seems to be. The first quest is from your father, so when you talk to him in the front lobby of the house, he wants to get his wife a beautiful bouquet of flowers. That's nice of him to want to get a gift for his wife. All is well. Then he asks YOU to go get them while he stands around doing jack all. What a douche. He's too lazy to get his own wife flowers. Unfortunately, there's no way to plant a fake card in the bouquet from your father's mistress. Ah, who am I kidding -- who'd want to date that ugly beatnik? He has no nose. So Laura, the 7-year-old errand girl, travels through town unaccompanied to visit the local florist while avoiding Fresh Stu, the town child rapist. Okay, I made that up... I think. So you get to the booth of the florist, conveniently named Violet, but oh snap, you don't have any money. But nobody cares, because you don't pay with money in this town. No, you pay by completing a mini-game. You get to play a timed Concentration-type game with flower beds, followed by a half-assed platformer where you just walk around until you've picked up the flowers on the ground. Hardly stimulating by my calculations. But you win yourself a bouquet of flowers, so you can make your dad proud and not force him to remove his belt for a whooping later. Your father is pleased, but now he needs a red ribbon. Get the damn ribbon yourself, thought Laura. But obedience is a virtue, so here's Laura on the case! The cat's playing with it, though, and he asks for a red ball in exchange. Well, a thought bubble comes up, but apparently Laura is also a feline psychic, so it's understood. Laura grabs the ball from her room, exchanges it with for the ribbon, and returns to her dad. That should all be in order. Then he says he needs a carrier pigeon, so you need to get a pigeon whistle.

Oh, for goodness sakes!

The quests continue to be so dismal. They will range from taking care of baby Christina, even though you shouldn't act as a parent, delivering invitations for a party, collecting eggs and chestnuts for Rosie's recipe (the latter of which you actually bypass the grocery store altogether and get them from pissed off squirrels that throw their nuts at you), and getting coloured powders for fireworks. Honestly, if I wanted to play a game where all I do is run errands, I'd smarten up, save my cash, and just go outside myself and go to the grocery store. But no, a game based on errands is all that stands before me, and I just don't get it. And the ending is hardly worth all the traveling -- it takes about an hour to get through this game, unless you're a total screw-up on some of the mini-games, like the one where you have to memorize a series of colours lighting up à la that electronic game, Simon. Yeah, I can't remember 5 of them in a row. Lock me up in a rubber room and hide the key somewhere. At the end, everyone is happy and you see the credits and note that this was developed by a bunch of guys in France.

And it's not like the game sounds great or looks spectacular. I guess it's alright for an older 8-bit handheld like the Game Boy Color, though I must say that the music is a bit irritating and grating on the ears. They use some sort of wiggly synthesizer in a number of games from Europe, and I'll be darned if I can figure out why. But even if it looked like a Picasso, I'd still recommend that you just stay the living hell away from this game, unless you or your children want to waste your time helping a digital family do things they are perfectly capable of digitally doing on their own. This game will wussify you. Wussify. Oh, and I apologize for using all that salty language, but I had a quota for the year. Plus this really IS a stupid game.

Everybody poops!

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