Barbie is back on the digital scene and this time she’s a Mermaid. Barbie and her seahorse friend, Samika, are preparing for a grand undersea festival but the magical rainbow seashell has lost its glow. So now Barbie and her friend set out to scour the ocean world for the three rainbow dolphins that can restore the glow to the shell. She also has to invite musicians, collect decorations, find the components for the perfect celebration accessories and make sure that everybody is able to attend.
There are three sections of this ocean world to explore including the sunken ship cove, the coral reef and the kelp forest. In each one, Barbie must find and invite three musicians, collect decorations for the stage and solve a jewelry maze and one other puzzle. Once the maze and the puzzle have both been solved, the rainbow dolphin for each area comes out of hiding and can be implored to help restore the magic sea shell. Throughout the journey, a friendly clownfish can always be counted on for ocean-themed jokes.
At any time during the game, the celebration stage may be festooned, Barbie’s jewelry may be adorned with collected gems and the musicians may be arranged in various combinations to practice one of three songs. Once all the components have been assembled, the celebration commences and of course your child can print a color keepsake picture.
My four year old test team was captivated from their first look and remains interested in the game after many hours of testing. The game is rated from ages four and up and is well suited for the pre-literate set. The Barbie Mermaid theme mixed liberally with dress-up, decorating and party activates will appeal to young girls as naturally as breathing but will likely hold little interest for young boys.
The game play includes both mouse and arrow key driven navigation (sometimes both) that is well suited to moving smoothly throughout the adventure. It is simple enough that my 4-year old was able to master it with some parental coaching yet still challenging enough to enforce important computer and logic skills. The puzzles all start on a fairly basic level that can readily be solved (with some help) by most 4-year olds but get harder with each subsequent play providing a challenge for older children. Only at the very end when getting ready for the celebration was the game a little weak on explaining (and enforcing) preparation activities. For example, it was easy to start the final celebration without having decorated the stage, arranged the musicians or adorned Barbie’s jewelry.
The graphics are very good, though the mixture of computer animation and traditional animation is sometimes a bit jarring. The audio is excellent and aside from adding to the overall adventure, is a critical component of making this game accessible to the younger player. Even the help and menu options are supported by narration allowing smaller children the freedom to play the game on their own terms.
Mermaid Adventure is significantly shorter than the previous Barbie of Swan Lake and Barbie Rapunzel titles, likely because it is aimed at a slightly younger audience. This detracts from the overall value of this mid-priced game though the quality of the game remains among the highest available for children’s titles.