Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses is the story of Barbie as Genevieve, 1 of 12 sisters who live happily with their father the king. Concerned that the high-spirited, independent princesses need more structure to become proper princesses, the king invites his cousin, the Duchess Rowena to move into the castle. Rather than help, Rowena forbids the sisters from singing and dancing and squelches their individuality. The princesses discover a magical enchanted world and escape the tyranny of Rowena. But when Genevieve learns that their father's life is in danger, the sisters must unite to save the king and their kingdom.
--From the GBA Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses instruction manual.
Who ever knew that being a princess could be so tough? I expected "Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses" to be an adventure revolving around the trials and tribulations of being an heir to a monarch and the pressures of inheriting a kingdom. Instead, the plot of "Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses" is instigated by the Barbie sisters' "unladylike behavior", prompting their father the king to recruit help in reasserting control of his daughters, and confining them back to the roles and characteristics that he feels most comfortable with, as vapid, malnourished, mutes, who know their place. Just a reminder, "Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses" was released in 2006.
Unfortunately, the gameplay in "Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses'" is as shallow as the King's expectations of his daughters. "Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses" is a side scrolling platform jumper. Barbie must navigate the castle to clear the stages, usually involving jumping from platform to platform (in heels) while avoiding falling chandeliers, ants, birds, and a crazy monkey. Barbie is assisted by her sisters, who give her their high heeled shoes, enabling Barbie to performing special actions necessary to progress the level. While the characters look very detailed and colorful (albeit emaciated), the stages are drab and rather empty. The boredom experienced while navigating levels is exacerbated by the fact that the player must backtrack often, quickly making the gameplay repetitive and tedious.
As a reviewer, I am uncomfortable bashing a game. Every title has gaming elements that are weak and strong. It is my goal to inform the reader of these elements in an easily digestible review that is helpful and informative, but I also feel a moral obligation to the audience to be forthright and honest in my opinion. That being said, the few features that I find impressive in "Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses" are complicated by the undercurrent of misogyny that permeates the game. The character graphics in "Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses" are impressive, but also shocking. Barbie is meticulously detailed as an impossibly proportioned woman with a waist that is smaller than her neck. Of course, Barbie still has the requisite curves on either side of her size zero waist. The gameplay is very lackluster, and unimaginative, the only break from which occurs when Barbie is given special high heels by her sisters. The high heels enable Barbie to perform special moves (such as swing a butterfly net) necessary to complete the stage. Barbie displays no self-efficacy at all, instead relying on the magical entrapment of material consumption, although, the idea that widely impractical shoes (especially for a jumping game) would actually allow a character to perform greater physical feats is quite humorous.
"Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses" is marketed to young girls with fond memories of the Barbie franchise, a very focused niche in the male dominated world of video games. I would argue that the targeted demographic are those who could be most damaged by the ideals espoused in "Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses". It is refreshing to see a female character protagonist in a video game, but not one that is a portrayed in such a shallow, impractical fashion. Barbie's unladylike behavior serves as the catalyst for the adventure, that unladylike behavior included dancing, and exploring the castle grounds. When Barbie is put in the position of hero, she is limited to jumping and running from enemies, unable to confront or manage the challenges of the game (such as ants). Barbie's circus-like physique and inappropriate choice of attire further reinforces the harmful stereotypes propagated by a male dominated media of what is expected from a woman. "Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses" is a missed opportunity that could have abandoned the unnatural physique, and material consumption that the Barbie franchise is famous for. Instead, the developers opted to regurgitate the same toxic perception of women the Barbie displayed in the 1960s.
"Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses" is a side scrolling platformer featuring 16 levels. The levels are all composed of different locations in and around the palace that Barbie is confined to.
There are four mini-games to be discovered during the main quest's gameplay. The mini-games are also accessible at the main menu.
Barbie learns special abilities by interacting with her sisters at different points of the game. The abilities must be selected and utilized at the appropriate time to progress the levels.
|B Button||Use shoe specific action|
|R Button||Change shoes|
|L Button||Advance the view (Hold L + Direction)|