reviews\ Sep 27, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Barbie Horse Adventures: Mystery Ride - PC - Review

Barbie has many, many adventures as anyone who has daughters probably knows. She’s done everything from playing the lead role in many stories like Swan Lake to Rapunzel to just partying on the beach and scuba diving. Of course, what could be better in bringing these adventures to life by releasing them as PC games? Well, Barbie now has a Horse Adventures series, and one of the recent releases in this series is called Mystery Ride.


In Mystery Ride, Barbie helps out on a ranch just before a big horse show. Unfortunately, some horse nabber has decided to steal the prize-winning horse named Lucky in order to keep her out of the show and guarantee a first place victory. It’s up to Barbie and her trusty horse (Insert your own name here) to ride the trails and visit 9 different locations such as an old sawmill, a train station, and some dark caves in order to find clues, track down the horse thief, and make sure that Lucky gets back to her owner in time to get into the big show.


Unlike many other Barbie games that are out, Mystery Ride is presented in a full moving 3-D adventure instead of the more popular “point and click” style of other titles like Kelly Club Pet Parade or Swan Lake. The arrow keys move Barbie or her horse around, and the space bar performs different actions like mounting / dismounting the horse or making the horse jump as you head down the different paths. Along the way, Barbie will also use a handful of items to help her out like a metal detector, map of the area, and even a slingshot to help knock things down or even get some apples out of a tree for the horse as she goes.


In the various areas that you visit, there are usually one or two mini games to complete as well to help find clues as to the whereabouts of Lucky. These games and puzzles usually move from easy to a little more challenging as you help Barbie do such things as piece torn paper slips together, search for old watches, or try and match up a horseshoe’s patterns to prints on the ground for a definite ID. Some of the local folks will also ask for Barbie’s help to get ready for the big show by puzzles like twisting wooden planks to direct rolling veggies into the proper barrels or even helping to assemble the flowered wreath for the Winner’s Circle. As you complete these areas and games, new paths to new areas will begin to open up for you so you can continue to progress to the end of the story.


Once you have completed the adventure, you can still go back and play the mini games that you did before, take your horse out to practice jumping, and can still go back to change Barbie’s outfits and groom and feed your horse … or even change her colors, mane color and style, and name. This definitely helps in the replay area of the game, and many of the puzzles that you will run across as you go are more random style action (like the rolling fruit or catching Tetris – style pieces of a washed out bridge) that allows it to be a little different each time.


There were only a couple of things that could have been smoothed out in Mystery Ride, the first one being some camera issues. Usually, a quick hit of the up or one of the side arrow keys would help adjust it, but it was there and did cause some visibility issues while trying to read a sign or something. Secondly (and the biggest issue), the controls tend to feel sluggish compared to other 3-D titles, since Barbie will continue to walk, ride, or run forwards if the up arrow is pressed, and you have to hit the down arrow in order to get her or the horse to stop. It won’t necessarily stop progress, but it can cause you to run into the sides of the trails or have to keep trying to reposition yourself to get a good camera angle on what you need to look at.  


For the avid Barbie fan, this is definitely a winner. The 3-D based presentation gives it more of an action game feeling and seems to be a little more exciting than just pointing and clicking, and there is enough challenge for most younger gamers to keep it interesting but not too hard. The story that unravels through the clues that you find is interesting and will keep players hanging on until the end to help solve the mystery, unlock areas, and even get a special surprise at the end of the game. Out of the Barbie games that have come out lately that my 4-year-old daughter has played, this one has been her favorite and has probably been the most impressive one I’ve seen out of the 5 or 6 that we’ve played together.  


Gameplay: 8.5
While a lot of Barbie games seem to be presented in a point and click fashion, this one has more of a 3-D presentation to it and you get full control over Barbie and her horse along the way. The puzzles are interesting, and there is a good variety of them to play with ranging from pretty easy to “challenging enough to be entertaining but not aggravating”, and you can go back and do them over again. You of course get to mix and match your own outfits, and even get to change your horse’s appearance and color along with selecting from a number of preset names. The 3-D control was a little clunky overall and may cause some frustration, and there were some camera issues if Barbie or the horse got near the edge of the screen. 


Graphics: 8.6
The world has a good 3-D look to it to match the new gameplay style, and while the graphics at times were a tad bit blocky up close, they were colorful and set the atmosphere well. They also contained things like horseshoe prints along the trails or wildlife to set more of a realistic tone to the settings. Some areas looked a little bit like a latter day PS1 game in things like clumpy, 4-sided trees or some of the texturing of environmental areas, but the character animations were done good, the animations while Barbie was on the horse looked really good, and the up close shots looked decent as well … even if the up close shots seemed a tad disproportioned in the eyes or mouths with some people.


Sound: 8.4
The music was done well, and did a good job of giving a western or a ranch setting to what you were playing. The voiceovers were a tad scripted, but were there to do what they needed to do which was help move the story along and keep you interested. The environmental sounds were done OK, like the hooves on the ground or wildlife in the area, but things like the horse riding through water were a little too canned.


Difficulty: Medium
A lot of the difficulty is going to depend on the player. If you have a younger Barbie fan, you may have to help out in solving some of the puzzles or helping them learn how to move, dismount, and jump obstacles. Older Barbie fans who are used to the computer though shouldn’t have much of a problem figuring out the controls and hopping in.


Concept: 8.9
Like I stated above, I definitely enjoyed playing a Barbie game with my daughter that was more along the lines of what I’m used to anyways, which is the third person presentation. In addition, this made it more exciting for her overall as well, and kept her attention a lot longer than the point and click adventures tend to do. The story and mystery solving also help move the game along and prove to be more interesting than some titles due to the fact that you actually have a story to unravel as you go. 


Overall: 8.9
If you have a Barbie fan around the 4 – 9 range, this will be a good and welcome addition to the growing library of Barbie titles that you are probably accumulating. As I’ve stated above, the 3-D presentation, full character control, unlockable areas, and “solve the mystery” story that moves along as you go gives the player a little more to do than the “click here, click there” gameplay that can get repetitive quickly. If you have a Barbie fan about the house looking for a new Barbie PC game, look no further … this one was one of the best ones I’ve seen in a while. Even some minor concerns from yours truly won’t matter too much to your younger gamer in the long run.


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