Rugrats: All Growed Up: Express Yourself - GBA - Review - GBA - Review

The Rugrats are All Grown Up on Nick's new show, and now they've migrated to the GBA in All Grown Up: Express Yourself. Angelica and Harold are in charge of the school's newspaper, and they're always looking for a fresh story. Of course, with Phil, Lil, Kimi, Tommy and the rest of the gang around, there's no shortage of interesting things to report.

In All Grown Up the TV show, it's ten years later and the Rugrats are in middle school now. The kids have different concerns now, and this is reflected in the game. Kimi wants to be a singer, Phil is concentrating on inventions, Chuckie has romantic problems, and Angelica has a deadline to meet. In the course of getting her story, Angelica ends up solving everyone's problems, at least for today.

All Grown Up is a collection of mini-games, connected by a series of adventures called missions. There is also a PDA mode, which features a "To-Do" list, a Best Friends personal info list, a survey function We Choose, and a quiz Like Who (find out which Rugrat you're like), and an Accessorize mode, where fashion accessories can be added to the girl characters, after they've been earned in the mini-games.

There are eight missions, each with its own mini-game. At the beginning of a mission, Angelica is given an assignment from Harold dealing with a big story involving one of the Rugrats. Each mission requires Angelica to find the person of interest, which may be a Rugrat or some other person. Angelica must search through different locations to find them, such as the school, a residential area and the mall. These are extremely simplified platform levels, where Angelica basically will walk through, trying to avoid the few hazards, until she finds the person. Once found, she'll talk with them, then go find a sports ball (Angelica's mini-game Ball Toss), play Ball Toss, and once that game is successfully completed, will be sent on another search for a different person.

Usually, there are about 2/3 people to find and talk with, and Ball Toss has to be played each mission. Again, these levels are set up as very easy platform games; Angelica only has to walk around, using a handy map, to locate people and things. The hazards are few and far between, but are slightly aggravating, as they come up blindly from the side of the screen many times. However, they're in the same general areas each time, so at least players can be expecting them. Angelica will lose a few health points for getting hit, but each hit also generates school papers which she can walk through to regain some of the points. Some of the levels require Angelica to jump from rock to rock, or ledge to ledge, but there is no penalty for missing, and Angelica will just walk through the water.

The mini-games are played in order through the missions, and once unlocked, can be replayed again. The only one open at the beginning is Ball Toss. Ball Toss has to be won during each mission for players to continue the game, but it's not necessary to win the others to advance or unlock them, they only have to be played to become accessible. The mini-games include games such as Ball Toss, where players use three different buttons to bat back a ball that may come in any of the three directions; Burger Toss, a memory type game which requires a hamburger to be assembled in the order given; Picture Mix, a timed jigsaw puzzle game; Rafting Rush, a water racing game; and Suzie Says, a dance-dance revolution type game.

The eight mini-games are varied in type, and several of them are quite fun. Suzie Says requires players to remember the buttons displayed in order, before mashing the matching buttons. Burger Toss is another memory game, where kids have to remember the order of the ingredients. Rafting Rush is a fun arcade race, and Picture Mix is a well-done mixed-up jigsaw game. Fashion Find is a logical game where players have to choose clothing items to match certain criteria given by Lil; this game starts out great, but unfortunately, there are only a few items in each category and it soon becomes boring. This is too bad, as this is one of the better games included, with an emphasis on critical thinking. Two other games, Action! and Blast Off, are pretty lame.

The adventure missions that tie everything together rapidly become repetitive, as each mission requires the same thing: find a couple of people, and play Ball Toss. There are only three locations to search in, and there's nothing to do except walk around the streets and halls until the person or sports ball is found. While it's good that the gameplay here is simple and not too hard, because of the age demographic, it could still have been designed to be more interesting than it is. It becomes tiring playing these levels after awhile, and the only incentive to continue is to unlock the mini-games.

There is a PDA function included, and unlike most PDA modes on these type of "girl-games" on the GBA, this one is actually pretty good as to content. The "To Do" list offers lots of icons to indicate times, places and events for each day of the week. The personal info area is nice, and the information can also be imported from other GBA's with the link cable. The accessories that are earned playing the mini-games are cool to add to the characters, and the survey section is fun to play with friends, too. A lot of thought went into the overall content of this area - this is no mere add-on to the game. I especially liked the total lack of a horoscope function, which all too often is included in these type of games.

However, the PDA's interface leaves a lot to be desired; if the designers had tried, they couldn't have been more confusing as to how to actually enter the information in several areas, most notably, the "To Do" list. Adding and erasing the icons in this list is awkward and clunky, that is, if the kids even figure out how to do this. It took me about 30 minutes to learn how to do it. Basically, you have to use the "A" button to move from the Day, to the Category (Who, What, Where, etc.), then to the icon choice, then use the "B" button to go back to the Category, then back to the Day to do another day, or to redo the same day. Entering and erasing the information this way is laborious. The confusing part is because there are no directions on how to do this in the manual or the game itself, at least not any that I could find.

Graphically, players can't ask for better on the GBA. The characters are drawn exceptionally well and move smoothly; the mini-games are also very nicely drawn and animated. Great attention to detail has gone into the look and feel of the game. The PDA function features cute little icons and emoticons, many of which are animated. The music list is also exceptional for this type of hand-held game, players can choose which tune they want form a long list. The music itself is varied in style and appealing. The sound effects in the mini-games are fairly well-done, too.

On the whole, this is a very good collection of mini-games, packaged attractively around a "girl-game" theme. Most of the mini-games are engaging and fun to play, with three of them offering a 2-player mode via the GBA game link, and many of them offering different difficulty modes. The PDA function is detailed enough to be a stand-alone feature, and is not just an afterthought added because it's aimed at girls, but the interface complexity with the PDA is a slight detriment. The mission mode is less interesting, which is a shame, as it is a big part of the game. Having to win the Ball Toss each mission can also be a pain. There is an unevenness of difficulty, too, which makes it hard to pinpoint the best ages for this game. It's probably best for kids ages 7-10.

All Grown Up: Express Yourself compares well to other games of this type and is better than most. Despite a few problems, the replay value is high because of the amusing gameplay and varied things to do; I believe most pre-teens will enjoy playing the mini-games and having a simple PDA. Parents of girls ages 7-10 will definitely want to look at this game.


Gameplay: 8
The mini-games and the PDA mode are all fun to play and also have a high replay value. However, the main part of the initial game is the mission adventure mode, which is not very interesting and rather boring. But once the mini-games are unlocked, this game still has quite a lot of good content, especially with the PDA, despite a few issues with its interface design.

Graphics: 9 
Really nice graphics for the GBA.

Sound: 8
The music is great, and the option of having a play list is handy. The sound effects in the mini-games are also good.

Difficulty: Medium
The difficulty level is hard to judge, as it is very uneven. The mini-games vary in difficulty, and the PDA is quite difficult to figure out, due to the lack of directions.

Concept: 8 
While this type of "girl-game" isn't new, the implementation and design is above average. Great care has been taken to fill this game with a varied amount of content, not just fluffy "fillers" like a horoscope, or a list of friends and interests masquerading as a PDA.

Overall: 8.2
A very good children's handheld game that offers quite a bit of things to do. While a few things could have been done differently to make it better, what is here is well-designed and above average compared to other similar games. It's obvious that the designers cared about their product and their target audience.

Great

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