Strawberry Shortcake – The Sweet Dreams Game

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 70/100

Strawberry Shortcake – The Sweet Dreams Game
Reviewed by: Wencke
Available on: PS2
Publisher: The Game Factory

Let's start this review with a clashing title: Wencke versus Strawberry Shortcake. Not that it's about a battle! Don't get me wrong. This is about my experience with a game that is targeting the younger audience, which included me a long time ago! Can an older gamer enjoy a "kiddy" game? Can she experience the game with a child in mind? And isn't the gameplay going to be too easy? Well, here we go: Wencke versus Strawberry Shortcake!

Profile Strawberry Shortcake:
a sweet but spunky little redhead with enough optimism to fill a strawberry field. She really believes things are growing better all the time and as the unofficial berry princess of Strawberryland, she puts her heart and soul into seeing that things improve for everyone she meets. Strawberry is also quite adventurous, so it's no surprise that she has friends from other lands both near and far.
Profile Wencke:
a sweet 33 year old, addictive gamer with dark blond hair, brown eyes and has no children. Playing since her early years when Pong and Pacman were released. She isn't prejudice and always gives people and games a fair chance. She's a princess in her own home in the Netherlands. She puts her heart and soul in gaming activities and her goal is to meet other game crazy people from all nations. She already has some close friends from all over the world that make her very happy.

Now that we know what kind of persons were dealing with, let's check out how the “battle” started, and I leave the details out about opening the package and putting the CD in the Playstation 2, turning on the TV, etc. Oh man, now I've done it after all. Anyway the title "the sweet dreams" surely is a tempting title for those who would like to take a nap instead of starting a game. But the goal is to help out your worried friends who aren't able to dream anymore. Also the fields of Strawberryland are plundered by strange and aggressive berry birds! Strawberry Shortcake is the main character starting in this lovely adventurous quest and the player needs to control her to solve the problems by going to the Land of Dreams.

In the beginning two things will make a remarkable impact; graphics and controls. I'll go into more detail later on about the graphics. The controlling is very easy and linear. You only have to push your controller stick to the right and Strawberry keeps on walking no matter how the path turns. The first level is easy to manage and it is more an introduction to the gameplay and its features. While proceeding through the levels, more and more buttons are going to be assigned to do the "job" such as jumping, planting seeds, waving with a magical wand and selecting a certain dream. Also there are some levels where Strawberry can take a walk away from the linear path to collect certain items. But the controlling learning curve is very well implemented and bit by bit you'll learn how to solve problems on your way to the Land of Dreams. If there's a higher platform and no trampoline available you either can try to jump on it, or plant a seed to immediately grow a giant plant with big leaves. Strawberry can use the leaves to climb and reach high areas. This is called the plant dream and can be activated if the dream meter is filled with collecting dream bonuses, scattered all over the place. Another dream is the metamorphosis dream which allows strawberry to wave her wand and turn bad things into good things. For example malicious weeds turn into harmless flowers and the bad berry birds into beautiful butterflies.

Everyone loves to collect things, stamps, stickers, games, money, etc. Strawberry loves to collect pink seeds and while she's walking, jumping or flying through a level, she can collect a lot of them. Most of them are right in front of her nose but the sneaky ones are hidden in the level. At first you don't know what the use of these seeds is, but as soon as you've finished a level, a fantasy garden is unlocked to get special gifts. These bonus gifts do have a price tag and tadaaa the price needs to be paid with seeds! You can unlock other characters or get a song, recipes or a video. By unlocking a character, in the next levels you decide who the main character is going to be; Lemon Meringue Angel Cake, Ginger Snap, Orange Blossom, or Raspberry Torte. Each character also has her own specialty i.e. Lemon Meringue can plant a seed and a lemon plant starts to grow immediately. Is there more to collect, besides seeds? Yes, keys also play important items to collect, without collecting a certain number of keys you'll not be able to open doors or treasure chests. But it's not too difficult to find the keys as arrows indicate where these are "hidden". To make a variation, stars are needed to reach a very high platform but these are hidden in chests and guess what … yes you need to find the keys to open these chests.

A game suitable for young kids, no doubt about that. Even if they don't understand the English, German, or any other available language to choose from. A parent or older brother sister surely can help the young player to understand the gameplay and story. It isn't such a bad idea to play this together with your kid and even can turn the collecting of items into a sort of educational training by counting them. Another educational training can be experienced when you need to cross a railroad with penguins on carriages. It's necessary to watch in what order the carriages role down the track before crossing it, otherwise you'll bump into them! So be careful with traffic! A true working reward system (seeds - bonus) is a very good working system and it motivates the gamer to make that extra step to get some extra seeds. But what about if something doesn't work out, if you hit a train carriage, if you touch a berry bird or nasty weeds? In other words what happens when you fail? It's hard learning to deal with losing. Well, in this game they made it quite simple and act as if it is not that bad to fail! Whenever something bad happens as already described, you lose a number of the collected seeds. And that's it. Of course when you want to unlock all gifts in the fantasy garden, it can be quite disappointing losing some of those eagerly gathered seeds.

The colors, the character / level design, the graphical atmosphere. Simply brilliant! It's a very colorful adventure, full with food related items to make you hungry. Lollypops, strawberries and other sweets are part of the platform levels. But what happens if you jump on a berry pie? The screen turns into a blue / purple spot and a triangle button indicates that you need to clean the screen. How to control the game (instructions) and conversations are visualized on screen. Back to the level design as I truly liked the different kind of objects, besides the food related items. One of the coolest objects seen is most definitely the bubblemaker, but the rainbows, soft pillows, different kind of flowers, the flying ship and other objects certainly are great too! And what to say about the way all of the characters are styled and behave? All in all a perfect graphical cute designed game without any negative aspect!

The audio is not repetitive or at least I didn’t noticed or bothered me. Funny, happy melodies are combined with tunes which fit to the levels. For example while walking through the first level which seems like a park, you’ll hear the background music and all the animal’ sounds (birds, animals). Also sound effects are implemented. Hear that “boing” when a plant starts to grow or hear that lock click when the key has been turned? I often hear mums complain about how annoying kids’ music toys can be but that’s totally not the case with Strawberry Shortcake. In fact while being in the fantasy garden, there’s this really catching song about Strawberry that you’ll try to sing along with after a while! Any soundtrack available for this game?

From a female point of view, this is a typical girly game. No boys are included, it’s all about Strawberry Shortcake and her female friends Angel Cake, Ginger Snap, Orange Blossom, Raspberry Torte and Lemon Meringue. Besides the fact that it is an enjoyable and rewarding game, the “all girls” factor is a good reason to get this game for any young girl and introduce her to videogames. There are typical girly things included such as diamonds, hearts, butterflies, etc. to make it even more attractive to play. Those who are lucky and own a Strawberry doll are going to be extra pleased as the doll really comes to life in this game, and kids will love her behavior and seeing her in action!

Wencke versus Strawberry Shortcake was a very good combination, even better than expected. I’ve tried to approach it from an older gamer, mum and child’s point of view. It wasn’t easy but as an older, experienced gamer I really liked to play this 3D platform adventure and collecting as many seeds as possible to unlock all of the bonus items in the fantasy garden. Of course, the gameplay was way too easy for me, but very suitable for a kid, even when she never played a game before. The controlling learning curve is excellent implemented and there’s no pushy game element such as a timer or number of lives before it’s game over. The varied gameplay (walking, jumping, flying, racing, opening gifts, unlock special gifts) makes it a very enjoyable game that won’t get bored easily. Combined with great sounds, colorful environments and special effects, you’ll get the feeling that you’re in a dream!