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|Kevin Krock, editor|
The concept is pretty simple: combine the tried and true family fun of a board game with the wide ranging capabilities of DVD technology. The real trick, though, is to make both pieces work together seamlessly and in a fun and easy way.
In Lilo and Stitch: Island of Adventure, the board assumes its traditional roles of keeping track of who is leading the game and doling out punishments or rewards, depending on the spaces you land upon. The DVD, and its ability for randomized access, acts as the musical spinner as well as the source of the punishments, rewards, and activities, and thankfully, gone are the stacks of cards that need to be shuffled as well as the dice or cheesy plastic spinners that never seem to work very well. The only pieces you need to keep track of are the cardboard game pieces, like the six player vehicles and numerous Experiment pogs.
The game plot picks up after Stitch! The Movie, and almost all of Stitch's 625 cousins are spread across Hawaii. The object of the game is to make your way around Hawaii's five lush tropical game environments and collect as many Experiments as you can before Nani catches you. David narrates the game and guides you through everything from set up to end-game.
As you travel around the board, you encounter three different kinds of special game squares: frog squares with 10 different mini-games, tourist squares with 10 physical activities, and tiki squares with over 200 "virtual mystery cards." Also thrown in for good measure are several random good and bad events that could occur any time the remote control buttons are pushed, featuring appearances from Dr. Hamsterviel, Gantu, and the rest of the gang. The game ends when the first player reaches the finish line, but the winner of the game is actually the person who has collected the most Experiments.
Game play is fairly straightforward, and my 5-year-old easily caught on to the flow. The first time my two sons and I played the game, we chose the "Quick Game" option, which starts you off about half way through the board. From there, it took us about 40 minutes to complete the game. However, I was impressed that the game kept the attention of my older son, but my 2-and-a-half-year-old came and went through the game. He kept asking me to push the tiki head button on the screen and was rather insistent that every turn was his, but you cannot expect much more than that for a toddler.
They both enjoy the ambient music and familiar voices, and they seem to enjoy the on-screen games and physical activities, once they were either explained to them or they listened to the video instructions a couple of times. Some of the game's aspects are a bit over the older one's head, like the trivia-type activities, but most of the games and activities are right on target for school age children. Since the first time we played the game, we have played a couple more times, and while the game play is identical, I did not notice any repetitiveness in the activities, games, or virtual cards. This kept the game relatively fresh.
There are really only two goodies on the DVD game disc, namely two episodes of the Lilo & Stitch TV series. The "Mr. Stenchy" and "Clip" episodes are similar in look and feel to Stitch! The Movie, and while very mildly entertaining to me, younger fans of the TV series are bound to enjoy them a bit more. Other than those, the game is the primary attraction on this disc.
The Video, Audio, and Interface
The video and audio transfers and the user interface are pretty standard for Disney's DVDs these days. The video is very clean and nicely saturated, especially for the bright greens and blues of the tropical settings. It is more than adequate for the Saturday morning cartoon animation on the disc, and it should play well on any video system.
Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is more than adequate for the material, but in between player turns, the ambient surround effects add a nice tropical ambiance to the game play. It is a nice, albeit small, touch to the game.
As for the DVD interface, the main menu is animated and features audio, and the rest of the easy to navigate menus are simple and static. The game interface is also simple and easy to use for just about all family members.
The Final Evaluation
With pretty decent family game play and enough video and audio touches to keep things interesting, Disney's first shot at a DVD enhanced board game is a winner.
I do need to add the caveat, though, that your family should probably already enjoy playing board games before investing in this set, as it is much more a board game than a DVD that you simply watch. Also, even the shortest games tend to take at least 30 minutes, so if you have young children, it may test their patience to the point that the games becomes a tad trying for parents. Finally, because of the technical requirements, this game will not be the kind you can really take with you to play while tent campingbut it will make a good, interactive family alternative to sitting and just watching a DVD.
Following along the same lines as the previous two Sing-Along titles, Disney recently introduced a Sing-Along DVD featuring songs from their latest theatrical outing, Brother Bear. Hosted by Rutt and Tukethe moose brothers from the filmvia rather stilted animation, the disc contains the typical wide range of songs, but only two of them are from Brother Bear. The following is a list of the tracks on the DVD:
Like the other two Sing-Along DVDs, my two young boys enjoy most of the songs on the disc, but there are a couple that they insist that I skip. Then again, if the boys have control of the remote, we repeatedly listen to "On My Way" and "Digga Tunnah" until I wrangle the remote away from them. (It is just better to hide the remote from them in the first place.)
If you and your children enjoy the other two Sing-Along DVDs, or the videotapes for that matter, then you will probably also enjoy this disc.
The additional features on the DVD version of the Sing-Alongs make a strong argument for buying the DVDs over a videotapes. In addition to the normal sing-along aspect, this disc features karaoke versions of all nine songs, so if you feel like singing without the vocal track of the original soundtrack, you can try singing with just the music and on-screen lyrics.
The other items of note are reading- or spelling-related activities for young children. There is a reading challenge that randomly puts a picture on the screen and requires your young reader to choose the word that matches the picture.
Another activity presents the children with a series of letters and blanks, and along with some gentle clues, the children have to fill in the missing letters to spell the mystery word. These are similar to the activities on the other Sing-Along DVDs, but it is nice to see that Disney is continuing to include these types of educational games on these discs.
The Video, Audio, and Interface
There is nothing terribly splashy about the video or audio transfers for this disc, but that is not too much of a surprise for a children's DVD. The video is a simple full-screen transfer, and it is clean, solid, and will look fine on any DVD system. The only audio track on the disc is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, and it is more than suitable for the songs and narration. Finally, the user interface is very nicely done, with plenty of animated and narrated menus to assist children, and it is very easy to navigate. For the disc's intended purpose and audience, all of these are right on target.
The Final Evaluation
If you are a fan of the Disney Sing-Along series, especially the other two DVDs, this one will make a good addition to your collection. The video and audio transfers are more than adequate for most children, and the activities and fun interface keep your little ones more involved than a videotape. However, if you are looking specifically for a DVD full of Brother Bear songs, you may be a bit disappointed with only getting two of them. Overall though, fans of Disney songs will find this and the other Sing-Alongs worth taking a look at.
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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