Review: Barbie: Groom and Glam Pups

January 7, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

What do you imagine your worst possible gaming experience to be? How can you envisage yourself actually torturing yourself by playing a video game? Playing an atrocious game from the early 80’s on the Spectrum? Sitting with your five-year-old niece playing Brain Training? An all-nighter on Black Ops?

While you have a think about that, I’ll indulge you with mine. Barbie: Groom and Glam Pups on Nintendo Wii. I’m sure most of you are probably thinking that’s to be expected, but I doubt you can truly fathom just how deeply I have been scarred.

Want some perspective? Good, because I need to vent…

I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie World…
So it’s a Barbie game. You’re probably wondering why I, a 27 year old male, even have this as a review copy, why I’m in a position to pass judgement and if I’m really suited to be writing words about a product clearly not catered to my demographic. That being said, I’m a games journalist, it’s my duty to report on the quality of the products released, no matter whether the game is the most eagerly anticipated product of the year or one you didn’t even know about a week before its release. I need to be diverse and flexible in the work I take on board (even if it does make me sound like a penny a minute hooker!) and therefore that would make me as equally qualified to review this game as a five-year old girl who has the aspiring fantasy to also be a games journalist.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, let the venom spew forth. There’s no story here, apart from Barbie’s sick, deluded fantasy of wanting to play dress-up with puppies and show them off to equally sick, twisted people who think dogs in drag is the most awesome thing ever. I mean, if the game is to be believed, people want to take photo spreads of dogs while they pose in ridiculous looking costumes. They like watching dogs strut down the cat (dog?) walk, strutting their stuff, and they pay to see dogs dance around with a blonde wig on their heads. Is it true? Are there any among our readers looking at this review? Does Barbie have her finger on the pulse for what audiences really want?

If not, then I’ll be suggesting the developers of Groom and Glam Pups be sent off for a mental examination to determine if they’re actually fit for duty.

I’m plastic, it’s fantastic!
Here’s how the game works. Firstly, you select a choice of pup, initially it’ll just be a Samoyed or Pomeranian (we don’t need no Alsatians!) but you can unlock more as you progress through the game. From this point, you can name your pup or allow the game to choose a name for you. Although when it offers you the likes of Ariel or Sadie, it gives you a sense that the game might be a bit sexually exclusive. Being a male and all, I thought, I need another male to help me through this torture, I need another light in this black void swirling around me. So, I fought the system, I rebelliously called my dog a real manly name… Jasper. With a name like that, we’re sure to get on famously.

However, while I thought my torture was bad at this point, I had no idea the sort of hell I was about to put my masculine pal through. You see, the game is all about grooming, cleaning and preparing your dog for one of the three events. You’ll start in the main foyer of Barbie’s mansion and need to access different areas in order to prepare your pup for his event. You’ll need to ensure that your pup’s happiness levels are maintained throughout and this can be achieved by grooming them regularly. Doing this will also help them perform better in an event. Following the game’s advice, I took Jasper to be groomed. This includes one of three options, brushing, fur trimming or washing the coat. First you’ll need to brush the dogs coat following onscreen indicators. This is done by moving the brush around the dog, pressing A and then moving the Wii remote to the side in order to brush. Once you’ve done this, the dog’s happiness is shown to see how satisfied he was by your efforts of grooming. The same rule for controls applies when fur trimming and washing the coat. While the game shows my pup was happy, I could see a pixelated glimmer in his eyes, he hated me and if he could get out of that television screen, he would have and torn me to shreds.

Such a fashion statement...

From here, Jasper and I were prompted to go check out the boutique, which I could tell he was completely thrilled about! Here, you can give your dog a collar, a bow, you can even get it a hat, a pair of glasses and a t-shirt. Even a frickin wig! Yes, a wig! You’ll earn new items and accessories for your pup as you progress through the game (if you can stomach more than five minutes) and be able to purchase them using your winnings from the events.

The last stage before entering them into a competition is teaching them tricks and mastering the ones you currently know. The more your pup trains for one trick, the more experience he/she gets with the trick and therefore the better the performance. You can teach your dog an action, a pose or skill. Once you’ve chosen one to master, you’ll need to follow the onscreen prompts for the training move. Get it wrong though and the dog will get confused. Suffice it to say, he’s probably already confused with a set of glasses and a wig on its head, but we won’t get into that. You can also reward the dog when it learns a trick by giving it a treat. This is important for the dog to harness that trick and get it right. This usually means you’ll either have to shake the Wii remote or move it up and down in your hand; the motions are never really technical. In order to gold star each trick, you’ll need to get them right then repeat about ten times each. Honestly, if Barbie thinks the pup will be ready for the show with the amount of treats it scoffs, she’s crazyl it’d be more prepared to star on a television show starring Steve Miller for overindulging families. The pup learns new tricks during different shows and if enough are mastered, there’s a unique trick for each dog. Worth sticking around for then.

Finally, we make it to the events. There are three types of shows: Photo Shoots, Runway Shows and Dance Events. Runway just basically has your pup walking along a runway performing various poses as prompted by the game. Photo shoots are, you guessed it, photos taken of your dog doing poses. You set the background up as you like it, whether you want a luxury mansion or a beach. Once done, hold the Wii mote horizonatally, use the d-pad to adjust the position of the camera and press the 2 button on the controller to take the picture at the right moment. The better the picture, the more money you earn.

The dance routine is the least interactive of the lot. First, you’ll pick a backing track from a range of four, then you’ll have six slots and need to implement a skill and action into each to create a dance routine that gets the crowd jumping. Obviously, the better trained on some acts, the more money you’ll earn. However, once you’ve selected the actions, the pup will automatically perform them, without you needing to use the remote.

You’ll also have specialist shows and if your dog wears an item of clothing as highlighted by the game, you’ll earn extra points up for it. When you’ve completed an event, you’ll get prize money at the end based on how well you did and Barbie will present you with a gift for your pup. Once all this is done, the cycle rinses and repeats. That’s the game, summarised for you in a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say, Jasper and I were amazed we’d made it half an hour through this.

Undress me anywhere!
Sorry for the leading headline, no nakedness here I’m afraid but the game does looks quite good. The pups have a very cutesy look to them and they will generate a brief ‘awww’ when you first get a glance but its clear its been designed with these vibrant, flashy colours to make everything seem so appealing to a young girly audience. It’s doing its duty, I’ll give it that, but it doesn’t change the fact that the game looks like Nintendogs but with Barbie plastered all over it. There’s not much imagination here (bit like the overall game, really), the animation determining the pups movements is quite realistic (as much as a dog is able to perform these tricks anyway) but the quality certainly don’t live up to the awesome heights Barbie has set for it.

It can be very briefly entertaining dressing the dog up to the point of hysteria, but this is only a brief diversion that will probably make you concerned for your own sanity, rather than satisfying an inner desire to see how the little pup looks.

Woof Woof… Arf!
I shudder at the very thought of this game booting up, let alone it coming anywhere near my poor Nintendo console again. I cringe every time I hear Barbie’s whiny, creaky voice douse my eardrums with unbridled satanic malevolence. When I hear someone calling things “Pup-Tastic”and “Paws-itiviely” perfect, I want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon and feed them to myself. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, listening to audiences whooping and whistling for my pup as he dances on stage and I think “how could I have attired that poor, innocent, pixelated poodle in a pair of sunglasses and a woolly yellow sweater”. What’s wrong with me?! How could I have been so evil?!

Sorry, I was having a moment. As you can see I am still overcome and overwhelmed by this horrifying ordeal. I’m still recuperating and am just taking things day by day. Suffice it to say, the sound of Barbie’s voice pointing out how well the pup is doing is grating, her overly positive outlook is sickening and makes me want to wretch from the bowels of my stomach. Oh and as for the background music, it’s horrifying! You know, I’m just going to stop before I take a swan dive into a volcano.

Let it shine!

Glam or sham?
I could express my dissatisfaction with this game in many ways, most of which are more graphic than most of today’s horror films. I’ll just try to be as straight to the point and blunt as I can be. Barbie’s Groom and Glam Pups is digital hell pressed onto a Wii disc and the sooner it is erased from my memory, the better. This is Tamagotchi at its most basic, boring level. You’ll soon stop caring about unlocking items and animals, if you even make it to the point where you unlock one item as you won’t care about accomplishing anything within the Barbieverse. The game doesn’t have much to sustain your attention for longer than a few minutes before you’re thinking about things you’d rather be doing like twirling your hair, cleaning  the house or connecting paperclips together and making them into a chain. I’m not even convinced a young girl would be entertained by this for longer than a few minutes, before she’s begging to watch the Antiques Roadshow.

One of the emptiest, soulless, shallow, depraved experiences I’ve ever experienced. This doesn’t even deserve to be called a game because it is that parched of entertainment. Horrid in every way imaginable, and even in ways you could never realise. The easiest Avoid It I will ever give…


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