Mimicking the game play that rocketed Nintendogs to the top of the Nintendo DS game-sales charts, Disney Friends makes you the guardian of these famous cartoon characters. As guardian, you need to care for the needs of each of your new cartoon friends by making sure they are well fed, not bored, have music to listen to, and get enough sleep.
The game starts with your training to become a guardian, a tutorial hosted by the 3-eyed alien from "Toy Story." Once you learn how to use your stylus on the system's touch-screen to pet or tickle, speak key phrases into the microphone, and visit Tinkerbell's store for supplies and toys, you are introduced to Stitch. You earn points for interacting with Stitch, which provide you a way to monitor your progress through four friendship levels from "Just Met" to "Best Friend." These points also count toward your guardian status, which can progress through 12 levels, starting on "Junior Guardian" and ending with "Master Guardian." Leveling up in friendship status and guardianship unlocks new items and new friends.
In addition to playing with your cartoon friends, you will also need to look for coins, the currency in this world, which allows you to buy things to take care of your friends.
To keep your Disney friends happy, you can touch them with the DS stylus, talk to them using the DS microphone, and provide them with food and toys. You can also play games, create music, and draw pictures. Stitch loves it when you build a block "city" and then let him stomp it down. As you become better friends, the cartoon characters invite you to go on adventures with them at memorable locations found in their movies. For example, when playing with Dory, she takes you to meet Bruce at the Sunken Ship and you play a game about finding his missing shark's teeth.
Disney Friends divvies out its content over time. Only when you have become Stitch's good pal (level three of the four levels of friendship), can you then befriend Dory. Likewise, you must wait to play with Winnie the Pooh until you and Dory are well acquainted. And you can only play with Simba after befriending Winnie the Pooh. This process will take several days.
Disney Friends is a game best played for short periods over several weeks, because the game utilizes the Nintendo DS internal clock to make things happen at certain times. For example, there are some games that you can only play once a day. Some days of the week have special events connected to them, like double coins on Tuesdays when playing with Pooh. The game even reflects the passage of time by showing nighttime and weather. You'll find that you want to visit the game to see what will happen each day. Plus you will need to play games and interact with your cartoon friends to earn money so that you can buy things your friends want.
Parents will like that the game encourages kids to be nurturing by teaching them how to take care of another. While kids bond with familiar movie characters, they'll learn important values like caring and responsibility.
This game is very good, but it has a few minor flaws. Many of the directions appear in a tiny font, so they are hard to read. And even when you do read them, some are confusing. While initially, there seems to be a lot to do with your cartoon friends, when you have eventually explored all of the 16 locations and played the games at each, the content doesn't seem so deep. The game will eventually run its course; but if you are lucky, that will be after several weeks of enjoyable play.
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