2K Play carefully designed Dora Saves the Snow Princess to make it playable for its target audience of preschoolers. It takes the story of how the Snow Princess is trapped in a tower by an evil witch, and turns it into a captivating rescue-adventure video game played out over five locations or levels. Dora invites preschoolers to join her on this snowy adventure.
By using the structure of the Dora television show, young kids instantly feel comfortable with the format of the game. They will hear authentic voices of Dora and her friends. As Dora and her monkey friend Boots enter each new location, they consult the familiar character called Map, who displays a visual of how to move through the game, a device used in all of Dora's TV shows. Also familiar is the use of Backpack, another character from the TV show, who displays items that might assist Dora. Kids help Dora by selecting correct items to solve Dora's problems.
But what really makes this a great video game for children is how the game is played on the Wii. To direct Dora and Boots, children hold the Wii remote sideways and then tilt it to the right or the left to make Dora in move that direction. Dora will collect items by simply running over them. All instructions are shown and spoken, so players don't have to read.
To make Dora jump and interact with objects, kids simply push on the "2" button. As Dora explores this snowy world, she will jump into underground tunnels, snowboard down ice slides, use giant mushrooms and snowflake catapults to fling her to new places. She will also swing on snowflake chains to cross chasms, jump from one magic cloud to another, ride ski lifts, and skate across frozen ponds. All of these events happen without the preschooler ever failing. For example, when Dora jumps up to grab a swinging snowflake chain, the player cannot push the "2" button at the wrong time and make her fall into the chasm. The game simply adjusts and releases Dora to land safely on whichever side of the chasm is closer.
In addition to easy navigation, the game also makes great use of the Wii remote. Preschoolers will perform over 20 different motions to make things happen in the game. By flapping their arms while holding the Wii remote, they can make the Pegasus horse fly. By pointing the Wii remote at the screen while making circular motions, they direct Dora to roll snowballs large enough to make snowmen. If they tilt the Wii remote rapidly back and forth, Dora climbs up a ladder, and make sweeping motions will clean off piles of snow.
This is an adventure that stays fresh by constantly introducing new things to do, and new characters with which to interact. Swiper the Fox shows up periodically, and throughout most of the adventure, the Snow Fairy (a snowflake with wings) flutters along side of Dora.
Another great feature is that the game builds in help when young gamers might need it most by providing a Snowy Forest Helper mode which allows a parent or older sibling to jump in and help with a second Wii remote. Also good is the ability to play two-person race games that are cooperative rather than competitive. Rather than racing against the other player, you both simply try to collect colored tokens.
At times, some children may have trouble understanding Dora because she can speak too quickly, but this minor issue doesn't disturb the overall positive vibe of the game. Also, you can't save the game at will; rather you reenter the game at one of the closest save points, which are generously distributed throughout the game.
The bottom line is that this is a fabulous Wii game for preschoolers. If you have a Wii, this is a no-brainer holiday gift for the littlest gamer on your list.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.