Kids join bilingual Dora the Explorer and her best friend Boots the Monkey in the Crystal Kingdom, where a greedy king has stolen all of the color crystals that provide vibrant hues to this world. To return the gray world to its rainbow beauty, Dora (with your help) must adventure to other faraway lands to find the missing crystals. Each of these lands is found inside a book; so Dora and Boots first collect the missing pages to each book, and then jump inside to explore. This fanciful story line permits Dora to go to a world where dragons fly, to a cave where beautiful butterflies live, and to a magic castle.
Controls need to be kept simple for kids ages 3 to 6 to be able to play on the Wii. This Dora game excels at making the controls not only simple and intuitive, but varied and fun. Kids hold the Wii remote sideways and just tilt the controller left and right to make Dora or Boots travel in that direction. To make Dora jump, they push on the "2" button. And jump she does. In this adventure, Dora gets to jump on launch crystals that send her flying high in the air, through magic spiral rings that control her progress through the sky and onto the back of a Pegasus who takes her flying.
To spice up the simple navigation, the game takes advantage of the Wii remote's unique motion-sensing controls. It incorporates a variety of everyday motions to make things happen on the screen, including turning the Wii remote in your hand to mimic opening locks on a treasure chests, tilting the Wii remote back and forth to climb a ladder and waving the Wii remote over your head to simulate painting.
To make sure kids have a positive experience, the game clearly marks which directions Dora can go. And to keep frustration at a minimum, the game provides no-fail exploring. For example, when Dora reaches the edge of a cliff, she can't fall off. Instead she will be greeted with a whimsical way to get across, like a series of giant dancing flowers on which she can hop or a string of swinging branches from which she cannot fall. In this manner, the game introduces young children to what is known as "platform puzzling" in video games; just here, there is always a safety net in place.
To keep even the littlest gamer from getting frustrated, the game offers a Storybook Helper Option, which allows a parent or older sibling to come in with a second controller and help perform certain arm motions to complete tasks. Parents can also play cooperative collection games where both you and your child choose to ride on the back of a Pegasus or a flying Dragon.
Good preschool games should incorporate some learning into the gameplay. Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom does that is a variety of ways. The environmental navigation, while simple, still requires thinking to puzzle out how to get to things. The Map, a favorite character from the Dora the Explorer television show, makes frequent appearances in this game to present different objects that might solve a puzzle. Your child must make the correct selection for Dora. And within the adventure, Dora will need your child's help identifying shapes, colors, and sizes to correctly select an object needed to move the story along.
While the inability to save the game at will can be a little frustrating, kids won't mind having to replay some of the game when they restart at the last save point. This is because the game offers so many funs things to do, such as coloring scarecrows, using butterfly wings to soar to high places, and watering giant flowers that give you a lift as they grow up.
If you have a Wii and a wee one, don't miss Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom – it's a magical adventure worth exploring.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.